What I've Learned {Winter Edition}

Each season Emily P. Freeman does a link up about what we learned that season. It's a great practice that forces me to pay attention to things I may not notice if I wasn't being intentional. 

A lot has happened over the last few months of my life, it's been a time of change and transition. There have been lots of good adventures and I've learned a lot. 

Here are 10 things I've learned this winter:

1. I have too many books. I decided to switch my office and bedroom so that I had a more dedicated space to work. I have loved it, but it meant moving a lot of things including a ton of books. I didn't realize how many we had! I tried to get rid of some, but I Marie Kondo"ed" them all and they basically all bring me joy so I kept most of them. 

2. I can put a desk together. This was also a result of switching my office and my bedroom. I'm not great at reading directions so assembling anything is usually not a good idea for me. I usually just look to see where I think things should go and go with that. You can imagine how that ends. Even though I really tried to read every step I still did it wrong. So I guess I should be honest and say I can put a desk together with the help of Jenn...who is way better at following directions.

3. Talking about shame lessens its power over you. When you actually acknowledge the way shame is affecting you it makes you feel freedom. It makes you feel less alone. It's like letting go of secret you didn't really know you were keeping. I recently recognized I was feeling a lot of shame about something that I don't easily talk about. I started talking about it for the first time and I have experienced so much freedom. I feel like I can breathe easier, but I didn't know I was holding my breath.

4. When we're silent about issues that matter we're still saying something. There's a lot going on in our country right now...obviously. The easiest option may be to say or do nothing, but when we do that, we're saying something. Our silence communicates that we're okay with what's going on. We must speak out against hate, against anything that dehumanizes others, anything that oppresses people or pushes anyone to the margins - which is what is happening right now. I was lucky enough to attend the Women's March on Washington to say something about how I feel about the rhetoric that our President and others are spitting out. It was encouraging to see so many people refuse to be silent.

5. I'm not the best at claiming I'm starting my own business. When people ask me what I do now I don't always remember to mention my business...I know, I know it's problematic. I'm working on it. Awareness is the first time, right?

6. You can't smile or have your hair over your shoulders in passport photos. I renewed my passport and went to get my mugshot...I mean my picture taken to send in with it. Let's just say there's a reason the picture is not included in this post.

7. My sister's backyard is beautiful. While I was out there for Leah and Josh's wedding, I spent some time at their house for the first time and it's a breathtaking view...water, pine trees, mountains. Basically heaven on earth. 

8. Saying yes to things that scare you is worth it. I've been on this crazy journey of starting a business for a couple months now. I'm still not 100% sure it's the right thing or that I've really made any progress, but the things I've learned, the people I've met and the things I've experienced during this time have been transformational. Also, I said yes to sponsoring a Trevecca trip to Croatia in May and even though it scares me a bit, I know it'll be worth it! 

9. A is for Activist is a great children's book. Em got Jonah this and I read it to him lots while I was in Seattle. If you're looking for a gift that not only teaches the ABC's but teaches about caring for others, standing up for justice and reminds us that "an injury to one is an injury to all" this is perfect. 

10. Lauryn Hill can show up to a concert on time. Ms. Lauryn Hill does not have the best record of showing up to concerts on time, if at all, so I was so happy she decided to for her Nashville show! It's been on my bucket list to see her live and she did not disappoint. One of the best shows I've ever been to - even if we had to wait it would have been worth it!

Winter was a great season (even though it was basically spring/summer in Nashville this winter - where were the snow days!?!?). Tomorrow I begin the practice again of paying attention to what I'm learning so that I don't miss out on the big, small, silly, practical or sentimental things that are hiding in my every day.

I would love to know something you've learned this winter - leave me a comment and let me know!

28 Things

I can’t believe it's that time again. Another year, another birthday. I have to say...28 was a pretty great year. It definitely wasn’t easy and I learned a lot, but it was good. Way better than 27. Every year when I sit down to do my annual birthday post, I always wonder if I’ll be able to come up with enough things, but I always do. It’s crazy that I started this tradition when I turned 23 and it’s continued every year since. It's like my own digital scrapbook over the years.

I always look back on the other years to see what’s changed and realize there are some similar themes that carry through like traveling, friends, family, books and music. I guess those are good indicators that no matter how much older I get those are constants in my life.

So since each year the lists keep getting longer (obviously)...here are 28 things from my 28th year of life.

1. I read 57 books. I decided to keep track of the number of books I read this year and 50 was my goal so I was happy to meet it! A few of my favorites: Learning to Walk in the DarkRoadmap to ReconciliationThe Royal We and The Year of YesMy goal for year 29? 65.

2. I've found the types of exercising I actually like. Kickboxing and yoga are my favorite. You don't have to wear shoes for either - which I love. Kickboxing makes my brain shut off for an hour, yoga calms me down for an hour.

3. I did a lot of traveling and fun things. Jenn and I took a trip out west where we road tripped from San Francisco up to Seattle and we went to NYC (I still can't believe we saw Jimmy Fallon!). I also went to LA, Charlotte and Asheville for the first time, went to a music festival in Missouri and took some trips to Florida and Michigan. Lots of fun times!

4. I had to do a lot of things this year that I wasn't good at it. I wish I could say I handled it all with grace and ease, but not so much. It's hard for me to do things I'm not good at, I usually quit or I just don't do them in the first place. That wasn't an option this year and I can say that it's character building and good for you to do things you're not good at.

5. I attended the hope*writers workshop. It's one of the best decisions I made this year. hope*writers is a writing community I'm a part of and their workshop was the catalyst that helped me decide to...

6. I decided to start my own business. Maybe this should be #1 because it's kinda a big deal, but if I think about it too much I freak out a little because it terrifies me. I'll be starting a Personal Growth Coaching business where I'll offer individual coaching, workshops and retreats with the goal of walking with individuals, groups and organizations toward wholeness. (If you're interested in hearing more sign up for my e-letter here!) I want to help people live into who they were created to be in the healthiest way.

7. I made the decision to shut down my blog Just a Lump of Clay.  I didn't realize how this would impact me until I bought my new domain name for my business. I've been writing under the Just a Lump of Clay name for 11 years. Crazy! I'll still be writing, just over on my new website!

8. Sometimes I eat popcorn for dinner and I'm not sorry about it. Also, homemade popcorn on the stove made with coconut oil and melted butter and honey sprinkled on is the best.

9. Betsy got married! It was so fun to celebrate Betsy and Ryan and spend time with my whole family in Florida.

10. I did Whole 30. I wrote more about my experience here (it has been my most popular blog post!). It was really hard, but I'm glad I did it.

11. I learned how to accept love and help better this year. I've realized how I'm not great at accepting help or I feel a lot of shame if I'm not pouring out to others as much as I feel they're pouring into me. Being a "taker" is not something I do well. Sometimes we need to be poured into and accept that love or help so that we can pour out more later. (Basically self-care 101)

12.  GIFs are my love language. Anything can be made better with a well-placed GIF.

13. I fell in love with the Enneagram. The Enneagram is a personality typing system that has been the most influential tool I've ever used for personal growth. I'm actually taking a course now to become an Enneagram coach and will be integrating that in my business. If you want to know more about the Enneagram and how you can use it in your own personal growth - let's talk!

14. I attended the Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids. Also, another great decision I made this year. Of course, I wrote about my experience, and it was a rollercoaster of emotions.

15. Let me tell you, I have the greatest friends. I could talk all day about how the people I get to do life with. I got closer to an incredible groups of ladies who are deeply authentic and have become like family. I went on Friendcation Part II with Michigan friends reminding me that no matter the distance or time that separates us we can always pick up where we left off. I've had friends come visit from near and far and I've seen relationships go deeper. The people I get to do life with really are the best and they make me better.

16. I learned I need a good balance between traveling and being home. I think I found my sweet spot that if I stay in Nashville for more than six weeks I start getting the itch to go somewhere. On the reverse side, I was only home 4 weekends from September to December and it was rough. I'm too much of a homebody for that.

17. I started using an electronic toothbrush. I HATED it at first. Then I got used to it after about a week and now I'm convinced for the last 28 years my teeth were never really that clean.

18. Podcasts. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE podcasts. A few new ones I started listening to this year: The Road Back to You, Smartest Person in the Room, Code Switch and Off Camera.

19. I still love being an aunt. I maybe love it more than I thought I did last year. With Leah's wedding coming up I'll "officially" add three more kiddos to the list.

20. I learned a lot at my new jobs. I went into my new jobs not sure what I was doing. Luckily I was blessed with two great bosses who were patient through my fumbling and who I've learned a lot from.

21. I started using the Cash app. Do you use this? If you don't, you should. I'm probably many years behind on this one.

22. Music. This year consisted of some incredible live shows - ADELE (!!!!), Johnnyswim and Ingrid Michaelson and David Ryan Harris were some of my favorites. Also, people I've had on repeat/my soundtrack from the year would include: The Avett Brothers, Chance the Rapper, Andra Day, Adele, David Ryan Harris, Ingrid Michaelson and...

23. HAMILTON. I probably definitely am obsessed with all things Hamilton.  For those of you that don't know (in case you live under a rock) Hamilton is a Broadway Musical about Alexander Hamilton's life. It's creative and brilliant. The Hamilton Mix-tape also released this year and I've had that on repeat. I'm actually going to see Hamilton in May and I CANNOT WAIT!

24. As I made this list I realized so many were about food. So I consolidated them: I've started eating oatmeal for breakfast almost every morning. Chicken stir fry and curry are my favorite go-to meals that are easy and delicious. I don't mind mayonnaise as much as I used to. I stopped eating dairy this year and it was another best decision of the year decision.

25. The election happened. The lowest point of the year. Honestly, I still have a hard time articulating the grief and pain that I've felt following it. And it's not because of being a "sore loser", but rather the whole - a misogynist, racist, liar, reality TV star, bully who also throws temper tantrums like a toddler and makes his opinion known over tweets that don't even make sense is about to be the president.

26. Dreams come true. A few years ago I started dreaming about hosting a retreat where people are able to get away from their every day lives and engage in life-giving and reflective activities. Almost two years after I wrote that desire down in my journal, I was leading a retreat for 6 ladies at the same place I wrote that idea down. And now I'm building a whole business around this idea. Surreal.

27. Renewing my library card and buying a Kindle on sale was another good decision. Checking out ebooks to my Kindle from the library has been great and has made me read so much more.

28. There is peace in the hovering. In Spiritual Direction at one point this last year I asked God what is this season of life about? I very clearly saw a picture of me just kinda hovering over life. It wasn't a direct answer, but a very clear feeling that while I may feel uncertain of what's next or what exactly I was doing, it was exactly where I needed to me. I was meant to be still and stay present right where I was, while at the same time hovering over this space knowing that I would set down on the next thing when it was time. 28 was about hovering waiting for what's next and 29 is about settling down and doing the work.

28 was a really good year. I grew a lot and feel like my life became richer and deeper. If I could pick two words to summarize 28 they would be Fun and Growth. The last year really laid the groundwork for what's ahead.

Here's to year #29!

One Word for 2017

Can you believe it's a new year already? It seriously feels like I was just writing my one word post for 2016.

It's a new year, which means a new word. This is one of my favorite traditions - picking a word for the year. A theme that will encompass 2017.

I always start thinking about my word in early December. I make a list of what I think it could be and let those words ruminate as I think back on the year prior and look to the year ahead.

I got a little anxious this year because I didn't feel like one word was really standing out. The more that people asked me about it and as I saw others talk about their word for the year the more I got anxious and nervous, what if I didn't pick the right one?

This might seem silly. It's just a word. But I've found over the last 5 years that choosing a word for the year and setting that intention for the next 365 days is powerful.

I usually know which word to pick because it's the one that scares me the most. I pick the one that I ignore at first because it's too scary, but it's always been the right choice.

This year was different.

I randomly added this word to the list because it has to do with something I'm working on. But the more I thought about what's to come and looked to the year ahead it slowly crept back into my mind. Where as years past the word I would choose seemed to pop right out and dance in front of me like, I know I freak you out, but you're gonna pick me. This year it slowly rose to the surface and just gave some gentle nudges that it was the right choice.

I guess sometimes we need things to pop out and dance in front of us and other times we need slow, steady and gentle nudges. This one definitely came slow and steady and I'm still feeling it settle in.

My word for 2017 is Shape.

I love that Shape is both a noun and a verb. Because my hope for 2017 is that I would continue to grow into my true, authentic self and maintain the shape of who God created me to be. But I also hope to shape new parts of my life too.

Last year I grew deeper roots and now as I continue to experience growth, I also want to be shaped into who I am meant to be. I think this will be a year for refining and chipping away at what gets in the way of me being my truest self.

I am who I am...my shape is my shape, I too easily let the shoulds of life or other's opinions or the world's lies cover up who I am and hinder my ability to fully live and thrive. I want to better understand myself this year so that I can live my most authentic life.

Shape makes me think of a pottery wheel. I've never worked on one, but I've watched others. In order to mold the clay into the right shape, it takes skill, attention, care, patience and gentleness. This year I want to refine my skills, pay better attention, show care to myself and others, exercise patience and presence and approach it all with a gentle spirit.

I also will be shaping a new business adventure this year. I'm so excited about this and can't believe it's happening! 2017 will be the year of Abby Buter - Personal Growth Coaching. I'll be offering individual coaching, workshops and retreats. My goal is to walk with people towards wholeness and equip them with tools so they can know themselves better. I'll help individuals know how to care for themselves well so that they live healthy, whole, authentic lives. Stay tuned for more information! (If you would like to receive updates you can subscribe to my e-letter here.)

I'm excited for the year ahead and what it will hold.

So here's to the year of Shape...

To having a willingness to be molded into who I am supposed to be.

To trusting my intuition to refine what needs to be refined and to leave alone what is good.

To seeking my true, authentic shape and who God created me to be.

To cultivating space to help others identify their shape and appreciating the privilege of walking alongside them.

To doing the work.

To embracing change and remembering it's really the only constant in life and part of its job is to spur growth.

To discerning when I need to go, hustle and push and when I need to stop, slow down and rest.

To understanding that I was uniquely created to be myself and it's a waste of time to be anyone else.

Here's to 2017...I think it's going to be a good one.

ps. I would love to know your word, theme or goal for the year! Please let me know so I can pray it over your year.

pps. If you enjoy reading my blogs, I would love for you to sign up to receive them straight to your inbox here. Thanks so much for reading! 

How I Grew in 2016

When 2016 started I had zero expectations for the year. I was coming out of a pretty long and rough year and my prayer for 2016 was for calm and boring. I didn’t want to make any big decisions or see any huge changes after being rocked a lot the year before.

I also prayed for growth. My word for the year was Grow and I can say that I definitely experienced that. It didn’t always look like I thought it would and of course it didn't come without growing pains.

It maybe wasn’t the kind of noticeable growth like when you put those capsules in water and they grow into a dinosaur, but more like a slow and steady growth. It mostly happened underneath the surface and felt like roots going deeper so that future growth can be sustained and have a strong foundation.

This last year was a year for recovery and healing. I left one big, intense season of life and transitioned to a new season. A season in uncharted territory doing jobs I had no idea how to do and recalibrating to life without the only job and environment I had really known in my adult life.

In 2016, I had to create space for my soul to breathe again and for new things to take root.

I learned how to just be. How to be present and be okay with a hazy future and uncertainty.

I took to heart the Psalm, "He will lead you beside still waters, he will restore your soul." Every time I got antsy, tried to force a decision or plan or asked what's next? that Psalm would pop into my head. I did a lot of listening, being still and concentrating on just doing the right next thing this last year. I grew in my ability to be patient and not have to have everything all figured out - resting in the fact that sometimes what you're supposed to be doing is nothing.

Last year when talking about my word for the year I said this:

I want to grow deeper roots and reach new heights.

I want to try new things, stretch myself and not become complacent of this is “just how things are.”

I want to grow in wisdom and maturity.

I want to grow in relationships: to build deeper community, create richer opportunities for fellowship and practice hospitality.

I want to grow in my compassion and kindness.

I want to grow in my courage and in my confidence.

I want to grow in my discipline and self-control.

I want to grow in my self-love and in my understanding of extending grace and kindness to myself.

I want to pay better attention.

I want to grow in my love for others.

I want to better understand the world around me and other perspectives.

I want to get to know Jesus even better and what it really means to love God and others well.

I want to continue to grow into who I am meant to be.

I want to grow in healthiness and towards wholeness.

I'm thankful I can look back and say these are all areas where I saw growth in myself. It's not an I have arrived moment, but rather a knowing that I started last year with the intention of growing in the ways above and that will continue into the year ahead.

While my word for 2016 was Grow and I have a new word for 2017, I know this theme of growth will continue. It's not something we can stop doing, you know?

If something isn't growing, it's dying. And I plan on standing firm on the growth and foundation that was set this last year and taking on 2017 fully alive.

 

What Anxiety Feels Like To Me.

It's not a secret that I struggle with anxiety. I've talked about it here before and I'll talk about it with people if they ask. Sometimes people tell me I'm brave for being so open about it. That always surprises me because I don't think I'm brave at all. I think for so long I lived my life pretending that everything was okay when it wasn't that I just can't do it anymore. It takes too much energy and it's too hard for me to keep things inside, to put up a front and pretend that everything is fine if it's not.

Sometimes I think if I would have known others who were more open about their struggles it wouldn't have taken me so long to come to terms with my own. So I don't think I'm brave, just honest...maybe too much so sometimes.

Today is World Mental Health Day. The world would be a better place if we talked more openly about mental health issues. If we didn't stigmatize them or perpetuate stereotypes and judgement around getting help for them.

So because of Mental Health Day and in the spirit of vulnerability, I wanted to share a bit about my journey with anxiety.

I've know for awhile that anxiety is what causes so many issues with me...it's mostly why I go to counseling, it's why I'm passionate about self-care and it's also why I just don't know what to do with myself sometimes. I've realized it's the root of many health issues I've had throughout my life and it's manifested itself in ways I never would have realized without help.

Not too long ago I felt like no matter what I did I couldn't get it under control.

A few different people asked me if I had ever taken medicine for it. I would say no and change the subject because that freaks me out. I don't like taking medicine if I don't have to and I didn't want to for this. But I decided to ask my counselor about it, confident she would dismiss the idea, say that I was over-exaggerating this "issue" and be done.

That's not what she said.

She said medicine could definitely be an option I explore. She didn't give me the answer I wanted to hear. We talked about my options and then I left and had a mini-meltdown in my car.

I don't know, I guess medicine made it seem like I had a "problem" and I should be strong enough to deal with it. I shouldn't need help. I've lived with this for most my life so I can just keep handling it.

But the problem when you see truth is it's hard to unsee it. This is why we need truth-tellers in our lives. They can help us see what we need.

I couldn't just keep handling my anxiety.

I decided to try different natural things to help with my anxiety. Thankfully, this worked for me. I started feeling better, but also not.

It's one of those things where you don't realize how bad something is until it's better. But I also didn't know how to deal with this new "better" feeling.

Anxiety feels different for everyone, but when I started dealing with it and acknowledging it, I've been able to articulate it better.

Imagine water filling up your body (I know, I know, technically our bodies are made up of water, but stay with me on this...). For me, living with anxiety is like that water inside you is constantly moving. Sometimes it's big waves, sometimes it's just a little choppy, sometimes it's a huge tidal wave, sometimes there's just a little hum of something, but there's always movement.

Sometimes it knocks you off your feet, sometimes it just makes you a little uneasy, sometimes it's calmer for a second but then someone rocks the boat and there is a ripple effect. It's always there.

Along with this movement, my brain is always moving. Taking off into the land of what if's and trying to get my train of thought to stop, but the brakes just went out and there's no turning back. It's like my thoughts are on a hamster wheel and I can't get off. It can all be pretty exhausting.

I was tired of being tired all the time so I did research of what I could do besides go straight to medicine. I tried different things to see what would help.

I started feeling calmer inside. It was so different it messed with me. What do I do now with this buzz of energy gone? It was like the water went still. There weren't even ripples. It threw me off.

I told my counselor how I was feeling and she said, don't fight it.

But the problem was, I didn't feel like myself. This was the only reality I knew. This constant hum of energy, the feel of being on a hamster wheel, staying on high alert and always being prepared for that tidal wave to knock me off my feet.

I eventually settled into this calm and peaceful water. I figured out what works and what doesn't.

I finally think I'm doing great and then I have a panic attack. The thing with anxiety is it doesn't really go away. It also doesn't discriminate when it decides to pay you a visit.

But now, walking towards wholeness with help and in health, I bounce back a little more easily after it comes.

I manage my anxiety better these days - to me that looks like counseling, natural supplements, no caffeine, limiting sugar and lots of good self-care and boundary setting. For others it looks like all those things and medicine. And that's so okay. It looks different for everyone.

We all have stuff, we all have issues, we all have things and lies that take root deep into our being so that when we start doing the hard work of uprooting them, we don't feel like ourselves.

Sometimes it takes awhile for us to allow ourselves to recognize health and wholeness.

It's not a linear path. Sometimes it's two steps forward, one step back. Sometimes we fall, sometimes we take a roundabout way.

So whoever may be reading this, may you be encouraged today that you are not alone.

May you remember that everyone has struggles - we're just not always great at talking about them.

May you find peace and freedom.

May you take the two steps forward after the two steps back.

May you rise again.

May you allow these truths to take deep root in your soul:

You can do hard things.

You do not have to pretend to be someone you're not.

You are not alone.

May you find the courage today to walk towards health and wholeness for yourself.

I'll be here cheering you on.