Normally at the end of each month I post what I learned that month, but since it’s the end of the year, let’s make it what I learned in 2014. Some things are lighthearted or silly, and others are more serious and reflective. Either way, I learned some important life lessons in 2015.
1. I like winter. I grew up hating winter, but now I think it’s because I was never properly dressed for it, which means I was always cold. It’s miserable to be cold all the time. In Fort Worth, there are just a few weeks where you actually need a winter coat, so naturally, I didn’t invest in a true coat until I had to walk around UNT in 20 degree weather. Then I moved to Arkansas where it’s colder for longer, and there’s actual snow! I bought boots, long underwear (do they even call it that anymore?), sweaters, scarves, gloves, hats, etc. I learned how to keep warm, and I grew to love cold weather and all that it represented. Then we moved to Austin. We need a winter coat here about 5 days out of the year. And it makes me very sad.
2. I am a loyal art lover. I find a writer or musician that I like, and then I read only their books or listen only to their albums for years. I become incredibly knowledgeable of their body of work and biography, and I treasure their work so much that I hesitate to share it with just anyone. And I’ve always been like this. As JD and I were talking about my obsession with Josh Garrels (I may or may not have suggested naming our first son after him), I realized that I had been a die-hard fan of just 2 or 3 musicians and just 2 or 3 writers as a teenager. Bethany Dillon, Jennifer Knapp, Elisabeth Elliot, Francine Rivers, Frank Peretti…those were my people. So if in the past few years I’ve suggested musicians Josh Garrels, Sara Groves, or Jill Phillips, or writers Marilynne Robinson, Khaled Hosseini, or Wendell Berry to you, consider yourself a trusted friend. Their work is sacred to me.
3. When I don’t make time for reading, my imagination and wonder for life plummets. I become stuck in one reality and often my perception is skewed by anxiety, exhaustion, and loud voices. This year has had spouts of reading marathons, but on the whole, the year was symbolized by bookless evenings replaced by mindless Netflixing. This leaves no time for thinking or pondering or trailing off in thoughts. So here’s my reading list for the next 6 months:
4. JD is very smart in ways that I am not. I knew this already from college, but I’m relearning it as he settles into his new job in finance. When he tries to explain things to me, I have to get him to explain it 3 or 4 times, or I just nod my head like I understand but really I don’t.
5. Waiting leaves me gutted. This year has been a year of waiting–figuratively and literally. Figuratively, in that we’ve been waiting for JD to find the right job. Literally, in that we shared a car for the better part of the year, and I waited in my classroom for hours and hours. During this period of waiting (for something to happen, for God to show up, for a beginning, anything), I’ve said things I wish I could take back and written things I’m afraid to read now that we’re moving out of the wilderness. However, I have learned a few things about myself and God in that dark fog. Those lessons are coming up.
6. Waiting Lesson #1: First, myself. My patience is directly affected by my restedness. If I feel rested physically, mentally, and emotionally, then I can look at life with clearer eyes and a quieter heart. But if I’m lacking rest in any of those areas, everything is doomed, we’re stuck forever, and life is over.
7. Waiting Lesson #2: We need others to speak hope into our lives. I am too quick to spiral down into despair by myself, so I need someone to say, “That’s crazy” to my crazy thoughts, and say, “Hey, you’re going to be okay.” Friends can see things about our lives that we can’t because we’re standing in the middle of it.
8. Waiting Lesson #3: I need to feel my frustration before I can experience peace. There is no shortcut to a peace that surpasses understanding. We have to have an understanding of life being murky and confusing before we can have a peace that surpasses said understanding. I don’t like feeling frustrated or confused or uncomfortable. I so often want to just skip ahead, but I have to feel those emotions first. I have to acknowledge that I’m bothered before I can be soothed.
9. Waiting Lesson #4: Next, God. After searching for clues and advice in other wanderers’ lives such as Abraham and Moses, I realized that God calls people out to the wilderness. They don’t just stumble into it or make a mistake and wind up lost. They are led out by a God they trust, by a God who has captured their imagination. This information was frustrating (“Why did you bring us out here, God?!”) and comforting (“Okay, so this has happened before.”).
10. Waiting Lesson #5: God makes promises in the desert. He promised so many offspring to Abraham that he would not be able to count them. And that came true in Egypt. Then God led those offspring out into the desert and promised them His love and faithfulness. Sometimes He needs to take us somewhere dry and nearly uninhabitable in order for us to hear His whispers of faithfulness.
11. Waiting Lesson #6: God’s promises outlast our lives. We are not the beginning or the end of our story. My life will affect the lives around me and the lives after me for generations to come. In Hebrews 11, the author makes it very clear that many of these faith heroes died without seeing those promises fulfilled. This can be frustrating when only thinking of my story–what if there isn’t resolution? what if that end is left loose? But if my view becomes panoramic, transcendent, and Kingdom-laced, then it’s okay if those loose ends flutter in the wind because I am not the end of my story. My story is part of the Greater Story, which has no end but does have resolution.
12. There are some things that just cannot be made healthy. I’m not talking about people or behaviors, I’m talking food. For example, cinnamon rolls. Even when vegan–they’re still mostly coconut sugar and vegan butter. But, oh, how they make my taste buds sing.
13. Egg nog in French toast is the key to amazing French toast. It makes sense, I suppose. But you should buy up the egg nog before they stop carrying it at the grocery store! Trader Joe’s has already stopped selling their beautifully magnificent Ginger Brew.
14. Not being understood is isolating. I felt this keenly in Hungary this summer–there’s only so much you can communicate with a handful of vocabulary and gestures. The week that JD and I spent with his brother’s family was beautiful and fun and heart-warming with our nephews and late-night conversations, but it was also really lonely for me. JD was literally the only person I could have a conversation with that entire week, and he was being pulled in 8 different directions . I’ve thought a lot about that week since then, and I’ve wondered how many times my family and friends have not felt understood by me and subsequently isolated.
15. My taste buds have overturned their verdicts on many foods, but not mint chocolate. I like green olives now (in foods, not by themselves…yet), lemon desserts are now acceptable options to me, coconut is my favorite food on everything, and I had to have a good apple to become an apple-lover, but mint chocolate? No way, Jose. Do not mix a rich, creamy decadence with a breath freshener. That’s just crazy.
As you wrap up 2014, take some time to reflect on what you learned. What did 2014 teach you?