Winter is not a season known for its abundance. It is our coldest and darkest season, notable for its barren trees and harsh weather—fertile ground for illness and depression, but rarely a time for vibrancy, rebirth, or renewal. This year, my own winter has indeed exhibited the harsher trademarks of the season (both metaphorically and physically), but these winter months have also set the stage for unseasonal spiritual reawakening and explosive learning.

Some lessons of this season have been new and revelatory. Others have been a cycling back to previous lessons whose truths needed time and experience to settle more deeply into my psyche. Some lessons are still seedlings, on the cusp of germination. There have been tiny, inconsequential lessons this season, and others that I hope to carry with me for many years to come.

This Season’s Quotidian Lessons

1. Finish Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving, and wrapping by the end of November.

This has always been a goal of mine, and this past Christmas was the first time I actually accomplished it. Not only did having everything done ease the stress of the season (making space for me to fully enjoy it), it also saved me money by curtailing the distractions of sales and gift guides. I’m documenting this NOW so that I remember to do it again this coming Christmas.

2. I was mispronouncing my daughter’s name.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. When Kalinda was born, we intentionally chose to pronounce her nickname Kay-lee. However, whenever someone new encountered her name in writing, they assumed it was pronounced Callie (rhymes with alley). After hearing the “mispronunciation” multiple times, and also beginning to realize how common the name Kaylee (and its various spellings) is among our friend circle, we decided to officially switch how we say Kali. We still slip up from time to time, and I think Charleston might stick with the original pronunciation. Ultimately, it’s just a nickname, and in my mind, the more nicknames the better, so we’re totally happy to run with both.

3. A family of five getting hit with a stomach bug all at once is the worst.

I’ll spare you the details, but those two days will go down in our family history as some of our most disgusting. On the positive side, it was a quick bug, and nice to get it all over with at once.

4. Snow. Is. AMAZING!

We have gotten snow every year since moving to Austin, but this January we had our first winter wonderland experience, and we had another (massive one) just last week. It was pure magic. While I have visited the snow in the past, I’ve never had real snow in my own backyard, and now I understand why people long for white Christmases and snowy January days. I didn’t love being stuck at home for a week when our area was iced over, or enduring a power outage and loss of water during freezing temperatures, but the beauty *almost* made it all worth it. As a lifelong sun worshipper, I NEVER thought I could feel this way about winter weather.

5. I have woefully under-appreciated modern conveniences like electricity and running water.

I could write at length (and have!) about our experience with the Texas ice storms and subsequent loss of water and power. We learned a whole lot during our 40 hours in a dark, unheated house, followed by days of rolling outages and no water—things like how to stay warm and sane, and how to keep our food safe, where we get our home’s energy, and the value of a camping stove. That doesn’t even take into consideration the beautiful lessons we learned about the importance of community and good neighbors. But our biggest takeaways from that challenging week were how spoiled we are to never give a thought about whether the heat will turn on when it’s cold, or whether we will be able to flush our toilets or take a shower or flip on a light. I hope I never treat these privileged conveniences so cavalierly moving forward.

Lessons On Habits and Hobbies

6. Sometimes a helpful tool (i.e. coping mechanism) can become a crutch that can in turn morph into a weapon.

I’ve been shedding a number of bad habits lately—habits that kept me afloat for a time, but had begun to outlive their purposes. I don’t feel shame over holding onto those habits for as long as I did, because at the time they were useful in helping me get through each day. But when a habit morphs into an idol, it’s time to let it go. In releasing these coping tools, I am beginning to see how they were not just failing to serve me, they were actually starting to do harm.

7. Reducing screen time is both harder and easier than I assumed.

One habit I have said goodbye to is spending too much time on my phone. I plan to write a full post on how I’m doing this and all it has taught me. For now, I will note that it has been harder (in that I hadn’t realized how instinctive reaching for my phone had become) but also easier (because I am finding that screen time no longer appeals to me in the way it once did). Ultimately, this experience has taught me that life has the potential to be a whole lot better without a screen distracting me.

8. Just because love for a hobby is lost doesn’t mean it will be gone for ever.

Case in point: I have fallen back in love with reading. As a follower of my blog, you might be surprised to learn that over the past year, reading had begun to lose its luster for me. I still read (because I felt that I should), and I still encountered plenty of wonderful books, but the act of reading had begun to feel more like a chore than something I wanted to do. A few factors have played a part in my newfound passion: 1) planning out my book choices and my reading time; 2) reading what I want to read and not letting my reading life be dictated by library holds; 3) reducing screen time, which has enhanced my ability to stay focused on a book; 4) reading on my Kindle or physical books (instead of on the Kindle app on my phone); and 5) reducing the number of audiobooks (and not multitasking when I do choose to consume a book on audio). Part of me had feared that my enthusiasm for books was forever lost to me, so it has been delightfully refreshing to rediscover this old love.

9. Rest is essential, and possible.

My emotional and mental health struggles this season have forced me to take rest (in all it forms) VERY seriously. As a mom to three young kids I had erroneously assumed this type of intense rest was not possible, but necessity has shown me otherwise. In particular, I have learned that rest is more than just sleep: I find rest in prayer, in adult conversations, in engaging in a hobby, in taking mom-breaks midday, and in sitting in silence. Rest still feels selfish to me, but I am leaning into the gifts that it brings to me and those around me.

On the World and My Approach to it, I Learned . . .

10. Horrible things can happen.

I thought the craziness that was 2020 had taught me this lesson, but the events in Washington on January 6 shook me up in a whole new way. They made me nostalgic for a simpler time when life seemed predictable and answers seemed more straightforward. I hate that my perception has been shattered. But I am grateful for this new awareness in that it has motivated me to be alert to catastrophe potential in the future, and motivated me to spiritually fortify myself and my family for what may come.

11. My approach toward others (people and ideas) matters more than my particular views.

The days leading up to the presidential inauguration sent me into a spiral as I struggled to sort fact from fiction and reconcile my own shaky beliefs with those being espoused by people around me. Ultimately, God showed me that how I feel about our country’s political system or any specific policy is not nearly as important as how I feel about Him and His people. It’s okay for me to disagree with people (and at times disagree with myself!); it’s not okay for me to resort to namecalling or criticism (not just with my words but also within my own heart). God is teaching me a lot about how to give others the benefit of the doubt, honoring them with my words as well as my thought life.

12. Be quick to listen, slow to make judgments, and even slower to speak.

I’m learning to give more time to listening and learning without immediately feeling the need to comment or form an opinion. I am seeing the importance of having ALL the facts and considering ALL sides of an issue before I weigh in—and I’m recognizing the value of not weighing in at all unless totally necessary.

13. In interacting with people, lean into grace. When dealing with systems and ideas, rely heavily on truth.

I have not stopped thinking about this since I heard it on a podcast a few months ago. It can be applied at so many levels, from politics to church ethics to setting and implementing rules with my children. I never want to act unlovingly towards another human, but I also believe in justice and in absolute truth, and these need to be at the forefront of all of my non-interpersonal interactions.

14. Life will never go back to normal.

I think we had all assumed life would begin to resume some semblance of normalcy in 2021. That has not been the case, and as this pandemic wears on and new ways of life are being solidified, I see that we will never go back to life as we knew it prior to last March. This saddens me more than I care to admit.

About God, I Am Learning . . .

15. I need to trust God above ALL else.

This is a theme for me in this season. I have learned that only God is capable or deserving of my trust. Not institutions, not Bible teachers, not my family, not even what my own gut is telling me. Proverbs 3:5-6 has been an invaluable mantra for me as I learn how to practically trust God when it would be easier not to.

16. Immersing myself in God’s Word results in positive spiritual fruit.

I have spent more time with the Lord this year than any other time in my life. As a result of this continual abiding, I have begun to experience fruit I have longed to see in myself for years and that I thought would never come. For the first time in a very long time, I feel myself being shaped into someone I truly want to be.

17. A newfound closeness to God paves the way for spiritual attack.

In a devotion on sanctification, Oswald Chambers asked, “are we prepared for what sanctification will cost?” I have been experiencing this cost firsthand. While these past several weeks have brought me closer to the Lord than ever before, I have also experienced unrivaled levels of spiritual warfare. Rather than dissuade me from the truth, the enemy’s assaults have driven me deeper into Christ as my source of refuge, shelter, and strength.

18. When we look for God, He is sure to show up.

This year of Wonder has only just begun, and already I am in awe of the ways God has revealed His wonder to me in things big and small. I am seeing the Lord in the joys of family life, the beauty of nature, the wisdom of Scripture, the teaching of others, the encouragement of loved ones, and the caretaking of my soul. This lesson has not come easily, but it has been worth it.

Now it’s your turn. What have you been learning in this season? What lessons and takeaways will you be carrying with you as we head into spring?

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