One Way to See Your World Differently

This week, I practice the words of Macrina Wiederkehr and I’m “leaving my head for a while on a journey to my heart.” I’m always surprised how I’ve lost the way but my Father knows and brings me home again.

Hilton Head, SC

Sometimes the journey to the heart takes a different path than I expect. I would do well to move to the rhythm of the moment rather than try so hard to find familiar landmarks. Perhaps my Father wants to show me a new way.

The anxiety that comes on vacation is real – This is your chance to relax and recharge so you better make the most of it! says the world. We have our ideas of what vacation ought to do, what our money ought to buy, as if a destination could give us the kind of peace our soul most longs for.

All vacations are not created equally. A house with 14 people is not a spiritual retreat. (I’ll share more about that this weekend). It’s good to know what this time is for – for joy, for play, for reconnection with my people. What a gift.

family

So this week I’m keeping the laptop (mostly) closed and instead I’m posting a lot on Instagram because it’s the prettiest medium around and I can take it with me. One way to see things differently is to take a picture of it. I know that sounds weird, but something happens in the framing, in the kneeling down for a better view.

While it’s possible to miss moments because of too much documenting, I think the bigger danger is in not recording them at all.

Over the years, taking photos has become a kind of remembering, a kind of worshiping God in a new way, if that’s not too weird to say. Writing helps me think better and photos help me see better. These days, Instagram is a place where I learn to see. You can follow me there (emilypfreeman) where I record moments of the days as they happen, write a word or two or even a few lines of reflection.

emily p freeman instagram

I have some favorites I follow on Instagram as well – @thenester, @gracelaced, @myorangepocket, @benjaminhole. So many others. Actually maybe I’ll share more of those on purpose soon and ask for your favorites, too. I have so many favorites and I’d love to find more. We can learn so much from each other.

When I’m not on vacation, these posts come 2-3 times a week. Want them to slip quietly into your inbox? Simply sign up with your email address here and be sure to click “blog posts.” Don’t want weekly emails but still want a little help to create space in your soul? Choose the option for “The Bench” and you’ll receive a letter from me only once a month. Or you can, of course, choose both.

Because June is as Good as January for Setting an Intention

Hopefully everything you read here will help to create space for your soul to breathe, no matter if I write it or if I invite someone else in. That’s why I’m happy to welcome Claire Diaz-Ortiz to the blog today. I love Claire’s gentle reminder that you don’t have to wait until January to be intentional about your life. Here’s one simple way to do that today.

Like most of us, I want to be happier. Whether it’s waking up with more spark or going to bed more satisfied with my day, I want to open my life to the opportunity for greater joy.

As such, I love to read books about happiness. Gretchen Rubin has written a few of those, and in one of them she recommends a small, powerful idea that has taken hold to become a big, strong force in my own life.

The Importance of Setting an Intention

That idea is to choose a word each and every year that represents the year you have in front of you. Rather, to choose a word for your year. (Oh, and take a cue from Gretchen: years don’t need to start in January.)

Choose one single word that imbues the type of year you wish to have, one word that can serve as a guidepost for what you want in the season to come. A singular word you can always harken back to in moments of darkness and doubt. One word that informs your decisions, crystalizes your passions and priorities, and embodies you—the new you!—in the months ahead.

Depending on the type of year you seek, there are many words that can do the trick. Words like Move, Pause, Breathe, Dance, Less, Family, Health, Travel, and Choose all hold a certain special sauce.

The guidelines are simple. The word can be a verb or a noun. It can be a long word or a short word. But it is key that the word brings together everything you fervently hope to live and breathe in the year to come. One word to inform and synthesize the year you have ahead of you. One word to mean everything you want the year to be, and one word that will help serve as a guiding light when times get tough and you’re not clear on where your priorities are.

A few years ago, my word of the year was Rest.

It was a word that meant the world to me in that season of my life. I was harried and overwhelmed from a few too many years of corporate globetrotting, and I needed a daily reminder to do less. And so I did.

Although my Rest might not have been as restful as the Rest that some might be able to enjoy (I saw nary a beach that entire year), my word still served as a key force in getting me to slow down. It helped me to make decisions, and to keep in mind what was really important when difficult choices arose.

Should I go to that social event—or stay home? Should I say yes to what could be a great opportunity, or pass it up to wait for something better to come along? Should I travel to that work meeting—or call into it instead?

When life and work calls for us to be busy, it is hard to slow down. However, by attempting to make this word forefront in my mind, I sought to make small strides that would lead to notable changes and positive transformation. I knew I wouldn’t be perfect. I knew I would never get it 100 percent. But I did know that by setting the intention, I could make some progress.

In the end, I did. And you can, too. Set a word now, and watch your year rise up to take shape around it.

51be5Z-MwOLClaire Diaz-Ortiz is an author, speaker and Silicon Valley innovator who was an early employee at Twitter. Named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company, she holds an MBA and other degrees from Stanford and Oxford and has been featured widely in print and broadcast media.

She writes a popular blog at ClaireDiazOrtiz.com and is the author of several books. The above is an excerpt from her latest book, The Better Life: Small Things You Can Do Right Where You Are.
 

Let’s Share What We Learned in April

It’s the end April and that means it’s time to share what we’ve learned. If you’re new around here, this is a regular practice we engage in together, as we are learning the value of looking back before moving forward. We’re all at different spots on the journey, and these end of the month posts are a way to reflect, share, and celebrate on purpose – the fascinating, ridiculous, sacred and small.what we learned april 2015

This month I’m sharing six fun things I learned in April in no particular order:

1. Portland has a thing about carpet.

I visited the Portland, Oregon for the first time in April. Before I arrived, I had read about the 1980s carpet in the airport that has become an beloved icon by many – with its own Facebook page and active hashtag.

The old, loved carpet is on the left. The new, despised carpet is on the right.
The old, loved carpet is on the left. The new, despised carpet is on the right.

I also saw the carpet that’s replacing it that is evidently ugly and terrible and the worst thing that has ever happened. This was all very new and interesting to me.

2. Four day old kittens are no joke.

kitten

Growing up when our outside cats had kittens, they would hide them away in the deep darkness of our shed so we never saw them until their eyes were opened. But my sister’s cat had four kittens this month inside her house. And so we made a special trip down to visit them, hold them, and die. Because look.

3. Pink makes me happy.

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I’ve always known I like pink but I’ve never let myself indulge. It felt too . . . something. But then I saw this chair at World Market (our local store is closing so everything is on sale) and I went back three times before I bought the last one. Now I want it in every room in my house. Pink!

4. Chatting at the Sky readers feel strongly about their books.

Last week I posted about the 10 best books I’ve never read and had the most comments on that post I’ve had all year – lots of conversation about our beloved books. It made me so happy!

5. It’s important to watch TV with your people even if you have a lot of work to do.

A lot of deadlines have come at me this month and, more than ever, I’ve been tempted to lock myself in my office and not come out until all the lists are checked off. But if I’ve learned anything over the past five years of writing books, it’s that for me, evening times are best spent wasting time with my people, which is actually the opposite of waste.

6. I am a Cozy Minimalist (and you probably are too).

Over the past four weeks I took part in my sister The Nester’s online Cozy Minimalist course. I paid full price for it ($89) (she got mad at me when she realized I paid for it because she said she would have let me do it for free)(sister perks). I watched all four videos, doing my best to apply her advice, instructions, and universal decorating truths to my own room.

Of all the people on the planet who should benefit the least from this course it should be me – the sister of The Nester. After all, I’ve heard her say this stuff for years, years I tell you.

But as she and Megan walked through not just what Cozy Minimalism is but why Cozy Minimalism works, something clicked. I took pages and pages of notes. I finally feel like I understand why my gallery walls don’t look right and why my pillows aren’t working.

She didn’t just give nebulous ideas, she gave formulas, practical application, and ideas that will work for any room. I chose my sunroom office to focus on during the class, a room I knew was all wrong on every level but I didn’t have the energy or motivation to make it right.

For example, here’s my sunroom office before the class.

office before 1

And here is my office after the class.

3

Again.

Before the class:

office before 2

And after the class:

office after 2

One last time.

All together now . . .

Before the class:office before 3
And after the class:sunroom afterListen, you must know I don’t talk about things unless I love the things. And this course is one of my favorite things I’ve done for myself.

I already felt like I had some confidence in decorating (as evidenced in other parts of my house I promise), but this course took it to the next level for me – something about hearing it all at once from a woman a know, love, and trust.

Nester is now offering that same course I took but in a self-study version for only $39. But if you enter “Emily Freeman” at checkout as the one who referred you, then you’ll get it for only $29. You’re gonna love this.

Go here to sign up, enter my name, and start creating the home you’ve always wanted. Then one thing you learn in May can be that you, too, are a Cozy Minimalist!

I learned some other things in April, more soul-level things, but a lot of that is still percolating within me. I’m sure you’ll see evidence of that come out in my writing as that’s what always happens when our souls are poked awake in certain areas. For now, it’s time for you to share what you learned in April. Link up below (if you have a blog) or share in the comments.


How to Stay Calm in the Midst of Big Projects

“Instead of trying to accomplish it all — and all at once — and flaring out, the Essentialist starts small and celebrates progress. Instead of going for the big, flashy wins that don’t really matter, the Essentialist pursues small and simple wins in areas that are essential.”

Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

If you’ve ever been guilty of biting off more than you can chew or of expecting too much too soon, then perhaps you will resonate with Greg McKewon’s encouragement to start small and celebrate progress.

In recent years I’ve come to value and even cherish the art of the small start in my work, my friendships, and even in cleaning the house.

But it’s a fairly new practice for me to begin to celebrate the progress that comes as a result, especially when that progress is unimpressive.

What does celebrating progress look like?

progress

Today for me, it looks like this round rug in my sunroom office.

I’ve wanted a round rug in there for, oh a few years maybe? I’ve waited because I didn’t know exactly where to shop, wasn’t sure what style I wanted, and I didn’t have the room the way I wanted it anyway. Besides, I already had a rug that kind of worked and I was convinced a different rug wouldn’t make much difference.

But I’ve been dedicated to making small changes in this sunroom over the past few weeks and the small changes are adding up to nice progress. I took some time looking online and found this simple jute round rug, ordered it, and it arrived on my doorstep this week.

Now, my tendency is to continue to look for the next small change I need to make or obsess over lists of what has yet to be done.

Instead, several times since that rug arrived, I’ve sat in my sunroom and looked around, snapped a few photos, and spent some extra time reading in my favorite corner. In short, I’ve celebrated progress by actually enjoying the room. And this simple act of appreciating the progress on purpose has brought a lightness and calm to my soul.

celebrate progress

These have been ways I’ve celebrated progress rather than looked in disdain at the still unfinished room. I moved my desk! I picked out a rug! Is it finished? Not yet. But I celebrate progress anyway.

This week at (in)courage, I’m sharing what starting small and celebrating progress has looked like for me in the area of personal health, both for my body and for my soul.

I also have a conversation with my dad and my sister on this month’s episode of The Hope*ologie Podcast about what celebrating looks like in our own lives and how we think it’s important to mark progress even if it’s small and even if it’s silly.

There are 3 ways for you to listen to the podcast: At Hope*ologie (including show notes!), on iTunes, or here on Soundcloud.

Today I hope you’ll save yourself from overwhelm in the midst of big projects by embracing the days of small beginnings and celebrating the progress that comes as a result.