Over the last few months, when friends would ask how I was doing, my go-to response was: “I’m not really sure. My plate has been too full to think about it.” And it was true. This spring was a very, very busy season (at least by my personal scheduling-minimalist, homebody standards), and there were few spare moments to reflect on how I was doing, let alone what I was learning. Now that spring’s chaotic dust has settled, my time for reflection has come. Looking back over the past few months I can see the lessons and takeaways that were couched within the crevices of that busy season, subtly shaping my heart and my mindset as our family bulldozed our way through each full day.
WHAT I’M LEARNING ABOUT WORDS
Let my “yes” be “yes.” This wisdom from Matthew 5 has been the most convicting takeaway from my mediation on the Sermon on the Mount this season. Through this verse, the Lord has made me aware of how often I caveat and backtrack and negotiate in my speech (especially with my kids), and how this is indicative of deeper issues (insecurity, indecisiveness, and sheer laziness to name just a few). A habit of letting my words stand, no extra oaths or explanations needed, is one way my wholehearted theme for 2022 is manifesting itself lately.
Over-explaining is a control grab. The following passage from Lisa Whittle’s Jesus Over Everything stopped me in my tracks: “Overexplaining is not simply being at a loss for good words, though I think it’s what we feel at the time that drives us to put more words forward. It’s about not feeling safe enough with each other to believe the other person won’t fill in the gaps of a story he or she doesn’t know. And it’s about our need to control a narrative to ensure that doesn’t happen.” Ouch. I am seeing how frequently I overexplain, in my conversations and especially in my writing, because I am afraid of how my words may be interpreted if I don’t provide extreme handholding. There are times when extra explanation is helpful, and times when I need to stop filling in the gaps and trust my conversation partners (or readers) to flesh out the intent of my words for themselves.
Gossip is sneaky. And very stinky. I inadvertently fell into this habit recently, and though my intentions were well-meaning and not at all malicious, the fallout was painful and eye-opening for me. Since then I have noticed how I often talk about others under the guise of helpfulness; but discussing others’ personal business is unnecessary and potentially damaging. Even when my motives are altruistic (which is not always the case), or when the information I’m passing on feels innocuous, the act of gossiping is wrong and destructive and something I want to avoid at all costs.
There is power in scripts. Many thanks to Jon Acuff for helping recognize unhelpful internal scripts and replacing them with more constructive inner dialogue. And also to Amber Lia and Wendy Speake whose Gospel-centric scripts are transforming the ways I interact with my children!
Silence is the ultimate communication tool. As a reader of my blog (this very post, in fact), you likely are not surprised to learn that I have no shortage of words. God has been convicting me of how I have weaponized words with my kids and my friends to convey messages better communicated through silence. I am trying (and not always succeeding) to listen more and speak less, in all situations—including my prayer life. For it is in the silence that the Lord is able to do His greatest work in me, and through me.
RETHINKING AND REFRAMING
Don’t jump to conclusions. An awkward instance of mistaking an au pair for a mother became a powerful lesson in how quickly I assume I have the complete picture, and how often my assumptions are wildly inaccurate. This lesson is translating to my interpretation of so many situations, from politics to my reading of Scripture to the motivations I attribute to my friends.
A hack for differentiating between guilt and conviction. So often I struggle to identify when my feelings around an issue are unhealthy guilt from the enemy or conviction stemming from the Holy Spirit’s work in me. A mentor at church shared this helpful tool for making that determination: he says that whenever he is feeling bad about something, he asks whether those feelings will lead to wholeness and connection (that’s conviction) or brokennes and relational separation (that’s guilt). I haven’t sat with this for long enough to attest to its usefulness or accuracy, but it is a helpful tool to have in my emotional tool belt.
I may be confusing relief of avoidance with genuine peace. I’m starting to notice areas when it feels good to avoid something (a hard conversation, or a habit change, or a decision), but the relief that avoidance brings is temporary. My comfortable makeshift solutions (if elusion can be called a “solution”) just aren’t working; enduring peace (wholeness, resolution) will only come once I’ve waded into the situations that will hurt in the moment but are fundamentally healing.
NOTES FROM THE (PARENTING) FIELD
The challenges of our kids’ age gap. I genuinely love the almost-five-year age gap between Charleston and the twins, which is wonderful for SO many reasons. But it’s hard, too, and most recently that has been made apparent in the area of playdates. My own friends’ kids are either in school or too young to be great playmates for Charleston. I have a feeling this is one of those “problems” that will work itself out as our kids get older, but right now it is hard and painful and something we are really just trying to figure out.
My kids’ health is a blessing I have taken for granted. We had a health scare with one of our kids in March. Everything is fine, but this was the first potentially “big” issue we have had with any one of our children and I came away from that scary period overwhelmed with gratitude for our kids’ health. This sense of gratitude was just one of the blessings embedded in the situation; the weeks of waiting for test results revealed how well loved we are by our faith community who linked arms with us in prayer and celebrated our good news with us when it arrived.
Graphic novels are a great reading gateway. As an educator I know that graphic novels “count” and hold many benefits for emerging readers. Still, I was reluctant to allow Charleston to read them, hoping that now that he can read independently he would choose “real” books instead. I loosened my rules around the matter this spring, and overnight Charleston became that kid who will read for hours, begs to go to the library to get the next in a series, and is rarely seen without a book in hand. In other words, letting him read graphic novels made him a real reader! He still isn’t eager to transition to other books for his independent reading just yet, but after seeing growth in his fluency and comprehension (not to mention his reading enthusiasm), I am rolling with his preferences for now and trusting all the research indicating that these books will pave the way to a lifelong reading practice.
Dating my kids is enlightening and oh-so-rewarding. Introducing one-on-one parent/kid dates with the twins has been such an amazing development for our family. Not only have the twins adjusted quickly to time spent apart on these dates, but they look forward to them all week long and talk about past dates constantly (I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve overheard the two of them sharing details of their independent dates during playtime). It’s been fun to see how different each twin is without the other: Kali, usually the dominate/more outgoing twin, grows quiet and curious when Sully isn’t around, while Sully comes out of his shell. I have been savoring the chance to meet these different sides of Kali and Sully, and remembering how much I love the two-year-old stage when I just have one two-year-old under my care.
Personhood is really hard, and I may not be cut out for it. This has been my mantra, of sorts, in this season as I have emerged from the hibernation brought on by COVID and depression over the past two years. Reengaging in relationships has reminded me how difficult and awkward social settings can be for me, and of the many “growth opportunities” ahead for me in the realms of communication and connection. A bigger takeaway, though, is that “peopling” alongside other people is worthwhile despite the stickiness—not just for the character refinement it has brought about in me, but because life really is better when others are a part of it. I’m learning, as C. S. Lewis puts it, that “the sacrifice of selfish privacy which is daily demanded of us is daily repaid a hundredfold in the true growth of personality which the life of [community] encourages.”
That balance between pride and insecurity can feel elusive. I wrestled with these ideas in this post and though I feel confident in the answers I landed on, it’s still a balance I’m struggling to embrace in my day-to-day.
Say the hard things. I don’t love conflict, especially when it could paint me in a negative light. So I default to avoiding conversations that could get uncomfortable or make me look/feel bad. This spring I have had many opportunities to broach conversations with friends and family members that easily could have been swept under the rug, but in the spirit of choosing peace over relief (see above), I knew I needed to make apologies or give explanations that it would have been easier to sidestep. Those talks made me squirm, but the understanding they brought about was well worth my temporary discomfort.
Stop feeling bad when unhealthy people have unhealthy responses to healthy decisions. Jennie Allen discussed this with Gary Thomas on this podcast, and I have not been able to stop thinking about it. It’s a helpful way of looking at boundaries. . . though I’m still sorting through how to define “healthy” when it comes to both people and to decisions, and knowing when boundary setting is the right move and when it’s unduly selfish.
Invite Jesus into my friendships. I began praying for friends last year. In the months since, the Lord has not only shown me how to be the type of friend I would like to have, He has also brought some wonderful new people into my life and also opened my heart to friendship with people who were already in my circles. The gratitude I feel for these new connections is immense, and the relationships themselves intensely life-giving—even when (maybe especially when) I feel ill-equipped to navigate these budding friendships.
A FEW FUN THINGS
I love a ballcap. I’ve long been a fan of fedoras and beanies, but somehow never introduced ballcaps into my wardrobe. That changed a couple of months ago, and now I am rarely seen outside the house without a cap on my head. What took me so long?!
I’m married to a pro gardener! Luke has poured so much time and care into building, planting, and growing our garden this season and we are now reaping the (literal) fruits of his labor. I’ve loved seeing Luke’s skill at research combine with his knack for manual labor, diligence, and attention to detail in his creation and cultivation of our garden. I had no idea he would be so skillful at this endeavor, and seeing him care for our family through gardening has been an unexpected joy.
Becoming an aunt (again) is pretty great. Another thing (person) bringing me joy this season is darling Brooke Rose. Having a new baby in the family means I get to enjoy all of the baby cuddles and fun of seeing my kids with a newborn, without having any of the challenges of pregnancy or middle-of-the-night feedings. We haven’t gotten to see our new niece/cousin as much as we would like these past couple of months, but our whole family is positively thrilled to have “Sissy” in our lives.
As we ease into summer, are there any takeaways or lessons you are carrying with you from spring? I’d be honored if you would share!