Snow Day

Snow brings a special quality with it–the power to stop life as you know it dead in its tracks. — Nancy Hatch Woodward 

And stop life in its tracks it did–to an extent. Church was cancelled. There was hardly a car on the road. And I was terrified of driving. Though I was sad I wouldn’t get to attend service, and afraid of going anywhere, there was a plus side: I got to spend the entire day with Belle.

My car doesn’t have four wheel drive, so my mom was kind enough to take Belle and I on a little hike. And, boy, was Belle thrilled. She pranced, she ran in circles, and she had her nose in the snow the entire time. She was beautiful framed against the untouched, pure white fluff. But she was also filled with so much wonder.

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It wasn’t the first time she had seen snow, but every time she sees it, she is excited. And that’s the kind of mentality I want to have. I need to remember that God has worked in the past, and that it was wonderful, and He is working now. I want to be able to look back on this times with joy and look ahead with awed wonder.

When we are in the midst of a struggling season, though, it can be hard to do.

Those seasons come right along and stop us in our tracks. They mess up our lives, our plans. But if we didn’t have them, we would never grow. If we never came to our breaking, we would never turn to Him for healing.

The snow may have stopped us in our tracks today, but we adjusted. And that’s how we have to handle life.

Don’t Expect Anything New In A New Year

New Years Day of years past was filled with high expectations of myself and other people and situations. When those expectations weren’t met–by myself or others–I became angry, and I took out this anger on those close to me, usually my husband. I was struggling with things I couldn’t put into words–namely, my mental health–and I was allowing the world to affect the way I viewed my life.

When we have expectations, we set ourselves up for disappointment.

Not this year. I didn’t create resolutions, and I didn’t tell myself I have to be a certain way or do a certain thing in 2019. Going into 2018, I felt God was telling me the coming year would be better than the last, and it was. And going into 2019, I feel that same message. So that’s my only goal: to be better. And I hope that’s yours too.

Instead of expectations, create goals.

You can have a combination of goals, or goals for just one “category” of life, or goals for every “category.” Here are a few of my goals and plans for 2019:

Blogging

  • Offer Bible study groups (keep an eye out for February!)
  • Transition to a new hosting site
  • Begin collaborations/working partnerships
  • Continue finding and developing my niche

Physical Health & Fitness

  • Have a better relationship with food
  • Consistently choose healthy options
  • Lose 5 pounds
  • Gain muscle
  • Run a half marathon (February!)

Business

  • Launch website
  • Gain 2 clients

Personal & Writing

  • Pay off credit card debt
  • Go through Financial Peace University
  • Go on one type of adventure a month with Belle
  • Write one article a month
  • Publish with local magazines 4 times
  • Travel twice–road trip and flight–with Belle
  • Work on book once a week
  • Write in my bullet journal daily
  • Read one Bible verse a day
  • Continue to grow in my faith and trust in the Lord
  • Be better at controlling my responses — respond with grace, not frustration

And when you meet a goal, create a new one! After all, there are 365 new days ahead, with at least 365 new opportunities. Struggling to think of goals to set? Send me an email (digitalinkandparchment@gmail.com) and we can work through developing your goals together.

What goals do you want to set and achieve in 2019?

A Day Off

I had my first-ever Black Friday shopping experience today.

One of the outlets near me opened at midnight, so, at 12 a.m., my mom and I embarked on our Black Friday excursion. There were a lot of cars in the parking lot, but I was surprised that the stores weren’t busier. I managed to get a few good finds of warm weather clothes, and I was home and back in bed by 4:30 a.m.

It’s the first day in a few months that I’ve had entirely off from either job. Between the full time writing and editing job (which I love) and teaching, I feel like I’m constantly in motion. I know that’s part of being an adult, but it’s something I’m still getting used to. And with only 3 weeks left of teaching, I know I’ll have to get used to a new routine.

Today was about fun and relaxing. So, today, I’m just thankful I had a day off.

. . . . . .

Have you done Black Friday before? Did you like it or hate it?

 

A Career

Have you ever felt like you’d never move past the “job” phase? That you could never call what you do, or what you want to do, a career?

On Friday, I had my 90 day review for my job, and it was good. I came out of it feeling valued and proud of myself and with a desire to keep pushing and working hard. And I realized–I have a career.

After the struggle I faced post-graduation and last year, I never thought I would be able to say that. I always called what I did a “job,” and now I can transition that language. I am a writer, a blogger, an editor. This is what I’ve always wanted to do. My husband used to tell me “if you want to write, we can find a way to make it work.” I finally found a way.

I’m not anxious at this place. I don’t feel like if I don’t answer emails on my days off, the world will end or I’ll get yelled at. I don’t walk into work dreading the interactions I may have that day. I don’t dread the people or the work itself. That doesn’t mean I’m not tired after working all day, because I am. That’s part of working. But I’m proud that I’m tired by the end of the day. I feel like I’ve earned that exhaustion. And I really needed that feeling.

This job, actually beginning my career, has showed me the things I needed to see. I can see why my husband was always exhausted coming home from work. I can see why no one wants to go out after work, even if you are in an office all day. I can also see why it can be tiring to come home and make a meal, even if it’s just you and the animals. Having never experienced those things before, I didn’t know what they were like, so my reactions and my attitude were off. Now that I know, I feel better prepared.

So, today, I am thankful for my career. I am thankful I had the opportunity to truly begin it. I am thankful I found my calling. I am thankful I have a good work environment. I am thankful God granted me this opportunity. And I am thankful He used this opportunity to show me how to be better and to provide me the proverbial tools I need.

I want to encourage you to be thankful for your job. No matter what it is to you right now–whether it’s “just a job” or a career–God is using it in your life. If you don’t think He is, I challenge you to think about what your job has taught you. How has it changed you? What have you learned? Because every experience teaches us something.

Mental & Physical Preparation

This season has been a trying one for me, and God has guided me through ways to navigate it. Through His direction, I have turned to writing and exercise to manage my anxiety and depressive symptoms, both of which are far healthier than the alternatives.

I’ve talked about how running helps me get out of my head, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned that I signed up for the Disney Princess Half Marathon in February. In preparation for this, I’ve signed up for other races strategically between now and then. And Sunday is race 1: a 10K.

I ran 6.2 miles last Sunday as a practice run, so I’m toning down my running this week. Instead, I’m doing light exercises and some yoga–all from the comfort of my apartment. Nutrition is equally as important as the actual physical exercise, so I’m also being conscious of what I eat.

Only three days in to this “regimen”, and it hasn’t been easy. I’m tempted by cookies and Halloween candy every day. And, admittedly, I bought a pizza for dinner (though I didn’t finish all of it!). But having just completed Beachbody’s 80 Day Obsession, I am feeling confident that I can control myself…at least better than I used to be able to.

But physical preparation is only half the battle. Mental preparation is just as important. And as I’ve only ever run 5Ks before, my mind is doing it’s fair share of negative self talk: Why on earth did you sign up for this? You don’t have self control when it comes to food. You’re no different now. You’re never going to be able to do that half-marathon. 

Unlike the old me, this me isn’t going to give in to that nonsense. There are times on my runs when, even through the music blaring in my ears, that negative voice decides to be louder and I physically shake my head to shake it off or say a silent prayer. There have been times when, mid workout in the privacy of my apartment, I’ve actually said out loud “shut up!” to no one but that voice. There have been moments I have cried out loud “Jesus, please!” when the voice seems to be too much in control. The funny thing is, when I do that, I have this mental picture of, what I call, “bitch-me” making an angry face–lip curl, raised eyebrow, side eye–and giving me a doubting look while she fades back into the darkness. Because she knows she’s been defeated. It may only be for that moment, but she has been. And she will continue to be defeated one moment at a time.

Because that is how progress works. It doesn’t happen overnight. We won’t get rid of negative self talk in one day. We won’t cry out to Jesus and suddenly everything is better right then. We won’t because it’s those moments–the moments we need His grace and His strength the most–that help make us stronger.

Physical preparation means I eat right and do physical practices that will make me stronger but not wear me out or injure me. Mental preparation means I talk myself up this whole week, I excitedly tell others what I’m doing, and tell myself I will finish strong.

I don’t know what being prepared looks like for you, but it’s an important step in getting over any humps and in being prepared for when that negative voice creeps in. Being prepared doesn’t mean dwelling on the negativity; it means knowing what can trigger it and combating it accordingly.

I know my preparation journey–be it physical or spiritual–is far from over. And neither is yours. Stay in it in faith. It will get better, but only if you prepare.

Preparing to Write

Do you know what November is? NaNoWriMo!

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. I had never heard of it until last year, and, then, I wasn’t in a good enough place mentally to really devote energy to a novel. I signed up on the website, got about 500 words in, and felt complete despair, so I gave up. This year is different. As I mentioned, I’m working on a book, and I’m going to take NaNoWriMo as my opportunity to give it what I’ve got.

The goal of NaNoWriMo is to have written 50,000 words by the end of November, which means you have a complete (or near complete) draft of your novel. I’m going to remain hopeful.

I actually drew out a table for myself in my bullet journal with my daily word goal and the actual word count I get through:

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When it’s broken into pieces like this, it doesn’t seem as daunting.

The past few days have showed me I am supposed to write this book. As Christians, we know we are supposed to use our gifts to help others and move the kingdom of God forward. I’ve never felt like I could do that until now.

If you’re a writer and you’re interested in participating in NaNoWriMo, you can sign up here. If you do, be sure to find me (Ink & Parchment) and we can cheer each other on!

How Do You Feel?

“I don’t feel well.”

How many times have you said this? And how many times have you not meant physically well? There have been many times I haven’t felt well, but there have also been times I have felt “off” without really knowing why. But telling someone I didn’t feel well without a physical ailment to accompany it made me feel like I was lying, so I didn’t.

I struggle with telling others this, especially when it comes to work. I value honesty and openness, but how open and honest is appropriate in that context? So, I settle for “I don’t feel well” and hope the other person either understands the underlying context or doesn’t ask questions.

I’ve come to realize something, though, and that is this: you don’t owe anyone an explanation.

If you don’t feel well, simply say so and move on. Only explain as much as you’re comfortable or as much as is appropriate. When someone has a cold, we understand they aren’t at their best and we don’t ask questions, so why should it be any different with mental health?

Perhaps because depressive symptoms manifest differently in different people. I came across a very interesting article on my social media feed the other day about high-functioning depression, and I was a bit surprised to be able to relate to some of the points. (No, I’m not going to diagnose myself or make assumptions, but it may be worth a question to my mental health professional.) If someone doesn’t “seem” depressed, it may be more difficult for others to believe that person is struggling simply because our society takes only what we can see.

It’s important, then, to take gauge of yourself periodically during the day. If you’ve been struggling through an episode, give yourself some grace during the day and find gentle ways to bring yourself back. Maybe you need rest, be that physical rest in the form of sleep or spiritual rest or both. Maybe you need an outlet. Whatever it is, do what you need to do to take care of yourself.

So, in all honesty, how do you feel?