mindfulness

Tension vs. Balance

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tension

Recently one of my best friends and I met up for happy hour. We try to do this as often as we can because each of us comes away feeling a little bit more like ourselves. Throughout the course of the evening we covered every inch of our present lives. From motherhood/parenthood, to workouts, Jesus, marriages we are grateful for, and the general busyness of life. As we chatted there was a point that I went off on a rant and it went a little something like this:

“Okay, so I am over people talking about finding balance. It’s like a mythical creature or a unicorn. Everyone swears they have seen one but no one has proof in real life. Balance feels mythical, like it truly doesn’t exist. I think we should be working towards living in the tension of our real lives instead of chasing unicorns.”

Now that I reflect on the moment, that is most likely not at all what I actually said. All I can honestly remember is feeling a shift in my body as we discussed this idea.

Tension vs. Balance.

When I think about balance, all I can see is some circus performer, holding and spinning all these different plates in the air or maybe someone walking a tight rope. So you either have plates requiring you to look at them for a split second to keep each one spinning but not really observing what the plate is doing or what is on the plate. Or you are walking on a tight rope, looking down missing what’s right in front of you. Whereas tension feels different. Tension feels more real to me and less like a show.

Let me take you into my little world for a moment. Most days I spend my time trying to remain present in my physical body. It’s a struggle to not get locked in my head that is swirling with thoughts and/or tread water in my hearts pool full of feelings. (I mean I am a 4 on the Enneagram after all.) I am gonna focus on the spinning plates here for a few minutes. This idea literally gives me the visual of never looking down or out, only always up which is the exact opposite of what I have found to be healthy for me. There is no end in sight when spinning plates. Pointless, busy, and screaming of urgency.

Then there’s tension.

I imagine tension as a rope tied at one end to an unmovable object while the other end is attached to my waist. I know that may sound like an anchor to some but in a way, that’s kind of what we all need don’t we? Something solid to hold us in the midst of the chaos catapulting us into the ever present, always changing future. This image brings me an odd touch of serenity and grace. Knowing that my life has flex and bend while remaining in tact feels energizing, purposeful even. Each day that rope tightens and loosens, some days by the second. That rope though is closer to the ground, closer to the dust. (There it is again, that word, dust. What we are all made of. I digress.) That rope keeps me looking around instead of up or down. It keeps me in the present because it’s tugging at my core, where my intuition resides.

For example, there will be some mornings I wake up and immediately there is very little slack in my day. From the moment I open my eyes till I crawl into bed that night. Then there are other days where the rope is a little slack in the morning or the evening, there is room to breathe and wiggle if you will. I can sit, stand, and move fully in my life with a rope around my waist. If I choose to spin plates I can barely move an inch for fear of disrupting the little bit of balance I may have imagined I found.

This picture of a rope works wonders in my brain and maybe it will in yours too. This imagery gives room for the both/and kind of perspective, for the now and not yet. Overall there is more room for the grey parts of life which if I’m honest is where I believe most of this life is lived. Sure we all would love black and white, we all want nice neat, tidy boxes, or tidy spinning controlled plates. We want certainty and clarity but I’m not really sure that is the actual point of living. When we choose to spin plates it feels like choosing to look away from the gaze of Christ and instead doing it all our own way in our own strength and ability.

In other words friend, I never want to be a plate spinner, constantly looking up while missing the life all around me. Spinning plates is not my jam, oh and did I mention it creates false drama too? What if I let a plate drop? What then? Well my friend, you break a plate. Did you really need that plate or were you spinning it to keep up appearances, please your dad, fulfill an unnecessary obligation? It may be time to break some plates and find a rope.

Growing up I went to a lot of rodeos. My Papa always loved horses and that love was passed onto my younger brother who took it a step further. He became a calf roper and traveled all over competing in rodeos. Over the years I don’t know how many times I saw him tie a calf but it was a lot. He would fly out of the shoot like a bullet, with his rope loose, swinging in a large circle above his head. He would be positioning himself to throw and catch the calf. As soon as the calf was caught, he was off the horse in a flash sprinting towards his calf, hand gliding along the tightened rope towards his next move. It’s the picture of that rope pulled taut that gets me. My brother at that point had laser beam focus moving towards a goal. When just seconds before that same rope was loose, creating the space and momentum needed to stretch out ahead and lasso that calf. The moments of slack in our life create the ability to pull the rope of life tight when we need to. We can’t have one without the other.

So yes, I will take the rope life over striving for balance any day. I am interested in looking and living in the tension of my life. Some days will look more chilled, while others will feel militant. Still I will take it over the balancing act because it’s just that, an act. You never catch your breath that way. You remain scattered and distracted, never fully present and what a shame that truly would be.

Have you become a professional plate spinner? Has this been your own choice or does it feel like life was thrust upon you in this way? Would you like to stop spinning plates and pick up a rope? I hope so! If this post feels like an invitation you have been waiting for, send me a message. I would love to encourage each of us to move into this way of living.

 

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Preparing for Preschool

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Today felt like a marathon of task ticking on my to-do list. Telling the boys constantly to go play in their bedroom as I filled in mountains of paperwork and made phone calls felt a whole lot like #adulting. There are a lot of days like this but the things on the list today were more than the normal things. By the end of the day I felt accomplished, tired, emotional, and giddy at the thought of taking a few minutes to write which helps me come back to myself. (If I don’t fall asleep first thanks to late night Memorial Day celebrations with dear friends!)

One of the big things on my list today was to put in applications for the boys to attend preschool in the autumn. First, I am still not old enough to have kids am I? I mean, when it’s dinner time I’m looking for the mom and then realize that’s me. Second, okay, so yes, I am the mother and yes I do cook for our family. However, are my babies really the age where a school allows them to come and spend a significant chunk of time with other kids their age and a person who in my opinion may be categorically insane for wanting to teach this age group? (We all have our gifts and teaching is not mine.) Thank you by the way to all preschool and kindergarten teachers for often times completing the lessons of life skills for children this age. I promise us parents truly are trying, but when it’s the hundredth time they whine about wiping their own bums I cave and do it for them because honestly I just want a second of peace and quiet. Third, watching your very different sons walk through the halls of the school they potentially will attend soon, gives some key insights into how they will actually respond in real life. Their reactions remained true to their individual personality types and this made my momma’s heart happy. Stay true little men to your own beat for as long as you can. When the world tries to drown out the sound of that beat we will do our best to help you hear it again and get you back on track. Until then march to that beat in whatever way fills your little heart with joy!

Since I have been thinking about preschool and filling out all these papers the past week or so, something has been stirring in me too. I have been gently confronted with the reality that I am not as far along as I may have thought I was. Grantit I thankfully don’t need anyone to wipe my bum; but I am not as clever as I thought I was, as kind, as humble, as caring, and the list goes on.

I am in preschool folks.

My reactions to things lately have been more like a spoiled brat at my heart level than I would like to admit. Someone gets what I want? Inside I start whining and stomping my mental feet. I am tired and grouchy, well then of course it’s perfectly acceptable for me to be annoyed at things that deep down I am beyond grateful for. Things that I thought I was doing a good job on, come to find out it was more like an inexperienced carpenter saying she had built a firm foundation only to find it sinking in the middle. This type of reality has been much truer for me lately than I would like to admit. I am falling short and no one but me can stop the patterns.

How am I changing? How am I addressing such stark contrasts in my reality while measuring them by my longed for steadfastness and life reflection? Below I will share a few ways I am attempting to learn again and become a sponge like my sons who graciously grow and accept correction daily.

So here goes:

  1. I am relearning how to love my people, my husband, my children, my family, and friends in this season.
  2. I am trying to shut my mouth more and listen longer.
  3. I am asking a few close friends to keep me accountable to areas of growth, watering my little seeds hoping for shoots of green to come.
  4. I am returning to some old, well worn paths of looking for the mysterious in my life.
  5. I am revisiting lessons I thought I had learned before and meditating on them.
  6. I am prioritizing my exercise, times of quiet, and the space I need in the mornings.

None of these things are rocket science I know. Yet sometimes when we live in such a fast paced way it’s easy to miss the little moments where our trajectory took a slight bend and we now find ourselves in a different place than we expected. I am a full believer in making little changes that eventually make a big impact later. All of these things are sweet and simple because that’s how I prefer to live life. However, addressing each of these takes a new level of grace towards myself, the attitude of a student, and the willingness to unlearn some things and find a better way even if I am not the teacher.

Can anyone else relate to this type of season? As tiring as learning can be, it also feels exhilarating because I’m giving myself permission to try new things or to try old things in a new way. It’s like going to your favorite restaurant and instead of ordering what you always order because you know it’s amazing, you choose to order something new knowing you may hate it. These seasons are times to embrace humility which does not mean your old way was awful or you are not smart enough. It means choosing to grow, choosing to try new things, maybe even be a little or a lot scared. It means starting small and being happy with the small, knowing it may never get big. So it’s time to prepare for preschool!

*I will also add here an unashamed plug for my favorite podcast that also happens to now be a book: The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman. I am including it here because one of the episodes on the podcast talks about being a beginner and it is something I go back to time and time again. It also helped me identify this new season I find myself in.

I of course have to include some pics of what we have been up to recently! The boys first Mariners game, a new haircut, and some Memorial Day celebrations!

 

Have I Failed at Lent?

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Can I tell you a little secret? I think I may have failed at Lent this year. Well, at least what I initially set out to achieve this season.

After a very meaningful Advent season and finding ways to connect my faith to my parenting, I was looking forward to more of the same. I started off strong with my daily readings, taking a few minutes to be silent, and then, I just stopped.

For some reason I wasn’t connecting with the readings. They felt long, tedious, wordy, and not very relevant to my daily life. If I’m honest I couldn’t relate to them. The days went by, our schedule felt busy. A few trips to Idaho thrown into the mix and my plan of making Lent come alive was left in the dust.

Dust.

That’s where Lent began. Ash Wednesday. From dust to dust.

Gritty, dirty, dusty.

Now these were words that resonated deep within my soul.

On one of the trips back from Idaho I listened to a new podcast I found called The Desire Line. As the hosts spoke to their guest he shared about how there came a season where his old ways of connecting with God just didn’t seem to work.

My ears perked up.

I have experienced many different seasons and had felt this very thing on numerous occasions. As he went on talking he shared how he began walking and hiking in an attempt to begin communicating again with God in a way that meant something to him. I loved the idea and agreed with the concept. When I got back home to Kirkland and our rhythm of life, I decided to get up before everyone else and go for a walk. No music, no headphones, just Jesus, me, and my thoughts.

Those first few days it was like trying to tune into a fuzzy station to find the right channel. Things in my head felt noisy and distracted. After the third walk I could sense my mind starting to quiet and adjust to this new practice. I could start to hear God’s voice again. Speaking in single words. I could smell the fresh rainfall, hear the birds singing overhead, and appreciate the quiet of the morning. This little gritty path laying before me, letting me walk upon it while I listened, was teaching me.

Then one day I decided to take the boys for a hike on a random Tuesday. We had nothing planned except to burn off some energy. I packed up our lunch, snacks, and away we went. As we walked the easy hiking path I could feel the solid ground beneath my feet. My eyes drawn upward towards the budding branches, brown mingled with shots of brilliant green. Spring fully underway.

The boys chatted non-stop, shouting with delight at each discovery nature had hidden and I didn’t shush them. The woods were strong enough to absorb their loud way of living a four year old existence. We played Star Wars games, skipped rocks, and ran through the forest together. The rest of the day felt easier and the dirt stuck to the tread of my shoes as a reminder of why.

As the evenings have slowly gotten brighter and the weather occasionally cooperating into a mild night, I decided to start weeding the other night. The boys played in the garden as I, on hands and knees, dug up little shoots and roots, pulling them out. As each one came out I could see the remnants of last years gardening project peeking through. The bark from last year was still there and made the area look clean, tidy, and cared for. While I slowly pulled weeds I could feel my breath settle. I could feel my mind focusing on the one task at hand. My shoulders relaxed and so did I. The boys even got excited to help me weed and would take each weed as I pulled it from my hand and place it into the bin. The next morning I washed out the remainder of the dirt from under my finger nails, hinting at the calm it had ushered in.

Most recently, we took a day trip to Alki beach outside of Seattle. We walked along the waters edge. The boys and I walked on ahead as Bryan and his brother Nate chatted. The boys and I collected beach glass, attempted to build a sandcastle with sand that was too dry, and used rocks as army guys who were fighting off Star Wars characters. Eventually the boys paused to play and I laid down in the warm sand. I closed my eyes and took deep breaths, allowing my chest to rise and fall slowly, methodically. I relaxed my eyes, placed my arms behind my head and lay still. The feeling of the sand in my hair, the sound of the water rolling onto the sand close by, the boys voices bubbling out of them in excitement, it awakened my senses.

That’s when I started thinking about how different this Lenten season had been for me. Had I failed? I didn’t think so, or at least I didn’t want to. Then the thought came to me. This Lenten season had been more like a puzzle I was putting together. One piece buried in the mud on our hike, one piece buried in the soil under a weed, another piece lodged between the rocks that get stuck in my trainers after my walk, and then another piece covered by sand and seaweed.

Gritty, dirty, dusty.

That’s where I found Lent this year: in the grit, dirt, and dust. I found myself buried in these simple practices that invite quiet in. In these places I did not have to try to tame the wild of my boys. I did not have to try to keep the house tidy to find a semblance of peace. The grit, dirt, and dust of my life were welcome in these places and so were my boys. I could feel myself rising to the surface in these moments. Not the me that is rushed, stressed out, but the me that pauses, the me that takes in the beauty of the ordinary. These practices had a way of settling me and I was thankful for the discovery.

Maybe this Lenten season what God was resurrecting in me was me. Maybe I had to walk to hear His voice. Maybe I had to take my boys outdoors to be a more engaged mother. Maybe I had to pull weeds up one at a time to appreciate the length of time it will take to grow that which can never be uprooted in me. Maybe like the beach glass, that becomes smooth and polished after being pummeled, I am being made smooth and less abrasive. Just maybe.

So maybe I didn’t fail Lent this year, maybe I found it for the first time.

How have you practiced or observed Lent this year? Was it meaningful, rich, and full? Or did it feel stale and dry? Pay attention to the answer. It could be time to take a walk and quiet yourself too.

The Simple Life

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There are seasons of life that can be full of complexities and I have lived through many. An upheaval of the day to day, the loss of a parent, years longing for a family; these times can feel long, out of control, and very uncomfortable. During these periods of life I remember longing for a simpler, less complex life.

Right now life feels simple and it feels true and good. The days consist of Bryan, the boys, work, laundry, cooking, digging deeper into friendships, and little family traditions. When things are complex we often get bogged down with our thoughts and analyzing why life is so difficult which is completely normal. Then the dust settles. Some type of normalcy appears and we slip into it not really giving it much thought.

Well today I nod my head to simplicity. To a walk by myself in nature where the quiet is calming. To our morning coffee ritual of a rich, French press poured hot into my Papa’s old mug. I nod my head to weekly meal and activity planning. To naps with my boys where they cup my chin in their hand and we fall asleep. To building LEGOS with my boys more times than I can count. To baking cookies with Cohen and having chats with Kidran about his favorite Star Wars characters. To the times when Bryan comes home from work, walking straight into a wrestling match. To the times sitting on the couch once the boys have gone down. To turning off my phone when I lay down at night and shut my eyes.

This is my simple life. It’s sweet, not glamorous, but rich and full. I am thankful for this simple season. Is it always easy or fun? Definitely not. Yet it is true and real.

If you find yourself in a complex season of life I hope it transitions to a simpler existence soon and subtly. Until then, search for the quiet life. It may not solve the difficulties but it can help you hear your own voice more clearly and that of God which is always a good place to start.

The State of My Union Address

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Stop! Before you think that this is a political post, it is not. I watched the State of the Union Address last night like a lot of people but I will not share any opinions I have here. I simply do not have enough information or understanding of the complexities that surround us on every side, nor will I claim to.

I do however, have an inside view into my own life and heart which is what I will share  here. It’s not that I don’t care about what is happening outside of my home because I do. I care very much. Yet so much of what is happening on a larger, global scale feels outside of my control. Whereas what is going on in my little corner of the world seems reachable. In the words of Mother Teresa, one of the most revolutionary women to have lived:

“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”

This quote is beautiful. So simple right? Go home and love your family. Well, yes, but it’s not always simple or easy. We are on our third snow day here in the stunning Pacific Northwest. We have lots of hills here and snow wreaks havoc on our otherwise stable little existence. In our normal day to day life, we have created spaces for each of us to move, breathe, connect with what we love, nap, take space, and overall keep the peace within our home. We have recently found a lovely rhythm, thank the Lord!

When the snow hits, that changes things. The normal patterns and rhythms shift as well. Space becomes less available. Productivity goes down. A need for creativity goes up. Overall, snow days are very different than normal days.

Of course we are embracing the snow and the gift of rest that accompanies it, each in our own way. My husband, for example, went skiing down our steep street to practice his urban skiing skills. Yes, I mean, a city street, with intersections that we had to be sure were clear before he took off downhill into Lake Washington. We made crepes, drank multiple cups of coffee, threw snow balls, and consumed homemade confetti cake. That was all in the first day.

Day two was a little more civilized. Bryan went to work for awhile and I left the house for an appointment but I was anxious to return as the temps were threatening to drop. We are lucky to have a few shops within walking distance from us so we stopped in at our local Starbucks for cakepops and then hit the grocery story to replenish our dwindling supplies. Only enough items that we could carry back to our house though, nothing major.

Day three has us all a little stir crazy though. The boys are watching a movie while I steal these few minutes to craft words to share. Here’s to hoping we may actually be able to leave our house later to get a proper grocery shop done. I am nearly down to my last few creative dinner meal options. Now back to that quote.

Being home and loving my family is a privilege I have. I am so thankful that after many years of heartache and trying, we finally were given two miracles to call our own. That fact is never wasted on me. I find myself staring at them longer than normal these days. I am taking pictures of them sleeping as I feel them changing so rapidly before my eyes and I long to stop time.

The boys are four and a half now and are little sponges. From watching Cohen mimic my sayings and faces, to Kidran singing along to songs in perfect pitch and writing his name. Their surroundings are informing them daily about who they are and what they will become. This is where it becomes vitally important that I know what My State of the Union is.

Our home is the first place our boys will see, learn, and experience true, unconditional love. That means I must practice unconditional love. Sounds simple but daily I have to practice a patient way of loving these two very different boys that sometimes challenge and try me. They are showing me so much about myself that I want to change and it motivates me to let them see me grow, evolve, and become a better version of who I am daily. We are all still learning at the end of the day.

As much as I have chosen the word “enough” for this year, it’s also what I have chosen for our family. Our boys are enough, as they are, where they are. My husband is enough, as he is, where he is. I am enough, as I am, where I am. Our home is the place where I hope that this truth and feeling is communicated in thousands of little ways. From the good morning kisses, to the times of art and creating, reading stories, sharing our days with each other, meals as a family, bath time, and bed time. I pray the love we have for each other will be visible, felt, and unending.

This also means that I must steal minutes away when they present themselves to do this…to write. Part of me being able to love my family in my home is loving myself in my home. I do that right now through writing. It’s my one thing for the year. I have stories to tell, things to say. They may not be important enough for the world to read but that is never the point of art or creating. I write because I must. When I write I come alive and that is reason enough. Do you have something that brings you to life too? Please, please, please, make time for it. As Emily P. Freeman said yesterday in her amazing podcast, The Next Right Thing, tell someone too. Tell your husband, tell your children, tell your closest friends, maybe even tell the world of social media. Sharing our deepest desires with those whom we share our life with is such an important part of building deep, meaningful relationships. For me that means sharing my writing with my family by showing them what it looks like when momma comes alive in this way. I want to model this for them so that when it happens in their life they are already familiar with it.

So on day 3 of our mini snowpacalypse, I have stolen these minutes to work in the cracks of life. I am working on my craft. But first I made coffee for my husband and me, I made breakfast for us, I tended to that which has been entrusted to me with love. Then I chose to love myself as well.

That is my simple State of the Union, to “go home and love my family.” What is yours? Do you know? If not, give it a few minutes today. As my good friend Kelly talks about in her new book Dream Catcher, in order to live a life of intentionality you must be intentional. (I also hope you enjoy these sweet pics of some of our daily moments!)

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The Grey Thread

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grey thread

The past two and a half years have held a great deal of change for my life. Leaving Northern Ireland, the land where I cut out part of my heart and planted it. My Papa being diagnosed with cancer to his passing from this earth. My mother-in-love being diagnosed with lymphoma and surviving in the most extraordinary way. To my most recent experience of an early miscarriage.

As Bryan and I chatted in bed one night, the tears filled my eyes. I explained to him that my heart had felt so heavy for so long. I reflected on everything that was bright, beautiful, and alive in my life. Then I described something else.

The grey thread.

For the past two and a half years I have carried around a heaviness. I can easily see the charms of my life. I have an incredible husband, two miracle sons, a job that has purpose, family that I love, friendships that go deep like a well. My life is rich and I know it.

Still, in all the richness, in all the vibrant yellows, reds, blues, and purples of life, there is a grey thread. It hides for awhile. Life feels normal, manageable. Then, I see it. The dull color, working it’s way to the surface again. Wrapping itself around the yellow, turning it a muted brown. It takes the other colors too, toning down their brilliance, creating a type of shadow land.

It feels like the opposite of putting on rose-colored glasses. This grey thread takes the shine out of almost everything. It cannot remove that which is solid, thank God. Yet it can change my view and perspective, making it harder to see clearly. It becomes like a fog, covering up the parts of my life that stir me to live.

Through time and effort, I can stand on the thread once again, regaining my life back. However, out of the corner of my eye, I see the end of the thread wriggling. Then I see it disappear beneath my life’s palate again. A sense of relief floods my body. It is gone for now. Yet, in the back of my mind, I wonder for how long?

enough…

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Over the years as we have wrestled with infertility we have learned some valuable lessons. The most valuable lesson is this:

Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, focus on what you do have.

This concept makes logical sense when you read it. You may even be tempted to think that it’s easy or basic. My friend, let me assure you of one thing; it is not.

When we were in the depths of our struggle, I would look around at women who were pregnant. They were looking at strollers, buying diapers, preparing a nursery for their sweet bundles to come home to.Watching women grow before me, welcome new life into the world, and have their family expand was torturous. Without even trying, these women were showing me exactly what I was dreaming of for my own life, while pointing out all the ways that it wasn’t happening. These women were not doing this on purpose nor do I hold it against them.

It did however force me to find ways to survive. I say force because it was not a gentle decision to choose a new way daily. Over time I began telling myself I had two choices. I could either continue focusing on the one thing I didn’t have, a baby; or I could begin choosing to see everything that I did have.

At first this practice was hard. I felt like I was trying to convince myself at times that I didn’t really want a baby or to have children. Then I realized by choosing to see my life this way I was not diminishing my desire or hope for a family of our own. I was not denying this dream, I was merely beginning to allow myself to dream other dreams as well.

When I made the decision to start shifting my perspective, I started making lists:

  • I can stay up as late as I want because I am not responsible for a tiny human’s existence.
  • I can spend time practicing guitar and learn to play because I have free time.
  • I can train for a marathon because I do not have to focus on growing another human right now.
  • I can open a coffee shop and give it my full attention because my time and energy is not split.
  • I can choose to go on holidays because I do not have to financially take care of a child right now.

This list making went on for years. Some days it helped. Other days it was a list reminding me of all the things I would give up so that we could start our family. Yet over time, this way of seeing my life began to take root and ground me the way nothing else had. This new way of observing life has now become my go-to option for moving forward in all other areas of my life.

So this year did not begin how I thought it would. Yet this lesson remains true. To give it more fuel I have chosen a word for 2019: enough.

I am declaring this word over the following areas in my life:

  • I am enough.
  • My family is enough.
  • My house is enough.
  • My body is good enough.
  • My effort is enough.
  • My ability is enough.
  • My writing is enough.
  • My life is enough.
  • I am enough.

Today I feel tired both emotionally and physically. Instead of being frustrated at my body for not carrying our child to full term, I will remind myself that “I am enough.” I will remind myself that my husband has kindly given me space today without our two sons around so that I can write, nap, and just be.

See, that right there. That was my perspective changing. From lack to abundance. I am enough and I have enough.

This is not only true for me but for you dear reader. In all the areas where you don’t feel “enough” let me remind you that you are. Your life is enough. You have enough. Don’t simply listen to your feelings. Keep them in check, speak what’s true out loud, and then take baby steps forward.

Does this resonate with you? If so, how and what will you do to practice “enough” in your life? Share your ways of finding enough in your life. I promise, it will help.

*If you would like to read more of my infertility journey you can find my book on Amazon. If you want to find out more about me, check me out on Instagram @breannachud or on Facebook @breannajochud.