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Category Archives for "Life"

Turkey | holiday stress | tips for managing holiday stress
Nov 27

Turkey and De-stressing: How minimize holiday stress

By Jessica Allen | Family , Life

I’m an introvert.  Which means even the sweetest gatherings with the people I love most can leave me feeling overwhelmed with holiday stress.  And even after almost 15 years of marriage and 19 total years of shared holidays with both sides of our family, we actually don’t have a set tradition or schedule for Thanksgiving.  It’s a little different every year.  While it always turns out sweet and special, that constant unpredictability is uber-stressful on a person who really likes sameness.

So after 19 years of near-tears and real-tears over what should be a lovely set of holiday meals together, I figured I’d do a little personal work and get to the heart of what stresses me out so much.  Once you can name it, you can solve it, or at least approach it differently so I can actually enjoy myself.  SO here’s my recipe for a big helping of de-stressing with your Thanksgiving turkey!

Tips to manage holiday stress

  1. Plan ahead – Shop early, chop and bag veggies and make the food you can ahead of time.  Pack clothes/supplies the day before.  Make a list and delegate just about everything that doesn’t involve fire or knives or your grandmother’s recipe you love to assemble yourself.  
  2. Ask for help – Even small children can perform easy tasks, like “scoop 6 cups of dog food into this Ziplock bag” or “empty the dishwasher.”  Don’t be a martyr.  I’ve tried it and all it does is make everyone miserable.  Turn the help list into a game if you want, or shamelessly bribe your people with allowance or ice cream or Hot Wheels or whatever you like to bribe them with. 
  3. Simplify – Do you really need the elaborate recipe, outfit, décor, etc.?  Or can you release some expectations and therefore manage your holiday stress level better?  Jen Hatmaker, one of my favorite authors, posted yesterday about the gorgeous green bean casserole she almost got suckered into making, until she remembered that her whole family would riot if if she didn't serve the classic canned cream soup version with crunchy onions on top.  Sometimes the simplest path really is the best. (Except for my mother's stuffing... sorry, mom.  We truly value the three entire days you spend making it and your sons in law will fight each other for the last bite.)
  4. You do you – Although it’s not characteristic of our particular families to engage in divisive political/religious conversations, it’s never beyond the realm of possibility that a sticky topic could come up. We’re all nuts just like the rest of you too.  So if you have some off-limits conversation topics, practice saying clearly with confidence: “Not today.”  Stick to your guns.  Nobody can force you to engage or respond to a conversation that is unkind, divisive, inflammatory, or disrespectful.  If all else fails, literally walk away.  You aren’t ruining anything.  So don’t accept that accusation if it starts flying your way.  If anyone’s ruining anything, they are, by disregarding and disrespecting a very clear self-respecting boundary you set.  
  5. Bring a game to play - Idle time is the birthplace of tricky conversations.  Keep the entertainment going.  Our favorites are Pit (a fast and funny yell-it-out card trading game from my childhood!!!), Spoons, Spades, Balderdash, Scrabble, Pokeno, Avocado Smash, or good old-fashioned War.  
  6. Arrive and/or serve the meal on time - This is my husband's #1 holiday stress hot button.  (actually, his stress hot button in general.). Don’t be late, and if you are, respect your people enough to give them an accurate expectation of your arrival time.  Hungry tummies are cranky tummies.  Full tummies are happy tummies and everyone feels their time - and hot, lovingly-prepared food! - is respected.  (I've ruined many a beautifully grilled pork tenderloin by not being ready for dinner when we decided we'd eat.  We're all works in progress.)
  7. Set technology expectations with children and spouses before you arrive.  Nothing hurts my feelings more than seeing people’s faces buried in screens when we’ve all made such an effort to gather together. 
  8. Realize there is no “perfect” holiday gathering, so….
  9. Get your mind and heart right before you walk in - If relationships are strained, pray for patience, compassion, understanding, love, and restraint.  You can be an agent of war or an agent of peace, no matter what the other person chooses.  What version of yourself do you want to bring to the literal table this holiday season?

To ease holiday stress, absolutely invite these things around your table:

  • Gratitude
  • Patience
  • Peace
  • Simplicity
  • Presence
  • Confidence in yourself
  • Boundaries
  • Gentleness of speech (Think of the children!  Little ears are learning.)
  • Willingness to listen more than you talk
  • Love for your people

Leave these things at home: 

  • Sarcasm
  • Old childhood patterns that don’t serve you any longer (i.e. muting your confidence/capabilities to make someone feel better, deferring to your loud brother, letting unacceptable comments fly unchecked, not standing up for yourself, arguing for arguments’ sake, etc.)
  • Anything hinting at passive-aggressive behavior
  • An ax to grind with someone (Make like Elsa and let it gooooooo)
  • Overindulging (except garlic mashed potatoes and pie, that’s okay)
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Heads buried in devices
  • A need to prove anything to anyone
  • Shame or embarrassment

If you really just can’t even…

If you’re a mess this holiday season, I invite (implore) you to simply be exactly as you need to be.  I also give you permission to blatantly eye-roll the first person who tells you to cheer up or look on the bright side.  SOMETIMES YOU LITERALLY CANNOT DO THAT.  If you’re deep in grief, of any kind, this is the year to practice lots of self-care and maybe even tell your people NO I am not coming.  I have other plans.  And as my dad taught me so insistently when I was young, it is 1000% okay if my “other plans” are simply “not going to that thing you want me to go to.”  

I have forced myself to suit-up-and-show-up when I had absolutely no business doing so.  And then I paid the price with a physical and emotional crash in the days that followed.  

That’s not being a hero.  That’s being ridiculous.

So save your brave heroics and any holiday stress for another day, and instead ask the people who love you to save you a plate of food from the party.  Put on your favorite jammies, curl up in bed with the best coffee and movies you love, and let this be a day you live in gratitude for quiet and stillness.  Plans can look different.  It's just one day, one meal, one tradition. So it’s okay to do something that goes against the norm.  Breaking the status quo generally makes people really uncomfortable but it doesn’t mean you’re disrespecting them.  It means you’re respecting yourself.   

HP, and may you have the most blessed and heart-filling holiday week,

PS: Is your shopping list giving you holiday stress?  I can help!Joy Comes in the Mourning is coming TO THIS SITE in just a few short days, in perfect time for the holidays!  It's a book that contains light and hope for every person, grieving or not, and it's small enough to tuck inside a stocking on Christmas morning.  The first 500 copies contain some sweet surprises!  More details to come!  For a quick peek at the backstory, and the "why" behind the book, click here.

who made you the expert | inferiority complex
Nov 21

Who made YOU the expert?

By Jessica Allen | Life

This is one of my favorite graphics of all time:

day in the life of an entrepreneur | emotional wheel | emotional management | personal growth

I love this graph for the reassurance and laugh it gives me as an entrepreneur but I really do think it resonates with every human person on the planet - not just business owners.

How many times a day (a minute?!) do we all go through that mental and emotional cycle?  

A friend corrected me yesterday when I let some verbal self-abuse come pouring out of my mouth.  My children know to correct me, and their daddy, and each other, when this happens too.

There’s just no reason to beat ourselves up so.  

The meanest person I know

If I had to honestly answer the question: “Who’s the meanest person you know?”, I’d have to say…. MYSELF.

I am meaner to myself than any other person in my life.  Well, almost any other person in my life.  We all have those poo-poo-list people who have done us a doozy or two.

I can rationalize that self-criticism away by reminding myself I am an aspiring high-achiever, a first-born, a recovering perfectionist, and I want to be the best at everything.  (This is a recipe for the world's version of success but really super unhealthy if it’s not balanced by self-care and perspective and compassion for others, btw.)

But ultimately the reason I’m so hard on myself is because of lingering insecurity.  I want to be taken seriously, I want to be seen as an authority or a leader in my field, I want to make a difference, I don’t want to feel left out or left behind.  I’m constantly self-scanning for points of weakness and building armor over them so I won’t be picked apart or found out or criticized or debunked.  

OUCH THAT IS HARD TO SAY IN REAL LIFE.  But it’s the truth, and that’s what we tell here.  The truth.  

Who made you the expert?

Rachel Hollis, the famed speaker and author behind Girl, Wash Your Face and Girl, Stop Apologizing, recently experienced a major troll on her social media.  Someone asked her essentially, “who made YOU the expert?

Her response stuck with me, because it is strong, inspiring, honest, and right on the money.

She replied, I DID.  (Now I'll paraphrase here:) I made MYSELF the expert.  I built a business from the ground up, with blood, sweat, and tears, and learned it all the hard way with good honest hard work. 

Essentially, you don’t need the fancy degree or the title or the certifications – what qualifies you in any field is hard-earned, nose-to-the-grindstone, elbows-dirty experience.  

I grab onto this idea EVERY DAY.  

I wonder sometimes who would ever take me seriously in the realms of grief, marriage recovery, and personal development.  I have a music degree, for goodness’ sake.

But do you know what else I have?

EXPERIENCE. 

  • I walked (still walk) the broken road of losing a child.
  • I have bloody knees from a nearly-failed marriage.
  • I built a business from the ground up, have relied on it as our sole income, and have shown other people how to do it too.
  • I have taken a leap of faith to follow a crazy wild-hare dream.
  • I have made mistakes, some private, and some very, very public.
  • I have gotten a lot wrong in the pursuit of learning how to get it right.  
  • I have worked on myself.  I have allowed other professionals to help me work on myself too.
  • I have gussied up courage to tell my story, with nothing held back.

We're all experts

So who made me the expert on grief and heartfully present living?  I DID.  By simply living my life with determination, humility, willingness, faith, courage, fear, confidence, love, and an open mind and heart.  

Which begs the question: who made YOU the expert on your magnificent life’s pursuit?  Whether it's child-rearing, relationships, education, politics, business, ministry, health care, sales, service, or art?

YOU DID.  And you’re continuing to prove your expertise every day.   

Keep going.  What you’re doing matters.

From one expert to another, 

HP,

J

OMGOSH my book is almost out into the world and I can't wait for you to read it! If you want to be part of the launch team, drop me a note, subscribe to our Happy Mail Club, and mark your calendars for December 3!  XO&HP, J

And, if you're not on our Heartfully Present Facebook page yet, we miss you and we need you and we hope you'll come play.  :). The world and the internet are a mess of wildly strange and confusing things, and our little community is a sweet breath of edifying fresh air!

Why I Write | woman writing | find your purpose
Aug 20

Why I Write

By Jessica Allen | Faith , Life

There is something wonderfully intimate about written words.  When you look carefully at something handwritten, you can sense feeling in the curve of each stroke.  Even in type print, you can feel a writer’s emotions in the words they have laid on the page.

When I read my Granddad’s old sermons I loved watching his thoughts unfold on the paper. Throughout his 40-year ministry he crafted each message, by hand of course, scratching out and rewriting as I believe the Holy Spirit must have led him. To read his work from beginning to end was a gaze into the windows of his heart and the evolution of his faith. Reading his work in his own handwriting made it all the more personal and special.

So for me, as much as I love podcasts and audiobooks, there is no substitute for written word.

Since I can remember I have always turned to pen and paper in times when my heart spills over.  Where my own distracted mind and unreliable memory often fail, writing never does.

Things that confound my understanding look a little simpler in my own script.

What tears my heart in two seems easier to mend when I see it in ink. 

So I trust the page. Because nothing makes sense in my head or heart until I get it there. 

Once it’s on paper, it’s no longer imagined, exaggerated, minimized, or distorted.  It’s real.  Just as it is, just as I see it, no more, and no less.  And once it’s real I can deal with it.  I can give it a name and assign it a feeling.  Even when I don’t understand it, I can watch it take shape in words, and I can hand those words to God.  They don’t have to be pretty (usually they aren’t) or even appropriate (happens more than you think). 

My gift is my song and this one’s for you

Those words become my prayers.  The song that I sing back to the One who made us.  Those prayers – that song – is full of wrong notes, broken chords, awkward pauses, and shaky entrances.  It’s riddled with uncertainty but fueled by an unwavering belief that it matters.  

Because there’s something in me whispering to be set free.   A voice in my soul that travels through my heartstrings and out through my fingertips.  A voice that is mine and mine only, unblemished by anyone else’s expectations or needs or beliefs or ambitions. 

The older I get, the more persistent that voice becomes.  Events and experiences in my adulthood continue to challenge everything I thought I knew about my life, my faith, my convictions, my relationships, and my calling. 

That’s a lot of noise rumbling in my head and heart. 

And when that noise rises to deafening levels, it’s easy to overwhelm and shut down.  It’s tempting to muffle it, distract from it, dismiss it altogether.  But then I miss the magic.  I miss the opportunity to learn from it, grow through it, mold it into something beautiful I can offer back into the world. 

What is wisdom gained from our experiences if not a gift we pay forward?

Why I write: to shine light in the dark

Left inside myself, everything I know and think and feel is hoarded… muzzled… censored… wasted

To have been blessed with the love and faith I’ve been given, and clutch it close to myself, would be my failure as a witness to the power of God’s love and grace in my life. 

To own these stories of hope and choose not to share them would be valuing my own comfort over someone else’s despair.

If there’s even the tiniest chance this little lighthouse can shine a way for someone else, then I will keep the candle burning. 

That candle is the light I wish I had seen in the dark.  Comfort I needed when we lost our son.  A shake of the shoulders I needed when I almost lost my marriage.  Compassion I needed as I wrestled with changing beliefs.  Permission I needed to be exactly myself when I couldn’t recognize the face in the mirror.  Patience I needed when I learned the hard way.  And the truth that I needed when my questions brought me to my knees.

But yet I am learning, over and over and over again, that for some questions I may never in this lifetime receive a satisfying answer. There’s a piece of me in heaven and the rest of me down here and I don’t know if that’s something I will ever reconcile in my human mind.

Thus forward in faith I go.

So why do I write?

I write because my heart says to write and I can’t ignore her any longer.  No matter who reads it, or if anyone ever does.  The measure of its impact is not for me to decide, nor does its “success” or “failure” determine my worth.  I don’t even have to understand its ultimate purpose or see a clear path in front of me. 

My only responsibility is simply to offer it up.   

The rest is up to Him.

HP,

J

PS: This is why I write. So why do you do what you do?  Do you believe it matters?  Because it does, more than you could imagine. Try putting your “why” on paper.  You might surprise yourself. If you’d like a little extra help and inspiration, try this: Who am I (and who do I want to become)?

YOU are also why I write. For there is something in you too that is whispering to be set free.

Carry on, dear one.  You’re right where you are supposed to be.

Why I Write | typewriter and blank paper | find your purpose
Find your purpose | man on mountain | what's your why
time management tips for work from home moms
Jul 16

Time Management for Dummies (Smarties)

By Jessica Allen | Life

Today we’re talking time management. Time management for dummies. Time management for smarties, actually… because anyone intent on learning how to better manage their time is wiser than most.

When you can manage your time, money, and emotions well, the rest of life tends to fall much better into place.

I wrote a piece for my friend Ashleigh over at Smart Cents Mom on the nuts and bolts of my work-from-home time management strategies. This is everything I’ve learned from seasoned mentors, as well as my own experience as a work-from-home mom. Entrepreneurship is the best job on the planet but it can make you crazy if you don’t have a good grip on your time and energy output.

Multiply that crazy times infinity if you’re throwing small children in the mix. (The baby is chewing my arm while I’m typing this right now.) There are countless distractions throughout the day threatening to derail any train of thought and I’ve watched more people than I can say become frustrated to the point of throwing in the towel (with their businesses, not with their children). I’ve learned as I’ve grown, and my business and strategies have evolved right along with my life and family.

I don’t believe we’re supposed to “do it all” in life. But you can do what fuels you – all the important things – when you find a healthy equilibrium between them all. Notice I did not say “balance.” Balance is a lie and a surefire setup for frustration. In equilibrium, parts are ever-shifting all the time in harmony, making room for what must take priority in the right-now.

All this is to say: I have strong feelings on this topic of time management. Because poor time management sinks ships. But time managed well will let any dream or project take flight.

I hope you’ll give my guest piece a read, and while you’re there, check out the rest of what’s happening at Smart Cents Mom! Time Management for Work From Home Moms (or, how to keep your sanity and love your life)

HP,

J

PS: Need a good tool for getting on track? Try this. Pen and paper taped to my fridge has never once steered me wrong.

time management tips for work from home moms
sleeping baby | 9 month old baby | bouncing back after having a baby at 35
Jul 05

9 months out: bouncing back at thirty-something

By Jessica Allen | Family , Life

All I ever wanted was to be a mom.

Now as an adult, I realize that there are so many other things I want too, and need, and am still meant for.  But when I get frantic trying to wear all the hats, there’s a part of me that tugs on my tailored suit coat and gently whispers: this is your most important work. 

The myth of bouncing back

Having a baby at thirty-five is definitely different than having a baby at twenty-six.  Nothing “bounces back.”  Literally nothing.  Can we stop cramming that idea of bouncing back down people’s throats?  Who wants to bounce back, anyway?  Don’t we want to go forward?  Forward with gained wisdom, increased humility, refined skills, deepened relationships, and focused priorities?

My body has grown and delivered three tiny humans (some tinier than others) and nourished them faithfully.  She bears the weight of their little bodies and keeps up with their needs.  She has no intention of bouncing back quickly and I am not pushing her to do so. Rather, I am good to her, mostly – I feed her the greens and coffee and cupcakes she craves, I move gently to soothe her creaks and tender spots, and I have promised at some point I will give her the adequate rest she is calling me for. 

I am tired. 

I loathe that phrase, I really do.

So I rarely utter it, because you’re just as tired as I am, and because “I’m tired” is not something I want to profess or claim over my life.  Speak it and it becomes, yes?

But this is a season that finds me joyfully, fulfillingly, heartfully… tired. 

And I think that’s okay.

In seasons like this, when I can give myself permission to acknowledge that fact, there’s some neat magic that happens.

I can start to acknowledge that I cannot do it all, nor do I want to do it all, nor do I have the patience for anything – or anyone – pressuring me that I should be able to do it all.  Not at full throttle, anyway.  I can give myself permission to take my foot off the gas and enjoy the trip a little.  There’s no contest for who can get to the end of our life the fastest.  (And if there is, I don’t want to compete.)

Related post: Leaning back, bouncing back, and letting go of the pressures motherhood brings

Mental work

Working moms have it tough.  So do stay at home moms.  I am both.  So my mind gets muddy sometimes, and in the swirl of postpartum hormones, that mud can build up to a complete obstruction of view. 

These muddy thoughts are a few of my not-so-favorite things: Mommy guilt, the feeling of being pulled in every direction, fear of what other people think or of being left behind, scary dreams about the baby or too-complicated philosophical questions in sleep-deprived twilight, distorted self-talk, and frustration over how to dress this new and beautiful but completely reshaped body of mine. 

That’s a lot of dysfunction to cram into one, very tired, mind. 

So what helps a little?  The reading, yoga, mindfulness, and personal work I have always relied on for clarity and stillness.  A hot bath.  A great book.  Sobbing it out to my unsuspecting yet always-compassionate mom.    

What helps the most?  The village.  Friends who listen – really listen.  Mentors who lead with patience.  Family who treat the children to excursions and the grownups to a date.  Hired helpers – angels in human skin – who clear the physical clutter and make way for mental clarity too. 

Writing helps, too.  I write because what’s jumbled up in my mind finally makes sense out of my head and onto the paper.  Sometimes, I guess.  Mostly.  Even if it still doesn’t make much sense, I can at least see my thoughts clearly enough to sort them into their proper places and take the next best step forward. 

Isn’t that better than bouncing back?

HP,

J

Elisha: 9 months out

PS: Funny how it all works out – I started this post as a cute and sweet 9 month update of my little guy.  Clearly that was not what was really on my mind.  Since it’s worth a share, here’s what’s happening in baby land:

  • 1 big top tooth (this morning!) and 2 more teeth seconds away from poking through
  • Pulling up and sitting down
  • Can climb the entire flight of stairs and likes to eat the dirt out of my living room dracaena
  • Says ma-ma-ma when he’s excited or needs something
  • Wakes twice in the night, naps twice in the day, best snuggler
  • 20+ pounds, 12-month clothes
  • Strawberry hair, and we think green eyes are here to stay
  • Still makes his crazy gasp-in laugh and thinks his brother and sister are the absolute funniest creatures on the planet
  • Loves to be tossed and flipped, and “jump” into the pool
  • Eats literally everything – watermelon and guacamole are current favorites
  • And
  • He’s so sweet we want 100 more just like him. 
9 months in – this was the morning Elisha was born.

I loved this pregnancy. I was (still am) so proud of my body for doing exactly what it was supposed to do – grow and protect a sweet, fat, healthy little baby.
Build better belief | solid footing | Belief in marriage | Belief in faith | Belief in confidence
Jun 21

Build better belief

By Jessica Allen | Life , Marriage

When G was 5, we had her in gymnastics.  A favorite treat after class was playing at the nearby park before we went home. 

The monkey bars totally freaked her out.  Until one day she hitched herself up and literally yelled to the entire neighborhood I BELIEVE IN MYSELF!  As she swooped across those bars like it was nothing and dropped down at the end, she stood about 6 inches taller than she was when she started.  I snapped a photo after she made her claim – this has always been one of my favorite pictures of her.  I love the look of determination and solid belief on her face. 

girl with belief on monkey bars | solid grip
G, wiser at 5 than I am at 35.

If only we could remember to claim our belief with that much confidence into adulthood.

I know what I believe when things are good.  But when life gets “lifey” as my friend Michelle says, it’s harder to claim belief and find solid ground. 

So what’s the one belief you hold onto?

Through tough business cycles, I remind myself that my leadership matters.

When ministry feels hard, I step back to admit I am really doing it all for an audience of One.

When friendships fade or fray, I continue to believe that the right people will stick no matter what.

On days where I’ve been more Evil Stepmother than Mary Poppins, I am grateful that despite my imperfections, God made me the perfect mother for my children.

As our marriage hits bumps in the road, I find solid footing on my tried-by-fire knowledge that we’ve already made it through the worst of the worst. 

I did not always have this confidence or these beliefs, in any of these areas.

As I reflect on all I’ve learned (and am continuing to learn) in business, ministry, relationships, parenting, and marriage, I realize any confidence I’ve gained has grown out of the pain of disappointment.  But before I had confident footing on solid ground, all I had was shaky balance on a tiny stone.

You see, in times of new beginning or struggle or disappointment, sure footing is hard to find. 

When you don’t have much belief of your own, just grab onto what’s right within your reach.

As a baby business owner, all I had to hold onto was the training I was given.

When I was a new ministry leader, all I knew to tell myself was that someone was counting on me to show up.

When my first adult friendships broke, I had to repeat to myself over and over that seasons – and sometimes people – come and go, and that the right people will love me for me.  Even the ugly parts.

When I blew it big time as a mother of young children, I had to trust the veterans who said the kids won’t even remember what happened and I can try again better tomorrow.

And when my marriage was falling apart, all I could do was pray and hold on one more day. 

Change starts with you

When even one of these important areas of my life feels shaky, my whole life feels off-kilter.  Imagine what happens when more than one area is out of whack?  What happens when they’re all out of whack? 

I know it’s not pretty because that’s exactly what happened.  When the most important area to me (my marriage) got sideways, it threw off every single other area too.  It warped my whole life because it threw me off. 

When everything around you is going wrong, what’s the common denominator? 

When nothing changes, nothing changes.  And change starts with you.  What are you telling yourself? 

Your beliefs become your thoughts,

your thoughts become your words,

your words become your actions,

your actions become your habits,

your habits become your values,

your values become your destiny.

— Gandhi

Even the tiniest belief will do

Can I tell you what tiny bit of solid ground actually held our whole marriage mess together?  My unwavering belief that our little family is something special, even when the parents didn’t like each other much. 

That was the only sure thing I knew, and all I had.  Since I knew that to be true, my mind and heart could go to work finding more evidence to support that fact.  I could watch my husband talk and play with our children and build respect for him, one baseball practice at a time.  I could listen to him read to them at night and begin to hope and trust that he could offer me that kind of tenderness, too.  I could be vulnerable with small things and when he treated them with care, offer bigger pieces of my heart. 

Those little spots of solid ground slowly started to connect and form a pathway I could trust moving forward.  One tiny, and sometimes very scary, step at a time.  (All of this applied to me too, because he didn’t trust me an inch either.  I had to earn back his trust and confidence piece by piece just like he had to earn mine. His tiny unwavering belief? Well, I asked him. And though the belief he clung to was similar to mine, it had a slightly different angle and included a lot of very colorful words I should not type here. The point is, it doesn’t matter what you hold onto as long as it keeps you in the game and hopeful for the future.)

Claim belief, no matter how small, in every area that matters

Wherever you are in these areas of your life that matter most to you, find some footing – even if it’s one tiny toe on one tiny rock.  Choose to believe a new idea, or invest in it with better words and actions.  Try it.  It might hold weight after all.  And as you learn to trust your shaky foot on that tiny surface, you’ll find bigger and stronger footing as you go. 

You’ll learn to trust people.  You’ll learn to trust yourself.  You might even grow to believe better and stronger things about each situation (and person) as they prove themselves to be true.  It’s a slow build but when you stay faithful to the process, you’ll establish strength you never imagined possible.  Mental strength.  Emotional strength.  Spiritual strength (the best strength of all). 

What belief can you claim?  Let it bring you solid footing in all the ways that matter most. 

HP,

J

Reading List

Just so you know: these are affiliate links. If you choose to purchase a book through these links, you won’t pay a penny more, but I will receive a small commission that helps keep our little community thriving. Thanks!

This I Believe (the Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women) by Jay Allison

This I Believe II (More Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women) by Jay Allison

I know I keep sending you to these specific books and I am sure I will continue to do so. There’s something really game-changing about connecting yourself with people who know what they stand for. Want to shape your own beliefs into more solid ground? Wrestle with them. Ask yourself hard questions. Challenge what you took at face value as a child and test it out in real life. Read biographies of people you admire and want to learn from. Because stretching yourself is the best work you’ll ever do.

Build better belief | belief in marriage | belief in faith | stronger confidence | feet in running shoes standing in water
Lose Control |Find what you can count on | out of control horse
May 30

Lose Control (and find what you can count on)

By Jessica Allen | Faith , Life

Things I can control

My attitude

My spiritual life

My communication

My health

My choices

My investment into my relationships

My self care

Things I cannot control

Literally Everything Else.

Baby out of control mess
Clearly.

I buck hard against this Universal Truth, but that’s the thing about Universal Truths – they do not break.

This is a season (May, 2019, Raising Small Children, My 30’s, Little League, Entrepreneurship, The Last Day Of School Before Summer, etc.) that is forcing me to take exactly one blessed day at a blessed time.  My brain cannot handle any more than that. 

I like to plan and know what to expect, but so much of what’s happening in our little family’s life is beyond our control.  It’s unsettling in many ways.  Yet in other aspects, it’s a true relief.

One day at a time

The concept of “one day at a time” is held closely in the recovery world.  It’s the practice of being responsible for what you can, releasing the rest, and finding joy/contentment/peace one day at a time. 

If this practice is healthy and helpful for people in recovery, and those who love them most, surely it’s good for all the rest of us too.

Living one day at a time means I am accountable only for where I am and what I am doing (giving to myself and the world and other people) in this present moment. 

It’s as simple as remembering – and whispering to yourself as often as you need to – the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. 

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

Schedules will get overwhelming.

People will disappoint you.

You will drop the ball on something important.

Life will throw you a curve ball you never saw coming.

So what can I count on?

I know that no matter what, the constants I can count on are:

  1. My spiritual life (even when I wanted God to leave, He never did),
  2. My commitment to my own mental/emotional/physical wellness, and
  3. I have also learned, through fire and actual hell on earth, that there are people I can actually count on.  They are human, and they will undoubtedly disappoint me from time to time, just as I will disappoint them.  But it is a gift to know who you can truly trust when the chips are down.  My husband, our parents, our siblings, and a few inner circle friends are my anchors.  All this hype about “finding your tribe?” This is all the tribe I need.

Who are those people in your life?  Those people that sing your song back to you when you’ve forgotten how it goes.  Do you have them?

Who are you that person for? 

When you lose control

When life swirls all crazy and you can’t see the next step, stop grasping for control.  (It’s always just beyond our reach anyway.)

Instead, go back to what you can count on

Did you know there is a “rest of” the Serenity Prayer? 

After “wisdom to know the difference,” it continues:

Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world

As it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right

If I surrender to His will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life

And supremely happy with Him

Forever in the next.

Amen.

One. Moment. At. A. Time. 

Lean into your faith.  Invest in your health.  Grab hold of your people.  It’s what you can count on. 

Heartfully Present,

J

Reading list:

This is an affiliate link – if you choose to purchase a book through this link, you won’t pay a penny more, but I’ll receive a small commission that helps keep our little community up and running.

The Way of Serenity (Finding Happiness in The Serenity Prayer) by Father Jonathan Morris

Lose control | Find what you can count on | out of control horse
discouragement | how to bounce back | discouraged woman
May 21

Discouragement

By Jessica Allen | Life

Why do we feel discouragement, and even more importantly, how do we bounce back faster?

Not everyone is prone to get stuck in discouragement. But some of us are. In a world of “suck it up, buttercup,” it’s not popular to admit you feel discouraged. But those feelings are real, and until you can pinpoint why they’re flooding your mind, it’s hard to move forward up and out.

This concept has been on my mind a lot lately – I chalk it up to the wild ride of entrepreneurialism and the creative process. But I also watch discouragement play out in real life with my son quite frequently. In fact, my husband had a chat with him just this morning about it. “You know what the opposite of discouraged is, buddy? COURAGE.” (I literally had never thought about that before.)

Something my son did has been stuck in my craw since Spring Break, and I finally figured it out. So here you go:

Discouragement in real time

Ever had to ski up a mountain? That’s exactly what I had to do when my 7 year old melted down over a challenging run.

You see, he had toppled over for the umpteenth time (turns out his binding was loose) and lost both skis in the tumble.

He has… well… a short fuse.  Like father, like son.  And when he hit the ground this time, he got mad.  So mad that he formally and very loudly denounced skiing and the entire state of Colorado and our whole vacation all in a fit so epic I had to turn my body away so he wouldn’t see me choking back laughter.  He saw me anyway, and so for dramatic emphasis, he threw his ski down the slope… and then was furious that I made him go get it himself. By then I was mad too.

Just about the time I thought I was going to have to roll him down the slope, we got his skis back on despite his epic pouting.  He made it down the rest of the run, faster and more confident as we went.  We got to the bottom and I clipped out of my skis to take him for a cheer-up hot chocolate when I heard him yell at the top of his lungs, “THAT WAS AWESOME!”

I think I actually pounded my helmet with my fists.  He makes me crazy when he does this. 

This story happened months ago and I promise you it has taken me this long to process it.  Why does he react this way, and why does it send me into a tailspin?  What is it about his display of rage that bothers me so much?

I finally put my finger on it this morning.  It popped on like a light bulb.

His anger stems from discouragement

Whether it’s skiing, or a poor grade on a school assignment, or a failed attempt at a sports skill, or feeling excluded by friends, this child’s heart breaks when he feels discouraged. 

No big deal, right?  This is a life skill we can work on, right?

So why does it bother me so much when he gets like this?

Because I fall apart when I am discouraged too.

While he may pick up his temper from his daddy, my son picks up his tendency towards discouragement from me. 

“I Can” Attitude

Upon reflection, I realize I have spent the majority of my adult life subconsciously learning to master the feeling of discouragement.  Experiences like the grieving process, entrepreneurship, leadership, risk-taking, learning from failure, etc. are all incredible tools for learning how to cope with feeling discouraged.  Taking one step at a time.  Determining the next best yes.  Honoring my feelings in the moment and then choosing to continue with only the good ones in my brain. 

I am the Queen of Picking Myself Up By My Own Bootstraps.  I could write a book of motivational quotes and list 100 reasons why your attitude determines your altitude. 

I know that by focusing on and working in my strengths, my confidence will grow.

And by keeping a spirit of optimism and positivity, I can always, always, always find a silver lining.  (this is really annoying to lots of people in my life actually.)

There’s nothing that God and I can’t do together. 

But sometimes, I just feel discouraged 

My usual traps of discouragement show up after an embarrassing fall on my you-know-what or when my confidence takes a dive.

And when I feel discouraged, my personal tendency is to get stuck in it.

I am not proud of this.  I am, however, proud that after 3 months of wondering why a thrown ski bothered me so much, I figured it out. 

I don’t like the way my son behaves when he’s discouraged because I don’t like the way I behave when I am discouraged. 

When this realization became crystal clear, my mind flooded with instances when I have thrown my own proverbial ski.

Times when I pouted… rerouted… blamed… and stayed stuck in my own self-pity instead of picking myself up and moving ahead. 

How much time and energy have I wasted pitching a fit instead of getting back to the venture at hand?

Where my son and I differ is that he is made up of a pretty even mix of his daddy and me: he has my tendency towards discouragement, and his daddy’s fiery competitive spirit.  Those may seem opposites of one another but they fuel each other pretty intensely.  (They’re explosive in our marriage… it’s no wonder they’re explosive within himself.)

My little guy gets discouraged, defeated, and then flashes red hot mad.  I get discouraged and then, if I’m not careful, get stuck in defeat.  So I know all too well the feeling of disappointment that turns to embarrassment and other related unproductive behavior.

I’ve had a lifetime to acquire and practice techniques that help me forge onward when I feel discouraged.  But he’s just getting started.  Maybe it won’t take him until nearly-40 to understand – and adapt to – how he is wired.

How can I help him (er, myself) move through moments of feeling discouraged without pushing him to the point of anger or frustration?

How to stop feeling discouraged

  1. Acknowledge your actual feelings.  I have found that “help me understand what’s making you sad” is a valuable opener when I’m helping my son work through discouragement. Not surprisingly, that question is just as helpful when I ask it of myself.  Sometimes all we need as human beings is to be heard and understood.  Being misunderstood is in itself incredibly defeating, so if we can start by simply trying to understand where our feelings are coming from, it’s a lot easier to navigate anything else that follows.
  2. Decide what you’d like to see happen.  Help identify some next-step options.  He didn’t really want to leave Colorado.  He wanted to have fun skiing like a champ.  So once he could think/speak clearly enough to articulate what he wanted, we could figure out how to make it happen.
  3. Take action towards a solution.  Action cures fear, and frustration, every time.  We put his skis back on, even though he was still upset, and made it down one easy turn at a time.  By the time we got to the bottom, it was the Best Vacation Ever.

What doesn’t help:

  1. Yelling or shaming.  This includes our own self-talk. Shaming yourself never works. Discouragement breeds frustration and anger, which breeds more discouragement.  Punishing my son (or myself) for feeling upset would have been completely counterproductive.
  2. Pushing him.  His sister is old/wise enough for me to do this, but he is not.  There will come a time that I can tell him “dig deep and keep going” or the more popular “suck it up buttercup” but he doesn’t have the emotional coping skills to do that on his own yet.  He needs help with the process.  (Some of us adults still need to give ourselves grace in this area too.  Pushing yourself through something when your emotions aren’t in check is sometimes not the best option.  #unpopularopinion #notsorry)
  3. Not honoring the victory.  Celebrate the way discouragement turns into confidence.  Every experience we have turning over negative experiences into something positive is another tool in our emotional toolbox.  It’s a feeling you can draw on the next time you encounter feelings of discouragement.

What’s got you feeling discouraged?  Tap into yourself and get to the heart of what’s really bothering you.  Figure out what you’d really like to see happen.  And then take steps to get there. 

There is no reason to let discouragement hold you back. 

So put your skis back on and let’s go.  It’s fun, I promise. 

HP,

J

PS: Feeling discouraged? Check out these books I love that have helped me learn how to work through it. (These are affiliate links – if you choose to purchase a book through one of these links, you won’t pay a penny more, but I’ll receive a small commission which helps keep our little community up and running.  Thanks!)

Do It Scared by Ruth Soukup (BRAND NEW and launching TODAY, I’ve read the sneak peek and it’s fantastic!)

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers

Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick

Discouragement|how to bounce back|discouraged woman
6 ways Comparison is crushing your spirit
Apr 16

Comparison: 6 surprising ways it’s crushing your spirit

By Jessica Allen | Life

I know you play the comparison game because I do too. I found myself swirling in it up to my eyebrows last week, when I couldn’t figure out why I had chewed all my fingernails. After pausing for a deep breath and a little reflecting, I could finally pin point the source of my frustration as that all-too-familiar pastime of comparison.

I love my life and I really love my schedule.  But the beginning of a new week can feel like whiplash even for me.  You see, our little family comes off the weekend where we’ve done our own thing at our own pace. We’ve enjoyed intentional moments of living in love.  And then all of a sudden, we get to Monday and it’s a fresh bombardment of everyone else’s needs, wants, and expectations. I haven’t even brushed my teeth yet and I already feel behind.  Can we just go back to Saturday, please?!

Social Media: the comparison game’s cheapest shot

Vulnerable admission here: social media can sink my ship in the comparison department. It seems like everyone gets a fresh burst of energy and motivation on Monday (which we all should!) to ask me to try or buy something, or to showcase their magnificent bodies or lifestyles online.  Advertisers know we are trolling the Internet Monday mornings and so they place strategic advertisements to remind us that we’re lacking in every department and therefore we need something.  That we deserve this purchase.  That our life/health/wellness/happiness is worth the investment of our money.  So by 9 AM Monday morning, we’ve forgotten that amazing scripture we read when we woke up that reminds us we’re loved and valuable just as we are, and instead by comparison we’re feeling less-than and not enough. 

Ooof.  Just about the time I’m feeling defeated because my lower back spasm and postpartum belly pooch are crying for mercy just as loudly as my stretched-out jeans, I have to force myself to close my computer (or phone apps).  Instead of being distracted by someone else’s version of happiness, I have to redirect my thoughts and focus on the magnificent life I’m creating for myself and the people I love most. 

Focus on you

We all love our friends.  But I challenge you to take your eyes off of whatever journey they’re on, if only just for today, and shift focus back on yourself.  What’s YOUR vision?  What do you want to cultivate more of in your life?  All it takes to bring more fruits of the spirit into your life is the realization that you desire to do so, and then making the decision to do something about it.  YOU are 100% in control of that project. 

By playing the comparison game, you give over that 100% control to someone else.  Someone else who doesn’t own your life, pay your bills, live with your spouse, parent your children, or have your gifts.  Why do we do that?! 

Comparison can stifle your growth and crush your spirit.  It’s subtle and sneaky, and before you know it, you’re chewing your fingernails too or wondering why that eye twitch won’t quit.

Here are some surprising ways that comparison is holding you back:

It’s wasting the most precious gift you have – your time.

By looking to the person on the left and the right, or even looking back over your shoulder at the person behind you, you’re stealing precious time away from the main character in your story: YOU.  There is always going to be someone better, stronger, smarter, faster, and prettier (by the world’s standards).  That is just fact.  BUT instead of comparing yourself, select one person to model and emulate.  Whose life looks like the one you desire?  Whose faith, whose relationships, whose finances, etc. are where you’d like to be?  There’s a big difference between comparing yourself to that person (negative focus) and striving to become more like them in the ways you admire (positive focus).  Focus on YOU and stop wasting time in comparison.

Also notable, most of us resort to self-soothing methods to feel better when our confidence takes a blow – we start eating, scrolling, binge-watching, etc. These are also time-wasters.

It distorts reality by comparing your weaknesses to other people’s strengths. 

Or, similarly, we’re comparing our chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 30.  It’s really easy as an entrepreneur to look at the top names in the business and feel defeated because you’re on chapter 1 of your journey.  My faith/business/health/communication/wealth are not as strong as the leaders I admire.  But they’ve been at this a lot longer, and with much more intention.  It would be easy to shut down over how far I still have to go.  But in reality, my chapter 1 is coming along quite nicely. 

In many ways, I feel like I’m on chapter 1’s in just about every area: my marriage, parenting, writing, personal growth, and health. So I’ll stay in gratitude, in my own real world, celebrating my personal strengths and successes, and giving myself grace for the areas I’m still improving.  The experts are experts because they started right where I am… and they just kept going.

Comparison works the other way, too.  If my confidence is bruised, or my insecurities get out of control, it’s easy to start leveraging my own success against other people’s weaknesses.  (“I’m so much further ahead than they are… at least I’m not that bad,” etc.)  This is the quickest way to pick up some unflattering arrogance and a guaranteed way to earn a much-needed kick in the proverbial pants.  The bigger the ego, the harder it falls. 

It sends you into a tailspin of justification, excuses, and personal shaming. 

Once you start feeling less-than, your mind immediately begins protecting itself by telling you all the reasons that you’re less-than.  “Well, she’s got more time… her husband is more supportive… my priorities are just different, etc.”  Ultimately this is wasting even more of your time painting a pretty pitiful picture of yourself and everyone else involved. 

Wouldn’t we all like a better inner dialogue? Change your thoughts!

Comparison robs you of your confidence. 

Spend enough time reflecting on your weaknesses and lack, and no matter how spectacular your strengths are, you’ll start feeling like a zero.  That low energy will spread to just about every area of your life – home, work, relationships. Here are two sister articles on how to grow your confidence or rebuild it after it’s been bruised.

You let it limit your forward motion and progress. 

What you focus on will grow.  So rather than focusing on the things that make you feel small, put your blinders on, stay in your own lane, and get back to doing/creating/being exactly what you are meant for.  Nobody else is going to do it for you.

Comparison takes you out of gratitude. 

How can you stay in a spirit of gratitude when you’re disappointed about the things you don’t have?  Gratitude is the root of every fruit of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  So if you desire to cultivate those qualities in your life, ditch the comparison game and get back to gratitude.  There are zillions of strategies for this but a journal is the easiest.  Each morning, or whenever you start feeling sucked dry by comparison, jot down three things you feel grateful for.   Before long that gratitude will become habit.  For me, it looks like a daily, constant self-talk in my mind and heart. Gratitude gives a sweeter fragrance to everything I do. 

No, you’re not perfect.  Neither am I.  There are so many ways we can continue to grow and learn and stretch into the best versions of ourselves.  But the comparison game isn’t the way to do it. 

What’s one way comparison is crushing your spirit?  And what are you going to do about it today?

HP,

J

Reading List: Just about anything positive and uplifting in the personal development niche will help you edge away from the comparison game. Here are a few of my favorites!

Just so you know! These are affiliate links. If you choose to purchase a book through one of these links, it won’t cost you a penny more, but I’ll receive a small commission which helps keep our little community up and running.

What’s Holding You Back? by Sam Horn

Gmorning, Gnight! Little Pep Talks for Me & You by Lin Manuel Miranda

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

The Confidence Code (for Women) by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

The Confidence Code for Girls by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

6 ways the comparison game is crushing your spirit
how life changes after baby|newborn baby and mother
Apr 05

How life changes after baby – for good

By Jessica Allen | Life

My little guy turns 6 months old today.  How half a year has passed, I have no idea.

I had this vision that I would have seamlessly eased back into my life as I knew it – heels, tailored suits, and all.

That vision has become partly true.  I love where I’ve committed my time and talents, and luckily those roles allow me great shoes.  And tremendous, I’m-so-grateful-I-worked-so-hard-to-create-it flexibility. 

But the reality is that I am having a harder time with “re-entry” than I anticipated. 

A wise and dear friend calls it bandwidth.  There’s simply not an infinite amount of it to hold all I’m asking it to.  Faith, family, career, health, hobbies, and my ideal pant size, to name a few.  Some of those require more Band Width than others right now.

I want to be the fullest and best version of a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, mentor, leader, and servant.  For a perfectionist-in-recovery, falling short in any of these roles can feel like a failure.

life changes after baby|baby feeding himself
E, 6 months – Banana bomb
No teeth yet. Tickly ribs. Can roll himself to where he wants to go.
Loves everything. Seriously.

There’s not one single thing I regret over the past six months – not even the chronic knot in my shoulder or how exhausted I feel on cranky days full of crying for my attention.  Those growing pains are sweetened ten times over with E’s gummy giggles and slobbery kisses, the little pieces of his face that change every day, and the way his bright eyes light up when he’s learning something new.  This wee wiggly one is the most priceless investment of my time.  And these are magic moments I’ll never get back. 

Even so, there are other parts of me that cry out for attention too. 

We all have these dreams, these desires.  These divine tugs of the heart that whisper, “I’m still here.  Please don’t forget.”  Passions and purposes given to us by our Maker that He will equip us to fulfill.  With any luck, we’ll have a lifetime to honor them all and do the good work we’ve been assigned. 

But how do you tell part of yourself to “Hold on just a minute?  I’m busy over here.”  So busy that even the simplest decisions feel overwhelming and the fear of disappointing someone (the guarantee that I will disappoint someone) sucks the life from my spirit.

In the world of motherhood, as a work-from-home mom, I settle right in the middle of “working mom” and “stay at home mom.” The sheer number of articles advocating the benefits of either role are vast enough to drown a mama.  I have read them all.  Them ALL.  No matter which “side” I need to validate on any given day, there’s more than enough evidence out there to reaffirm my choice to work from home. (Side note – don’t fall prey to mom-shaming.  It’s so easy to do.  We are all doing the very best we can with the tools and opportunities we have.  Every woman, every family, every child is different.  The last thing we all need is one more spoonful of guilt on our plate.)

I’ve coached hundreds of women in business to manage their time and emotions well so they can achieve their career goals, no matter the circumstances.  So I know it CAN be done.  Maybe it even SHOULD be done.  I have even done it before, with two in diapers, and with less support, and with fewer resources at my disposal. 

But what happens if I simply run out of bandwidth?  When there’s not enough of me to give a full 100% to every passion in my soul?

Something’s got to give. 

But it can’t be me

If I want even a fighting chance to give my best to all these things I love, I have to respond to that little whisper of my heart.  “I hear you.  I see you.  You are important to me.  But right now I need you to wait.  Not forever… just for right now.”

The enemy wants me to spin out.  He draws my attention to my title, my image, my success, and shows it all to me through the filter of comparison.  He makes me feel like I have to act fast, right now, don’t waste time, because this is all passing you by.  If you pause, you lose.  You’ll miss out.  You’ll be left out and left behind.  And then you won’t make any impact at all. 

That is an assault of lies.  I know it.  Especially that last one, which cuts me to the quick and has the power to crush my spirit.

Where I am right now… this season of my life that will be over in an instant… this is where I am making an impact.  And I believe it’s probably more powerful than I can fully understand.

The other parts of me I love are still just as important to me as they ever were.  If it’s possible, my heart is pulled toward them even more deeply now.  The wider and more abundant my life becomes, the more room there is in it for all those things.  The more room there is in it for all these people.  The right passions will never pass me by.  The right people will never pass me by either. 

For a proud lifelong sword-bearer toward “what’s next,” this is a highly bewildering time.  I simply don’t know what’s next.  Perhaps that’s what I’m supposed to be learning right now – to be fully present and give all of myself right where I am. 

Wouldn’t we all be happier that way?  To be so present and committed to where we are (no matter where that may be) that we never feel pulled, frantic, guilty, or frayed-thin?

Maybe that’s an unrealistic goal.  But the idea makes me breathe a little easier and stand a little taller. It makes me drink in my baby’s smile a little deeper and hold him just a little longer, free from fear or anxiety or uncertainty or regret.   His biblical namesake asked for and received a double portion of God’s blessing upon his life. So it’s no wonder when I pause to reflect on that promise, the clock slows down and reminds me that time is not my adversary. Time is my greatest blessing. 

So for now I’ll kick off my heels when my work is done and keep my stretchy pants on standby.  I’m holding loosely to all these things I love, knowing that in God’s absolute right timing, they will shift into a new equilibrium just as they should.

I’ll honor this season as the precious gift that it is.  And I’ll treasure this tiny squishy baby who’s stretching my heart in all the best ways.

HP,

J

For Elisha, who changed my entire world for good all over again

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