August 20, 2020

8 Small Ways to Save the World for Beginners

In the beginning God placed the care of His creation in our hands to steward well. “Save the planet” rhetoric always felt abrasive to me so it became easy to tune it out. Over the years my love has grown for this place we call Earth as well the greater conviction to be an excellent steward of my space. The task was huge so I needed to start small.

It is easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of information and obscenely long lists of what not to do, buy, support, invest, eat, or participate in. Over the years I have slowly begun to shift little by little and become more conscious of how I impact the environment around me. There is still a long way to go but I wanted to give you an inside look of the small shifts I have been making.

1. Pay Attention to Your Trash

You will be surprised just how little waste you actually produce when you begin separating your trash. Luckily my in-laws have been doing this for much of their lives so I was able to pick up the habit quickly. You will be surprised at the number of cardboard boxes, plastic wraps, bottles, cans, and jars produced from your weekly shopping trip. Once you begin keeping these items out of the trash, the waste you produce will decrease dramatically.

Much of our trash we either burn or find a recycling location for. There are some cities that are better at providing these opportunities and incentives than others. Here in Michigan, there is a deposit that you will receive back when you recycle any bottles or cans that have been purchased. Whatever your situation, begin to pay attention to where you are throwing your trash. If you are in an area that provides different types of bins for items you purchased, take an extra 30 seconds to place them into their respective recycling receptacles.

2. Bring Your Own Bags

With COVID, this has put a damper on which stores will allow you to bring your own bags into the store. Fortunately many stores have begun eliminating plastic bags as an option altogether. If you end up in a location where personal bags are not allowed inside, opt for brown paper bags instead. It is a small shift but I have actually found I can fit more in a paper bag than a plastic one anyways.

3. Find a Local Farmer’s Market or CSA

This may not always be budget friendly for everyone. But farmer’s markets are all the rage these days and for good reason. You can find the freshest local produce and support a local farmer! Not only that but I have found some amazing items at the FM that you don’t always get in the box stores. Shopping here also lends to buying just what you need since most items aren’t made to have an unnaturally long shelf life. I tend to spend less at a FM because I am not inundated with a million and a half options.

If you want to take it one step further, consider investing in a CSA. A CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. It is exactly what it sounds like. The basic concept is that you invest or “subscribe” to a small local farm and get weekly shares of the harvest that week. I am working on making this leap myself, but I guarantee you have friends who are diving into this sort of community driven agriculture. It is an amazing way to support local and often support your friends and/or family.

4. Start Thrifting

This may be easier for some people than others. I have always been a bargain shopper and my heart holds a special place for thrift shops *Macklamore’s Thrift Shop begins to play*. It was always about saving money for me, but it became so much more.

As I felt my heart begin to burn for ending human trafficking, I learned just how much the clothing industry (and many other industries) aid in keeping human trafficking the most lucrative illegal businesses on the planet. That just would not do. While I certainly am not perfect, I have almost completely eliminated purchasing brand new items from companies that are not ethically sourced. If you are a sucker for those name brands, check out some of those thrifting online stores like Poshmark or ThreadUp. If you’re like me and just care about how it looks, Plato’s closet is my jam.

5. Do More Research

On a similar note to the previous, begin doing a quick Google search for companies you purchase items from. If they do not post information about how, where, and why their products are made, most likely they are not 100% operating with people or the planet in mind. This is not always the case, but a company that is trying to reduces its waste, pay fair wages to workers, keep their environment safe, and has ethically sourced materials will most likely wave that banner loud and proud. It honestly does not take that much time to checkout if that Instagram Ad you just clicked on is doing business the right way. Just hop on over to their About page. If its vague, see if there is another company producing the same items in a better and more sustainable way.

6. Consider Changing Your Beauty Products

The beauty industry is a classic place for harmful products both to the consumer and the planet. This was a hard place for me to change. I have been using the same products for a long period of time and I did not want to have to pay more to get an environmentally conscious product. I know that sounds selfish, but many of us find ourselves in the same boat. We may not be at the place where we can pay $500 for a 1oz bottle from Gwenyth Paltrow’s Goop shop. #amirightoramiright.

My first major change was ditching tampons for a menstral cup. Let me tell you, it took me YEARS to give this one up. Because….eww. Not to mention every design on the market gave me nightmares of walking out of the bathroom like a scene straight out of Carrie. But when Flex Cup released this design, I was sold. I gave it a try and let me tell you. It is utterly life changing. The first few cycles were a little bit of a learning curve. But to my surprise it worked 100x better than I expected, costed way less over time, and kept all that pesky plastic out of my body AND the landfills. My next investment will be period panties from SheThinx and I am really excited about it. Those two items alone will reduce a significant amount of plastic in my life and put a lot more money back into my monthly budget.

The other area was my hair, face, and makeup. I am used to having to pay a little extra having mixed hair and complexion, but I started looking for companies that used natural ingredients. The fastest way to find a good beauty company is to search for vegan beauty brands. Often times, if they are vegan, they are also environmentally conscious. Not 100% of the time, but it’s a fairly safe bet to start there. Here are my go to’s now:

Hair: Prose

Makeup: Juvia’s Place & e.l.f.

Face Wash/Care: Beautycounter, Mary Louise Cosmetics, Ayele and Co., HyperSkin, Anne’s Apothecary

Feminine Products: Flex Cup, She Thinx

Instagram is a great place to start searching away for amazing and clean beauty. Don’t forget to recycle when you finish up a product! I love repurposing the nicer bottles for various projects.

7. Consider a Plant Based or Vegan Diet

Okay, okay. I can hear your eye roll from here. Look, I never thought in a million years that I would be a zero sugar whole food plant based vegan at 30 years old. It was never a part of my plan. But here I am. And let me tell you, I love this lifestyle! Not only have I had a significant change in how I feel, I have also learned so much more about the food industry in America. I did not become a vegan because of animals (but I do love them so don’t shoot me yet). However, I have found that the way our food industry works is deplorable and that does include the treatment of animals.

If you are unable to drop animal products fully, consider greatly reducing your intake. Or, shoot back up to point 3 and find a local supplier of meat, dairy, and eggs. My husband is not plant-based like I am, but he has reduced his meat intake significantly (without me forcing him!! LOL). This point is probably the hardest to shift because it comes with an investment as well. But if you are purchasing better animal products while also reducing, you’ll find you’ll spend a lot less money than you think.

When in doubt, try to buy local.

8. Take Small Steps

There was a particular stereotype that existed around being environmentally conscious in my mind. While there is some truth in many stereotypes, you should not let that stop you from finding your own way to be a good steward of this planet. Some of you may take a stronger approach than others, but any step towards being kind to God’s Creation is a positive one. Make sure you take small steps. It can be easy to want to become zero-waste overnight. Realistically speaking, it takes time to learn all the information that is out there and is constantly changing. Any small step is a good one!

You Can Do It!

I hope this list is just a small diving board for you to find the ways that you are passionate about being a good steward of your own space. My drive comes from wanting to preserve the beauty of creation as well as being aware of how my dollars may affect human trafficking. Maybe your passion will come from a love of animals, cleaner and healthier products, or wanting to teach your kids how to grow their own food. There is no one way to take this journey and that is the beauty of it! Start with one item on this list or a few! I am still learning and growing but I rejoice in the small steps that God has prompted me to take over the years.

In conclusion, here are a few of my go-to searches and hashtags that have helped me find some of the companies listed above! Happy learning!

  • Clean Beauty Products
  • How to recycle
  • Items you can recycle
  • Vegan small batch beauty products
  • Vegan Makeup Brands
  • Environmentally Conscious Clothing Brands
  • Plant-based clothing, business, beauty
  • Best thrift apps
  • Best Thrift Online Stores
  • #cleanbeauty #veganmakeup #veganhaircare #plantbasedbeauty
  • #zerowastecompanies #zerowastebusiness
Small Steps To Save The World
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July 20, 2020

Failing Forward 101: Winning When You’re A Loser

I don’t think you are a loser. For all of the countless times I have thought myself a loser, I am not one either. But I cannot get away from the fact that many of my plans have come up short. I’ve missed the mark on more than one occasion. I have full-face-planted failed more times than I’d like to count. It is part of being a human. But what if our relationship with failure changed? What if we allow our greatest losses to lead us to greater wins?

Mother Knows Best

My mother always encourages me to try new things. It has always been this way. She has never been afraid of my ideas failing (…okay…maybe a few…). Even when she doesn’t see eye to eye with my proposed plans, she is supportive. She offers her wisdom and guidance, but knows when to step aside so I can grow through experience. Sometimes that includes failing.

Though I still struggle with coping with my failed attempts, this mindset has been foundational in my life as an entrepreneurial artist. It birthed new life into passions that died many deaths. Even though I had a firm foundation, the majority of my 20s have felt like a bootcamp for creative endeavors. They have been hard years, but equally fruitful in character building. I am thankful, now, for the lessons but I certainly never thought my path would have so many bumps in it.

Goody Goody

Throughout my adolescence I was known as a goody-two-shoes. I excelled at school with minimum effort. Academia was a breeze for me. Other than math, I was always a top student. High school and college were particularly vibrant, joyful, and successful years.

I have medals, certificates, and plaques to commemorate my academic endeavors. I got along with most people and made friends with my professors. As a Vocal Performance Major, I was on stage in front of my fellow students throughout college. Though I never considered myself among the elite popular crowd, I was often on cloud nine. I had achievements and recognition, community and close friendships, meaning in my work and passion for a purpose.

My heart full of idealistic dreams would not be enough to put food on the table.

Little did I know that the world was waiting to ‘pone this newb’ as soon as she walked off that graduation stage. My heart full of idealistic dreams would not be enough to put food on the table. As someone who reveled in her little momentary success, I was ill prepared for the world outside the walls of academia. Vision boards don’t create and sustain budgets on their own.

Perhaps it was pride. Maybe it was naiveté. It may even be the fact that I hadn’t ever had to put in much effort to succeed. Whatever it was, 22-year-old me would begin the long path of misfires that haunt me today as a 30-year-old. I have had my share of victories in the midst of the chaos. I do not mean to paint my life as misery. God has given me much and I hold that with great gratitude (most days). It’s simply that the life of imagined success had a very rude awakening.

Failure to Launch

If you look at the number of inventors, scientists, writers, musicians, businesspeople, and creators that failed more times than they succeeded you would think failure is actually an intrinsic part of success. You should never set out to fail. However, it would be silly to think that everything you attempt will hit the bullseye on the first try.

Failure is just a litmus test to see if your plans worked or not. It does not have an emotion nor does it have an investment in the outcome. It is simply a statement of where you are in the process of achieving your goals.

If you were to spin it just a bit, failure is finding out how NOT to do something. Failure still produces a success, of sorts. If you allow it, it produces greater character, growth, experience, and education. It seems so simple yet the fear of failure is often so intense that paralysis of trying again sets in. How do you overcome the fear if failure is an inevitable part of life?

Death by 1,000 Cuts

After a certain number of tries I began to feel as though my worth was unequivocally tied to my filing cabinet of failure. There are only so many well thought out (and not so well thought out) plans that crumble beneath your feet before you begin to wonder if there is something wrong with YOU.

It was a very slow death of one dream and plan after another. If you don’t belive me, here’s the list of attempts:

  • Bank Teller
  • Real Estate Investor
  • Writer
  • Musician
  • Ministry Director/Worship Leader
  • Blogger
  • Fix & Flipper
  • Retail Worker
  • Bank Teller
  • Photographer
  • Graphic Designer
  • Web Designer
  • Travel Blogger
  • YouTuber
  • T-Shirt Designer
  • Vlogger
  • Online Coach
  • Shipt Shopper

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of all of the crazy ideas I have tried in the past 8 years. I had some success in many of these areas. But overall, each of these steps ended somewhere on the spectrum of ‘total colossal failure’ and ‘didn’t go according to plan’. Most of them ended in tears, seeping of confidence, and creative paralysis.

Expectation vs. Reality

I think there is an unspoken expectation we pick up along the way that we are to find success – love, financial stability, career satisfaction, peak physical health, perfect #squadgoals, spiritual enlightenment, and more – at a very young age. We recognize the dissonance, but we often live under the crushing weight of the unrealistic expectation instead of the healthy balance of reality.

I wish someone would have told me it is okay to find success well after your 20s.

I wish someone would have told me it is okay to find success (whatever that looks like within your particular context) well after your 20s. However ridiculous the notion is, I spent a lot of time berating myself for not ‘having it all together’ earlier. Many of my friends were finding fulfillment in their dreams while I was still wondering what groceries we could afford that week.

Again, I have a good life. It is not misery. And if I zoom out to gain some perspective, it is more than many others have. While it is definitely healthy to gain a little perspective, it is unhealthy to pretend the pain you feel within your own context doesn’t matter. You have to hold both expectation and reality in the balance to find a healthy path forward.

The Way Forward

So enough rambling. Kayla, what are you suggesting is the way forward?

Become an expert at failure. You will undoubtedly fail in your life. There will be times that you have a passion, ask for guidance and wisdom, plan well, put yourself out there, and fall flat on your face. It is inevitable because it is part of the human experience. How else do we grow, mature, change, and learn? As Babe Ruth said, “Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”

Become passionate about reframing your failures. Figure out what went well and what didn’t. Listen to others’ constructive criticism without attaching their assessment to your worth. Then, look at your failure as one step closer to your ultimate goal.

Become an advocate for others’ success. Bitterness comes knocking quickly living in the shadow of someone else’s success. The question, ‘why them and not me?’ begins to creep in in an instant. There is no benefit to a bitter heart. Instead, be relentlessly genuine in your celebration of others’ wins. In doing so, you remove the stumbling block of resentment and add fuel to your own fire.

Finally, become obsessed with getting back up. No matter how many times you get knocked down, make a commitment to always get back up. The dreams/passions/plans may change over time. And that is perfectly okay. But no matter what, never allow yourself to give up. If you feel like it is too heavy, then surround yourself with people who will hold you up when you can’t do it on your own.

Friendly Fire

As I sign off here, I want you to know that I am preaching to myself. As always, these words are as much for you as they are for me. Your failure is not your end. It can be a beginning, a turning point, a lesson learned, and experience gained.

I know it can be hard to look over your list of failures and feel like less of a person. But your worth does not come from what you do. Your worthiness is not tied to the number of plans you had work out in the end. You are already chalk-full of value because you are a human being, created and formed for a purpose.

It’s okay to mourn. Heck, I’ve had my fair share of pity parties. Just remember, friend, to not stay there for too long. Success doesn’t look one way and your failures can be leverage to get to your greatest wins. Just remember:

  • Master failing forward
  • Focus on reframing your failures
  • Advocate for others’ successes
  • Always plan to back up
Learning to use failure as a point of greater success.
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May 8, 2020

My Truest Confession: Writing Without Fear of my Faith

Running With Nowhere to Hide

I have been running from something for some time now. There is a part of me that knew it. There is another part of me that did not. I am a pretty serious empath and tend to care too much about what people think about me. Though I have been working on letting go of what others think about me, there are areas of my life where the fear of peoples’ opinions still has a stronghold. 

I’ve felt called to be a writer, musician, speaker, artist, and traveler. These have been lifelong dreams that I have had glimpses of, but have not been fully realized. I have had many phases of fear moving toward my purpose in these things. At first, it was the run of the mill fear that made me feel like I was not capable or worthy of such dreams.

Then I moved through self-doubt and years of low self-esteem following one of the hardest seasons of my life. Of course, I cannot leave out the many months of laziness, lack of motivation, and Netflix binging. Interspersed in there were bouts of indecision, creative overwhelm, time spent in my counselors office, overcommitment, perfectionism, and endless attempts to start something new. I recently thought this was it – I had figured out my ‘elevator speech’ and focus point for my blog – only to be frustrated by another creative block. 

Many of you know where I stand in my faith. I believe in God. I believe the Bible is true and authoritative for our lives. I have been a Christ follower my whole life and I am not ashamed of that. Or…was I? 

Cheese Fest

Growing up in the church I became painfully aware of how cheesy Christians could be. It was like we were trying to pass knock off versions of Girl Scout cookies as the real thing and call you a liar if you found out. Now, if any of the mainstream Christian media/entertainment world is encouraging and meaningful for you, more power to you. It’s personal preference.

But when I was growing up dealing with suicidal thoughts and deep familial tension, the weird Bible-study-based-on-the-latest-blockbuster-release-in-order-to-be-relevant just wasn’t cutting it. It was cheap and honestly just pissed me off. I had a deep and meaningful relationship with God but the platitudes of people who called themselves Christians just made me ill. God was complex, faithful, beautiful, and near to me. So why was our “Christian Culture” so far from that?

The list goes on from Christian movies, books, conferences, retreats, curriculums, blogs, and more that slapped the name ‘Jesus’ on it but hovered around surface level at best. It may feel like I am being harsh, and I am. What I see in Scripture doesn’t line up with what many Christ followers are offering the world. Not every person and/or church is like this. I have met many wonderful and deeply inspiring Christ followers that I see as role models and mentors. The faith community I am a part of now has been a place of extreme healing.

My Way or the Highway

It is safe to say that I am immediately rolling my eyes if someone says, “hey, you should check out this Christian thing”. There is some jaded-ness in there I’ve gotta work on, I know. But when I felt God tugging me to be a writer, musician, and speaker, I TOLD Him that I wasn’t going to be a Christian one. That world already had too many ridiculously cheesy and not helpful ones and I didn’t want to add to the noise. I am sure at this point God shook His head with a gentle sigh and said, “Alright, go ahead and try it your way”.

I tried the trying-to-be-cool-and-subtly-letting-you-know-I’m-a-Christian approach. I felt like I was being genuine. It was only recently that God showed me I was really being Amy Pholer in Mean Girls proclaiming, “I’m not a regular mom. I’m a cool mom. I’m a cool Christian”. I laughed and simultaneously gagged a little at what I was attempting. I cannot separate myself from my faith. I see everything through the lens of what God has done for me and what He is doing in the world. I cannot pretend to be ‘cool’ to the world when it comes to my faith because my faith is not ‘cool’.

That’s Not What I Said

I don’t know how many times I have said it, but I will say it again and again and again. God literally saved my life. From suicide. From crushing anxiety and depression. From fear. From giving into addictions. My faith isn’t some ‘cool’ thing I ascribe to and derive meaning from. It is my foundation and the most intimate part of who I am. 

With that harsh yet enlightening discovery, God said to me, “I never asked you to be another cheesy Christian writer. I never asked anybody to be that. I asked if you would be willing to be vulnerable with people, share your stories of victory, eat at the same table, and let people in on what I am doing in your life. I want you to be different, that’s why I made you that way. Would you be willing to do that for me?”

I was trying to do this whole thing without including my faith in God. I’ve been destroyed by multiple churches before so I know what Christian people are capable. I know what people are capable of. I know that there are abuses in the past and present that come from people who share my faith. I was afraid that if I ever truly spoke openly about my faith with others I would be grouped into the same group of people that hurt me most. I was afraid of being labeled as all the negative things that come to mind when you think of the ‘crazy Christians’ (in a bad way lol). 

Truth Hurts

I am human. I am going to make mistakes while carrying my cross of Christ. I am going to say things and make assumptions about people in a way that makes Jesus look like a farce. I am simply on a journey to becoming more like Him even when I mess it up. And it is a looooooong journey of transformation. I have a long list of mistakes that continues to grow, hopefully at a slower rate over time. But my hearts desire is always growth. I know that and do not have to try and convince others of that. My life will have to hold the evidence of the fruit. 

The truth is, people may group me in with the same people I don’t want to be grouped with. I cannot control that. But to separate the most intimate part of my life from my deepest longings and dreams while trying to tout it as ‘being real’ is fake, irresponsible, and not fair to you. I have always promised to be vulnerable and open with people. I cannot do that apart from my faith. 

New Direction

Overall, I think the vision I had for the Rooted Journal was always what God had in mind. I’m writing this declaration for myself, so that I can set this as a cornerstone for the future. I also am writing this for you. I will be writing more about my faith. You may not believe the same things that I do. You are always more than welcome. But, I also understand if it isn’t something you want to participate in either. Either way, there’s always room at my table. I may not be perfect, but I am progressing.

I’ll be focusing a lot of my writing on faith related topics as well. I still want to talk style, beauty/fashion, home DIY projects, health and fitness, gardening, and more! But I think it is unfair to everyone, myself included, to keep my identity as a Christ follower in the shadows in an attempt to gain a wider audience. Wow, that sounds really ugly writing that out loud. Yet, I promised I would be honest.

Thank you for sharing this space with me. This is who I am and I cannot pretend to be anything else. I think my years of creative blocks and creative overwhelms are proof that running from yourself really doesn’t work. Know that I love you and I am keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. May this weird blog confession thing find you in good health and good spirits!

My Truest Confession
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April 2, 2020

Composting Your Life: Using Every Season for Fruitfulness

April Focus – A Letter to My Reader

Dearest friend,

Last Fall I started a compost pile. To be completely honest, I have no idea what I am doing. I have read up on all the latest information on composting and I have found it may not be for me. I have promised myself to give it until this upcoming Fall and reassess. If you are not familiar with composting, it is a way to recycle organic matter like grass clippings, fruit/veggie cuttings, coffee grounds, ect. When you throw this all together in a strange lasagna type concoction, it breaks down over time to create a nutrient-rich soil. Many farmers and gardeners call this “black gold”. It is highly sought after because it helps create a healthy foundation for plants to flourish. 

Perfect Timing

Three months ago I was planning content for The Rooted Journal and its social media accounts. After some thinking and praying, I decided to center around the word “Cultivate” in the month of April. With the world in upheaval, I had no idea how perfect it would all fit into the present. The dictionary defines cultivate like this:

  1. prepare and use (land) for crops or gardening.
  2. try to acquire or develop a quality, sentiment, or skill

There is a four letter cuss word that cultivate hinges on: work. Everyone enjoys the produce off a lush garden. But talk to any farmer/gardener and they will tell you it is hard work. It takes a lot of sweat on the back end in order to enjoy the organic produce from your back yard. It comes as no surprise that Jesus often used farming metaphors to impart wisdom or teach a concept. Our hearts and lives are a lot like the soil in a famers field. It is has the capacity to produce a harvest if we cultivate it. You cannot have a healthy harvest if you have unhealthy soil. 

Where do we acquire this healthy soil to sow seeds for a harvest? We recycle the “unwanted parts” of our lives. When you chop up veggies for a stew, there are “ugly parts” you take the blade of your knife to. The stems, ends, and rough parts were all part of the entire plant at one point and essential during the growth process. When it comes to harvest them, however, we slice those pieces off. In the same way, there are moments in our lives that look or feel ugly that we want to chop off and throw away. Maybe you were at a party and felt lonely because you didn’t know anybody. Maybe you lost a friend. Maybe you are an extrovert stuck inside for an indefinite amount of time. Maybe you have no idea when your paycheck will start up again.

Living a Composted Life

There are pieces of our lives, both big and small, that we want to cut off and throw away. But may I challenge you that perhaps these are the moments to compost rather than trash. Though we often throw away the cuttings from the kitchen, they can be essential food to produce a healthy composted soil. What was once unsightly and disposed has now been graphed into the foundation for a healthy crop that will one day find itself on your kitchen counter again. May I submit to you that the unsightly, bruised, and unwanted moments of your life can be “composted” to create a fertile foundation for growth and abundance?

Life is a cyclical journey of growth with changing seasons. We want to live fruitful lives. Valuable things come from valuable time invested. As you find yourself in this new season I encourage you to take a look at the moments you can compost. You are stuck inside during this pandemic. Compost it. Perhaps that time can become the pivot that your family needed to reconnect and flourish. You don’t know where your next paycheck is coming from. Compost it. Maybe this is a time for you to reach out to those who love you for help. You are missing your elderly loved ones. Compost it. Now you are finding time to recognize what your heart has taken for granted. 

Those are just a few examples specific to walking through this pandemic. But the concept applies to every area and season of our lives. In our eagerness to complain about uncomfortable moments, there is a harvest waiting to be cultivated. I encourage you to take this next month to turn your perspective to a positive one. Preaching to Facebook choirs is rarely profitable for anyone. What is profitable is establishing a new rhythm of prioritizing positive perspectives. It is not disingenuous or gullible happiness. It is changing your lenses to view life through peace. Take in the good. Then acknowledge the things that need to be grieved, trim them, and compost them. As you continue to compost these moments through life, you will always have healthy soil on hand to sow new seeds in. Then, you wait for your harvest. 

Compost Life
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February 28, 2020

Establishing Habits for People Who Hate Structure

It Doesn’t Happen Overnight

I think we all want to live healthy, full, and meaningful lives. We all have dreams, goals, visions, ideas, and hopes for what we want to accomplish. There is a pathway to progress and the roadmap will look different for each person. But one thing remains the same. Our actions/behaviors help determine if we get there. 

An olympian cannot simply will themselves to a gold medal. A doctor cannot simply hope for a good surgery. A person cannot simply close their eyes while driving and manifest themselves to a destination. A farmer cannot simply sow good thoughts into the ground and hope to produce a harvest. It takes work. 

We form habits either intentionally or unintentionally. It is how the brain works. The brain learns what is rewarding and what is painful and adjusts accordingly. That is a very crude understanding of habits, but you get the picture. 

Mental health professionals often give those who suffer from panic attacks tools to ground themselves back in reality. It could be as simple as counting ceiling tiles or taking ten deep breaths. After a major concussion in college, I suffered from intense panic attacks for about a year. These grounding techniques helped pull me back from overwhelming emotions and refocus me on what was happening in the present moment when I was in the middle of an attack. I have carried those tools with me ever since. 

Time Will Tell

I was in a very dark season of my life when I started to apply this technique on a larger scale. I began to ask the question, “could healthy habits, patterns, and routines help me reach a more holistic rhythm of living?” I could see that happy, healthy, and successful people had routines. While I did not like routine, could these things help me in the way that grounding techniques helped me during my panic attacks? When I was in a major funk in my mind, body, and soul, could healthy rhythms help set a course for healing? For progress?

Of course I am not the only one to think about this. There are plenty of scientific studies that show the affects of good and bad habits on a persons overall health. AA is an entire program designed around similar concepts which help alcoholics live their lives free of addiction and get back on their feet again. But what I was seeing from self-proclaimed self-help gurus did not seem appealing. Everybody had quick tips to a healthy life. My journey was taking a lot longer.

You have probably heard it said that it takes 21 days to form a habit. Turns out there’s not a whole lot of science behind that statement. Dr. Maxwell Maltz was the person credited to have said this but the crazy thing is, he didn’t actually say it. He said it took a MINIMUM of 21 days in order for an old mental image to dissipate and a new mental image to stick. A recent study shows it can take between 2 months to 8 months to establish a new habit. There’s a really awesome article about it here

The first time I read this it blew me away because I had been experiencing the same thing. Some of the rhythms I was beginning to incorporate into my life were taking much longer than 21 days to establish. Sometimes, it was months before I would see it stick. But as long as I was committed to the process I saw overall progress.

Fear of Commitment

In that same study, they showed that you did not have to be perfect in order for the habit to form. In other words, if you planned on going to the gym 5 days a week and you miss a day, it’s okay. The habit can still be formed as long as the commitment was solid. 

It may be a crazy notion, but it is okay to tweak a lifestyle change to fit what works best for you. In 2019, I made the shift to a (mostly) plant based lifestyle. It was a personal choice that came out of a time of spiritual fasting. During that year, I also shifted to an intermittent fasting routine. That may sound like a lot, but I adjusted it so that I would be successful and enjoy it. I give myself 10% leniency a week in my “food budget” for times that I want to enjoy food outside my regular routine or I am somewhere that I don’t have access to those types of foods. I shoot for a 16:8 daily fasting routine, but I am not overall worried if its not EXACTLY that ratio. 

These two shift have been life-changing for me. Even though I am not performing them perfectly as prescribed, I still find incredible benefits and joy in them. Why? Because I am committed to the overall purpose. I want to live a long, healthy, and energized life well into my grey-haired years. I don’t want to be stopped by my own body as I get older, within what is in my ability to control. And that is a powerful reason to commit to overall healthy lifestyle changes. 

If we are not intentional about training our brain to engage in healthy rhythms, it will train itself. I got to a place in my life where I was tired of having no direction, no goals, no strategy, and no progress in the things that mattered to me. I had these big dreams deep down, but no idea how to start. So I never started and I hoped it would magically happen on its own. It seems silly to say out loud now, but I know from conversations with others that I am not the only one. We are often plagued by all the things we “should do” that we never start on the path for the things we are passionate to do. 

I do not enjoy structure. I push against it as hard as I can. If you are anything like me, then you know how hard it is to commit to any lifestyle change. Even if I’m the one setting the course, a part of me wants to say, “don’t tell me what to do”. It’s what author Steven Pressfield in his book the War of Art calls Resistance. “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stand Resistance.” It’s that sly and vile force that hijacks our dreams and turns them into a pile of unfinished good intentions. 

In order to create habits and rhythms that will actually make a difference in our lives, we must commit to the process. That means getting back up when you fall off the wagon. That means showing up day after day after day until the behavior becomes reflexive. That means throwing away excuses that have held you back for years. That means sitting with yourself long enough to discover what really matters to you. And perhaps that is the scariest part of the journey. 

A Journey of a Thousand Miles

It is said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. It is a great slogan for coffee mugs but it is more powerful when you actually take it at face value. We live in a time in history when we can have what we want faster than ever. While there are many positives that come with forward progression, it leaves us addicted to instant gratification. If we cannot get our bikini body in a few months, we want out. But we are going to complain and speak poorly about ourselves the whole way. 

There is an intricate balance of contentment and aspiration. We should be inspired to grow, change, explore, discover, and create. But once we have committed to the longer journey of establishing healthier habits, we must also be content with who we are at the present moment. We must honor who we are in the present while also pushing ourselves towards growth. We must accept the full journey of personal transformation. A caterpillar does not hate the fact that it is a caterpillar even though one day it will become a butterfly. Like my husband says, you’ve got to find beauty and value in where you are at now.

All of this to say, the journey to a more holistic, healthy, and fulfilled life comes in small steps that reinforce the greater picture. Progress over perfection. If we are focused on perfection, we often find that progress never happens. If we are focused on progress, the change often happens in a more successful and meaningful way. 

In order to break out of a funk or make peace with the fact that structure can be our best ally, accepting that the journey may take a lot longer than we expect is pivotal. It is important to push yourself, I understand that. If you’ve got a deadline, you’ve got a deadline and there’s really nothing you can do about it. But if you decide to make a major lifestyle change, you have got to start on the micro level. Maybe you want to be a morning person so instead of setting your alarm for 4:00AM when you’re used to getting up at 7:00AM, consider moving your alarm clock up in 15 minute increments over the course of a few months. Give yourself a chance to win. 

Framework for Freedom

There was a study done where they observed children on playgrounds with and without a fence/boundary. The discovered that those children without a fenced-in playground explored less and stayed closer to the teacher. On the other hand, those children with a fenced-in playground explored to the farthest reaches of the boundaries. Creativity without any structure paralyses and holds us back from reaching out as far as we can. Structure, habits, and routines can be our greatest ally. 

There are many lessons that could be pulled from these observations. What I glean from it is that there is safety in framework. There is a freedom that comes with setting up boundaries with ourselves and others. The structures and routines that scared me most can actually be my greatest weapon to breakthrough. 

Now before you go planning out the ten lifestyle changes you have been dying to implement over the years, remember that they have to truly matter to you. The motivation behind the shift must be weighty enough to carry you through the times when you want to give up. You have to accept that it might take longer than you think to establish a new rhythm and commit to the process. And last, but certainly not least, you have to take it slow. 

If you push against any kind of routine like I do, then you understand how hard it can be to implement a lifestyle change that is important to you. I am currently reading Atomic Habits by James Clear and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg in order to learn more about sustainable habits in our lives. A lot of the ideas that have been rumbling around in my head actually have scientific basis for what I am experiencing. I am still learning the language to describe my experience, but it has been eye opening to say the least.

Maybe you’re in a rough season and you’re desperate to find some footing in the midst of the chaos. Maybe you’ve just come out of a rough season but don’t know where to begin again. Maybe you’re tired of not following through on your plans and beating yourself up for it. I have a few questions I want you to consider. What would you life look like if you lived in the rhythms and habits you want to implement? What if a little bit of structure, done in kindness to yourself, was your ally? What if you could eliminate some stress and anxiety by having predictable patters that grounded you? What would it look like if you were living your ‘unlived life’? 

I hope to dive deeper into the process of forming a habit, but there’s some awesome starter info here. I am not a guru and I cannot give you ‘x’ number of steps to the correct pathway to inner peace. But I can share my story with you and the things that have greatly impacted my life. I can tell you that it takes time and it takes a lot of commitment to be kind to yourself along the way. I have some tangible lessons I can pass along, but its a personal journey. I can tell you that its been a huge positive shift in my life. It has given me the ability to walk in hope and confidence. My greatest desire in sharing my story is that you’d find the same things.

Habits for People Who Hate Structure
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February 24, 2020

The Time I Lost My Identity and the Journey to Healing

The Candle Goes Out

There are moments that change our lives forever. In 2015, I was newly married and working in a church ministry. It was my first salaried job and I was full of zeal for the future. Less than a year later, we had been rejected and abandoned by that same community. My goal is never to lay their transgressions bare when sharing my story; it is between them and God. But as a result of this jagged fork in the journey, my life began to spiral into some of the darkest moments of my life. It took almost five years to fully recover from the devastation.

While I would not willingly want to experience anything like that ever again, these moments are vital in our lives in order to grow. This heavy blow left me with a loss of identity, motivation, and purpose. Through counseling, getting reconnected to healthy community, and establishing healthy rhythms, I am now a happier, healthier, and whole person. As I look back, I realize while some of these symptoms were from major trauma, some of these were unhealthy habits revealed under extreme pressure. 

Creatives often express going through volatile seasons where the level their work, or lack thereof, does not match the level of their passion. In extreme cases, such as mine, passion goes extinct. There is a difference between a creative block and a total creative shutdown. What do we do when our trauma seems to snuff out our creative spark? Can we establish healthy rhythms that can withstand difficult seasons and still allow us to flourish? How do we begin to find practical ways to fan the flame of passion for our dreams? We must begin to see that our mind, body, and soul are all intertwined. When one suffers, they all suffer. We must begin to see that our creativity and passion are linked to the level of our wholeness. 

This is the journey I have been on over the past five years. Only recently have I been able to put words to my experiences. There is no time table for grief; I am not suggesting you should be moving along faster than you are. I believe that had I developed some of these healthy rhythms and mindsets earlier on, I would have flourished in spite of my circumstances instead of being overshadowed by them. To describe my journey would take many books. This post is just an overview to help determine if this online space would be useful to you. I am going to lay out the symptoms of my experience, the root of loss of identity, the overarching moments that brought me through to freedom, and a major perspective shift that is helping me live in confidence.  

The Death of Myself: Symptoms of a Broken Spirit

Phase One: The Syphoned Spirit

Burnout. If you consider yourself a creative, then you are well aware of this nasty little guy. When I sat down to engage in my art form, the creative flow of ideas seemed to have been snuffed out. This was more than a creative block. My creative spirit felt as though it had been syphoned by some unknown force. After a grueling battle to muster up enough creative energy I would eventually give up, feeling utterly defeated. My scariest moment occurred when I realized I had no joy in the things that used to light up my soul. I didn’t have dreams anymore. I didn’t have any ideas. Scrolling through social media gave me knots in my stomach because  everyone else seemed to be loaded with ideas and motivation while I soothed my aching heart with another Netflix binge. I felt truly dead inside: no passion, no creative spark, no motivation, no desire. 

Phase Two: The Wonder Twins

But let’s not forget about the wonder twins Anxiety and Depression. These two seem to travel hand in hand and enable each other to do unspeakable damage on a persons mind, body, and soul. While they are different from each other, they often orbit around each other and take turns creating vicious internal turmoil. There were times I could barely get out of bed in the morning without an overwhelming feeling of dread and purposelessness. Then there were those special times when my mind was so wrought with fear that I could barely make it through the day without falling to pieces at the drop of a hat. When I was exhausted from a bout of anxiety, depression would quickly swoop in until the whole cycle started over and over again. I felt completely crushed by the weight of it all: overtired, mentally overworked, overcome by fear, overcome by life.

Phase Three: The Cycle of Shame

In those rare moments of energy bursts, I would throw myself into various projects just so I would feel like I was doing something productive. Since my primary artistic passions were on lockdown thanks to burnout, I shifted into other pursuits that had some artistic appeal. I tried my hand at photography, graphic design, virtual assistance, social media management, and more. Little did I know it was a bandaid on a wound that needed surgery. I was creative enough to get away with being pretty good at a number of different artistic pursuits but not passionate enough to keep the motivational flame glowing. I would throw in the towel just as quickly as I had begun. Before long I was beginning yet another project to alleviate the pain of embarrassment from the previous. This cycle continued for years as I ran away from the things that I was truly gifted for. I was working from a place of shame; shame from the loss of creativity, shame from struggling with anxiety and depression, shame from cycling through endless projects with no real purpose. 

The Pivot : Acceptance of the Pit

This may seem like a silly and simple start. It wasn’t until I fully engaged in the reality of where I was that things began to shift. I allowed myself to feel what I felt. I had gutted it out for years under the guise that I was “fine” when in reality I was far from it. We live in a society, especially in American, that praises the rugged individual who “has it all together”. We are making leaps and bounds in the department of mental health, but we still have some work to do. I continued to compare my trauma to others’ and deemed mine not worthy enough to be emotionally tainted by. It was painful to look in the mirror and admit I felt like a shell of a person. It was hard to say to myself and my loved ones that I really wasn’t doing well. But bringing all that ugliness to light, it lost much of its power. It was at that point I could actually begin the journey to  healing. You cannot heal if you do believe there is a wound in need of healing. I accepted that I was not okay, but truly wanted to be. 

There is a popular prayer that is quoted often that perfectly describes my internal shift at that moment. 

God, give me grace to accept with serenity

the things that cannot be changed,

Courage to change the things

which should be changed,

and the Wisdom to distinguish

the one from the other.

Living one day at a time,

Enjoying one moment at a time,

Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,

Taking, as Jesus did,

This sinful world as it is,

Not as I would have it,

Trusting that You will make all things right,

If I surrender to Your will,

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,

And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

-Reinhold Niebuhr

Regardless of what you believe, the sentiment is universal. There are awful things that happen in the world and sometimes they happen to us. There are things that we cannot change. We do, however, have the opportunity to use those moments to our advantage. It does not negate the pain and difficulty of moving through those seasons, but it does not mean we have to be destroyed by it. This was the shift that had to take place in order for me to move forward. I could not change what happened. It was done. It had passed. I accepted that it hurt like Hell but was determined not to be buried by it. It was a fork in the road, not the end of it. 

Out From The Ashes

Phase One: Unbiased Listener

I was blessed to be raised with a high view of mental health care professionals. My mom wholeheartedly believed in counseling. As the Executive Director at a Hospice for many years, she always pushed to make free grief counseling available to those who had lost loved ones. It was not only open to those who had gone through Hospice care, but the community as well. As a result, I have never been afraid to seek out counseling when life gets to be overwhelming. If accepting and acknowledging where I was in my journey was the first step, then counseling was my next. It was here that I was given the language to describe my trauma and how it affected me. My counselor helped me work through the darkest parts of my hurt from a place of unbiased observation. Because he didn’t know the people who hurt me or was personally  involved, he was able to identify the trigger points and major mental blocks that were keeping me from living in healing. His counsel was invaluable and perhaps the greatest moment of forward propulsion in healing. 

Phase Two: Letting the Light In

While in this dark night of the soul, I slowly withdrew from the world and shut everyone out. I had been shaken to my core and I did not trust people anymore. I always kept my faith in God, but my faith in people was shattered. In many ways that was a good and bad thing. I continued to move into my own cave of despair until I had successfully isolated myself. Part of the journey into healing was learning to allow people into my life again. It was a long, hard process and I dragged my heels the whole way. It was a good two years before I began to get involved in our faith community as well as the community around us. I tried many times but always kept a large part of myself back. Once the wounds began to heal, my confidence grew and I was comfortable enough with myself to let others into the good and the bad. I had to learn to be vulnerable with myself and others again.

Phase Three: Rooted Rhythms

I was slowly moving in a forward direction, but I needed to establish patters that would create a framework from which I could live out these new realities. I had come a long way already but still struggled with my purpose and re-engaging with my passions. I still felt incredibly lost. I was a musician but could barely touch a keyboard without being reminded of the knife in my back. I desired to pursue my dreams but had no idea where to start. It all felt too hard. 

Over time I began establishing some rhythms I could see myself continuing throughout my life. I shifted to a plant-based lifestyle. I began weight lifting. I joined a group of women that met weekly. I tried to make space for solitude. The key to all of these rhythms was starting small and giving myself space to grow into them. I just needed to establish some predictable patterns in order to get myself moving again. The more I did this, the more my creativity began to return. Eventually, I was jotting down my dreams. Dreams and ideas I had not had in years. Some were old and some were new, but they were all birthed from this place of establishing healthy rhythms. 

The Final Shift: Growing From Grace

I have a tendency to pendulum swing. When an area of my life is lacking, I often overcorrect in my zeal for finding balance. I learned this about myself over the course of this journey. I began paying more attention to the times I was tempted to overcorrect. I discovered I was living from a place of fear and desperation. I felt as though I had lost time in my season of grief and had to “get with it” to catch up to some unrealistic expectation I had set for myself. I was grasping at straws. I just needed to be more disciplined. I had found healing but had forgotten how to walk. If I forced myself into a long list of to-do’s, I could make this season worth it. 

But that is not how life works. My motivation to be more disciplined and “put together” came from a fear of missing out. These were not sustainable rhythms. They were overcorrections to my inaction. I had gone through all this healing only to find my feet tied at the beginning of the race. Through a friends wisdom, I changed the language I was using. I may have needed discipline but that word brought very little grace with it in my mind. Instead, I decided I needed rhythm. As a musician, rhythm speaks to me much clearer than discipline. Rhythm is patterned and predictable, but it can change and flex along the way. Rhythm brings fulfillment while melding multiple musical aspects into balance. Rhythm can be as rigid or fluid as you want it and still produce an amazing piece of music. Rhythm felt like less of a to-do list and more like a flow of healthy habits/patterns. 

Ultimately, I wanted to grow from a place of grace. I wanted to be holistically healthy in my mind, body, and soul but I didn’t want to beat myself into a bunch of “should do this” fads. I wanted to embrace hard work and lifelong personal training, but I did not want to submit to pop cultures rat race in order to achieve it. I quickly observed that when I was fully rested in my identity as a loved created being with a purpose, I actually saw progress in the vision I had for my life. It might have been a small thing like choosing a healthier food option. But I was honestly excited to work on those things. It wasn’t a “should do”. It became an “I want to”. 

There is a difference between striving and striding. To stride is to walk with long, decisive steps in a specified direction or cross (an obstacle) with one long step. To strive is to make great efforts to achieve or obtain something or fight vigorously for. Striving can often come from a place of fear. I must do this. I should do that. There can be little grace in it. We look at where we are and where we “should be” and attempt to make up the difference through vigorous and stressful effort. Striding comes from a place of energy and excitement. There is graceful determination in the movement. It is facing obstacles without panic and walking confidently past them. I began to feel the difference when I was moving from grace; fully resting in my identity versus dragging myself along in fear of never being enough, having enough, or finding enough. 

I have so many lessons I continue to learn on a daily basis. Sometimes it was as easy and changing the language so that my mind could grasp the direction more fully. Sometimes it was as difficult as being vulnerable with others or letting go of the pain that stalled me for so long. I hope by sharing this brief part of my testimony you find encouragement in your own journey. If you’ve ever gone through your own sort of trauma and feel overwhelmed by getting back up, then you can relate. As I continue to learn more and more about creating long-term, healthy, and sustainable rhythms, I hope to share those milestones with you. Perhaps you will pick up a few rhythms that really fit what your soul needs. 

Here’s to the future of living from a place of rest and grace knowing fully who we are and living in the excitement of who we are becoming.  

Finding Rooted Rhythms in the Middle of Depression and Anxiety
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