Why I Force Myself To Do Yoga

“Four seconds in, four seconds out…” 

“Good. Five deep, full, breaths…” 

“For these last two breaths I want you to focus on holding the pose, no fidgeting, no adjusting, just breathe into it…” 

It is the same every time. I hear the soothing voice of my yoga instructor and will myself to stand there, holding the pose, focusing all of my attention on the task at hand. Inevitably by the exhale portion of the second breath, I’ve lost my focus.

My mind begins to wander and I remind myself to return to the “intentions” I set at the start of class.

Be present. 

Give myself grace. 

I find that the first requires the latter.

Occasionally I dream of a reality where I am the zen, flexible and fit yogi. Now, of course, I fully recognize that my current commitment to the practice and overzealous and distractable personality impede this dream a fair amount. But yet, I force myself to return to yoga again, and again.

I’m not good at yoga. 

If you attended class with me you might think that I am good at yoga. I attempt all the poses, I am somewhat balanced, I can do a headstand and that full bind thing we do, but I’m not good at yoga. You may find me at a 6am yoga class and I may be fooling you. Don’t be fooled.

I’m not good at yoga because I try to win yoga. 

You can’t win yoga. I like activity that has a clear, attainable goal – running, weight lifting, volleyball, football, hiking, Circuit Blast or Body Pump Classes… you get the picture. Almost all other physical feats affirm that broken part of my identify that longs to be the best and strives to put off an air of proficiency and strength. Not yoga.

I’m learning that yoga is more about truly connecting than it is about performing. It’s slowing your breath in order to open up your body in a way that is uncomfortable on several levels. It’s easing into a challenge and working up to the grandiose and showy postures. It requires patience and delayed gratification. Yoga is slow in a world where speed rules all.

Yoga disrupts my desire to produce and instead offers me the opportunity to find stillness. It’s not my favorite.

But I force myself to return none the less. When I am tempted to choose sleep, I drag myself out of my warm bed because I know it’s important to put myself in a position of discomfort.  When I feel the urge to choose a more “tangible” workout, I walk into the Y, yoga mat in hand because I know that the parts of me that choose productivity, chaos, and busy, are not the parts that make my heart come alive. Those parts are not what I want to be known for.

I long to be present. I long to be where I am both mentally and physically. I long to communicate attention and love in my most valuable relationships. I want to always love where I am, without feeling the guilt of where I am not.

So, I force myself to do yoga, because it is one small step in practicing and living out my values.

 

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A letter to my husband after 1,096 days of marriage

Paul Robert Vought,

Today I woke up as your wife for the 1,095th time. It has yet to get old. I love being yours. It is a name that I wear with honor. Despite that you are a furnace when you sleep, and the fact that you cannot be shaken from said sleep when you are snoring, I love seeing your face in the morning. I love the safety and security your presence has brought to my life since I met you.

The last 1,096 have been my absolute favorite days. Even when they weren’t. In the three years we’ve been married we have faced some treacherous, scary, and trying things. Through it all, it is your hand I’ve wanted in mine. I look back on the first year of our marriage with tears in my eyes. I am so very thankful for the man that you are.

Thanks for choosing me.

So many times I can look at our story and see that when I was not easy to choose – you chose me. You reminded me that I was worth the fight. When I fell asleep crying, scared of what the next day might bring, you held my head on your chest and promised to wake up choosing me. When we were both clueless, tired, and worn out, you chose to lift me up instead of yourself. You daily choose to see the beauty placed inside of me, and look past the ugly parts of me. When I doubted my identity, you spoke up and reminded me who and whose I am.

You have been pointing me back to my Creator since before you asked me to be yours. It is one of the reasons that I pride myself in being called yours, because you fully understand that we are both the others, first by being His.

I could spend the next three years describing the ways you have won my heart a new each day, something you promised to do three years ago in front of all our friends and family, but instead I will just tell you three simple truths.

  1. I have never loved another like I love you.

You have completely and irrevocably stolen my heart. You have shown me time and time again that you are a man of character and valor, and through your actions reminded me that I am worthy of such a mate, even when I doubted that I deserved you. You are an unfathomably mystery, and just when I think I’ve got you figured out, you surprise me, steal my attention, and consume me. It is in my failings that I find how very much I long to love you well, and how very blessed I am to get to love you each day. Few have what we have, Vought. Thank you for loving hard and recklessly with me.

  1. I have never laughed more than when I’m with you.

When you were stealing my heart I read a quote that said, “I will know he is the one when he makes me laugh.” At the time it made more sense than any poem or love song I had ever heard. You were and still are my best friend. There has always been an ease in my relationship with you. You have never asked me to be something I’m not, and I walk into my truest self when I’m around you. You get me at a level that no one else does, you think I’m hilarious, you dance like an idiot with me, and you know exactly what to say to make my heart lighter. Thank you for late nights, belly laughs, and not taking ourselves too seriously.

  1. I have never dreamed bigger dreams than when I have you in my corner.

You propel me to dream bigger. When I desire to sit, gazing over the precipice, enjoying the view, you grab my hand and pull me over the edge. You refuse to let me settle for mediocre or enough. You push me to dream beyond normalcy and become who I am destined to be. Even in the last few months, you’ve challenged me to think bigger, grander, and more impossible and each time speak over me with a conviction that sparks hope and expectations. Thank you for having full confidence in an insane, grand and impactful future with and for me.

Tomorrow will be a normal Thursday, but it will be another day to explore grace, choose love over the easy, and tackle this adventure we’re on. I am honored to be your wife. Honored to call you mine. And honored to serve alongside you. I’d do it all over again.

Happy Anniversary my love.

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What…

ma

I stole this from my lovely Mother In Love (that’s what I’ve decided to call Momma Vought).

  • What we’re eating this week…One Pot Pasta, Hash, Chicken stuffed sweet potatoes and avocado galore.
  • What I’m reminiscing about…I spent alot of time last night with a sweet friend. I got to spend some time celebrating all that God has done in #thevoughts lives in the last year+ not the least of which is our house and its lack of caving in floors
  • What I’m loving…this break from the summer heat…with hints of FALL
  • What we’ve been up to…P- working overtime, editing, eating ice cream M- letter projects, pouring into a few friendships, cooking. Together- Dreaming about being intentional in our neighborhood, hosting friends in our backyard and loving on our #ohshilo
  • What I’m dreading…I’m slightly dreading the busy month of October on the workfront coming up.
  • What I’m working on…I just finished a lettering project tonight. My sweet friend from Detroit asked me to make name signs for her sweet senior girls. I felt honored and flattered. It’s a little hobby I’ve been toying with. :)
  • What I’m excited about…camping in our backyard this weekend, hiking (potentially) and getting some quick time with our favorite Gemuends in a monthish.
  • What I’m watching…West Wing (we are OBSESSED) and Friends
  • What I’m reading…I reread The Shack this week. It is SO GOOD! Mostly it reminds me how much I’m loved. And we’ve been reading The Four Loves in our village…BIG FAN. It’s meaty but so full of wisdom.
  • What I’m listening to…Penny and Sparrow, Ben Rector, the new Gungor Album
  • What I’m wearing…running shorts and a tshirt…and a bloody leg from shattering my good china bowl
  • What I’m doing this weekend…Potentially camping in our backyard, going hiking, church and babysitting on Sunday night at church
  • What I’m looking forward to next month…going to Michigan for Delanee Maelynn’s 7th Birthday party…time with families while we’re there, and FALL
  • What else is new…I grew a watermelon in my garden, our air conditioning is off because it’s cool outside, #ohshilo is now sometimes playing fetch, and we danced like crazy at a wedding last weekend

time

time.

in the last month or so time has refused to go at the speed to which i’d like. i’m caught in two extremes. often i’m longing for time to speed up and get onto the next thing – the weekend, the beginning of a visit, the end of the work day, date night… other times it seems i do nothing but plead for time to slow down, to keep me right here – hit the snooze one more time, shilo stay here with me one more second, weekend don’t end, Paul sit and with me before tackling the to-do list, visit don’t end, dessert don’t end…

but memorial day weekend, our three days of 0 obligations, time was my friend. paul and i looked forward all of May to that weekend. it was the shining light, a WHOLE weekend together, home in approximately two months. we’ve been crazy busy and our weekends have run into our weeks with no breaks and tired eyes and bodies. but that was all going to be rectified over memorial day.

i know i’m talking it up, some of you are waiting for the pitfall—and it wasn’t restful, or it crashed and burned, or chaos erupted— but dismay not…it was lovely.

while i fell asleep monday night not REALLY wanting tuesday morning to come, it was not out of a place of pure exhaustion as many of my previous nights after a weekend had been. it was out of the pure delight that comes from a restful, soul satisfied, and fun weekend..

we approached the weekend and paul asked if we could make a to-do list (he’s becoming more type a than he’ll admit). we made a list of productive and restful things we wanted to accomplish. throughout our lovely weekend we kept looking at what we’d accomplished in the day and saying, “so this is what weekend is. we can get SO much done…and still have time to rest.” we dug holes and put in posts for a hammock stand. we planted more wildflowers. we finally painted the bedroom furniture. AND we did laundry and ironing! but with that we watch mad men. made yummy cocktails. had a barbecue with friends. made labor intensive dinners. watched gone girl. went to the $2 movie theater. went to church. i ordered new warby parker glasses. paul went to the eye doctor. we got to lay in our hammock and paul even let me take some stupid selfies. AND we got peach truck peaches. 

three days off together was so good for our hearts. and time was my friend. i was present. i rested from the task of grasping at or rushing minutes. i just was. in the hustle of life i forget how much i love this life that paul and i have created together.

sigh.

love,

the voughts

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there are few other places where i feel so known

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he loves me

strength

I am nervous to push publish on this post. But there is freedom in sharing the hard, true things. In an act of vulnerability I (Mickenzie) want to share a beautiful gift I just received.  You can see it below. It’s a bit rough around the edges, the leather is well worn, and it’s endured a few seasons. Therein lies it’s beauty.

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In May, in the midst of the anxiety I’ve mentioned a little in the last few months, I made a scary decision. My anxiety was not like I had experienced in any other season. I’ve always been a “worrier,” even from an early age. I grew up praying away my “worries” with my momma. It didn’t intrude too terribly in my daily life.

When I went to college I had a rough patch. It is probably the most like the season I’ve been in that I can remember, in regards to my emotional state. To be blunt I was miserable. I was anxious, I didn’t eat much, I couldn’t sleep. So much change. So much new. And I felt like the vision I had of myself was in question. The ways that I defined myself: strong, independent, capable, they no longer fit in my mind. Who I thought that I was didn’t add up on paper. Looking back I was still all of those things, but I didn’t feel that way at the time, and the source of those attributes was a bit skewed. I wasn’t placing my worth in Christ. That season ended. It was a season, and I looked back on it as if it was all because I didn’t like change. I never once pushed past that. I blamed myself for going to school and not seeking God, and thanked Him for correcting my path and sending me to U of M. End of story.

In March I got a new promotion. I was ecstatic, but a bit fearful. The transition was not as flawless as I had envisioned. I needed more grace than I’d expected. I felt a little more unprepared than I’d planned. It was a spiritual battle daily as I took on direct contact with the former residents of our program. I loved what I was doing, but old lies began to creep up, this time with a vengeance. Mixed with the massive amount of change (so much good change) over the last year, I found myself grasping for solid ground.  I once again didn’t think that I was strong, independent or capable. I began having panic attacks, stomach issues, sleepless nights, tears upon tears, and crippling fear. I knew I needed to figure out the root of all this, something I quickly realized I was not equipped to do alone. With the support of my sweet husband, who was as equally scared as I, I decided to seek out Christian counseling.

I felt a severe sense of shame even considering counseling as I daily deal with girls who are struggling with life controlling issues. I began to question my calling and telling myself that I was not worthy or able to help the girls to whom I was ministering. They are remarkable, brave and amazing women, who did I think i was?  It was a lie, but the Enemy is crafty. The Lord used so many people in my life to confirm that counseling is a sign of health and a desire for growth (something I tell my girls on a daily basis). He confirmed that He had ordained this time for me to delve into this through my community. Additionally He brought me so much joy in my job and reminded me that my job was an answer to prayer and the fulfillment of a huge dream.

Entering counseling, God gently and repeatedly reminded what I’m made for. I felt alot of shame for not performing to the standard I’d set for myself. I expected myself to be something I would NEVER ask anyone I love to be. Shame is something I tackled head on within my first few sessions. I realized that when faced with situations that made me doubt my preconceived notions of strength, independence and capability I no longer felt worthy. I felt shame for struggling. I felt shame for needing. I felt shame for crying. I felt shame for being confused. I felt shame for uprooting our lives and moving to Nashville and then doubting my calling. I felt shame for not being the wife I’d imagined I’d be. I was a big pile of shame. God gently reminded me that no shadow of shame shall darken my face. I found comfort and love when I reached out to those in my support system. I felt a sigh of relief when I was able to allow myself to “just be.” I found freedom in releasing my previous understanding of strength. I grasped grace at an unfathomable new level. I learned alot in counseling, so much I can’t quantify it.  But a large portion of my growth was surrounded around reclaiming my identity, as a daughter of the King, as a wife, as an fighter of injustice, as a daughter, as a sister, as a friend, as Kenzie my Heavenly Father’s Little One.

I finished my time of counseling tapering off from weekly, to every other week, until 3 weeks passed before my last session. My counselor challenged me to write a letter from my future self to my current self. I was nervous, but it end up being an amazing exercise. I was able to process what I learned and the ways God has stretched me. I was able to see the ways that God fought for me, and how He taught me to fight for myself. I could go on and on about all that God did. But I will just say that I have learned how to fight and trust God when I don’t necessarily see evidence that He’s there. My faith has been tested, my marriage galvanized, and my identity cemented. 

I haven’t had a panic attack since May. I have found skills to cope with anxiety. I have accepted that anxiety may be a part of my life, but it does not have to dictate my life. After reading my letter to my counselor, she had tears in her eyes. She reminded me all that I had learned. She spoke truth to me, and she gave me one last gift. My counselor told me that I saw myself as weak at the beginning of this season, but she was sure that looking back I would find the last season of my life as one of the  times of the most strength. I found strength in my weakness. She told me that someone had once seen strength in her and she wanted to pass on the above bracelet to remind me that I am strong, she asked me to pass it on when I felt the time was right to help someone else find their strength.

What an amazing gift to celebrate this hard, gut wrenching, phenomenal season. I’m not done, I’ll never be, but I will celebrate and commemorate.

My God is so faithful, even when I doubt Him.

A huge shout out to Paul Robert Vought who lived out his marriage vows during this season. On August 3rd, 2013, he promised: “I will never leave you. I am yours. I will stand by your side in all seasons.” We feel loved the most in the places where we can be the most vulnerable.  I am blessed to be so loved. He daily reminds me with whom my identify and strength lie. I am a better woman because I am his wife.

I love you and I am thankful for you all!

an exercise in optimism.

so this week for the Voughts on Electric Avenue was hard and trying. We brought things to God and have been firmly trusting Him in the face of spiritual attack, joblessness, and just strife.  So the below is an exercise in optimism.  Because all in all, we have a really great life! Our physical needs are met, we love our little house, we get to fall asleep in the same bed every night (no more distance) and we serve a really cool God!

what were your top 5 favorite moments this week?

Mickenzie:

5.  I loved having girls from work over for dinner, playing bananagrams & showing off our house! We grilled burgers and I made fresh green beans with almonds. delish! We had a lot of fun!

4. Finishing the fourth season of Parks & Rec. I’m overly invested and emotionally tied to this show…oops.

3. Watching “Catch Me If You Can” and saying “Caaaaaarrlll Haaaannnddrraaadddyy” (insert Boston accent) hundreds of times. (all the while drinking wine and eating pigs in a blanket in our bed.)

2.  Finally learning how to throw a frisbee in the park today! My husband was an excellent teacher!

1. Paul introducing me to “Disney Prince Dancing” and dancing me across our living room to our James Taylor Record. “It’s all about covering as much ground, while spinning as possible.”

Paul:

5.  Jeni’s.  Because homestyle biscuits and peach jam ice cream.

4.  Seeing a familiar face when our friend Amanda came for dinner.  She was in Nashville for a conference and staying just down the road from our house!

3.  Getting to go to Crema, my new favorite coffee shop here in TN.

2.  Watching “Catch Me If You Can” – pretty much my all time favorite movie outside of Lord of the Rings and Braveheart
1.  Playing frisbee and hammocking in the park behind my house with my best girl.  Does she know me or what?!  (Also, she’s getting lots better at frisbee!)
love you all.
-The Voughts
P.S. Below is the place we took some hard things to God last week. Beautiful place to meet our savior.
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a weekend with the Voughts

we had a productive saturday here at the Vought house! phew.

things we did:

  • went to Bed, Bath & Beyond to return a few repeat wedding presents and got some organization for the kitchen and bedroom
  • went to Target and used our wedding gift cards. We bought a TV (just in time for Michigan football…6 days…), a duvet cover, an ironing board (Paul was behind himself) & curtains for the bedroom
  • got hard to work organizing, cleaning, hanging, etc.
  • Paul hung curtain rods, and an AWESOME mirror in our bedroom
  • put on our new duvet cover!
  • I organized our kitchen drawers -PTL, and the cupboards
  • I cleaned our oven…for 2+ hours (it was disgusting, and i went through 3 (!) steel wool pads!!)
  • set up our new TV
  • bought paint at Home Depot

Here are some pictures! Our little house is coming along!

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and just for a little more fun..here was our Friday night. I made biscotti, we drank cinnamon spice tea, and watched a movie in a fort.

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Happy Sunday!

-The Voughts