Today, Groundhog Day, marks winter’s midway point. It’s a hard season for many (myself included), which makes it the perfect time to take stock of what’s been keeping us afloat—those bright spots that stand out amidst February’s gloom and grey….

Three years ago on this day, Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy began an annual tradition of publicly sharing the things that were “saving her life.” The inspiration for her posts came from Barbara Brown Taylor, who shares a story in her memoir about how she once showed up at a speaking engagement and was asked by her host to talk about what was currently saving her life. 

What’s saving my life is a good question to revisit from time to time. Acknowledging the good things in life promotes an attitude of appreciation and reminds us to continue to incorporate these life-giving things into our homes and routines. It can also be fun to look back on these lists and see what has changed, and what has remained the same. (Just for kicks, here’s my post on what was saving my life during my first month as a mom!) 

My current SML list contains some big things, and some small ones; some are just for this season, some for this current stage of life, and a couple are perennial favorites that have been saving my life for years and will likely continue to do so for years to come.

1. Daily quiet times with God. It’s not a coincidence that this item is first on my list, as it happens to be the most important. I’ve had a relationship with Jesus for as long as I can remember, but haven’t always been consistent about spending daily time with Him. Since Charleston was born, my “quiet times” have mostly looked like reading a quickie devotional on my phone and sending up breath prayers throughout the day. Other than when I was working on assigned homework for my weekly Bible study, I wasn’t spending quality time with God. But a few months ago, I bought a journal (an actual spiral-bound one, with real pages) and started writing out my prayers, as well as questions or responses to whatever devotion I was reading. I’ve stuck with the practice, and it’s become the most important part of my day. The time varies (though it’s usually during Charleston’s naptime), as does the devotional (I finished this book and have been working through various reading plans on my Bible app), but these meetings with God have remained fruitful and are a highlight of my winter.

2. My warm-weather uniform. During these chillier months, it’s hard enough for me to leave the house, let alone decide what to wear when facing the cold. I’ve fallen into wearing the same thing every day: leggings, a sweater, and boots (including the two pairs I wrote about on Wednesday). My closet contains an assortment of all three of these items, so even though I’m essentially wearing the same daily outfit, it still looks like I’ve put forth a little effort. On the days that are extra-cold (read: below 65 degrees), I throw on a second pair of fleece-lined leggings, a scarf, a beanie, and my sherpa-lined utility jacket.  

3. Our public library. A world without libraries would be a very sad place indeed. Ours is less than a mile from our home, and though it isn’t big or fancy, it’s one of my favorite spots. Charleston and I attend family story time there every Saturday and sometimes during the week, and it isn’t unheard of for us to head to the library for the soul purpose of letting Charleston burn off some steam in the kids’ area on rainy days. I can’t begin to imagine how much money I save thanks to my free library card: nearly all of my ebooks and audiobooks are borrowed from our library (courtesy of the OverDrive app), and we check out a bag full of picture books for Charleston every week. And let’s not forget all of the free family activities they offer, including puppet shows, movie days, and community events. Places like these make me quite happy to pay my taxes. 😉

4. My Bluetooth Headset. I’m too cheap to splurge on Apple AirPods, but this handy little earpiece meets all of my listening needs and cost me less than $20. I tend to keep it in my ear whenever I’m in the car, at home, or out running errands by myself (though that’s rare) so that I can simply press Play on my latest podcast or audiobook whenever a spare moment opens up. The sound quality is great and the battery keeps its charge all day, which was my primary complaint with my previous headset. 

5. Journaling. I received my first diary the Christmas I was 5, and from then on I was an enthusiastic but occasional journaler. My journaling habit became a daily one four years ago, when Luke introduced me to Day One; since then I haven’t missed a day of writing in my digital journal. Journaling has become a lifeline for me, providing me with a space to process, and helping me to track days that otherwise seem to slip away unnoticed. In addition to my Day One journal, I have a few other journals, including a Daily Agenda that serves as a sort of bullet journal; a relationship journal that contains letters to Luke; and a couple of journals just for Charleston. I wrote more about my journaling practices here, and I have no doubt that journaling will be saving my life well into the future.

6. Our city Rec Center. It’s literally down the street from us, which was one of my favorite features of our home when we moved here two years ago. As I predicted then, we have made excellent use of this place! Membership is a fraction of the cost of most gyms, and I have access to a fully equipped gym (with pretty sweet views of the Cedar Park statue garden from my favorite elliptical—see pic below). They have free child care, and Charleston adores the babysitters. And when I’m done working out, he loves when I take him up to the indoor track to run a few laps. I know most people exercise for the physical benefits, and it started that way for me, but now it’s all about the feel-good endorphins I get from a workout (not to mention the uninterrupted hour of reading I get while on the elliptical). An added bonus is that our trips to the gym give us an excuse to get up and out of the house on the mornings when we don’t have another scheduled activity. 

7. Infusing my life with hygge. By now we’re all familiar with this Danish art of cultivating warmth and coziness. While I like a little hygge in my life year-round, I find it especially important for keeping me perky during these winter months. So I’ve filled our home with fresh plants and flowers, light candles whenever I can, diffuse essential oils, pay attention to mood lighting, and don my fuzzy robe and slippers the minute I step foot in my house. I still don’t love winter, but seeing it as an excuse to embrace my homebody tendencies has made the season much more tolerable.

8. Spontaneous dance parties with Charleston. To be clear, I am not a good dancer. Yes, I was a gymnast and a cheerleader and in show choir in my younger years, but my attempts at non-choreographed movement are pretty pathetic. HOWEVER, Charleston loves to dance and he loves it when I join him. So when we’re having a rough day, or just in need of some laughter or an energy boost, we turn up the tunes and bust out our moves in the living room. I would die if anyone else saw us, but those playful, uninhibited moments with my son are pure gold. 

9a. The GroupMe app. Are you familiar with this app? It’s awesome! It’s basically a place to conduct private group chats without exploding group members’ phones with multiple group texts. If has a user-friendly interface and it’s easy to add and remove members from the group at any time. I use this app to stay in touch with members of my Bible study and my Community Group, and we all love it. Which leads me to the next item on my list….

9b. Living in community with other believers. As an introvert and a stay-at-home mom, it can be easy for me to go into isolation mode. Which is why it’s important to be intentional about spending time with other people—even better if they happen to be fellow Christians who can encourage me in my walk with God. I’ve enjoyed participating in both my Women’s Bible Study, and the Community Group Luke and I attend together; but more than just these weekly meetings, I’ve loved keeping up with the members of these groups throughout the week: getting together for couples dinners and playdates, messaging each other with prayer requests, and investing in one another’s lives. It’s so good to be surrounded by such wonderful people.

10, 11, 12 and beyond…. A few more items that easily could have been included in this list are: the YNAB budgeting app (and staying on top of monthly budgeting); scheduled household chores (cleaning on Mondays, grocery shopping on Tuesdays, laundry on Mondays and Thursdays, etc.); keeping baby wipes in my purse and every room of the house; Evernote; Amazon Prime; a predictable nap schedule; my rockstar work-from-home husband; and keeping up with this blog, which is one of my favorite things I’ve ever done! 

Okay, now it’s your turn: what things—big or small—are keeping you going these days? I’d love to hear about them. And don’t forget to check out Anne’s linkup to read more lists of what’s saving our lives this winter!

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