Winter seems to have made a sweeping motion ever so slightly and is all of a sudden on the horizon and it’s sun is setting. Hard to believe that it is already almost spring, but here we are about to embark on another season of growth and new beginnings. I have to say that is where I feel I am at as well. This winter proved to be one of much reflection, pondering and thoughts; plus one of survival, enduring and processing. It was also one of realizations, memories and growing, with a bit of quirky tips and tidbits thrown in as well. So sit back with a mug of your favorite warm beverage of choice next to the roaring fire once again (before the earmuffs and mittens go back into storage for another year) to enjoy, reflect and hopefully be encouraged by my lessons from this winter. (And if you wanted to catch up on my last lessons post…here are my Lessons from Fall.)
Here are my winter lessons in no particular order of importance:
(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!)
- The first holiday season after a loss is one of mostly survival. I had this pit in my stomach at Thanksgiving; the kind where I felt weighted down by something and I couldn’t quite shake it. I forced myself to be around people; to make conversation and to smile. It felt wrong to pretend things were ok when I did not feel ok. It made the pit hurt more, but reverting to a season of solitude wasn’t in the cards for me either. Plus Grandma would not want me to do that so I persevered. It let up a bit after Thanksgiving came and went, then we were getting ready to put the tree up. All the ornaments that my grandma had given me since my first Christmas until I was 18 or so were in full view and the memories, thoughts and realizations came bubbling to the surface. Because it was always there…the grief doesn’t really go away, it seems to sit dormant until it is released and then the thoughts won’t escape and it is hard to move forward. But I did, mainly because of the kids and the desire to create a happy and hopeful holiday environment for them. And also for my Mom, who needed someone to be stronger since she was already pushing her limit of strength as she grasped at each day inching forward in her own journey of grief. When someone plays such a significant role in your life, in a family and in a holiday, and then when that person is absent, it becomes a hole that is felt in such an unexplainable way; a way where an emotional pain actually becomes a physical hurt. It is like your soul is trying to heal that hole in any way that it can, but in order to do that and still go on with life you are put into survival mode. The holidays contain so much joy, but as we all know there is not joy without suffering…so we suffered in our grief to experience the joy of moving forward, the birth of our Savior and the hope in our children’s eyes.
- After tragedy/trauma/loss, your body actually changes in order to adapt. I heard this on the radio last week and I found it very intriguing but so very true! This goes along with what I was saying about the survival mode in the above lesson and is absolutely amazing to me! It explains why the hurt was being felt so acutely, why I was so very tired and why I felt (feel) so different in certain ways. Our bodies are equipped with survival modes themselves and not just our emotions, but our actual physical bodies. I know with each pregnancy my body had to heal and adapt after what could be described as a trauma to our physical body. Each time I had a baby, about 3-4 months later, I would lose massive amounts of hair. I thought something was incredibly wrong with me the first pregnancy, but it is normal for this to happen. It is the bodies way of normalizing hormone levels and adjusting after the stress it endured during the pregnancy and birth of a child. If it takes that long to release the stress of the birth of a child, just think of what is being released after the loss of a loved one. I actually believe it is probably a different length of time for each person, but the release needs time and grace to heal and adapt to the new body that it is becoming. <3
- In order to be an encourager, you must share the struggle along with the joy. I have found that when I only share my happy and ‘full of joy’ moments, but fail to share my struggles and suffering I am not encouraging others at all. I love to read about others’ happy times and what they have accomplished, but I have to tell you as a rushed, usually exhausted and ‘can’t get it all done’ mom of two I want to read the #reallife also. Tell me the joy, tell me how or what you have gotten done, but also tell me when you struggle, tell me where you fail and what you want to work on. Show me the real life moments and emotion along with the joy and celebration. This is what I like to read and this is what I have realized is at the core of being an encouraging writer. You can’t always be telling someone how to live without sharing and living all of life, including the sad, the hard, the real. (Enter lesson #4)
- To write you need to live. In order to share #reallife, then you need to live life. I can’t be at my computer or scrolling my phone for updates, follower numbers and pins on Pinterest all.the.time. I can’t be writing posts nonstop if I am not living in the moments that help me to generate ideas for said posts. The creativity flows from the life I create and live in everyday. I am learning to put my phone down more and look up into the eyes of my people, I am learning that presence is now and not after my to-do list is checked off and I am learning that my joy is found in the everyday living. This is what I want to write about and this is where I find my inspiration to write.
- Sometimes paths lead us in an entirely different direction than we ever thought we would go or believed that we could go. And sometimes endings are actually new beginnings. I started writing on the Our Words Collaborative website several months ago and it was SO out of my comfort zone. I had just started blogging and I got a ‘like’ on an Instagram photo I had re-posted from another site. It was a favorite quote and I was intrigued at who ‘ourwordscollab’ was and clicked on it. Totally random and I believe totally a God thing. While looking at this page I noticed they were looking for writers. Something (or someOne) told me to inquire for more info; it doesn’t hurt to find out more. While I didn’t quite consider myself a writer at the time, I asked questions and submitted writing. Obviously I moved forward to be their Day 25 writer. I was literally in tears when I got the message to write for them and submit work each month. This was a real life writing gig; even if I was not being paid monetarily. I could actually consider myself a true writer and so it began. I found I really loved writing devotionals and with each piece I prayed before I wrote, I found the words flowed and would become a post. I do not believe each piece was perfect, but it was growth and a building of confidence that have shaped my path thus far. The Our Words Collaborative site is ending this month and while I am saddened by this, I do know that this was exactly where I needed to be at this time and I plan to move forward with what I gained from the experience. My entire focus and goals for writing have changed and I completely believe it is where I am being led. I plan to continue to write devotionals and share them on my blog and I also want to reach out for other opportunities that come my way. Sometimes a leap of faith is exactly what we need to do in order to see more clearly the path we are to take in order to achieve our purpose. I do not know exactly the purpose I am being led to, but I know this was one step in the right direction and I am going to continue following where it leads me. <3
- The rebirth of my gratitude journal has done wonders for my everyday and my soul. I am not sure why I stopped writing down my gratitude each day, but I did. And I realized at the start of the New Year that I needed to start up again. So I picked up a fun notebook at one of my favorite stores (Hobby Lobby-love!) and almost every morning I write down three things that I am grateful for that morning. I also write a few sentences about each one. I think the combination of writing and reflecting has helped me have a more positive outlook in each day. I still have bad days, everyone does, but this small act has helped me choose gratitude more often even in the hard moments.
- Sometimes you just need a new to-do list. There are days when it is ok to throw away the prepared list of things to do and create an entirely new one. This may seem like something I should already know, but I am a Type A, to-do list girl all the way, so reminders I can stray from the list are good (and necessary!). Snow days in the winter are usually good for this, because the routine goes out the window usually and these are days when memories can be made (if we let them!). So, a different sort of to-do list may be made that includes sleeping in, a longer ‘morning time’ for Mommy ( #alleluia!), snuggle time in Mommy and Daddy’s bed, movie morning with popcorn, cheese and apples for lunch, cookies before quiet time, relaxing, laughing (a lot!), smiling (a lot!), letting go of expectations and being present to my kiddos instead of checking in on social media! Some days we need to listen to our lives and what truly needs to be done instead of sticking to the original plan we wrote the night before.
- Milestones are SO important to celebrate and share with our children. December 29, 2016 marked Seth and I’s 10 year engagement anniversary. We decided it would be fun to celebrate this occasion and have our children join us. This was a lot of fun and so surreal to be at the same restaurant (not the same location, but we are in a different state now so we did our best!), ordering the same things, but with our two children in tow. Not sure they exactly understood, but it was definitely something we captured in a picture and here is what I wrote about it to correspond with the picture below: 10 years ago I said yes to a man who after four months of dating I felt completely ‘at home’ with…his smile was contagious and his heart pure gold…
10 years ago we dreamed big of our future and life together over pizza and beer at Old Chicago 🍻
10 years ago I dreamed of what I have now 💗 …………………..
10 years later I still say yes to that man I have been married to *almost* 10 years (in August!)…his smile still catches my eye and his heart still gold…he is my ‘home’ and I do not know what I would do without him
10 years later we tell our kids how Daddy asked Mommy to marry him while we all eat pizza at Old Chicago 🍕
10 years later I am incredibly grateful for the gifts I am blessed with today and I look forward to the next 10 and beyond 💕
Seriously celebrate the milestones in whatever way you can! You will not regret it and it makes for great memories! <3
- I have a lot of books. So I recently counted the books that I have either bought or been given in the last year and I have 17 (unread books)! I had not read them yet, but as a book lover I just kept buying more! I told myself that I must finish the ones that I have right now (within this year) so I wrote this post about all the books I am planning to read in 2017! I guess the lesson here is to read what you have before you get new? (However, I do state in this post I cannot commit to not getting more books…but I will chose to finish all of the books listed here by the end of the year!) 😉
- There are tooth fairy kits?! Paisley lost her first tooth recently and in my procrastination I was hastily searching for tooth fairy pillows after the tooth was already out (it had been loose for weeks-#momfail). I found so many options it actually kind of made my head hurt! However I came across a few tooth fairy kits that were actually really neat. My favorite part was that they allowed for tooth storage so the tooth fairy doesn’t lose the teeth she collects over the years! #genius So here is the link to the IG post where I wrote more about the one we ended up purchasing and if you click here you can also purchase one for yourself! (I am thinking I might budget in one for Brantley soon…then this tooth fairy will be prepared the next time around! ha!) 😉
- There are also valentine box kits?! Who knew? I just happened upon these at Target, but was so excited about it and I think it is another total #genius move and total #momwin! The box kits are not too difficult to put together, but look like Pinterest-quality projects. Maybe you know about these and I am totally late to the party, but I was almost squealing in the store when I saw them. I snatched one up for my Princess and I shared it here on IG! I don’t have a link to purchase (and it is past Valentine’s Day anyway…), but in case you need a super cute, non-Pinterest and kid-approved idea for next year look for these at Target in a little less than a year! I am sure they will carry them again!
- Water Wow books are my new go-to! These books are amazing! We gave Brantley a set of 3 for Christmas and he loves them because he can color anywhere (even in the car!) and it is like he is painting so lots of colors show up. I love them because they are educational, it keeps him busy and it is just water so no mess!! These are a total #momwin! You can read more of my IG post on these as well here and if you want to look at purchasing them click here!
- Intentional anchors are helping me to focus on family. My word for the year is Intention and one of the ways I am focusing on being intentional is by being more present with my family. I had also heard the term ‘Intentional Anchors’ lately and I loved the idea behind it. Basically an intentional anchor is something that becomes part of your family routine in order to provide structure and a family focus; something that you do regularly to promote family time etc. We had just started doing a Sunday brunch after church and this has worked out great and just recently we also have started saying a decade of the rosary after brunch and before we have a quiet rest time. Another anchor is Family Fun Friday; when we will enjoy a pizza dinner and watch a movie or play a game together after. The kids really look forward to it and I have to admit I really do too! We have done this so often now, that it is becoming part of our routine and I am happy to say that the anchors we are setting in place are truly helping me with my intention of family focus.
- Let the pictures capture reality from time to time. I am all about amazing photos and I absolutely love the almost picture perfect images I get from our favorite family photographer. However even in her shots some of my favorites are the ones that are candid and show real life. When I am the photographer, I tend to snap several photos of a particular scene or pose, if you will, in an effort to get the best shot especially with two little kids! In the endless amount of shots I take to get that one ‘perfect’ picture, I usually end up getting a few that are more real than others. This was one such photo that was exactly my life right now…and it is actually my favorite from that “photo shoot”. I know I will treasure this as time goes on because it is exactly what I see in my day to day. I wrote more about it here on IG if you want to take a look, but pretty much a 6 (going on 16) year old rolling her eyes at me and a 2 year old screaming because I really don’t know– cupcakes, Christmas, big sister, Mommy, he needs to go to bed? Either way this is my life in one photo….and I am glad I have it captured because #real <3
- 10 years later, it is totally ok to skip the card and just go for the wine. Or actually in my case, pick out a card, take a picture of said card (front and inside), then put the card back and pick up the bottle of wine. Later that day, proceed to send hubby a picture of said card in a text with what you would have written in the card and have wine chilled for later in the fridge. Because the card was almost the price of the wine and he is my valentine for good, no need to get the card. I liked our “Dave Ramsey” approach and don’t judge. (He will get a paper card on our anniversary…maybe 😉 ) This was my Valentine’s Day logic and I think most that have been married for 10 years or more can completely relate and/or maybe will try this next year because good idea, right? 😉 (Dave does not or has not said to do this as far as I know, but since Seth and I are following his program many of the money saving ideas, etc. that we carry out are described with the word “Dave”…if you follow the program too you will probably understand, if not then just know that we are saving money for needs over wants…the wine was more of a necessity than the card…) 🙂
- Instagram is my favorite! While I know it is not necessarily good to choose favorites, I totally think I can in the realm of social media. Most of the time I have a love-hate relationship with it anyway; social media that is. There are some days that I truly just want to deactivate all my accounts, but this blog keeps me on because I want to encourage and reach out to others. My absolute favorite way to do that is through Instagram! I love pictures and the creativity you can add to each one. If you couldn’t tell I linked to many of my IG posts in this blog post so you can tell it is one where I truly share my heart, my fun and my life most often. It is totally my jam and if I could pick one to keep that would be it! If you are on IG and want to follow me there check me out here.
Summing it up~
Winter has proven to be one of waiting for me. I feel that the buds of growth are starting to emerge, but I am not quite sure what the blooms will bring forth. I am anxious to get to my ‘spring’, but I know it is in the waiting where I learn and am able to process for the times ahead. While I wait, I want to take in the joy amidst the struggle and the love in front of me everyday. Some days are hard, some events are complicated and some feelings are depressing, but it is in overcoming all of those things that renewal can bring forth the moving forward and a clearer vision of my purpose can be seen. I still get anxious and impatient as I am not a person that is good at waiting, but the reminders of the everyday joy ground me to a place where I can hopefully learn and take in these lessons that abound from my pasture of ‘right now’.
My lessons always range from ones of deep contemplation to ones that are fun and totally random tips, advice and/or awesome products I found useful this last season. I hope you enjoy these posts and they find you nodding your head, laughing out loud and gaining encouragement along the way.
I would love to hear about your lessons from this past season…tell me about it in the comments!! Did any of my lessons resonate with you? Share with me in the comments below!!