Monday, February 8, 2016

slowing down and giving thanks

I love the church year and church tradition, which is handy, since I am a pastor. One thing I love is how the liturgical year takes us on a journey of both lament and celebration. One of the traditions I enjoy the most is Lent, which is a time to lament your sins, your short comings, and all the things separating you from God and from a fully healthy life. Since I have decided to name 2016 as the year I begin to understand what a healthy life, in all areas of my life looks like, it seems like Lent is another chance to reflect on what unhealthy habits need to be removed or replaced in my own life. Normally, I have tried to give up one thing and add one thing in its place and this year I have decided to take on the same challenge.

When I was living in Sweden, one question I liked to ask people was, "what do you think of Americans?" The answers were almost always kind and friendly and yet also insightful and challenging. One of the more challenging answers I received is that we like everything to be fast. Fast cars, fast food, fast lines, fast relationships, fast everything. My pace in Sweden seemed to slow down dramatically and it made it perfectly clear how correct they were. Americans like for things to be quick and convenient. One area this is most obvious to me in my own life is in the food I eat. Yes this means the occasional trip through the drive through but most of the time it means not taking the time to really prepare a meal and instead eating something processed and unbalanced, only for the sake of my own laziness.

Therefore, for Lent, my goal is to first, not eat anything through a fast food restaurant. But taking it a step further my main goal is to stop eating conveniently and to start eating a balanced and thoughtfully made meal, at least once a day.

I was recently sitting in a Starbucks (shocking, I know) where I couldn't help but listen to the table next to me. It was 2 friends catching up on their lives, and I noticed that the only thing they were mentioning were complaints. Their families, their children, their jobs, their health, the weather, the government, and on and on. While I sat there, silently judging them, I found myself beginning to wonder what someone sitting next to me would overhear in one of my conversations. I started thinking about it and I realized that I complain... a lot. Mostly, I find myself complaining the most to myself, but still it starts to change my mood, my spirit, my whole feeling of well-being.

Starting on Ash Wednesday, I am going to begin a gratitude challenge. No matter what happens during the day, I am going to journal at least 5 things, each day, that I am grateful for. My hope in doing this is that instead of focusing on the (perceived) negative things in my life I will begin to be thankful for the abundance of good things that surround me every day. 

Who wants to join me? 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

healthy start?

After a lovely time at a New Year's Eve party, I left the party pretty shortly after midnight, excited to go to bed and wake up to the new and healthy Julie in 2016.

Cut to me waking up with a cough, a stuffy nose and one of the worst colds I can remember having. It was one of those coughing from your toes kind of cold. This was upsetting for many reasons. First, colds are no fun. Second, I was a bit worried because I was set to preach on the Third and was panicked I would not be healthy enough to not just give the sermon but even be healthy enough to make it out of bed. And finally, I was upset because this was a crummy way to begin my new healthy year I have been planning for.  

I am now on the other side of my cold and am feeling myself again (whew!) and I have had a chance to reflect and think about my year thus far. And while I was not healthy for the beginning of the year, I also had a lot of chance to rest, to read, to spend sometime thinking, praying, relaxing and writting in my journal. I slowed down. I napped. I spent hours at a time sitting in my big comfy red chair reading a good book and taking care of myself. After the hectic month of December, I was relaxing and letting my body and mind and soul take a deep breath. Yes I was coughing and not at my healthiest but I was slowly getting better each day and learning to crave those moments of self care and reflection. 

So while I could leave the cold behind, I am thankful for a time to slow my pace and enjoy some time to unwind and be quiet and still. As I am recovering from my cold and getting back into the business of my week and schedule I am finding myself hoping to find a time each day to be still and quiet again. Perhaps this was just the start I needed to my new year, so I will take it and be thankful. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


In the past, I have made some pretty ridiculous and close to impossible resolutions for myself. This list includes: giving up sugar forever, doing my homework the second I get it, never spending money foolishly again, writing a friend everyday for a year, maintaining a perfectly clean house, and to pray, journal, read, meditate, or exercise everyday. The list goes on but I can say with confidence that I have broken each of these rules I established. 

The problem of course lies in the fact I am choosing to make a major lifestyle change for the reason that the year is changing, rather than a desire within me to change. I was making a declaration to change my life out of the need to follow tradition, and that never gets you too far. 

So this year, my goal of learning how to live a healthy life, in all areas of my life, has come out of a growing desire within me. No particular time of the year has spurred this on and therefore it feels organic and attainable. My resolution within myself feels stronger and therefore I have hope that this year will change something within my habits and choices. 

... And if at the end of the year I end up with a cleaner closet and kinder heart, so be it. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

gotta start somewhere...

I am a rule follower.

I get nervous, sweaty palms when I know I am doing something I might get in trouble for. I stay on the path Google Maps tells me to go. I follow recipes to the letter. I do not rip the tags of my bed and I read all directions before I start to play a game. I like rules. I like to know exactly what is happening and, specifically, if I am doing all the right things at a particular moment.

That being said, because I am so hyper-aware of making sure I am doing all the right things for other people, I often lose sight of what is the right thing for me. I think it comes from a fear of being labeled selfish or egotistical but the result has been that I am really very good at taking care of other people, but I am not as good at taking care of myself. I have very wise people in my life who have taught me and shown me that you can love other people the best when you are healthy first.

When you are flying you are instructed that in case the air-pressure in the cabin drops you are to put on your own mask before you help someone else. This is not a selfish thing, but rather, this is the wisdom of the airlines (did I just say that?! I don't think that is a sentence I have ever said before!) to know you can't help someone else breathe right if you are not breathing right first.

With all of this in mind, I have decided to make 2016 a year where I learn how to put on my own air mask with the hope of becoming healthy first and then using it to help other people. I want to learn what it means to develop a new set of healthy rules to live by. The concept of calling them rules works best for me as the nerdy little rule follower in me tells me to be, but really I am just trying to establish a new normal for myself in the hope that I can love and serve other people better at the end of the year than when I started. This blog will hopefully serve multiple purposes: a way to stay accountable to my journey, a way to encourage and engage other people in their journeys and to have fun and laugh along the way. I hope you join me.