Monday, June 5, 2017

My Summer Mission Statement

"Sometimes, you just gotta listen to music and look at the clouds."

Early last week, Cruz's teacher caught me outside of the classroom after I picked him up from school.  She said Cruz was sad that he missed the lesson on Habit 7 from our school's Leader in Me curriculum while we were gone for Taylor's wedding.  Knowing a thing or two about the Seven Habits myself from my own years of teaching at a "Lighthouse School," I assured her I'd get him up to speed.  She sent me home with the book they read together and later that night, we curled up on the couch in a rainstorm and read about what it means to "sharpen our saws."  And little did I know I would have my own "lighthouse" moment along the way.

If you are unfamiliar with the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the last habit is called, Sharpen the Saw, and is focused on carving out time to do things you love, spend time with those you love, and rest, relax, and find balance in your life.  This habit seems so easy to apply, yet more often than not it gets choked out as we attempt to master the other six habits of being proactive, putting first things first, and serving and synergizing with those in our communities.  Yet, reading the story to Cruz about this little animal friend named Sophie who loves to stay up late into the night reading, so much so that she falls asleep in school the next day and then neglects time with her animal friends because she needs to get caught up on rest, reminded me that sharpening our saws is much more than just finding time to do things we love and be with those we love.  As Sophie's mom puts it: "Reading is a great thing, but you need balance in your life.  You need to find things that don't just have to do with your mind.  There's your heart, your body, and your soul.  You need to use all those things to find balance." 

Leave it to my son's Seven Habits book to leave me scratching my own head as I consider balance and evaluate how I'm striving for it in my life these days.  I am blessed with a profession that allows me time in the summer to be home.  But with the space that's provided, if I'm not careful, can quickly become filled with expectations, distractions, overthinking, and a sense of restlessness.  Like Sophie, my mind can so easily go into overdrive and take me away from being present and investing in heart, body, and soul.   

Later that night, after the kids were in bed and I was tucked in my own, I journaled about these three areas Sophie's mom instructs her to invest in, pulling out companion books (at my own reading level) to help refresh and encourage me.  I once again found myself lost in Shauna Niequist's Present Over Perfect, struck by her quote that "Hustle is the opposite of heart."  I loved what she had to say about our souls, too: 

"Our souls are what allow us to connect with God, with other people, with nature, with art.  Without a soul, you can walk and drive and sleep, but you can't love, you can't weep, you can't feel" (224).

I flipped through pages of my recent read, Loving My Actual Life by Alexandra Kuykendall, finding passages on the importance of taking care of the body God made for us, and found myself reflecting on the summer ahead, the perfect opportunity to practice these principles and truly sharpen our saws.  Soon enough, a summer mission statement was born, along with fifteen of my own habits that will ensure our hearts, bodies, and souls are getting watered and tendered to in this season of renewal and adventure.  

Summer Mission: To live a balanced life, engaging our hearts, bodies, and souls.

For the heart...

1. Look for adventures, both planned and unplanned

Our summer bucket list helps with the planned, but I also want to look, and act on, the unplanned as well.  Kuykendall writes: By adventurous, I mean something that requires some courage.  That pushes me out of my comfort zone a little, where there is an element of the unknown, even risk.  I want my kids to see me modeling that bravery is not the absence of fear, but facing the fear and pushing through regardless of the doubts and unknowns."

2. Listen well

With eye contact, and smiles, and responses that engage in conversation.  It's amazing what I am able to notice and learn when I actually stop to drink in my children and listen to what they have to teach me.  There is nothing that makes my heart want to leap out of my chest more than responding to these moments.

3. Graciously say yes to the unexpected, and see what God might have for me in my day. 

I was so challenged by this passage from Loving My Actual Life: "Rather than asking God to walk alongside the plans I've made - because I always have some kind of agenda ready to hand over to the Maker of the Universe - I need to see God's plan and how I might contribute in my small way.  If the adventure is greatest when I watch what God is doing and join in, I must also be obedient in the non-epic moments.  And recognize God is here in the quiet obedience of sitting with someone.  To not see our changed plans as a burden, something to grouch about, but another opportunity for adventure.  Because where God is, adventure is.  And he is everywhere."

4. Recognize small things that make me feel good about my day

Once again, Kuykendall reminds me that life is in fact in the little.  Do small things every day that make me smile - light a candle and pour a glass of wine as I prepare dinner, open windows and breathe in the fresh air, go pull a few weeds and sink my hands in the cool ground, send a text to someone I'm thinking about, and put away that load of laundry are all small things that can make a big difference in the everyday.  Take note of the small things that make me smile, and do not neglect their importance. 

5. Have something baked, on a cake plate, and something cold, in the fridge, at all times.

I found a mint green cake plate in the Target dollar bins and love how it looks on my butcher block.  I want something baked on it all summer, and cold beer or sun tea in the fridge, ready for both invited and unprompted visits from friends, as well as after-pool snacks for the kids to take to the porch.  I'm always amazed at how quickly I can whip up a loaf of banana bread, and how satisfying it is to cut Cruz a slice and watch him eat it happily.

Or dab, apparently. ;)  


For the body...

6. Eat and appreciate summery, fresh food

"We find summer's colorful display everywhere at this time of year: in the sky, on neon-striped beach towels, within our gardens, and in the medley of fruit on our kitchen counters.  Just as a bright, tender tomato calls you to eat it at just the right moment - when it's neither too ripe nor too sour - this season calls you to play with her, delight in her, before she passes.  One practical way to do this daily is through the foods that we prepare, share, and eat." (from, The Way of the Happy Woman).  

7. Have a pitcher of water, with fruit and herbs, on the counter, at the ready

I have found I am much more apt to drink water when it's on the counter.  And it kind of feels like a spa when it's at room temp in a pretty class pitcher!  Favorite additions to my glass pitcher to include cucumber slices, lemon and lavender, or a few drops of tangerine essential oil

8. Develop a morning rhythm

I want to get up before everyone else, eat breakfast together, and take care of daily chores in the morning so we can adventure in the afternoons.  It's easy to skip the alarm in the summertime, but I know we operate best when we prioritize routines that carve out room for adventure later.

9. Exercise daily - whether it be in the basement or a brisk walk through the neighborhood

10. Meal plan every week - rekindle delight in cooking healthy dinners for my family

I am loving my new Skinnytaste cookbook and am finding delight in creating healthy, colorful, and flavorful meals for our family.  Sometimes all it takes is a new cookbook or a clean fridge to reactive that joy in an oftentimes monotonous task. 

For the soul...

11. Make my bed every morning

This will not only satisfy my friend, Kate, but will help start every day on the right foot.  Naval Admiral William H. McRaven says: "If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day.  It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.  By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.  Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.  And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made - that you made - and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.  If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed."

12. Slow down and savor simple routines throughout my day

From Kuykendall: "Cooking itself should be a pleasure, no?  If I have to do it every single day, I should be creating a space that is both welcoming and easy to use.  So today I cleaned and organzied my kitchen cabinets and drawers.  Because a clean workspace is not only a practical help, offering more room to spread out, but it creates space to be inspired.  And then the even of preparing food itself can be made more fun.  Some music, candles, a glass of wine.  Why not celebrate God's bounty right here."

13. Take 30 minutes for quiet time every day, preferably outside

14. Fast from all devices, one day each week

15. Get outside, every single day

I'm hopeful that by practicing these simple principles in the summer months, they can become habits of mind when I'm back to work and once again conflicted by the hustle and demands of life.  Sharpening the saw shouldn't just be for the summer months, but about finding ways to balance heart, body, and soul all year long.  I'm thankful for the simple reminder from my son's kindergarten book that will hopefully keep me centered in this sweet season to come.

*These pictures were taken on Mother's Day, and are some of my favorites of our family to date.  Sometimes, our tripod and a well-lit alleyway make for the best pictures.  And I promise Mila's babydoll means nothing of significance to these pictures!  We take what we can get and typically, that means Mila with a dolly or little blankie in her hands most of the time!   

And outtakes, because they make me laugh!


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