Spring has Sprung

Ah, can you tell I’m back to work? The silence here is telling of life these days.

Stress, worry, stress, and worry.

When that happens I retreat into a shell, only tackling what absolutely must be done (and cleaning, always cleaning because that I CAN control).

With the longest winter ever, returning back to work, figuring out child care, a jobless and very stressed husband, [trying] to pay bills and buy groceries, health problem after health problem for each member of our family, and a baby who is having separation anxiety I have been dealing with my own mental health.  For a while there I was scared that I was actually starting to truly be depressed.  I noticed the signs of anxiety, the feelings of hopelessness and loss of control, the inability to control my thought processes.  There were several times I thought about making a doctors appointment – our physician is a strong advocate for mental health and screens for it with every visit, sometimes discreetly and other times bluntly but I have ALWAYS appreciated that.  With every snowfall I felt the pressure more and more, and I began to understand why many people struggle in the winter months.  I also began to understand why it’s important to get outside, stay active, and eat healthy in every season – something I DID NOT do this winter.

Anyways, with the much anticipated change in weather I feel the fog lifting, the anxiety dissipating, and my thoughts focused less on the negatives and much more on the positives.  With the changes in my mental clarity I am also beginning to make and implement plans to get healthier because that is also something I can control.

Frankly I’ve been wondering if this day would come again, I’ve thought about it often. About how my desire and passion for healthy living was put to the side as I dealt with a very difficult 1.5-2 years of health issues and then a complicated pregnancy and finally the recovery from that pregnancy and [ungraceful] transition to a mother of two.  Even my love of cooking had faded and I really only cooked out of necessity.  I still tried to eat balanced and definitely stuck to my convictions with feeding my children.  We still mainly eat fresh food but our budget has shrunk drastically and so the quality of food we can afford has also suffered as a result.  Since I have such strong feelings about food I have really struggled to want to cook or eat the food we can afford to buy.  I realize that fresh is always better than processed but it’s still been a significant struggle for me and has had a huge impact on my motivation to live a healthier lifestyle.

Having said all that, I feel as though I am finally in a place that I can start to make some small changes for my health.  I’m not making any grande plans that will be hard to keep with but something I do want to eventually end up doing is following the Autoimmune Protocol.  I don’t think I can implement it all in one shot but I am going to try and implement it little by little.  I also hope to get more active – walk A LOT, stretch and maybe get some other simple strengthening exercises in.  I’m at a disadvantage right now because I’m having some major back issues but hopefully it all clears up quickly and doesn’t affect me long term so I can get going! Something else I need to get back to doing is seeing my chiropractor – I was lucky enough to find an incredible chiropractor before getting pregnant with Eden but with such a hard pregnancy and very limited finances I had to stop going but I know I need to start up again soon.

You also know that gardening season has begun and so that is a major source of mental health for me and I’m so excited for this years garden.  I’ll be sure to post about it often!

Did you struggle this winter? Give me some simple healthy changes you think I should be implementing! I’m all ears!

Abundant Living

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I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and praying about living abundantly.  If you’ve been here for a bit you’ll know that my One Little Word for 2018 is Abundance and that it’s less about having MORE and actually about appreciating what we already have.  It’s less about the physical and more about my mindset.  A couple weeks ago as I was praying through this I had such a clear message placed on my heart, I wrote it out on a piece of paper and left it to resonate for a while and I think it’s time to share it here.  I pray that it blesses you.

In times of hardship we tend to just “survive” to just “get by.”  We don’t live our best life and feel as though that’s an impossibility, we feel trapped because our circumstance is unable to change and so we accept defeat.  In our acceptance we probably make poor choices which don’t line up with how we “wish” our lives could be.

I’m using “we” here very lightly – maybe you can’t relate to this at all and I’m sorry if I’m clumped you into what’s actually my own reality or I guess what WAS my reality.

I spent the last 3 years in a poverty mindset.  I was working as hard as I possibly could just to keep our heads above water financially and because I was just barely making it work I thought we were poor.  That mindset that was initially only applied financially eventually trickled into all the areas of my life.  I came out on the other side quite literally broken thinking there was no other option and that it was just an inevitable consequence of my circumstance.  My question after reflection is: what if there was another option?  What if changing my mindset from thinking we were poor to thinking we had everything we needed could have changed the outcome?

Is it possible to be living a seemingly unbalanced life and still thrive rather than just survive? When our circumstances are not what we had hoped can we change our mindset to accept them and learn to live well within them?  Can we dig deep, work hard and get to the other side stronger, healthier and happier rather than beaten, broken and barely alive?

If we can (I really think we can!) what is the formula?

While I don’t pretend to think I have this all figured out, there are some things I think will definitely help.  These are things I’m going to try my best to adopt into my life:

  • Daily “me time” of at least 30 minutes.
  • Daily prayer and surrender – acceptance of what is.
  • Compromise – we can’t do it all, pick your priorities and let the rest go.
  • Accept the sacrifice and know it’s temporary, stop feeling bitterness towards it.
  • Find a tribe, confide in them and accept help from them rather than isolating yourself.
  • Eat well, sleep well and make time for movement.
  • Use oils daily for emotional, mental and physical wellbeing (the Abundance oil pictured above has been very helpful!)

I would love to hear your thoughts on this and if you have anything to add to my “formula.”  This isn’t an easy journey to abundant living but I’m convinced it will be worth it times a thousand!

Refresh and Renew

Hello Friends!

Happy Wednesday!

I know it seems like I have been gone for a while BUT actually I’ve been working away at updating this space.  I’ve updated the information that was outdated on each page. I fixed up the menu at the top and made sure each post was categorized correctly.  I know on first glance it doesn’t seem like anything has changed but I’m feeling much better about this place.  It’s like decluttering a room that you’ve been procrastinating forever.  I thought about switching up the theme but I still quite like the minimalist design so I’m just going to keep it for now – thoughts?

So take a look around, familiarize yourself with the new content and let me know if you have any questions or blog post requests. I have some in mind and some in the works so stay tuned!

Ciao friends!

One Little Word 2017 Reflection

December 31, 2017.

How did this day get here so quickly? Where did 2017 go?

I’ve been reading and following some others who have reflected on this year and I’m seeing a mix of reactions to the past year.  Some had an incredible year, and others had difficult years but what I have noticed is that regardless of how the year was everyone has been grateful.  Some grateful for how wonderful their year was and some grateful for the challenges and lessons they brought.

I am definitely in the latter category – the year was difficult, far more difficult than I was anticipating yet I am so grateful for 2017.  We welcomed a beautiful baby girl who is our miracle girl.  She is feisty, determined, stubborn, and so so sweet and she fits perfectly into our family.  It’s safe to say she is so loved and so adored by us all.  We watched and followed as our now four year old grew and matured and learned so much.  His deep desire for knowledge is inspiring, his drive to learn is what spurs me on daily to live as a present parent and teach him what he wants to know.  Truly our schooling has been 100% led by him and he has advanced leaps and bounds.  Every goal I set for our homeschooling journey has been hit and it’s only because he has so desired to learn.  Carlos finished his schooling despite so many obstacles that would have stopped many in their tracks and made them quit.  His perseverance in the face of trials has always been inspiring for me.  Truly, he is incredible and if anyone can inspire you to chase your dreams and crush your goals, it’s him.

As I watched my family have an incredible year I tried so hard to follow in their footsteps.  I had so badly wanted to reach so many goals, to accomplish so much and it seemed the harder I fought the less I accomplished.  Last year at this time I felt the Lord was asking me to use REST as my guiding word for the year.  I honestly didn’t anticipate just how much rest I needed.  I didn’t realize how broken and worn down my body and spirit was.  I didn’t realize how much I needed to stop and rest.  Quite literally I spent this year in deep rest – almost like a hibernation.  The first part of the year was spent resting, having a baby and resting more.  The second part of the year was me feeling like I was ready to go, to accomplish, to be productive and being shut down every time I tried.  I fought hard against REST, sure that my body was ready to GO.  Maybe my body was but my mind, my heart, and my soul needed more rest, more reflection, more intentional attention.

When I look back at the year, I’ll be honest, it’s a hard pill to swallow.  It’s hard not to be disappointed, and not to dwell on that disappointment.  It’s hard to not feel like it was a “year wasted,” but I know those are lies designed to make me feel inadequate.  The truth which I’m reminding myself of minute by minute is that my year was EXACTLY what I needed.  The truth is that my year was orchestrated perfectly to give me what I needed – time to REST.  I’m thankful for the challenges of parenting two children, for the joys of watching those children grow and learn (even when that means more challenges for me).  The truth is I was stretched in ways I wasn’t anticipating, I discovered parts of me that I wasn’t proud of.  The impatience, need for perfection, the struggles for control – all things that came out and tried to rule my life.  I struggled to fight against those things, I struggle(d) to know my worth and adequacy.  I struggle(d) to mother in the midst of being faced with my worst self.

Yes, 2017 was hard for me, but it was necessary.  I was forced to rest in the hands of my Father, to search for and know His truths in my life.  I was forced to cling to a God who knows and loves me and I’m going into 2018 with the knowledge of these deep truths:

  • I am worthy
  • I am adequate
  • I am beautiful
  • I am enough

The beautiful thing about my truths, is they are your truths as well.  So whatever your year brought I hope that you can also cling to these truths.

Inspiration

Inspiration has been an ongoing topic of discussion in my house lately.  My husband and I are both very drawn to things that spark inspiration – I would guess everyone is drawn to those things as well, but I wonder if everyone stops to appreciate these little sparks.  I would bet that in a world of fast everything – food, fashion, technology – that it’s getting harder and harder to not only recognize the sparks but also to appreciate them when they are recognized.

We’ve had an unexpectedly slow December with my husband being laid off in the first week of this month.  It’s a big blow for sure, and if we allowed ourselves to sink into worry and stress it would make this month horrendous.  I mean it’s the busiest and most expensive month of the year and here we are wondering how we’ll be able to pay the bills and buy the groceries let alone fill the bottom of the tree with presents.  We could definitely dwell on the negatives but that would only make it worse.  Instead our conversations and focus has been on our future, our goals and our dreams.  Somehow, though there are moments of stress, we’ve been able to stay positive and truly enjoy each day.

I’ve been thinking about this today.  I wonder what it is that we are doing that makes this time less stressful than I feel it should be, and I think it lies in our desire to fill our lives only with things that encourage and inspire us.  There are a few specific things that we have been doing, some of them for a while and others we are just starting to do.

A big place of inspiration for both of us is our home and how we fill it.  When you come to our house the first thing you would probably notice is the plants.  I’ve lost count at how many plants we now have, but it’s well over 50 and will continue to grow.  Plants inspire us to live closer to nature and to live simpler lives.  I’ve recently taken time to fill our office with inspirational art, things to remind us where we want to go and what it takes to get there.  We don’t fill our home with clutter but think carefully about each and everything we bring into it.

We both take time to listen, read, or watch things each day that inspire us to do better and be better.  My husband searches through Pinterest, reads things he finds on Facebook, and watches shows or documentaries that inspire him to overcome obstacles.  I belong to a bookclub dedicated to self development.  We read 10 pages per day and use an app called Marco Polo to discuss the book.  I also read my Bible daily and make sure I’m spending time in prayer.

Something else we are both passionate about: sparking inspiration in others and I think this goes a long long way when it comes to having a positive outlook on life.  If you know me, you know I love Instagram.  It’s been a love of mine for almost as long as it’s been around.  Over the years my use of the app has changed and now I mostly use it as an online journal.  Each thing I post will more than likely have a twist of positivity because I feel strongly about building people up and letting go of negativity.  If I can’t post something positive I probably won’t post that day.  My husband is the same way with Facebook, he only shares what he feels will encourage others.  You can also listen to him on the phone daily, talking to his friends and speaking words of life and encouragement.

I’m beginning to see the absolute importance of inspiration in our lives, and I truly think it’s the key to why we can stay positive in a stressful time.

What’s your daily inspiration?

Rest First


When I imagined this maternity leave I had ideas that it would be similar to my last maternity leave.  My first maternity leave I ended up focusing on being healthy, and it was the first time I had felt healthy since high school.  It was like a body reset and I learned a lot about myself and my health that year.  I’ve mentioned several times that when I went back to work I really lost that feeling of being healthy due to stress and all that comes with that.  When I dreamt of this maternity leave I dreamt of losing all the weight by the 6 month mark.  I dreamt of loving being in the kitchen and inventing good healthy food.  I dreamt of walking every day and being super active and busy.

However, this maternity leave has been so much different.  I still have 15 pounds of weight to lose to get to pre-pregnancy weight and 15 more to lose to get to my ideal weight.  I can count on two hands how many walks I’ve been on in the last 3-4 months and my husband can attest that I’m not cooking like I used to.

Reflecting on how different these past six months are compared to what I thought they would be it’s easy to think I let myself down, that I didn’t motivate myself enough, that I was lazy.  All these thoughts try their hardest to creep in and bring me down but the truth is that I’ve been listening to my body and I’ve been honouring what it’s telling me.

REST

I’m giving myself time to rest and heal and that’s looking a lot different than I thought.  Honestly I thought that healing would mean exercising and building physical strength but my body has been showing me that healing first starts with resting.  This last week I’ve been feeling a rhythm start to our days, my body has been allowing for that to happen.  Up until recently I had no idea what I would be waking up to – would it be an Ashley full of energy or an Ashley unable to move much at all.  The past couple weeks my energy has been fairly consistent – even with Eden having VERY unpredictable nights.  So I can see how beneficial it’s been to listen to my body, to go to bed early, to stay home when I needed to, to relax when I was feeling run down.  With each passing week and month I gain a little bit more endurance and strength to just get a little bit more done each day.  Of course having a baby that is growing and maturing also helps with this but I can also feel the change in my body.  In August I barely had the ability to clean my whole house one day and be up moving a lot the next.  I couldn’t stand for longer than an hour doing things in the kitchen because my body just hurt all over and didn’t have the endurance.  This past month I’ve been up the majority of days canning, cleaning and just keeping busy and my body feels pretty good! Not awesome, but not awful and that’s a happy medium that I gladly welcome after a couple years of feeling terrible.

One thing I’ve been incorporating that last couple months is taking Sundays off.  That means that mentally I allow myself the space to not have a list of to-do’s.  If I wake up and have some energy to do a couple things I will, but I put zero pressure on myself to accomplish anything.  I sleep in an extra hour or two (which means up at 6 or 7 instead of 5), I rarely clean anything, I don’t do laundry, and my husband usually does the cooking.  This allows me to read a few more books to Ezekiel, to sit on the floor a little more with Eden, to write and read a bit more and maybe even spend some time on a hobby – which, with the changing of the weather means knitting!

Lots of lessons have been learned this year and resting is definitely one of the biggest.

Do you force yourself to rest? Is it hard or do you welcome it with arms wide open?

Practicing Positive


Good Friday Morning!

We’ve had quite the night and morning!

My non-cuddly baby has decided over the course of yesterday and today that she must be touching me at all times to be sleeping.  Last night she had to be cuddled up to me just so or she would wake up screaming.  This morning she wouldn’t settled to sleep in her crib and had to be on me at all times.  I just got her settled in the crib by putting her on her tummy – which is so unlike her because she normally hates her tummy.  Anyways, I woke up this morning an hour later than usual with my neck so sore and my head pounding (all fixed with a bit of oils!). I came downstairs to find my coffee machine had malfunctioned (AKA I didn’t put the pot under it just perfectly) so the coffee grounds were in the coffee and everywhere around it and it had spilled all over the coffee bar. My to-do lists this week haven’t been getting done so today it’s one huge long list that won’t get done yet again.

A couple weeks ago today would have totally been a write off in my mind. It would have made me irritable and impatient therefore ruining my kids days as well.  I would have moped around doing things here and there but not completing any of it and all the while grumbling and using a tone of voice that makes me cringe every time I use it.  I would have internally been screaming about the injustice of it all. A couple weeks ago today would have been the worst day ever (exaggeration much?), but I’ve been trying really hard to be intentional with my thought processes.  I’ve been acknowledging the negatives – yes the day has started out on the wrong foot, yes it’s not how I would have liked it to start.  After quickly acknowledging the crap I replace it with all the good – and there is a lot of good to be seen if only you take some time to look.

Todays list of good includes things like getting all the cuddle time in after thinking I’d never be able to cuddle my baby again.  Ezekiel is being amazing, playing quietly and entertaining himself while I have been trying to calm a fussy baby.  He’s using words like “delighted” (“I was delighted to clean up that mess I made by accident” – that’s an actual quote! Who is this kid??) and making my heart melt several times a day.  We had to cancel our plans today which sucks but it also gives me a big chunk of time to be productive and get some things done (water plants, clean the front closet, do dishes, fold laundry, make tomato sauce, clean floors …..).  Cancelled plans also means I get some time to cuddle without worrying about getting out the door, relax in my PJ’s all day, bake some muffins, put some effort into supper tonight (seriously lacking in that department lately).

I’ve found that practicing gratitude by focusing on the good instead of the bad has completely changed my day to day life.  It’s made me a much more patient mother and wife.  It’s helped me to breathe deep and embrace the moments of the day.  It’s helped me to think more clearly, dream a little more and understand that there is so much beauty in the imperfections of our days.  I’ve slowed down internally, my mind doesn’t race about all the things I want to accomplish and by slowing down internally I actually find I become more productive.  By focusing on the positives I’ve learned to stop and watch when Ezekiel says “Hey mom! Look at this!” and by stopping and watching I am acknowledging him as a person, as someone who is proud of what they’ve accomplished and I think that’s crucial to empowering the next generation.  I no longer glance for half a second and say “that’s great,” instead I put the dishes down look him in the eye and say, “Wow! You are really getting good at…..” I’ve noticed that this small change has made him less dependent on me and more independent when he’s playing.  Practicing gratitude has changed not only my day but the days of my little people as well and it’s shown me the impact of my actions on those around me.

I’m not going to lie, this is a difficult practice to implement consistently.  It’s so much easier to allow the negative to envelope me but the reward of this practice is unbelievable.  So today as you go about your day and the negative tries to invade your thoughts and actions I urge you to acknowledge them, let them go and replace them with positive thoughts.  I promise you that by practicing this you will not only change your day to day life but you will impact every person you come in contact with and little by little people’s lives will change around you.