April has not been an easy month for our family. Nothing catastrophic has occurred, but the compounding effect of several smallish issues has left both Luke and me feeling overwhelmed and desperately in need of a break (with none in sight): Parenting has been hard, the hardest we’ve experienced in our 3+ years as Mom and Dad. . . . Adding a dog to our family—something I know we will eventually be glad to have done—has been exceedingly more challenging than anticipated. . . . Work and social schedules have kept us moving much faster than our preferred pace. . . . Life is far from terrible, but it does feel a bit heavy right now.

Please don’t think I’m complaining. I realize that this is a life stage, and that we are blessed to have so many good things weighing us down. However, the frenzied pace and perpetual exhaustion have left me with little room for deep, introspective work this month. (One big thing I learned in the last few weeks is that, when I’m barely treading water, I don’t have the time or energy to explore what’s going on beneath my personal surface.) As such, this list is a little less personal and a little more trivial than I’d like. For now, I’m learning to be okay with that. I’m also okay with the fact that MUCH of what I learned in April is dog-related . . . but I’m squirreling those lessons away for a future post. Stay tuned!

1. The “right” way to spell a name isn’t always the most popular.

This fascinating article looks at the most commonly used spellings of 21 popular names, according to Social Security Administration data going back to the 1880s. I was surprised by many of the results, particularly Ann (rather than Anne), Catherine (not Katherine, Kathryn, or Catharine), and Philip (over Phillip).

2. I am a competent driver.

I’ve been a licensed driver for more than half my life, but I’ve never felt very confident in my driving skills. I never drive with passengers (other than Charleston, out of necessity), and I frequently pass up opportunities to go on adventures if it means I have to drive there by myself. As you can imagine, that’s been rather limiting, especially given the location of our home, which is pretty far from a lot of the exciting activity options in the greater Austin area. Lately, I’ve been making an effort to get out of my driving comfort zone: just this month, Charleston and I drove to a few activities that required more than an hour of driving on windy roads. And we survived. It’s never easy to stretch yourself, but it’s liberating to know that I am capable of driving to further places when I need or want to. 

3. This past April was the first time a US senator has given birth while in office.

Tammy Duckworth, the Democratic Senator from Illinois, gave birth to her daughter Maile Pearl at age 50. She is the tenth woman to give birth while in Congress, but the other babies were born to women serving in the House. Duckworth is quite the pioneer: she was also the first Asian American woman elected to Congress in Illinois, the first disabled woman to be elected to Congress, the first female double amputee in the Iraq War, and the first member of Congress born in Thailand.

4. Sometimes, taking some time to myself is the best thing I can do for my spiritual life.

A couple Thursdays ago, it was time for Charleston and me to head to my weekly Women’s Bible study. As I mentioned, we’ve been going nonstop lately, and that morning I was just done. Charleston was eager to go to church to learn about Jesus with his friends, but I desperately needed a break. So I did something I never thought I’d do: I drove to the church, dropped Charleston off at childcare, and went back to my car to spend the two hours alone with God. (Actually, I first went to the upstairs church hallway for my alone time; but the hallway is shared with a school, and I was quickly evicted by the school’s security guard, so then I went out to my car.) A part of me felt bad about utilizing the childcare while missing out on the study myself, but I knew that in that moment, the last thing my soul needed was to listen to a sermon or discuss the Bible with other people. I needed to be with God, but not with anyone else. I came away from those two hours in the car feeling rejuvenated and on a spiritual high that indicated I’d made exactly the right decision. Soul care isn’t always convenient or fashionable, but it’s always worthwhile. 

5. The Bible can be summarized in one simple sentence.

I promise I didn’t skip out on Bible study every week this semester! We just wrapped up our year of studying the Bible, and my biggest takeaway was this synopsis: The Bible tells the story of what is wrong with the world, what God is doing to fix it, and how it will all turn out in the end. Every part of the Bible—including Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection—fits in with this simple summary! 

6. Even the most successful people struggle in some areas. 

Oprah is one of the most successful and admired women on the planet, so I was a bit surprised when she made an appearance in Cesar Millan’s book as a problem dog owner. Despite her unprecedented success in countless arenas, Oprah apprently struggles to maintain healthy authority over her four-legged children. It’s encouraging to know that everyone faces challenges, even the people who seem to have it all together! Imagining Oprah with her unruly dogs allows me to have some grace for myself when I can’t seem to manage a personal problem area.

7. Poetry doesn’t have to be scary or terrible.

This month’s Reading Challenge category revealed that, while the task of finding poetry is a little intimidating, reading it is quite enjoyable. My positive experience with the genre has me looking to read more of it in the future. 

8. Know your networks. 

In March we had to take Charleston to the emergency room for a frightening middle-of-the-night breathing issue. It all worked out fine—until this month, when we received an exorbitant bill. Prior to the trip, Luke had researched local ERs and selected the highest rated one that accepted our insurance. Unbeknownst to us (and what was not disclosed to us when we checked in that night) was that the ER had changed their policies, and we were no longer in network. I guess the lesson here is that these things are always changing, and to avoid fees you have to stay constantly up to date. (I’m sure there are many more conclusions I could draw from this incident, but that’s a topic for an entirely different type of blog.)

9. Millennials are killing off Applebee’s, diamonds, bar soap, and countless other industries.

This article explores nineteen industries being derailed by millenials’ preferences. I was born in 1984, which technically makes me a millenial (though an old one), and I’m about 50/50 with these. I’m completely on board with killing off napkins (we always use paper towels instead), beer (can’t stand the stuff), and football (never been a fan), and I think Luke and I have missed the boat on ever owning a starter home. BUT I’m never giving up my yogurt or diamonds; I’ve recently fallen in love with bar soap and am happy with my choice; I don’t eat much breakfast cereal, but can’t imagine a world without it; and I’ve always wanted to own a motorcycle.

10. Hillsong Music consists of more than one band. 

This month a friend invited me to join her at a Hillsong Worship concert here in Austin (more on that Monday). I was a little disappointed when they didn’t perform some of my favorite songs, specifically those on their Wonder album. After the concert, I did a little research and learned that Hillsong has more than one musical group. Wonder is the latest album from Hillsong United, which is NOT the same as Hillsong Worship. Both groups come from Australia’s Hillsong Church, but Hillsong Worship exists to “resource the Body of Christ through fresh songs of worship,” whereas Hillsong United’s mission is “revealing the truth of who Jesus is and inspiring us to be used by God.” There is also a third group, Hillsong Young and Free, which is the church’s youth band. You can see why I was confused!

11. There are healthy ways for me to rebel.

For most of my life, I’ve channeled tremendous amounts of energy into being a Good Girl. My perfectionism keeps me on the straight and narrow, afraid to veer too far from the path expected of me. But one can only be “good” for so long without scrambling to break free. In the past, I’ve rebelled in ways that are unhealthy for me (my eating disorder, self harm) and hurtful to those I love (emotional outbursts, unkind words). My therapist is helping me to see that, while rebellion is sometimes necessary, it doesn’t have to be harmful. Rebellion for me might look like acting with confidence, speaking my truth, or establishing firm boundaries. Along those lines, I’m learning that….

12. Establishing boundaries doesn’t need to be painful.

My tendency is to either have zero boundaries (in other words, being a pushover), or to set boundaries, but then feel horrible about them. These days, I’m working on learning to say no—AND being okay with it. The goal is to learn to operate from a place of altruism rather than one of guilt, saying yes to things that are life-giving while comfortably saying no to things that are not. I have no doubt this will be a lifelong endeavor, but I’m happy (and a little terrified) to be on this path. 

13. Instead of a Labradoodle, I should have gotten a Tibetan Mastiff.

At least, that should have been my choice according to this article which matches dog breeds with Myers-Briggs types. As an INFJ, I apparently resemble the noble, quiet breed “known for their sophisticated way of understanding people.” The article goes on to say that Tibetan Mastiffs are “loving, gentle and patient – but also hard-working, protective, fearless, and loyal. . . They thrive in calm surroundings and usually prefer the closeness of their family to socialization with many other people.” That does sound like a good match, but my guess is that those dogs shed like crazy, which would NOT be a good fit with my OCD. (Side Note: we’ve unfortunately learned that, contrary to popular belief,  Labradoodles shed, too. Such a bummer!)

What did you learn in April? Leave a Comment to let me know about it! 

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