My answer to ‘go big or go home’.

I’ve been running again. I’ve always hesitated to call myself a runner, because I know so many more legitimate runners—the ones who run 100km marathons… or even 40km marathons, or even half marathons! My few runs a week, in my mind, didn’t count.
Recently though, I shared this photo of myself on Facebook, after a run (yeah, this one looks 100% better than my passport photo, thank you Instagram filters!) and a friend replied telling me she’s been running almost daily for months and feels amazing.

A run every day?! How far do you run? I ask her.
Oh, it varies, mostly three kilometres, she replies. Occasionally I’ll do six.
Okay… how long do you run for?
Only about 20 minutes each time.
What?!

What had formed such a strong idea in my mind that a real run must be at least 5km? That unless I sweat it out for 45 minutes, it doesn’t count.
Why didn’t I ever feel as accomplished just going for a 3km run, a quick 20 mins?
Why did I have such a go big or go home attitude?
What’s wrong with staying small, and consistent?

Since I freed myself from the idea that I needed to do a big 30-40 minute run for it to count (count for what, and to whom I have no idea!), I’ve run more often than I ever have. Because I don’t have to psych myself up, or scrounge up extra time. It’s just 20 minutes, I tell myself. It’s only a 3.5km circuit. Or, it’s just to the boat ramp and then back again.

And I’ve been consistent now for weeks. I snatch a moment here or an early morning there. I tie my sneakers and jog at my own pace, for whatever distance I decide—I have no desire to run a marathon, I just want to run off my thoughts, plod out some prayers, get some fresh air and return with a good dose of happy endorphins. And I do. And the kilometres mount up and before I know it I’ve run 10k in less than a week.

So maybe staying small, is a win, because small and regular is better than big and… never.
Because if I’m honest, the idea that something needs to be big, and impacting and perfect actually immobilises me from trying, from beginning, from just doing.
And if staying small is what it takes to give me the courage to try, without the pressure of perfection, or an unreachable and unattainable result, then I’ll stay small and stay home.

Staying small means I pick up my journal in the morning without the pressure of scratching pages and pages; just write a sentence or two.
It means I can sit down to read my Bible, and know that reading a couple of verses actually does count, because I’m practising a daily slow that stills the hustle.
Staying small means that, though I may not have a whole day to spend with an individual kiddo, I can sit at the kitchen bench and give them an undivided 20 minutes, often.
It means that simply reworking some leftovers for dinner the next night is small, and easy, but it helps me to consistently provide homemade meals and avoid takeaway.

So, I’m happy to stay small, and come back home, if it means I keep showing up in all the ways that matter.

xx

what can happen in 10 months (when you don’t have Instagram)

When I was pregnant with my firstborn, my husband got up in the middle of the night and kicked his big toe. I can’t remember what he kicked it on, maybe it was the corner of the bed or a random object laying in the dark on the carpet. But I do remember being awoken by his shout, and then he probably kicked the thing intentionally, just to teach it a lesson.
The midnight attack of said random-object-or-bed-corner resulted in his toenail falling off a week later.
I joked often after our son was born, that I managed to grow an entire human in the time it took for my husband to grow one big toenail back. It was probably a year before he had a fully functioning toenail (side note: what is the function of toenails I wonder?).

Ten months ago I deleted my Instagram, without any real intention of going back.
I posted this about why, and then this about what I was learning, early on.
It was always about being less distracted, more grounded, and finding ways to embrace a slower pace—without the comparison to a bazillion other lives tearing my eyes away from my own.

The biggest thing I found was that I didn’t need Instagram to be distracted.
Maybe it’s human nature, or just Em-nature, but it seems that I am rather good at finding ways to zone out, check out, and procrastinate, even without my phone in my hand.
There’s Netflix and the bathroom cupboard that needs to be sorted, and five friends who want to have coffee, and books (not a bad thing but can be used as a distraction) and wandering through Kmart looking at things I don’t need.
Surprisingly I found it hadn’t been Instagram that was preventing me from doing anything meaningful, it was myself.
It was me, finding distraction from sitting down to a blank page, and it was me, finding other things to do instead of opening my Bible, and it was me, not taking captive runaway thoughts and letting them go like the string on a balloon.

Sorry Instagram, it wasn’t your fault.

However the biggest habit I broke, by deleting my Instagram, was the first-thing-in-the-morning scroll. This was massive.
I believe the way that we start our day, each day, is important. Crucial, even. And starting my day bleary-eyed and waking up to all the competing noise of social media was like junk food for my soul—easy, fast, but in no way healthy.
I broke the habit. I no longer had anything to scroll, so I’d wake up just like the pre-smartphone days. Hey God. I’m awake. Thanks for another morning.
My eyes adjust to the grey light creeping through the slits in the blinds, I stretch and curl my toes, move to a cool patch on the sheets, listen to the birds and notice changing seasons, changing light, changing me.
Sometimes I play with words or phrases in my mind, string poetry and prose.
Sometimes I reach for my Bible, or my journal. And when my kids rise early and reach for me, I’m right there, present. With them, warm bodied and aware of the absolute gift in front of me and not annoyed that they’re interrupting my covetous craving for that person’s holiday/bedroom/life scroll.

The same is true for night time. We plug our phones right next to our beds, and let the blue light dance in our eyes and we scroll trance-like, instead of seeing the gifts in front of us. Instead of listening to our bodies tell us they’re tired, instead of winding down with a book or with conversations. I’ve broken that habit too. Because the way we end our days is just as crucial.

But, after 10 months, I’m back on the ‘gram.
I missed the connection and the creativity.
But this time there’s intention around what I’m producing, and how I’m scrolling and interacting. Because life is so much bigger than that grid of squares, and I want to live it and feel it: elbow deep in kneading sourdough, snaking on carrot sticks and leaning over homework, saying yes when one of the kids says ‘can we go for a run/play Monopoly/watch a movie together’ and making eye contact with the other person in the room.
I’m back on the ‘gram, but for fleeting moments, and with intention.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.

Romans 12:1-2 The Message

Come say hi.

https://www.instagram.com/everydayofferings

xx

transitions and transplants

At the time of writing, it is 34 days, 9 hours and 50 minutes until the clock ticks over into a new year.
A new decade.
Twenty years ago, I was 15 and we were entering into a new millennium. I remember feeling the weight of it; there was a sense that I was living in an important time in history.
It was an important time in my own story. At the end of Year 10, I changed schools and ultimately changed the course of my life—the path I followed lead me to find Jesus, and lifelong friends, and myself and the church community where I met the man I would marry, only a few years after graduating.
I sometimes wonder what would have happened had I not made the decision to move schools, to seek a
fresh start.

This year I’m beginning to feel that weightiness again. The brink of a new decade feels heavy, important.
I sense the rapid passing of time, and there’s an urgency and intention that meets me in that space.
Maybe it’s because I’m no longer 15 but 35.
It could also be that this year has been just as transitional and profound as the year I started a new school.
This year has been uncomfortable and thrilling, frustrating and tiring and elating.
For the first time in 13 years, I shifted from the zone of work-from-home mum, to having an outside the home job—no small thing. Then, Daniel started a new job, after being in his job for almost twenty years—all this after he had worked hard for years to get a Diploma, and a Builders license and we’d almost given up hope.
This year has been so full of changes, and transitions and newness and adjustment.

We’ve unravelled and unlearned. We’ve been undone and been re-done and laughed till we cried.
We’ve worked as a team and high-fived each other every step of the way, but, it’s been hard.

A couple of weeks ago I stopped dead in my lounge room—I felt as if I had been slapped in the face.
Transplanting.
There’s a transplanting that is taking place. My fiddle leaf had outgrown it’s pot. It was root bound. I had to find a new pot so that its roots could stretch out, so that it could begin to flourish again.
You see, I’d given it everything that it needed to thrive. It had water, good soil, the spot near the front window with the bright morning light. Regardless of all of the perfect elements, it had outgrown the space it was in, and if I didn’t transplant it to another pot, it wouldn’t survive.
It was in that moment in my lounge room I realised that sometimes we outgrow spaces, and that we can’t keep shrinking to keep ourselves there. We can’t stay small.
We can’t stay in doubt or in fear or in that place of concern for what others might think.
Sure, there’s a bit of trauma with a transplant, my poor fiddle definitely had a little shock.
When I slipped it out of the pot it had been in for too many years, its roots were densely curled around themselves, and so very squished.
The new pot got a load of fresh soil, and I had to forcefully pull apart some of the roots as a reminder—you don’t need to stay small, I know this hurts a bit now, but it’s going to be so much better in this bigger place. (I know you talk to your indoor plants too.)
Now it’s thriving again, unfurling new leaves in bright green, and not drooping sadly anymore.

The transplant is hard. Removing ourselves from spaces that limit us, lid us, and restrict our growth can be a shock.
But we need to remember that there is so much more ahead, in larger vessels where we can flourish.

One of my favourite life-verses talks about living in wide open spaces.
I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection.
Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!
(2 Cor 6:11-13 MSG)

The best thing about these wide open spaces waiting for us, is that He’s gone before us there too.

Things I’m asking myself on the brink of this new year:

What has kept me small?
What do I have to do to move into a bigger wide-open space?
What do I need to let go of?
What needs to be pruned out?

I’m making time over the next month to get honest, to reflect on what has been, and to prepare my heart for what is to come.

xx

(As an aside, my friend Amanda has an amazing resource for those of us who want to intentionally move into a new year with vision and purpose. It’s a workbook called Seeking Clarity, you can find it in her shop.)

drink the wild air

A few years ago a counsellor I was seeing was telling me of the numerous studies that have been done, showing the benefits of families who go camping as their children are growing up. These studies revealed that camping creates a cohesiveness in families, and those families who went on camping holidays together showed stronger relationships between parents and their teenagers and adult children in the future.
Interesting isn’t it?

I didn’t read any of the studies, or do any research, but you don’t need to be a social scientist to understand the benefits of camping. We made a commitment as a family a couple of years ago to camp often, and last year we pitched our tent no less than five times!
This holidays was our third camping trip for 2019, and the best by far.

It’s escaping the fast pace of every day.
It’s togetherness—close togetherness, jammed tight into a car on a long trip, into a tent with mattresses lined up in a row.
It’s team work; setting up and holding tarps and tents, tapping in pegs and unfolding sleeping bags.
It’s in the way that doing simple chores becomes adventure, and preparing meals becomes a novelty.
It’s living in sunshine, swimming the sea, drinking the wild air’s salubrity*

It was slowing down, watching the trees blur by with the mountains of the Great Southern behind them. There were fields and fields of bright yellow canola, and cows and horses and sheep and lambs, and there was comfortable quiet, and conversations that rambled like the hills.
We pitched a tent with ocean views, and watched whales in the bay with our morning coffee!
We moved close around the fire in the evening, roasting marshmallows and remembering funny family stories—rehashing those family tales, the ones that confirm our place within the world, our world.
We rustle up simple grub, that tastes like five star gourmet after full days of sun and sand and salt.
We wake early to explore, roaming beaches and trekking down hills, never knowing where they’ll lead us, and always finding magic. The magic of whales, breaching just beyond the breakers, and of watching dolphins, and of discovering hidden coastline framed with mountains.
We’re off our phones, off the beaten track, off the grid, the wheel, the grind—off in our own little worlds.
There is nothing like it.

Drinking this air, in the wild of creation, and all of it singing His songs.
We’re creating memories and I’m breathing it all in; basking bodily on warm rocks, and eating too much chocolate, waking up to the birds (and the piles of kids, rolling across our sinking air mattresses, tickling and giggling).
We’re memory making and simplifying and resetting, mentally and spiritually.

And when we come home grubby, and tired and full, and while the washing machine seems not to be finished even days later—we are rested and recharged and ready to head headlong into our every day lives. Only now we’re slower paced, self-aware, carrying with us the sense that life doesn’t have to be complicated, and that camping doesn’t have to end when the tent is rolled up and the fishing gear is put away.
We’ve got our every day moments together. We may not have whales to watch while we drink our morning coffee, but the willie wagtails on the front lawn can bring wonder if we let them. We may not have marshmallows to roast, but we have daily meals to eat together, and stories to tell and memories to make. There’s a beach down the street, and lengthening days to fill with our people.

We knit it all into the fabric of our days, drinking the wild air and living in the sunshine.

xx

*Ralph Waldo Emerson, beautiful words

adrift, little boat

Are you in a transition season?
I feel you, girlfriend.
Yet when I look back on the last six months, I can see the way that God was weaving and fitting the pieces of my life together, when at the time, I didn’t think they made sense. 
To me they were scraps of paper, half written paragraphs, and unfinished poems. I wondered why; why here, why now, this is not what I expected.
Each day I’d walk from my car to the office and ask God, ‘What do I need to learn in this season? What is it about this place of transition that I need, to be able to enter into the new?’

 Our family has walked so many transitions over the past year. 
Change, even when it’s been much anticipated and excitedly expected, can be difficult. It’s tricky finding your feet when the ground beneath you feels like it’s constantly shifting. Constantly feeling like you’re balancing precariously across an unfamiliar path can be exhausting. I have felt exhausted.

Often, it’s not until we look back on certain seasons that we begin to understand the way they fit. The way that God held them all together—going before us, writing our days together and seeing the end when we couldn’t. He knows the messes we’ll make before we make them, and still He’s willing to hold us, and help us. 

 A friend and I walked this week and she described transition seasons so beautifully. She said it’s like being adrift in the ocean, where the fog is too thick to see what comes next, or which direction to go. When sailors face this on their ships they cut the engines, they pull down the sails and they watch the sky. Because you can’t go full steam in any direction when you can’t see what’s ahead.
They watch the sky and wait. They wait, with their eyes fixed up

 It’s what I did. I watched and waited. I wondered what God was up to, and relinquished those things I couldn’t control. I voiced my hopes, and asked and trusted that He knew what he was doing. The fog was thick, but I knew that if I watched and waited long enough that the sky would clear and the path would be visible. Today, I feel like I’m sailing gently out of the murky waters. The fog is lifting and I’m beginning to see the path I need to take, and why I needed to drift right here into this moment. 

 Today I want to encourage you that whatever season you’re in, you can trust that God holds you. That He goes before you, and that if you pay close attention, you might just see what He’s up to. This poem from Song of Songs has brought comfort to me recently and I wanted to share:

The season has changed,
the bondage of your barren winter has ended,
and the season of hiding is over and gone.
The rains have soaked the earth
and left it bright with blossoming flowers.
The season for singing and pruning the vines has arrived. 
I hear the cooing of doves in our land, 
filling the air with songs to awaken you
and guide you forth.
Can you not discern this new day of destiny
breaking forth around you?
The early signs of my purposes and plans
are bursting forth. 
The budding vines of new life
are now blooming everywhere.
The fragrance of their flowers whisper,
“There is change in the air.”

If you feel like your little boat is adrift on unknown waters, just cut the engines. Don’t be too hasty to make decisions. Stop and still. Maybe put a hand out, let it float in the calm. Before long, the fog will lift and you’ll know where it is you need to go. For now, rest assured that indeed there’s a new day of destiny breaking forth around you. 

xx

she said it’s okay

What I’ve discovered about motivation is that it’s fleeting.
She’s a fickle and fair-weather friend, arriving usually without much notice, and only when she feels like it.
And when she arrives—oh what fun—her zeal for life is like a breath of fresh air. She twirls around and adds an energy you’d forgotten you had. Your bathroom gets scrubbed like it hasn’t in a long time, the tops of door frames get wiped free from dust, your 5am alarm succeeds in rousing you even though it’s dark, and you collapse in to bed each night feeling accomplished and ready for the next day.
You’re grateful that motivation has decided to visit, and you hope she stays a while.
She makes life easier—like riding an escalator instead of trudging up the stairs.

Unfortunately though, you never know how long she’ll stick around. Sometimes she disappears without a trace, other times she lingers. But when motivation is gone, how then does the 5am alarm rouse you?
How do you do what you do without the spring in your step?

I’m beginning to think that maybe discipline is just motivation but without the feeling.
So when the feeling is gone, the discipline of getting up, of showing up, of getting it done, that you’ve built throughout your every day, is enough to impel you into all that needs to be done.
And I know it. Discipline is an awful word.
Doesn’t it sound like it’s something that makes you force yourself to do something even when you don’t feel like it, over and over. Probably because that’s what it is.
Because I’d rather rely on my good mate Habit, than fickle old Motivation. And if I use discipline, the things I do over and over become habits that I want ingrained in my life.

I’m preaching to myself and even I’m eye-rolling.
I want habits of daily gratitude and quiet mornings.
I want ingrained habits of going straight to breathing prayers in uncomfortable situations, rather than complaints.
I want slowing practices of reading, of praying, of pounding the pavement to ground me, and to be able to do them without allowing my feelings to weigh in on the decision.

I want that, but I know I also have to give myself permission.
I’ve realised that in all my preaching-to-myself about discipline, I haven’t been very kind.
I’ve been berating myself about why I haven’t been able to get out of bed as early as I wanted, or why I can’t seem to be able to string thoughts together, let alone words.

After a month of wondering why I couldn’t quite get it together, and feeling frustrated that I wasn’t quite squeezing enough out of each day, I told myself it was okay.
It’s okay that the bathroom wasn’t sparkling. It’s okay that you haven’t produced any content or shared anything profound on social media. It’s okay that all you’re managing is the food for your family, and loving them hard—nothing else is quite so important anyway.

It’s okay friend. To go through the motions because that’s all you’ve got the capacity for in this moment.
It’s okay to pray only as you do the dishes, for that fleeting moment that no one is asking you questions or demanding your attention.
It’s okay to snuggle longer under the weight of your quilt, and snooze the alarm for just 10 more minutes.
There is a place for discipline, but there’s also a place for fluidity—for being kind to yourself, and for understanding seasonal changes, and shifts in balance.
There’s a place for work, and a time for play. There’s a time for putting in the hours, and wisdom to know when to stope and breathe. There’s a week for driving all over, doing it all, and another one for slow bike rides and doing not much of anything.

Discipline will come as you put one foot in front of the other.
Motivation will even come and visit again soon, but for now, linger in the freedom that comes when not everything needs to be done right at this moment.
Pull something out of the freezer for dinner.
Curl up with your hot drink and watch free to air tv and ignore the washing pile.
Sometimes it’s just been a day.
D’you hear me? I said it’s okay.

xx

the long way home

I had a myriad of reasons not to go.
Some of them were legitimate: he’s been working all week, we haven’t had much family time.
Others were not so much: I can’t be bothered, I can write from home, why do I need to drive so far [out of my comfort zone].
I’d said I was going a month ago, but if I’m honest, I probably only made the decision fully the day before. Okay yes fine, I’ll just go.

A weekend in New Norcia, a tiny town that took me almost three hours of driving to reach (Friday afternoon at peak hour was probably not the best time to get past the city!), with a bunch of other women writers, eating and sleeping in a monastery.
It was twenty four hours of adventure that I almost passed on because I was tired. Also because I was facing an existential crisis with regards to my writing. I’d thrown my hands up in the air, with the figurative pages of my book manuscript flying up with them. I’d stopped working on it months ago because of all the self-doubt and angst that writers face when their work just doesn’t feel good enough— I decided that my shitty first drafts were too shitty (Anne Lamott, thank you).

Our first night at the monastery, we walked up dark wooden stairs that were slippery with rain, and sat in a small study. The lights were dim, it was warm and we were donned in ugg boots and cosy jumpers.
Here, we were given our first assignment. Write what you’re giving yourself permission for.
Permission to write nothing, permission to write terribly, permission to have fun or take a nap or eat chocolate.

I needed permission. Not from anyone else, but from myself.

Facing another couple of hours in my car alone on my way home, I was tempted to rush.
Rush out of the moments I’d experienced, and rush out of the slowness into the fast pace of my brain’s to-do list. Rush home faster so I could tick more things off before bedtime.
So that I could go home and once again be comfortable and in control.

As I was driving through the country I started telling myself I had permission not to rush. To keep my writer-hat on and sit with my soul-bucket full, and not to hurry into responsibility and motherhood and pouring out again.
As I was giving myself these permissions, I passed the cutest little green caravan with a fruit stand.
That would make the cutest photo I thought. And kept driving.

Coffee, I’ll stop and get a takeaway coffee for the road. The bakery wasn’t far.
The line was long, so I took a seat while I waited for my order, and pulled out my journal.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the fruit stand with it’s old green caravan, and bags of fresh mandarines.
My fountain pen scribbled these words:

I give myself permission to take the long way home.
The way that backtracks to the mandarine stand, because I desperately want a photo. And a bag of freshly picked mandarines.
The long way, past the bakery to stop for a coffee and something sweet. The long way that says
stop – your family are fine without you for this moment. It’s okay to fill your own soul before you pour out for others.

And look. Look how lovely it is to lean into the solitude instead of rushing straight through it.
How lovely it is to embrace adventure, to backtrack to country fruit stands, to stop here in this busy bakery and write, as you sip your long macchiato.

Why don’t we go ahead and give ourselves permission?
Right now. Give yourself permission to take what you need—space, solitude, time out, a night off cooking or cleaning. Permission to say yes to fun: a netball game, a novel, a movie, an ice-cream with the kids.

I drove home, peeling farm-fresh mandarines that filled my car with one of my favourite winter smells. I drove, with their sweet juice bursting in my mouth, savouring each segment as I smiled to myself, full and alone and unhurried.

You’ll have time to tick all the must-do’s on your list tomorrow.
For now, give yourself permission to take the long way home.

xx