Evening routines have become tricky with teenagers in the home. As fatigue sets in and I crave my bedroom space, they seem to move in the opposite direction, refueled after dinner and ready to settle into their most social hours. Yes, hours. Mark and I have laughed at how many times our boys have plopped onto our bed with a big question just before 10 pm as our eyes flutter to keep awake. We find ourselves setting new, unexpected boundaries in this stage of parenting, including no critical conversations after 9 pm or all personal devices (including our own) tucked away in a basket at 9 pm. Of course, these boundaries are not always popular and can be challenging even for me, but protecting evening routines are crucial for healthy sleep habits and worth the effort.

Truthfully, as our family grows older, it seems more difficult to prioritize sleep in our home. As it turns out, we’re not alone. A quick internet search on sleep deprivation among adults, teens, or children will turn up pages of results with dismal statistics. How is it––when so much research shows the importance of sleep in connection with mental, emotional, and physical well-being––that we came to think of sleep as a dispensable luxury?  

To help our children and teens establish healthy evening routines and sleep habits and maintain them ourselves, we do practice a few simple habits. We limit screentime and late-night important conversations that might be better heard during the day. We enjoy time unplugged together, like weekly game nights or time around the firepit, and have always encouraged a reading hour before bed to wind down our bodies and minds. We dim the lights, a practice that can be most challenging in the winter months when the dark arrives earlier and the gloom feels endless.

We also recently swapped all of the bedroom lightbulbs and reading lamps with Soraa Healthy LED bulbs. After learning more about the negative impact blue light can have on sleep rhythms and personal health, we were so excited to discover the only energy-efficient bulb with zero blue light! It blocks the light waves that inhibit melatonin production (the hormone that signals our brain to ease into sleep), the type of light that deters our bodies from sleep. I wish these bulbs had been around in my early years of mothering! Maybe it would have curbed all those last minute asks for water or for one more bedtime story. Wink.  

With the increase in screens and artificial light in households, more research is cropping up on the ways blue light might be connected to sleep deprivation. In one particular study, research showed that “the blue light suppressed melatonin for about twice as long as the green light and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much (3 hours vs. 1.5 hours).” As any sleepy parent or teen can attest, 90 minutes of more or less sleep can make such a difference! Yet these results are not just for teens. Another collection of studies found that 60% of women sleep less than the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep a night, meaning most of the women in our lives (including ourselves) exist in a constant state of sleep deprivation. I realize there are pockets of time where sleep deprivation feels inevitable, but how many of us lose that needed sleep as a result of our screens and blue light in our homes?

Sleeping rhythms naturally change after puberty––I get it. I also know that before long each of my teens will be living in their own spaces, creating their own boundaries and lifestyles. For now, establishing healthy boundaries for our screens and filtering the light in our home with Soraa Healthy bulbs feels like a step in the right direction to protect our need for sleep.


This post is sponsored by Soraa Home, a business our family supports and loves. Images taken by myself or Hannah Walls for Cloistered Away. All thoughts are my own. Thank you for supporting the businesses that help keep this space afloat.

There are a million and two reasons to keep your phone tucked away and out of reach during the day, but an audiobook is not one of them. Like many of you, we listen to audiobooks in the car, in the kitchen, on the sofa or our beds, through our headphones on-the-go, and so on. They have been salvation for me during the little years, when my children would play Legos for hours on their bedroom floor or when they were too old for naps but needed rest time. They have been a gift for me too when I want to enjoy my own books on a run or while bustling about the house or while traveling. I find myself in the same place with audiobooks that I do with the books I read––there are so many good ones, it’s difficult to know which to choose.

There are so many decisions when deciding a book to read. I tend to agree with Kathleen Kelly’s character in You’ve Got Mail when she says, “When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.” That said, I can argue countless ways that books change and inform me now. Written and spoken words are powerful. So how do we know which are worth our time? Often, I ask a friend.

On Instagram last week, I asked followers to share their favorite audiobooks. Here’s a list of their responses, linked for the curious, separated only by stories that seemed more suited for older listeners versus younger ones. The asterisks mark books or series that were mentioned more than once. I only added Pride and Prejudice read by Rosamund Pike since it’s my most recent one to finish and enjoy. It’s perfect for older children and teen listeners, too!  I have read or listened to several books listed but now have fresh ideas for both the kids and myself. I hope you will, too.


 

FOR YOU

Eleanor Oliphant is Fine**

Becoming**

The Book of Joy

The Girl of the Limberlost

The Gown

These is My Words

Jayber Crow

The Help**

Big Magic**

Bossypants**

Still Alice

Dare to Lead**

East of Eden

Anything by David Sedaris

Brave Learner

All the Light We Cannot See**

Liturgy of the Ordinary

Bad Blood

The Social Animal 

Love Does

The Guernsey Potato Peel Pie Society

The Power of a Habit

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn**

A Gentleman in Moscow

Anything by Timothy Keller

The Conscious Parent

Educated**

Anything by Ruta Sepetys

Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year

Bread and Wine**

The Winter Sea

A Praying Life

The Gospel Comes with a House Key

anything by Malcolm Gladwell**

Sherlock Holmes

God’s Smuggler

The Joy of Less

For the Love

The More of Less

Laurus

The Gift of Being Yourself 

Vinyl Cafe 

Better Than Before

12 Rules for Life

Becoming Mrs. Lewis

The Night Circus

All Creatures Great and Small

The Boys in the Boat

To Kill a Mockingbird

Pride and Prejudice 

 

FOR THE FAMILY

Echo**

Farmer Boy

Winnie-the-Pooh

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series

The Hobbit

Mary Poppins series**

The Wingfeather Saga**

The Roald Dahl Collection

Julia Donaldson books (for littles)

Chronicles of Narnia–Radio Theatre**

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy**

Little Britches series**

anything by GA Henty

Anne of Green Gables** 

The Saturdays

The Penderwicks series**

Paddignton Bear

Biographies by Janet + Geoff Benge**

Little Women (also the BBC Radio version)

Young Fredle

Ballet Shoes series

Green Ember series

Robinson Crusoe (also BBC Children’s Classics)

The beginning is always today. 
― Mary Shelley

When my children were small and clustered in the infant to preschool years, taking a moment to get dressed for the day took intention and strategic planning. Many days it felt impossible. Sometimes I would wait for the first nap; sometimes I would put the baby in the crib or give my toddler something to keep himself busy. Many times my littles were in the room with me at my feet or rummaging through my bathroom drawers. Such small windows of time kept these daily self-care routines simple and quick, and although my children are growing and more independent, our mornings are now busy in different ways. It turns out, these small routines forged in the early years still carry me now. They are fifteen minutes well spent.

On any given day in motherhood, there are a million reasons not to carve out time for yourself––even simply to wash your face, put on a little makeup, and change out of PJs. But hear me: you are worthy of the time. Brush your teeth. Wash your face. Brighten your tired eyes with a little concealer or dab your cheeks with a little blush. Swipe on a little gloss and the kids are certain to ask where you’re going. Ha! It requires less time than you think, and the result will always help you feel more human.

MY FIFTEEN MINUTE MORNING ROUTINE

Whether we consider ourselves morning people or not, getting dressed and facing the day is necessary for all of us. Perhaps the morning is not the ideal time for soul-care, quiet thought, or creative work for you. That’s ok! We are each gloriously different,  but I encourage you to take care of your interior person by finding time in later hours. The morning routine below is how I get ready for the day each morning, moving from morning breath and PJs to a fresh-faced leader in my home.

Get Dressed, 5 minutes / Most days, I wear a version of the same thing: jeans, a top, and a layered sweater. I add dresses or skirts to join in the warmer months. Since I am home most days, the goal is to feel put together in some manner, but also remain comfortable. And yes, some days I end up in yoga pants and an oversized sweater. I leave more playful, creative styling for date nights or other evening events when I have a bit more time to experiment with what I own. I have been long inspired by the capsule wardrobe I first discovered here several years ago.

Brush Teeth + Wash Face + Mindset, 5 minutes / I wash and prep my skin first, using my favorite Cleansing Balm, Radiance Serum, and Day Cream. It’s strange how wonderful a warm cloth on my face can be in the morning, especially the cold days. Then I brush my teeth, allowing my skin to soak up the hydration for a bit before makeup. It may sound silly, but toothbrushing is the time when I refresh my mindset. I may focus on an encouraging quote, a recent conversation, or a Scripture on the mirror, but these intentional few minutes serve as a brief meditation each morning and night.

Hair + Makeup, 5 minutes / Some days, I just let my frizzy waves go and wear my hair down just as it is. Many days, I tie it back in a twist, a braid, or top-knot to save styling time. I still use these tutorials I shared a few years ago. As for makeup, I prefer natural, glowing colors that don’t require heaps of fuss or time. For those of you who enjoy the same, here are my non-toxic favorites that I can apply in only a few minutes:

This collection is also wonderful for a finished look in under five minutes and includes many of my favorites, too. Enjoy!


Images by Hannah Walls for Cloistered Away. 

I didn’t begin the year with an urge to start fresh goals. If anything, I only had the desire for less. Less time commitments. Less of my own ego. Less busyness with unimportant things. Less things cluttering my time and kitchen cabinets. But living with less, as most Westerners realize, requires humility, fortitude, and remarkable discipline. This month, I have been slowly inventorying my capacity and desires right alongside my belongings. If less is what is needed, then the answer is certainly not found in doing more but instead prioritizing something I already have or am already doing. Then, put the rest aside. Sometimes the reminder we need isn’t a notification on our phone or a mark on the calendar, it is a line of wisdom sitting on our bookshelf currently collecting dust. Here are the books I have been re-reading at the start of the year, fortifying some rhythms and re-making others.


Essentialism | I have read this book annually the last four years (just finished it again this week), mostly because I am not an essentialist by nature. Although the book is technically about business and economics, the life applications are endless, reminding me with each read of the power of choice, of my need to define and protect what is most valuable, and as I mentioned in the last post, to recognize the trade-offs as Mark and I work toward long-term goals. I walk away from this book with more clarity and vision of our values, with more resolve to say no.

This is Home  | Although there are heaps of coffee table books with beautiful images of homes, I love how this book by the stylist Natalie Walton explores the soul of the home as much as the aesthetic. Broken up in three parts with interviews and images of 16 international homes, This is Home explores how we create, live within, and nurture our sense of home. The featured homes are lovely, no doubt, but much like our own home, they are not primly designed or overly fancy. The homes seem more organically designed, more slowly grown into by the people who inhabit them. This books always helps stir my creativity in our home’s design, to think through what we already own, to see the space we inhabit in a new way.

Simple Matters | I read this book by blogger Erin Boyle cover to cover when it first released, and I reference it often throughout the year. She and her family of four live in only a few hundred square feet in the NYC, and again and again, I find myself challenged by their minimal lifestyle, by their intention and creativity in tiny apartment living. The book is neatly categorized by areas of the home and is quite practical whether you are cleaning out a closet, decluttering your office drawer, or making your own cleaning products.

Teaching From Rest | I did not begin homeschooling because I love grading or creating academic tasks for my children. I do not think I am the best teacher or the most consistent one either. I sometimes find myself slipping into that role, looking at our homeschool as a machine of “did you?” Check. Check. I am perpetually aware of my short-comings and theirs. How do we do it all? We don’t. No one does. This quick read is always encouraging for me. It gives practical helps, of course, but more importantly, it slows me down and reminds me, less is better here, too. This read is faith-based, but I find instead of a didactic how-to, it is a comforting voice of a friend, asking me to consider again why our family chose this path this year. I find myself identifying my core values and goals for our learning again, instead of simply looking at what the curriculum guide says or what another parent is doing. I see my children. I see me. I see our own style and pace and needs. I am finding the important less that makes it more for all of us.

Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership | I read this book last fall and am re-reading it again now, even referenced it here last week. Clearly, this is not a book either on minimalizing the home or organizing closets, but it recognizes our humanity, that we are not tasks or things to shuffle about, nor are those in our care. We are souls, and as such, we need margin and solitude. As one who can easily believe doing more or strategizing better is always the answer to a problem, this book quite practically reminds me to simply stop and listen, to make room for my thoughts and emotions, to make room for God to speak to me. It is a faith-based book, and although it is directed toward people in spiritual leadership, I found that the principles applied equally to those leading in any capacity––as a parent, mentor, or business owner, too.

 

Everything in my life has brought me here. ––Rainer Maria Rilke

Each new year, like many of you, I toss the figurative pieces of my life in the air to reimagine myself, our home, our work, our life. Culture-wide, it is the great re-evaluation of what we are meant to do, how we are meant to live, what or whom we truly value.  To keep my thoughts free of expectation, I pen them quietly in my journal as I go about cleaning forgotten corners and shelves, emptying the house of unnecessaries. Clearing the contents of a closet or an unsorted drawer seems to inspire my brain to do the same. And like the contents that end up piled by the door to pass on to another home or donate, I often discover it is not that I need more, but to be more disciplined with less. The same can be true of my goals. As I flipped through four journal pages of scrawled lists and fragmented thoughts cluttering my headspace––everything from our family’s core values to the spilled soil in the car that needs vacuuming to unfinished creative projects to a book I want to read aloud with the kids this year to something on this blog that needs fixing and so on––I was surprised to learn that my reaction was not to organize or optimize these thoughts, and it certainly wasn’t to add to it. Instead, I wanted to pen inked lines through them, to discern which mattered the most and fold the rest away with the unnecessaries by the door.

The underlying truth? Everything is a trade-off. I know this. You know this. Whether it is the space in our home or calendar or the more figurative space in our head, choosing one thing always requires us to give up something else. And yet, still, I find myself living and making choices, ignoring this core principle. I learned this the hard way recently. I am home for the bulk of my day, and from the time I wake up through the dinner hour, our energy seems high and buzzing, frenetic even. The hours fold into one another with personal work and chores and schoolwork and play and social media and meals and emails and walks and character conversations. The evening hours have always been life-giving for me in a different way than the day. They restore and quiet me. They allow space for my introverted person, for reflection or reading or time with Mark. Yet not wanting to compromise my daytime rhythms and work, I was scheduling more and more meetings and meet-ups during the evenings.

During much of this last fall, I felt this ongoing frustration at the lack of order in our days. The evening chores were often sloppy and only mostly done, meaning our mornings often started there. I felt this growing exhaustion and grumpiness in me coupled with a lack of creativity. I stopped picking up my camera. My writing felt flat, lacking in soul and often remained in drafts or in journals. Much of my time typically allotted to writing here or on social media was spent in restorative prayer and reading to curb a growing current of anxiety in my chest. There were regular piles in my bedroom: schoolwork needing reading/checking, books and articles I wanted to read, clothes folded and waiting to be put away somewhere in my messy drawer. I planned out my lists weekly and daily, crossing off, crossing off, crossing off; I had an assistant a few hours a week to help manage it all, and yet still, I sensed this looming sense of disorder and disconnection. As I cleared spaces and thoughts last week, wondering and making notes, I realized I had been giving too much to other people in the evenings. I had said yes to meetings and meet-ups with others because the hours seemed available. Technically, I didn’t have things scheduled, right? Without realizing it, I was trading off an essential part of myself, a crucial part of my own creativity, restoration, and connection within the home. One fresh start for the new year? Protect evening margins during the week.

Naturally, your own trade-offs will be different. Your home, core values, and energy will differ, too, sometimes year to year. The aim is not sameness. Rather, it is understanding your/family’s highest value and how to best protect and honor the energy required to work toward it. Sometimes it will mean folding up and shelving something for later; sometimes it will mean better-organization of time or resource; sometimes it will mean letting go of something altogether.

The end of October is a strange month to discuss habits, I know. Yet what I hope to encourage is that shifting a lifestyle pattern can happen at any point in the year, with the simplest goal, the smallest choice. It doesn’t need to happen all at once either, beginning every change at the same time, bombarding your new year with new rhythms and routines. But when the impulse or longing for change hits, it’s best not to wait but to simply begin right then, regardless of your original agenda. Here are five wellness habits I established this year for my body, mind, and spirit, all beginning at different points, in different months, based simply by a need I noticed in my lifestyle. Some of them are merely tweaking something I had already been doing, some of it is based on consistency, some was beginning something new altogether.

Screen-free Days | Although our family began this practice before this year, my attitude changed at the onset of 2018. Instead of screen-free days feeling like a discipline and restraint, it became a day I looked forward to, a liberating, unapologetic practice of self-care for myself and our home. My phone can be the slipperiest part on my end, for sure, so I often turn it off and set it aside for the day. Yes, I miss texts. Yes, I miss important updates and news. Yes, I miss phone calls from friends or family members. But only for that day. The personal and social updates are always waiting for me when I return the following day, and I find myself more grounded in the midst of the noise and information. Plus, as a family, we enjoy one full day each week with quiet, with the simplicity of only the relationships and activities we’re enjoying right that minute. It’s somewhat like stepping out of a crowded bar or restaurant into the quiet night. In one environment you can hear; in the other, you can listen. The contrast is inviting. Helpful resources: Garden City (more about work and rest than screens, but so good!), Screen-Free Fun (for ideas with kids), The Big Disconnect, The Tech-Wise Family, Simplicity Parenting, and so many more. 

Reading, Meditation, + Reflection for Spiritual Growth | It can be difficult to discern the strength of my soul or spirit, but I knew at the beginning of the year, my own felt weak. I was distracted and pre-occupied with what was happening in culture, with popular opinion, and with my own image in the midst of it all. What is true of our bodies is also true of our spirits, if we want to grow in any endeavor, we must rearrange our life for growth. In February, I began rearranging my life for spiritual transformation. I began reading and studying the Scriptures again several days a week, most intentionally on my screen-free day. There was no set agenda other than creating space to hear what God wanted to speak. Sometimes it felt inspiring and revelatory; sometimes it didn’t. Other days, I began meditating on passages, perhaps a Psalm or a few verses from the Sermon on the Mount or verses I had read the day before. I generally take a small passage of Scripture (no more than 10-12 verses), and read the passage three times, slowly and intentionally. Ideally, I do this aloud, but that’s not always possible. The aim is to allow God’s sacred words to soak into me without expectation of what I need to do with them. I read aloud and repeat, listening. This practice led to forming a group of women to read the Scriptures aloud with each week, and also to recovering this practice with my children in the mornings. I began journaling more consistently again, thoughts, reflections, ideas I was learning in studies. It’s been such a life-giving practice this year, strengthening my foundations, rooting my heart in purpose. Tools and books that have been helpful this year: my journal Bible, journal, Garden of Truth, She Reads Truth books, Cultivate Journal, Sacred Rhythms, Freedom of Simplicity.

Clean Personal Care Products | I’ve mentioned my journey to clean out toxins from our home and bathrooms here before, so clearly, this isn’t entirely new either. Yet the more I learn about the effects product ingredients can have on our hormones, emotions, mental and physical health, the more I pay closer attention to what we use in our home. This past spring, I emptied my bathroom drawer of any remaining personal care products––makeup, deodorant, toothpaste–– that include harmful ingredients and swapped them for safer alternatives. I’ve still been using Beautycounter for skincare and makeup and really appreciate their attention to quality and performance as much as safety. Their products keep getting better, as do their standards. For daily makeup, I stick with a few basics that can be applied in just a few minutes, like this custom makeup collection (which saves about $50 when purchased as a collection). I often add this neutral eye palette and keep my favorite Twig lipstick in my bag for quick application, too.  This new limited-edition skincare collection includes my very favorite products and is such a steal for a starting point. I often share more favorites on my wellness page.  As for other products, I’ve been loving this deodorant, and although I’ve been experimenting with safe solutions for my sensitive teeth, I think this toothpaste or this one are my favorites. If you’re curious to learn about the safety of some of the products in your home, the Environmental Working Group is a wonderful free resource! Their Skin Deep database has info on thousands of products, and it’s best to aim for the lowest number rating (I try to stick with ones and twos).

Daily Exercise | At the beginning of April, something clicked. I noticed the soft, undefined nature of my entire body, the way my clothes had steadily increased in size, yet still felt uncomfortable. I was a busy work-from-home, homeschooling mother. I had accepted it, telling myself I was growing older and this was normal. I wanted to be gentle with myself, understanding the context for doing so many things. And I have been gentle and permissive. But this was not simply about body image or lofty expectations, this was about strength and long-term health. I was tired of feeling tired and out-of-shape. I wanted to feel strong again, to feel energy and stamina in my days again. Knowing I had to use all this thinking for positive momentum, I immediately pulled my dusty 4-year-old running shoes from the closet, pulled on my snug running shorts, downloaded the Sweat app, and texted my sister to ask if she wanted to join me. We began the BBG workouts the next morning, the first Monday in April, walking for cardio days and doing my best to finish the resistance days. It was hard. And good. Almost seven months later, I’m still at it and growing stronger and faster! I don’t have a sensational weight loss or health story, but I’ve established a simple 30-minute daily habit. My clothes feel better. I am definitely stronger. My energy feels more consistent. When considering workouts in the beginning, it was important to do something I could manage consistently at home or from home for 30 minutes or so a day, without gyms or expensive equipment. Over the months, I have used whatever I had nearby or in our shed for resistance: the steps on our front stoop, picnic benches, chairs, gallon paint cans, planters. I’m beginning to add pieces of real equipment now as a reward for all the hard work. But most importantly, exercise is a part of my daily habit again. Even on rest days, it is a mindful rest and time for stretching and decompressing and meditation. // Helpful Tools // Sweat App (They have different programs within it for different goals. I’ve been using the BBG plan.) Yoga mat (any will do, but this one is new on my wishlist), jump rope, hand weights, weighted ball. Begin small with weights and check Craigslist and FB Marketplace for gently used equipment.

Cleaner Eating + Drinking | Those terms can be so vague and slippery, can’t they? There are so many opinions on what is best diet-wise, and I am not about to toss another one at you. Although I began regular exercise in the Spring, by the early Autumn, I knew I needed to rest some of my eating habits for a time, too. I love a bold, dry red wine in the evening and a dark, pour-over coffee first thing in the morning. I love crusty bread, soft cheeses, and dark chocolate––especially when pulled from the hot oven or melted into a ganache. Beginning the day with a cup of coffee and ending with a wine pour during the dinner hour is a part of my daily rhythm of beginnings and endings, and yet, sometimes, I feel the need to test my life without some of these affections, to re-discover my mental, emotional, and physical health apart from them. The aim is not deprivation; the aim is wholeness and well-being. Health that provides stamina for true living. Next month I will turn forty, so this month seemed like a fitting time to clear and re-start my eating and drinking habits, before a new decade, before the holidays. A few friends and I joined together for meal planning and support to do a 26-day plant-based detox loaded with smoothies, juices, herbal tea, and high-nutrient meals, and without caffeine, alcohol, meat, salt, or spicy foods. As you can imagine, the first week was the hardest, with headaches and lethargy, yet by the second week, my energy felt intense and steady. I felt stronger in my workouts and runs, and clearer minded in my days. I felt better in my clothing and noticed more tone again. It has been so good. The hardest parts, as expected, were the cocktail parties or social gatherings and family meals, as I was eating something different from my family, which was weird. But it sparked so many conversations about freedom and choice, the ways in which we use our freedom to make hard decisions. Such a good lesson and so many applications. I have finished the detox now and am creating my own meal plans again, but this time with more intention toward vegetables and fruits. I am delaying introducing coffee and meat again, although I did enjoy a small glass of natural organic wine over the weekend. Right now, I don’t know where I am heading, but I am excited to protect some new boundaries, to search out economical ways to enjoy whole foods and play with new flavors and recipes. // Helpful Tools // A detox partner or group. 

The soul is like a wild animal––tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy, self-sufficient. It knows how to survive in hard places. But it is also shy. Just like a wild animal, it seeks safety in the dense underbrush. If we want to see a wild animal, we know that the last things we should do is go crashing through the woods yelling for it to come out. But if we will walk quietly in the woods, sit patiently by the base of the tree, and fade into our surroundings, the wild animal we seek might put in an appearance. ––Parker Palmer, qt. in Sacred Rhythms

I suppose every adult has some number of plates spinning through the air in a single moment, but they seem to grow in quantity and intensity once children are involved. Consider for a moment, how many conversations are happening right now about parenthood, around the sleeping, feeding, educating, entertaining, maturing of a child? I couldn’t possibly number the ones in my head even as I type. Add homeownership, marriage, work, self-care, or community, and the amount of plates grow exponentially. It is no wonder our own souls begin to fade in the process.

I don’t mean to imply that the work of spinning or juggling as a mother, wife, or entrepreneur is not beautiful or rewarding. By contrast, it is the most deeply rewarding work, the most patiently preserved garden. The point I mean to say is simply what I have noticed in myself over the years of juggling: sometimes my inner person will hide in the midst of it all, waiting for quiet stillness to appear.

But how does one find that level of stillness and quiet daily, smack in the midst of all of the various tasks and needs of the day? In The Hidden Art of Homemaking, Edith Schaeffer writes, “one is always having to neglect one thing in order to give precedence to something else.” Truthfully, I am not always good about neglecting anything, so at times, the plates weighted with my own expectation are the most difficult of all. I gather my best ideas for motherhood and marriage and home and homeschool and the words and practices I want to share with others and the way I want it all to look, too. Yet I forget that I am only one person, living only one minute at a time. It does require time for the soul to appear, for some of us more than others. So how do I find this space daily? In the simplest terms, I allow some of my plates to fall. I neglect something else in my day––something beautiful and good and productive––in order to preserve it.

That said, it doesn’t mean it is easy. I mean neglect? Fall? Crash? Do those words make you a little uncomfortable, too? What about the image of crashing plates with other people watching? Ugh, my palms feel sweaty just writing it. But that’s the point. Prioritizing our life, not just to accomplish what we hope for the day, but to preserve and protect the things we value will always cost us something. It is easier to neglect something that seems of little value, but ideally our lives grow to become full of things we value, relationships and activities with meaning for our lives. At some point, there will not be enough time in a day to take care of all the things we want or need to do, and when evaluating time and energy, we must prioritize with a deeper value, even when it leaves a few expectations or goals broken on the floor.

Perhaps like me, you are fumbling through expectations and planned goals. Maybe the way you have juggled your routine recently is no longer working well for you or your home. Perhaps you’re waiting for someone to give you permission to pause, to plant yourself by a tree in silence. If so, here it is. Be still. Put aside the checklist or the children or the dinner, and simply listen. What do you hear? Maybe you are not where you want to be mid-year. Maybe your family is still working through something hard or your timing is simply out of sync. Maybe you feel overwhelmed by debt or by a project or feel chased by a need for more, a feeling of scarcity. Maybe your marriage is struggling or your homeschool year ended flat or your children are really difficult right now. Friend, be gentle with yourself, with your expectations and demands as you grow. I have been reminding myself again this week, I don’t have to do everything at once, and neither do you. Allow a few plates to fall and break, and watch how you survive. Take a deep, soul-filling breath and examine what is really most important for you, for your home right now. Allow the pain points to rise, the gaping wounds to reveal themselves. It’s the first step in healing.

Nurturing and strengthening my inner person––my mind, emotions, and spirit––are crucial to all I do as a wife, mother, mentor, writer and so on, although when the plates of responsibility stack up, I can forget my need for that space and reflection. I assure you it is just as crucial for you, too, although the practice of how that works out for each of us will vary. I encourage you, make time to nurture your inner person, especially if you live and work with people, even if you are extroverted. Here are a few ways I have or do currently make time.


HOW TO MAKE TIME FOR THE SOUL

set an alarm or reminder for a specific time each day/ It’s unromantic, but so practical. My favorite time to read, write, and pray is first thing in the morning, so I always have an alarm set during the week. But setting an alarm doesn’t need to be for the morning, consider parts of your day that might work best for your own person and set an alarm to remind you to pause for a bit of time.

practice with your children / When our children were younger and not/sleeping at all hours, we had a quiet hour in the afternoon, often coinciding with nap time. The older children could read on their beds or listen to audiobooks and I enjoyed my own quiet, too (and sometimes a nap).

use intentional screentime for the children / I know, I know, but a 30-60 minute window in the day for screens for your children or teens can be the exact gift of time you need as a mother or homeschooler. Be intentional with the time to do something restorative, to make time for the soul.

identify time-sucks / Look to how you already use your hours? Are there blocks of time dedicated to mindless scrolling on your phone, or Netflix binging, or another unnecessary activity to replace or adjust for time alone.

take a day of solitude / We do this quarterly, and it is so, so wonderful. I wrote more ideas over here.

I took a walk in the backyard this week, noticing the wildflower “weeds” rising to the early morning sun in adoration. Perhaps at the first warm light of Spring, we appear the same, pulling upward, our bare feet rooted, our heads lifted to the sky. Spring is a season of hope. We plant seeds in the earth and clear unnecessaries from our cabinets and closets. Intuitively, we renew. Spring is dawning. For those of you awakening this season, here are some soft notes to accompany you.


Dawning on Spotify

Field Keaton Heston | Mindful Towr’s | Good Friday Josh Garrels | Montana Youth Lagoon | Only Love Ben Howard | Big Black Car Gregory Alan Isakov | Each to Each Penny and Sparrow | Holocene Bon Iver | The Only Thing Sufjan Stevens | Paint The Paper Kites | Do You Rise Ian Randall Thorton | Morning Francis and the Lights | Heartbeats José Gonzalez | The Woods Hollow Coves | Berlin Corey Kilgannon |  Go Solo Tom Rosenthal | Hope Daughter | Berlin RY X | Saturn Sleeping at Last

I’ve been thinking about hope this year, that fragile confidence Emily Dickinson described as a songbird with feathers, perched in the soul, singing against the wind and the coldest of circumstance. The writer of Hebrews calls faith the substance of hope (Heb. 11:1), and after listening to the podcasts below, I realized more deeply how faith and hope and love work together in each of us. Without hope, my faith is ambiguously directed, a nebulous cloud. Hope gives my faith and belief direction and purpose in prayer and perseverance. Love fills in the gaps. Love reveals the lies that I am only loved for what I do, or for how much I do for others, or for how much money I make, or how wonderful my children are, or how lovely my house is decorated. Love reminds me I am more than all of those things. And so are you.

This week, I took Olive to another appointment for her mouth, another specialist, another medical team member to help us chart what the next decade will look like for her and her mouth. For those who don’t know: at the end of January, the girls were playing in the front yard with our 90 pound one year old Lab puppy, when Olive’s legs were take out by the line. She flipped, face first onto the sidewalk and incurred serious mouth trauma leading to emergency oral surgery. If your stomach churns a bit reading it, you’re right; it was horrific, but I am overflowing with gratitude that she incurred no brain or bone damage. I haven’t shared any images of the journey here or on social media for Oli’s protection, but she is healing so well. Her stitches are long gone, her spirit is just as large and vibrant, and her smile is just as magnetic, only missing several teeth. Wink. Of the several missing teeth, only two were adult teeth (her big ones, front and center). Apparently, it’s a more complicated fix because of her age, hence all the appointments and conferring specialists.

On the way home from this particular appointment this week, Olive had a lot of questions about the path forward, and clearly I had no answers yet. I empathized with her. She wants to know what’s coming next. In many ways, I ask the same questions, always looking forward and planning where I’m headed, how or when a particular hard spot in the path might correct. I again apologized and assured her we’re progressing, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Then she turned to me, with a bright and confident tone, so full of hope, and said, “It’s okay, Mom. It’s like Auggie’s Mom says in Wonder, ‘The Scars are only the map that show us where we’ve been.'” Immediately, tears sprung to my eyes. Those words were for me. Those precious words, spoken with a toothless lisp, so full of hope and promise, so confident that her needs would be met, were for me.

Sometimes we think we are the ones teaching our children about the world when it turns to be the reverse. As adults who have tasted and seen the bitterness in the world, the unmet expectation and disappointment, it can be easy to feel swallowed up, to allow those experiences to cloud our imaginations or ability to see beyond. Our world is ripe with heavy, chilly circumstance, and chances are if you aren’t currently walking through something difficult, you know someone who is. Yet hope is the songbird that sings against it, that reminds us that the scars in our life are a part of our story, but they do not define our path forward.


ENCOURAGING LISTENS

“Get You Hopes Up” part 1 and part two

“Hope in All Circumstances” 

“Hope is a Strategy”