Where LIFE Happens

Consider what gives you LIFE, and make space for it.

What gives you LIFE?

In the fall, I got a new journal with green leaves etched over a black background and gold foil script on the front. The simple cover of that journal brought me so much life at a time when I desperately wanted more LIFE. The important kind written in big letters with vibrant lines drawn around it.

Life not just for the sake of surface level happiness. But for the sake of deep healing joy; of stepping wholly into the beautiful person God created me to be; of celebrating when others step in to who God created them to be; of living this wild and precious life with deep faith and trust covered in deep peace, contentment, and gratitude.

For the sake of being able to take a deep breath and just know that I am whole and wholly loved, not for anything I've done but for simply being in the One who made me who I am.

Sounds lovely, right?

I thought so.

The day-to-day logistics of living with more LIFE can trip me up if I'm not intentional. I know because I've been there many times before. I'll go through my days feeling little glimmers of a spark of life in me, but it disappears just as quickly as it came.

During a fog in my life that kept diffusing these sparks, a friend sent me a beautiful little strip of birch bark. All dried out, it makes the perfect kindling for a fire. In her note she wrote something along the lines of "that song that says 'it only takes a spark to get a fire going' is crap. It takes more than a spark. It also takes plenty of kindling for that spark to land on, and friction to create the spark, and logs to fuel the fire, etc."

I have that piece of birch on my bulletin board as my reminder to not settle for fleeting sparks of life. I need to fuel the fire of my life with the things that set a fire in me. I can't keep warm or cook a meal over a spark... I need to fuel that spark until it becomes a full on flame. And I can't grow a happy and healthy LIFE unless I'm nurturing the literal life that's already in me.

It's taken a variety of things to get to this point where I feel like I'm getting through the fog and really feeling more fully alive. One thing that has helped is asking what gives me LIFE, then making time for those things.

For me it's being in nature, new adventures however simple, updating a space in my home, meaningful connections, and sometimes just plain ol' checking off my to-do lists and feeling like a competent adult.

It truly is the simple things of life that are some of the most life-giving and meaningful. I updated my room in really simple ways, and it still makes me smile and brings me LIFE. I breathe in fresh air as I read on the porch and I'm fueled with LIFE into the next morning. I cheer on my child learning to ride his new bike, and LIFE glows from us both.

Where LIFE Happens

What gives you LIFE?

If you're not sure, here are some places to start...

1. Take a deep breath.

The simple practice of deep breathing is mentioned in every sort of advice on meditating, refocusing, destressing, healing, and energizing for a reason--breathing gives us literal life. This has been the case since we were created when God breathed "the breath of life" into the first humans (Gen. 2:7). Science backs up the healing work of oxygen, but more than that I like to think every intentional deep breath I take repeats what God did in that first breath He breathed--literal life flowing through me. Simple yet life-giving, isn't it?

2. Choose good and true words.

The words we think in our own minds matter just as much as the words we say out loud. We don't always see it this way, but negativity toward ourselves, others, or life is a lie clothed in "full honesty" or "a realistic perspective"--it robs our abundant life (Jn. 10:10). Wise words promote health, and counselors of peace have joy (Prov. 12:17-22). Are those things true of the words repeating in our heads or slipping through our lips? Death and life are in the power of the tongue (Prov. 18:21). If we had to choose, which category do our thoughts and words fall in? Worried thoughts cause depression; but good and true words bring deep healing gladness to our hearts (Prov. 12:25). Are your words life-negating or life-giving?

3. Read Truth.

The Word of God is living and active (Heb. 4:12); all scripture is breathed out by God (2 Tim. 3:16). Much like the breath of God still alive in our breath, I like to think of God's Word being alive and active in my life each time I read or meditate on it. Additionally, when we need a way to push out the negativity and the lies, reading and repeating God's truth is a perfect antidote.

4. Show love.

Jesus came that we might live through Him in love (1 Jn. 4:7-11) and have his light in us (Jn. 8:12). Acting in love and doing kind things--for our family, our friends, our neighbors, people we don't know--is a perfect way to experience LIFE more fully. Maybe even especially when we're not feeling it, there's something to a little doing into the feeling. There's nothing better than to be joyful and do good (Ecc. 3:12). It's a great reminder that people really are what life is all about.

5. Work with your hands.

The simple acts of making a meal, baking, washing the dishes, gardening, or creating something is all the more important in our heavily tech-centered lives. While technology can be tools for fuller more meaningful lives (looking up a recipe, learning a new hobby, making plans with a friend), the actual LIFE happens away from the computer, phone, or TV. What can you do throughout each day to make sure you're leading a quiet life, minding your own business, and working with your hands (1 Thess. 4:11)?

6. Go outside.

When I need a reset in life, I often have to go back to its source--nature. Where trees, plants, grass, and flowers grow with what they were given at creation and no extra effort of their own. It's outside that I remember that this world goes round out of my control, and my life does the same. Just as good things are growing under the mulch down in the dirt with the worms, so is good growing even in the darkness of life. And just as the sun always shows up even behind the clouds, I can be certain God always shows up even when I'm not certain He's there.

I am deeply thankful. For this gift of LIFE, for people to share it with, and for the gift of kindling when I need it most.

Consider what gives you LIFE, and make space for it.


also see:

Nurturing Your Creative Life

Ways to nurture creativity and in turn be revived by a creative life.

"I have a lot of energy and I don't want to waste it."

My 4-year-old had just asked if he could help me fold the laundry. I wasn't quite to the point where I could use his help, so I was making him wait. That's when he told me about his excess energy that needed to be put to good use.

He ran off and played for a bit, and returned inquiring again if I needed his help yet. I said no, not yet, but I was glad he found something to do.

"Yeah." He said. "But this isn't wasting my energy--it's refueling it."

I chuckled, then thought more about that wise statement.

Maybe I can't relate to having a lot of energy, but I can certainly relate to how certain activities refuel my energy and others deplete it. Chores deplete my energy. But writing and making use of the creative pull inside me? Definitely refuels and even revives me.

We all have activities that refuel us, and I think most of us have some kind of art or creativity we tap into for that refueling. Following are some ways to nurture that creativity and in turn be revived by it...

Affiliate links used; see full note below.*

Adjust your definitions.

Until I was in my 20s, I had an image in my mind of creativity, art, writing, and I was not it. It took some expanding of the stereotypes I understood for me to realize: I am creative, I create art of sorts, and more specifically, I am a writer. I've read from people wiser than me that as children of God made in His creator image, we are all creatives and we all create art in our lives. And I agree. The sooner you expand your definitions to include your version of creating art in your life, the sooner you can get to sharing your gifts, your self, and God's image in you with the world.

Surround yourself with people who get your unique struggles.

I had to keep myself from typing "like-minded." The point with this sort of intentional connecting with others isn't necessarily about similar beliefs or ways of seeing the world--except in the constructs of being a creative. The point is take whatever challenges you have with being a creative, and find peers who get it. What areas of your art do your close friends and family not relate? Which language of your creative pursuits do they not understand? Those are the people to go find to fill your need for connection around creating. I'm a part of a mastermind group, a local blogger's group, and a Facebook writer's group; we meet on Google hangouts, in person, and in Facebook comments or direct messages. Each of these places get the unique language, challenges, and joys behind blogging, social media, branding and design, writing, and the inner pull to create.

Become a reader.

This comes up in just about every one of my posts. I spent far too long making excuses for not reading books regularly, and my life is far better now that I make reading part of my daily routine. When it comes to your creative life, there is so much great encouragement, inspiration, and wisdom found in books. The War of Art, Big Magic, and A Million Little Ways are just a few on a life of art and creativity in general. When it comes to writing, Bird by Bird, The Writing Life, and You are a Writer are some of my favorites.

Make creativity a lifestyle.

Always be working on something for yourself. It doesn't have to be a paid project or something shared for praise. Just schedule in that time regularly (daily if you can, otherwise weekly) to put into your creative outlet, whatever it might be. Pick up your paint brush, that needle and thread, the pen, that gardening shovel, whatever your artistic tool might be. Let the practice revive you.

Know your why.

What keeps you at your art? Maybe you hope to make it part of your career, or maybe it's purely a hobby. As you refine your craft, don't let others determine your value. Knowing why you do it can help you keep at it even if you get crickets or critique in exchange for sharing your work.

Diversify your income.

You might get to or be at a point when you want to pursue a creative endeavor as a means to an income. There is nothing wrong with that. Just don't rule out a day job or a variety of sources of income to take some of the pressure off your art.

Be up for an adventure, and do it scared.

Even pros in any given craft have self-doubts. Decide to do it anyway. Experiment, give new things a chance, and see what happens next. You'll never know if you never try.

As long as you're still breathing, it's not too late to find your inner creative and share it with the world, and refuel in the process.


also see:
new? start here...
5 ways to get inspired
grow your life emails

*Note: Affiliate links used in this post. Purchases made through these links could earn me a small commission with no extra cost to the purchaser. This is a little known way to support the writers, bloggers, and online creatives you love. If you choose to do that here, thank you!

20 Ways to Thrive in a Long Winter

How to Enjoy and Even Thrive in Winter (20 Ideas)

I'm sipping my sweet and spicy green tea listening to the kids chatter in the next room as they make the most of their Snow Day. It's that time of the year when the major winter holidays are over, just as we dive deeper into winter itself. The next thing we look forward to is Spring and Easter, but hold those hopes loosely because we've seen too many pass with freezing wind chills and a still-snow-covered ground.

Seven years ago we moved back to the Midwest after a two-year break in Florida, and Nebraska welcomed us back with a blizzard in May. I've really learned to adjust my expectations around spring, and settle in for the long haul letting any early signs of warmer weather and sunnier days be a happy surprise.

I'm the girl that used to wear flip flops in thirty degree weather--not because the cold didn't both me, but because I longed for the sun. I'd scream every time I sat in my car's freezing leather seats, just because I needed some kind of outlet for my pent up rage against winter. My body tenses up in the cold, and my Vitamin D stores seem to go into the negatives with the consecutive sun-less days.

I was in college before I learned about Seasonal Affective Disorder and realized that definitely made sense for my struggle with winter. Feeling down about winter wasn't all in my head--winter was literally dragging me down. That realization has been the start of me learning to make the most of winter. Especially on the extremely cold or endless cloudy days, it can take every tool in my arsenal to be okay with what winter gives us.

Some days, my goal is still simply to survive winter. The pleasant surprise is that getting more intentional about winters has brought about thriving and even loving life in the middle of winter.

Here are twenty actions I've taken to make the most of a long winter when my heart longs for summer... A lot of this might seem like no-brainers, but I can't be the only one that spent far too long without doing these things, so it's worth mentioning even the basics.

(Affiliate links used; see full note below.)

Wear the right gear.

Being warm became an instant winter-improver for me. I went far too long without the right gear for winter. It started with my husband insisting that I get a warmer coat instead of relying on my softshell. I found a hat I like, gloves that let me still use my camera/phone, boots with grippy bottoms that don't freeze my feet out. I've even accumulated enough long sleeve shirts and sweaters to rotate through without feeling like I'm wearing the same thing everyday. Winter got exponentially more bearable with each warm item I added.

Take vitamins.

Hello, Vitamin D and Bs. If you live in a place where the sun more or less disappears for much of winter, then Vitamin D should be a staple. Vitamin D is actually a hormone, and when your body is low it shows itself in hormone-imbalance type symptoms (fatigue, mood swings, irritability, etc.). Magnesium is a supplement that helps with Vitamin D absorption, so consider that one too. Like me, you might find you even need a Vitamin D dose in summer. Vitamin Bs are natural energizers, and can be a good mood- and energy-boost when you find yourself dragging. Talk to your doctor about how much and of what to take.

Drink warm drinks.

Cold drinks are my jam, and used to be my go-to throughout the winter too. Then, when I was struggling with winter, a friend reminded me of how warm drinks literally warm us up from the inside out (again, a no-brainer). So I swapped my iced and blended drinks for hot coffee, tea, cocoa, or cider. Sometimes just holding the mug is enough to cozy me up. Adding a minty or cinnamon flavor is a great seasonal treat.

Keep blankets handy.

Make blankets easy to grab whether you're lounging on the sofa or working at a desk. Keeping them in a place you don't have to worry too much about them being folded up nice makes using them lower maintenance. Whether it's a ladder to throw them over or a basket to pile them in. Before we found our rustic "blanket" ladder in the trash, we used to just throw them in a pile in the corner of the living room. They only got folded before we had company, taking the pressure off of having to fold them after each use (basically all day long).

Do morning light therapy.

I've been meaning to add light therapy to my routine for years and finally made it happen this winter. Starting the day sitting in light (direct sunlight from a window or at least 10,000 lumens from a special lamp) can improve energy, mood, and even frontal lobe function. It's best to do this light therapy time soon after waking up to not interfere with natural sleep rhythms. For some people, it works to do this time while doing their makeup in the morning. I like using the time to write my morning pages and read my Bible. I've been using this >> light therapy lamp.

Follow the sun.

Speaking of light therapy, sometimes you just gotta follow the sun around your home whenever it comes out. Either a walk outdoors when the sun is shining, or finding a spot to sit where it comes in a window can be warming and rejuvenating. Especially on those days when the sun hasn't shone in far too long.

Get out.

My natural instinct in winter is not to go outside the house. But getting out to other warm indoor places can really help break up our cabin fever. We try to go to the library weekly to browse and restock our reading supply, go to the gym throughout the week to get the blood pumping or calm with a yoga class, or even get together with friends.

Hygge together.

Hygge (a Danish lifestyle of coziness) has become a trendy topic lately. But more than the typical coziness of blankets and hot drinks, hygge is also about cozying up together. It can bring people closer together to thrive the cold in more intimate ways. Playing games with the family, extending invites to friends, or saying yes to the invites you receive. Again, this isn't always automatic given my introvert nature. But I always appreciate an opportunity to not let winter equal lonely.

Take up reading.

Curling up under a blanket with a hot cup of tea and a good book is a winter cliche for a reason. It's just so cozy and even life-giving. Flip through a magazine that has seasonal inspiration, read a novel set in winter (or summer, if you need an escape), or look through home ideas to start getting motivated for your spring projects. See my list of favorite reads or ways to enjoy reading.

Make a happiness list.

What makes you happy? What, big or little, brings a smile to your face, warms your heart, or sparks joy in your life? This list might lead to ideas to improve your winter. More than that, just the act of creating this list reminds what brings you to LIFE, and that's something we all could use a little more of, winter or not.

Start a journal.

Especially if winter feels like a burden for you, get in the habit of starting each day getting some of that out. I learned about this as "morning pages." The idea is to start writing anything and everything on your heart and mind. Some do this for 3 straight pages everyday. I could dwell like this forever, so I give myself a page, unless I have something more I need to get out. Sometimes it's as simple as saying what the weather is like and what we have going on for the day, and sometimes it's sorting out my tangled web of thoughts and emotions. It's become a beneficial habit, and I extend it into my prayer time as I refocus and hand it all over to God.

Try some self-care.

Okay, so this list is basically a self-care list for me. What I do to take care of myself in general isn't too far off from what I do to thrive in winter. But if you're a person to neglect yourself or quiet your own needs, winter is a good time to settle in and do a check-in of sorts to make sure you're following good habits and routines to keep yourself healthy and better able to meet the needs around you. Are you drinking water? Slowing down on the holiday treat habit? Getting some movement? What could you do to better care for yourself?

Take a warm bath.

Baths used to feel like so much work, but they've really helped when I feel winter making my body tense up. I make sure it's plenty warm (sometimes even having to wait for it to cool off), and add Epsom salts and eucalyptus bubbles (which helps sooth my aching muscles after shoveling the driveway). I feel my body loosen and relax into the warmth, and my mind wanders to happy places. It's like a vacation in my own home.

Eat cozy foods.

Even if you're not a soup person, just making a hot meal of any kind can be nourishing to both the body and soul in winter. Chili and cornbread or grilled cheese and tomato soup are easy and cozy.

Bake something.

An opportunity to turn on the oven is an opportunity to warm up the main living space. Baking cookies or muffins or a casserole gives me something to do to warm up. Then I find myself hovering around it like our own makeshift fire once I turn it off and leave the oven door open. Of course if you have an actual fire, that's even better.

Make a seasonal action list.

What are some of your favorite things to do inside or outside given the weather you've got? Bundle up for a winter walk, go sledding, walk on the local frozen lake (after it's been frozen a long time for safety reasons), make a new hot cocoa recipe. Get family or friends involved with ideas and use it as a checklist of things to look forward to and make happen during these cold days while they last.

Light a candle.

Get that little flame going, especially with a spicy or citrusy scent. Woodwick candles are my favorite in the winter because they had an extra crackle that feels cozy to the senses. Diffusing mint, cinnamon, or citrus essential oil blends adds a pleasant aesthetic too.

Turn on the lights.

Make sure the rooms you hang out in the evening are equipped with cozy lighting--table or floor lamps, a hanging light, or string lights draped around a window or doorframe. A good combination of those in your bedroom and living room creates a welcoming atmosphere when the sun is still going down before dinner.

Make a music mix and dance to it.

Get on Spotify or Pandora and make a mix of some of your favorite peppy tunes. Then dance to it while you make dinner or before winding down for the evening. Getting moving is a known mood booster, as is music with happy vibes.

Talk to your doctor.

This is my first winter giving antidepressants a try, and I'm realizing maybe I should have been using a small dose in winters before. All of the self-care and winter-care ideas above definitely helped improve my winters. Talking to my doctor about prescription medication was the extra step I needed. If winters especially are a struggle, don't be shy about mentioning it to your doctor and seeing if there are ideas you're missing that could help bring you back to life.

If winter isn't your jam, it doesn't have to be a total downer. Winter doesn't have to overtake your emotions and well-being. Make the most of winter, and you might even come around to like it. Haha, okay, that's going a little far. But maybe we can start replacing just surviving with at least a little thriving.

And if winter is your jam? Share that joy, because the rest of us need to be reminded of its wonder and beauty.


also see:
new? start here...
practical ways to self-care
returning home to myself
is this season over yet?
grow your life emails

*Note: Affiliate links used in this post. Purchases through these links could earn me a small commission with no extra cost to the purchaser. This is a little known way to support the writers, bloggers, and online creatives you love. If you choose to do that here, thank you!