Heaven is for real…and it’s in Duluth.

As you all know, I have been freaking out majorly over homeschooling Monkey next school year.  Which is not next year at all because school starts in August.  Tricky.

Anyways, in order to prepare myself financially and make sure I won’t take a huge hit when it’s time for me to cut back work hours, I have been working like an indentured servant.  Filling in at other people’s practices and networking like crazy to grow my business.  So if you see me, and it’s a day of the week, you can guarantee I’ve worked at some point that day.

In my mind, I keep reassuring myself that this period won’t last forever and that once summer is over I’ll have more time to spend with Monkey…and with myself.  But this week I got to a point where I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I needed an escape.  A retreat.  A freakin’ break.

So I went to Jeju Sauna: Home of Wellbeing in Duluth.  Just the name alone made it sound like it was made for me.  Home of Wellbeing?  Sold.

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So on a Monkey-less day, I went through the doorways of Jeju and did not depart until 5 hours later.  It was like a major time warp.  There are no windows or passages to the outside world so you feel like it’s infinitely noon o’clock.  I hopped from sauna to sauna, ate, fell asleep twice, prayed and meditated, stretched, and walked out like:

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But, in all semi-seriousness, I realized a few things in my 5 hour trek to the motherland.

Living with Purpose and Intention Requires Sacrifice

When you’re stuffing your life with busyness, working all the time, or just living your life for a paycheck, you will miss moments that truly matter.  Your relationship with God suffers.  You suffer.  Your kids suffer.  Your friendships suffer.  Basically, everything suffers.  And ironically enough, sometimes even your finances suffer.  I’ve noticed that the more I worked, the more money I made, the less I paid attention to where that money was going.  Sad but true and incredibly common.

On the other hand, when you’re living with purpose and intention you don’t mind sacrificing those extra hours on the job if it means making it to your kid’s baseball game or recital.  Or having girls night.  Or creating a budget.  Or going to the Home of Wellbeing.

Someone please take me back.

You see, there were a million things on my to do list.  There still are.  But in those 5 hours I didn’t care.  I sacrificed my to do list for my sanity.  And it was worth it.

Technology has ruined our definition of relaxation

When I say the word ‘relaxation’ what comes to mind?  Probably something like this:

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He’s not even looking at the waves, for goodness sake!

And that, folks, is sad.  Why are we so attached to our phones, iPads, laptops, devices?

Before I even walked into Jeju, I was going with the intentions of leaving my phone and other electronics in the locker.  I wanted to not be found.  Apparently, I was the only one who felt this way.

I kid you not, the first sauna I walked into was filled with iPhone lookers, Instagram scrollers, and Tweeters.  And for some reason it made me extra mad.  I just couldn’t believe that someone would come to a Home of Wellbeing and bring connections to everything that caused their being not to be well in the first place.  The nerve.

My definition of relaxation includes completely breaking free, disconnecting, being unavailable.  Call me old school, but I relish the thought of being able to turn my phone off, not have wifi, and just…be.

But for some reason we are scared to be alone with our own thoughts.  Either because we have no thoughts of our own since we’re being fed the thoughts of others 24/7.  Or because our thoughts about ourselves are so ugly we would rather scroll through Facebook in the home of wellbeing than face and defeat these lies (John 8:44).

But here’s the truth: You are a friend – John 15:15.  You are free – Galatians 5:1.  You are known – Jeremiah 1:5. You are beautiful – Psalm 139:14.  You are chosen – Ephesians 1:4. 

And that’s real.  What’s also real is that I don’t think those devices were made for extreme heat.  So their phones and tablets are probably messed up now.  I hope they learned their lesson.  Nah.

Saying no is good for your health

If you’re anything like me, you say yes to a lot.  Yes to being on this committee.  Yes to attending this event.  Yes to volunteering for this project.  But maybe you should start saying no as many times as you say yes.  Not this kind of no:

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Just the kind that makes it clear to people that although you value what they’re doing, you also value making yourself and your family a priority.  Most people won’t hate you for that.  If they do, then the above ‘no’ is perfectly fine for that individual.

And speaking of priorities:

You are your second priority (After God, that is).

Some people won’t like this.  I don’t care.  Because I don’t mean this in a selfish, only think about yourself, ugly way.  I mean this in a “when I’m stressed and crazy my kids are stressed out and crazy” kind of way.  For those of you who are parents and have dealt with emotional, crying, stressed out kids you know as much as I do that they are like Gremlins immersed in water.  Meaning they’re not the cute, furry one.

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This is your kid on stress.  Avoid this by taking care of yourself.

As parents (especially us moms) we tend to put our kids first pretty much every moment of the day.  When we do this, we put ourselves at risk.  Which is ok, and what being a mom is all about sometimes.  But this shouldn’t happen every time.  Because when I’m stressed, I snap more often.  When I’m tired, I don’t listen as well. When I’m worried, she can feel it and it makes her worry for me.  And then she makes this face and I can’t deal:

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When you’re giving so much of yourself all the time, you will eventually run out.  And then what?  What’s left to give your kids if they run your mind, calendar, and social life?  So I’m begging all of the moms out there to make yourself a priority.  Make taking care of your mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing one of the most important parts of your day.  That’s a plug for Jeju Sauna: Home of Wellbeing, by the way.

And coming from someone who was once a kid, I definitely saw those moments when my mother put herself first and I respected that.  I needed to see that.

Besides the above mentioned points, I also realized that I will never work like this again.  Ever.  And that I must make Jeju a monthly habit.  It’s only $25.  That’s like 3 lunches.  Or 4 cups of coffee for all you Starbucks lovers (ew…).  Twenty five dollars for hours of uninterrupted bliss.

So go ahead and take a trip to Heaven…in Duluth.  You might just find yourself walking out like:

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No lie.  No exaggeration.  Until next time, stay prioritized.

Christianity for Introverts: A 4 Step Guide (Sort of)

I am an introvert.  Some who know me would never believe that.  Which is probably mostly due to the fact that people assume introverts are always quiet, shy, and don’t know how to hold a conversation.

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That is false.  So stop thinking that.

For me, being an introvert means that I enjoy speaking to others and holding meaningful (read: MEANINGFUL) conversations.  But at a certain point I will have reached my threshold.  I will have maxed out my words and ability to tolerate groups of people or even individuals for the day.  Not meaning that I dislike them, I just need to retreat in order to regain my sanity.

This may sound harsh to you extroverted folk, but it’s all about how we recharge our batteries.  For extroverts, they feel at their best when with others and in social situations.  I feel energized when I get home and can be alone with my own thoughts, Netflix, and a good book.  No hard feelings. 

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So although I’ve enjoyed my life as an introvert thus far, there are some challenges I’ve had to overcome when becoming an introverted follower of Christ.  I know I can’t be the only introvert out there struggling with these things, so I thought I would write out my top tips for those trying to maintain Christianity without losing their introverted minds.  Feel free to read on your own….or with others.

1)Don’t shy away from community…pun intended

This is something I learned the hard way, but probably the most important.  Since my natural instinct is to retreat, it can become almost second nature to go about daily life without talking to anyone.  However, when our life’s goal is to seek to be more like Christ, we can’t do that without the help of others.  No matter how hard you try, having deep and intimate friendships and a community of believers surrounding you is crucial to your faith.  Because if your community is anything like mine, then not only are they awesome but they aren’t afraid to either break you down or build you up when necessary.  You see, true friends are like mirrors.  Sometimes we need a mirror held up to our ugliness and other times we need a hand or even a set of arms to carry us through this thing called life (Galatians 6:2).  When we look in the mirror we see one of two things: perfection or just a shameful pile of mess.  When a trusted community looks at us, they see beauty despite the flaws.  Have you ever tried picking yourself up?  It’s not only physically impossible, but spiritually impossible, as well (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).  So even though my alone time is necessary and frequent, I never underestimate the importance of keeping good company as often as possible.

2) It’s ok to tell others your business

Now before you get all suspicious of this one, what I really mean is that it’s ok to tell a trusted person or group of believers your business.  Not everyone.  You can’t and shouldn’t go around telling Keisha, Becky, Rob, and Chuck about the deepest, darkest parts of your little life.  If your most trusted companions are named Keisha, Becky, Rob, or Chuck then I retract my previous statement.  But everyone should have someone who knows most things about them.  Why?  Because accountability doth a better, smarter, wiser, and awesomer person make (Proverbs 27:17, 15:22). 

3) Say “Yes” to social gatherings at least 60% of the time…or thereabouts

This one might be a stretch for some of us, but you should at least give it a try.  Hear me out, folks.  When you’re by yourself the majority of the time (ie more than 50%, hence the plea for just starting with 60% yeses), isolation can breed habits.  They can be habits like crafting, knitting, or scrapbooking.  Or they can be habits like sexting your ambiguous friend-guy-person, spending 13 unproductive hours on social media, or watching porn (Proverbs 18:1).  Can you do these things with other people?  Sure, but highly unlikely when you’re saying yes to your handy dandy group of believers.  And last time I checked, most people do the bulk of their sinning when they’re alone so as to pretend like they’re perfect in front of others.  Sooooo let’s get our social time percentages up.   

4) Don’t be ashamed to still take time to retreat

It is useless to push a cart sideways.  In other words, I am in no way trying to convince you to become more extroverted or change the way God made you (or me for that matter).  I simply wanted to share some things I’ve struggled with as a believer and an introvert and how I’ve noticed that my faith tends to slip the most when I’m trying to do life separate from my community.  But I also know that every person – introvert, extrovert, ambivert, or whatever kind of ‘vert you are – needs to have time to connect one on one with the Father.  Outside of your community.  Jesus modeled this for us over and over again, and we would do well to follow his lead (Mark 1:35, Luke 5:16).  Just don’t stay there longer than necessary, mmmkay?

Until next time, stay social my friends.

And I’ll add this just because it’s funny….and true:

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Moving on…

Wow.  It’s been a long time.  But I have a reason!  I moved.  I’m adulting.  I’m working like a maniac.  I’m good at making excuses.

Like, for real.  I’m the best excuse maker there is.  Ask me to do something that I don’t really want to do and I will come up with an excuse so great and convincing that you’ll leave wanting to help me do the thing that I used to excuse myself from the situation.  I’m pretty sure this is something I shouldn’t be proud of, but old habits are hard to break.

The long and short of it is that I just kept giving myself a pass as to why I didn’t have time to write.  And people have different whys for blogging.  Some want recognition.  Others feel stifled in real life and just want to be heard.  But I believe writing out my beliefs and life moments allows me to understand not just my own view, but the views of others, as well.  I’m one of those strange people that values a good disagreement more than having a bunch of friends who think everything I do is perfect.  Plus, life is no fun when everyone thinks, wears, and does the same thing you do.

So now that I’ve recognized the plethora of excuses I was using to keep me away from blogging for so long, let’s get back to fun stuff.

Like, I stated earlier….I moved!  I finally bought my first condo and I am completely remodeling and DIY’ing it up for the el cheapo.  Because I’m probably the most frugal person you’ll ever meet.  And also because I’ve discovered that Pinterest is like Google for hobbies.  Lord, help me.

So, until next time (which won’t be next month) here’s an Instagram filtered pic of my journey to home ownership with something super deep in the caption:

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My journey to home ownership has been a difficult one. I was employed, laid off, then self-employed. I’ve been a bread winner and a not-so-bread winner. I am a single mother. I am a business owner who has yet to see real dividends. And even though it may not look like it from the outside, God has worked incredible miracles and bestowed amazing favor in the struggles and through the pain. The process may not have been pretty, but the outcome and the realization that His promises are not void and are still unfolding is incomparable. I could have given up, I could have believed the lies that I was crazy to be obedient to someone I’ve never seen or believe 2,000 year old truths. But in this moment there are no words. Just testimony and fact. The testimony that I should not be here, but the fact that I am. Because God.