What I Learned in February

I’m joining Emily over at Chatting at the Sky as we reflect on the things we learned in February.

In no particular order:

1. Yoga pants. I could wear them all day every day. 

There was a big kerfuffle about yoga pants and modesty earlier in the month, and I paid absolutely no attention to any of it. However, I bought my first pair late in January, and now I’m wondering why it took me so long. Goodness, are they comfortable. I have restricted myself to only wearing them once a week for fear that, if I didn’t, I would become the Honest Toddler’s mom:

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2. Starbucks’ flat white is my new favorite drink …  

My previous self, who preferred tea and only chose coffee drinks if they were good and sugary, would be shocked to hear me say this, but the flat white is delicious. At about the time that I became a mother, I realized how wonderful a drug caffeine really is, and through much patience and influence on my husband’s part, grew to love my morning cup of coffee with a little cream and no sugar. The sweet drinks don’t even taste good to me anymore. I’m grateful for this, because it means I can truly appreciate the yummy goodness of the flat white.

3. … but having one on an empty stomach when I am already exhausted and am having a rough day is a bad idea.

Something about the combination of caffeine, lack of sleep, lack of food, and baby cries did me in and made things much harder than they needed to be. I felt truly awful, physically and emotionally, and I think part of the blame lies with the flat white, tasty as it was.

4. Simple Green is not meant for glass. 

It leaves streaks. Crazy persistent streaks that take several rounds of actual glass cleaner to eliminate. I know, I probably never should have tried this. Blame it on lack-of-sleep brain (which is a convenient excuse for most things these days), but I had just wiped down the bathroom counters and a certain antsy little girl was wanting some attention and the glass cleaner was all the way down the hall and, well, the rest is history.

5. When things aren’t how I think they should be, it’s better to recognize this fact and adjust than to pretend otherwise.

In my mind, we shouldn’t have to heat my home on days when the high is nearly 70, but reality says differently. Our house faces due east, which means we get very little sun exposure this time of year (and far too much in the summer!) It also isn’t as weather-tight as it could be, and so it loses heat rapidly at night. Our home has been so much more pleasant since I finally gave in and began building fires in the wood stove on cool mornings.

6. Good communication is everything. 

It’s crucial. So, so important. But it can be so hard. And in general, it seems like we humans are not very good at it.

7. Building structured times of reflection into my life is good for me. 

This one is huge, and I don’t know why I didn’t learn this earlier. I have recently added four different practices to my life that have me purposefully stopping to evaluate where I am and where I am going – two daily, one weekly, and one monthly. Monthly: the what I learned post (you’re reading it!) causes me to really think about the lessons I’ve learned in a month, and also helps me to be more cognizant of them as I experience them. Weekly: participating in {pretty, happy, funny, real} encourages me to identify such moments in my day-to-day as they happen instead of letting them pass by unnoticed. As an added bonus, they also have me pulling out my camera more often, which is a definite good thing.

The two daily practices deserve a little more detail, so I’ve given them each their own number.

8. Gratitude must be practiced.

At the end of last year, my BSF leader gave each of us a 2015 daily planner and encouraged us to jot down one or two things for which we were grateful each day. Jonathan and I do this together each night, and it has been such a valuable practice for me. Not only does it help me foster an attitude of thankfulness, but it also provides a record of the good things in our lives for the years to come. I’d like to expand on this as our family grows – perhaps buy a larger book with room for kids to draw pictures each day – to help us all recognize the blessings in our lives. It’s so easy to miss them if I am not intentional about seeing them and remembering them.

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9. “Quiet times” come in different forms. Finding one that fits who I am makes a huge difference.

I will be honest: I have always struggled to incorporate a regular “quiet time” into my day. Even in the seasons where I was consistent in the practice, I didn’t necessarily “feel” or notice a difference because of it. When people talked about how off their days seemed if they didn’t start with prayer or bible study, I always felt as though I was failing as a Christian because that just wasn’t the case for me. At the beginning of this month, however, I was introduced to the Prayer of Examen, and, for whatever reason, this one has stuck. Spending time each morning reminding myself of God’s presence, expressing my gratitude, reflecting on the past 24 hours, and praying about the next 24 hours have helped me to be more aware of my actions and of God’s presence throughout my day. I am still not a “feeler” – I rarely “feel” God’s presence – but I know He is there, He is God, and that my behavior and my attitude matter, and have been more cognizant of these things since I started using this prayer.

That’s it for me this month. How about you? What did you learn in February?

Loving God, Loving Others, This Thing Called Life

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10 Responses to What I Learned in February

  1. Emily says:

    I love your #9 and want to know more about the Examen prayer. I could have written that paragraph (guilt, nothing “sticking”, not being a feeler, etc) so maybe it would be helpful for me too. Right now I’m reading a tiny devotion and the daily gospel with the kids each morning (yay homeschool!) and trying to listen to a short daily scripture reading for my weekly “Life with God” group. Feels like not much BUT it is more than I typically do so I’m going to go with it. 🙂

    • Jenn says:

      I’m so glad I’m not the only one! I use the guided version of the Examen that I linked to in the post, but there are lots of different options out there. I like the flexibility of it – basically, it can take as much time as you want or are able to give it. It starts with presence – taking time to focus on the presence of God and remind yourself that He is there. (This one is the hardest part for me, actually, because of the whole “feeling” thing. I almost never feel His presence, but the reminder of the truth of it is good for me.) Next is a time of gratitude. Then reflection on your own actions/behaviors/emotions. Finally, a response – both to God working in your life and to the reflection part (ie areas you want to think about/focus on). What has been helpful to me is the fact that it focuses my attention on short time periods – gratitude and reflection are intended to be for the past 24 hours only, response is for the next day – which helps me to be specific. I’ve found that when I do the Examen in the morning, I tend to be more aware of God and also of my own actions throughout the day, and more focused on remembering His presence in my life.

  2. Emily says:

    Oh, and yoga pants: BEST. I don’t usually wear them out places because I like to feel a little more dressed up just to feel good about myself and my post-four-children body, but at home? All the time. All. The. Time.

  3. Chelsea says:

    Totally agree about those quiet times and I’m not sure about the flat white yet! I have to try it today! 🙂

  4. Susan Evans says:

    What I learned in February…Getting outside to see God’s beauty this year has been an uplifting blessing. February is a hard month as many memories are associated with the month but God has a way of lifting me up by his word, the beauty around me, and the love of family and friends. I am so thankful for knowing about my best Friend and able to communicate with Him on a daily basis at any time. Thank you Lord for being in my life.

    • Jenn says:

      Beautiful, Susan. I am glad that you are given the grace and the gifts to get through a hard month. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Stephanie says:

    Have you seen this one? It seemed pertinent and, even though I don’t have kids, was meaningful to me. http://www.christianitytoday.com/amyjuliabecker/2015/february/problem-with-quiet-times.html

  6. Stephanie says:

    …uhhh, not sure if my last comment posted or not? So sorry if this posts twice.

    Anyway, have you seen this article? http://www.christianitytoday.com/amyjuliabecker/2015/february/problem-with-quiet-times.html

    • Jenn says:

      Thanks for sharing that article. It definitely speaks to where I am right now. And I love the point about God meeting us in our lives, wherever we are and whatever we are doing.

      And yeah. Spam filter. Sorry about that. It won’t publish the first comment from a given email address until I approve it. And even then, it sometimes marks things as spam that it should not.