Friday, March 3, 2017

10 Things I've Learned This Winter

I'm chiming in with Emily Freeman for What We've Learned This Winter—something I've been meaning to do for a few seasons. I've been intentional this year so far with paying attention, to listening, to finding meaning in the pauses and lessons in the small things. And so, here are a few things I've discovered this season:

1. A winter without snow doesn't seem tragic when you don't have little kids.  I mean, we did have snow one day—the day we drove to Nashville to take Laurel back to college. See it there in the picture? A little bit?

Duncan didn't even get to use all of his ski passes this year; Ober Gatlinburg closed the slopes in late February. For most of the 18 years I've lived in the South (except maybe the first few years after moving here straight from 5 years in Iowa), I've mourned that my children will never know the glory of northern winters— the fat flakes piling up in satisfying drifts, the sweat of snowsuits, the agony of frozen ears thawing, the midnight skate on a frozen pond. But somehow, this year when my kids are 16, 19, and 23, I'm fine with a snowless winter. Just fine.

2. As one of my friends commented, "You can't take the homeschooler out of them." Look at this kid.

 He's 23-year-old college graduate, and he still find delight in the weirdest things, just like he did when he collected sap and sold it to his siblings for a a quarter. I hope his passion for seeing potential in all the nooks and crannies continues throughout his life.

*In case you were wondering, this is a ramp loader, used at the airport to load luggage into airplanes. The airline for which he works needed to get rid of this one to make room for a new one. Yes, he drove this from the airport 15 miles away into the heart of Knoxville, where he lives. It is now in the parking lot of his apartment complex, its new life TBA.

3. This.

While my daughter is away at college, her room becomes my laundry folding and clothes ironing room. The first day that she went back after Christmas break, I walked in and saw this propped up in her window, and it took my breath away. I felt like she had left me a little message, knowing that I would miss her and that I think about her all the time. Be still, Mama. Know that He has me in the palm of His hands. Sometimes when I wake up at 4 a.m. and Randy is snoring so loudly that I can't get back to sleep, I walk into her room and am doubly reminded, first by this in her window, and second by the shadow— created by the streetlight outside her window— of the words on the wall. Be still. Know Him. Trust Him who holds our past and our present and our future.

4. My Dad is incredible. I haven't really learned that this winter, but I keep being amazed by my him.

My parents had a house on Seneca Lake, one of the Finger Lakes, for 30 years, and my father never fished. Ever. Sure, he did the requisite fishing as a kid, but right there on the "Lake Trout Capital of the World," he never fished. But my brother, who has recently taken up this sport, called and said, "Wanna go fishing?" And, at 92, my Dad caught the biggest fish of his life.

5. Pedicures are kind of addictive. 

My daughter and I had our first pedicure together over Christmas break. Yes! My first! I don't know why I've never had a pedicure before; in general, I'm just not that kind of a girl—people invading my personal space and all that. Feet. Nail polish. But yeah—we loved our pedicures, and we already have one booked for when she's home over spring break.

6. I'd rather have crème brulée than chocolate cake. 

[Also, while I'm well versed in the German umlaut and the l'accent aigu, I just learned how to do the l'accent grave (merci to my high school French teacher, Madame Baroody, for knowing those terms), so I'm pretty proud of that.]

7. The bullet journal truly is life changing. And washi tape is cool.

I've been intrigued by this concept for several months, but all the Pinterest ideas make my head spin. My bullet journal is simple but oh, so effective. I've kept it up for two solid months, and my productivity in all aspects of my life has increased tremendously. And, most importantly, that internal chaos has quieted, and I'm being so much more intentional. Bravo, bullet journal advocates!

8. My life is full of ordinary moments that would not make a captivating 4 minute video. I've been using the 1 Second Everyday app. The idea is to video one second each day to stitch together a year in 365 seconds of video clips. You'd think it would be easy to just record those ordinary moments in video, but, honestly, these moments I treasure are, for the most part, more still life than action shots: quiet dinners, the dog sleeping in square of sun, my boys standing next to each other—the younger taller than the older now, my daughter nestled next to me watching a movie, my husband stretching before his morning run, my parents and I playing our near daily game of cards.

The rhythm of our ordinary days won't make for captivating video, but that's doesn't make life any less of an adventure.

9. Sometimes things are worth trying again and again and again. Like Stitch Fix— an online fashion retail service. I've been doing Stitch Fix on and off for a couple of years, and every now and then I get things I really like. I've had one or two packages that were so not me—like the black leather pants— that I sent everything back. But this past month, I ordered one for my birthday, and I absolutely loved every single item in the box. {Insert cute picture here of me standing against an exposed brick wall, looking casual yet sophisticated in my burgundy skinny jeans and black-and-white striped sweater} The difference? I was completely detailed and transparent with my stylist (e.g., I only want clothes in the following colors, I really like this outfit, etc.)—and she listened. There is something so satisfying about being heard. And that in itself brings me to another thing I'm being reminded of this winter— to listen more carefully. All the time, to everyone.

10. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, when something pops up again and again, I need to pay attention.

Like this verse from Ezekiel 36:26: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."

Within the first 11 days of January, this verse came at me four different times. Four times in 11 days: you'd better believe I'm paying attention. I've read through the entire Bible probably a dozen times in my life, perhaps more, and I am quite sure I have never seen this verse. "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."

The first time I heard it, I thought, "Wow! I've never heard that before!" The next time, and this time was at church, I sat up straight and wrote a little about it the next day. I wrote about the walls of protection I have around my own heart. I pondered transparency and brokenness and being compassionate.  Just a few days later, I stumbled across this again, accompanied by this quote:
Let’s not waste precious time holding grudges or withholding friendship or affection from the people in our lives."

And then on my first day back teaching after winter break, I looked up on the wall of my classroom and saw this piece of paper, tucked into a canvas. Do you see that, above? That's the verse, randomly placed there. I've been teaching in that classroom for 4 years, and I've never seen anything stuck in that canvas. What a strange place to see it, and yet I shouldn't have been surprised.
--> I love hearing God’s voice so clearly, so insistently. I feel honored, to be honest, even if I don't have a full understanding of what he is saying to me.
 A new heart. A new spirit. A heart of flesh.

As I head into spring, I'm paying attention.

I'm being still and trusting.

And— I'm waiting and listening.

{Also linked to the Weekly Wrap Up}