Grow


For the past month, I have been intensely engaged on a journey to better health and fitness. I have developed better habits over the past few years altogether, but, at the beginning of the school year, I decided to be more closely concentrated on my eating habits and expanding into new exercises and fitness goals. Since then I have done better than I imagined I would or even could, and I have met several goals/milestones already. Honestly, I am ecstatic! This is so wonderful to me, and I am excited. But I also worry.

What if my growth stops? What if my progress peters out? What if I get discouraged? What if I give up? I don’t want to do any of these things. I want to continue growing and bettering myself. I want to keep getting and feeling stronger.

It can be so easy to be excited about a new chapter or journey, and it can be equally as easy to feel discouraged when things start to settle into routine, slow down, stop entirely, or, for the love of sanity, move in the opposite direction. As I continue on this journey, I will remind myself that work will not happen on its own; I have to do my part to get results of any kind. If I have a goal, then I need to act like it, even if it just one little step that I take that day. Every step towards growth helps.

Space


It is a universal truth that our house lacks space. There is stuff everywhere. That’s what happens with life: it can fill up with stuff. Therefore, it can be difficult at times to carve out a space for myself in our house. Somewhere that is mine. With future plans in motion, I am hoping that will change with some work, but, for now, it is what it is.

My space right now seems to be my desk as school (but even that gets taken over) or, more frequently, the car. I spend a minimum of 90 minutes per day driving. Often, the car is the one place in which I can be still and alone, usually before I pick up my daughter at the end of the day. There, I can listen to Audible and lose myself in a story or helpful book while I drive. I can think. I can pray. I can let the outside world slip away while the road slips past under my tires.

I do not necessarily like to drive but the car is often my refuge. I have fond memories of long talks and Glee sing-a-longs with my husband when we would travel hither and yon before our little girl came along. I can think of long stretches of quiet as I drive to the gym on Saturday mornings or laughing to “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!” with the fresh new sunlight warm on my arm as we head out to a leisurely brunch. I have screamed out frustration, hurt, and anger in the car. I have poured out my heart and soul on telephone calls as I drive just to get away. The car is where I can be close to and alone with that loved one for just a little longer. The car is where I can linger.

It’s where I can make sacred space for myself.

Evening


I love evenings. when the light turns blue and the shadows lengthen, deepen, and the verdant trees become dark outlines. It is like the earth exhales long and slow. I rarely venture out into the evenings now, into the twilight-blue, unless it is to take out the trash. I am usually consumed by dinner, bath time, bedtime prep. By the time I am done with all of those responsibilities, evening has passed me by and it is long since dark outside.

I miss evenings. I miss the blue air and opaquing shapes of trees and houses. It does my soul good, and I want to get back to that. I shall step out my door and breathe in evening tonight, breathe in its beauty, its slowness, its rest. Such moments are precious, and I could use a little more precious in my life.

Morning


One of my favorite morning rituals during the weekends and summer breaks is heading to the gym early in the morning, when the light is still fresh and new. When the world still feels quiet and unsullied, when peace is still hanging on. During the week/school year, my mornings begin at 5:30am with waking my daughter and prepping to leave for school. They often feel rushed and harried and stressed, and I feel as though I cannot stop or we will fall behind, as my daughter is very much not a morning person.

One thing I have started to do is leaving the radio off for the first part of our drive to school. Usually, I listen to NPR in the early morning, to catch up and educate myself on the current affairs and goings on of the country and world. Lately, however, I have been gifting myself those minutes of quiet before I tune in to the world or my daughter demands her Disney songs.

Those few minutes of quiet help me to feel myself breathe. I am working on making it into a practice.

The Next Right Thing: Soulcare


Today, as I drove my daughter to summer daycare, I was dressed and ready for what has become a routine for me. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday–as best I can–I hit the gym in the early morning. During the week, I do so after I drop my girl off at daycare (I call it summer school with her) and the other days, when my husband is off work, I leave the two of them asleep and slip out before our day together has begun. I did not get the luxury of going to the gym and working out on my own hardly at all during the school year because of scheduling, location, etc. So, this summer, I determined to get that back. To work on regaining my strength and tone and generally doing something¬†just for me. And, for the most part, I’ve enjoyed it.

This week has been harder, however. The weekend ushered in a downswing in my emotions that has been hard to kick. Rationally, I acknowledge that the cause could be a combination of several different things that are physically beyond my control, but that doesn’t make it any easier to endure, does it? I have tried to go about my normal routine of working out, running errands, and taking care of some teacherly work (curriculum revisions for the new year), but, as I drove this morning, I found myself making a decision. Or, rather, I found myself asking a question, and this is what it was.

Does my soul need care more than my body does today?

In other words: is going to the gym what I need to do today or is the right thing to do something else?

As you know, my reflection focus for this year has been on doing the next right thing, taking just the next step. So I asked myself what was the next right thing for me today?

The overwhelming reply that filled me within was: “Soul care over body care today.”

That does not mean that I cannot or won’t still take care of my body. For me what that means is today is not a day to traipse myself out to the gym. Today, the next right thing was to come home, to stay in, to closet and care for me and my soul. So I came home, I opened up my laptop, and, in the quiet of my kitchen and solace of my earbuds, I listened to an episode of Emily P. Freeman’s The Next Right Thing podcast. Episode 36: “Stay in Today”. Sounds utterly perfect, right?

Oh-ho! But wait! It gets better.

This episode wasn’t anywhere near what I thought it was going to be. It wasn’t about staying in and closeting yourself for self care at all. Instead, what Emily talked about was infinitely more poignant and pointed for me today. She spoke about just this very topic: doing the next right thing. Just the next step, not a hundred more down the figurative road. During this episode, Emily stated something about herself with which I identify 100%:

“No one needs to tell me to make things complicated.”

Making things complicated is easy for me. As she listed off examples of how she manages to complicate things for herself, I might as well have been doing a hallelujah dance on the other end of the internet connection, because everything she does, I do, too. As I stated in my first blog post of this year, I am not good at sticking to limitations. I am not good at just taking one step. If I don’t actually take a few more, just in case, my brain will certainly precede my feet there. I can imagine a whole year down the road and feel guilty about not accomplishing things that I haven’t even attempted yet. I can think myself into tears over an imagined conversation where a pretend person states fictional disappointment in me, my work, my mothering, etc. I am not good at taking just the next step, doing just the next thing.

But today I am going to try, starting with sitting in the quiet and listening to that God-appointed podcast (really, His timing and leading were perfect). Then writing this blog post.

Today, I want to tenderly hold, fill up, and care for my soul as well as my body, because I cannot live without either.