What I Learned: Spring 2019

March - May 2019

1. Labor is really hard and only a little bit like what I expected

When I was pregnant, I spent so much time wondering what labor would be like. I had an idea in my head of what I wanted it to be like, but I also knew it was important to remain flexible. What I didn’t realize was just how flexible I would need to be - nearly everything I thought about how it would go went right out the window. The most surprising thing is just how quickly and how much I loved her as soon as I met her. I had no idea that was possible.

2. “Sleeping through the night” means your baby stays asleep the whole night, not even waking up for feedings.

For weeks when people would ask this question I would answer enthusiastically that “Yes! Abbie is sleeping through the night! She’s amazing!” (because she is). I even told her pediatrician at her 2 month appointment that she was sleeping for 8-10 hours straight. Then I learned that my understanding of “sleeping through the night” was different than everyone else’s because if Abbie went right back to sleep after nursing, I was counting it as a win. So to all the people I accidentally lied to, my two month old is not yet sleeping through the night. (Side note though: why do we even ask this question?! My daughter is still young enough to count her age in weeks - of course she wakes up hungry at night and wants to nurse. The expectation that a baby would sleep through the night is wacko to me and creates an unnecessary expectation for parents. Thank you for coming to my Ted talk.)

3. May is the December of summer.

I don’t remember where I first heard this but it is so true. Between graduations, weddings, and general merriment, May is so full and fun. But I’ll admit I’m ready for the slowness of summer after this busy month!

4. Quiet time with Jesus can look different and still be beneficial and sweet

For all of my adult life, my quiet time has looked essentially the same: reading passages of scripture in the morning, taking notes in a journal, and sipping hot tea from a favorite mug. This spring I learned that my quiet time doesn’t have to look like that to still be beneficial and sweet to me. With a newborn, time with the Lord only sometimes happens in the morning and rarely includes writing in a journal or sipping tea. Instead, I’m most often reading scripture on my phone with one hand while Abbie nurses, reading slowly and sometimes out loud to her, or listening to the Dwell app in the car while we drive somewhere. It’s different, and it is still good.

5. In a two-term presidency, all of the cabinet members submit their resignations as a courtesy to the President

I actually learned this from an episode of West Wing! When a president is reelected, all of the cabinet members will resign without being asked, giving the President the option to rehire or replace them.

6. How to make parmesan chicken with mushroom rice

This is now one of my very favorite recipes. It is easy and quick to make, heats up lovely for leftovers, and only uses one pot. Not to mention it tastes fantastic. What a dream.

7. “Being impressed by your own advice will most likely make you a terrible listener.”

“Being impressed by your own advice will most likely make you a terrible listener. You’ll only listen up until the point that you have a great idea. Then you’ll interrupt, I mean interject, so that you can share your idol, I mean your wisdom.”

Thank you, Jackie Hill Perry, for this quote that I now call to mind whenever I’m asked for advice.

8. Listening to podcasts while doing chores is the best

The first time I listened to the Popcast with Knox and Jamie while doing dishes was the first time I learned how great doing the dishes can be. Listening to my favorite podcasts while doing housework that doesn’t require much thought is one of my new favorite life hacks.

9. Our bodies can help us make decisions

I’ve been thinking a lot about our bodies in general, how we experience life through them and how we can care for them well. When I was considering a big decision this spring, I followed the advice of Emily P. Freeman in her Discern + Decide course and asked myself how each decision felt in my body - whether it felt light and colorful or dark and heavy, whether my shoulders felt tight. Thinking through the question in that way brought so much clarity to me in ways that thinking cognitively about the decision hadn’t.

10. “Stories are verbal acts of hospitality.”

I’m still processing this incredible quote from Eugene Peterson. Suffice it to say: I was moved when I read it.

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What I Learned: Winter

1. How to practice Lectio Divina

I learned about this spiritual practice through reading Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton in January. (Side note: I highly recommend this book.) Since reading about it and giving it a try, I’ve been incorporating this practice into my schedule on a weekly basis and it has been so transformative. You can read Barton’s explanation on the practice here and try it for yourself!

2. "Secondhand offenses are the hardest to forgive"

My husband nonchalantly said this while we were waiting in the car before a doctor’s appointment and it put words to something so true about me (and probably most people honestly.) It is so much easier to forgive a person for something they said or did to me, but when those words or deeds are against someone I love, forgiveness feels nearly impossible. Unfortunately I don’t think Jesus included a “secondhand offense” clause that excuses this particular type of unforgiveness. I have much room to grow in sanctification here I’m afraid.

3. Kristen Bell and Dax Sheppard are married

This is admittedly shallow and I considered not including it on my list, but it is something that blew my mind. And it was followed by a weird coincidence: the morning after I learned they were married, I was listening to the radio and the two of them were introduced as that day’s guest hosts. Crazy.

4. How to play Settlers of Catan

Josiah and I enjoyed game nights with friends this winter, and I learned how to play a few new board games. The most fun by far was Settlers of Catan. It’s not nearly as complicated as I thought it would be, but (as a person who always comes in last) does require strategy to win.

5. Josiah doesn’t like baked beans

I don’t know how many times in our marriage so far I’ve made a dinner that includes some form of baked beans with cornbread or BBQ sandwiches, but this winter I learned that my sweet husband doesn’t even like them. I’ve managed to stop lamenting what an unobservant wife I am and start enjoying the fact that there is always so much more to learn about each other. At the very least, now I just buy the tiny can of baked beans big enough for me.

6. Face oil goes on AFTER moisturizer

This piece of info alone has changed my skin. Every winter my skin gets dry and flaky (ew...I know. But true.) no matter how much moisturizer and face oil I use. After watching Jamie B. Golden’s instagram stories about skincare, I finally learned what my problem was: I was putting my face oil on before my moisturizer instead of after. The geeky science behind this is that moisturizers are usually water-based. When a face oil (I just use sweet almond oil) is added before moisturizer, it blocks that moisture from absorbing into your skin. BUT when face oil is added after moisturizer, it seals in all that hydrating goodness. Here’s to that winter glow!

7. C. S. Lewis and Madeleine L’Engle share a birthday

Yep. November 29.

8. Coconut water is the best cure for acid reflux in the third trimester

To be honest with you, I learned so many things pregnancy/childbirth-related this season, but THIS is the thing I found most interesting and worth sharing. I had terrible acid reflux in the beginning of January (think: waking up most nights to vomit) and I was a little miserable. A friend suggested coconut water and, because I love coconut water, I used pregnancy as an excuse to splurge. Out of everything I tried, this was the one thing that made a difference. Now I buy coconut water in bulk at Sams and haven’t had a bit of acid reflux as long as I drink some every day.

9. The importance and beauty of bringing "not only the message of Christ to someone but the manner of Jesus to someone." (Zack Eswine)

I listened to this podcast interview with Zack Eswine and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this idea. It speaks to the importance of the fruit of the spirit in a really beautiful way. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control - all of these describe the manner of Jesus, how he lived and moved and went about his days on earth, and I want them to be evident in my life as well.

What I Learned: Fall

September - November

One of the practices I have most enjoyed this past year has been keeping track of what I am learning. The idea came from this post by Emily P. Freeman, and I’ve found that the discipline of writing down the things I am learning as I learn them has encouraged me to pay closer attention to my life. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned this fall!

1. During WWI more American women died in childbirth than American men died on the battlefield.

I learned this piece of information listening to this phenomenal talk by Jen Wilkin at the Advance 2017 conference. This talk about the vital role of women in the church was one of my favorites from this season.

2. Winston Churchill was a painter.

I don’t know why this surprised me so much, but I never would have pictured this brash, courageous world leader mixing paint colors in his spare time. He even wrote a book about his hobby titled Painting as a Pastime.

3. I really enjoy knitting.

After listening to this podcast episode and learning that Winston Churchill benefited from having a pastime, I decided to try my hand at knitting. So far I have successfully knitted 2.5 legwarmers, with quite a few horrendous mess-ups in between. I really enjoy it though, and it’s so fun to have something to do with my hands that isn’t directly related to any type of work.

4. When I have limited time to clean, I should choose something that makes the biggest difference to me.

I’d never really thought about it before, but there are different parts of my house that will drive me crazy if they are not clean and other parts that I could honestly care less about. For example, clutter on kitchen counters or our table makes my skin crawl, but a dirty bathroom sink doesn’t bother me as much. Ideally, both spaces would always be clean but that’s just not realistic. When time is limited, I can now choose to do the cleaning chore that matters most to me (or to my husband!) and will contribute to my sanity. My home isn’t necessarily any cleaner after learning this trick, but it sure feels better.

5. We are designed to feel and our emotions can be a way in which God speaks to us.

My natural inclination is to approach God intellectually, but I’ve started learning that God can use my emotions and feelings just as easily as he can use my thoughts and reasoning. I’m slowly introducing more emotional questions into my time with the Lord (reading my Bible, listening to sermons, etc.) like: how do I feel about this particular passage? Why do I feel this way? What do these feelings tell me about myself and the way I am approaching God?

6. When decorating a space it’s important to consider all five senses.

I loved this super simple tip from Myquillyn Smith’s Cozy Minimalist class. When I decorated for Christmas this year, I put this tip to good use playing music (sound), throwing extra cozy blankets on the couch (touch), diffusing essential oils (smell), making brownies and drinking sparkling grape juice (taste), and of course decorating in the traditional ways (sight.) It was SO FUN.

7. “...one form of superiority comes in the unwillingness to be served.”

This fall I read this short article by Amy Julia Becker about how Jesus let others serve him throughout scripture. I’m naturally bent toward independence and doing things on my own, but this season has been one where I’ve intentionally answered yes to many offers of help. From sweet women who came over to paint our new house for us to friends who brought dinner after I got into a car accident, receiving help from other people has allowed me to feel the love of God tangibly through their service. The moments of awkward humility (which are good for me in their own right!) are quickly eclipsed by love and gratitude.

8. “Szn” is an abbreviation of the word “season.”

I don’t know why the word “season” needs to be shortened, but at least now I know what “szn” means. Maybe I’m just an old crotchety grouch, but I’m not a fan of this abbreviation (haha!)

9. A surprising number of people take conspiracy theories very seriously.

Reply All is one of my all-time favorite podcasts to listen to when I want some fun entertainment and maybe to learn something new. This fall, I listened to several episodes (don’t ask me how many because I am ashamed) and learned about the complex world of conspiracy theories like QAnon and Pizzagate (which are strangely related.) I think they’re honestly fascinating, but I was surprised by just how many people take these things very seriously!

10. Pregnancy cravings are no joke.

I am ashamed to admit that when women talked about pregnancy cravings, I used to internally think they were probably no big deal. Then I got pregnant. After eating approximately 18 reese’s blizzards the past couple weeks and even storing emergency ones in my freezer for those times when DQ is closed, I now believe in the power and legitimacy of pregnancy cravings.

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