Why is it that January always feels like it’s approximately eleventy weeks long, and then February flies by in the blink of an eye? I was slightly worried at the start of this week when I realized February was drawing to a close and I needed (wanted) to write up this post. With February having passed by so quickly, I was sure the Evernote file where I keep a running list of what I learn each month would be empty.
I was happy to prove myself wrong! Apparently, without my even having noticed, February had a few important things to teach me—about life, perspectives, parenting, and the Bible.
1. OG stands for original gangster.
I feel like this phrase is popping up everywhere, and for the longest time I thought I knew what it stood for. Turns out, it does not mean Old Grandma as I’d thought. Oops! Next time, I look up a new phrase the first time I hear it rather than making assumptions.
2. Writing thank you notes for an institution is a real job!
I just finished up this book, in which the protagonist earns a living as a Director of Stewardship, writing thank you notes to financial supporters of a private school. I was sure the position was a figment of the author’s imagination, but in the Author Q&A at the end of the book, she assures readers that this position really does exist. If this blogging thing doesn’t work out, I think I may have found my next career!
3. We are the most over-informed, under-reflective people in history.
I don’t recall which podcast I heard this on, but the phrase has stuck with me. It fits with the conversation Tim Ferriss had with Caterina Fake, in which Fake stated that in our society, the inner life is disappearing. It’s a huge problem, with massive repercussions we are only beginning to identify. For me, writing is my primary method of staying connected to my own inner life, but I know I can be doing more. I’ve also been thinking about how to approach the issue of under-reflection with Charleston; I’m hoping that by limiting screen time and encouraging imaginative play, I am helping him cultivate a healthy inner life of his own.
4. Allowing Charleston to become a “food critic” is a great way to get him to try new foods.
Charleston has always had a fairly broad palate, but it can be difficult to get him to try new things—even foods I’m sure he will like. I recently decided to implement a food rating system: for every food he tries, he gets to assign it a number, 1-5 (with 1 being disgusting and 5 being the best food ever!) This has worked even better than I’d anticipated. Charleston is excited to try new foods so he can rate them. He’s even enjoyed rating some old favorites, and some of his ratings have surprised me. Of course, ice cream will always receive 5+ stars in BOTH of our books!
5. There is a straightforward reason why we no longer follow all of the Old Testament rules.
I’m reading through the Bible this year along with The Bible Recap podcast, and the experience has been so enriching! I love that the podcast keeps me on schedule with my daily readings, and Tara has brought some amazing new insights to passages I’ve previously found dry or confusing. This month we read through Leviticus, and I was fascinated by Tara’s discussion of the three types of law in the Old Testament: Civil Laws, which governed the nation of Israel; Ceremonial Laws, which related to sacrifices and other temple practices; and Moral Laws, which declared what God deemed right and wrong. We no longer adhere to Civil Laws because God doesn’t have a nation-state on earth anymore (it has been replaced by the Spiritual Body of Christ). We are also free from practicing Ceremonial Laws because Jesus was our ultimate sacrifice. And while Jesus fulfilled the Moral Laws as well, we still hold to them because they reflect God’s character, and as Christians we love God and desire to be more like Him. (If you’d like to learn more, this article offers a more thorough explanation.)
6. The Fruits of the Spirit can be divided into three distinct categories.
I’ve been studying the book of John with my Women’s Bible Study this year, and one of our group members shared this with us as we were discussing John 15 (the vine and the branches passage, i.e., my theme passage for 2019). The fruits can be categorized as follows: love/joy/peace—refer to inner experiences of those who follow Jesus as we embrace truths contained in the Gospel; patience/kindness/goodness—describe a Christian’s relationships with other people; faithfulness/gentleness/self control—virtues cultivated through discipline of the Holy Spirit that demonstrate the power of God’s grace in a Christian’s life. These distinctions have given me an even deeper appreciation of—and desire for—the nine spiritual fruits. (I love that even after decades of studying the Bible, there is always more to learn!)
7. In the Biblical passage about Jesus being the vine, the term “prune” can be translated as “de-sucker.”
This was another takeaway from my Women’s Bible Study. In her explanation of the passage, our teacher explained that small nodes grow at the base of the grape leaves, and these nodes produce shoots called “suckers.” If left to grow, the suckers become part of the plant and weigh it down towards the dirt, preventing the vine from flourishing. De-suckering the vines enables them to grow tall and strong and produce the best grapes. In the same way, when we are abiding in Christ, we subject ourselves to the process of de-suckering, in which our unhealthy habits and attitudes are removed so that we can yield abundant spiritual fruit.
8. In order to grow, I need to give up control.
I’ve been thinking about this in the context of becoming a contributing writer for Austin Moms Blog. It’s an incredible opportunity, one that is allowing me to write for a much larger audience than my own blog. It’s also the first time I’ve handed over editorial decisions to an outside source. Unlike pieces I write for this space, where I get the first and final say on every word published, my posts for AMB are subjected to someone else’s calendar, edits, marketing, and more. This is uncomfortable for me, but ultimately beneficial. And as I write this, I’m beginning to see the correlation between my own relinquishing of control and the process of de-suckering a healthy grape vine. . . .
9. There are varying levels of being “in over your head.”
I related so much to this post from Seth Godin. In it, he explains that sometimes when we become more successful (something I’m beginning to experience with my writing), the stakes go up and we can begin to flounder. But Godin reminds us that swimming in six feet of water isn’t all that different from swimming in sixty feet of water: it may feel riskier, but the required skills haven’t changed. However, it’s important to know when circumstances have changed and we really are in over our head: for instance, if you’re used to surfing 6 foot waves and they suddenly swell to 25 feet, it may be time to take a break or ask for some help. I appreciated this differentiation.
10. Sharing vulnerably from my personal experiences elicits a strong response.
When I shared this post about my current struggle with infertility, I had no idea it would evoke such a huge reaction from readers and friends. I received numerous messages of love and encouragement, as well as quite a few expressions of empathy from other women who have walked this same journey. I even had two women privately share that they, too, are currently in the middle of infertility but have yet to tell anybody; I was brought to tears by their willingness to open up to me. Unfortunately, I received a couple of less-than-helpful responses, including one person who offered unsolicited advice and another who tried to capitalize on my pain by “offering” to sell me some essential oils that may help. I didn’t let these well-meaning-but-hurtful responses get to me, because I know the benefits of sharing my story far outweigh the downsides. Not only did I feel uplifted and supported, but I was able to encourage and inspire others. I have been fervently praying that God would redeem the pain of infertility in ways that glorify Him, and He has answered my prayer in ways far more beautiful than I could have imagined.
11. Like books, songs need to come into our lives at the right time to leave an impression.
Amy Grant released her song “Somewhere Down the Road” in 1997. I was thirteen years old the first time I heard it, and while I was a hardcore Amy Grant fan, the song didn’t appeal to me the way other songs from that album did. Two weeks ago, I heard Amy perform the song during a podcast interview, and tears streamed down my face as I focused on the powerful lyrics. “Somewhere Down the Road” is a song about pain, about the loss of a dream, about questioning God; it’s also a beautiful reminder that one day, we will receive answers to our questions, but those answers won’t even matter because we will be comforted by the loving embrace of our Heavenly Father. I couldn’t relate to those messages as a young teen, but I do now, and I’m so glad this song made its way back into my life when I needed it most.
I’m linking up with Emily P. Freeman, my inspiration for these monthly lists, to share what we learned this winter.
What was one thing you learned in February? I’d love to hear about it!