One of the ways I intentionally practice appreciating the beautiful but so-very-ordinary stuff of real life and regular days is by keeping track of what I’m learning.
My friend Emily is the mastermind behind this simple but meaningful practice. For several 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, this helps me pay attention to what’s happening around me, what’s happening within me, and what surprises me along the way.
Eleven Things I Learned This Winter:
1. I was long overdo for an unsubscribing party.
Tell me in the comments: What is one thing you’ll unsubscribe from today?
2. On the Downton Abbey set, there was a fish hanging on the wall in Carson’s Pantry. Although it was never once moved to another place on set and was therefore present in every episode with a scene inside the Pantry, it was never caught on film.
I wish I had a picture of the fish, but I only caught it for a brief moment when taking a video of the Pantry. If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen it (in my Instagram Stories) when I shared pictures and videos from the set tour I went on in December. I’m a big fan of Downton Abbey, and my roommate never watched the entire series, so after touring the set we started from the beginning and will wrap up the final season this week. It’s just as good the second time around.
3. When my artwork is stolen, the best way I know to fight back is to continue making art.
This was a nightmare to say the least, and 3.5 on this list could be all sorts of “fun facts” about copyright law, but at the end of the day the biggest lesson learned was to keep on creating and making and writing.
4. Hiring movers is worth the cost.
Hello, lesson learned the hard way.
After nearly three years in my apartment, I packed and organized and did all the moving-related things this January… and then moved it all myself. Clothes, boxes, furniture, dishes, etc. Never again, friends… never again.
5. I could talk about the power of social media, why every story matters, and how to view social media as ministry for hours.
FlourishWriters hosts a (free) conference and they asked me to speak on these topics. We barely scratched the surface within the half hour time constraint, but it was such a great conversation and fun interview. If you want to watch my interview or any of the others from marketing experts, editors, authors, and literary agents, click here for all the details or to sign up. The online conference is free, but only for the next week.
6. An empty hallway and a smudged book cover have the power to immediately bring me to tears.
Right after Christmas, I flew up to my grandparent’s house to help clean and pack boxes before the house went on the market. Since moving in many years ago, the hallway walls have been completely covered with photographs. When I turned the corner to bare walls, my eyes immediately filled with tears.
Later that night, I spent a few hours consolidating, organizing, and boxing hundreds of books to be donated (I come by my love of books honestly). And then, in the very last pile pulled from the bookshelves, I found my own words with bent pages and a well-loved cover. I haven’t edited this picture, and the lighting is awful, but you should know that I took that copy home with me. I donated a brand new copy in its place, and this one is staying with me. It means more to me than any clean, untouched copy ever could.
7. “Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”
(This quote is from James Baldwin, heard on the On Being podcast – air date: January 10, 2019.)
8. There are only three men in Scripture who were under a Nazarite vow from birth: Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist.
Speaking of podcasts, I learned this fun fact thanks to The Bible Binge (they only mentioned Samson and John, but I did a little research on my own). A few other commonalities: all three were born to childless couples, all three prepared the way, and all three died in seeming defeat.
9. Jamie Golden knows what she’s talking about when it comes to all-things-beauty.
First, go follow Jamie and be sure to watch her Instagram Stories because they are a delight. Second, this is likely the only beauty-related thing you’ll ever hear from me because, well, I have nothing else to offer in this department. But Jamie raved about this one-step hair dryer and volumizer and although I’m usually really skeptical about a too-good-to-be-true product, let me just tell you that lo and behold it actually does everything it claims to do. I have very thick hair, and the time it takes to dry my hair has now been cut in half and so I offer my sincere thanks to both Jamie and Revlon. (This styling option is a lower cost and seems very similar, but I haven’t tried it.)
10. The bathtub in Mary Poppins Returns is actually a slide — they really did go “down the drain.”
11. Instead of filling in the blank after “I am ____” we can simply write in a period and leave it at that.
Here’s what I mean: in the midst of moving and packing and unpacking and working and all the other life-things, a friend asked how I was doing. You can see my response here, but suffice it to say I was exhausted, sick, overwhelmed, and worn out.
A few hours after replying to her message, I left the coffee shop parking lot, pressing pause on work and heading home to pack a few more boxes before tackling another work project, and saw majesty on display.
While I was working away, God was painting the sky.
I shared this image and the following words on Instagram, but this is one thing I learned in this Winter that I’ll refer to often… I can fill in the “I am _____” blank with “exhausted” or “overwhelmed” or any number of words, or I can simply remember how the sky looked on January 21st, 2019.
“When I stood there watching the sun go down, it was as if He wrote it right there in the clouds: “I am enough. I am here and I won’t disappear. I am good. I am kind. I am the light always shining in the darkness. Don’t forget to look. It’s more than okay to be all those things, but remember I Am.”
I don’t know what your Monday looked like. I don’t know exactly how you’d answer “I am _____.” But if you needed these words today too, you can take them as your own. He is enough. I will remember.”