I wanted the title to pack some punch, but alas – the most straightforward is often the best. Since the pace at which life moves can be either crawling or breakneck, I thought it would be an excellent end-of-year discipline for me to consider things I’ve learned this past year. Going against all writerly advice, I’m writing this introduction before I write the content, so I am hazarding a guess that these lessons will range from the mundane to the miraculous, the silly to the serious. 2017 started on the heels of one of my hardest years and didn’t quite get up and running in its own right until well into the year. You know, after we adopted a baby, relocated, the husband started a new job, and we started homeschooling. So. Nothing big or anything.
At any rate, here we go with a list of things I am pretty sure I learned (or at least encountered and stuck out to me) last year.
1. I tend to ‘soar up on the wings of anticipation’ – like a certain Anne girl – and the thud always gets me. I’m learning to identify when I’m doing the soaring, so I can reorient my hopes/plans.
2. I am a Highly Sensitive Person – it’s a legit thing! I’m not making it up! And last year I learned I have to manage noise better – visual noise, actual noise, information noise, relationship noise…last year I learned it’s way better to experience the discomfort of drawing boundaries than it is to have the uncomfortable explosion/frustration of the consequences of NOT drawing those.
3. It’s okay to be a planner (as long as I don’t live/die by those plans. See #1.)
4. I LOVE being a stay at home mom. Since I wasn’t one of those girls whose singular aim was wife/mother, I am kind of surprised by the deep joy and satisfaction I take from this work of raising littles and loving their daddy.
5. I also need a fair amount of time away from my kids – preferably away from everyone – so I can recharge and reboot. I’m owning this.
6. I think about myself a LOT. This was/is a frustrating realization and while there is a legitimacy to consider my needs and what rhythms and care will serve to better me as a person, I can easily swing into self-absorption. This year I want to learn that delicate balance of self-care and caring for others in a gracious, not-self-absorbed way.
7. Family dynamics are ever-changing…what works for us may only do so for a few weeks. We’ve learned to guard our family time and rhythms better in this last year.
8. I’ve learned to hold loosely to my ideals of parenting and to pray continuously for the little people entrusted to our care. We are committed to doing the best we can with the information we have, according to the call of God on our lives. And because these kids belong to Him, I’m learning to make a choice as a mom and trust Him with the outcome.
9. I actually thrive when I have outside-the-scope-of-mom work to do. This year I started doing some freelance work for a ministry and I committed to writing more often on the blog. I like who I am when I have a project unrelated to family life and I’ve learned this in no way diminishes my work inside the home.
10. I am learning that I’m such a visual learner/planner. It’s hard for me to listen or get stuff done if it’s not written down and in my sight. This is why I have multiple notebooks/planners and they are usually open – because if I can’t see it, it doesn’t exist!
ABOUT NOTHING IN PARTICULAR:
11. I’ve learned a better way to grocery shop: weekly and alone. (Meal planning is a must!)
12. I finally got myself a system for my giant To Be Read book list. I keep categories of books that I want to hold (so I either watch for deals or I check them out from the library) and I have a list of Kindle books that I keep an eye on. Like this list, which updates daily from Modern Mrs. Darcy.
13. I succeed when projects have end dates. New Year’s goals or resolutions always seem so daunting and vague because 365 days is such a chunk of time.
14. I’ve learned (and remembered) how to correctly pronounce “archipelago”. (Ark-ih-PELL-uh-go)
15. I like pretty things on Instagram so I follow a bunch of accounts that just make me take a deep breath. I’ll probably never be a backpacker or outdoorswoman, but I LOVE me some folk scenery or AT Instagram accounts.
16. You can buy tickets for something 8 months in advance. For all the planner that I am, I also like to keep my options open. I have never in my LIFE bought tickets for something this early. But this year I did. And so next summer I’ll have an epic date with my daughter to see her first play at our local community theater and I am v excited about the whole thing. In advance.
AND FINALLY, THE 17TH THING I LEARNED IN 2017….
17. I think I’ve just learned that life is alternately work and joy. Sometimes those feel mutually exclusive. Sometimes I am a weenie. I want to tack my emotional swing up on the feeling really quite good, thank you, side and not experience any of the down swing. But when I am using my mental and emotional energy to protest what my life is, I am missing opportunities for faithful belief in the goodness of God. I know that faith is a gift and I am coming to think when God gives it to me, I then have to work to believe. It’s a hand-in-hand, joint-spirit, humbling effort to cooperate with the Almighty.
I’m not talking about saving faith, but the gift of faith to believe that God can accomplish a thing and that His goodness will determine its outcome. In so many ways I feel like my 30s are starting over with Him. Everything I’ve known or understood up to this point is being challenged – by my experience, by my nonstop inner noise, by the suffering in the world. And I find myself at the daily crossroads (yes – daily) to choose to believe there IS a God, that He is benevolent, and that the God of the Bible is He. Some days this takes more work than others.
Which leads me to my Word of the Year…
I haven’t picked a word of the year for awhile. In the silence and changing-ness of life, I’ve just avoided the emotional attachment of a WotY. But this year, one word keeps poking at me. I deliberately ignored it at first, because it seemed terribly cliche and worse, vague. But because of what I’m learning about who God is and the work of faith to believe Him, this year is going to be about…
I’m going to work to believe God, when brilliant minds and theories offer me a way to trust myself.
I’m going to work to believe God, when my emotional capacity is maxed out and distraction is appealing.
I’m going to work to believe God, when the circumstances of those around me crowd me uncomfortably.
I’m going to work to believe God when my own circumstances are pressing, when my home seems too noisy, when my feelings seem too big, when my work seems undone or neverending, when answers seem far off, when anxiety builds up in my soul, when six things clamor for my attention at once and I feel like I have space for none. This is the year I am going to work to believe God.
[The father said,] ‘But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.”
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” ‘
Mark 9:22-24 [full chapter]