Over the past couple of months it’s been so encouraging to talk with friends and family about the publishing of my first novel. Invariably, the conversation tends to end up in the same place:

With three young children, where do you find the time?

I mean, it is a valid question. Most people, for one reason or another, have some sense of the exhaustion and time demands that characterize being a mom to three young kids.

I’ve felt it all to my core. 

When I began my writing journey in January of 2020 our youngest was only a month old and I was still very much in the fourth trimester (where the world is a bit of a blur). We also had a toddler who had an unfortunate tendency to scream for hours in the night. And then there was our busy four year old who needed constant entertainment. Then there was the pandemic, canceled preschool, mounting restrictions, and a husband who was battling health issues.

It’s a miracle that I accomplished anything… let alone write a novel. 

But I did.

I wrote it entirely in the margins of my days over two years. There were no writing retreats or extended hours of solace. In fact, I don’t think that I was ever able to string together much more than a couple of hours at a time. There were no picturesque desks or perfectly curated workspaces. My writing space was anywhere that I could balance my computer on my knees.

So, back to the question…

How in the world did I manage to write a book?

I decided to.

I know that feels like a pat response, but that decision became the catalyst that propelled me. The temptation to make excuses NOT to write was intense. Honestly, I had every reason to quit, or even just delay the process. My world was upside down. Well, the entire world was upside down.  

But I couldn’t help myself from wondering…what if…

What if I decided to creatively find a way to prioritize my personal goal?

What if I decided to uncover and maximize pockets of time in my day?

What if I decided to make sacrifices to gain something I had always dreamed of?

It was not impossible. It wasn’t easy, but it also wasn’t impossible.

However, practically speaking, I knew that making the decision was only the first step. I could decide to all I wanted, but I needed to put some feet to that decision.

The following action points are what worked for me and for my reality to bring my little book baby to life.

  1. Time Audit

When my husband and I were first married, we read Dave Ramsey’s book The Total Money Makeover and it completely changed the trajectory of our finances. We came into our marriage with over $53,000 worth of combined debt and within eleven months, by following the plan outlined in that book, we were debt-free with the exception of our mortgage. 

One of the primary tools for monitoring our money was a budget. (Sidenote: I am so incredibly grateful for the amount of time and effort Jeremy has put into keeping our budget up to date over the past nine years, because it’s literally been the best gift.) But before we started our budget, we needed to take a month and just track our spending so that we could see where our money actually was being spent. 

I found it helpful to approach time in the same way.

As a young mom, my time is in high demand. Just like with our budget, I needed to take an audit of my day to see exactly where my time was being spent. Here were some things I wanted to consider:

  • What does a typical day look like for me?
  • Where are there pockets of down time in my day?
  • What parts of my schedule are non-negotiable?
  • What things can I multitask with writing?
  • What season of life am I in and how does that impact my time?

After being intentional (and honest) about my time, I made some interesting discoveries. 

  • There were large chunks of time where I was sitting and rocking a baby or sitting and waiting for my children to fall asleep. Those times I was typically on my phone, scrolling through social media or watching Netflix.
  • From wake up until lunch I rarely stopped, but after lunch my children and I were both ready for some quiet time.
  • After the kids went to bed, I was typically worn-out, but not ready to go to sleep. I needed some time to myself before starting the process over again.
  • The amount of time that I spent streaming shows was surprisingly shocking. If you’ve never used your phone to track your usage of each app, I highly recommend it (but brace yourself for the results!).  

I’ve recently heard Caleb Peavy, an expert in creative marketing, explain it by saying that “you can’t be a creator and a consumer at the same time.” The realization that most of my free time was spent consuming media when I could be creating was fundamental in pushing me toward success. 

  1. Determining Periods of High Energy

This goes hand in hand with taking an audit of my time. While I needed to know how I was spending my time, I also needed to know my own body and exactly when I was able to function most efficiently. 

Years ago, I listened to a message by Carey Nieuwhof where he talked about the difference between managing your time and managing your energy. Without realizing it, Carey had set me on a course to rethink the way that I approached my day. You can check out what he has to say about it here or learn more about it in his book, At Your Best.

An author that I am inspired by, Robin Jones Gunn, has talked about how in the days of being a young mother she would wake in the wee hours of the morning to write before the rest of her family was awake.

That would not work for me. I am not an early morning person. I am more of a “hit the snooze button three times and start bargaining with myself about how fast I can get ready” type of person. Sure, I can get up early when I need to, but I do not enjoy it and I am in a fog for at least an hour. 

However, I am able to stay awake late into the night regardless of how tired I am. Looking at my energy map and my time audit I was able to determine that my most productive window of time would be after my children went to sleep.

Knowing my energy peaks so that I could maximize them became vitally important.

  1. Prioritizing Personal Goals

When I finally decided that I was ready to kickstart my writing journey, the goal was to write and (hopefully) publish a fictional novel. As I dug into the project, my ambitions snowballed as I also decided to join a writing community, launch a blog, redesign my social media, and try to build my email list. Very quickly, it became clear that on any given day I could either hit my daily word count for my book or work on a draft of a blog post or design a graphic and write up for social media, but I could not do all of those things. Heck, a lot of days I could hardly do one. 

I needed to figure out what was the most important task for me to accomplish on any given day and be okay with letting the rest slide.

  1. Joy in the Small Steps

The old saying that “comparison is the thief of joy” could not be more true. My writing journey was not like that of some of my writing colleagues. There were milestones and markers that I simply could not meet given the nature of my world; I needed to be okay with baby steps over leaps and strides.

Because the truth is that baby steps are still steps in the right direction. I was able to find joy in the fact that I was moving toward my dream, even if I was moving slowly. My goal was to end the day further ahead than when I started, whether it was five hundred words or fifty words.

  1. Heapings of Grace

There were days—many, many days—when my children would wake up sick or I would spend the night soothing nightmares or the wheels would fall off of our bus entirely. On those days I would bumble through until bedtime feeling like a zombie. When that happened, I needed to extend myself a lot of grace.

It was important to understand my limits and that meant not accepting guilt for the times I was unable to do much more than be. Pushing hard is good, but not pushing can be good, too. 


If you have a dream that you cannot shake, I pray that you will find creative ways to make space for that. If you feel comfortable sharing, drop a comment below. I would love to hear about it. 

Want to check out the finished product? Hope at the Ocean’s Edge is now available on Amazon in Canada and the US.

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“Code blue. Code blue,” the overhead PA system shouted to the floor staff. I pressed myself against the pale wall to make room for the nurses sprinting past. I didn’t know what Code Blue meant, but judging from the way the nurses hustled, it wasn’t good.

I continued down the hall of the palliative floor doing my best to avoid eye contact as I passed rooms with open doors. Finding the right room number, I knocked gently on the slightly ajar door to announce my arrival.

“Come in,” spoke a familiar voice. 

My stomach knotted as I stepped inside. The voice may have been familiar, but the frail body tucked between crisp white linen looked like a weak shadow of the woman that had been a loving presence in my life for almost twenty years. 

I willed my feet to move forward and placed the white orchid I carried in my hands on the window ledge. “I brought you a flower,” I said, stating the obvious. “It’s an orchid. You’re favourite.” The window overlooked a busy parking lot. Not the nicest of views, but I suppose she wasn’t spending much time taking in the sights anyway.

The voice from the bed beckoned me. “Come closer and sit beside me. Tell me about your day.” 

With my back turned it felt familiar. I could almost picture her sitting at the dining room table in front of a plate of warm cookies. She always wanted to know about my day.

And so, in spite of the tears I knew were threatening to escape my eyes, I pulled a chair close, took her hand, and told her about my day. 

She did not have the strength to wrap me in her arms or walk with me like she used to. All she had was her voice. But for that, I was very grateful. 

A petite, blond nurse politely interrupted our conversation and announced that It was time to refresh the bedsheets. A simple task made challenging by the immobile patient who occupied the bed. 

The nurse did not complain.

Instead, with gentleness and respect, she rolled my dear aunt on her side and proceeded to strip the sheets and replace them on the clear side of the bed. Once finished, she rolled her back and repeated the process on the other side. 

I stood in the corner watching her work and wondered about the magnitude of exhaustion that one must feel in such a career. 

The tasks were physically taxing. I imagined the slight nurse attempting to refresh the sheets of a patient two or three times the size. But more than the physical work, there was the emotional climate of such a workplace. Especially here. Daily facing grief, pain, regret, conflict, and frustration, and being required to face it with grace and kindness, preserving the dignity of patients and loved ones. 

I shook my head, in awe of those who willingly chose to care for strangers in such a way.

The nurse took a moment and assessed the vitals of the woman in the bed who had closed her eyes and was breathing heavily, the ordeal clearly having worn her out. 

“I think it might be best if you let her rest now,” the nurse said. 

I agreed and, giving a gentle squeeze to her papery hand, promised to return again soon before slipping out the door. 

When I arrived the next day I found her asleep. Aside from some minimal furniture and machinery the room was empty, save of course the occupied bed dimly lit by an overhead lamp. Not wanting to disturb her, I pulled a vacant chair close to the bed and rummaged through my bag for a novel I was reading.  

Several minutes passed before there was a stirring next to me.

“Hello, dear.” 

Her voice sounded significantly more laboured than it had been the day prior. That was to be expected, they told me. The days were short now and the decline would be steady. I swallowed hard. 

“Hi Auntie. How are you doing today?” I mentally kicked myself for asking such a question. Before she could respond with an answer I really wasn’t ready to hear, I added, “Is there anything I can do for you?”

With her head she gestured toward a tattered, leather bible that lay open on the bedside table. “Read me a story?” she asked. I nodded and gently lifted the book onto my lap, it’s worn pages telling their own story of faithfulness.

“What should I read?”

“Just start reading from where it’s open.” 

I began to read from Revelation. As I did she settled her head back into the pillow and closed her eyes, a smile resting on her thin lips. From the words she drew a peace that seemed to ease the lines of tension or pain on her forehead. 

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. For the old order of things will have passed away.” I stopped reading, a lump forming in my throat. How I wished for that type of life now. I longed for the story to be true. 

For her sake and for mine.

As I was reading there was a knock on the door. Three more family members entered to visit, their arms filled with more flower arrangements for the already crowded window ledge. I returned the bible to its place on the table and offered to give them privacy. 

They assured me that I was welcome, but it was my aunt who made the strongest argument. 

“Stay,” she requested. So I stayed. 

The others retrieved chairs that they pulled up close to the bed as well. We sat there together for the better part of an hour chatting about our own personal memories of her. Funny moments, sweet times, ways that she had shown us love. We laughed. We hugged. We cried. 

It was a heartbreakingly beautiful thing – a circle of loved ones spending focused time together reliving the best moments of one’s life. With each memory we covered her with a blanket of love, of gratitude, of peace. She had lived her life well. On each of our hearts were imprints of her.

My aunt did not have the strength to carry on a long conversation, but seemed content to listen. Her face glowed in the light of the remembering.  

No one spoke the words, but just below the surface of reminiscing was the understanding that these were goodbyes. This was how they were choosing to spend their last moments with her. With thankful hearts they allowed the stories of remembrance to write the ending of their time together.

******

The middle is a difficult place to be. 

The space of waiting, not fully in life and yet still very much alive. Death standing at the door awaiting permission to enter. 

When I asked her if she found the days long she answered that time passed differently inside the four pale walls of the room that would be her final home. It was nearly impossible to keep up days or dates or even with the changing of shifts for the doctors and nurses by whom she was attended. But when her mind was alert enough to notice, she told me how she measured time through the visits. The space between them was long and hazy, filled mostly with drug-induced sleep, but each visit brought joy and light that served as a balm to her soul. 

The people who came to shower her with love or appreciation were the timepiece by which my aunt measured life in the middle. This did not surprise me. She always loved people. 

I was grateful that I had prioritized time with her in spite of the way that the smell of antiseptic churned my stomach or how uncomfortable I felt around sick people or the fact that I had a deathly fear of needles. 

It was a small sacrifice to be able to bring a little sunshine to a woman who had sacrificed much for me and to be with her while she waited in the middle.

******

It was my third visit to the tiny room at the end of the palliative wing. Something about the visit today felt different. Final. I couldn’t place my finger on why, and yet I couldn’t shake the feeling.

As I entered, a question weighed on my heart. It was, perhaps, one of the hardest questions to ask someone, yet I had to know the answer. I took her hand in both of mine and squeezed. I spoke tentatively. “Are you ready?”

She paused, thoughtfully considering her answer. “You know, I’ve spent so much of my life caring for others, putting their needs ahead of my own. To say yes, that I am ready, feels selfish. It feels like I have failed in some way by giving up, by letting the disease win.” With great effort, she shifted uncomfortably in the bed. 

I wasn’t sure how to respond, but thankfully she continued. “But I’m tired. Tired of being in pain. Tired of others seeing me in pain. The weariness of this world is heavy on me. I am not afraid to die. I know that my Jesus is waiting for me with open arms and that it will be just like you read the other day – a place with no more pain and no more death. So yes, my dear girl, I am ready.”

I exhaled a breath that I didn’t realize I had been holding. I was prepared for that to be the end of the conversation, but she had more to add. Her eyes focused on me more intently than they had before. “I have been given a gift of time to make my peace and say goodbyes. Not everyone has that opportunity. We must each daily respond to that question for ourselves. We must consider how we live and for whom we are living, because if your time was now,” she paused, “would YOU be ready?”

When I left that afternoon I did so with silent tears cascading down my face. I walked away confident that I would not see her again. She had taught me so much in my lifetime, and now in our last moments it seemed she had one final lesson to impart. A different question was rattling around inside my heart, and for that question, I did not have an answer. 

******

Dressed in black I stood with my family at the graveside committal. An intimate few had gathered for this part of the final farewell. All of it was unfamiliar and uncomfortable.

For being so common, death felt like an unnatural reality that I was not interested in facing. I dug my toe into the fresh earth and tried my best to put my thoughts elsewhere as the pastor finished reading the scripture.

The closed casket was slowly lowered a few feet into the ground. As mourners stepped forward to place flowers, I snuck away from the crowd. Once inside my family’s vehicle I put my head back against the headrest and squeezed my eyes shut tight, grateful to be away from the tension that was causing my head to pound.

A rap on the window caused me to jump. Peering through the glass was my uncle, the man who had just buried his beloved. I climbed out and received his awkward embrace.

“Thank you for coming. She thought the world of you, ya know.” His voice caught in his throat and he pressed a worn bible into my hands. “She asked me to make sure that you got this.”

I thanked him, unsure of what else to say. As he walked away I leaned against the car and thumbed through the book that had clearly brought much joy to my aunt through her life. The pages were filled with underlined passages and handwritten notes. A thin sheet of paper fluttered to the ground.

I picked up the note that was scrawled in shaky handwriting.

“Love God and love others. This is your holy purpose. When love is your anchor, you can weather any storm.”

Holy purpose. I don’t know if that message was intended for me. Perhaps she planned for me to find it. Perhaps it was divine intervention. Either way, the words hit their mark. A self-centered life was no life at all. I wanted to do better, to be better. I wanted to live a life like my aunt’s, one with a holy purpose.

To Thaw a Heart – A Short Story

The tires crunched over an ice-packed road. The overnight rain and now freezing temperatures made the morning commute precarious at best. Carrie tightened her grip on the steering wheel and adjusted her position so that she could focus on avoiding the hidden pockets on black ice. Glancing at the dashboard she realized that if she kept travelling at this snail’s pace she would, most certainly, find herself late to work. Great, she thought, as if this morning wasn’t bad enough already. 

There are some days when you wake up feeling refreshed and able to conquer the world. Food tastes richer, routines run smoothly, and all the lights are green.

Today was not that.

Today was anything but that. 

Her alarm didn’t go off which meant she overslept and was scrambling to get ready. Too late she discovered the cream had spoiled, ruining her coffee. With no time to remake it, Carrie had to settle for a glass of water and a stale blueberry muffin leftover from her mother’s visit several days earlier.

Nola, Carrie’s eleven-year-old daughter, woke with an attitude that could make even the most hardened criminal shake in his boots. Unfortunately, that was becoming more frequent these days and Carrie was at a loss for how to handle it anymore. As a single mom she felt completely alone and ill-equipped to navigate these parenting battles. More often than not she just chose the path of least resistance, which usually meant that Nola got her way and Carrie was left feeling battered and defeated. 

To top it off, being late again would almost ensure that she would be placed on probation. She could not afford putting her job at risk. This income wasn’t much, but they needed it to survive. Ever since her husband had bailed on them she had done everything she could to make ends meet, but most months they just barely scraped by. Her position at the city’s call centre wasn’t glamorous, but however meager her paycheck, she simply could not take the chance of losing it. 

In spite of the treacherous terrain, she gently pressed down the gas pedal and held her breath as she picked up speed. The call centre was only ten minutes away, but it seemed like an eternity as her body tensed with focus.

*****

The cold wind beat against his thin jacket, its icy fingers creeping in through the holes worn at the elbows. He pulled it tighter against his body and stomped his feet to keep warm. A gust blew over the cardboard sign that was propped up next to him. He bent to stand it back up. Scrawled across it were the words “Anything Helps.” 

For almost a year this had been his corner and he was grateful to have laid claim to such a consistent and high traffic area. The strip mall had been becoming increasingly desolate over the years as businesses moved to more desirable locations. He figured the whole place would have closed down entirely if the call centre hadn’t moved in a few years back. 

The squeal of tires brought the man to attention and he watched, helpless, as a small car skidded across the parking lot. It seemed to have hit a patch of black ice hidden beneath the snow. Its tires spun out in vain, frantically searching for ground that would provide traction. The man squinted to see the driver as the car spun across the parking lot in a perfect pirouette, colliding hard with a concrete parking post and leaving a sizable dent in the back car door.

A familiar young lady emerged from the vehicle. Thankfully, she didn’t look hurt, not physically anyway, but as she assessed the damage to the back door her body began to shake and she buried her face in her hands. After a moment, she stood tall, wiped her face with the back of a mitten and began hurriedly heading toward the main doors of the call centre. 

The man was moved with sympathy for the woman. More than once he had watched as she rushed into the building minutes before nine, eyes to the ground, her shoulders slumped with the weight of the world. Fishing around in his jacket pocket he retrieved a clean, yet crumpled tissue. As the woman rushed by him, he extended the tissue to her as an offering of kindness. She didn’t notice, or perhaps she pretended not to as she averted her gaze. 

He tucked the tissue back into his pocket and once more pulled his jacket tight around him, this time to steel himself against the sharp blast of rejection. 

*****

She had noticed him, of course. 

He was always there, blending into the background as if the building architects had intended him to be part of the original design. In spite of the kindness in his eyes, Carrie chose to ignore him rather than engage. The truth was that he made her nervous. 

He was a disheveled man with rumpled and worn clothing. Dirty, shaggy grey hair hung almost to his shoulders and his wrinkled skin looked rough and weathered. His body hunched forward, perhaps deformed from injury or perhaps laden with the burdens of an unkind world. Most days a foul smell of liquor and body odor lingered in the air about him forcing passersby to give him a wide berth. 

This particular morning, however, Carrie kept her distance as much out of embarrassment as unease. Her car was damaged, she was an emotional mess, and now she was late. Again. 

She went straight to her cubicle, keeping her head down and doing her best to be invisible so as not to be reprimanded. Most days, that was not an issue. She had long since accepted the truth that her existence went generally unnoticed. Unless of course she messed up, which seemed to be happening more frequently. Taking a deep breath, she stuffed her morning’s troubles into a tiny corner of her heart and attempted to focus on the work at hand.

Time crept slowly forward as she went about her mundane routines until she felt her cell phone buzz just before noon. Checking the caller ID, her stomach flip-flopped. Nola’s school. A call in the middle of the day was rarely good news. 

Nola was sick. 

She checked the clock. There would be just enough time on her lunch break to pick Nola up and drop her at her mom’s before jetting back to work. I do not need this right now, she thought. 

Promptly at twelve, Carrie grabbed her coat and purse, hastily making a dash to the parking lot, praying that her car would still run smoothly in spite of the damage and that she would be able to return without incident. 

Long strides took her quickly across the parking lot, but only a few feet from the car, she froze, panic rising in her chest.

The man from the corner was breaking into her car. 

Carrie hung for a moment in the land of indecision. It seemed dangerous to confront a criminal in the act, yet she couldn’t just stand by and let it happen. Plus, she needed her car.

“Hey! You! Get away from my car. I’m going to call the police, so you’d better back away slowly.” Unfortunately, the tremble in her voice caused her words to sound more like a request than a threat.

The man looked up, startled. He was crouched on his knees by the damaged side of the car, but at the confrontation raised his hands in surrender and proceeded to back away. 

“Look ma’am. I don’t mean any harm.” His voice was gentle and disarming. 

As he moved away Carrie noticed that his break-in tools strewn haphazardly across the snow consisted of a busted up bucket filled with water and a dirty plunger. In spite of herself, she was curious. 

“What on earth are you trying to do?” she questioned. 

The man lowered his arms and sheepishly focused on the ground in front of him. Then, taking a deep breath, he rubbed the back of his neck and spoke with gentle candor. 

“If I may, ma’am, you seem to be drowning in a world of problems. I thought I could offer a simple kindness.”

Carrie felt her defenses rising. How dare he. She spat the words at him. “What could you possibly know of my problems? And more importantly, what could you possibly have to offer me? More damage to my car?” 

“Well, I suppose I don’t really know. But I do know you have been rushing in to work with a scowl on your face every day for the last two weeks. I know that you always eat your lunch alone, and I know that, as of this morning, you have this new dent here.” 

Carrie swallowed hard. He wasn’t wrong, but she was still at a loss as to what exactly he was trying to do. As she carried on an inner battle about how to respond, the man seemed to take her silence as confirmation of his claim and continued with an explanation. 

“You see, it may be hard to believe given my current state, but I’m a trained mechanic. Owned and ran an auto body shop for years. So I scavenged up some tools and was trying to pull this here dent out for you. Seemed as though it might help to turn at least one thing around for you.” 

The words hung in the air between them as if frozen by the wind. 

It made no sense. 

If all that were true, how did he end up here? What was he trying to gain by helping her?

He must have read the disbelief on her face as she gazed at the shadow of a man standing before her. 

“I know,” he offered. “I’m far from the man I used to be. Crooked employees, bankruptcy, and a poor reliance on the wrong kind of spirits has led me down an unfortunate path. Everyone’s story has peaks and valleys. I just happen to be in a valley at the moment.”

Conviction gripped Carrie’s heart. Whether she wanted to admit it or not, she had long written the man off as worthless, a drain on the system. Now here he was, the only person to see her and offer any sort of support. “I’m sorry. I’ve been terribly unkind to you.” 

He brushed away her shame with a wave of his hand and offered her a kind, crooked smile. 

“We are all just doing the best we can. Sometimes the world will deal you some bad cards, and there’s not one thing you can do about it, but…keep your eyes open. See people. Watch for ways to show kindness to someone else. The simplest way to lift your burden is by lifting someone else’s.”

As he bent to finish the work he’d started she pondered his words. Carrie didn’t deserve the grace that he offered, but it sparked something in her heart. 

Sure enough within a couple minutes he was able to pull out a significant portion of the dent. It wasn’t perfect, but it looked much better that it had. He gathered up his makeshift tools and opened the car door for her. 

Carrie stepped by him to enter her car and, before she could talk herself out of it, wrapped her arms around the man and pulled him into a gentle hug. He patted her back and gave a chuckle. 

“See. You’re getting the hang of it already.” 

As she turned her car toward the school, Carrie realized that nothing had changed. All of her problems remained. Yet, somehow, everything had changed because, for the first time in a long time, she had hope. 

Making Space for Your Dreams in the Trenches of Motherhood

When I imagine being a writer, I visualize a cozy chair in a quiet corner of the house where the sunbeams rest at the peak of day.

There’s a place where a hot cup of coffee rests on a tiny table besides a well-worn journal and an array of lovely pens.

Or perhaps, I imagine a sleek, uncluttered office desk with an aesthetically decorated bookshelf in the background. The computer is facing out a window that opens to lush foliage and next to the computer is a large cup of coffee – again, hot.

However, as I pursue my dream of being a writer I’ve quickly realized that this is far, FAR, from my current reality. In fact, it’s far from any reality that I can imagine for several years – especially the hot coffee bit.

Why? Because I am a mom of three beautiful, rambunctious littles (5, 2 1/2, and 1).

Because motherhood is beautiful, purposeful, soul-filling, heart-bursting goodness. And it’s HARD.

One kid is hard.

Five kids are hard.

Three week old newborn? Hard. Thirteen year old? Hard.

The trenches of motherhood require your focus, your time, and your energy. It is difficult to find space to do the things that you need to, let alone the things you want to.

But I am choosing to believe that it can be done.

Why?

Because others have done it.

How?

By letting go of the picture perfect vision and embracing progress in the middle of the mess.

I’ve come to realize that in this season of life, allowances have to be made from the way that I would want to do things in a perfect world in favour of getting the job done.

Consider housework, for instance.

If given the choice, I would always err on the side of a thoughtful, well-executed, and intentional approach to completing a task.

I would tend to wash dishes in a particular side and dry in the other. I would hand wash pots and pans and use the dishwasher only for utensils, plates, and bowls. I would sort my clothing drawers by style or functionality. I might even fold baby face cloths.

Instead, I swallow my Type 1 tendencies (thank you Enneagram), shelve those expectations, and choose the simplest path to get the job done.

Which means that I wash dishes on the side that is most empty. I stuff the dishwasher until it is at capacity, running it sometimes twice a day. I celebrate if my clothes actually make it out of a basket and into a drawer at all. I throw baby face cloths into a drawer. I clean just about anything and everything with a half-used package of baby wipes.

You get the idea.

Somewhere along the way we adopt the mindset that there is a “right” way to do things, an unwritten set of rules we are to follow, and if we aren’t doing it that way we’ve failed somehow.

If we change our expectations, not lower them, but simply change what the path to our dreams should look like in this season, we will find more grace, more fulfillment, and hopefully more success.

For me, I have set aside (temporarily) the perfect writing space. Instead, I write anywhere and everywhere that I can. Sometimes I can get a few sentences down while the kids play. Sometimes I can jot down ideas in the kitchen while they have a snack. Sometimes I write in bed while they sleep.

Is it ideal? No. Am I making progress? Yes.

You cannot compare your progress to anyone else, especially as you do the beautiful work of raising your babies. There will be a day that we can embrace the beauty of refined spaces and efficient time, but for many of us that won’t be right now. Simply aim to end the day a little further ahead than the day before.

It will be messy.

It will be raw.

And some days it just might not happen.

But have grace for yourself. Heaps and heaps of grace.

What obstacles are you facing as you make space for your dreams? How are you making adjustments to your expectations in this season?

A COVID-Friendly Advent For the Whole Family

Christmas traditions are a fun way to connect as a family and create special wonder-filled memories that we treasure for years.

One of my favourite things about marriage and growing a family has been blending traditions from my own childhood and my husband’s and creating new ones together with our children.

As I’ve reflected on my own memories and childhood traditions, I realized that so many of the best parts of the Christmas season happen in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas Day. It’s the anticipation, the wonder, the stillness, the togetherness that make the Christmas season magical.

This year promises to be a different one for many, whether we like it or not. But Christmas is a season of hope. Christ can into the middle of a messy world to bring HOPE.

A hope that shines light into the darkest of places.

And hope is the very thing that we all so desperately need right now.

So I wanted to make sure that our family was focused on hope and not fear, gratefulness and not loss, family and friendships over dissension. This advent is one that I’ve put together for my family this Christmas season to help us

  • show love,
  • foster togetherness,
  • and learn empathy.

Given the current difficulties in connecting with others as a result of the pandemic’s second wave, you will find that these activities are single bubble focused and are acceptable for a socially distant community.

We will plan to do one activity each day leading up to Christmas. I plan print these off and let our children read one each day.

Feel free to adapt, adjust, and accommodate to make it your own.

A Covid Christmas Advent

  1. Write and mail a thank you letter to an essential worker. 
  2. Bake something sweet together as a family.
  3. Deliver handmade treats to a neighbour. 
  4. Make an encouraging or festive display for your window.
  5. FaceTime with a family member that you miss.
  6. Make a care pack for someone who is in need this season (here is a great list of things you can include.)
  7. Draw pictures or make homemade cards to mail or deliver to a nursing home. 
  8. Build a gingerbread house. No kit? No problem. Get creative with food from home. You can use poptarts, graham crackers, cookies, or even toast! The sillier the better!
  9. Leave few dollars and a note in the toy section of the dollar store for another child to buy something. 
  10. Pick out some of your toys to give away or donate. Look for local Buy Nothing groups or charities doing used toy drives.
  11. Snuggle under a blanket and read Christmas stories together.
  12. Tell everyone in your family something that you love about them.
  13. Deliver non-perishable food items to a food bank. 
  14. Cook a meal for a new mom and deliver it to her doorstep.
  15. Offer to get or deliver groceries for an at-risk or elderly person.
  16. Play outside (Build a snowman if there’s snow – don’t forget the snowman’s mask!)
  17. Drive around as a family and look at Christmas lights (pjs and hot chocolate a bonus!)
  18. Pay for someone’s order behind you in a drive through.
  19. Write a thank you note to your teachers (deliver it with a hot drink if you can!)
  20. Make and hang paper snowflakes.
  21. Play a board game either as a family or with friends through zoom. Christmas charades is a great family friendly game everyone can enjoy.
  22. Shop at a local small business. Need to buy groceries? Try shopping at a local grocer instead of a chain. Amazon purchase? Shop their small business section. Online shopping? Etsy offers great handmade options. Talk to your kids about the importance of supporting local and small businesses.
  23. Give a compliment to a stranger.
  24. Make a stovetop potpourri to make your house smell like Christmas. Here’s one great recipe.
  25. Read the Christmas Story as a family.

Wishing you and yours a safe and Merry Christmas!

Embracing Interruptions as You Pursue Your Dream

My goal at the beginning of this month was to write 25,000 words and complete the draft of my first manuscript before the month’s end.

Is.

My goal IS to write 25,000 words.

I knew that it would be a lofty goal because it meant writing approximately 1000 words a day, but I didn’t plan on my three little children making it nearly impossible to reach my daily goals. I mean, I suppose I could have predicted that.

My children, like all children, are sweet, funny, and adorable, while simultaneously being exhausting, unpredictable, and needy. I haven’t met a mom yet for whom this isn’t true.

I planned my daily writing block at the quietest time of the day – post-bedtime – when I was most likely to have success in reaching my goals. The problem is that apparently no one communicated my personal time request to my children.

And so, night after night, I have faced wake ups and interruptions as I tried to write. Children needing to be rocked, or taken to the bathroom, or snuggled back in bed. Children that just wanted their mommy to make everything better.

And you know what…that’s okay.

Have I experienced setbacks? Yes. Have I lost my train of thought? For sure. Have I been too tired to write anything sensible? Absolutely.

Being a mom of young kids can make pursuing your own dreams nearly impossible. And yet, it is worthwhile to keep pressing forward. Even if it means that I only write one sentence. That’s one sentence more than I had yesterday.

But, and catch this because it’s so important, it is the interruptions that bring the richness to our lives. Don’t miss them. Don’t be so focused on getting back to the work that’s you’re doing, however important it may be, that you miss out on the moments that are most meaningful.

Ten years from now it will not matter whether I finished my manuscript in November or December or July, but the time that I spent cherishing my littles and being present in those moments will make all the difference – for both of us.

As Jesus followers, we are directed to model our lives after him. We can learn so much from him about how to navigate these disruptions to our days.

Just look at the recounts of Jesus’ ministry in the bible. Almost every narrative about his travels with the disciples is an interruption from what he was doing or on his way to do.

Let’s look at a few instances from the book of Mark:

  • Mark 2 – Jesus was speaking at someone’s home when a group of men interrupted him by lowering their paralyzed friend through the roof.
  • Mark 4 – Jesus and the disciples are travelling by boat to the other side of the sea when a storm comes up unexpectedly. The passage recounts how Jesus calmed the storm and spoke to their fears.
  • Mark 5 – Jesus is preaching to the crowds when he is interrupted by a man named Jairus who begs Jesus to come and heal his sick daughter.
  • Mark 5 – In the same passage, Jesus is interrupted again on his way to Jairus’ house by a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years.

These are just a few examples. The gospels are rife with interruptions to Jesus’ work that have since become the moments the gospel writers believed were worth telling. They are the stories that we are still learning from two thousand years later.

Yes, Jesus’ preaching changed lives, but he didn’t let the pursuit of his mission blind him to the opportunity to show love in and through the disruptions to that mission.

Pursue your dreams passionately, but don’t let the pursuit of your dreams blind you to the beauty and potential to show love in and through your own interruptions.

What are some interruptions that you have faced this week?

3 Life Lessons from the Bottom of the Laundry Basket

Why is it that the laundry basket seems to operate in the same way as Mary Poppins’ handbag? There is just no end.

As a mom of three, I know my way around a laundry basket. Our little family of five seems to produce enough dirty clothes to outfit a small village. It certainly is one of those chores that I am happy to procrastinate if given the opportunity.

This week as I rewashed a load that had been forgotten in the washer and collected a seemingly endless amount of errant dirty socks around my home, I began to notice some parallels between laundry and life.

I believe that God can speak to us through any circumstance, even our mundane household routine. So I listened, and I looked.

None of this is earth shattering, but hopefully some of these simple truths will speak to you today.

Here is what I saw.

  1. Less is more.

This isn’t rocket science here, but the truth is that the more you have, the more you have to wash. I guess you could call me an aspiring minimalist. A Marie Kondo wannabe groupie, if you will. But we just have So. Many. Clothes.

I’m convinced that our kids clothes multiply when I put them in the wash because they never fit back in their drawers the same. If there’s one thing that our abundance of apparel has taught me is that it is so much easier, so much simpler, so much more enjoyable when we are not drowning in our stuff.

I’m making it my mission before the end of this year to purge our clothes – for the sake of our laundry and my sanity. The goal is this: if it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t “spark joy” (thanks Marie!) and it serves no other purpose, then it goes. For my kids: if it doesn’t fit or they don’t prefer it – it goes. (They’d be happy to wear the same thing everyday anyway.)

It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting more, but we will never be satisfied by material things. In fact, more often than not it is just the opposite. It drains us. We have to wash the clothes. We have to sort the toys. We have to find the space in our life for it all and it’s exhausting.

Our spiritual life is the same.

If we keep adding things to our lives that we don’t need, there won’t be any space for what matters most. We need to stop spending our days tripping over emotional laundry baskets and spend time on that which brings true fulfillment.

2. Men are simple. Women are complicated.

Have you ever noticed that folding men’s clothes can take a fraction of the time that folding women’s clothes can? In laundry, as in life, they are simple and straightforward. T-shirts, pants, dress shirts, nothing very complicated.

My husband has given up trying to fold my clothes because they are so much trickier. There are leggings and various styles of pants. My tops range from long sweater and short sweaters and cardigans to t-shirts and tank tops and blouses.

Doesn’t that so perfectly reflect most men and women?

Men are straightforward. Rarely are they thinking fifteen steps ahead or mentally calculating the text and subtext and sub-subtext of a situation. A train leaves the station on a straight clear track to its final destination.

A woman’s brain is more comparable to the intricate highways of downtown Toronto. Countless cars are travelling in every direction at once.

This is, of course, a gross oversimplification of men and women; however, I think that there’s a simple truth that we can glean here. Men and women think and operate differently and so our best communication will come when we work hard to understand this.

As a woman, I have learned that the easiest way to ensure successful communication with my husband is to hop aboard that train. Say what you think. Say what you want. Forget passively dropping hints or expecting that he can read your signals.

You might be waiting a long time.

You’ll likely become frustrated.

You will find that in communication with just about everyone it works so much better to just walk through the front door.

Differences are a gift from God. We will be better people if we embrace that instead of getting frustrated that someone doesn’t process the world the way we do.

Try this: take into consideration the other person’s intentions before you judge their actions. And the reverse: hold yourself accountable by your actions and not by your intentions.

3. There is not one right way to do it.

When we first got married, my husband and I had several discussions about the way that our laundry was to be done. Were socks to be rolled or folded? Were t-shirts folded in half or in thirds?

As a strong enneagram type 1 (a perfectionist), I spent a good portion of my life believing that my way was the best way. But here’s the reality – not everyone folds clothes exactly the same as I do. That doesn’t mean that they are wrong, or that I am.

At the end of the day, the goal is the same. In this case, it’s to get the laundry finished.

Remember that more often than not the minute differences, like how we fold our laundry or which side of the sink is wash and which is dry, don’t really matter. The end justifies the means. If my mom wants to come over and fold all my laundry, I’m going to be elated whether she folds the same and me or not.

Your perception of the world is shaped by the way that you were raised, by your personal preference, and by your life experiences. This isn’t going to be the same for everyone, nor should it be. It would be arrogant and self-centered to assume that ours is the only right way.

In light of our difference, we should show others grace. Grace is simply this – a love and mercy that we offer simply ‘because’ not because someone has done anything to earn it. This applies to the little things as much as the big.

More, now than ever before, we should be viewing differences with acceptance, grace, and a genuine curiosity.

If any of this resonates with you, I would love to hear it. Leave a note in the comments below. Because, I mean, writing is way more fun than folding clothes, right?

Challenge Yourself: The Journey to Novel November

The first thing that I learned on this writing adventure is how little I know. Isn’t that always the way? The more that you learn about a topic the more that it reveals the vast depths of itself to you. As it turns out, having a Master’s degree in English literature does not equate to knowing all that you need to know about the art of writing.

The second thing that I learned is that no dream is going to come to fruition without taking that first step, without pushing yourself a little to make sure it happens. For six months of this year I felt bulldozed by life, as I’m sure many have. Writing and all manner of dream fulfillment fell by the wayside. It proved that no amount of good intention or desire would be enough to make something happen. Without a plan and actually taking a first step (and then a second) your dreams will remain illusive.

By divine intervention I found a writing community early this fall called Hope*Writers. Joining this community was my first action step toward regaining control of my dream. They are a faith based group of like-minded writers on a journey to release the words in their heart to the written page. This community equips its members with a library of resources, connection, practical advice, and encouragement.

It was there that I learned about Nanowrimo. When I first heard the word I was sure it must be a foreign language. It certainly was not a part of any writing world jargon that I had previously encountered. Nanowrimo is short for National Novel Writing Month. It is a non-profit organization that also provides tools, community, and encouragement to writers. But it is specifically known as an organization based off a single challenge – write a novel (50,000 words) during the month of November. Thousands of writers accept this challenge and use the accountability it provides to be successful.

Hope*Writers piggybacks on this challenge to encourage its writers to embrace a month-long writing challenge without the 50,000 word qualifier. They call their challenge Novel November (Nov Nov) and, if interested, you can enrol in their challenge here. The goal is for writers to take intentional steps to move forward in their writing. To end the month further ahead than when you began.

As of today I am halfway finished the first draft of my novel – 25,000 words. I am, with a little fear and trembling, accepting the Novel November challenge and publicly committing to writing another 25,000 words through the month of November.

It won’t be easy, but things worth doing rarely are. We can’t add more hours in the day. We can’t clone ourselves to maximize our output. But would we really want either of those things? Instead, we do the best we can with the time we have, remembering to enjoy life along the way. Dream fulfillment isn’t easy, but it should at least be fun or else what’s the point?

I have no doubt that there is something you have wanted to do, or start, or finish, or change. Why not let today be the beginning? Maybe you want to work toward a big life change, or perhaps you simply need to work at finding more joy in your everyday. You can start now.

So, here is my challenge to you:

For the month of November, commit yourself to something. And as you do, consider this:

Be consistent. If you are doing something new, commit to doing it for a determined amount of time each day, or week. For me, this means knowing when I work best, but also having a realistic understanding of my daily schedule. With three littles at home, I write after they are in bed. I’m not a morning person so this is a better fit for me. For the month of November I’m committed to writing every day for an hour; that’s all I can realistically manage. Look at your schedule and choose times that work for you. Then stick to it!

Be specific. Determine for yourself exactly what it is that you want to do. Big goals are great, but it’s small, daily changes that become habits that are more likely to impact your life. For example, it isn’t likely that overnight you will be able to give up a sugary, carb heavy diet to become ketogenic. It might work for a short while, but it will be harder to sustain that way. Instead choose something smaller to give up or add or change.

Be clear on the measure of success. What are you hoping to achieve by the end of the month? How will you know if you have met that goal? If you are starting to learn a new skill, this may be an easy one. Either you will have learned it or you won’t. If you goal is abstract, like exercising more, it may be more challenging. But try to figure out some means of determining your outcomes.

Be gracious with yourself. I cannot stress this enough. Grace and goal-setting must go hand in hand. Have grace for yourself. There are going to be days where it all falls apart. That’s just the nature of life. If you haven’t read Jon Acuff’s book Finish, I highly recommend it. More often than not we give up on ourselves when we fail. When we break the diet, when we sleep past the alarm instead of getting up to write or read, when we get too tired to do what we hoped we would do. But keep going. Don’t let set backs keep you from moving forward.

That’s it.

Thirty days.

For thirty days I will be pushing myself and I encourage you to take this journey with me.

If you do, I would love to hear about it. Let me know in the comments what you are committing to for the month of November.

Releasing the Dream in Your Pocket

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

– Eleanor Roosevelt

Have you ever carried a dream tucked in your pocket? For years, decades even? Perhaps occasionally you even take it out, examine it, allow it to spark an excitement about the what ifs and maybes, only to tuck it back into its safe little nest to carry around a while longer.

That was me. 

For decades I have carried with me a hidden, yet not necessarily secret, desire to write. Long ago in room 103, at a middle row desk, in my grade 10 English class, during a journaling exercise I made a vow to myself that I would write a novel. I clearly remember my teacher writing in the margin in red pen the word “Interesting!” – which was enough validation at the time to solidify that dream. At the time I didn’t know what I wanted to write, I just wanted to write. To write something of significance. 

What do you carry? A dream that could perhaps change the trajectory of your life. A dream that could challenge you and push you to the limits of what you ever thought capable. A dream that could allow you to become a different version of yourself. Or perhaps it is a God-given passion that burns in the the quiet places of your soul, yearning to be nurtured.

Dreams are magical, wispy, wonderful things. They are like clouds, easy to see and yet difficult to grab ahold of. A dream in your pocket is safe. A dream brought to light exposes you to a vulnerable world of potential criticism and failure. But what fulfillment can be found in embracing the difficult and challenging yourself! I once read that the world belongs to the dreamers. I choose to believe that the world belongs to those who are willing to do the scary thing and to breathe life into those dreams.

Dreams are funny things, too. They are exciting and life-giving in their infancy, and yet simultaneously terrifying as you contemplate their execution. They are a promise to yourself to do something. Interestingly, I have learned that we, as people, are all too quick to break promises we make with ourselves. We will bend over backwards to keep our word to others, even when we don’t want to, but we often give up on ourselves without hesitation. We stop going to the gym, we eat or drink the thing we said we wouldn’t, we make excuses about the busyness of our lives, we become complacent.

I’ve decided it is time to keep the promise I made to myself and release the dream in my pocket.

I believed then, just as I believe now, that I have a God-given story tucked in my heart. One that is longing to be penned to paper. One that will minister to the hearts of young girls.

So here we are. In January 2020, I began to write my novel. It’s been a rocky year, but I’m committed to this dream. 

I invite you on this journey with me. I honestly don’t know where it will lead. I am excited at the possibilities, but more than that I am relieved to finally be allowing myself the time and opportunity to chase down something that I’ve been carrying with me for far too long. 

What dream have you been carrying in your pocket? What would it take to release it and nourish it?