Creating Space

Creating Space

Since I stopped working several years ago, I’ve really missed my desk. It wasn’t particularly noteworthy or attractive–but it was mine.

A heavy metal beast, it had survived several decades traveling from classroom to classroom, the formica top peeling in places and brown circles from various cups of coffee stained along the edge. A wooden organizer provided a home to sticky notes, referral slips, and thumb tacks. It was functional yet uninspiring.

The desk itself wasn’t anything remarkable, but it was my own.

During my days as a teacher, my desk was the first place I’d go when I entered my classroom each morning. I’d drop my bags, pull up my chair, take a deep breath and mentally prepare for the day ahead. Whether checking email, designing lessons, or grading papers, this was my place to do the work I needed in order to be fully present with students for the rest of the day.

It was a space that kept me grounded, focused on my purpose.

Several years ago, I stopped teaching in preparation for the family my husband and I were planning to grow. Corey and I made the commitment to live on a single income so I could stay at home to raise our kids full-time.

Back then, the choice seemed easy. It was a decision we fully believed was best for our family, one we would make again if given the chance. Yet in the midst of dreaming about the baby we would soon hold, I failed to fully consider the cost of staying home.

I had no idea how much I was giving up.

I didn’t realize I was sacrificing my identity as a professional, the satisfaction of working hard all day then coming home to rest and recover, the freedom to offer others my full attention, the energy to dream and lead and create, or the opportunity to use my gifts and training to make a difference in our community.

It didn’t occur to me until later that I was giving up the space I used to be my best self.

If I’m honest, I’ve struggled through my first several years of motherhood. Let me be clear: I cherish my kids. While I’m humbled by gratitude for the ability to stay home with them, I also often find myself writhing internally within the limitations of this season. And I feel guilty admitting it.

I would choose this life again in a heartbeat, the privilege of shaping precious humans all day, but it also chafes against the very core of how I’m wired to achieve, perform, and produce visible results.

My deeper struggle, though, comes from relinquishing an expression of my unique identity outside of the role that I play as mom.

It finally hit me a couple weeks ago–I needed a desk.

Not that it was ever really about a piece of furniture. I needed a space to intentionally pursue what brings me life. Enough of responding reactively to the external forces shaping my days; it’s time to proactively build rhythms that allow me to flourish in this current season.

So I pulled together random bits of furniture from other parts of the house, a table from the laundry room, an extra chair and lamp that wouldn’t be missed. Snagging a candle here and a basket there, I rounded up decor and repurposed it for my new workspace.

It has changed everything.

I finally have a venue to create, to sit still and undistracted, to write words that bring life; a designated corner to focus fully on the people I’m coaching; an uncluttered nook to organize my thoughts, prioritize my time, and strategize for the week and beyond.

More than just giving me a place to get stuff done, setting up my own space has legitimized my pursuit of the things I feel called to do.

Glancing at this miniature office in the corner of my bedroom sparks joy, not just because it’s pretty, but also because it serves as a reminder of who I’m created to be. A wife and mom, yes, gratefully so. But I’m also a writer, a leader, a dreamer, a teacher, a coach, a professional with skills and gifts that are worth investing in.

Looking at my desk reminds me who I am.

It calls me back to how I want to live: moving forward with intention, shaping the world instead of being molded by it.

It invites me to create space for what matters, things that otherwise get lost in the clamor of what’s urgent.

It beckons me to come, sit, breathe deep, refocus, and prepare for the transformation I crave.

It offers hope, a latch to unlock the door keeping me bound inside my current perspective.

It welcomes curiosity, allowing me to settle down long enough to ask the deeper questions, which will only surface when my inner turmoil grows still.

This space allows me to re-order my days so my internal priorities align with how I spend my actual moments.

As I sit here now, I’m choosing to leave other things undone for a time. An egg-crusted pan remains in the sink, our new puppy waits reluctantly in her crate, and text messages stay marked “unread.” But while those things linger, my soul comes a bit more to life.

I don’t want to look back and realize I missed it, whatever it is. May you also have the courage to determinedly pursue what matters most in your world, one space at a time. Your life is worth it.

Joy in the Aftermath of Christmas

Joy in the Aftermath of Christmas

As all the holiday hoopla draws to a close this week, I’m finding myself tired. Really tired.

Christmas has a way of sneaking up on us. A minute ago, summer was ushering in fall and kids wore fresh new wardrobes and excitement about what the school year would bring—and then we blinked and it was Thanksgiving and the season of family gatherings and holiday festivities and frenzied calendars and days full to the brim of so many good things. And then we blinked again and it was over.

In the midst of all the Christmas prep, baking cookies that I didn’t really want to eat and shopping for presents that I meant to get weeks ago, I found myself wondering why in the world is the most joy-filled time of year also the most stress-filled? 

Wasn’t my heart supposed to be overflowing with celebration and thankfulness and constant worship of the One we celebrate?  I wanted it to. I really tried to make myself focus on the right things. But I still got sucked into the hustle. I lost my joy because I lost my focus.

So often joy gets snuffed out by the pace productivity requires. I am as guilty as anyone of pressuring myself to death to make every year the Best. Christmas. Ever. There’s a lot to fit into days and weeks that only get shorter as night comes earlier.  Just think of all we expect ourselves accomplish in the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas:

Christmas cards to order, address, and send out—extra time required for adding meaningful notes.

Coordinating schedules with loved ones to find a way to fit in time for everyone who wants it.

Advent calendars with activities for each day, intended to point hearts toward heaven.

Christmas parties for every job, exercise class, activity group, and social circle.

Gifts to think about, shop for, purchase, and wrap for family, friends, teachers, mailmen, and hairdressers.

Cleaning house and doing laundry in preparation for company, or packing up your life to travel elsewhere.

Menu planning, grocery shopping, and food prep to make special meals that both bless and impress.

Cookie baking and treat making for neighbors and friends—extra time required to write words of love.

Crafty creativity for those extra loving homemade gifts—which take extra time to create.

Elf on a shelf. When do those parents sleep?

School Christmas programs, performances, and concerts galore—plus any extracurricular festive entertainment unique to this season (Nutcracker, anyone?).

The list goes on and on. We are experts at filling our time with extra things—and extra pressure to do it all—often leaving ourselves feeling frazzled and empty, relieved when all the shenanigans are finally over. I don’t know why it hasn’t occurred to me before this year that all of these extra things take extra time to complete.

The build up to Christmas is enough to bring us to the end of ourselves—and steal joy right out of the celebration.

The truth is, Christmas comes anyway. Whether or not I’ve checked everything off my list. It comes when I’m most worn down by my failure to live up to my holiday Pinterest board standard. It comes when I’m tired of plans to attend one more event and would rather just stay home in my pajamas. It comes when I’m surrounded by people and just need a moment to myself. It comes when I’m weary from all the preparation, when I feel like I’ve let people down, when I didn’t love well or engage enough or smile like I meant it.

Christmas comes, even when I am focused on my own weariness instead of the One who made himself small so I wouldn’t have to earn his approval.  It doesn’t depend on my performance, my thoughtfulness, my baking skill, my procrastination, my attitude.

Christmas comes when night is the darkest. When we have the least left of ourselves, Christmas comes to bring hope to the stressed out, worn out, burnt out. Christmas comes every year whether we’re ready or not.

Christmas comes, because Christ came. He said he would and he really did. God keeps his promises, regardless of our ability to keep ours. He promised before we even understood how much we needed it that he’d make a way for us to get out of the pit of self-destruction, self-absorption, self-pity we are all trapped in. He knew before we ever started trying that we could never achieve perfection—he would have to do it for us. So he came.

A couple days after Christmas now, I’m sitting in the wreckage of several cumulative weeks of hustle. The tiredness from traveling and sleeping poorly, the extra few pounds accumulated through stress eating and eggnog lattes, the weariness of an introvert constantly surrounded by people without relief, the spiritual fallout of losing margin in my daily rhythm.

But as I flip through photos snapped during different moments of this hustle-and-bustle season, I remember there was joy in the midst of the crazy. I choose joy in this moment by I focusing my heart in gratitude for those moments. Joy and thankfulness come hand in hand.

Looking at these pictures reminds me that Christmas isn’t a once-a-year experience–it’s an invitation to  joy.

It’s an invitation to joyful hope that comes from receiving the gift of being loved just as I am.

It’s in invitation to joy-filled freedom that comes from believing my worth doesn’t come from delivering an admirable performance to anyone watching.

It’s an invitation to joyfully abundant life that comes from focusing on things that last forever instead of those that are over in the blink of an eye.

Christmas invites us to remember that Jesus came once and he is coming again. Ready or not, he will come. May our lives reflect the joy of knowing his promises are true and his love is trustworthy. Because joy is a matter of perspective—and knowing the Source of joy means it can never be taken away.

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