From wearing hoop earrings to rude comments about singleness to discovering rolled ice cream, this winter season held several seemingly ordinary but important lessons.

My friend Emily is the mastermind behind the simple but meaningful practice she calls “What We Learned.” For years now, I’ve joined her by jotting down notes of the small, the sacred, the silly, and everything in between.

More than anything else, it helps me pay attention to what’s happening around me, what’s happening within me, and what surprises me along the way. This list holds a little bit of everything.

Bravery comes in one thousand different shades. Wear yours.

1. Bravery comes in one thousand different shades. Wear yours.

Sometimes bravery is as “simple” as wearing hoop earrings when, for at least a decade of your life, you’ve worn $5 pearl studs from Target every single day.

Or maybe that’s just me.

I challenged myself to practice bravery in a few different ways over the past few months. Some moments/decisions/conversations were bigger than others, at least from the outside looking in, but I’m not so sure bravery is actually about sizes as much as it’s about shades.

2. My book, Even If Not, is available on Barnes and Noble and Books-A-Million.

You guys. If I hadn’t been in a quiet coffee shop when I found out this crazy news, I would have screamed out loud. Instead, I texted my friends very chill, casual messages like WHAT IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?!

When you self-publish, you’re the author, publisher, designer, marketing director, etc etc all the things. And then your book hangs out on Amazon and spreads via word of mouth, which is wild and absolutely amazing… but you can’t take it further. On my own, I have no way of getting my book onto the B&N or BAM websites.

And yet there it is. God continues to surprise me, taking Even If Not places I can’t make happen myself. What in the world, guys. What in the world.

3. Rolled ice cream is a thing and it’s delicious.

4. There is nothing quite like a Winter Wonderland for a Florida girl.

I had never seen this much snow and honestly, I’m still not over it.

5. Everything about having your car totaled — dealing with a (horribly rude) insurance company, figuring out paperwork, researching and purchasing a new vehicle on your own — is very, very difficult.

But it’s possible. It can be done.

The end.

(Not really. There’s much more to the story, seven weeks worth of waiting and phone calls and demanding to be treated kindly and fairly. But I have no other semi-nice words about it, and so we shall call it a lesson learned and we shall move on. Glory hallelujah, Lord let it be over.)

6. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.

Closely tied to the car wreck and then not having a vehicle for seven weeks is this truth, this lesson learned all over again that it’s okay to ask for help.

If you didn’t have a car and you asked me for a ride to the grocery store, I’d never consider you to be an inconvenience or an annoyance.

I grew up learning and believing that there’s strength in being independent. And there is, certainly. But that doesn’t mean handling everything on your own, and I needed the reminder.

Asking for help has never come easily to me… I’d much rather be the helper (can you guess my Enneagram number?). But for nearly two months, while it was quiet and I spent the vast majority of my time at home, I found myself saying “Can you take me to the grocery store?” and “If you wouldn’t mind, I’d love a ride to church” and my community so kindly gave when I had little to give in return. I’m grateful for a safe place to fall and for friends who show up and carry grocery bags.

7. My Instagram friends have SOME THOUGHTS about rude comments regarding singleness and buying yourself flowers.

I went back and forth about sharing anything from my experience at the grocery story. But I’m so glad I did because y’all, the comments. I’ll paste the caption below, but you can click the image above to view the Instagram comments.

The gentleman ringing up my groceries poked fun at me for buying these flowers. Something rude that isn’t worth repeating, something about being single and having to buy my own Valentine’s Day bouquet.

I awkwardly laughed and said nothing at all, too shocked in the moment to say any of the unkind responses that came to mind as soon as I stepped outside. Things like “You don’t know me, my story, or who these flowers are for. You don’t even know if I’m single, and Valentine’s Day was four days ago.”

I truly don’t say this to shame a stranger, but to point out two things:

One: We don’t know all the nitty gritty aspects of someone else’s story, and if we’re going to assume anything it might as well be that they could use encouragement.

Two: You don’t need permission to buy yourself flowers, to fill your life with the simple beauty of nature that God created to be enjoyed. And it’s not a prerequisite that you first be dating, engaged, or married. Buy bouquets for yourself, for your friends — just because. Will you receive strange looks or stinging barbs in the checkout line? I truly hope not, but I have, and so I can’t promise anything. But do it anyway and hold your head high because you are loved and cherished and seen and valued right there, right then.

Don’t pause your life. Buy the flowers.

(For over two years now, I’ve joined Emily Freeman as we’ve written and shared our “What I Learned” lists. For more fun facts + inspiration, visit Emily’s corner of the Internet or click here to look through any of my previous “What I Learned” posts. This link will take you to the list of what I learned last winter.)