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Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

I’m Jennifer — wife of an Iowa farmer, mom to two girls, new book author. I believe in you, because I believe in Jesus. You matter to Him, and you matter to me. more »

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Tuesday 24th May 2016

Why I Needed to Begin Loving My Actual Life — #TellHisStory (Book Giveaway!)

Alexandra Kuykendall is one of those rare women who can feel like the closest friend, even if you’ve never met here in person. That’s the power of Alex’s words, and the resonance of her heart. I first became acquainted with Alex through her work on staff at MOPS, and later through her terrific memoir The Artist’s Daughter. It’s a joy to have her on the blog today, sharing from her brand new book, Loving My Actual Life. Her publisher is giving away three copies, in celebrate of the release. See details on the giveaway below.

Why I Needed to Begin Loving My Actual Life
By Alexandra Kuykendall

I was living day after day crammed full with no foreseeable end to the crazy making. Ever. With a three-year old as our caboose child, it could be roughly fifteen more years of this kind of crazy making. I was operating in perma-exhaustion, which, I’m sure you can imagine, made me a sweet and lovely person.

When I started speaking to people in bullet points rather than complete sentences in order to maximize efficiency, I knew I wasn’t living as I should. And yet when I considered all of the elements of my life, all of the things that took up time and attention, I recognized they were all good things. My family, for sure. My work offered me an outlet and greater purpose, not to mention income. My church kept me grounded. My friends offered sanity. My kids’ activities were limited because believe it or not I truly was trying to have some semblance of control over our family schedule. On their own, all good things, but compounded they became more than 24-hours worth of commitments. It was simply impossible for one woman to do all of the things I was attempting. I was not living a sustainable life.

alex2 alex3 alex1

I knew something drastic was in order. A recalibrating of my days. Of my time. So I could appreciate this one life that I’ve been given. (Oh yeah, and I turned 40 this year too, which means I’m due for a midlife crisis of sorts.) And when I looked around at my friends as we sped by each other in the school pick-up line I felt as though I was not alone in this plate-spinning life. Right now.

My friends Rob and Erica just took a year off and moved their family of five to Argentina for 12 months. I watched on Facebook as they tried new foods, made new friends and took adventures that felt daring and reminiscent of my globetrotting childhood. And yet I knew that wasn’t the type of drastic move that would be a reality, or really even a desire, for our family. There must be a way to create a fresh start right here, I thought. To love the life I actually have and not one I fantasize about because it’s an escape from my reality. Could I make small tweaks in order to be more present?

But how does one fully savor the right here when there seem to be barriers in the way? The “if onlys” and the “whens.” If only I had more money or more time I could … When I have this in place then … I couldn’t wait for the perfect life to arrive to enjoy it. I could wish my current circumstances away for days on end, but the major things were unlikely to change. I needed to work with what I had right in front of me. I needed to learn to love my actual life.

I needed a reordering, a restart, a recalibration of my days.

loveactuallife

Missing Out On My Life

I was afraid if I stepped away from some work opportunities, I would be missing out somehow. And that’s when it hit me, I was already missing out on my life. I was stretched so thin I wasn’t enjoying any of it. And then God spoke. Okay, I didn’t hear a Charlton Heston-like voice, but I did feel that heart nudge that I know to be a holy whisper, that said We can do better here. After all, Jesus is the one who says, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”[1] I was weary for sure and it’s as if he was saying, “Just stop for a minute and let’s re-evaluate. And while we do that why don’t you take a load off?”

What I know of God, (from my past foibles and what it says in the Scriptures), he is in charge of second chances. In fact it’s kind of his specialty. So even though my weariness was predominantly self-created, I knew I wasn’t a lost cause. I knew he would be gentle with this weary woman. “Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus.”[2] Yes, I could unabashedly recognize I needed a change and knew God would be gracious and patient with me in the process.

 So my fresh start starts right here.

I don’t need a New Year’s resolution or nine months of perfect timing to get it started (because we all know that will NEVER happen.) I need to start relishing my life today. One intentional moment, day, month at a time.

This is an excerpt from Loving My Actual Life: An Experiment in Relishing What’s Right in Front of Me released in May by Baker Books.

alex4 Alexandra Kuykendall spends her days washing dishes, driving to and from different schools and trying to find a better solution to the laundry dilemma. All while trying to sneak in chunks of time to work on various writing projects. She is the author of The Artist’s Daughter: A Memoir and Loving My Actual Life: An Experiment in Relishing What’s Right in Front of Me.

Alex lives in the shadows of downtown Denver with her husband Derek and their four daughters. Connect with her at AlexandraKuykendall.com.

[1] Matthew 11:28
[2] Ephesians 2:8 (The Msg)

Book Giveaway!

alex5 BakerBooks is graciously giving away copies of Loving My Actual Life to three of you! Entering is easy. Any of the following will qualify as entries. Each action will result in an entry. Simply let me know which actions you’ve taken, and your name will be entered once for each action.

1 – In the comments, let us know how you relish the life you’ve been given.

2 – Share this post on Facebook. Let me know in the comments if you did.

3 – Share this post on Twitter. Let me know in the comments if you did.

4 – Follow Alexandra on Facebook by clicking here. Let me know in the comments if you did. (If you already follow her, let me know. It counts as an entry.)

I will calculate the numbers of each person’s entries, and randomly select three winners. Entries close Friday at noon.

#TellHisStory

Hey Tell His Story crew! It is a joy to gather here every week with you. The linkup goes live each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great! And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there! Our featured writer this week is Jessica Bolyard. Her words are light for anyone feeling lost in the dark today. “So whatever beauty you’re seeking, press on through the mess. If the beautiful thing you’re pursuing is a restored marriage, trudge through the hard work of forgiveness to get there. If you’re seeking community and fellowship, make your way through the hard stuff of vulnerability to find it.” Find Jessica here.

To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. 🙂 xo Jennifer


  • I’m so glad you shared Alexandra’s post here, Jennifer. I keep bumping into this book, and feel certain it’s a book that would nourish me. I often struggle with FOMO and so I am learning daily to embrace my actual life, and enjoy the moments as they come, even the crazy-upside-down days. Counting my gifts always helps recenter my heart on the goodness already in my hands.

  • Alex

    I followed Alex on Facebook!

  • Paula

    I so desperately need to follow the advice here. So often it’s a struggle to be content with where I am at. I have followed Alexandra on Facebook as well.

    • Paula

      Shared on Facebook and twitter as well.

  • Honestly I am in a season where God has stopped me in my tracks so to speak. God has asked me not to look for work and I am trying my best to follow in obedience. He has been clearing the distractions one by one and it was been more of an immersion in all the things that really matter. I know that while obedience is often hard, and many around me simply do not understand my choices that joy comes when I find happiness and express gratitude for where I am right now and how I see God each day.

    Sharing on Twitter. Facebook is one of those distractions that God has eliminated for me.

  • Brooke Montgomery Cassinelli

    Just yesterday I read a devotion on vocation… I have been feeling like I don’t “do” anything. I am a SAHM of 5 and have been feeling antsy about my lack of value, even though my head knows that I am worthy. It was an “AHA” moment for me. As long as what I’m doing points others to God and His provision, then I am doing what I am meant to do, whether it be bandaging boo-boos or being a world-class surgeon. If I am making Him known to those around me, I am fulfilling my purpose. Thank you for pointing us toward Him and answering your call!

  • Brooke Montgomery Cassinelli

    Shared post on Facebook

  • Brooke Montgomery Cassinelli

    Shared on Twitter as well 🙂

  • Brooke Montgomery Cassinelli

    Following Alexandra on Facebook too! 🙂

  • I am trying to live each day intentionally and be grateful in every season. I shared on Twitter.

    Sarah
    http://mybowsandclothes.blogspot.com/

  • Connie McCord Bjorklund

    I think i really need to read her book. I’ve kind of been feeling like I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing. Just going through the motions! I want to learn to enjoy every day. I’m blessed with a wonderful husband that loves me & two adult children & 5 grandchildren. So what is my problem? Please enter me in the drawing, I’m sharing on facebook today. Thank you for your blog!

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  • Michelle Peden Vasquez

    I’m in a very different season of life than she is, but I would love to read her book! I will soon be an empty nester, and I have a brand new grandbaby. My life has changed tremendously this year, and I tend to like schedules and routine, so change really throws me off! I have been trying to work on being present in the moment and letting go of some of the schedules and routines!
    I also ‘liked’ Alexandra on Facebook, and I shared the post on Facebook and Twitter! Thank you!

  • Liz Ford

    Commenting for entry.:)
    I don’t Twitter twatter, Facebook, or Instagram. 😜 I am a blogger and texter. This is actually one way I savor my life… I greatly limit my social media and technology involvement. I find I love pictures WAY too much( and spying on people to avoid my own realities… Lol), which keeps me on sites etc. WAY too long. Leaving my wife/mommy “best” by the wayside. I also find I can focus more on loving well and connecting well, if I am forced to do it on a more personal contact level. This is a personal decision that comes with no judgment on others and their levels of involvement. It’s just that I have a brain that thrives on the simple things, and I miss beauty and actual people more when I am technology bound.
    The other day I forgot my phone while running errands. I came out of the store, and the sky was magnificent! I instantly went to grab my phone to photograph it, when I was jolted. No phone. Then the thought that made me smile… ” I can only have this right now. This sky, this moment, to be journaled in my memory and penned out as gratitude upon my heart. This sky, right now, to know God right here. No rushing to capture it in photo… If I want it, I have to be all here, in this, right now.” And I found such a deep breath in that. 🙂 Technology is a gift, but it’s also a liability. One I work to not be bound by. I simply don’t want to miss Jesus here, in the moments…or the people He intends me to love. And for me, it’s a good goal.❤️

    • Loved this comment, Liz! Thanks for sharing. You are a savorer of life!

  • Kathy Scott

    Being in the retirement phase of life, I’ve found freedom to pursue my interests and also the overload that occurs when taking on too much. This book would be a great way to find balance in all I undertake.

  • Beth McNeish

    I needed this message today and lately really. I liked Alex on FB and shard the blog post! I am so thankful for women like you who remind us of who we are created to be and how we are created to love and live.

  • Meghan Weyerbacher

    Her story from what I can tell really resonates with my situation as well. The well-meaning intentions in my life mixed with the fear of saying “no” drove me to a few breakdowns last year. I have been on my own journey of peeling back and starting fresh right where I am. Especially since we were about to move and then the door closed the day before we signed papers….I have really had to get my eyes of “what I wish” and find gratitude in the present. It is still a challenge sometimes but I actually just posted about Hope for Moms and 3 Habits that Help Stay Focused. There have been a few different people God has used to help me in this journey, but I am sure this book will be another tool for a stepping stone in the right direction.

    I appreciate it when moms get real and share their messes, it helps me to see hope in what seems like endless toddler demands at times! My favorite line that I read, that stuck out and is something God uses as a red flag for me too, was when she mentioned as she began talking in bullet points, she knew she was not on the right track.

    I shared this on Facebook, liked her page, shared on Twitter and am commenting here! If I don’t win, I am still putting it on my reading list. This sounds good for a mom/women’s group thing too! Thanks for the opportunity here and prayers for you Jennifer & Alexandra, and for this book to help multitudes of women.

    • Yeah, I loved that bullet-point quote too!

  • Beth

    I’m following Alexandra on FB

  • Diane Slone

    I have followed the author on Facebook and shared the blog post on Facebook. This post really struck home for me because I’m not sure I am loving the life I live. My husband has been laid off from job 3 in the past 3 years and I am under much pressure to earn money. This was a big reminder to me to breathe, take in this beautiful life God gave us and enjoy. Thank you!! Great timing 💕

    • Wow, Diane! You’ve been under a lot of pressure. Prayers for you today. xo

  • Beth

    I try to relish my life now by writing down something that brought me joy each day.

  • Robin

    Shared on Facebook and Twitter, and followed Alexandra’s Facebook account…such a good, good word! I’m learning to quit always looking so far ahead that I miss what’s going on today. I’m blessed beyond measure but so busy I sometimes forgot to say thank You.

  • mjeaustin

    I am trying to relish my life as a homeschooling mom of 2 crazy boys, one with insane soccer schedules and the other who still very much needs lots of mommy time. I get caught up in the schedules and to-do lists all too often. I try to catch myself from saying, “Just a minute,” in response to requests from them that require my time. I try to forgive myself for not getting in that last load of laundry or not mopping the floor…again.

  • Corena

    I was a nurse for 32 years, I never intended to be anything but a stay at home mom. About 3 months after I got a administrative job as a nurse which I thoroughly enjoyed I was called to give it up and be at home with my family. In the year since I have cherished the time and everything God is doing in my life. He has changed me and I am His work in progress. Today I see Him in all of life, the simple, the great, the repetitive and the everyday. I have time to indulge in the presence of Jesus. His incredible love I feel and I am continually humbled.
    I did share the post to FB and Twitter and I follow you and now Alexandra. I have her ” The artist’s daughter: a memoir,”on my shelf as part of my reads for June! Anything I am blessed with ends up being a tool to help others. So if Jesus wants me to use this it will be part of His plan for me to win it! I truly know He is in all of life! Thank goodness! PTL!

  • Susie

    I relish the life God has given me by intentionally seeking bright happy color (the dishes I use, bright pots for plants on the front porch, an outdoor chair and flowers on the kitchen counter – a riot of colors makes me happy), and practicing being thankful for God’s gifts – this week, I’m thankful for a broken engine shield, God’s gift instead of a wreck when I changed lanes on the freeway and found myself blasting into a deer carcass! Sometimes His gifts are a little weird, but no less a blessing for being unusual. 😀 I could go on, but you didn’t ask for a book. 😉 I am not on social media like Facebook or Twitter so I can’t “follow” but I sure enjoy the blogs. Thank you for sharing this opportunity.

  • karen

    This books looks great! I do not want to miss this one life!

  • Alexandra, these words hit home to me: “I needed to work with what I had right in front of me. I needed to learn to love my actual life.” because they speak into a need I have to do exactly that. Relishing my life doesn’t come easily. On a daily basis, I have to fight for joy, choose hope over despair and courage over the desire to disappear or drown in discouragement. What helps? Writing, definitely. It’s cathartic and a vehicle of blessing to others. As does keeping a gratitude diary and sitting in the soothing silence and solitude which contemplative prayer provides.
    Also, corny as it sounds, love makes a huge difference – being loved by others and seeing myself as God’s beloved. But I know I still have a long way to go to truly relish my days in a life I often wish was very different than it is. Thank you for honestly sharing your journey. I’m sure many will read and be inspired by your book. Thanks also to Jennifer for hosting you here. I’m following you on Facebook, and have shared this post on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Every blessing as your new work is released into the world! <3

    • You’re absolutely right. Love makes a HUGE difference. Not corny at all. That’s the truth!

  • Mary

    I love the intentionality of working toward taking back your life with the goal of living it well and with joy. We are only given one life and it can be over much too soon. Your book sounds lovely and perfect for any of us who struggle with this.

    I am grateful for the giveaway and shared it on Facebook, Twitter as well as hopped over to your page to like and join your community. Blessings!

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  • Looks like a good book that, I bet, will resonate with a lot of folks these days. Thanks, Jennifer, for sharing Alexandra with us. 🙂 Congrats on your book release, Alexandra. 🙂

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  • (shared on FB and Twitter)

    I have really cultivated (in the last few years) a habit of finding the blessings. I write them down, I take pictures, and I’ve found accountability by blogging about them!

    Thanks for this give away!

  • Karrilee Aggett

    Oooh – who doesn’t need this book? To actually love your actual life? Yes please. I think we all need to learn how to do that! I liked on fb and shared on the Twitter! 😉

    • Hope you’re having a great getaway!

  • Judy

    Today loving my actual life meant slowing down to take a deep breath and be present in the moment – it meant treating myself to an activity I enjoy – it meant thanking God for the sunshine and warm breezes. I am definitely still in the early stages of learning on this journey.

  • Tara Ulrich

    Sounds like a great post. Loving my actual life is being content with still being single at 37 years old. Shared on Twitter too!

  • Pam Ecrement

    Loving my actual life means looking at the great new options as a new retiree and discovering what the Lord is up to now. I shared the post on Twitter and signed up for Alexandra’s FB newsletter

  • Such a special post, Alexandra. Far too often, I am caught up in the ‘have tos’ and forget that there is so much more to life than those. I want to be here right now and see the life that God gives me. I am so very appreciative of my husband and tend to be in the moment with him…most of the time! But there are so many other times when the days slip by and I realize that it is bedtime and where did the day go! Thank you for this reminder.
    Whether I win your book or not, it looks like one I shall want to read. Thanks for writing it. I have tweeted about it @ https://twitter.com/BeingWoven/status/735258562822209536 and posted it on FB @ https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100011390068792
    Thanks, ~ linda

  • Keisha H

    I’m so excited to have found your blog today. Alexandra Kuykendall and Jessica Bolyard are two of my favorites ever! You obviously have good taste 😉

    1. Summer break has just started this week so I’m focusing on loving the moments that come in the mess and the mundane. I don’t want to be sidetracked and miss how fun my kiddos are at these ages!

    2. I shared it on facebook

    3. And twitter!

    4. I’m already a follower of Alexandra on fb.

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  • Well, it’s been mentioned here. Live intentionally. I believe being deliberate in our actions is the best way to live life. Done these actions. (Hope it’s open internationally. ^_^)

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  • I relish the life I’ve been given by regularly taking time to be quiet and reflect. It helps me slow down and take it all in!

    I followed on Facebook and shared on Twitter ☺️

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  • Susan

    We are empty-nesters and every day I keep choosing to do the things I love! I followed on FB and shared on Twitter. If I win, I will gift my daughter who is struggling in her marriage. xo

  • Elizabeth Giertz

    Self created weariness…. That’s where I’m at. I just completed a sweet season of leadership in women’s ministry and I’m looking forward to slowing down and really enjoying my friends in this next season. It’s been a while since I truly relished much… What perfect timing for the release of what sounds like an amazing book for me! Shared on Twitter and followed on Facebook.

  • This sounds like such a great book for each of us. I followed on Facebook and shared on Twitter. Thank you for the opportunity!

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  • Thanks! This book looks really cool 🙂 Excited to learn how she did this! Followed on Facebook and shared on Twitter!

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  • Love the point that by being spread so thin, we’re already missing out somewhere. It’s hard to figure out priorities sometimes when everything seems like a priority. But as we “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33), He’ll guide us in the priorities of each day. Sometimes my priorities – getting my to-do list done – are not His – spending a few minutes to talk with a neighbor – so I need constant recalibration.

    I like to relish life both by getting into God’s Word each day for that calibration and by sometimes just trying to freeze-frame a moment in my mind, to forget everything else and really be present in whatever moment I’m in.

  • Alisa Nicaud

    This hits so close to home, Jennifer! Thank you for sharing Alexandra with us today! With a spouse, 5 kids, a business and writing, I can tend to try to get priorities out of order sometimes. This is such a great reminder of where I need to be focused. It’s so amazing how God confirms things so clearly through others. I shared on fb, twitter, pinterest and stumblupon.

  • I am certainly a work in progress. I want to cherish and treasure my life i each and every way. Thanks so much for the giveaway. I am also sharing this on twitter.

  • This hit so perfectly for me today! This plate spinning madness, even if all the plates in the air are beautiful and good, is soul suffocating. I need to breathe. “A recalibrating of my days” is the perfect way to say that. I try…we say not to lots of things….good things, so we can say YES to great things. I want every YES to be a wholehearted full yes! And I want it right here, in this place, in my life now (unless God calls us to some grand adventure)!
    I shared on FB, Twitter & followed Alexandra on FB!

    • Alexandra Kuykendall

      Thank you Rebecca. I agree the wholehearted yeses can only come when we’ve made room for them.

  • Alexandra, it’s so lovey to meet you today through Jennifer. Congratulations on the new book. Sounds like a great read!

  • So much to love about this post. I’ve spent so many years holding back on what I really wanted to do only to see it as something for someday. I couldn’t see how I could pursue what God planted in me over the years. He’s opened up a new season for me and shown me how all the years of child raising and serving leading up to now offer so much more richness for today’s work of writing and serving.

    I am taking note of the things which I keep saying I’ll do another day and choosing a couple of them to act on daily, even if the action is small. It helps me love the life I’m in now because I’m not just waiting for tomorrow.

    BTW – Shared, shared and followed. Thank you for hosting Alexandra today Jennifer.

  • This is great! I can relate in so many ways. Will be adding this for Summer reading. Thanks for sharing.

  • I do relish the life I’ve been given. Keeping a gratitude journal for the past seven years has helped me to really see how greatly blessed I am!

  • I shared this post on Facebook.

  • I shared this post on Twitter

  • I liked Alexandra’s fb page.

  • Suzanne Yates

    I am a work in progress. The last few years have been not so good years emotionally. The last few months have found me trying to get my life organized/sorted out one room at a time. I am at a stand still right now. The room is in order but what do I do next??
    I would LOVE this book.

  • corrine andrade

    This makes me want to cry because this is my daily struggle! I am trying so hard, day in and day out to make small tweaks to have more time to enjoy each moment, but it is so hard to do. I feel like I’m missing out on a bigger purpose or happier existence as I cook dinner, give baths, wipe noses, go to work…etc. etc. Maybe this IS the wonderful life I’ve always dreamed of and I need to breathe and embrace 🙂

    • Alexandra Kuykendall

      Yes! Corrine, maybe it is! Breathing always helps.

  • Lynne Cole

    I absolutely love this post. I am absolutely wiped out with everything going on my life and have no time for anything. I feel so drained and spiritually empty at the moment and I think it’s because I am so tired. I have liked her facebook page and can’t wait to see what she writes next. I have also shared on FB and Twitter.

  • Leanne Carmany

    I liked Alexandra’s Facebook page.

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  • I read this thinking, that’s exactly how I feel, and I don’t even have a caboose! But I do “relish” feel extremely grateful for the life I’ve been given, and where God has placed me for this particular season. Why? because it is all a part of God’s perfect plan. And He confirms that to me in so many ways. This looks like a great book to add to my ever-growing stack! I’m sharing on FB and Twitter and clicking over to follow Alexandra now. Thank you for the opportunity, Jennifer, have a blessed, and safe weekend!

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Won't lie. The last few days = 💩. The antidote for bad days and everything else 💩-ish is 80s music. Of course. Go… ift.tt/2imGws5 pic.twitter.com/PhOLeR7L2C