What I Learned in January About Writing, Parenthood, God’s Timing, and SO Much More

What I Learned in January About Writing, Parenthood, God’s Timing, and SO Much More

It seems like I begin nearly every end-of-month post with some variation on how quickly time is flying and how I can’t believe another month has slipped by. That is NOT the case with this month! It feels like it’s been January for at least a hundred days, maybe even longer, and January isn’t even over yet!

That said, this has been a pretty momentous month for our family, and one rife with learning opportunities. Here is just a small taste of what life, God, and media have taught me this month.

THROUGH PODCASTS I LEARNED:

Some of my best learning comes through books and podcasts. I share most of my reading takeaways in my book reviews, but don’t blog as often about podcasts, which is why so many podcast insights make their way onto these WIL lists.

1. Sometimes, you need to step back so that the Holy Spirit can work.

I was inspired and convicted by Jamie’s conversation with Amy Wolf about Amy’s friendship with a practicing witch who also claims to be a Christian. Amy shared how she has expressed her Biblical-based grounds for concern regarding the friend’s witchcraft, while remaining friends with this woman and trusting that the Holy Spirit will convict her of her sin. I believe that as Christians we are called to speak truth into one another’s lives, especially in areas of sin, but too often I take it upon myself to talk someone out of their sin rather than simply stating my piece and then stepping back. Amy’s approach was helpful for me as I consider how to handle similar situations within my own social circles.

2. In the church, it’s important to distinguish between opinions, beliefs, and convictions.

I often struggle to determine what issues are deal-breakers within the church, so Mike’s discussion of unity within the church was enlightening. Mike explained that opinions are ideas we hold loosely and that we are willing to “agree to disagree” on. Beliefs are held more closely; they are ideas we have researched and are committed to, and they would require some persuading to change our stance on, but they aren’t theological deal-breakers. Only disagreements at the conviction level (convictions being our few sacred beliefs) are deserving of parting ways with other believers. Not everything about the Bible needs to be held at the conviction level. (Mike gave examples of Christians disagreeing on worship styles, thoughts on evolution, etc.) We bring about unnecessary conflict and hurt when we bring our beliefs to the conviction level and refuse to find common ground. This all pertains to faith, but I believe it is applicable to non-church issues as well.

3. It’s difficult to connect with other women when we experience an alternative narrative, even when our own experience is a preferred one.

Hillary McBride explored this concept in her discussion on body image with Jen Hatmaker. Hillary mentioned that women who are confident in their bodies often pretend to dislike themselves in order to relate to other women. For better or for worse, I have no problem commiserating with other women about body insecurities, but I’ve found this premise to hold true in other arenas. For instance, I personally love being a full-time SAHM, but I know that not a lot of moms do; I often find myself complaining when I’m around other moms just so that I can fit in and don’t come across as pretentious or holier-than-thou. But this is disingenuous and perpetuates a negative cycle of pessimism and whining.

4. According to research, a child’s ability to emotionally regulate is more predictive of their academic success than IQ.

This was another great takeaway from Hillary’s interview on For the Love. Hillary explained that emotional regulation is “our fancy academic or theoretical word for saying that we know what we’re feeling and we know what to do with what we’re feeling or not feeling in a way that helps us navigate social situations, relational environments, work environments, kind of our life’s desires in a way that’s supportive for us to be well and whole.” I recognize a need for this in my own life, and hearing about its importance for children is nudging me to prioritize emotional regulation training with Charleston.

5. Christmas points to Jesus’ humanity; Epiphany points to His deity.

I was fascinated by Tsh and Haley’s discussion of the liturgical calendar. I was introduced to several seasons and holidays that I’d never heard of, and learned the history and traditions of many that were already familiar to me. This insight on the bookend holidays of the Christmas Season was especially intriguing. On Christmas, Jesus came to earth as a man, and at Epiphany He was celebrated as a God and King. So beautiful!


THROUGH PARENTING I LEARNED:

I’m always amazed at how much I learn from Charleston directly, and through my role as his mom. No two days with him are the same, but I love these opportunities for growth.

6. The best way to get my child’s attention is to sit down and begin quietly reading aloud from a picture book.

A few weeks ago, Charleston was having a tantrum because he didn’t want to stop playing for naptime. He refused to come into his room, so I picked up the nearest book, sat down on his bed, and began reading aloud. Hearing me start a book without him, Charleston immediately stopped crying and ran into his room so he wouldn’t miss any more of the story. Since that first time, I’ve continued to use this tactic to great success. I can’t promise this will work for everyone, but I’m happy to have a new tantrum-squelching trick up my sleeve!

7. We may not be as far behind as I think we are.

We potty trained Charleston right around his third birthday, which I thought was on the late end of the spectrum. But I’ve recently had conversations with quite a few parents whose children are nearly four and still not potty trained. It made me realize that Charleston may not be as much of a late-bloomer as I’d assumed. It’s also an excellent reminder to spend less time focusing on what other children are doing, and more time paying attention to Charleston’s cues. But along those lines, I need to be careful not to hold him back from something because I’m the one who isn’t emotionally ready (as was the case with converting his crib to a bed). Within reason, he needs to be the one in charge of his developmental timelines—not me, not what society says is appropriate, and not what his peers are doing.

8. It is very hard (and fairly controversial) to host a no-gifts birthday party.

Two weeks ago we threw a birthday party for Charleston (more details coming Wednesday) and included the request of “No Gifts Please!” on the invitations. My thinking behind this is that Charleston doesn’t need any more toys, and I didn’t want parents to feel the pressure to buy him anything. It was my own small attempt at minimalism. (For the record, about half of our guests did bring a gift, which was obviously not necessary but still appreciated.) A week after the party, I was talking with a handful of moms who found my stance surprising and possibly rude. I still stand behind my decision, but I’m wondering: have you ever hosted or attended a no-gifts party? Would you?

9. Birthdays don’t get any easier.

Every year since Charleston turned one, I’ve cried myself to sleep on the night before his birthday. It’s not that I’m not thankful to have a healthy, growing boy. I am so incredibly blessed that I get to watch him grow up, and I realize many parents would give their own lives for this chance. That said, seeing him grow up is hard, y’all! I still picture him as my baby and it requires a whole lot of mental gymnastics to acknowledge that he is well on his way to being a big kid. Each year I think the next birthday will be a little less painful, and it just isn’t. However, Charleston’s enthusiasm for his own birthday does help to counteract some of my own growing pains.


LIFE HACKS I LEARNED THIS MONTH:

10. If a device isn’t charging, CHECK THE CABLE!

Last month we thought that Luke’s camera and my Kindle had both kicked the bucket within just weeks of each other. The batteries had died on both devices, and neither would recharge. On a whim, Luke decided to switch out the charging cable we were using and we were able to bring both devices back to life! I’d had no idea that a cable could stop working like that; I’m so glad it was only a $10 cable that needed to be replaced, and not our expensive devices!

11. You can save a draft of a post on Instagram.

Is this a new feature, or has it always been there and I’ve just never noticed it? Regardless, I was so happy to discover this “hack.” I usually post Instagram photos in real time, but the draft feature is very useful for posts I want to take my time with that won’t go live until a certain day, such as an anniversary or birthday.

12. Our pediatrician offers flu shots for adults.

Luke and I have often complained about the fact that we had to make separate appointments to get our own flu shots and couldn’t just get them when we took Charleston to get his. Well, it turns out, we could; we just never thought to ask! Our pediatrician mentioned it at Charleston’s Four Year physical last week, so we got them done then and there—which was convenient, and also good for Charleston to see Mom and Dad being brave for shots right before he had his own vaccines. Other takeaways from this Well Check: 1) 4-year vaccinations hurt more (or at least Charleston was more aware of them) than all the others—there were tears with these shots, and he’d never cried with a vaccination before; and 2) at four, Charleston is now old enough for blood pressure measurements, a vision screening, and a hearing check (which were hilarious to watch!).


MISCELLANEOUS LEARNING:

13. I am more afraid of imperfection than of physical pain.

And speaking of shots. . . we’ve moved to more aggressive fertility treatments that require me to give myself a monthly round of shots. I’d already been doing injections, but those were premixed for me; all I had to do was pick the shot up from the pharmacy and inject it into my stomach. For these injectibles, I ordered boxes of vials online and have to prepare each injection myself. I’ve found this task daunting, raising my anxiety to near-paralyzing levels. I have zero problems injecting myself, and don’t mind the pain at all. However, I am terrified that I will make a mistake in the preparation. It doesn’t help that these medications are very expensive, meaning that there is a lot at stake. On a positive note, I’ve been able to overcome my fears, and each injection gets a little easier. One thing this infertility journey has taught me is that I am much stronger than I ever gave myself credit for.

14. I have a tendency to overshare my negatives.

Recently Luke has commented on how I never seem happy and am always stressed or anxious. I was surprised by his statement, because I haven’t felt this to be my reality in recent months. When I discussed it with my therapist, she asked why Luke might have gotten this impression . . . and I realized that I regularly send stressed texts, or vent to him when he gets home from work. I’m unloading my negativity onto him, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing (that’s an expected and healthy part of marriage), but it’s become problematic because I’m not also sharing my positives with him. I complain to Luke because I need to get things off my chest, but it’s also important that I invite him to join me in celebrating my wins. Not only does that paint a more accurate picture of my emotional life, it also makes him more receptive and empathetic towards me in my down moments because that isn’t all he’s seeing of me.

15. God’s timing is always perfect.

Two years ago I was praying about a possible new project that I felt was a good fit for me. At the time, the opportunity didn’t pan out and I was crushed. Fast forward to this month, when this very same opportunity re-presented itself. This time, it was me who was tentative, but God made it clear that this was something He wanted me to pursue. Doors were opened, and we’re moving forward with this exciting new venture. (I’m sorry to be so cryptic here; I promise to share more as soon as I can!) There were many lessons in this, the biggest being that God’s timing is not my own, but it is always perfect. This is a truth I firmly believe, and yet one I regularly need to remind myself of; in these moments when God proves Himself a trustworthy director of my life’s journey, I need to document it, celebrate it, and remember it for next time my faith waivers.

16. I strongly dislike when change is forced upon me.

I had this realization a few weeks ago when we changed my blogging platform, to my great consternation. (That infamous moment is fully documented in this post.) Just days after that post went live, I had a very similar experience when a group I’d been part of decided to dissolve without forewarning and against my wishes. There is still some personal healing that needs to occur in this situation, but it has been helpful to have my blog experience—and the things I learned through it—fresh in my mind as I walk through this painful time of transition.

17. I have a blogging brain and journaling brain, and they rarely intersect.

When my blog interface changed, I found myself suffering from pretty extreme writer’s block. Because my template looked so different, I simply couldn’t get my words out of my brain and onto the computer screen. Luke reminded me that I journal every day on a very different platform, and he’s right; but I realized that I enter a different mode when I’m blogging, and it’s hard for me to access that mode in an altered environment. (On that note: I am still struggling with this new platform, so thank you for your patience as we continue to work out some of the kinks. Thankfully, I’ve managed to break through my writer’s block, as evidenced by this 2,500-word post!)

18. Luke feeds Arlo.

This is definitely something I should have known before two weeks ago. Especially because I, too, had been feeding Arlo every night. The little stinker never let on that he was getting second helpings of dinner! We laughed when we recognized our mistake, but it’s a good lesson on the importance of clear communication and clearly defined expectations and roles.


What is one thing you learned in January? Big or small, I’d love to hear about it!