3 practices that simplify my life.

I get a lot of questions about how I do it all: go to school, work from home, write a blog, be a good mom, be a good wife, volunteer, stay in touch with friends, clean the house, cook from scratch, run a business, run errands, work out, do the laundry, have quiet time, watch shows, listen to podcasts, and tend to my spiritual life. I mean the list could go on and on, right? The reality is that the list does go on and on. There is often someone or something clamoring for my time, energy, and attention.

So how do I balance it all? Simple. I don’t.

Aside from the fact that the definition of balance varies from person to person, it’s also highly overrated and rarely achieved. Further, we are constantly evolving so our idea of balance will change over time. While it is elusive, I have put some practices into place which allow me to maximize my available time while still living at a sustainable pace. This means that sometimes, things are left undone.

I prefer the word harmony in place of balance. Sometimes my life isn’t balanced, but there is still peace in my home. It’s all about prioritizing the most important things over the less important things. Sometimes all that gets done in a day is the most important thing—I’ve learned to be okay with it. When my priorities are in the right order, it takes the pressure of trying to decide what to do each day off of my plate. It wasn’t always that way, but it’s where I am right now and I’m happy to share what’s working and what’s not.

I won’t list every single practice here, but it is my hope that the three practices I share will offer you some options and encouragement. I’ll even break it down into categories so you can skip to the parts you want to read about first: spiritual, personal, professional. Pro tip: don’t try to begin all of these (or any of them) at once. Progress comes one step at a time and there is no gold medal for doing it all. Believe me—I asked.

Practice #1 (Spiritual): Memorizing scripture. The most consistent way I prioritize my personal faith in Jesus is by beginning and ending every day with Psalm 23 and the Lord’s Prayer (which is a small, but significant excerpt from Jesus’s sermon on the mount). I often pray or recite both passages before I open my phone—sometimes before I even open my eyes. I memorized the Lord’s Prayer as a child in church and I memorized Psalm 23 last year.

Memorizing scripture has been part of my life since I was a kid. My mom volunteered as the children’s ministry director for many years at my former church and she often coordinated our annual VBS (Vacation Bible School). I have very fond memories of mixing paint colors and spending hours together at church while we painted large backdrops together.

Painting aside, one of the highlights for me during those weeklong summer camps was the music. It was corny, kiddish, and catchy, but it always included Bible verses. Here are a few freebies:

🎶 Trust in the Lord, trust in the Lord, always trust him with all your heart. And lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him. In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will make your path straight. Proverbs 3 verses 5 & 6. (This song lives rent-free in my brain all year long.)

🎶 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us. Forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1 verse 9. (Another regular brain-couch-surfer.)

Anyway, you get the point—music has been a powerful vehicle for memorizing scripture and it remains that way even today. If you listen to any worshipful music these days, you’ll find many of the songs are either inspired by Psalms (the majority of which were already set to music) or are simply passages of scripture artistically put to music.

Another helpful tool in memorizing scripture has been the Dwell app (not an affiliate link and I paid for my subscription). Before I memorized Psalm 23, I read it and listened to it multiple times in a day. With this app, you can select a specific verse or passage of scripture and put it on repeat. It’ll play over and over while you read and listen (or just listen). Pretty soon, I had Psalm 23 committed to memory. This app works well for larger passages as well. Last year, I began the arduous task of memorizing Jesus’s sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7). I’ll probably be on that for a while.

Lastly, reading scripture every day is a big part of memorization. The more you read, the more familiar you become with certain passages or key teachings of Jesus. Frequent reading allows you to zoom in on a specific book of the Bible or topic. Two great resources I regularly use are the YouVersion Bible app or the She Reads Truth app (these are not affiliate links—these are free apps with in-app purchase options). You can get the verse of the day and meditate on that or you can select a reading plan and go from there.

Why is scripture memorization such an important practice in my life? It allows me to access God’s word from anywhere and in any circumstance. If I am on a walk, I can choose to meditate on a passage of scripture—really gnaw on it like a dog gnaws on a bone. I have also found scripture comes to mind in difficult or pivotal moments throughout my day. When I am corresponding with colleagues or friends, a passage might come to mind which might alter the tone of a message or quiet my tongue altogether.

Ultimately, scripture guides us through our day because it is inspired by God. The more we read and meditate on it, the more we can know about God and God’s character. The more scripture we commit to memory, the more likely we are to hear God’s loving, guiding, and comforting voice during the day.

Practice #2 (Personal): Meal Planning. One of the questions I get most frequently is about how I have time to cook every night. Here’s the thing—before I started meal planning, I didn’t cook every night. I went grocery shopping several times per week and spent lots of time looking up recipes. This was a complete waste of valuable time for me. Once I started meal planning, everything changed.

Before I breakdown my process, there are a couple things you should know about us. First, we are a gluten and dairy free house. One of my sons has Celiac Disease and another one is lactose intolerant—because gluten and dairy are both considered inflammatory by our pediatrician, allergist, and gastroenterologist (yep, we have all of those), we just generally don’t have those things in our house. Second, we are always on a shoestring budget. I try to combine meals with similar ingredients to buy in bulk and reduce cost. We also maintain a vegetable garden in the spring/summer months, so that helps with cost too. Okay, now we can move on.

The most critical step in meal planning is setting aside an hour to ninety minutes on either Sunday or Monday to complete the task. When I don’t set aside the time, I fumble around for days and we end up either eating out or eating poorly. During that hour I do three things: make the list of meals, make my shopping list, and complete my shopping (thank you ecart services).

First, I prepare my meal list—this includes looking at my schedule for the week, perusing food blogs, looking up recipes in my cookbooks, and asking my kids for any special requests. I try to involve my kids so they feel included and begin to understand the process of caring for people. If you don’t have kids, then skip that step!

Some of my favorite cookbooks are Magnolia Table: Volume 2 by Joanna Gaines and Against All Grains by Danielle Walker (these are not affiliate links—I paid cash money for these and I love them). Some of my favorite food bloggers are The Wooden Skillet, Tastes Lovely, and Hummingbird High. I also have several go-to dinner I rotate through monthly—these are family favorites, quick meals, and sometimes takeout.

Second, I make my shopping list. This is a necessary step, especially if you plan to shop in person. If you shop online for either grocery delivery or ecart pickup, I still recommend making the list. Every time I try to combine those two steps, I always miss something. Every. Single. Time. To save money with our shopping, I try to group like recipes together, like if we’re going to have chicken teriyaki meatballs, we are also going to have chicken burgers (which allows me to buy larger quantities of ground chicken and often saves me money).

Finally, I go shopping. I shop online—it saves me time and money. I also commit to shopping once per week, so it means I need to be extra diligent when making my list. I generally shop at Target and Raley’s because I earn cash rewards and coupons (and because they carry many of the special gluten-free and dairy-free items we need).

Really, the store doesn’t matter. What matters is that you shop at a regular place because it saves you time, you’re familiar with their products & specials, and you get to know the people. As a Christian, the people are the most important part of shopping. I’ve really gotten to know my ecart people and they know me too. We talk briefly about their week, current events, and last week, I had the privilege of praying with the clerk outside of my car because she was having a rough day. Those things matter.

Practice #3 (Professional): Establish a daily rhythm. A few months back, I worked with a life coach named Becky Lahna. During our four sessions, Becky helped me with all the things, but one of the main takeaways from our time together was the importance of establishing a daily rhythm.

I told Becky all of the things I wanted and needed to do and those things weren’t always on the same list. I’m certain I’m not alone when I say I have a lot going on in my life (did you see that list at the beginning?), but as a wife, mom, employee, student, writer, and small business owner, I needed to create the best possible scenario for me, my family, and my work to flourish.

With Becky’s help, I realized that there are many things I do daily: read, journal, attend meetings, work out, connect with others, and create. I also learned things about myself that helped me recognize when I am the most effective and when I need to be gentle with myself. These steps in self-awareness freed me up to create my own schedule and be in control (which makes my enneagram 8 heart happy) and also provide and produce those things which others require of me.

For example, I need to write and create for both my ministry work and my personal work. I often want to do those things first, because they’re fun and life-giving, but my mornings are filled with school preparation, getting my kids hugged and situated, and attending meetings and webinars. So instead of trying to force it during a time when I am most likely to be frazzled and frustrated, I simply decided that my creative time is after lunch.

Another example is how great I feel when I move my body, but if I don’t do it early in the day I am less likely to do my workouts. I also have a deep need for meaningful connection and sometimes a quick text doesn’t feel like enough. So I prioritized walking outdoors after I get the boys started with school and sometimes I invite a friend to join me.

After a few weeks of working through some of these issues, Becky helped me see that I was craving a rhythm and that I flourished most when I stayed within boundaries I set for myself. So with her guidance, I established a rhythm of input and output.

In the mornings, I focus on those essential things which fill me up and must be done (professionally and personally). Before lunch, it is my aim to set up my kids for a successful day, read scripture, read for school & work, journal, walk or work out, and connect with people. Each of these activities is a way I am created by God to receive love, information, peace, and connection.

In the afternoons, I focus on those things which fill me in a different way—by pouring out. After lunch, I transition to doing those things which require me to produce something (i.e. writing, course creation, schoolwork, planning, and projects). Each of these activities is a way I am created by God to offer love, information, peace, and connection.

This is not an exhaustive list, in fact there are many practices I implement daily, monthly, or seasonally which bring about human flourishing. I might share more of those throughout the year, but I wanted to share these practices specifically because there seemed to be a huge desire to know how I do it.

I hope sharing these practices is encouraging and helpful for you. I’d love to hear what you think and even what other practices you’d be interested in learning about. I’d also enjoy hearing about any practices you implement in your daily life which invite harmony into your life. You can leave a comment below or subscribe and we can stay connected that way!

Most important to me is that you know I am not perfect. Somedays, I’m out of my rhythm and my day goes out of whack. Other days, even when I do everything exactly how I planned, things go wrong—kids get sick or have attitudes, I wake up grouchy, or things going on in the world make me stressed and I can’t focus. Having practices in place are not a sure way to create a perfect life of harmony or balance.

The only sure thing in my life is knowing the presence of God. As I move through my day, no matter how well I follow a plan, even a plan I set for myself, no day spent in the presence of God is wasted—even the most imperfect, imbalanced day.

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