I have gone back and forth on doing this post…this last season was one of lessons that I am still pondering and trying to process. I am knee-deep in many emotions that it seems are just starting to be released and keeping my head above the inevitable flood is many times my daily goal. I do not like to be in survival mode, but lately I feel it is the best I can do. So I know this process of going through the past few months is therapeutic; I also know that it can be painful and so I have been avoiding it to an extent. The thought of relief after I sit and sift through the last season is enough to (somewhat) force me to reflect and relive in certain cases so here it is…the 12 lessons from this last fall. It was a roller coaster of a season; one with many ups and downs, a little joy in the midst of sorrow and smiles in the midst of a heavy heart. (Thank you to Emily Freeman who hosts a seasonal link up on ‘What I Have Learned’-type posts and has inspired me to reflect, ponder and write while also helping me to find space for my soul to breath…check out her post and the link-up here!)
1. Time is most definitely priceless. Most people say this, but do they live this? I will admit I was one who probably didn’t live by cherishing the time. It isn’t until you don’t have any time left that it truly becomes priceless. It is interesting how circumstances can make us change our actions. However it happens we all must realize that our time is one of the most important gifts we have to give and to receive; our priorities will fall in line with this thought once we embrace it. Many events over the past season have led me to this thought, but the most definitive one was the knowledge that someone I love would not be with us (physically) for much longer. While we did not know the exact time frame, we were made aware of the gift of time and the precious moments that were happening around us. Time marches on regardless of how we think of it, use it or spend it….don’t we all want to look back knowing we valued it as priceless and were intentional about those that were in it with us?
2. You can never prepare yourself for loss. I was told many times, by well-meaning people, that at least you know and you can say your goodbyes….she lived a long life….you are lucky she is in her home. While I agree with these statements to a point, I have to say that it was kind of like twisting the knife that was already in my heart. The unbearable weight of watching someone suffer is something I would not ever wish upon anyone; every single time I went over to her house…one in which I had many memories of happy times…I saw her decline more and more. It was literally a pain that I carried with me for weeks from the time she was put into hospice until now if I am being honest. While I am ever so grateful for the time to hold her hand and talk to her (even though as time went on she couldn’t do much talking on her end) and the comfort she had in being in her own home; it was, to this point in my life, one of the hardest things I had to endure and watch, and the memories of that still rock my soul at times. Even though I was there and I knew what was going to happen eventually, I had (and still have) difficulty wrapping my brain around it all….it is almost surreal…did that really happen? The flood of various emotions is still strong at times and I am not sure anyone ever knows how they will feel or experience until the loss is actually there and happening and the processing begins.
3. There are messages of Hope all over; if we just look we will see. God sends us reminders and signs often and when we are alert and open to receiving them than we will get the important message that is being sent to us. I had several of those this last season; I think because of the ‘trying’ time I was (and still am) in that I was more aware of messages to keep going and to hang on, but nevertheless I saw them and had faith that they were sent to me on purpose. Such things as a perfect rainbow on Paisley’s first day of school (post here), finding my lost ‘Hope’ necklace after it had been lost for over a year (read that IG post here– it was amazing!), a message from a friend about a song she felt she needed to send to me, me listening to this song and sending it on to all of my family, the song (click here for the song) then was played by my cousin to my Grandma (basically in a comatose state at this point) and my Grandma taking her last breath just a few hours later (a sign, I believe, that it was ok and she could be with Jesus now) and butterflies literally all over the day that she passed away, pictures appearing and handwritten notes (see post here) I had forgotten about that make me teary, but remind me of past memories. All of this is communication from God; He wants to be our comfort and He wants to be our guide. Sometimes we just have to open our eyes to the blessings sent in order to feel the comfort He is trying to give.
4. Giving yourself time is not always a luxury, but a necessity. There is just something about getting time to think, to reflect and to be….we are not meant to be go-go all the time. We are made for downtime too…and sometimes we can fit it in our schedule and other times it becomes about the only thing we can do. In order to keep going later, we need to take the time today to rest, to do nothing and to be by ourselves. I have found this season that especially after large, emotionally charged events this is so much of the case. I know that the time I take for myself is needed therapy right now for moving forward and adjusting to a new normal.
5. There can be Joy in Suffering. I am not sure most of us would look at suffering as joyful. It looks, feels and appears to be downright difficult, painful and something most of us want to avoid. The waiting seems monotonous and all encompassing; the relief you long for seems to be just outside of your grasp. I was there and it could be awful at times, difficult to say the least and heart wrenching most of the time. But there is a choice, even in times of suffering, to look for the bright spots…there always are some. The conversations and coming together of family, the opportunity to treasure and cling tight to the gift of time given, the past memories discussed that bring laughter and smiles, the hugs and holding of hands and the knowing that our suffering is never in vain, but is redemptive and can be offered up for ourselves and one another. We each suffer and quite possibly are suffering in various ways; look for the bright spots, seek out the joy and know that there is a purpose to it all. <3
6. Sometimes you just have to take the picture. This last fall has shown me that pictures can also be priceless because they give us a glimpse into the past…the moments we lived, but may have forgotten or a moment we didn’t ever want to forget. I love to take pictures of my kids during the everyday, hence the photo above of Paisley…this was a regular day before school, but she looked so darn cute that I just had to get a picture! She questioned why, but I said because I wanted to and so I did! Also the candid shot below that is one from a few years back for sure and of course is not an everyday photo, but one from Seth and I’s wedding. This candid shot is so much more precious now than ever, because you see, all those ladies standing with us are now no longer with us, but at home with Jesus. I am not sure who took this picture and sent it to us, but I am forever grateful to them. I can not get the time back, but I can take out a photo and relive a memory, a time, a special event or even an everyday moment…pictures tend to go up in value as time goes on so it is just best to take the photo and know it will be worth it.
7. The sibling bond is quite incredible. I have gotten the great privilege of watching this bond develop ever since Brantley was born. However I do think this last year it has grown so much more and it has impacted me in ways hard to describe. I guess watching something unfold before you causes you to look to your own relationships and how you depend and become connected to others also. Brantley was so very distraught when Paisley went back to school and did not know what to do with himself during the day. He would be almost hysterical at nap time and was so very excited to see her at school pick up time. He doesn’t hide his emotions or feelings about her and lets her know that he loves her all the time. She also is very protective and writes stories about him, reads to him and is his number one playmate. I just love watching all of this and pondering how my own sister and I must have been at the same age. I truly think one of the gifts God gives us is a sibling; a bond above all others for sure <3
8. Joy is found in the simple. This last fall we took a family trip to an apple orchard. It wasn’t crowded or rushed, but just right with a ride out to green fields of lush apple trees and a leisurely walk down a gravel road to a small but plentiful pumpkin patch. The sun was shining and the weather just right; not too warm and not too cold. Holding my little ones’ hands in their light blue overalls, I couldn’t help but think that it is the simple things that can bring the most joy. This fall was heavy with a lot of complication and draining emotions, but stepping out into the beauty of this rural landscape, taking a deep breath and exhaling in the simplicity of it all was good for my soul. Joy is most definitely found in these moments where we are able to take more of God in and our souls are able to exhale.
9. Always look twice at the label (and the lid) before purchasing and before cooking! So one night this last fall I had ‘Friends’ moment while making our supper. You know the one where Rachel makes the truffle with beef stew as one of the layers? Yep that one where she thought the beef stew was supposed to be in it, except in my case I did not know what was being put in our dinner until it was too late! I was making an enchilada bake that calls for sour cream to be used as one of the layers; well in an effort to be more healthy I have been substituting greek yogurt for sour cream in many of our meals. As I was slathering the greek yogurt on top of the beef-bean-salsa mixture and topping it off with Mexican cheese I kept smelling something sweet. I realized as I was putting on the final layer that it was VANILLA greek yogurt. I had no other option but to bake it and serve it to my family. I could not stomach it, but everyone else seemed to eat it up just fine. Note to self- always check your yogurt flavors before purchase AND before putting in your dinner! (I did notice that my yogurt container had the wrong lid which told me it was plain while the container said it was vanilla…always check both before buying!) 🙂
10. Gray hair happens…and apparently it happened to me! So I got told for the first time that I do in fact have gray hair. (insert shocked emoji here!) I had been aware that my hair was looking somewhat frizzy in certain areas and acting out of sorts (sometimes I think it has a mind of it’s own!), but since my hair is lighter I did not notice it as much in terms of color. Well I am not one to embrace the gray hair trend, so I promptly said we will update this do and so I did….I called in the reinforcements in terms of blond and cinnamon highlights in order to tame the gray and add more depth. And then I promptly had a mini photo shoot in my car in order to get the best angle in order to capture the ‘new do’. I may be old enough to have gray hair, but I am not too old for a few fun selfies to show off said new hair! 😉
11. Girls can be both a princess and a tomboy. My daughter Paisley is very much a girly girl; she loves princesses, dresses and the color pink. However, she also loves to kick a soccer ball, climb anything and get her hands dirty. At the beginning of the school year she and I went to get pedicures; a first week of school treat and totally girly, right? The next weekend she and Seth went fishing for their daddy and daughter date; totally tomboy, right? 🙂 I truly think she is exploring and discovering her true passions; I love watching her find things she likes and enjoying each and every one of them (or finding ones she doesn’t like so much). I love that she is completely unique and able to be well-rounded in her play. Watching her explore and discover herself inspires me to find my own true self as well…isn’t it amazing when someone can explore, discover and find who they are without the confines of a label or the world’s idea of who they should be? Living to discover who God designed us to be and the plan set out before us can be one of the most freeing things we do.
12. LulaRoe leggings are pretty much amazing! I had been hearing about LulaRoe for some time now and I had been resisting the ever consistent invites to the various pop-up boutiques and online parties. The first reason basically came down to finances; I can not always afford to go shopping for myself so I must decline the invitation. The other reason was that I was certain the clothing was not as wonderful as everyone was saying and the leggings can not be any more comfortable than the ones I already have at home, right? However one of my friends hosted an online party and with some extra pocket money and a few glances at the colorful leggings, I decided to give them a try since I *could* use a pair of fun patterned leggings to add to my basic black and grays that were currently in my closet. So you guys, these leggings are over the top soft and so very comfortable. I truly feel the need to buy many more…I will abstain until I have the extra funds, but I am saying they are awesome! And so I am telling you this, because if you are hearing about LulaRoe and resisting as I did…I am telling you that you *probably* need to get a pair of the leggings…just do it and you will understand. And your welcome. 😉
Summing it all up– Do not give up! Persevere and there will be a brighter tomorrow! I know it sounds so cliche but I am in a state of shedding the leaves of this season through the struggle and pain to reveal a new season of growth. It is hard and sometimes I just want to wallow, but I am not allowing myself to be down for long. Sometimes we find ourselves in another waiting season after we just endured and completed another. This seems defeating but there is always a purpose and how appropriate that fall and winter are where it seems my pain and struggle are being felt, my endurance is being tested and rest is necessary everyday. But while in the midst I want to soak in the lessons and absorb my thoughts helping me to emerge into a hopeful butterfly on the other side; my season of spring may not align with our actual spring season, but I know whenever my ‘spring’ occurs that I will be strengthened by the One that has never left my side and confident that my waiting time helped me progress to a better place, state of mind and growth for where I need to be within God’s plan. <3
Your turn- What have you learned this fall? Tell me about it in the comments!