What I Learned, Spring 2019

The practice of reflection is not one to keep us living in the past or wallowing in mistakes. Instead, it’s a way to pause on purpose and listen to our life so that we can move forward with a little more confidence, a little more clarity, and a lot more intention.” — Emily P. Freeman, Episode 84: A Beginner’s Guide to Self-Reflection, The Next Right Thing Podcast

1. Undeserved gifts are not easily forgotten.

We had the privilege of attending an all expenses paid work retreat at one of the finest hotels in our city.  Not only did I feel undeserving and completely spoiled, but I realized how much I enjoy plush and fancy surroundings.  And I like eating food that I don’t have to prepare. Our family of eight brought a lot of attention from hotel employees when we arrived for breakfast each morning, and they wisely tucked us into the back corner of the restaurant.  We used cloth napkins for every meal, drank juice from goblets, and the kids devoured every fancy dessert in sight.

Showing up to an event empty-handed, and being treated like royalty are gits not easily forgotten.  

2. Emotional reactions to a movie might reveal an unnamed grief.

Friday night is pizza and movie night in our home.  Two of our Friday pizza and a movie nights included watching both “Cheaper by the Dozen” movies, starring Steve Martin.  Of course, he makes being the father of twelve children seem hilarious, but I found myself wiping tears from my face throughout both movies, and holding back gut-wrenching sobs..

As tired and busy as I feel raising six children, I’m grieving the fact that we’re done having babies.  It feels ridiculous to say it — don’t you think six is enough, Lauren?

But we do well to recognize the emotion accompanying transitions, change, and the end of things.

3. Baking sourdough bread, from start to finish, isn’t as easy as it appears.

After one month of attempting to create my own sourdough starter, it became apparent that help was needed.  My friend Katherine shared some of her starter, and I finally made my first successful loaf. I forgot how much I loved baking something other than our weekly meals, and I can’t wait to bake through my sourdough cookbook.

My failure in the kitchen was a good reminder of how life is not meant to be lived alone.  We need community.

4. Writing brings me great joy.

Over the past year, I had to set writing aside, more times than I wanted.   In some ways, it was a necessity; there just wasn’t enough time. But in other ways, I was spending a lot of time looking around at other writers, trying to figure out why their writing was well received, and wasted time writing down my own thoughts.  I still haven’t found the exact words to describe what happened, and the inner struggle in this regard continues, but I’m paying better attention.

In the meantime, I participated in a writing prompt challenge on Instagram, in celebration of Emily P. Freeman’s book, The Next Right Thing. Through it I rediscovered how much I enjoy writing.  Not just the likes on posts, comments and shares or the way it encourages me when someone says my words are helpful. Feedback is valuable, but what I discovered through writing for twenty four days straight is that I love it.  Most of the words I write lately are tucked away in my computer files, but I’ve had the best time processing life in secret with the Lord.

5. Receiving an invitation to someone’s home is delightful.

We were invited to two homes last weekend — one was a crab boil in our neighborhood, and one was a friend’s home from church.  As I watched our hosts moving back and forth from the kitchen to the front yard placing food, greeting guests, and making sure everyone was having a good time, it dawned on me:  I love hosting, but I equally love not hosting. It was fun to talk with neighbors and friends without the pressure of being in charge.

6. My children want a pet cat.

When I climbed into bed one night, I heard meowing at my second-story window.  I pulled back the curtain to discover a stray cat, clawing on the window screens, begging to come in.  Bradley was at work and I wasn’t about to climb up onto the roof in the dark, so I shut all the windows and went to sleep.  The next morning, there he was, sleeping under the girls’ bedroom window. We helped him down, and for the next hour, I watched the kids love on this ridiculous animal.  As much as I don’t want a pet, I found myself considering it when I saw how much they enjoyed him. Cooper cried when the owner found him, and even prayed for a cat for Christmas.

I’m so thankful Bradley is allergic to cats.  (My apologies, cat lovers).

7. Sitting on the front porch quiets my soul.

Every afternoon, I grab my computer, a book, and a cup of coffee and sit in my favorite spot: the front porch.  Spring this year has been delightful, and I love hearing the birds, watching people from our busy corner, and smelling the gardenias from the side of the house.  

My soul is refreshed during those minutes, and I’m able to process what the Lord is doing in my life, what he’s teaching me, and the ways he wants me to move forward.

8. Small scented trash bags make me happy.

For some reason I find purchasing items like ziploc bags, paper plates, and trash bags unnecessary.  So I’ve always used plastic grocery bags as liners in the bathroom trash cans. I hated them. It bothered me so much to see Food Lion or the red bull’s eye from Target every day.  I finally bought a big pack of white liners from BJ’s, and for $13, I have enough little bags to make me smile for a very long time.

It’s the little things, y’all.

9. Family and friends who celebrate the end of hard seasons are a precious gift.

The day after Bradley returned from a three-month stint away, a package arrived on our doorstep.  Inside, we found several cartons of Jeni’s ice cream carefully packaged, and surrounded by dry ice. My sister and brother-in-law are some of the most generous and thoughtful people I know.  They had prayed us through those months, and when it was over, they wanted to party with us. It meant so much to me.

10. Church matters.

Tomorrow our church is celebrating its 20 year anniversary with one big service, instead of two, a choir, special memories, and a picnic afterward.  Gearing up to this day, our Pastors have been walking us through the mission and vision of our church and each week, I’ve walked away from church with a renewed love for the Church, both locally and globally.  It’s changing my perspective about my everyday life, the ministries I’m involved with, and the way I parent my children. I’m growing to love people more, even the ones I disagree with, don’t understand, or want to avoid.  

I have opinions about some of the discussions happening right now within the evangelical church, strong ones and some that are still forming. I like to discuss them, learn from others, and ask questions. I’m enjoying studying specific passages more diligently, and trying to see what God’s Word actually says, not what I want it to, or what my culture thinks.

God is fiercely committed to his Church.  He will grow her, he will sustain her, he will return for her.  I’m so grateful I get to join him in his work.

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