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!

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.

A Tiny Light in The Long Tunnel

Ah, the trials of being a parent are endless.  I mean I’m only just in the beginning of this life long journey and sometimes I feel like I’m a rockstar and other times I feel like I’m just barely keeping my head above the water.  Yesterday was one of those treading water, barely surviving days.  I mean I’ve had worse days for sure but I’ve had much much better days as well.

Let me be 100% honest here. There are two things that are essential to life that if I don’t have adequate amounts of I will turn into someone I despise – sleep and food. I mean probably everyone struggles if they don’t get enough sleep or don’t eat well, but I feel like my reaction to exhaustion and hunger is extreme. I don’t want to talk to anyone and give Carlos a glare if he tries to talk to me. My answers to Ezekiel’s incessant toddler questions are short and impatient. That’s just a very small sample of my outward reactions to people – if you knew my internal turmoil you’d probably think I was a terrible person – and you’d be right. The worst part is that I see it all, I am 100% aware of my behaviour and I loathe it but find it incredibly difficult to change my attitude. It’s like I’m watching myself and yelling “ASHLEY GET OVER YOURSELF!” I might be able to change it for a few minutes, maybe even an hour, but it won’t last long.

That was me yesterday.

Eden has been having trouble sleeping at night and after several consecutive long nights in a row I was done. Not only that but I questioned every single thing I was doing, I convinced myself that I had created her inability to sleep at night and that there was nothing I could do to change it.  I mean, probably I am to blame for some of it but I was in full on “woe is me” mode.  Poor, poor pitiful me.

Do you hate the person I am explaining?

Me too.

On top of not sleeping well, I was also not eating well.  I have struggled this year in this area.  It’s not that I’m eating junk food, it’s that I’m not spending time planning and preparing food and so most days I’m falling short on the nutrition I should be getting into my body.

So yesterday, despite my terrible attitude, I knew I had to eat better because that’s at least one part of this equation I can control.  I can’t control how well Eden is sleeping but I can control the food I’m putting into my body.

After a long day I put the kids to bed, falling into bed myself right after at 6:50 pm.  I drifted off to sleep at 8:30, was woken at 10 pm and wondered how I was going to make it through another night like this.  I feel back asleep at 10:30 and was woken again at

5 AM!!!!!!

Cue the angels singing.

Seriously.

A little tiny glimmer of hope.

A small tiny pinprick of light at the end of this long tunnel.

The first year of life is one full of so much.  So much growth, so much development, so much learning, so many challenges, both for the babies and for their parents.

It can feel long.

It can feel hopeless at times.

Then there are these little moments where you understand that, yes, you can absolutely do this.

So for all you parents out there wondering if you’re going to make it.

You will, and you are.

Keep on going, you got this.

It Takes a Village

As I write this my parents are driving back to Saskatchewan after a 4 day visit.  They came for Ezekiel’s birthday, which happened to coincide with two very hard weeks.  It’s made me realize just how hard this motherhood thing is when we try and do it alone.

I’m a naturally independent person, I pride myself on my ability to do a variety of things on my own.  I enjoy being alone, I enjoy challenging myself and I enjoy looking back and saying “I did that.”  Be it finishing school while working several jobs, buying a car, getting a job, building something for our backyard, planting a garden or working on a house project.  I rarely ever ask for help and that is a huge downfall.  Now that I’m mothering two little beautiful humans I’m realizing just how big of a downfall it really is.

A couple weeks ago both Ezekiel and Eden ended up getting sick, and Eden was/is cutting some teeth at the same time.  So, besides going to a few essential appointments we were quarantined to our home.  I don’t often mind being quarantined to the house but it makes for long days and lots of isolation and too much of that just messes with my head and heart.  Once they were starting to feel better (aside from Eden’s teeth) I thought we were in the clear, but I ended up getting really sick and losing my voice over the Remembrance Day long weekend.  At the same time as being sick I had to plan and prepare for my parents visit as well as Ezekiel’s birthday party.  I was a bit overwhelmed to say the least and honestly feeling awful.  Also, this week Eden has decided that she’s no longer satisfied with sitting and playing, she wants to go, go, go, go but can’t actually get anywhere on her own.  This results in a lot of screaming and a lot of me holding her and trying to appease her which means I get next to nothing done while she is awake.  Sleeping at night is a challenge with teething and such a big developmental milestone so we are all exhausted.

Enter my parents arrival, they swooped in and allowed me to relax.  They cooked meals, folded laundry, did the dishes, played a million games with Ezekiel and tried their very best to get Eden to not be a permanent attachment to my body (they succeeded for the most part!).  Instead of running around trying to do it all I allowed myself to sit, drink copious amounts of coffee and knit many projects (I finished three items and got another half done!) Of course my husband also is a rock of support but with working part time and stressing himself into his own illness over his last class at school, this past week he couldn’t be a lot of help either.

Honestly, I’m surprised at just how hard I have found adjusting to two children.  In some ways it’s not hard at all and it’s all kinds of wonderful.  In other ways – especially when there’s a lack of sleep and sickness – it’s the hardest thing ever.  I’m surprised at how defeated I can allow myself to feel, I retreat into myself and become introspective trying to solve the problem of how hard this really is.  I look at the situation and try and figure out how I can survive and still get it all done.

You know what the solution is?

Ask for and ACCEPT help. Not only that but BUILD your village.  Invest into people around you, offer help when you can, lend an ear when you can’t and ask for help when you need it.  We are all on this journey together, just trying to survive but also trying to be the best we can for these little humans that rely on us.

Would I have survived without my parents being here?

Yes.

BUT

It would have been a million times harder than it was.

I’m not saying I’m really good at being in a village – in fact I think I actually suck at it but I’m trying harder each day.  It’s essential, not only for our own well being but also for the benefit of our children.  So today, whatever challenges you are facing find someone you can trust and rely on and allow them to help you.  If you’re not in a time of challenges I bet you know someone who is – reach out to them, offer help because this life takes a village, a great big village.

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.

Motherhood – The Secret To Success


Every morning I wake up between 5 and 530.

Yep it’s early but when I wake up (sometimes by my own internal clock and others by my babies hungry cries) I look forward to going down the stairs, pouring my hot cup of coffee, making my bowl of yogurt and granola and sitting on the couch with the fire going in silence and most importantly – alone.

I need that time, desperately need that time.  It doesn’t matter how many times I had to wake up in the night to give the baby her soother or feed her (typically it’s only twice but sometimes 3 or 4 times).  It doesn’t matter how tired I am, replacing that morning ritual with more sleep inevitably leads to my patience only lasting until 8 am instead of 6 pm.

It’s amazing to me how much I need that time in the morning.  That start to my day is the cornerstone of my sanity as a mother.

Sure there’s the odd day every so often, maybe once a month or once every 6 weeks, that the kids wake up abnormally early (6 am instead of 7 or 8) and I miss out on my morning time but we make it through those days.  I do a lot of deep breathing, a lot of reviewing my thoughts before they become words, maybe we watch an extra episode of a favourite show or maybe we just go out and have some fun instead of the doing the housework that was on the agenda.  Regardless, when the day is done so am I and I pray for more time the next morning to refill my introverted gas tank.

I often get asked how I do so many things, how am I so motivated?

This is my secret – I make sure I have some time alone, to recharge, to reflect, to journal, to read, to write, to listen, to pray, to meditate.  I start the day by setting my intentions and I end the day by reviewing how it went and what I can do better tomorrow.

Some people don’t thrive like this, they don’t crave an orderly, organized, routined environment, that helps them accomplish tasks at home.  Those people have different secrets to their motherhood successes and their successes are usually much different than mine.  Usually they are out on adventures, doing crafts, running errands and looking perfect while doing it.

The truth is they look at me and wish they could accomplish more at home and I look at them and wish I could provide more carefree adventures for my children (and look good doing it).

The other truth is even if both of us were granted our wishes we would feel no less fulfilled or happy, in fact we would probably feel frazzled and very unsatisfied.

Still more truth: though our lives look different we are both amazing mothers doing the best we can. 

The secret to every mothers success?

Mothering from the deepest parts of who we are and being true to that person, forgetting about every voice that tries to push us down and make us feel guilty for who we are or what we don’t accomplish that day.  Our success lies in the ability to understand that we are who we are and we were created to be the mother of these tiny little miracles.