Simplify. Community. Travel.

I’m a little late on the new year’s resolutions train, but I’ve been really trying to solidify a game plan for 2014. Something simple but powerful. I decided on giving myself 3 words that I would filter my year through. Those three lifelines are: Simplify. Community. Travel.

And yes, I have a million goals for my career and what I want to accomplish. And while that is well and good, I believe I’ve been letting pride and expectation push me too hard where I can be weathered, empty and over worked. So instead of wanting the “next best thing”, this year is for getting back to the basics of intention. Doing less but doing it better: full of thought, meaning and a story.

1. Simplify.

This is first on my list because it is the most crucial and convicting change I need to make in 2014. To say this is big on my heart right now would be an understatement. It is ripping at me in a way that is both inspiring and deeply painful.

When I moved to Houston, I was at one of the lowest.. okay… the lowest point of my life. I won’t go into further detail- you’ve heard me bitch enough on that subject. And if you’d really like to hear me whine, knock yourself out here: circa October 2012. In that time, I found comfort in the things I surrounded myself with. Oh, I don’t have anyone to hang out with on the weekends? Nothing a vintage couch won’t fix.

But it didn’t fix. And soon I was drowning in possessions that were beautiful, but meaningless. Sometimes I secretly wished (and sometimes still do) that the whole house would burn down and I could start fresh.

When I traveled through Europe, I realized that I could truly live comfortably with only the things that I was able to carry on my back. I jokingly told Clint that we should just get an apartment in one of the countries we were visiting and start over with only the things in our packs- severing all ties with our American possessions.

Staying in people’s homes abroad was really shocking. They had such simple lives- having nothing more in their fridge than what they would eat in the next few days. Closets with only a few high quality staples. Small homes with minimal furniture and uncluttered presence. It was as if every other country had this innate sense of what mattered and didn’t waste anything beyond that.

And I was disgusted with myself. Absolutely embarrassed by my gluttony. Our overflowing closets (PLURAL.) and so much food we have to throw it away because we couldn’t even consume what we bought. Ew.

I can’t continue to live a lifestyle that is so very careless and wasteful. Clint and I collectively decided it was time for a big change. So we’re dumping out our closets. And selling all our furniture (okay, not the coffee table… so no you can’t have it) and moving to much, much smaller apartment when our lease ends. We’re flushing our lives of the things that we previously believed we needed to be happy- an idea so ludicrous that it’s hard for me to type.

And I know that this may sound like such a small battle. Not everyone struggles with excess. I envy you, you rare bird, you. But we do. And I’m out to really conquer my flawed lifestyle.

A book that I could read over and over that has been really getting in my face and heart on this matter is “7” by Jen Hatmaker. She can have you on the floor laughing and convict the shoes right off of you in a single sentence. I can not recommend this book to anyone more. But beware. This book is scary. And you can never unread what truth she will speak over you.

2. Community.

I can feel this strong pull going through the creative world right now based on the idea of gathering together. Some really awesome publications are going back to the roots of unfussy, authentic community and the power of simply gathering people around a table.

Some of my favorites include:

1. Kinfolk Magazine (I actually found this magazine after I named my blog, but felt a deep connection to this seasonal publication so maybe it was meant to be?)

2. Hearth Magazine.

3. Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist. The hostess with the mostest who invites you to her table and into her raw soul. Her other books have helped me as much as a friend during the hard times. She begins this novel out with this:

“My prayer is that you’ll read these pages first curled up on your couch or in bed or in the bathtub, and then after that you’ll bring it to the kitchen with you, turning corners of pages, breaking the spine, spilling red wine on it and splashing vinegar across the pages, that it will become battered and stained as you cook and chop and play, music loud and kitchen messy. And more than anything, I hope that when you put this book down, you’ll gather the people you love around your table to eat and drink, to tell stories, to be heard and fed and nourished on every level.”

I want this year to be full of authentic relationships, an open door to my home and table, intentional connection to the people I care about through handwritten letters and warm gatherings, listening to people’s stories, and letting down some of those walls that keep people at arm’s length. I want to meet strangers. I want to people to sleep on my couch. I want to be involved with the people in my church and do life beside them.

In all, I want to spend less time on myself and more time on building, nurturing, caring and feeding those around me.

Today I met up with a fellow photographer I met on Instagram. We virtually met through a friend of mine who heard I was interested in starting to shoot film. With his current goal being to build community as well (us artists can be a lonely bunch), he invited me to coffee. It was completely invigorating to my soul. We talked for hours on the importance of community and sharing deep stories that matter.

He told me a story of a woman he knows that lives in a 500 sq foot apartment that had a grassy area behind it. She had a huge table made with the goal to have 1,000 people eat a meal on that table before the end of the year. With a budget of only 75 dollars, what started as a small get together became hundreds and hundreds of strangers and friends coming together at one time to share food and their stories.

I seriously got the chills. Here I am being inspired and poured into by someone who was a complete stranger hours before.

And I am aiming for this year to be full of a lot less selfishness and a lot more connecting.

Come stay with me while I still have a guest bedroom.

3. Travel.

While I love seeing new places, this is more of a goal of stretching my understanding of the world- and myself in it. One of the things I love the most about leaving home is that is scares the pants off of me. It strips my sense of control and forces me to look into myself the way few other things do. And this self reflection and personal growth are paramount for this next year.

It teaches me to live in the moment. To be strong when things go completely and totally wrong. To be humble. To be in awe of what God has so skillfully crafted. To be open and understanding to all different ways of life. To grasp that your individual talents are desperately needed in the world and you must share them. To accept your self in a way that is devoid of self hate, but eager to change.

So the list current list includes:

Cape Town in Africa (March/April)

Marfa, Texas (to sleep in teepees!) (Feb/March)

Florida (so excited to have the opportunity to shoot a wedding here!)

California

Portland (May- and will be my first solo trip where I will travel from Oregon to Canada with my backpack and no companion.)

Most of these trips will not be fancy. I will most likely sleep in my car a few days. Or in a tent. Or on someone’s floor. But that’s going to be the best part of the journey. And I can’t wait to be broken and remolded over and over this year.

What are your goal words this year? Your stories inspire me.

XO, K

cleanse: day 10.

Throughout my college experience, my roommates, one by one, did a 30 day cleanse called Advocare. They would finish this cleanse with glowing skin, a pant size smaller, and a new outlook on what health meant. I was always encouraged to join into this health nut party, but opted out for fear of starving. I completely survived those years off of food encased by a box, wrapper, or tin, and this cleanse required a clean break from processed foods. No gluten, no dairy, no bread, no starches, no alcohol, no caffiene, no sweets, no red meat, no (insert anything enjoyable in life here). I would applaud them in their efforts as I continued to eat my macaroni and cheese with hot dog weiners.

Fast forward three years: Clint and I are traveling with work or play most weeks of the year. I am tired and groggy and seem to be continually getting sick. I contend ignorance that the gas station food, alcohol, and sheer magnatute of caffiene have anything to do with this.

I make small life changes. I go to the gym and practice yoga. I learn how to cook. I try to cut back my sweets- but if I’m honest, I am doing this out of fear of The Almighty Bikini.

Then one day I decide it’s enough. I’m an all or nothing type of gal- and so once I had my mind made up that it was time for a life change- I dived in head first. I was ready to take accountability for what I was doing to my body.

Day 1: I almost vomit on the fiber drink. This is no exaggeration. I quickly learned that it takes about 60 seconds for this liquid to become a solidified mass in your throat if you don’t chug fast enough. I know my fellow Advocareians feel my pain.

I am feeling extra earthy and domestic cooking for every meal, and my husband decides this is the greatest thing ever. Until I won’t let him eat chips in front of me.

Day 2: Diet Coke withdrawals hit, but other than that, I am feeling fantastic. I may never eat another processed food again!

Day 3: Am I dying? I think I’m dying.

Day 4: I am quickly running out of things to make- and eat an entire bag of baby carrots for lunch. Time to do some internet research of “things to make devoid of anything delicious”.

I am working out everyday, which actually helps calm the hunger for a few hours. I am feeling strong. And guess what?! I like almond milk. This is a revolutionary thing for me since I am a lactose intolerant woman who loves dairy. (You can ask a few very close people to me what happens when I choose to partake in ice cream.) If there is one thing that I can take from this cleanse, it is that I can now live relatively milk free. Hallelujah.

Day 5: I can NOT stay full. I eat and I eat and I eat and there is this pang inside of my stomach that I am sure will only be satisfied next time I eat waffle fries.

I text my council of friends because I need to be talked back from the ledge before I jump head first into a sugar sack. They tell me I don’t need sugar, I need Jesus.

I pray and sob into some broccoli.

Day 6: I watch a documentary about food and how much what we put into our mouths and our health are connected. (DUH.) But then I dive into more research. First, about what benefits come from clean eating which range from mental clarity to fighting off cancer. I decide it’s time to be thankful for this one body I have, and treat it like it’s supposed to run. You don’t buy a luxury car and shove saw dust in the gas tank.

Day 7: I can see a noticable difference in my complexion. My acne has almost completely cleared up already, and I am going out in public without make up on.

I am texting every spinach leaf and spoonful of almond butter I put in my mouth to Tessa, who is also on the cleanse. Lindsey is sending us bible verses and encouragement through our group text every morning. Buffy sends an “after” shot from her clean eating and she looks hot. I love that this challenging time has brought our group closer together.

I do some research about becoming vegan. I have no plan of living animal free, but I want to become aware of the food industry and what really goes on before I bring home my pretty little package of boneless, skinless, 95% fat free meat.

I watch Vegucated on Netflix- a documentary on a group of cheese loving people who agree to adopt a vegan lifestyle for 6 weeks. I am definitely in shock. And anyone who knows me is aware that I like animals more than most people, so I am sick to my stomach. I still believe that animals are made for us to eat, but that it’s important for me to support local farms that have safe and natural practices for their livestock.

I am feeling more connected to my home and my husband by cooking every meal. We’re also saving money by not eating out at all. And we’re exercising together. I am really getting into the groove of this whole thing.

Day 8: It’s best that I don’t speak to anyone. Withdrawal has hit me in full swing. I am tired and cranky and the last ounce of hydrogenated oil has officially left my system.

Clint tells me that we’re walking too fast on our trip to the park and I cry.

Michelle tells me that I can have a cheat since I’ve been doing so well. Bless her. And then Whitney texts me and says the words “cellulite dimple” and I refrain.

Day 9: We go to the grocery store, and I am excited! I am waltzing through the produce section buying up every color of fruit and veggie I see. HEB is my new best friend. Just aisles and aisles of gluten free, dairy free, organic goodness to devour. This is when I realize I am becoming lame. When going to the natural food section of the grocery store is the highlight of my weekend.

I get to the eggs. After inspecting each brand of “organic”, “free range”, and “cage free” (is there a difference?), I settle on a carton that is from a local farm. It even includes a picture of their farm inside and a small newsletter about the chickens living their wonderful feathered life out on a pasture, free of cages and hormones. I run up to Clint, just giddy about how eccentric and natural I am becoming. He is less than enthused. “Kendall, this is like Portlandia crap.” But he’s a good husband and only laughs at it one more time before we leave the grocery store.

Day 10: Jen Hatmaker has a book called “Seven”. This book humbles me every time I read it. In part of the book, she also does a cleanse. She writes-

“I realized that my slightly reduced life is still extraordinary in every way. There is no end to my advantages. For whatever reason I was born into privilege; I’ve never known hunger, poverty, or despair. I have been blessed, blessed, blessed- relationally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. My life is so happy it’s almost embarrassing. So I thawed into a gratitude puddle, exchanging my physical aching for spiritual communion. It was a good trade. I exhaled and breathed, ‘Thank You.'”

Well, amen.

xoxo, k.

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