what I learned in 2017

 

I should open this post in disbelief that it’s already 2018, but I was ready. My fresh start began toward the end of the year, and I couldn’t be more excited about what’s changing and what’s to come. Here in Oklahoma, it’s a balmy 16 degrees, and you can find me curled up with a steaming mug of soup, all wrapped up in children and cozy knits.

But more on the present and future later. For now, I will recap the silly, serious, important, and entirely trivial things I learned this year…

  • We went to California in December, and seeing things through the eyes of my children — meeting their animated heroes in real life at Disneyland; dipping their toes in the ocean for the first time — was WAY better than living it first-hand. Same for all the things they noticed about Christmas a year older. You can’t reproduce that WONDER in their eyes as they witness and process and absorb for the first time.
  • My friend Mollie taught me the S-T-A-R-S method for Scripture application, and it gave the practice new meaning in my life. For one, using the word “practice” couldn’t accurately describe my Bible reading habits before 2017. But it gave new meaning to the living, breathing aspects of the Word + the authority, which I learned will always be an unfolding, evolving, mysterious journey with the Lord.

 

  • After tasting Antoinette Baking Co’s magical strawberry buttercream, it’s official: I am no longer a chocolate dessert kind of girl. What is this blasphemy?
  • Sometimes your football team loses nailbiter after nailbiter after nailbiter, shaving off years of your life by building up hope and then swiftly cutting its legs from beneath you it with last-minute heartbreak. And you realize: this is exactly what you wished for last season. 2016’s team would have lost those games handily, after all. We have to take the bruised bottoms with the stumbling steps forward ūüôā
  • Celine Dion is absolutely brilliant live. I’ve always liked her music and thought she was *pretty* talented. But on stage? That voice! I’m still feeling all the feels from her show.

  • There is true RESTORATION in silencing the mind and being completely still on a regular basis. Even for a few moments.
  • Ever since my son was born, I’ve been waiting for him to be old enough for preschool. I thought all of my work-life-home balance problems would be solved, but it turns out that sometimes too much time can be bad for people like me. Sometimes it lends itself to too much navel-gazing, no matter how busy I am or how many things I get done.
  • While I love the romance genre (and, um, write it–shhh!), I enjoy true women’s fiction with a romantic thread just a little bit more. In Muggle-speak, that’s fiction in which the primary storyline surrounds a woman’s journey (or non-romantic relationship), and her romance is merely a secondary thread.
  • Using your own name as your platform can sometimes be bittersweet. I usually give my husband and mom a mini photo book of social media images from the whole year, but this Christmas, there weren’t enough. My 2017 feed was full of carefully curated snapshots of bright books and bowls of oatmeal and tidy workspaces. While there was definitely lots of living happening outside of those social media squares, this year there will be more documenting chubby toddler cheeks, date night hijinks, and soccer princess shenanigans. My 2017 blog will include more of non-authorly me, too ūüôā

What is one silly or important, deep or Jeopardy-trivial thing you learned in 2017? Do share in the comments!

on time management + the best-laid schemes

“Am I being led by love or pushed by fear?” – Emily P. Freeman

With the help of my Lara Casey / Cultivate What Matters Powersheets, I have been identifying big goals and little goals every month to help make sure I’m answering that question right.

While it’s good to see a framework of how I want my month to look and what I want to accomplish, if we’re honest, my to-dos have been pushed to the next month more often than not. One of the reasons is because we’re just getting into a good school rhythm around here. (Yes, I realize that it’s November!)

So one of my November goals was to design and implement a massive overhaul of my daily routine, which I did the first day of the month…

…and promptly went down with high fever and strep throat that picked off one family member at a time. Good perspective building from the get-go, I tell you ūüôā

Please bear in mind that I will never abide by a hard-and-fast schedule. If one of my friends is having a day and suggests setting our minions loose at Chick Fil A for an hour or two, who am I to argue? If my toddler didn’t sleep well and needs to take an earlier nap? Picking up dish soap and chicken cutlets can wait.

It’s more of an evaluation of:

  • What will help me and the people I’m in charge of grow and move forward this month?
  • What’s been slipping through the cracks too much lately?
  • What excess and unnecessary can I remove?
  • Where is there white space in my days that can make the important things happen?

Would you believe me if I told you I’m NOT a natural planner?¬†It’s true. My mind is actually quite the hot mess of need cilantro and¬†schedule dentist appointment and¬†maybe this could happen in chapter¬†2?¬†at any given time. I didn’t start setting goals or keeping a planner until college when I had three jobs, 18 credit hours, intramural sports, a really fun friend group, and a very real, very intense fear of missing out. It was kind of necessary.

The truth is: If I don’t make a list or give myself a big-picture, I spend a lot of time procrastinating or overthinking what needs to be done next. That’s my human nature and the tendency I’ve learned to adapt.¬†

But as much as I believe in managing the work, the chores, the appointments, and tasks, I think it’s equally important to create margin for rest and play. That doesn’t come naturally to me, either. I tend to feel guilty and stressed about taking time to rest and play when there are things I need to be getting done. What I’ve learned at the ripe age of 32, though? Guilt and stress only¬†breed¬†burnout and indecision. And I am actually less likely to move and make progress when I’m frozen in burnout and indecision. It’s kind of like starting off too fast in a race and finishing more slowly than you would have at a manageable pace. Or getting a speeding ticket and arriving late to your destination anyway.

So this month, I’m focusing on revamping my routine, finishing projects that have been vacillating for months, being intentional about family time instead of multitasking, keeping a daily gratitude log on my Facebook for perspective, working ON my business instead of just working in it, and recharging well (with things that actually fill me up instead of just shutting down in front of Netflix).

Are you a natural planner? Have you revamped your routine lately?

a thank you giveaway

We are well into June now, but I’m still smiling from a whirlwind release month. Thank you so much to everyone who has stepped into Cooper and Sloane’s world and helped spread the word about their story — AND Nick and Chelsea’s, for that matter!

I¬†wish I could bake everyone Sloane’s toffee chocolate chip cookies for their love and support, but I do have a few things to give away.

In honor of Sloane’s spreadsheet-loving ways and the fact that Chelsea from That’s When I Knew¬†runs a planner business, our grand prize is a set of undated, six-month Cultivate What Matters Powersheets, a signed paperback of¬†With No Reservations,¬†and an electronic copy of the Love at First Laugh novella collection featuring¬†That’s When I Knew. You can keep it for yourself or pay it forward to a friend.

If you’ve followed me on social media for any length of time, you know how much I love my Powersheets. They’re not a planner but a set of worksheets that help you identify your goals at the beginning, sort through what’s working and not working for you in your efforts, and include¬†a section for each month to¬†prioritize and create action steps so you can make progress. I have used them to motivate myself to go to the gym more, reach writing goals, form new habits, and be more intentional about my YESes and NOs.

They promote progress not perfection, designed to be messy and meaningful. Right now, they’re sold out until next year, but I snagged a teal¬†set because I’d love to help one of my friends reach his/her goals in the second half of 2017. Three other winners will get copies of my sisters’ novels,¬†Then There Was You by Kara Isaac, the Of Rags and Riches historical romance collection featuring my sisters Anne Love and Jaime Jo Wright, and Sarah Varland’s latest romantic suspense,¬†Perilous Homecoming.

(ETA: Giveaway closed and winners have been notified!)

To enter, comment telling us what dream or habit you would use the Powersheets for. (Or if you just want some books!)

For additional entries, you can leave separate comments telling me if you have:

Thank you so much, y’all! I’m convinced I have the best friends and readers <3 While I can’t bake cookies for everyone, you can find Sloane’s cookie recipe and more by downloading this free PDF! Bon appetit!

2017 planner favorites

My 2017 planner runs from July-June, so I’m good on that front. But if you’re still on the lookout, I come bearing ideas — not because I am being compensated in any way or form, but simply because I’m a huge planner nerd!

There are so many good ones that I could post about them all month,¬†but here’s what has caught my eye this season:

source: TheDayDesigner.com

The holy grail of planners =¬†the giant boutique planners like Erin Condren or the¬†Emily Ley Simplified Planner or the¬†Whitney English Day Designer, ¬†which run around $60. If you can make that investment in a planner, they are beautiful with brilliant, functional design¬†to help you make each and every day a work of efficient art. This model doesn’t work for my schedule or needs, but they are definitely helpful for busy people with many moving cogs in their lives!

source: BlueSky.com

For the last few years, I’ve been using the 10×8 horizontal weekly planner from Blue Sky, which runs anywhere from $9.99-$19.99. I love the way I can see a big picture of my entire week and plan work, writing sprints, and family things/meals accordingly. (Here’s a post with how I use it.) While most of their options in this format are July-June versions like mine, they have this one¬†for January! If you’re more on a Target budget, I would highly recommend checking out their Blue Sky collection in person. They have partnered with some really talented designers, and I can guarantee you’ll find a gorgeous one that works for you, whether you are a daily, weekly, monthly, vertical, or horizontal planner <3

I’m super proud of my friend Karen who created the Dreams by Design planner for people with big dreams and busy lives! It’s a beautifully-designed printable planner that’s super easy to email to a printer or office supply store to be printed and bound. If you click on the link above, you can see a little about Karen’s heart in creating the planner and its neat features!

source: CultivateWhatMatters.com

Since I already have a planner for this year, I just got¬†this six-month system from Lara Casey’s Cultivate What Matters shop¬†($40) for Christmas to help me organize huge goals for 2017. (Looks like they just sold out until next year. Boo!) Less of a planner and more of an inventory, this notebook is filled with Powersheets — worksheets with questions designed to help you identify your goals/strengths, what’s held you back in the past, and actionable steps to fulfill them. So if that sounds like something that would be beneficial to you in 2017,¬†I would recommend the printable¬†Dreams by Design planner above as it has that + a planner feature.

Last but not least, if a planner feels too confining for your tastes, you should really get into bullet journaling for the price of your favorite notebook. You can literally customize it any way you’d like. I got into bullet journaling this past year (remember the novella truck?) and absolutely love it during busier seasons. The Lazy Genius Collective has a guide to help make sense of it and show that it doesn’t have to be high maintenance at all. But you know that if it was super time-intensive, I wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole ūüôā You can search Instagram for more gorgeous spreads!

Are you a planner or a pantser in your own life? What system looks most appealing to you?

{workspace wednesday} if I light a candle…

Will it inject a little peace into a lot of busy? You bet!

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This is a pretty good representation of life right now.

Work-scattered  //
littered with lots of empty tea mugs //
entertainment awaiting //
shoes worn with many miles //
“tokens of my children’s affection” everywhere.

But warm.

If you light a candle — literally or figuratively — it will always be warm.

{friday mixing bowl} the most wonderful time of the year

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Happy weekend, you guys! It’s been a minute since I did one of these, so I have lots of goodies to share. I’m in a fantastic mood because I had a wonderful date with my son yesterday, fall is coming, and my book due out in May officially has a title. Yay! It feels like a real book! I love it and can’t wait to share it soon. Here’s what else has been going on around here:

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The 2016 ACFW was a whirlwind! I’m still processing it but plan to post a¬†recap of what I learned soon. The most important thing you need to know: I got to spend time with my sisters, including celebrating Jaime’s 40th birthday with literally the best meal of our lives. I loved seeing them and getting the chance to pitch my books, connect and reconnect with my writerly people, and learn lots!

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I made Boyfriend Bait Cookies from the I Heart Naptime cookbook. Picture a chocolate chip cookie loaded with M&Ms, ground oats and blitzed milk chocolate. So delicious! You must make them for the people you love immediately!

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Two things happened this past Saturday. First, we were awakened by a pretty sizeable earthquake here in Oklahoma, which was memorialized by the National Weather Service accordingly. Oh, Mylanta…

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Here are my kids¬†comforting each other right after it happened. It was the strongest and longest one I’ve ever felt!

Second, college football made a dramatic return! The most wonderful time of the year! My team celebrated by going into double overtime, winning on this play. I literally have. no. chill. about college football!

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I am, on the other hand, trying to add a little chill to my morning routine. Prepping the necessary things the night before and getting in the right mindset to start the day before the kids wake up is a huge game-changer! In an ideal world, I could get work and some exercise in without having to scramble to school on time, but baby steps!

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My planning woes seem to be solved. I have found a bullet journaling system that I absolutely adore. It helps me track cleaning, selah, and workouts in a way that works and is much less…disheartening for an unpredictable schedule than other layouts. Thanks to my new bullet journal crush, The Bullet Journal Addict! I have been geeking out over her gorgeous layouts!

<< link love >>

source :: The Recipe Critic

source :: The Recipe Critic

<< in case you missed it >>

What’s on deck for you this weekend? I will break from the editing cave to go on a belated birthday date with my husband tonight and watch some college football this weekend.

Do you follow college football, or are you more of a books and Netflix kind of person?¬†I think I’m both ūüôā

june update + july goals

Table talk (1)

Now that’s July is halfway finished (WHAT?), here’s how I did on my June goals:

  • Read/outline the craft book¬†Story Trumps Structure¬†by Steven James. Does it count that¬†I started it? Barely.
  • Study a few comp titles for¬†my new project.¬†Yes.
  • Develop a¬†tentative outline for the¬†new project.¬†Done!
  • Complete any final edits on Book 3 + proposal.¬†Done!
  • Journal/art journal 2-3 times a week.¬†Nope.
  • Sweat at least once a day. (And hydrate accordingly.)¬†I actually did a lot better on this than I thought I would! I completed the Betty Rocker 30-Day Challenge, often working out twice a day, and only missed five days of sweat ūüôā I think I’ll count it though, since it’s 100 degrees here and impossible not to sweat!
  • Revamp Sunday night meal planning and prep process. It happened one week.¬†Moving that goal to this month.
  • Declutter my closet, armoire, and kitchen. I decluttered my closet, and it feels amazing!
  • Create a loose content calendar based on topics for the blog.¬†Yes.
  • Make a landing page for services I offer bloggers and podcasters. I started it, but it’s still in draft mode.
  • Possibly a promo for bloggers/podcasters?¬†I did a conference promo instead! This one will have to wait until after edits are sent in.
  • Take regular walk breaks during long stretches of work.¬†Oh goodness. Moving that to this month!
  • Redesign my invoice template.¬†Yes!

Not too shabby, especially since my plans for a quiet summer were foiled by a new book contract. (Seriously. All the praise hands for this divine interruption!) Here’s what I’d like to accomplish for the rest of July:

Here’s what I’d like to accomplish for the rest of July:

Writing Goals:

  • Work through the craft book¬†Story Trumps Structure¬†by Steven James.
  • Complete 75% of edits for my debut novel due 8/15.
  • Write 5-10K on my novella.

Personal Goals:

  • Create morning and evening routines (including #morningmiles!)
  • Revamp Sunday night meal planning and prep process.
  • Weed out my armoire +¬†organize groups of my cleaning supplies into transportable caddies.
  • Institute a regular cleaning schedule (and stick to it).
  • Celebrate the selah.
  • Guard what comes out of my mouth.

Work Goals:

  • Finish landing page for services I offer bloggers and podcasters
  • Take regular walk breaks during long stretches of work
  • Invite some amazing people I have in mind to join this blog for Table Talk and refine that format ūüôā

That’s it — for starters. There are still ~3 weeks to accomplish a LOT!

What are you working toward this month?

 

soaking in the selah

This word appears at the end of some of the Psalms, and supposedly, no one is really sure what it means. I love it and have adopted it to mean:

No matter what we believe, who we vote for, or what we look like, we can never let those who are different from us forget how loved and valuable and important they are. (1)

Rest. Praise God and rest. 

I was looking at my Instagram account the other week and noticed it’s a little bit of foodie pictures, a lot of my children, and a WHOLE lot of hustle. But lately, the conversation has changed. What if we celebrated rest, our selah, as much as we glorify the hustle?¬†

So I have been trying to make space for intentional rest. This weekend, I had the chance to spend time at Dam House South, a sprawling haven on Lake Fort Gibson owned by dear lifelong friends. A friend and I went to press pause, get some work done, and hear ourselves think without the usual background noises. We finished chapters, read whole books, and enjoyed conversation with some of the most generous, relaxing souls in the world.

We got our selah.

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All the praise hands for a marriage in which this works. For a mutual understanding that we return better spouses, parents, and worker bees when we have time for ourselves and our people. We understand that it’s not always practical to press pause on life, but that it’s important to do it as regularly as possible.

No, it’s not always practical to press pause on life for a weekend. But it’s my goal to make space for even fifteen minutes of selah among the hustle:

A glass of wine and a magazine // an episode of Suits with my husband // a scented candle while I work // an inspiring podcast with a pile of vegetables to chop at my leisure // a quiet corner of the house for one curled-up chapter // a minute to close my eyes and listen to a song in the driveway with a sleeping baby in the backseat.

I’m a firm believer that soaking in the selah makes¬†our hustle¬†stronger and our hurry less draining.¬†

What does selah look like in your life?

june 2016 goals

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I can’t believe 2016 is almost halfway finished! It’s been a year so far,¬†y’all. A good one.

Here are some of the goals I have to make life happier + easier during June.

Writing Goals:

  • Read/outline the craft book¬†Story Trumps Structure¬†by Steven James.
  • Study a few comp titles for¬†my new project.
  • Develop a¬†tentative outline for the¬†new project and/or Book 4 if inspiration strikes.
  • Complete any final edits on Book 3 + proposal.

Personal Goals:

  • Journal/art journal 2-3 times a week.
  • Sweat at least once a day. (And hydrate accordingly.)
  • Revamp Sunday night meal planning and prep process.
  • Declutter my closet, armoire, and kitchen.

Work Goals:

  • Create a loose content calendar based on topics for the blog.
  • Make a landing page for services I offer bloggers and podcasters.
  • Possibly a promo for bloggers/podcasters?
  • Take regular walk breaks during long stretches of work.
  • Redesign my invoice template.

That’s the gist of it! ¬†I know it won’t go 100% according to plan, but¬†I personally do best and accomplish things when I lay out my intentions.

What are your goals for this summer? How are you making them happen?