Learning What Self-Care Actually Is…

Learning What Self-Care Actually Is…

Have you seen it? That post circulating through social media that tells women this truth: Self-care isn’t about manicures, pedicures, or shopping. What are your initial thoughts? Heck no. That’s how I relax! or… I see the truth in that?

Well, I was somewhere in the middle for awhile…until I found a true example of self-care that extended beyond a blissful hour of peace that a pedicure provides. I started reading again.

Nerd alert…I get it. But as an English teacher, I am so focused on reading for my job that I don’t read for my pleasure or betterment. I made it a goal of mine this year (as I have outlined in my #bestlifeby35 blog posts earlier this year…I have been trying to better myself in a myriad of ways as I prepare to turn 35 in July…EEEEEKKK) to read two books a month. And to some of you, that’s laughable because you read two books in like a week. But two books a month is doable in my current season.

I have focused on the personal development genre for most of my reading this year. At the end of 2017, I felt an overwhelming sense of my rhythms being off. The best way to describe it? I was constantly trying to walk in someone else’s cadence, and the more I tried to catch up and get into step, the more off kilter I became. And that (of course) is being very general, but let’s just say that a great number of aspects in my life needed reconfiguring. So therein lies the choice of reading books in the personal development genre.

So why is reading self-care? I have choice. I can pick to read any book I choose, any book that speaks to me. And let me tell you…teachers don’t always get choice in reading on the job, so it’s actually quite freeing! #englishteacherlife


Late to the party on this one…but a good book, coffee, and peace is my new love language!

Reading is mine, my rhythm, my speed, my timing. The book is something that is always there for the taking when I am ready (and sometimes there may be a few days in between reads) that will better me when I pick it up.

Reading books written by authentic writers also grounds me in a sense of normalcy, that the feelings I’m feeling and the struggles I just can’t quite seem to overcome are not mine alone.

Lastly, I LOVE WORDS. I LOVE CONSTRUCTIONS AND COMPOSITIONS AND STYLE AND AUTHENTICITY. OK, yes, a little heavy on the caps there, but I crave the written word. I don’t always have the time to blog (though I would love to carve out more time to do so…something I’m working on), but it’s fairly simple to pick up a book and start reading while my kids are actually playing together and getting along or when my family falls asleep before I do.

So here are the books I have read thus far this year, along with a quick synopsis of my actual takeaway…not a summary per se but a “when I think of this book, this is what resonated” type of commentary.

January Reads: 



Stronger than the Struggle by Havilah Cunnington — very real and practical description of how the enemy works in our lives; Havilah also outlines the necessity of spiritual warfare. It sounds really “gloom and doom,” but Havilah is so amazing and refreshing that it totally doesn’t read that way. It’s actually very empowering. Growing up in a traditional church, we never really talked about the enemy, so this book was a great way for me to learn more about this difficult topic.

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis — definitely a favorite of mine. We women believe so many lies about ourselves. Rachel confronts hers head-on at the start of each chapter and explains how that particular lie no longer has power over her. And I would venture to say most of you have believed almost all of the lies she outlines. This book (in my opinion) caters so well to the young-younger mom group.

February Reads:


Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist – probably the most artistically driven in terms of the writing, Shauna explains how it took slowing down for her to find her peace. At times, the artistry of her writing (if I’m being honest) did not quite click or connect with me, but nevertheless, I appreciate her beautifully written message of centering and reprioritizing.

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown – How has someone I’ve never even met taught me so much? Brene Brown is my teacher, and she doesn’t even know it. One thing I learned from this book is how to stand confidently in my values, morals, and basically how I’m wired and how I was created. She gave me courage to boldly stand alone when no one around me is doing life quite like me. A quick example I would like to touch upon further in a later blog post: I feel strong professional pull toward teaching and styling. I have often lamented that I wish God would point me in a direction toward one over the other. But what if the two pulls are part of how I was created? What if what I need is more courage instead of more clarity and a definitive answer?


Grace, Not Perfection by Emily Ley

As a working mom, I find so much value in Emily’s authentic and inspirational tone. She outlines how she has learned how damaging and soul sucking perfectionism actually is, and she strives for a life of grace instead of perfection (as the title suggests…ha). Now I want a Simplified planner….

March Reads (well, currently reading):

A Simplified Life by Emily Ley

*Emily’s newest book offers practical tips for simplifying all aspects of life. One tip I especially loved is her tip on makeup (have a five- to ten-minute routine perfected for those crazy mornings) and hair, that she only fixes her hair a few times a week and has a few updos that she rotates through every week…GIRL, YES. I’ve been doing that for years, and I am a much happier person when I don’t put pressure on myself to fix my hair (for me, that’s straightening my lion’s mane) on the daily. Obviously, there are tips for simplifying other aspects of family life that are also very helpful and practical.

I would recommend all of these reads if you are looking to break the chains of perfectionism in your life. Even if you’re not a perfectionist per se, you may have perfectionist tendencies or feel a compelling need to reflect a semblance of perfection on social media. I know I for sure fall into that trap from time to time. But there is so much freedom in imperfection. I will keep updating you as my reading list grows! I would love to know your recommendations, too! Leave me a comment below and let me know what you’re reading!

One final thought…self care should recharge us, make us better equipped to fill the roles we have been called to fill. Is your self-care routine actually doing that?

The Dangers in Worshipping the Lack

When you hear or read the word worship, an experience or an image comes to mind. You’re singing in a church, you’re listening to praise music in your car on your drive to work, you’re fulfilling your God-directed calling with a happy heart, or you’re thanking God in prayer.

Can a person worship God and something else? God would say no: “No other gods, only me” (Exodus 20:3, MSG version). Most of us think we are in God’s good graces if we attend church on Sundays, pray for others, check off every box on our Christian to-do list. But is it possible to follow Jesus and worship something else?

Because I have. God revealed to me very clearly late last year that I worship my lack and have been doing so my entire life.

Here’s a quick run-down of what this worship has looked and sounded like:

Age 17: Why did you miss 2 points on this assignment? Why did you only score 15 points tonight?

Age 22: Why are you only earning this much of an income working this hard?

Age 27: Why can’t you get pregnant? What’s wrong with you?

Age 29: This house is way too small and is starting to get embarrassing. Better move to a wealthier neighborhood.

Age 34: You only made this much selling LuLaRoe this month? Maybe it’s time you give it up.

These are just a few of the lies I told myself. The irony in this post, though, is that I actually “bettered” myself and “fixed” all of those problems by striving, striving, striving. I kept telling myself that once this goal had been met, once I was no longer “without” in that specific area of life, that I would appreciate all that I had.

Not true.

It’s a really sad state to find yourself in, to always be wanting more. Oddly enough, though, I feel like our social system teaches us early on to go for more, go for broke, reach for the stars, insert any other goal-setting cliche. What can we teach our children, then, when they don’t achieve this or obtain that? I think that’s just as equally important of a lesson as goal setting is: gratitude and a shift in perspective. It’s certainly not wrong to strive for seemingly unachievable goals, but the crash and burn that results in expectations not being met is really destructive. We must teach (and implement) a quick rebound method (once a basketball player, always using basketball terminology).

I just recently finished Havilah Cunnington’s new book Stronger than the Struggle. (Stop what you’re doing right now and snag this book. A more comprehensive review coming later.) How glaring were her words on page 192: “We can spend our days focusing on our lack [emphasis added], the places that turned up empty. Or we can focus our full attention on celebrating our hard work and all God has done, coming to a place of celebration.”


Once this obsession with my lack became so clear to me, I have started to see everything with a different lens. Instead of focusing on that one wall in our house that is still bare over a year later, I have started to appreciate the little corner I worked so hard on decorating and styling in our foyer. Instead of groaning about having to get up early every single day (wait…I still kinda do that…), I focus on how much I love my job. I truly do. When I’m feeling exasperated with my kids arguing over some snack or toy, I separate them, and it is in that moment where I can choose to look into their eyes and become so joyful that they’re happy and healthy. Well…maybe not happy in the moment, but you get what I mean. I literally cried the other night giving my kids a bath and then again when Daddy found their baby videos. Gosh, I’m so lucky to be their mom. And I’m certainly not perfect (though there were many years of my life where I wished that you would think I was), so this mindset shift isn’t always foolproof. But even if I’m thinking from a space of gratitude and positivity more often than not, I’m a heck of a lot happier than I was in years past.


For too long, comparison has been my standard and my motivator. If comparison is your standard, you’re always going to be lacking. And if you’re always in the lacking mindset, you really and truly are hurting yourself and your relationships with the people who love you. Take it from me, the recovering perfectionist.

#BestLifeby35: Choose Your Word

It’s January…the month where bitterly cold weather meets goal setting. Definitely a bizarre combo, but since we are inside so much more this month, it’s really a great time to set some goals for yourself. But might I suggest you shift your initial goal setting focus?

Obviously in January, we know how trendy it is to set (hashtag) goals. In fact, you may choose to skip the reading of this post because you’re so over reading blog posts about goal setting. But as a goal-oriented person who loses focus without goals, I found myself wanting to write about my process in picking a word for 2018.

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As you may know, I have started a blog series I have entitled #bestlifeby35, which basically covers my journey toward living the healthiest life I know how to live by the time July 18, 2018 rolls around and I turn the big 3-5…halfway to 40….holy buckets.

(Check out my first post in this series about Intentional Time.)

In the last few years, it’s been trending to choose a word for the New Year. Now I initially rolled my eyes at this process, as I thought it was a little cheesy. But I felt myself losing focus on what I truly valued in my life in 2017, and when 2018 showed up, I was willing to try whatever it took to regain my focus.

Your word of the year is essentially a mantra, focus, or something that is to define your purpose throughout the year. As a word person, I admittedly took WAY TOO LONG in picking mine. But reading Lara Casey’s Goal Setting Blog Series helped my process along. It helped so much, in fact, that I purchased Lara’s Cultivate What Matters Intentional Goal Planner.

I followed the process Lara outlined…I looked back at my 2017, looked ahead to my future, analyzed the common threads, looked words up in the dictionary to see if the definitions resonated with me, and ultimately decided where my 2018 focus should lie.

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The definition was the deciding factor. I loved the two definitions: a person’s principles or standards of behaviorone’s judgment of what is important in life.

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For the past year especially, I have prayed for guidance in the area of balance. The striking visual I often see in my mind (when I stop to think about life’s demands) is an  overworked server at a restaurant striving to carry 17 plates around a crowded room. I think at this point, though, it’s up to me (with God’s help) to delineate by using my value system. I think it’s about taking life one day at a time and carrying out my duties and tasks based on what I value. What I value most will always come first, and if there is time afterward, then the other tasks will be completed. If not, tomorrow is a great time to tackle those.

2018 is a year when I define that value system and let it guide my life.

It’s a word I will display in a few places (on my desk at work and at home…and on a bracelet…thank you, Instagram ads). It’s a word that will help me to ask myself fruitful questions: Right now…in this very moment…am I doing something of value? Is the time I’m spending right now in line with my value system? That thing that I’m not doing right now…is that a good choice, given what I said I value? 

The truth is, you don’t need really anything to help you choose and live out your word. But above are just a few things I have done and purchased to help my process. So after you have chosen your word, please share it with me in the comments! I would be honored to pray over your word and that it helps you to live a joyful and prosperous 2018!


#BestLifeBy35: Intentional Time

HAPPY 2018 to you! I hope this post finds you well-rested and motivated to crush your 2018 goals. I have about 813 goals I want to achieve, and my biggest problem in New Year goal setting is overwhelming myself by setting too many goals and trying to make them happen all at once. I hope to change that in the New Year by starting slowly…

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In an upcoming post, I am going to show you how I’m approaching goal setting in the New Year, but today’s #bestlifeby35 post is all about intentional time.

The phrase intentional time is a loaded one with ambiguous meaning. It could mean taking a look about how you spend your time and asking yourself what your intentions are in this activity or that activity. That’s actually a really fruitful practice that I have done in the past and that I plan to do again very soon. But I also take intentional time to mean my morning “clarity” time. I intend to focus my day during the first 20-30 minutes I’m awake by setting myself up for success.

FORMER ME: Hmm…let’s scroll through social media for 30 minutes because I know I have to be awake, but I don’t want to get out of bed. Oh, let me just go ahead and compare myself to that stylish and beautiful lady I’ve never met in real life…AHHH. How can it be 6 AM already? I still have to get ready, pick the kids’ clothes out, pack my lunch, and do a million other things in like an hour. I would then make myself (and my family) miserable each morning because I felt so rushed. Then I would get to work feeling agitated and stressed BEFORE seeing any of my students! UGH…I’m not proud of it.

I had to take a long, hard look at my practices and decided that I needed more focus and perspective in the morning. Ultimately, I cut out most of my social media time, replacing it with quiet time. It sounds very kindergarten, but just stay with me.

Here is a closer look at my morning intentional time:

  1. Get up before everyone else in the house. OK, you can totally roll your eyes at me right now, but I am going to suggest you wake up 30 minutes earlier than everyone in your house to create space in your day for intentional time. Over the years, I could not STAND IT when people told me I needed to wake up earlier, but here we are. Then I make myself a cup of coffee.
  2. Go downstairs into a QUIET space, away from all distractions.
  3. Since I’m a Christ follower, I like to start my time reading The Word. I suggest something focused so you don’t have think about what to read each morning. Planning ahead will maximize your morning intentional time. Right now, I am almost done with Havilah Cunnington’s study I Do Hard Things. (Side note: I will be writing a review of this study upon completion. I am 75 percent of the way finished. I am a Truth to Table member, so I have access to her studies for free. Check out Truth to Table HERE.) I will watch her video, read that daily section in the book (via PDF online). I will reread scripture and journal about key concepts. Then I will go into quiet prayer time.
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Truth to Table is amazing. If you are a Christian working mom, there is nothing out there quite like it…so many ways to access Biblical teachings on a time crunch.

I end my intentional time by planning out my day, making lists of everything I need to get done in all areas of my life. (More on my planner choices for 2018 coming soon.)

I often finish my intentional time in the car on the way to work by listening to an uplifting podcast or listening to worship music. I often listen to Havilah’s podcasts, but most recently, I have been listening to Elevation Church podcasts.

I know…I know. You are most likely annoyed that yet another person is telling you to wake up earlier. But do you know how much my quality of life has changed by this simple practice? My head feels clear, and my heart is prepared for the day. I feel like I can conquer the day – and as most of you know, my day is pretty full in that I am a mom of two little ones (ages 3 and 6), a full-time high school English teacher, and a LuLaRoe Retailer. Even when my schedule is completely full, I KNOW without my intentional time, I won’t be nearly as effective. Now, I’m not perfect, and sometimes I miss a day here and there. Let me say that I feel a difference when I don’t have my intentional time.

I would love to hear your thoughts on intentional time…what are your favorite ways to set the tone for your day?


#BestLifeBy35: The Series

Um. I just recently came to the realization that I am going to be 35 in 2018. Holy cow. What put it in perspective for me? My mom had my youngest sister when she was 35, right when I was entering my senior year of high school. At the time, I thought she was really old. (Sorry, Mom.) But honestly, here we are! Ha.

When I look back at my life thus far, just like any one of you, I remember highs and lows, joys and disappointments, times of heartache and frustration, times of bliss and near perfection.

But a lot of my life has lacked true intention.

Sure, I have always been decently self-motivated. A few close friends and family members have told me that I’m one of the most determined people they have ever met. But when I really think about what motivates me to achieve certain goals, whether big or small, I think most have been achieved in a spirit of competition or people-pleasing. If I achieve this goal, I will be considered successful. If I make this happen, so-and-so will be proud of me. If I can just do this, then I will win. So in other words, I don’t feel like the why behind my striving has often been truly deeply intentional.

Sad to admit when you’re 34. But true.

I’m not sad to see 2017 go. I will say goodbye to many struggles, frustrations, and disappointments. But I’m so ready to say hello to new beginnings and an exciting journey of self-discovery.

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The #bestlifeby35 blog series operates under two goals: 1. to keep myself accountable for being truly intentional in my life and being more authentic with you, my reader, and 2. helping you as my reader discover some insights and daily practices I have/will go through that will help me align my goals and desires to truly intentional behaviors that will ultimately cultivate my best life. I hope that what I share will help you in some way to cultivate your best life as well.


LuLaRoe Jaxon jacket (size small), LuLaRoe Elegant Amelia dress (size small), Groopdealz (Journey and Crew) booties. Style post on these pieces coming soon!

No, there’s not ever a life that has been lived or will be lived in a perfect way (besides the life of my Savior, Jesus), but I intend to make choices that will bear fruit in my life physically, spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally. And I want to take you on that journey with me, my friend.

I would love for you to examine the parts of your life that need some fine tuning and join with me! If you document your life on Instagram, I would love for you to use the hashtag #bestlifeby35 (even if you’re nowhere near the age of 35!) so I can cheer you on in your journey toward self-discovery, enlightenment, and joy.

I look forward to what is to come in all of our lives. Thank you for your support in 2017, and I look forward to connecting with you more in the New Year!