Saturday, December 30, 2017

Hello again. Inside my weird brain + some books

Well, it's been awhile. A year and some change, to be exact. I don't have big plans...or really any far as it comes to "blogging again." But sometimes you get itchy to write, and when that happens, my fingers must obey. So here we are.

We're 2 days away from 2018, and I haven't set any "real" goals. This feels so liberating! The longing in me to do life "right" (which has been there as long as I can remember) has always told me that structure and plans and clearly defined rules and steps for life are THE way to go. The only way to go. But, seeing as 2017 has been there year of deconstructing, of allowing the Lord to completely bowl over much of the faulty scaffolding that's held up my faith, and my life, up until now - I'm going rogue. (Did I just quote Sarah Palin?)

So, as January stares me in the face, I have no bullet list of goals. Just desires, hopes, and prayers. Just some burgeoning dreams that I want God to fan into flame, not my hyper-alert sense of Christian duty. And for me right now, a neat list of goals feels like duty, and not like life. Maybe someday they'll feel like life again? But for now, I want to make way for God to keep exploding my neat little world so that I can learn to truly live by His Spirit, not by my rules.

Ok...that got philosophical real quick and all I meant to do was share about reading.
I decided earlier this week that what I love even more than staying up late and binge-watching Stranger Things with Brian (which I do love, quite a bit) is getting a little bit more sleep so that I'm not a tired, crazy monster the next day. So I'm trying to cut myself off from TV around 9pm, and read a bit before bed. I love reading AND not being a jerkface from staying up too late, so I figured I'd give it a try.

Since I decided this...three days ago...I've finished one book and started 3 :) All thanks to the Overdrive app on my phone and Kindle! I decided to audiobook it for a few of the more heady books I've been wanting to read, and then ebook it for the ones I'd love to cozy up with. But no rules here for me! If I want to quit a book, I'm going to quit it. And if I decide I want to listen to it instead of read it, I'll grab the audio version. And keeping track of it all on Goodreads so that a) I can actually remember the books on my "want-to-read" list and b) satisfy the list-loving monster in me just a little bit so that it doesn't get too hungry and take out an entire village.

The extra cool thing is that all of these books I'm reading or listening to for free! Had a free Audible credit for one, and found the rest via the Overdrive app through my local library.

So, the books:

The Magnolia Story by Chip & Joanna Gaines and a ghost-writer who hopefully got paid a lot.
Consensus: Enjoyed it! I'm not a Gaines SUPERFAN, but I have been to their Silos and was curious to read the book after the recommendation of my mom. Chip reminds of Brian in all the best ways! And I was genuinely inspired by Joanna's story - of being a structure/stability lover (me!) who, in a supportive environment, worked hard to achieve big dreams. I read it 1.5 days. #ihavealife

Listening to:
Sisters First by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush.
So far: I'm a sucker for a memoir by authors who feel somewhat accessible and am loving that the Bush twins themselves narrate the audiobook.

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick.
So far: Again with the author-narrated memoir. I can't help but compare her to Mindy Kaling who I adore - and to me, she's not quite as endearing. But we'll see how this one goes.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
So far: Confession - I've never read this book before! I'm just not super into classics, even though I love to read. I like my reading mostly to just be for fun, and not understanding words or picking through out-of-date sentence structure just doesn't' sound fun. But after all the Christmas feels, this one felt like diving into. I'm hoping that not every chapter is filled with such intense descriptions of Jo's plays, but it helps to imagine Kirsten Dunst and the ever-relevant Winona Ryder (GO STRANGER THINGS!) playing these iconic roles.

Next Up:
The aforementioned not-super-into classics person in me has some even more major confessions: I've never read To Kill A Mockingbird or Pride and Prejudice all the way through. I'm going to "cheat" and listen to these ones on audiobook.

The pre-2017 version of me would come up with an apology of sorts for being a 30-year-old American woman who hasn't read these classics. But the almost-2018 version of me can happily admit that since Harry Potter's foray into literature in the 90's, nothing else has sounded as fun :)

Ok, that's a wrap! Thanks to the three of you who will read this. Hi mom!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

September Goals

I'm blogging...what year is this, 2013? Dumb jokes aside, I've been itching to get all my to-do's and hope-to-do's all in one place and well, a blog post seemed like the perfect place for it. The past few months have been messy and fairly unplanned, and that's ok. (Basically, summer.) But I've felt the Lord gently nudging me to add in some (simple, realistic) structure.

And in this nudging, there's been an encouragement, too: don't let my lists manage me. Getting things done won't make God love me more, and accomplishments are a sad replacement for just being present with people and living life by the Spirit. So I'm not making these lists with an all-or-nothing attitude; I know that there's work that has to be done and that God placed me in this season for a purpose - and goals help get things done on purpose! I want to be faithful, serve my family well, and do my work. So my goals are a mix of work, rest, family, fun, spiritual, body health -basically, just wanting to live my life with Jesus on purpose. Here goes!

De-clutter my house, starting with: the kids clothes, toys, and our bathroom
Simple steps, even if it's in 10 minute increments. Put stuff in bags to donate, throw away, or store.

Find a new chapter book to read with Nicholas
We've been reading a chapter of a book together daily, and it's been so special. Just finished the "My Father's Dragon" trilogy, so we need something new!

Plan a birthday double-date with my twin brother!
We turn 29 on September 22, and I want to spend time with him and our spouses.

Re-establish morning routine, as Nicholas goes off to preschool next week
Simple routine, nothing crazy. Extra points (for myself) if we eliminate TV time in the morning.

Self care: get a haircut, see my naturopath
And get a good vitamin/probiotic regimen down!

Finish up 2 fun Thrive Moms projects
One writing project, one project for my amazing Prayer Ministry team!

Have a date-night "in" with Brian

Evaluate my screen time
What's helpful? What's distracting? Where is my heart as I approach it? Do I PLAN on margin and quiet space, for all of our family?

Finish reading "The Gifts of Imperfection"

Get up before the boys Monday-Friday
Again, simple goals: read my Bible and put on my makeup. Start the day with peace.

Keep eating clean

3 workouts a week
2 yoga, 1 HIIT-type of workout

Read the Bible with my boys 3x a week

Get back to Sunday afternoon planning
Meals/grocery, looking at the calendar, remembering what fires me up and what God is calling me to in this season.

Start my morning quiet times with silence.
No phones, no music. Just inviting God in and taking a deep breath, for a few minutes.

Pray for a different person every morning. 
I made a little list of people to pray for each day. Simple, no guilt. Not going to pray for an hour each day, just starting somewhere.

CONNECT with my kids and with Brian 
Look in their eyes, giggle, speak life. Agenda-less time, just presence.

Social media free 2pm-7pm 
When Nick gets home from school and we're all together as a family, I want the boys to see healthy rhythms of technology - and also of intentional family connection. This means I have to actually BE healthy in my rhythms. Yikes. I think this will be a challenge, but a good one.

Drink water and take vitamins
Give my kids their vitamins too!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Where I'm At

Well, it's been quite awhile since I wrote here! I so love this online world and community. These days, most of my writing is happening within the Thrive Moms world.

If you want to see more of my writing, I write monthly (and sometimes more!) for the Thrive Moms "MOMentum" newsletter. It's a weekly newsletter written just for moms, with Biblical encouragement, resources, and news about Thrive Moms. If you're a mama, go sign up HERE!

You can also find glimpses of my world on Instagram (@pintsizedmama) and Snapchat (@mackbyersdorf).

Thank you faithful friends and readers!

Monday, January 11, 2016

on wholeness, and setting goals from a place of freedom rather than a place of shame

I've spent a fair amount of time around my kitchen table in the past few weeks. It's my makeshift office, where I push aside a pile of transformers, Magna Blocks and Peppermint Pattie wrappers, to make room for a big hot pink binder that holds my trusty goal setting worksheets. Each time I've sat down and jotted down ideas, goals, and prayers for 2016, I have not been able to get someone out of my mind: the girl who was sitting around that same kitchen table this time last year.

I can so clearly picture myself, sitting in our tiny dining room with the same hot pink binder open. I was gung-ho to set goals for 2015, so ready for change and desperate to grow. But for all my desire to plan (and my naturally Type-A personality), most of the pages in that binder were left completely blank. I got about a third of the way through planning and praying, and I quit.

At the time, I thought that I just couldn't get my act together. But I should have been paying more attention to what was happening in my heart every time I tried to plan: anxiety would rise, hope for a new year would get clouded by all of the things I'd done wrong in the last one, and the only words that made it onto the page were crappy attempts at making approval-seeking sound Godly.

What I realize now is that instead of trying to set goals, I was actually trying to fix myself.
I was trying to plan away the shame and disappointment that I had felt from the previous year.

My heart was bruised and pretty darn weary, after two straight years of transition after transition. Several moves as a family, several jobs for my husband, a new baby and a c-section, learning to parent a very strong-willed toddler, helping to plant a church, adjusting to life in our small home in the big city...the list goes on. I was exhausted. And sadly, I'd been serving my church, my online community, and my family with the twisted notion that I was my ministry. What I could offer to God and to others had become how I defined myself and where I found my worth. Yuck.

Sitting at my kitchen table at the start of 2015, I was sopping wet with shame.
I felt like a disappointment to everyone around me, to God, to myself. The productivity monster in me seemed to steal every drop of truth that the Lord was trying to speak to me about being completely loved no matter what I do.

From this side of the timeline, it seems obvious to me that trying to set goals in that state of mind was probably not a good idea. And to be clear, goal setting wasn't the problem - it was how I was approaching it.

I wanted boxes I could check and lists written in colorful Sharpie to heal my shame. But they didn't.

Oh, thank goodness for the grace of God.
What I realize now is that last year, I didn't need another line item on my to-do list; I needed to see a counselor. I needed to give myself permission to step back from achieving, and give myself time to heal. I needed the love of God and the right space to work some things out that had been causing so much anxiety, and a pretty constant train of self-shaming thoughts.

And eventually, that's what I did.
The pages in my binder stayed blank, but what God wrote on my heart in 2015 was eternally more important. I went to counseling for the better part of 6 months. I stepped back from serving in several areas and I lowered the (insane) standards I had for myself. Little by little, I started actually believing what God's Word says about being 100%, completely cherished, just because I live and breathe. (See mom, it's God's fault that I got the word "cherished" tattooed on my forearm!)

This year, I can't tell you how different I feel, as I sit at my kitchen table with that hot pink binder laying open in front of me. And the reason that I'm sharing all of this is that I don't think what I've learned is just for me; I think it is for some of you, too.

I've learned that it's more important to be healthy, and to seek healing, than it is to achieve all of my life goals.

I've learned that my heart being whole is a worthy pursuit.
Even if that means I have to set aside, for a little while, all the dreams and plans that go along with accomplishing good things for God and others.

I've learned that what God wants most from me is to believe Him when he says, "I love you."

I'm also learning that setting goals from a place of freedom is so much better than from a place of shame. 

I've found so much more joy, excitement, and peace as I've planned this year, because I know that my worth is not at stake. I can't wait to dig into my dreams, God's vision, and all the steps that it will take along the way -- because I'm not planning for approval anymore.

I don't know where you're at this January, but if your heart is particularly tender, if your head is swimming with shame, if you're making plans on paper in order to try and calm the chaos in your heart -- maybe sit this year out.

Maybe 2016 won't be the year that you get the most done, but maybe it's the year that you get free.

See a counselor. Seek out wholeness. Get friends and family around you, and pray for the courage to walk down the hard, amazing, totally worth it path of healing.

And then when you're ready, plan your heart out, girl! You can come join me at my kitchen table.
But don't mistake your desire to accomplish good things for God's highest calling on your life. He wants to use you for His glory, but He wants you to be healthy, too. He's a good Father who wants you to deeply know and abide in His love, His approval, and His grace in every single step, in every worthy pursuit. (And this is a post for another time, but from all that I've experienced and from watching those who are a few years ahead of me: living and serving out of wholeness, which often means taking time out for rest and healing, will actually let you serve longer, and with more joy.)

I'm praying for you today, if you're reading this and it rings true. I'm praying for God to give you the courage to invite Him into your heart to do some deep, hard, redemptive work in 2016. Even if that means "sitting out" for a few months. He is so incredibly faithful.

Looking back, I didn't miss out on anything in 2015. At the time, not filling up my notebook with clearly outlined goals and action steps felt like I was giving up - but I was actually clearing the road ahead for God to do what He wanted to do in 2015. And it was one of the most stretching, and most redemptive, years of my life. I may have failed at one thing, but it made me more open to God's healing; so I think it's safe to call 2015 a success.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

what advent is really for, and what i'm learning so far

This is the part where I skip over the fact that this is the 2nd time I've written here since July. 

I'm not sure if you're supposed to start a post about Advent admitting that you weren't actually expecting God to change your heart that much during Advent - but that's where I'm starting.
I mean, I was hopeful that intentionally spending time in God's Word would help prepare my heart for Christmas. But that's kind of where I left it - Advent was "for Christmas." Reading the Bible daily during December is so that you aren't just focused on parties and presents, right?

I guess I overlooked the fact that the Word I was reading was written by the God who says that He wants to do "far more than we ask or imagine." And I'm so, so grateful that this is exactly what He's doing in my heart.

I'm learning that Advent is for so much more than preparing our hearts for a holiday -- it's for actually MEETING WITH JESUS. It's a time to let Him do work in our hearts that changes us, and that lasts way longer than the Christmas tree we purchased for our living room. Advent is an invitation to sit with the living God. To let the awe-inspiring mystery of Emmanuel shift how we think, how we love, and how we worship - in a way that lasts far beyond the month of December.

So we're ten days into this Advent thing, and I am sensing that shift in my heart. I can feel Him gently nudging me to believe Him more, in some areas that feel tender. I can feel my heart softening in places where I've been pretty stubborn. I'm realizing how much more deeply I can BREATHE when I choose to take refuge in Him, instead of in my own thoughts, hurts, and worries. Some of these things feel really fresh, and I'm not quiet ready to unpack them here yet. But nonetheless, God has already done more than I expected He would during this Advent season. And I'm excited for Him to take these truths deep into my heart, that I might learn to really believe them, and live them year-round.

It's still early in the month, if you want to hop into an Advent devotional or Bible reading plan! I'm reading the Naptime Diaries Make Room for Advent Devotional, as well as a free Bible reading plan by John Piper, with my church.