my virtual magazine: stress and simplicity



We don't get the newspaper. I don't subscribe to magazines. Instead, I like to look at the internet, specifically blogs, as my own free, personal, and virtual magazine each morning. I love that I can pick and choose what is applicable to my life at that moment, and what isn't.

This past week was a stressful one, so articles and posts related to stress and simplicity really spoke to me. I am determined to face this week with a short list of priorities for each day, so I don't find myself overwhelmed when Pippa goes down for her nap. I also realize that I am living in the future instead of enjoying the day that God has given me now. These articles all give some excellent tips for finding joy, rest, and simplicity in even the busiest, most stressful times of our lives.

This devotion was the perfect way to start my morning. 

Sometimes we go through stressful seasons of life. Here are 5 non-negotiables to get though each day.

I love the idea of minimalism, but it's easy to get carried away with legalistic rules that make minimalism more stressful than freeing. Here's a guideline than can help.

Ladies transitioning between maternity, nursing, and different sizes of "regular" clothes can relate to my struggle to keep things simple. Here are some good tips.

Spring cleaning! I'm in spring cleaning overdrive right now with a cross-country move and a new baby in the near futures. This article is filled to the brim with practical tips for decluttering, organizing, and storing things in your home. 


rejoice always


In 8th grade I couldn't wait for high school. I wanted the challenging classes, the higher level of sports, the expanded pool of potential friends. I wasn't satisfied with my class of 16 students. I wanted more.

I enjoyed high school for awhile, but quickly grew to see how totally immature everyone was. (Get over yourself, 16-year-old Emily. You're not better than everyone else just because you read Anna Karenina.) I wanted lively debates, intellectual conversation, the freedom of college life, and and even more expanded pool of potential friends (although the joke was on me - my college was smaller than my high school).

When I arrived at college, I reveled in the ability to go to McDonalds at 2 in the morning without having to tell anyone where I was going. Never mind the fact that my parents and I had a trusting relationship when I was in high school and they never gave me an official curfew. I was free! Free! But, then I started getting bored there, too. The classes weren't challenging enough, the winter was too long (ok, I stand by that gripe), and the city was too small. I needed to travel, expand my horizons with fascinating new characters and stories of adventure.

After graduating college, Justin and I got married and moved to Minnesota. I felt anxious that I didn't have enough friends my age. I felt my youth slipping away, and desperately tried to cling to it. I didn't want to be tied down, and I didn't want to become boring. I was so worried about what others thought of my life that I couldn't truly enjoy it.

That is the attitude I sustained for a good decade of my life. I have since repented of my ungrateful attitude, but I don't regret it. I don't regret it because I have learned so much from that period of my life. I have grown and changed.

Our culture calls it FOMO, I believe. Fear Of Missing Out. And I had it long before social media became a part of my life. I have always been an avid reader, and because of that, I was terrified of living a normal life - a life not worth writing about or reading about. I feared I would miss out on the best education. I feared I would miss out on the friendships and relationships. I feared I would miss out on travel, and all the life lessons that come with it.

But the funny thing is, even as I was fearing missing out, I was experiencing all those things. I learned so much, I had many great friendships, and I saw a multitude of unforgettable locations.

For the first time in my life, I am in a place of gratitude. I am in a season of ease and abundance. I no longer look at life as a competition to see who can accomplish the most or travel the most or learn the most.

I have everything I need and more.

He has blessed me in ways I could never have imagined. I could never have planned this life. I could never have dreamed up the circumstances that would make me this content. God knows me better than I know myself. He knows what I need even when I'm praying for the opposite.

And I know that if all of this went away in an instant, I would still have a God worth praising.

Life is good, friends. We certainly go through seasons of hardship and sadness. I have my own struggles, too. But those struggles aren't worth comparing to the glory God has in store for us. Our joy in in the knowledge of our salvation - what God has done for us. The earthly blessings are icing on the cake!

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:4-7)

the mythical art of balance

Balance. It has been studied and written about and sought after. It has been lauded and denounced. How can we achieve it? Can we achieve it? Should we achieve it?

Well, I actually don't have the answer to any of those questions. If anyone has the answers, please send them my way.

Instead, I will remind you of this analogy, of which I am sure you have heard or read at some point or another.

I'm not sure where this simile originated, but I love it!

Life is like a juggling act. We're trying to keep all of our oranges or apples or chainsaws in the air. The more chainsaws we add to our juggling act, the tougher it will be (but also the more impressive and exciting!). In order to restore the balance of the juggling act, we may have to set a chainsaw or two down momentarily. That doesn't mean you're dropping it and failing at juggling altogether. Au contraire, my friend. Setting down a chainsaw is a sign of self-knowledge and maturity. (No one wants to be the guy who thinks he can hang with the juggling professionals only to cut himself in half with a flying chainsaw, amiright?)


I'll give you an example from my life. I've got some great chainsaws to juggle:
my relationship with God, my relationship with my husband, motherhood, family, friendships, health, cooking, a home to clean, being a dog owner, operating a home-based business, coaching, teaching Spanish, my own study of Spanish, using Spanish with Pippa, writing, reading, photography, volunteering, and rest.

Some of these things are really, really important. Vital. Imperative. These things should almost never be set down in favor of less important ones. They are the chainsaws that are the "meat and potatoes" of my juggling act.

Then there are the chainsaws that make my act fun. Maybe they are leopard print chainsaws that play "La Cucaracha" when I juggle them. They add joy, delight, fulfillment, frivolity, and laughter to my act. My act can survive without them, but it's not as exciting.

Sometimes I really need to focus on a specific chainsaw. When it's volleyball season, reading, writing, photography, cleaning, and cooking may have to be set down.

When I'm focusing on my health chainsaw, my Spanish chainsaw may be momentarily set down until I've comfortably incorporated my health chainsaw into the routine.

Sometimes I accidentally or neglectfully set down a chainsaw that should never leave the rotation, like reading the Bible and cultivating a rich prayer life. In fact, the more chainsaws I have in the air, the more I need to focus on these two things.

I forget that a lot.

I used to get stressed when I had a lot to juggle and say things like, "I can't! I'm too busy!"

When I realized that each chainsaw was a choice - that I didn't have to keep them all in my juggling act - I started changing my language. I started saying things like, "I'm choosing to focus on this instead of that right now."

I'm learning that it's ok to set something down for a season. I'm learning to choose my chainsaws wisely, and weed out the ones that are distracting to the rest of my juggling act.

There may be a season of many flashy chainsaws when my act is really exciting and entertaining and exhausting.

There may be a season when I decide to go back to basics and juggle like 3 chainsaws.

And other times, you have to drop ALL THE CHAINSAWS so you can get your hair cut for the first time in a year.

But I digress. Just know that no one is juggling all of their chainsaws at any given time, even if their juggling act looks super organized and perfect. Even if all of their chainsaws are labeled with free printables from Pinterest.

What is your best advice for finding balance in the juggling act of life?

an interesting life


Today I had the chance to chat with an older gentleman at church. Over a classic Lutheran potluck meal, we discussed incredible experiences he had during his childhood and college years. Fighting the selfish and juvenile urge to jump in and share my own stories, I forced myself to sit back and listen. Really listen. He was so happy to give some insight into what his life was like 30 years before I was even born - and I was happy to learn!

Similarly, my sisters and I couldn't get enough of my nana's stories about growing up in London, and more recently, we sat starry-eyed through Nana's best friend Pat's stories about the trouble they would get into together.

Every time I get the chance to hear stories from the another generation, it always inspires me to live an interesting life so that someday I will have amazing anecdotes to share with my grandchildren.

But what exactly is that je ne sais quoi that makes a life worth telling about?

I used to think it came from the items I checked off a bucket list.

Jump off a bridge? Check.

Study Spanish abroad? Check.

Sleep under the stars in Mexico? Check. (Mex04!)

Eat a bug in the rainforest? Check.

Sip wine on the banks of the Seine in Paris? Check.

Watch the sun set in Red Square? Check. 

Survive an attempted mugging in Panama? Check.

The list goes on and on.

I would get so desperate to make sure my life was adventurous, unique, and intriguing. I wanted others to be jealous of my experiences. I wanted to show off everything I had done. I, I, I. Me, me, me. It was all about how I looked to everyone else.

What I have begun to realize, though, is that these stories mean absolutely nothing without the relationships behind them. It is the people with whom I share these memories that make them so meaningful to me. Honestly, the best stories - the stories that have shaped who I am as a person - are about the dear friends who befriended, accompanied, and supported me through ever country and disaster and circumstance, or they are about the people I have met who opened my eyes to a new way of thinking.

My new theory is that the people who come into your life have the chance to change you, the chance to bring adventure, the chance to alter your world view, and the chance to make you feel alive.

Find those people who already exist in your life. Ask questions and really listen to the answers. Then go out and meet some new people. Everyone has something to contribute. Sometimes we just have to dig a little.

Hobbies are great. People with no hobbies besides watching television aren't experiencing everything the world has to offer or using their talents to the fullest.
Travel is amazing. It has given me a new appreciation for cultural traditions and values. It has changed the way I view myself and others.
Reading and learning also make for great conversation and ideas.

All of these things help to shape an interesting personality.

But a truly fascinating life is created through relationships. Some relationships will be there from cradle to grave. Others will crash into your life and be gone in a week. Still others may come in and out like the tide. But each relationship is a story.

Find your partners in crime, and make a great story.






the power of your mind

-or-
"What the French and the Dog Whisperer have in common."

When I was pregnant, one of my favorite books to read was Bringing Up Bebé by Pamela Druckerman. This was because it offered a laid-back perspective on pregnancy and raising children that most of the other books could not seem to capture. In fact, I'm fairly certain the majority of books aimed at informing expecting parents were written by an evil troll living in a dark cave whose sole purpose is to fear-monger the crap out of everyone about every possible scenario that could go wrong. 

But that's neither here nor there.

Druckerman presents a world where parents are confident and relaxed. They don't feel the need to do mountains of research. They don't feel the need to compare their decisions with others, fretting what others will think. They actually enjoy the process of child bearing and raising their children. 

(Honestly, a ton of the parents I know in the United States are actually a lot like this.)

Anyway, Druckerman posits that the trick to parenting with ease and confidence is to realize that you are there to educate your child, and to set limits and stand firm in them. Among other things. But those were my big take-aways.

From Day 1, you are your child's tour guide and teacher. You are teaching her how to fit into your family. You are showing him how to eat, sleep, and behave in an acceptable manner. You are in essence civilizing a wild beast. 

It's also important to set limits and be consistent with them. When you say no, you mean it every single time. You don't get upset, you don't rise to the child's level of emotion. You model patience for them. My favorite line from the book which gives confidence and authority is, "It's me who decides." Sometimes this phrase is more for the parent than for the child. You have to remind yourself that you are in charge, and you make the decisions. You have faith in yourself as a parent, a teacher, an adult who knows better than a child. When you start doing these things, you almost carry yourself taller.

* * *

A few months ago, Justin and I got sick of our normal rotation on Netflix. We stumbled upon a few episodes of the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan, and decided we needed a refresher course on training Pablo. He's been getting pretty rude lately, counter-surfing and begging for Pippa's food. 

We quickly realized that we had started out as great pack leaders when Pablo was a puppy. We trained him, we set boundaries, and we enforced them religiously. But once we got him to the point where we were happy with his training, we grew lax. We let him do things that we used to be strict about, and he started to act out.

He needed  us to be confident pack leaders. He needed those limits and daily training to feel secure. And we were not providing that. 

Lately we have been working on re-training him with calm, assertive energy (a phrase Cesar loves to repeat). He advises you picture yourself as someone powerful you admire (Cleopatra, Gandhi, that teacher you were always scared of, etc.) and project that energy to your dog. 

* * *

So what do the French and the Dog Whisperer have in common? They carry themselves tall, they project confidence, they have faith in what they are saying. One can't help but follow someone with these qualities. It's inspiring to see in others, and energizing to try yourself!

Currently I'm working on applying this principle to all areas of my life. Pippa is developing more each day, and with that growth comes an emergence of her personality. She is so funny and vivacious - but she's also stubborn and willful. I am enjoying the challenge of teacher her patience.

I'm not as much enjoying the challenge of teaching Pablo patience and boundaries. We're getting there.

I'm also applying this concept to my work with Isagenix. I'm working toward some big and exciting goals, and every day I must build my confidence anew that I can and will achieve these goals with God's help, persistent and consistent action, and the support of my close family and friends. I am carrying myself tall, projecting confidence, and having faith in what I am saying and doing. 

* * *

Our minds are a powerful thing. We can use them for good or evil. Positive thoughts attract positive results, while negative thoughts attract negative results. Do you have faith in what you are doing? Are you confidently working toward a goal? How are you using the power of your mind today?