faith

Morning Routine

 
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I'm an early bird by nature. I love the quiet of the mornings, the dark skies turning pink to yellow to blue, the stillness of the world before the day begins. Starting the day alone with the Lord is vital to my mental wellbeing, but especially working from home, these fringe hours are so sacred. It truly sets the tone for my day, and not just from a productivity standpoint. I have learned that I must set my mind and emotions to a calm place so that when the frenzy of the day begins, I don't get caught up in the emotional upheaval. Anyone else been there?? In hopes for helping you start your day off with calm and yet still be productive, here is a tiny peek into my mornings.

 
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My alarm goes off around 5am, and I grab my slippers, robe and phone and head into the living room. I turn on our diffuser that I filled the night before (usually with peppermint + frankincense) and spend about 15 minutes stretching and moving a little. I mostly sit in variations of child's pose or puppy pose while praying over the day, our dreams, my goals, seeking the path of obedience.  Then I sit down at my desk with my prayer journal + a devotional (currently reading The Circle Maker and loving this book!) and pour out my heart on paper. I read the daily She Reads Truth scripture + commentary or other scripture and find a verse that speaks to me and can be a mantra for the day. The last thing I do is apply a drop of peppermint to the back of my neck, sit on the floor, face down in child's pose and meditate on a short prayer to the Lord, whatever is on my heart. "Lord give me peace as I let go of control." "Let me see as You see so I can do as you say." "Bring us abundance as we walk in obedience." 

Only after these things are done and I feel at peace spiritually + emotionally do I open my computer to work. I typically spend some time using these power sheets for goal planning and task lists, check off tasks in my passion planner* (that I wrote out the night before. Nighttime routine coming next!) and write out any other tasks for the day! I focus on the 'work' to do list during this time and my 'personal' to do list when my son is awake. 

 
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When my son wakes up around 7:30am I feel refreshed, connected to the Lord and have already accomplished some work, so I can give him my full attention. He needs connection with me first thing in the morning, and I can give him that! We make breakfast and sit down to eat all together, and it makes the morning so sweet and the day so much better! 

Bookshelf: Currently Reading

I love a good book, especially the hard bound, paper and ink type. There's something about the tangible pages, the time and work it took to create the content and compile it all in one place. While I love a good story or memoir, lately my reading choices have mostly been books on personal growth, relationships, leadership and motherhood. We are all trying to keep all the plates spinning with careers, families, relationships, health and all the extras that sometimes it can seem like too much. Reading is my escape and my sanity all at once. I'm super excited to start Oola for Women: How to Balance the 7 Key Areas of Life to Have Less Stress, More Purpose, and Reveal the Greatness within You (ummm who can't use that?!!) and review it for you guys soon! Until then, here are some current favorites on my bookshelf:


+ All the Pretty Things by Edie Wadsworth: I'm a total Edie fan girl and I love that we both have a healthcare background (she was a family practice physician!) and love oils. Her story is a beautiful one that you will love to read. History, family, tragedy and redemption.

+ Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist: If you follow along on Instagram you know I love me some Shauna. Her books are so honest and relatable, and it is just so refreshing. She says, "I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, neighbor, writer, and I know all too well that settling feeling. But over the course of the last few years, I’ve learned a way to live, marked by grace, love, rest, and play. And it’s changing everything."

+ Soup by Jon Gordon: This book is so insightful and critical for any type of team relationship - your family, marriage, church, business, small group. Who is stirring the pot matters ;) It is an easy read and is applicable to so many areas of our lives! Same another favorite by this author, The Energy Bus, these tools are applicable for every area and relationship. Think of it as a "How to Win Friends and Influence People" in a relatable, story format. 

What are you currently reading? Any good favorites for a beach trip?

Enough

It was 5am on a Tuesday morning and I had gotten up before everyone else to read and reflect, then get some work done. I turned on Ellie Holcomb's 'Red Sea Road' and heard this song. The tears just started flowing. I felt the Lord pouring out Truth over me and telling me to let go of the lies....

I heard this quote recently: "The story that you aren't telling anyone could be the story that is running your life." So in the spirit of understanding and hopefully encouraging other mamas, wives and women, here is my untold story. A possible alternative title to this post could read "Perfectionism, Vulnerability + Gospel Truth"....

 
 

It all started with the word 'enough'. Not too long ago I realized how much I use that word to describe my day...my actions, my work, my efforts, my parenting, my responsibilities. There is a constant inner dialogue running in the background that surfaces mostly in the quiet hours of the morning or just before sleep. Did I spend enough time with Elliot? Did I do enough rounds in that workout? Did I workout hard enough? Did I read enough books at bedtime? Did we spend enough time outside today? Did I show enough patience, love and grace to my family? Did I send enough emails and messages to connect with my team? Will my efforts be enough to move us closer to our dream, to the vision we have for our family? Did I love my family enough today? I mean I did lose my patience a few times... Did I serve my husband enough? I hate that I was short with him on the phone.... Somedays this exhausting list seems endless. 

What was/is driving me to that place? Comparison? Maybe. Perfectionism? Probably. The desire to have it ALL? Absolutely. I want a clean, organized and stylish home, a wildly successful career, a deep intimate relationship with my husband, healthy, happy, emotionally stable children, amazing physical health, strength and flexibility, delicious organic home-cooked meals and most of all a close, intimate relationship with my Creator. And all of those things are good, right things to want and to pursue, but when perfectionism and drive take over, the pursuit of it ALL creates a constant stream of 'Am I Enough' in my mind.

 
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my whole heart, my life's calling all right here in this picture...

my whole heart, my life's calling all right here in this picture...

I want to know that if I do abc that it will absolutely result in xyz. If I follow this plan, the things I want will happen. If I love and serve my family, our marriage will be strong and vibrant and my children will grow up to live Christ-centered lives. If I work hard, our dreams will come true. If I take care of my body it will be strong, healthy and see me through many many years. All these things I want are good, righteous things to want, but it's the inner drive to be perfect that causes problems. But perfect isn't possible. The beauty and pain of this life is that there are no guarantees on this Earth. The only place where I can truly find my hope is in Christ.

To be examined and aware of your every flaw and sin, then be told you are the exact opposite of how you see yourself—that you’re actually the beloved and beautiful handiwork of a master—is a truth that can sometimes be harder to live with than the lie of shame.
Because of Jesus’ atonement for our sin, this is who we now are: holy, blameless, without stain or wrinkle.  - via She Reads Truth

I believe that I strive for perfectionism because I want to truly love and to be loved. I desperately want to serve my family well, to walk out this calling that the Lord has placed on my life, to show people His amazing mercy and grace in the way that I live out my life. I want to cultivate an environment of love, light and warmth for my family. I want to love and serve my community, show gospel-rooted hospitality, lift up and encourage other women. I believe that the Lord places us in family units (including close friends that are like family!) as a parallel to the unity that we have as a body of believers and to the perfect unity we will experience in Eternity. So my desire to truly love and be loved is pure and righteous and rooted in biblical truth. However, my twisting of this desire into a pursuit of perfectionism is a slippery slope into sin. And the lies of the enemy run deep....

 
 

But.....
What if I saw me, the way that You see me?
What if I believed it was true?
What if I traded, this shame and self-hatred?
For a chance at believing You

You knit me together in my mother's womb
And you say that I've never been hidden from you
And you say that I'm wonderfully, wonderfully made

You're eyes, they have seen me before I was born
And you know all the good things that you made me for
And I'm wonderfully, wonderfully made
 - 'Wonderfully Made' by Ellie Holcomb

The beauty of the gospel is God's amazing ability to change our hearts, transform our minds and redirect us back to the path of freedom that He provides. I feel that I finally understand my drive to be perfect, to have it all in a pretty little package. And for that understanding the Lord is leading me to a place of freedom. He is showing me how to see myself in His eyes, to see myself through the lens of the cross and to let go of my question of 'Am I Enough?'

This is a day by day, moment by moment walk. Quiet moments in the early morning with the Lord, prayers for peace and rest, reminders of His grace and sufficiency, affirmations of His goodness, and grace for myself are the keys to my freedom from the lies. I am also using the tools the Lord has given me of emotionally supportive essential oils to help my mind and heart break free of the lies. These scents act like a trigger for my brain to remember and tap into to good, the positive, the Truth. To choose those thoughts and feelings instead of the negative, the lies of not being enough. 

Oils are the perfect compliment to this process for me, and I love how the grand design allows our bodies to use plants so easily to connect us back to ourselves, creation and our Creator. (Our sense of smell connects directly to the part of our brains that process and stores memories and emotions.) In the mornings I inhale the Humility blend and apply it to the center of my chest, just above the heart. I breathe deeply and repeat to myself 'I am enough. God's grace covers me.' I have also been using White Angelica to help connect to my whole story (the good and the bad) and to truly understanding the way I was made and how I was made to love on this Earth. I apply White Angelica behind my ears. I also diffuse it with lavender in the evening before bed to help process the underlying untold story, the lies that creep in so easily.

Praise the Lord for freedom from the lies. For when my heart rests in the presence of the Lord, I am enough. I am enough, because I am His. I am enough, because He is enough. And you are enough, because He is enough for you.

New Year, New Beginnings

I love the New Year - the fresh starts, the endless possibilities, the white and bright and shiny. I am a dreamer + doer by nature, so resolutions are something that I take to heart. And I've decided to extend some of my resolutions into this space as well. 

I feel as though I am in a transitional stage in life. I am still learning and growing and figuring out what I want my life to be, and in the midst of that the Lord is teaching me about marriage, motherhood and purpose. I'd love to share some of that with you because I am certain I am not the only thirty-something out there who is still figuring it out. When thirty seemed so far away, we were certain we'd have it all by now, but the reality is that life is messy, parenting is hard and marriage takes work. 

So, all that to say, that I've decided to give the site a little facelift to encompass all the things that I want to share with you:
+ Living a natural, healthy lifestyle
+ Continued tips + tricks for eating a whole-foods diet on a budget
+ Healthy recipes
+ Tips + tricks for using essential oils in your everyday life
+ Personal finance + freedom from debt
+ The heartbreaking joy of motherhood
+ The beauty and intentional work of a Christian marriage
+ Thoughts on faith and growing through the hard seasons
+ Maintaining balance + staying grounded in a world of endless distractions

So today, I invite you to thiscommunity - a place to talk about life, health, love, motherhood, joy + pain as we walk through this imperfect life. Will you join me?


*I'll be updating the site domain as of January 4th, and the new URL will be www.balsamandbirch.com. Make sure to update your browser favorites with the new domain!

Make Room: Advent

It is almost impossible to believe that Thanksgiving is this week. I feel like this fall has completely flown by in a haze of busy work weeks, side projects, house renovations, and taking steps towards bigger dreams. While it was still one with plenty of treasured moments, we are making a definite effort to slow things down a bit. And what a perfect time to do so with the beginning of Advent!

Advent is my favorite season of the year, and each year becomes more and more special as our little one grows. We are saving a lot of the Advent crafts and activities for when he is a little older, but we will be talking, praying and worshipping as a family every day in an effort to make room for the Lord. If there is anything in our life that we need, it is Him. 

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This year, we are starting  a new tradition of using the gorgeous Naptime Diaries Advent devotional + calendar to help us celebrate! I simply cannot wait. The digital download is so beautiful that I am checking the mailbox daily for our printed version. And I love that we can share this beautiful devotion as a family. Use this code to get 15% off of your order!

Easter + Monday Musings

We spent Easter weekend surrounded with family and outside in the sunshine. It was such a gorgeous day to celebrate our risen Savior and the amazing gift that his sacrifice brought us. I truly love this holiday and look forward to teaching Elliot about its meaning as he gets older. This year he enjoyed our church service outside on the city square, with the blue sky, light breeze and plenty of family members to keep him occupied.

We had meals with both our families, and E was able to get in some good hang out time with his cousins. My mom always goes the extra mile to make things feel special. It's one of the traits I love most about her. She put together these festive spring hanging baskets and made a gorgeous (and delicious!) punch just because. Of course, we 'hunted' eggs with Elliot in my parents' backyard, and he was pretty excited about picking them up and putting them in his little basket. It was the cutest. 

My sweet sister gifted him some freeze-dried apples, pjs and an adorable romper, and my mama gave him a cute summer outfit. I love seeing how much my family adores him, and I love knowing that they will be a big part of his life. (Side note: Isn't my parents' backyard gorgeous? It's like a scene out of Southern Living magazine. I love spending time there!)

People often ask me if I enjoy living in/near the town where I grew up, and honestly I don't think about it much. We chose to stay because it is important to us that be we close to family. My husband and I have had a few really amazing career opportunities that would have brought us much more money and the ability to travel, but it came at the sacrifice of family and the freedom to enjoy spur of the moment Saturday breakfast together. So for us, the decision to allow those opportunities to pass was one that we never regret. We both want our parents, siblings, their children, our own aunts and uncles, and even old family friends to be a big part of our lives, and especially our son's life. 

08+09 / 52

     

"Everything old people say about time is true. For starters, it flies. As a kid living through semi-eternal summer vacations, this is hard to believe. But as an adult? Get married. Have children. And then sit back, stunned, watching an absolute roar of gorgeous moments and hilarious moments and exhausting moments disappear - quickly and in tragedy or marching off at the tradtional pace, but disappear they must. Snap a photo or two. Read verses about futility. Watching one's small humans age and grow up packs a serious punch...no matter how many pictures we take, no matter how many scrapbooks we make, no matter how many moments we invade with a rolling camera, we will die...we cannot grab and hold. We cannot smuggle things out with us through death...Our futile struggle through time is courtesy of God's excessive giving. Sunset after sunset make it hard to remember and hold just one. Smell after smell. Laugh after laugh. A mind still thinking, a heart still beating. Imagine sticking your finger on your pulse and thanking God every time He gave you another blood-driving, brain-powering thump. We should. And we shouldn't, because if we did, we would never do anything else with our living; we wouldn't have the time to look at or savor any of the other of our impossibillions of gifts.

My wife and I tend to overgift to our kids at Christmas. We laugh and feel foolish when a kid is so distracted with one toy that we must force them into opening the next, or when something grand goes completely unnoticed in a corner. How consummerist, right? How crassly American. How like God." -N.D. Wilson

Unplugging + Being Present

One of the things my husband and I have been focusing on lately is making sure that we dedicate time daily to disconnect from the constant stream of technology. We put down our computers, turn our phones off and read or just sit together. We take walks around our neighborhood and leave our phones at home. We have a cut off time in the evening for using our computers or tablets or smart phones, allowing our brains time to unplug from the day. I love social media as much as anyone, but sometimes we are so connected to those things that we miss out on what is right in front of us. Be honest. The last time you had lunch with a friend or attended a social gathering, how many times did you check your phone or post a picture to Instagram? Guilty as charged.

We are also focusing on being present. For me, this goes hand in hand with disconnecting. We have realized over the past couple years, and especially recently, how much we enjoy listening to the stories of our parents, our friends' parents and our aunts and uncles. Their lives and stories are so rich with experience, and one day all to soon they won't be accessible to us. I can't tell you how many times I have wished for just one more Sunday afternoon with my mother in law, that I had taken a sewing class with her, that I had more memories. It is easy to be too busy to stop and listen and sit with our older generations, but when you do, it is so life-giving. And the memories are so sweet. 

The same thing applies to the time we spend with our children. My son is almost a year old already, yet it seems like we brought him home from the hospital just last month. I want him to remember his childhood as one full of love, adventure and quality time with his parents and family. I know he is too young to remember things now, but I want to be able to look back on this time and know that not a moment was wasted. Because this is all that we have, this vapor of a life, and I want to make mine count. I want to pour love into my actions, my words, and especially my relationships. And I find that sometimes I need to stop all the noise in order to do that. I need to step away from my phone, my computer and to find solace and comfort in nature, in my role as a mama and wife, and in conversation my friends and family.

So here is to a year of being present, to focusing on what really matters and making memories with those we love the most.

One word. One sentence. One year.

A few months ago I listened to this sermon series and really started to do some honest soul searching. Sometimes it is easy to ignore the darkest corners of our hearts, but I found that mine were hindering me from truly experience the joy of being a wife and mama. And while I am still growing, learning and sifting out the myriad of self-focused thoughts, I know that I want this year to be a year of love.

The author of this series challenges you to pray for one word that will define your year, then one sentence that will focus your goals and actions throughout the year. My word? LOVE. And inspired by these sweet women, my sentence...

The unyielding, sacrificial love of a wife and a mother writes the beautiful story of God's amazing grace. 

It's not easy being a mom, whether you stay at home, work from home or work outside the home. The challenges, the exhaustion, the sacrifice is always difficult. But it is beautiful. I think of my own mother and the things that she gave up in order to pour herself into me and my siblings, and I can only pray and hope to be able to give that much of myself for my husband and children. 

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It is a daily struggle, a daily dying to oneself for the benefit of those you love. A practice of letting go of control and accepting your life just as your Father in heaven gives it to you, one day at a time. But here's to a life defined by great love. Love that starts in our thoughts, then overflows into our actions, a love that seeps from our innermost beings to touch all those around us. A love that only our Creator can give.