reflections · writing

What’s Saving My Life :: Winter 2019

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People told me this would happen as I approach 40 (2019 is my last year in my thirties). They told me I would begin to realize so much better who I am, who I want to be, and who I’ve let the world make me.

I’m not sure I’m so happy with the last one. I’m a people pleaser and I overanalyze every one and every response–which actually is an incredibly unhealthy way to live. I may have a gift of empathy–and it may make me a better writer–but the junk of others doesn’t have to determine ME.

So this year is an experiment of sorts. A last year in my thirties and a time of personal reflection. I’ll drop some of those thoughts here, in this blog I’ve neglected since my debut novel released. Some will go to my insiders–those people who subscribe to my newsletter and let me tell them some things in their inboxes. Some will trickle into my Instagram and Facebook feeds, and I’d love to hear from you.

What’s saving your life–right now in the middle of winter and one month into a new year?

My list is simple and I’m linking up with my favorite Modern Mrs. Darcy who takes this practice cue from fellow writer Barbara Brown Taylor (who incidentally lives near me but I’ve never seen her at the grocery store).

What’s Saving My Life …

  1. Hiking My mama is an avid hiker and sometimes I tag along. Even when it’s cold, but only because she promises me baked goods and coffee when I’m done.
  2. Yoga For the first time since my wreck, my back doesn’t hurt. I’m no expert, but I like the Quick Yoga workouts I find on Amazon Prime. Doesn’t hurt the instructor’s name is Lindsay.
  3. Hot tea I’m partial to anything citrus flavored, especially a lemon-ginger at night because lately, my tummy needs some settling on a way too regular basis.
  4. My Bullet Journal I write everything in this little book. And I use these pretty pens. What I love about the BuJo is there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Setting it up can be overwhelming if you do all. the. research. Or you can be lazy like me and avoid all they hype and use what works for you. I do make a weekly spread and I try to keep up with my table of contents so I can find everything quickly. I also color code my months, which helps. For me the best thing is that everything I need is in one place.
  5. Internet hangout sessions While I’m making the effort to hang out with my IRL friends who can meet for coffee, I’m incredibly grateful for the hangout sessions I have via the Internet with my writer friends. These are the people who don’t let me add in plot twists just because, who call me out when I use way too many adjectives, and who help me keep this publishing journey in perspective. We live in 3 different states, so being able to “see” each other is wonderful.
  6. Fuzzy blankets Polar vortex came through. Enough said.
  7. Burning the gas fireplace without the logs. Our logs apparently weren’t suited for our fireplace and caused a soot problem. So take them out suggested the lady at the propane company. Guess what? Gas fireplaces don’t necessarily need logs to work. They’re aesthetic not necessity.
  8. Soup Next week I’ll offer up one of my favorite weird soup recipes, but I believe soup is a winter staple.
  9. Bible reading plan I’ve never read the Bible all the way through. Beginning to End. So my husband and I are doing it together. Right now we’re having interesting convos centered around Leviticus. Who knew there were SO. MANY. RULES? Hallelujah, grace. (Our plan is simple and listed in the back of our NIV devotional Bibles, but I’m reading my NKJV study version.)
  10. Book Tracking Y’all know I like to read, but I’m terrible at follow through. My Goodreads is only updated sporadically and it syncs to my Kindle app and thinks I’m reading things I’m really not because I hate to read on my phone. So this year I’m going to try tracking them by month in my bullet journal. So far I’ve read five books this year. I talk about them a lot on Instagram.

Your turn! You can find me on the socials or leave a comment or a send an email or ignore this and go back to work 🙂

P.S. This post contains affiliate links.

 

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faith · Guest Posts · just write life · Margin Mom · writing

When Saying No Means Yes

Step on up to the front porch and welcome Kirsten from Sweet Tea & Saving Grace. We’re blog friends and heart sisters because y’all know you’ve heard me say this before — no is a word I need to use more often. Check out Kirsten’s site sometime this week. Her content and heart are sweeter than McDonald’s tea. I promise.

The alarm next to my head began to buzz at the usual 5:00 am, alerting my body and mind that it was time to begin yet another day – a day of a 3-hour round-trip commute to a job I hated, a quick dinner with the family, and working on my blog until I couldn’t hold my eyes open any longer. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

But this particular morning when that alarm began ringing, something felt different. Something felt off.

Rewind to about six months prior when a book found me. I didn’t go seeking this book, mind you. I was in a local bookstore looking for a new Bible study when I stumbled across “Anything” by Jennie Allen. I had recently read a blog post about her and suddenly she was showing up everywhere, including on this book shelf in this bookstore. Something compelled me to pick it up and read…and as I read, I was immediately convicted, and wanted more.

That afternoon, I read the book cover to cover, then re-read it several times over the following months.

Jennie tells the story of she and her husband and their willingness, albeit with noted apprehension, to give God “anything”…and to mean it. She talks about how reluctant we are to give God the big things, the really important things, the things that are already His but we refuse to relinquish complete control. And she tells of a prayer she & her husband prayed finally letting go and telling God, “Anything. Anything you want, it’s Yours.”

So I prayed. More times than I can count over those months that passed, I prayed, and repeatedly gave God my “Anything”.

Now, I’ve been a Christian my whole life, and yet here I was expecting the clouds to part and angels to sing every time I prayed that prayer. I knew better. I knew that God would take my “anything” whenever He wanted, not when I was ready to give it to Him.

Six months pass. I had all but stopped praying that prayer. I was 3 ½ years into building a blog that I hoped would turn into a business. I spent countless hours throwing every ounce of time, energy, and money into it and was oddly pleased when my only return was an increase in pageviews and Facebook fans. But I somehow felt I was finally at my peak.

I woke up on this ordinary morning with a heaviness on my chest. And I knew.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I knew God had come to collect my “anything”, and I knew what it was. Yet, I resisted. I argued. I went through the motions of my morning – shower, makeup, hair, outfit – all the while, arguing with God that I wasn’t ready to give up my blog, that I was finally seeing success, that if He would give me just six months, I’d walk away.

Suddenly, I was hit with such a force in my chest it felt as if I’d been punched hard, and it brought me to my knees. I couldn’t see my own reflection in the bathroom mirror anymore. Instead, my head was filled with visions. I saw my daughter, almost 12 years old, dealing with hormones she’d never experienced before, questioning everything, needing answers. And I was in my office working on my blog.

I saw my husband, alone on the couch, watching TV and eating dinner without me. I was in my office working on my blog.

I saw missed opportunities for quality time spent with friends, family… I saw my own health deteriorating because I didn’t make time to care for myself.

Finally, with tears streaming down my face and me in a crumpled heap on the bathroom floor, I surrendered.

Immediately, I felt relief. The weight in my chest vanished and I felt peace. My vision cleared, yet I continued to cry. I told God that yes, He could have “anything”. And I meant it.

After a while, I cleaned up my face and headed to work. As soon as I sat down in front of my computer, I typed out a blog post – what would be my last for more than six months. I told this entire story to my readers. I emailed people with whom I had made commitments and apologized, but told them I could no longer honor those commitments.

And I quit. Just like that.

Now for those of you who don’t blog, you might not see this as such a big sacrifice. But my blog had become my passion, my identity. And walking away was like tearing off a piece of me and abandoning it. I had spent 3 ½ years of my life nurturing this thing, building this thing… It was mine. It was me!

But it never was. It was His. And He took it back.

Over the six months that followed, I began to realize what I had been missing. My relationships with my husband and daughter improved dramatically, and I began to realize what it was about blogging that I was so passionate about to begin with.

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Kirsten, daughter Marley, and her mom

It wasn’t the pageviews, the Facebook followers, the “status”. It was the stories and the community. After a while, I began to ask God if I could start over with my blog, but do it His way. And in May of 2014, He said “yes”.

I rebranded to Sweet Tea & Saving Grace, but the name wasn’t the only thing that changed. My entire mindset has changed since then. I no longer chase numbers, and I will never allow myself to get lost in the to-do’s.

Since my return to blogging in May of 2014, God has blessed me and my family tremendously. I’ve created an entire business that allows me to work from home and teach other bloggers and creatives how to build their own brand of success with their own rules. It’s a dream come true.

I’m often asked how I “do it all” – handle being a wife and mom, run a business, manage two blogs, host events, speak at conferences, work with clients. And the short answer is, I don’t. Nobody does.

The longer answer goes more like this:

Before I ever picked up my proverbial blogging pen again in 2014, I made a list of my priorities. Every decision I have to make for my blog or business gets weighed against those priorities. When an opportunity arises, I ask myself if the opportunity will (a) benefit my business and help me grow, or challenge me professionally, or (b) if it will either benefit or take away from my priorities.

I’ve learned to take things off my plate when life gets too stressful or busy, and I do so without the guilt I used to feel. I always have dinner with my family at the dinner table. I go fishing with my husband on random Tuesday afternoons. I step away from work to go for a walk with my now 14-year old daughter who, remarkably, actually wants to spend time with me, so I soak it up.

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Fishing with husband, Mark, on a random afternoon

I work because we have to have an income, and I’m fortunate enough to have work that brings me joy. But at the end of my life, I won’t be thinking about all those blog posts I wrote, or the clients I helped. I’ll be reminiscing of all the experiences I had with the people I love most.

I’ve learned that saying “no” often means saying “yes”. We say “no” to things that don’t honor our priorities in order to say “yes” to the things that matter. We can’t do it all. Nobody can. Well, God can. He can do “anything”.


 

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Kirsten is the owner of Sweet Tea, LLC, which is home to all of her educational content, including blog posts, tutorials, webinars, ebooks, courses, 1:1 coaching, email services and a future membership site. She also blogs at Sweet Tea & Saving Grace, a Southern Christian lifestyle blog, where she shares her home, life and faith with anyone who wants to mingle on her front porch.


Kirsten lives in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband Mark, teenage daughter Marley, and their three dogs, Savannah, Dakota, and Daisy Mae. She thrives on sweet tea & sunshine, has finally learned to embrace her natural curl, and says “y’all” entirely too often.