Life-Giving: a reflection

I love a good reflection tool, and so here’s one I found from Emily P. Freeman, who is one of my fav writers and also a four. You can use this to reflect on the previous month, the year to date, or just a season of time. Do it when you can, and please comment to tell me what you find–We all could use a little more “life” in our lives, and I’d love to hear about what that looks like for you.


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“For me, in a cabin on top of a mountain is often a place of reflection.” -Claire Florine

My most life-giving “Yes” so far this year:

In Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, (which is one of my all-time favs by the way), she suggests taking yourself on an “artist date”. This doesn’t have to be going somewhere to do art, but it could be. All it is, is going somewhere and doing something by yourself that feeds your soul, your creativity, and brings you life.

My husband is wonderful, and he works to give me some “me time” each week so I can have a break from the kids and just do something I want to do outside of the house. For the past two years, I have pretty much done the same thing each time: gone to Starbucks and spent time writing and/or reading. While this is very nice, the monotony was getting old, and I needed something more exciting to feed my soul and spark  creativity… like the “artist date” is meant to do.

So, my most life-giving “yes” so far this year has been to take myself on an intentional “artist date” every week. My favorite one so far was heading to Hyde Park to walk around campus and the Smart Art Museum. I wound up in Dollop Coffeehouse and spent some time doing writing exercises and sketching with water color pencils. It was lovely.

My most life-giving “No” so far this year:

This one is simple. Putting the phone down while I nurse my baby has been so life-giving, and has helped me on this journey of “less”. My little one nurses at least 4 times a day, for at least 10 minutes each time, and I found myself scrolling through my phone while he drifted off to sleep before naps or bedtime. This would sometimes spark the temptation to browse online for more of what I don’t need. It’s much easier for me to embrace “less” and refrain from spending money when I don’t look around for things to buy. Being on my phone was a temptation to look, and so putting the phone down was a very life-giving and money-saving “no”. It is helping me break bad habits and an unhelpful spending cycle.

A bonus: I’ve also found it to be so freeing to just sit and think or pray while I nurse. Being present is also something I am working towards for this year. Putting the phone down and just being with my baby has been wonderful.

Something I want to leave behind as I move into March:

I want to be finished with feeling bad about my limitations as a mother of littles.

This has truly been a struggle for me. Shortly after I had my first child, a wise friend told me that I could not compare myself now with myself before a kid–not my body, my capacity for friendships, my schedule, or how clean I could keep my house. I think it’s taken me until now to also realize that I cannot compare myself now with two kids to myself before with just one.

Lately I have been finding myself in situations where I feel the need to apologize for my lack of availability, focus, and resources for other people. This lack is coming from a place of needing to give time, attention, and energy to my kids, and not much is left over for other commitments I might otherwise have been able to do.

I have noticed situations where this comes up repeatedly, along with a nagging sense of guilt. I think I have decided that I am tired of apologizing for the season of life I’m in and for my completely normal human limitations. At this time, my kids absolutely need a certain amount of me and what I have to offer. I suppose they always will. What I have to offer is also different than what others have to offer, and my capacity is not the same as anyone else’s capacity. There is only so much I can give, and I want to trust that the people who love me and know me understand that, and that they know I am doing the very best I can.

Leaving these bad feelings about being human–a sometimes depleted, exhausted, sad, distracted, and forgetful human who becomes these things for reasons entirely different from any other human– well, that certainly will be life-giving for me.


What was your most life-giving “yes” and “no” during this past season? What do you want to let go of moving onward into the next? I’d love to know.

Learning to Say “No” Without an Explanation

No is a complete sentence

I had this section in my Bullet Journal that I absolutely love. It’s about three and a half pages of graph paper with Washi-tape sectioned off squares and rectangles—it’s my quote page. In the tiniest of squares is one of my favorite quotes that I keep having to go back to time and time again, especially during seasons when I get caught up in the people-pleasing hamster wheel.  The quote reads:

“No.’ is a complete sentence.”

I’m not sure who first said this, but many have taken this concept to heart, and I am one of them.

For a long time I struggled with feeling like I always had to explain myself.

Many times these explanations came off as lame excuses. “I’m so sorry I’m late to lecture; I my roommate locked me out of my dorm this morning when I got back from my run.” 

Many times these explanations actually included very helpful information. “I won’t be able to make it to your baby shower because my father-in-law’s funeral is that same day. I wish I could be in two places at once.”

But sometimes these explanations were unnecessary and were born out of a desire to tell people what they wanted to hear when I couldn’t give them what they really wanted. 

If they wanted time, money, or really anything else from me, but, for whatever reason, I could not give it to them, I felt like I needed to explain why. If my choices went against what someone else would have chosen for their life, I felt like I needed to justify my decision. If I even got a whiff of disapproval from pretty much anyone, I felt like I needed to go into all the details so that maybe–just maybe– they would understand and not be disappointed in me.

All in all, these tugs to explain myself were coming from a place of not believing in who I was or what I was doing with my life. I needed validation from others to feel like I was worthwhile or that my decisions were “good” ones.

But I have come to realize that “no” truly is a complete sentence. And while sometimes further words are needed for the sake of sensitivity and comprehension, the idea behind this quote, for me, is that I am allowed to do what’s best for myself and my family and my life without needing everyone else to approve or even understand.

We all desperately want a fulfilling life. Yet the more we fill it with things—items, busyness, worry, unnecessary commitments, debt, pressure, stress, people-pleasing–the more cluttered and unfocused and empty it becomes. We have to say “no” to these things.

Explaining myself was one of those things that was emptying me. It left me feeling like I could never please the people in my life. It left me feeling unsure about my choice to say “no”. It left me comparing myself to other people’s schedules and commitments and lives in general. I wasn’t confident in my choices. I wasn’t sure of myself. I didn’t stand my ground in what was best for me or what I knew I needed to do, despite what anyone else wanted.

There are times when we need to sacrifice and say “yes” when we don’t want to. There are times when saying “yes” is joyfully easy.

There are times when saying “no” is the hardest thing we have to do, and there are times when we say it as a knee-jerk reaction. Most of the time, it’s hard. Even if we really don’t want to do something, often the pressure to say “yes” makes saying “no” difficult. But after we do the hard work of saying “no”, we need to be okay with that choice.  We need to know that we don’t owe anyone an explanation if it comes from a place of pressure and people-pleasing.

We can say “no”.

We can let people think what they want about it.

We can know in our truest selves that we made the right choice.

And then we can have room to say “yes” to something even better.