New Plan: why I am starting to post only once a week

Copyright Geoff Sirkel

Copyright Geoff Sirkel

 

After much thought, prayer, and discussion with my husband, I’ve made the decision to start blogging a little less for now.

 

I realize this really isn’t a big announcement or earth-shattering revelation for anyone, but I felt I should at least offer a heads-up and explanation for the faithful few who read my ramblings. (Thank you, by the way, to you who are reading this right now – I appreciate your support and encouragement!)

 

This decision wasn’t an easy one for me because when I launched this blog four months ago I made the commitment to myself that I was going to be disciplined and stick with this, posting twice a week with few exceptions.

 

Now I feel a little like I’m breaking a promise, and being lazy.

 

I really do enjoy writing. This blog is a place where I can hone my skills while (ideally) engaging in conversation about things I care about. It’s great… and it’s a lot of work. It’s fun and rewarding, yet also frustrating and discouraging all rolled up into one.

 

But it’s a first step toward someday.

 

So what are my reasons for cutting my posting frequency in half? I have three… and while they sound a little bit like excuses, I’ve come to the conclusion that they are sound and legitimate reasons that I shouldn’t be ashamed of. [“of which I shouldn’t be ashamed,” I know, I know… but proper grammar and I don’t always agree.]

 

Okay, without further ado, here they are:

 

 1. I am identifying and reordering my priorities.

While improving my writing skills, finding my niche, and building my audience are important priorities for me, they don’t top my list right now. I really do want to pursue a career in writing, and I know that this is a good place to start, but I’ve realized that right now, other things come first – namely: less stress, more sleep, and more time with my family without a self-imposed posting deadline hanging over my head.

2. I am choosing quality over quantity.

There are arguments for both sides, but when it comes down to it, I typically go with my gut feeling, and my gut feeling right now is saying “less is more” – or some such cliché. I don’t know about you, but there are a lot of blogs out there that interest me, and I’m signed up for updates from quite a few of them. And I must admit, the ones that pop up in my inbox every day get ignored pretty regularly. But the emails that come more rarely, once a week or less, almost always get opened and read. Maybe it’s a coincidence. Or maybe I honestly find more value in the less verbose bloggers who write when they have something to say, not just because it’s another day. While there’s definitely something to be said for the discipline of consistency, (and I’m a pretty big fan of consistency, just ask my boss), in this case, I’m leaning toward quality over quantity.

3. I am acknowledging that this isn’t permanent.

This posting reduction is only a season. My someday will come. No, not in a waiting-for-destiny kind of way, but in a I’m-going-to-make-it-happen kind of way. For now, I am choosing to be patient. My envisioned writing career will not be launched overnight, no matter if I post once a week or every day. It takes time and work, a lot of work. I have been blogging for four months. I have nine subscribers. Nine. And four are related to me and one is me. True confessions right there. Am I discouraged? Naw. Like I said, this is just a season. My someday will come. I will make sure of that.

 

 

So, my plan as of right now is to post once a week, usually on Wednesdays. For a season.

 

And someday… well, we’ll see.

 

 

Don’t be shy – give me some feedback!

What do you think; do you agree or disagree with my reasons? And are these legitimate reasons, or are they merely excuses? Be honest.

Keep On Keeping On

Copyright Emily Sirkel Photography

Copyright Emily Sirkel Photography

 

This past week I went to the gym six days in a row. Each of those six days I spent at least 45 minutes pedaling to nowhere in front of a big mirror, with lungs burning, sweat dripping, and legs gradually turning to Jell-O.

 

It sucked.

 

Okay, it didn’t completely suck. But it was tough.

 

Unlike some people, I don’t like getting up at 5 AM. I rather not spend my first waking hours bullying my body into shape in a crowded room full of sweaty people. I am not fond of showering in a locker room alongside other women who without fail manage to make exercise look sexy while I look like a half-drowned rat who just survived a shipwreck.

 

I was tempted to ignore my alarm each morning when it went off, but for some reason, I didn’t. Once I was at the gym, on the bike, and starting to feel the burn, I wanted to quit the entire time. Or at the very least “cheat” by cranking the gear way down to little or no resistance. But I didn’t. Somehow, for some reason, I persevered.

 

Perseverance isn’t really my strong suit. But when I do “keep on keeping on,” the finish line feels so sweet. Can you relate?

 

Best-selling author and speaker John Maxwell published this brief “Minute with Maxwell” video last week about stamina. His words really rang true for me, and I thought it would be a good thing to share on a Monday morning as we all start off another week. Take a minute to watch it – I think you’ll enjoy!

 

 

To close, let me share one of my favorite Bible verses, Galatians 6:9

 

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

 

Whatever you’re working toward, do not grow weary… for in due season you will reap, if you do not give up!

Just Keep Swimming

Copyright Emily Sirkel Photography

Copyright Emily Sirkel Photography

 

Another weekend has slipped by. I had very good intentions for this weekend. I had envisioned a satisfying, productive two days filled with writing, laundry, Spanish flashcards, a trip to the gym, cleaning the bathroom, and maybe even a little reading just for fun.

 

Instead, plans changed. A last minute trip out of town encompassed the first 24 hours of my weekend, cutting my timeframe for productivity in half.

 

My next 24 hours involved “sleeping in” until 7 am, then a morning spent at church – singing hymns, taking notes, exchanging smiles, hugs and handshakes, helping in the nursery, and teaching in my adult Sunday School class. Afterwards I hurried back home to cook lunch, dine with friends and family, and allow myself a couple hours to snuggle on the couch with Geoff and watch a movie.

 

Then my productive Sunday afternoon was supposed to start. I was still entertaining ideas of getting a load of laundry done, at least half the bathroom cleaned, and writing my Monday morning blog post.

 

But… I inadvertently took a 5-hour nap.

 

Oops.

 

So apparently I needed to rest. But while laundry and bathroom cleaning can be postponed for a few days, I am determined to keep my commitment to write something twice a week.

 

I realize no one is forcing me to write other than myself. No one is depending on me to bang out two blog posts every week. No one is waiting with bated breath for new thoughts-from-Emily to be published on Monday and Thursday mornings. But it is something I have challenged myself to do, and other than the week of Christmas, it is something I have managed to stick with since launching my blog a few months ago.

 

Sometimes writing is like going to the gym. I really don’t want to. I rather sleep late and eat Girl Scout cookies for breakfast (yep, it’s that time of year again). But I know that once I do it, I’ll be glad I did. It’s good for me.

 

Sometimes, when I’m huffing and puffing my way through the 5:45am spin/torture class at my gym, I am reminded of a piece of advice from a fictional-animated-blue-fish-with-short-term-memory-problems, and say to myself, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…”

 

I’ve found that this wisdom also applies to writing.

 

So here I am, pushing through the desire to keep sleeping (though I’ll admit, I did just finish off a carton of Caramel Delights). Here I am, writing my “something” for Monday morning.

 

So, if you’re at that point yourself where you’re struggling to do that one thing you know you need to do but you really rather sleep and eat Girl Scout cookies (or whatever your vice may be) – hear it from a fellow struggler: you can do it!

 

Just keep swimming.

The DNA of Joy

Copyright Emily Sirkel Photography

My husband and I had the privilege of attending a marriage seminar this weekend led by Dr. Paul David Tripp. We first heard Dr. Tripp speak a couple years ago when we were living outside of Austin and he came to the Austin Stone as a guest speaker. During both that first encounter and this most recent one, we were impressed by his hilarious, dry sense of humor, perfect comedic timing, deep wisdom – and of course – his awesome mustache.

If you ever have a chance to attend one of his seminars or read one of his books – do it. I mean it. The topic of this weekend was “What Did You Expect?” and it was both powerful and hilarious. My abs still hurt from laughter and my heart from conviction.

I gathered eleven pages of incredible gems of truth to reflect upon from the weekend, and I will probably draw upon my notes a number of times in the coming weeks. The things we covered are applicable not just to marriage, but to any relationship. Today, I just want to share one short but powerful statement from Dr. Tripp:

“The DNA of joy is thankfulness.”

Conversely, the one thing that steals our joy more quickly than anything else is complaining. When we fail to feel or express gratitude for the good things in life and instead choose to complain about the bad things, there is no room for joy in our hearts. When thankfulness is replaced by whining, criticism, impatience, frustration, judgement, irritation, or a sense of entitlement… we become incapable of fostering joy in our lives.

Okay, I’ll leave it at that. Just something to think about as we start another week!

Relaxing is Hard Work

Copyright Emily Sirkel Photography

I’m not very good at resting.

 

Oh, don’t get me wrong – I’m good at sleeping. While my marathon sleeping ability may not be quite what it was back in college, I can still manage a good 14-hour stretch when given the chance. [My record is 22 hours straight. Granted, I was recovering from mononucleosis at the time, but I was under no medication so I think it still counts!]

 

Geoff Sleeping - small
Geoff demonstrating his sleeping skills

 

No, it’s not insomnia that’s my problem… my problem is difficulty relaxing. Taking a break from my to-do list is hard for me.

 

Now, I’m not a super-driven-workaholic-go-getter by any means, and I do tend to procrastinate, but I have a running list of “things-I-really-should-be-doing-right-now” in the back of my mind, and it’s hard to ignore.

 

No matter how much I “rest” on my days off, I simply do not feel rested unless I’ve accomplished at least a couple things on my perpetual to-do list.

 

When the weekend comes, I’d love to just curl up in my chair with a blanket and a good book and while away the hours. But when I do that and I neglect my to-do list, the relaxation feels tainted. I feel guilty that I didn’t get the bathroom cleaned or that letter written or those old clothes taken to the thrift store.

 

With that knowledge of tasks left undone lurking in the back of my mind, I am robbed of the full measure of rest and rejuvenation my lazy weekend should have brought me.

 

This phenomenon applies to holidays too. We spent a wonderful three days with Geoff’s family over Christmas. I slept late. I watched TV. I played games. I assembled a puzzle. I went for a bike ride. And yes, I ate too many desserts. But the whole time, I felt a twinge of guilt for not working on my ever-growing to-do list. I stressed over the Christmas newsletter I hadn’t sent out (two days after Christmas isn’t too late, is it?). I felt bad for not bringing mission-trip-fundraiser-stuff with me to work on. I worried over the fact that I didn’t post anything on my blog (yes, it was Christmas, and yes, I had very limited internet access, but I still felt guilty).

 

Even Christmas Day doesn’t shut off the internal “you-should-be-doing-something-productive” metronome ticking in my head.

 

Ahhhh it’s a curse.

 

But I guess it’s a blessing too. Without that blasted irritation constantly tickling the back of my mind, I suppose I’d never get anything done.

 

How about you? Do you feel like relaxing is a lot of work, or can you relax worry-free? Tell me in the comments below!

6 Steps for Improving Will Power and Self Discipline

Copyright Emily Sirkel Photography

In my post last week I talked about being a snooze-hitting, oversleeping, foot-dragging greeter of the morning. I am also a chocolate addict (Nutella!!!) and a chronic procrastinator. Essentially, I struggle with will power and self-discipline.

 

Copyright Emily Sirkel Photography

 

So, I declared that I was going to create a personal plan for becoming a person of discipline and post it here for all to see.

 

I’ve had a week to think about it, and I’ve come up with the following 6 steps:

1.  Set big, concrete goals. It’s very unlikely that I will achieve self-discipline if I don’t know what I want to be disciplined about! Here are a few of my big goals that I know will take a lot of self-discipline to achieve:

  • Attain and maintain a healthy bodyweight
  • Learn to speak Spanish
  • Write a book

2.  Break it down into smaller steps. What do I have to do to achieve those big goals? What does discipline look like for these specific goals? Here are some examples related to the first goal on my list, “attain and maintain a healthy bodyweight:”

  • Go to bed early enough to get 8 hours of sleep.
  • Faithfully get up every morning to exercise before work.
  • Utilize my standing desk instead of sitting at work.
  • Eat smaller servings and healthier choices.
  • Refrain from second-helpings and limit processed foods.
  • Drink lots of water.

3.  Remember the reasons. Michael Hyatt once said: “You lose your way when you lose your why.” It’s not enough to focus on your goal; you need to focus on why you want to reach that goal if you want to finish the race. It’s easy to lose momentum and start slacking when you’ve lost track of your purpose in trying in the first place! Continuing with my healthy bodyweight goal, here are some of my reasons:

  • To feel healthier, look better, be more comfortable, and have more energy.
  • To reduce risk of developing worse health problems.
  • To set an example for my future children and improve their chances of being fit and healthy.
  • To feel good about myself and to wear cuter clothes!

4.  Identify potential obstacles and make a plan to preempt them. If you’ve come to realize that you lack self-discipline in certain areas, then you’re probably also aware of what it is that trips you up. Sometimes simply knowing there are potato chips in the pantry or ice cream in the freezer is enough temptation to overwhelm my strongest defenses. My preemptive strike? Restock the pantry with baked whole grain snacks and replace that ice cream with frozen grapes. Here are some other examples of my anticipated obstacles:

  • Obstacle: Too tired to get up with my alarm and go to the gym. Strategy: Go to bed earlier, pack my gym bag the night before, set my alarm a few feet from the bed so I’m forced to get up to shut it off.
  • Obstacle: Eating too much because I still feel hungry, the food tastes good, and it’s available. Strategy: Plan out my calorie intake for the day, then determine ahead of time what portions are appropriate for each meal or snack and only put that much on my plate. Eat slowly, chew each bite, and drink water between bites to reduce feelings of hunger.

5.  Make it public/Invite accountability. By inviting accountability, I’m no longer relying solely upon my own self-discipline. This might be cheating… but I’m okay with it! For me, when I tell someone I’m going to do something, I’m much more likely to do it then if I just think it privately in my head. So, consider this blog post to be my public declaration of my self-discipline-building intent!

6.  Get started. Now. This close to the New Year it’s really easy to postpone new endeavors until the first of the year. While that’s fine and dandy, I think waiting to start can be a trap. Believe me, I’m talking to myself when I say this: What’s wrong with right now? Stop making excuses and get started!

 

Question: In what area(s) would you like to improve your self-discipline? Do you have a special plan for achieving that goal? Share in the comments below!

 

The Art of Will-Power and Self-Discipline

The alarm trills loudly next to my left ear, emitting from the cell phone clutched in my hand, half buried under the pillow. My fingers automatically twitch against the buttons, silencing my wake-up call and continuing the snooze cycle for the sixth time. Five more minutes…

 

Copyright Emily Sirkel Photography

 

I actually am a morning person. Once I’m up, I’m cheerful and alert, ready to tackle the day. It’s just that getting-out-of-bed detail that proves to be a problem. Getting up in the morning has recently become even more difficult for two reasons: First, an early Christmas present from my parents – a memory foam mattress topper – has proven to be a blessing and a curse. It is incredibly comfortable, but also dangerously seductive, whispering sweet temptations about staying in bed all day.

 

The second issue is another blessing-curse paradox. I am blessed to have a job where I am able to choose my own work schedule, but this freedom means I do not have to be at work at a specific time, allowing the “five more minutes” refrain to sing in my head unrestrained. For a while my husband and I were carpooling, so my exit from bed in the morning was dictated by his work schedule. But now that he is self-employed and works from home, this is no longer a factor. And I really like my sleep.

 

So I confess, I have become a snooze-hitting, oversleeping, foot-dragging greeter of the morning. My self-discipline in this regard has hit a record low. And down there with it is my self-restraint in regards to chocolate consumption (give me a jar of Nutella and a spoon and I’ll return the clean spoon within a day).

I could also mention my house cleaning, gym attendance, and Christmas newsletter writing – but I don’t want to get depressed.

 

So, the point is, I struggle with will-power and self-discipline. While I pride myself in being dependable, meeting or exceeding expectations, and reliably fulfilling my responsibilities to others, when it comes to fulfilling my promises to myself, I tend to come up short.

 

I have had “bouts of success.” In the past I’ve accomplished noteworthy personal goals that required significant self-discipline, like going an entire year without drinking soda, spending money on nothing but bills and necessities for a month, abstaining from sweets for forty days, or losing thirty pounds. But more often than not, my best intentions get lost in distractions, excuses, procrastination, or momentary personal gratification.

 

As the end of the year approaches, New Year’s resolutions begin to bounce around in my head. But I don’t want to just make some half-hearted New Year’s resolutions yet again; I want to take steps toward building lasting habits of self-discipline. So, in next week’s blog post, I will share with you my personal plan for becoming a person of discipline.

 

In the meantime: What tips do you have for overcoming procrastination, excuses, and the various other traps that tend to sabotage your own self-discipline?

 

Hard to Build, Easy to Break

© Emily Sirkel Photography

My stomach still twists in knots when I think about the moment I broke one of my most treasured possessions. It has been years since it happened, but I still find myself drawn back to that haunting memory, filled with regret and “if only” and “what was I thinking?”

 

To be honest, I have broken it more than once. If you look closely, you can still see the cracks that serve as evidence of each break and subsequent repair. Some are faint, hairline fractures that are barely noticeable, while others are wider gaps with small chunks lost forever. With each break I have carefully, painstakingly pieced it back together.

 

It’s never been a quick fix or easy repair.

 

This cherished treasure of mine was given to me by people I care for deeply. I have had it a long time, but I used to take it for granted. I didn’t treat it with special care or concern for a long time, and I rarely even thought about it. It wasn’t until that first time I broke it that I realized how desperately I needed it. It wasn’t until it was in pieces that I understood how important it was to me.

 

© Emily Sirkel Photography

 

I’m talking about trust.

 

Trust is something I take very seriously now. As a reckless teenager I very nearly destroyed it, but now, I protect it. I strive to keep it whole and I carefully cultivate it so it will grow. It is a cherished gift given to me by my parents, my husband, my boss, and my close friends. I shudder to imagine breaking it or losing it completely.

 

The dictionary defines trustworthiness as: “deserving of trust or confidence; dependable; reliable.” This is something I daily strive to be.

 

The Bible has a lot to say about being a person who is deserving of trust or confidence and who is dependable and reliable:

 

In Leviticus 19:35-36 the Lord commands that we do not cheat or deceive anyone in what is owed to them or in what they owe to us. Likewise, in Deuteronomy 25:15-16 he exhorts us to be fair in all our dealings with others and not to cheat anyone, warning, “…all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the Lord your God.”

In Zechariah 8:16-17 the Lord commands that we speak no lies and make no false promises, plainly stating that he hates such things.

Titus 2:7-8 exhorts us to, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”

 

It is clear from Scripture that we are to be trustworthy. We are to walk in integrity, being honest and fair, and not deceiving or cheating anyone. The Lord sees all we do, even the hidden intent of our heart, and he rewards integrity. In 1 Chronicles 29:17 David declares to the Lord, “I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness.”

 

It’s tempting to think of yourself as trustworthy simply because you don’t intentionally deceive people or act dishonestly. However, while honesty is a very critical element of trustworthiness, it’s not all there is to it. Being deserving of someone’s trust or confidence isn’t merely about being honest. I believe it’s just as much about being dependable and reliable.

 

My parents have dealt for years with a businessman who time after time fails to follow through on his word. For various reasons it is a business relationship that they remain committed to, despite the extreme frustration that plagues it. But what could have been a positive and gratifying arrangement has instead become a source of wariness and contention. Through their experience, to my parents this man’s word has become worthless.

 

I too have been on the receiving end of many broken promises. Like the boy who cried “wolf,” once or twice usually can be forgiven and forgotten, but when it becomes a pattern, trust quickly deteriorates. And it doesn’t have to be anything big. There are people I no longer trust to be somewhere or do something at the time they said they would. I have friends who I don’t expect to call or to show up even though they promised. There are those who I know will inevitably forget to do that favor they so eagerly offered to do, or due to one excuse or another will fail to fulfill a responsibility upon which they agreed.

 

Being trustworthy is as much about being a person of your word as it is about being honest. Follow up on everything you say you will do, and take it seriously, no matter how insignificant it may seem at the time. Also, take time to identify areas where you can make an intentional effort to be more dependable.

 

Here are a few examples of what being fully trustworthy may look like in your life:

  • Consistently being on time to work or other commitments
  • Promptly responding to emails and voicemails rather than letting them stew in your inbox for days
  • Being faithful to project deadlines or other time commitments, no matter how inconsequential a delay may seem to you
  • Following through on favors in the way and time frame you originally promised
  • If changing your mind about how or when you should do something, double checking with those whom the decision affects
  • Most importantly: taking responsibility for unfulfilled promises or commitments instead of shifting the blame or making excuses

 

Prove to friends, family and coworkers that you are a person on whom they can depend. When you say you will do something, do it – when and how you said you would – no matter how small or insignificant that promise may seem. And when you do mess up, own up.

 

When given someone’s trust, do everything you can to not break it or lose it. I promise, the rewards are priceless.

 

I place great importance on remaining trustworthy, but I do still struggle with always being dependable. One of my weaknesses is failing to always follow through on promises to call, write, or visit friends.

 

Question: What is something that causes you to begin to lose trust in someone? Do you have an area where you’ve realized you tend to be less than reliable? 

Learning to Thrive in a Chaotic World

© Emily Sirkel Photography

Life gets so busy sometimes.

 

© Emily Sirkel Photography

 

Sometimes?

Okay, life is busy all the time.

I keep thinking that an easier pace of life is just around the corner. I tell myself, “When I get that project finished, I’ll have time to breathe,” or, “When this Bible study is over, I’ll have more free nights,” or, “After the holidays, things will slow down.”

But somehow, “When” never gets here.

So I’m learning, slowly, how to deal with the chaos. Because the truth is, the chaos will never end. I mean really, I don’t even have kids yet, so who am I kidding?! In reality, my life is on track toward becoming more and more busy, chaotic, stressful and crowded.

Bring it on.

Instead of hoping and waiting for the chaos to become less chaotic (because I now realize that will never happen in this world) I am learning to thrive despite the chaos.

So here is my blog; brand new, a little empty, but determined to be a place where I can flesh out just what it means to thrive in a broken and spinning world.

Be forewarned, I am a recovering perfectionist.

I have stalled launching this blog for months now, because I was worried about getting everything just perfect first. But you know what? Perfect is overrated. Today I’m taking the first step, because without getting started I’ll never get anywhere.

I invite you to tag along as I embark on this journey of writing, and I implore you to do as much talking as listening. Join in the conversation, respond to what I’m saying, and feel free to speak up when you disagree. Together, we’re going to learn how to thrive.