17 Things I Learned in 2014

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20 Things I Learned in 2014 || Sarah Sandel

a la Emily P. Freeman...writing on the serious and no-so-serious lessons learned this year

1. I was totally missing out all those years on Gilmore Girls. So now that it's on Netflix, I marathon watch during naptimes. I long to banter like Lorelai.

2. The terrible twos are not that terrible. Maybe something's still coming or maybe I lucked out (bogus - no luck involved) - but I think the general mental exhaustion of raising the Beastie was no match for my absolute assurance that I'm called to mother her and that God gives grace where it's needed, and every time. I've learned that her meltdowns or tantrums are LARGELY diffused or exasperated by my response. If I match her tone or volume or ferocity in any way, we all have to retreat to our private corners and take a "love break" and recover. And then I missed my opportunity to lovingly administer discipline, because my own impatience and frustration escalated her little emotions. I'm learning to ask God to show me the need behind the meltdown, so I can quickly diffuse wild emotions with love and address the real problem (or perceived problem).

3. God creatively provides. This year was "not the year I prayed for, but it was the answer to my prayers" is a bit cliche - but the deal is that EVERY month we came to, when we thought, "Okay, this is it - all bets are off - I hope we can pay our rent." - the Lord provided through wonderful, creative ways. Extra work for me, a surprise gift, a delightful miscalculation that freed up funds. This year we needed a new vehicle and with a budget that said, "NO" - God said yes. I'm so grateful for His provision and that because my needs are met in Christ, I am free to love and give to others.

4. I love feeding people. I have a bumper sticker on my fridge that reads, "Love people. Cook them tasty food." I really delight in this. I delight in gathering people in my home or taking a meal or having somebody stop by last minute and eat leftovers with us. I love our weekly dinner/movie-watching appointments with a dude my husband mentors. I love backyard BBQs at a friend's house where we bring jugs of tea and lemonade and eat hotdogs. I love the mismatched covered dishes at our church potlucks. And I love loving people by meeting this basic need. It just brings me great joy!

5. I love working as a second shooter. It's a perfect fit for me creatively and time-wise...and Caroline is the best "boss" and creative partner!

20 Things I Learned in 2014 || Sarah Sandel6. I am okay with messes. My kid loves to "make a cwaft, pees!" - so we do. Often. There is lots of paint involved. Lots.

7. I cannot seem to manage my expectations. Thus, disappointment makes me grumpy. Maybe this is true for everyone, but I am usually taken aback by how disappointed I can get about things that don't work out how I'd hoped. I want to learn to manage my expectations a little better, so that I can take things in stride.

8. Christmas is super fun as your kids get older. The Beastie was SUPER PUMPED about "pesents" and "Santer" (though she has no idea who he is and we are going the St. Nick route when she gets old enough to ask questions) and drinking inordinate amounts of hot cocoa. And she was so delightful on Christmas morn! Had no interest in racing through the gifts, but would take each prize and play with it...and it actually turned out that the grown-ups were more eager to have her open gifts than she was! She was content drinking orange juice and coloring in her new Cookie Monster book. I hope this stays the same as she grows. Our family has always been "savor-ers" and take Christmas morning slowly, to enjoy our time and the gift of giving...

9. Cozy is the best. And I want to figure out the magic trick to make even my open-floor-plan home cozy. I know it's not more stuff. So I'm working on the Cozy Factor this year...

10. I am awesome at putting on my own $6 fake nails. They last for four days and are easy-peasy and then I can scratch my head and have festive, sparkly nails for a party or a wedding. And it's way less toxic than getting them done somewhere. And since evidently I will never stop being a nail-biter, this is a good option for when I am just insecure enough about my fingers to jazz them up a little. Side note: this means, naturally, that the Beastie wants a manicure, too. She was super excited to show them to my cousin and shouted, "Oh! Matt be so so so so happy see my nails! My nails so PAINTY!"

31 Days of Open Letters: A Blog Series at SarahSandel.com // An Open Letter to The Soul Retreat11. I need a retreat every quarter. I went on my first 24hr soul retreat back in October and it was amazing. I stayed with my aunt on the coast and for 24 hours, I did whatever I wanted. I read and wrote and looked up my grandfather's old articles on microfilm and I had tea with my aunt and cousins and just overall chose to quiet my heart. I'm planning my next one for January (my aunt informs me she is accepting my repeat reservation!) and I couldn't be happier with this little tradition.

12. Like many other online writers, I am discovering that some things are just between me and the Father. This is critical as I walk with Him - that I learn to treasure up the things of us and rejoice in what He is doing and ponder in my heart the mighty works of King Jesus for me and through me. So beautifully put by Cody at A Place in His Presence: "I’m talking about those sweet and tender moments when we get to whisper or weep or dance or dream with only our Creator. I’m talking about the things that would be wasted if He were not so present. I’m talking about what might feel at first like loneliness but is actually the Savior pulling us aside, asking us our secrets, telling us His."

13. Obedience is a big deal. And sometimes we only want to obey if it means doing "Big Things" for God. But He's defining what is good and right for us. And to obey is better than sacrifice.

14. Picking out a new planner stressesmeout. I want very specific things.

15. Writing down things my preschooler says is awesome. Because I want to remember that when I said, "Ouch! I kicked the bucket!", she responded with "Sowwy, mama. It happens." And that when I told her we were detoxing from treats in the new year, she said, "Toxing?!" and began weeping.

20 Things I Learned in 2014 || Sarah Sandel

16. I love my body. This is the first time I've publicly said this and I've been hesitant to because I don't want to sound vain in any way. But for the first time since, you know, 4th grade, when I decided I wasn't skinny enough - I love my body. Come on. How old are we in 4th grade? Like, nine? That means for twenty some-odd years I've mostly thought I was not lovely enough or needed to lose weight. I can remember when I was eleven, sitting in a chair next to a girl I figured was "skinny enough" and trying to figure how to sit so my thighs looked like hers. Oh, heavens. The enemy is so mean, even to little girls. So I'm just done with that. And much of my motivation has to do with what I want to communicate to my daughter (verbal or otherwise). I'm hyperaware of my words and attitudes towards my appearance in her presence. I want that little woman to know that it is right and good to care for our bodies with right eating and exercise. But that there is no "right shape" or "better size". I want her to see me love my face and my thighs and my chubby tummy and my starting-to-gray-a-wee-bit hair. I am cautious about what I say when I'm putting on make-up...never wanting to communicate that it makes me "better" or "more pretty". Having a little girl in this world of high-fashion, image-obsessed, judgmental culture is a terrifying prospect. And since I am the one she'll model first, she's not going to hear from me that I wish I was anything other than what and who I am.

17. "Let It Go" is more than a song. It's actually a fairly decent life philosophy. Not the whole "slam the door and be defiant" part. But just being willing to let go of hurts and expectations and plans, in favor of allowing the Father to move freely. And since I have a preschooler who sings this on average 5 times a day, it serves as a reminder that I can trust the goodness of God to bring about His best for me and my family. Thanks, Elsa.