Last week, I had a conversation with a friend who is thinking about starting a blog. As we talked, I shared that one of my personal favorite aspects of blogging is that it causes me to think about life—and subsequently do life—with a greater sense of purpose. Every incident has the potential to become a story; each book I read or movie I see can be Used in a blog post; that very conversation we were were having could one day become a story opener. (See what I did there?)
Blogging has fine-tuned my observational skills, sparked my introspection, and cultivated my curiosity about the world. And no aspect of blogging has done more to enhance my thoughtfulness, insight, and intentionality than this monthly What I Learned series. Keeping a record of what I’m learning prompts me to turn every factoid and experience into a full-fledged learning opportunity. My life is now a classroom in which mistakes are redeemed, painful moments are transferred into life lessons, and every word that is read, heard, or spoken counts!
I don’t promise that every bullet point on these lists will be transformative for you who are reading, or even that they were necessarily life changing for me. But the simple act of noticing these things, writing them down, and sharing them here has changed me.
You probably won’t be surprised by my advice to my friend: “Yes! Start a blog! But even if you decide that blogging isn’t for you, start to write down what you are learning.” My advice would be the same for you, too. I promise you won’t regret it.
1. Mold causes inflammation.
A few weeks ago I woke up with fairly severe joint pain. It wasn’t something I’d experienced before, and it seemed to come out of nowhere. Later that day Luke mentioned it to his chiropractor, who told him that my pain could be due to mold allergies, as the spore count had been pretty high in our area lately. I’d always assumed seasonal allergies manifested themselves in the form of hay fever, but some research revealed that mold can trigger inflammation, which can lead to joint pain.
2. A hard winter makes for an amazing spring.
This winter was a long, brutal one, at least by own temperate Southern California standards (and Austin standards, too, according to the locals—thank goodness this winter was an anomaly!). The upside to months of freezing temperatures is that this spring is proving to be a gorgeous one, AND I’m appreciating its beauty and warmth so much more! (Please remind me of this next January!)
3. Late bloomers are my favorite.
Bluebonnets tend to be the big scene stealers here in Central Texas this time of year, and while they are indeed quite pretty, my favorite sights of early spring are the breathtaking white blossoms blanketing the trees in my neighborhood at the start of every March. We have two of these trees in our front yard, one on either side of the walkway leading to our house. I have no idea what type of tree they are, but their presence outside our front windows is my favorite feature of our home. I monitor these trees scrupulously throughout the year for any sign of change; I love watching them transition from green to orange to rust in the fall, and from the moment the branches lose their leaves in winter, I begin inspecting them for signs of new growth. Our trees tend to transition later than the others in our neighborhood, but once they do, they reward us in full. When we first moved into this house, I was confused and slightly frustrated by our trees’ postponed growth patterns. However, I have come to appreciate the gift of these late blooming trees. Their delay gives me more time to anticipate their coming change, and in spring I am able to enjoy their blossoms weeks after the surrounding trees have faded to green. As a fellow late bloomer, I can appreciate their resistance to quick change, and their willingness to transition at their own pace.
4. Not all women struggle with insecurity.
Since my personal long-term battle with insecurity has been such a fraught one, I’d begun to believe that my experience was universal. However, heartfelt conversations with two separate groups of women this month revealed that this isn’t the case. Nearly every gal in each group claimed that feeling “less than” isn’t a regular struggle, and most of them shared that they are generally much harder on others than they are on themselves. While I envy their confidence, I am encouraged by the fact that I am surrounded by so many strong women!
5. Just because someone is doing something doesn’t mean they are doing it well.
Gretchen and Elizabeth made this bold statement in a recent podcast episode about the value in doing something badly, and it was a HUGE lightbulb moment for me! Because of my insecurity (see #4), I tend to assume that everyone around me is doing more, and doing it better, than I ever could. It’s good to remember that a friend who says she scrapbooks or runs or bakes bread or [fill in the blank] isn’t claiming to be an expert. And along those lines, there’s nothing preventing me from being someone who scrapbooks/runs/bakes bread either—I can simply do those things (if I want to), without needing to be perfect at them.
6. Charleston and I thrive on a routine, and flounder without one.
Charleston was sick for over a week this month. Not only were we unable to leave the house, but his sleep schedule was totally out of whack. The week was a good reminder of how well our normal routine works for us (better moods! productivity! more fun!)—and also of how much we need to get up and out of the house every morning, or at least change out of our pajamas. I might be a stay-at-home mom, but too much time at home can be a very bad thing.
7. Nobody is paying any attention to my hair!
I treated myself to a fairly drastic hair cut and color this month—and almost nobody said anything about it! It could be that it was so bad they were afraid to bring it up, but my guess is that they simply didn’t notice. Rather than being disappointed by this, I was relieved! Because it also means that nobody cares when my hair is greasy and my roots are horrendous.
8. Hearing a new and different message from God doesn’t mean that we had been previously misinterpreting His voice.
I’ve been hearing (and indirectly learning) a lot lately about changing one’s mind, whether in small decisions or life-altering ones. This isn’t a current theme in my own life, but because the topic continues to come up, it’s worth noting so that I can return to this knowledge in the future. One of my favorite lessons along this theme (referenced in this podcast) comes from the story of Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Abraham did not mishear God when the Lord commanded him to sacrifice his son. Nor did Abraham mishear God’s command to spare Isaac’s life. BOTH messages were accurate and a part of God’s plan for Abraham’s faith journey. This tells me that even seemingly conflicting messages from the Lord are not necessarily contradictory.
9. Luke is an Enneagram Type Five.
I’ve been an Enneagram enthusiast for quite a while now: in the past several years, I’ve read Enneagram books, listened to Enneagram podcasts, written a post on the model, and helped many of my friends learn their type. In all that time, I’ve assumed that my husband was an Enneagram Six (he tested that way, and it seemed to fit, so I went with it). A couple weeks ago he met with an official Enneagram coach and together they determined that he is a Five. I was skeptical when Luke first broke the news (the coach confirmed that, as a One, I would have a hard time admitting I’d been wrong all this time!), but then I got to listen to a recording of their session, and I’ll be darned, there is no way that Luke is not a Five. I can’t believe I didn’t see it all along. This information is helping me understand my husband in a whole new way; I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that this knowledge has the potential to transform our relationship! (If you think that statement is dramatic, might I suggest you spend more time learning about the Enneagram? You’ll come to thank me!)
10. Living out my year of Grace is proving to be harder than I’d thought.
I should have known that selecting Grace as my word for 2018 would be setting myself up for some challenging life lessons. (We all know not to pray for patience; I hadn’t thought about how that truism might apply to other attributes as well.) Two weeks ago, I experienced a new parenting low that left me desperately seeking grace for both myself and my son. The incident is still too fresh to write about with more specificity or candor, but I’ll likely share more on this in a future post, as it is proving to be pivotal point in my Grace Journey this year.
11. Jim Dale was in the original Pete’s Dragon.
I know Jim Dale as the fantastic voice actor who reads the Harry Potter audiobooks. I’d had no idea he formerly acted, and was shocked to learn that Dale played the quack showman Dr. Terminus.
12. Muffin liners are almost always a good idea.
I’ve ruined too many batches of muffins because I was too lazy to use muffin liners. This most recent batch of inedible breakfast egg muffins was the last straw. I finally went out and bought myself a few packages of paper liners, and I pledge to use them from now on. Please learn from my mistake and let me rest in the knowledge that my own liner-less muffins died so that yours could live a beautiful, stick-free existence.
13. Favorite happiness discovery: dog photo therapy!
I’ve been making a concerted effort to limit my time on social media lately; I still post my own pictures (mostly because these pics provide the content for my annual family photo books), but I haven’t been scrolling my feeds. [Side Note: if you’re a personal friend of mine and haven’t received likes from me lately, this is why!] One exception is looking at cute dog pictures on Instagram. This
pastime obsession began when we were trying to make a decision about our own Labradoodle puppy and I was looking for images of what the two final-choice dogs (who had very different coats) might look like when they are fully grown. In my search, I stumbled upon on The Dogist feed (adorable!), and that led me to the specific Labradoodle hashtag (aka my new obsession). Who knew so many fantastic photos could be viewed, free of charge, on the internet?! (Okay, most people probably knew that, but it was a new-to-me find!) The best part of the Labradoodle “breed” is that it is quite varied, so this hashtag is incredibly diverse: among its ranks are puppies, full-grown dogs, big dogs, small dogs, white and black and spotted dogs, and everything in between. There are Labradoodles in costumes, Labradoodles romping in the snow or chilling on the beach, videos of shaggy Labradoodles running through fields of flowers. . . the cuteness never ends, and all month long this feed provided me with an instant, guilt-free pick-me-up when I was feeling down about our own puppy not being old enough to come home. Social Media is notorious for fueling FOMO and bringing on the blues, but cute dogs are one of its true saving graces.
And speaking of dogs…this month has brought a whole host of lessons and learning opportunities as we researched dogs and, finally, became dog owners! I could start an entirely new blog about what I’ve learned from becoming a puppy mama, but we’ll start with a formal introduction to our new pup—stay tuned for that this Friday!