What I Learned in June (Part 2)

June CollageAnd just like that, it’s a week into July. By now, you know I’m shocked every time a new month rolls around. Seriously, I don’t know why I’m constantly stunned by time passing, but I am. I’ll try to spare the exclamations, though, and move right into recapping what I learned in June. Or at least, what I learned in the second part of June. (I discussed the first half in this post from a couple of weeks ago ūüôā )

  1. Instagram accounts featuring books are the best. Most of my feed these days is filled with books, so every time I scroll through it makes me happy. It also makes me want to buy books, which I never need more encouragement to do.
  2. Speaking of, book thrifting is a new extension of my addiction. I’ve always ordered used books from Amazon, but lately, I’ve been foraging through secondhand shops and used bookstores. It’s time consuming, but it’s also relaxing and rewarding. Nothing is more exciting than finding the exact copy I was looking for. True, I could order the book online, but discovering it beneath a stack of others is like unearthing a treasure.
  3. There are A LOT of options when laptop shopping. Most of which I don’t understand. I’ve already forgotten the¬†specs of the one I ordered. But it’s lovely, and this is the first post I’m typing on it… I should probably go read the manual now.
  4. Chick flicks + popcorn + best friends = insanely late, memorable¬†nights, filled with laughter and jokes that don’t make sense the next morning. I don’t realize how much I need moments like this until I’ve gone too long without them. When I do finally experience these times all over, I’m reminded how much better life is with friends.
  5. Starbucks Shaken Iced Tea Lemonade is my new favorite summer drink. I don’t know what made me choose it over a frappe one day, but it’s fantastic. I’m craving another.
  6. No matter how prepared¬†you are to say goodbye, it’s impossible to be completely ready.
  7. I physically require¬†time to be an introvert. Especially when I’m stressed, I need to recharge alone. Funnily enough, I make the least time for this when I’m stressed. It’s something I’m trying to be more conscious of this month.
  8. Writing muscles require exercise. In the last few months, I haven’t devoted nearly enough time to writing¬†and¬†I can feel atrophy setting into my ability. My goal for July¬†is to get back into a writing workout routine.
  9. Sometimes the most spiritual thing is to sleep. There are too many nights I stay awake being anxious. In those times, I have to remind myself that I can “Go to sleep in peace; God is awake.” (quote, Victor Hugo)
  10. Keep not settling. I came across this quote on Pinterest, and it’s become my mantra. Life is too short to stay stuck. Even when it’s scary to step out, refuse to settle.

That’s all for Part 2 of June! What have you learned in the past few weeks? Have you set any goals for July? How is your summer going thus far?

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What I Learned in May & So Far in June

May-June Collage flipped

I should really¬†stop waiting until the month is over to write these posts… Because every time I do,¬†I inevitably put off the task until we’re halfway¬†into the new month. Better late than never, though, right? (I can hear you saying¬†But never late is better.¬†And although it’s true, I frown upon that reply.)

Aside from learning (or relearning!) that these recaps shouldn’t¬†be neglected until the last minute and beyond, here are a few other tidbits¬†I picked up¬†in May and the start of June.

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird¬†really does deserve all its acclaim. I’m only a few chapters in, but already I love it. The characters, dialogue, setting… All are so rich and absorbing. I’m hoping for some time this weekend to finish ¬†it. My only complaint is that I didn’t read Mockingbird¬†sooner.
  2. The Loch Ness monster is an excellent writing prompt.
    No, really. I’ve had severe writer’s block for the past several months. Even simple assignments seem to take me forever. But a few¬†nights ago, I got an email from the team at the Fangirl Initiative saying contributions for a group post were due that evening at 9 PM. (By the way, here’s the completed post.)
    nessieOriginally, I wasn’t a part of it, but since I had the night off and I was cleared to write about the Loch Ness monster, I decided to jump in. I can’t remember the last time I finished anything in under an hour, but once I started¬†writing about Nessie, I¬†finished in a flash. After that, I felt a chunk of my writer’s block crumble. I guess the way to get¬†out of a writing rut is to simply write… Even if it’s about something random, and done in a rush.
  3. What I don’t write, I can’t¬†process.¬†When I get busy, I don’t pause to write; yet it’s precisely in the midst of the¬†rush that I need to. Writing, especially journaling, clears my head and helps me understand my story. It gives me some perspective so I can notice God’s script unfolding. For the remainder of this month, I’m going to work towards¬†more consistency in my journal entries, as well as my blog posts.
  4. It’s better to¬†step out¬†and make mistakes, than to hold back and¬†accomplish nothing at all.¬†Bravery begets bravery.
  5. A difference can be made, even in a mess.¬†My last post was messy; I’m the first to admit it. Yet¬†in that jumble,¬†real people came alongside me. The comment section filled up with the kind words of reader and writer friends. Those comments had a theme to me: I’ve been there, too… you’re not alone,¬†and it’s okay.¬†What I shared wasn’t profound or even polished. The response made a difference¬†for me, though, because it was humbling and encouraging all at once. To each of you who read that mess, and especially to those who left encouragement… Thank you. You’re a blessing, and you make a difference.
  6. Joy is a journey.¬†It’s so much deeper than the bubbly emotion of happiness. Joy is clinging to Jesus, even when the world is crumbling; it’s having hope in the light, even when we’re plunged into darkness. Joy doesn’t mean living on a mountain; it means trusting God to sustain us and carry us from the valley. Most of all, joy is our strength.
    joy
  7. It’s the small things that matter most.¬†Sharing pizza with a friend; revisiting my favorite childhood playground; ice cream with a brownie; tickets for a long-anticipated movie; trips to the library.¬†Life¬†isn’t always about the big events. We do just as much living and memory-making in the little ones.
  8. Speaking of small things, it is impossible to cram more than three people into one photo booth. But it is kind of fun trying to prove otherwise.
  9. “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” -e.e.cummings.¬†As I mentioned at #4, though, courage only comes with action. Accepting God’s plan for my life and future is scary at times, especially since there’s a lot I don’t understand. Which leads me to my final point…
  10. God is doing a new thing.¬†New things are scary and exhilarating all at once. I usually run from change, as if I can stumble back into the past or race through the discomfort of the present. In this season, though, when my nature wants to dig in my heels, question and/or cry, I’m choosing something different. I’m choosing to be excited. God gave me a promise, and confirmed those words to me: He is doing something new in my life. And I can’t wait to see what it is.
    new verse

What have you learned in these past weeks? What new things are taking place in your life? Should all go according to plan, there will be more new content here on the blog shortly… If you¬†have a¬†blog, drop me a link with your newest post, too! ūüôā

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What I Learned in April

April

I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever feel ready to write one of these posts. Each one proves¬†that another month has come to an end. Each time I sit down to type one, I feel like the calendar has played a trick on me. Because how in the world are we more than a third of the way through this year?! It’s really not possible, but here I am staring at the month of May. And here I am, wondering what I did with April… What did I learn?

Writing these monthly reflection posts helps me to pause and figure that out. I already covered the first portion of April, in a post earlier this month.

So here’s what I learned in the rest of April.

  • Independence isn’t everything.¬†I think a lot of us take pride in being self-sufficient;¬†that drive for independence even shaped an entire nation.¬†For my own part, I can take this a little too far. While I’m good at working with a team to get a job done, I try to shoulder the entire burden¬†when it comes to my own life. Shamefully, I haven’t even allowed myself to lean on God. I’ve clung instead to my independence; my stubborn, desperate need to be in control. Needing anyone has felt like a liability. It’s caused me to shy away from relationships; to keep a safe distance from being, heaven forbid, dependent. But you know something? Independence has a downside. Sometimes I can barely stand, let alone on my own. When God formed the first human life, He didn’t stop there. He made more¬†life, and connected those lives to each other and to Him.¬†We were never meant to exist in isolation… Not from each other, and surely not from Him.
  • Memories are complicated.¬†The mind¬†is amazing, and how our past is tucked away there fascinates me. It’s incredible how the slightest thing, be it a scent or a sound, can yank one of those memories from storage.
  • Emotions take a long time to heal.¬†Even when they do,¬†I don’t think they’re ever the same as before they were broken. I also think that’s okay. Life¬†won’t ever be the same as before; it seems natural that I won’t be exactly as I was, either.
  • Everything cycles through seasons.¬†Some seasons seem to stretch on and on;¬†others speed by. Every season has a downside. Winter is too dark and cold; I’m allergic to spring; summer can be oppressively hot at times, and fall is¬†another round of allergies. Yet they all have upsides, too. It depends where we look. Such are the seasons of life. No matter how long they last, they do eventually change, leaving us to face another new season, mixed with ups and downs. The trick is not to wish for what’s behind us, because eventually this will be behind us, too. (Most of this post is a list of reminders for me!)
  • I like metaphors a little too much at times. See above section about the seasons.
  • In the midst of my life changing, my writing life has changed too.¬†I’ve developed different habits, some of which I’m going to need to reshape. As I shared in another post, I haven’t felt truly ready to write, because I haven’t had the energy for my story. Now I realize it’s not just about energy. Stories preserve pieces of us, especially when we are the ones telling those stories. Every time I open my document, I’m transported back several months. I see a different person in those pages, and I’m having trouble reconciling her with the girl I feel like now. It’s almost like trying to be a co-author, except I’m attempting to team up with my past self. I have a few solutions to try my hand at, even if they may seem like¬†temporary setbacks.
  • Don’t despise small beginnings.¬†Even¬†mighty redwood trees sprout from tiny seeds, buried in dirt. My dreams, towering as I imagine them to be, are little more than sprouts right now. They’re still closer to the humble earth than the vast heavens. But they are growing. And so am I, even when it’s just a meager start.

Small Beginnings

And because I’ve been almost mainly¬†serious on the blog¬†for a while, here are a couple of random, fun things I also learned in April. ūüôā

  • Loki and I could take over the world together. I know, we just talked about small beginnings. World domination doesn’t fit that description. But I found a¬†random quiz, and apparently Loki is the villain I would work best with. I didn’t need¬†a test to tell me that… Now I just need to figure out if I should be worried what this says about me.
  • Speaking of quizzes, I put one together for the Fangirl Initiative last week. It was to see “Which Avengers Man is Your True Love?” I didn’t expect such a response, but it became¬†extremely popular! That was a pretty fantastic¬†feeling, and I learned that I’m not the only one who likes quirky little quizzes! Though it’s possibly cheating to take my own quiz, I did and¬†confirmed something. Captain America would be my match! It makes sense, given my love for vintage things… ūüėČAvengers Quiz
  • Wishes do come true! Ever since I first experienced the music of the Phantom of the Opera, I’ve wanted Josh Groban to sing it. Particularly the song,¬†All I Ask of You.¬†And this week it happened. Since his new album released, I’ve had¬†that one track on loop. I make no apologies. If you haven’t heard it yet, listen to it and enjoy four angelic minutes. You’re welcome.

What¬†did you take away from last month? If you write reflection posts like this, drop a link in the comments! Much as I enjoy sharing my learning, I like reading about yours even more. If you want to read some other Learning posts from April, take a look at the link-up on¬†Chatting at the Sky.¬†And be sure to check out the rest of that inspiring blog- it’s one of my favorites.

May your May be marvelous!

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What I Learned in February and the Beginning of March

February

I sat down to write this post on the final day of February, in a few snatches of time here and there. I barely had an opening before I was pulled away, so I left my laptop in hibernation and intended to come back later that night.

It’s the early hours of March 3rd¬†now, and it’s the first time I’ve touched my keyboard since. In a way, I can barely believe I’m even typing these words now. I’m not quite sure why I’m doing it. This time, it isn’t because I have a particular point to make, or I feel witty, or even that the blog stats are down. I think maybe it’s because I need to empty my heart, but my journal pages are already tear-soaked and inky. Maybe it’s because even though my heart feels like it’s shattering, I believe¬†someone will understand¬†what little bits of it I scatter here. For once, I don’t know why I’m writing a post, and I don’t have the energy to figure it out.

February 28th and then March 1st were the hardest days of my life. I can’t remember what I learned in the other 27 days of February, because they seem so distant and blurred now. Anything I do vaguely recall doesn’t feel¬†important¬†anymore. On February 28th, I realized¬†my dear grandmother wasn’t going to make it through the night. And then within the first hour of March’s first day, she was gone. After fighting a terminal illness for ten years, she was called¬†home to Heaven. I know she’s overjoyed right now; I can imagine her running down gold-paved streets, smelling the most fragrant roses and breathing deeply¬†at last. I can hear her telling me to be happy for her, and I am relieved to know she isn’t suffering anymore. But it still hurts. It’s supposed to hurt, because I loved her so much. That’s one of the things I’ve learned, I guess.

Usually, I make a list for this type of post, but there’s another lesson: Life doesn’t fit in lists. Sometimes, the smaller things do, but the desperate, gritty moments are¬†impossible to pin down, or even fully understand.

In the last few days, I learned that words don’t always matter. The writer in me always wants to find the perfect ones, but they don’t always exist. The night Mom-mom passed away, I don’t remember much of what was said. I just remember the family gathering around; the way we blended sorrow and hope; and the moments when someone would hold me tight¬†when I couldn’t hold myself together. The things I really remember, the things that truly mattered, I can’t put in words. They’re too sacred and raw to be contained in a few sentences.

Until this point, I had only watched true grief from the fringes. I had been the one trying to offer comfort for others’ losses; the one unsure what to say, if anything. Now the tables have turned, and I’ve learned what it means to grieve. I have learned we all process sorrow differently. I think it’s because we all love differently; we’re all created differently, and that spills into mourning and coping and going on. Yet despite doing it uniquely, we can’t do it alone. I’ve felt like being alone too much in the last few days, and so I’ve learned not to trust my feelings in this valley. Because isolation won’t help me heal. Yes, I need solitude but I also need the circle of people I can hold onto. Grief is dark and lonely enough as it is, and being constantly alone doesn’t make it any lighter.

I’ve learned that a little gesture can go a long way. Although words¬†aren’t everything, the right ones can help. I shared the news of my grandmother’s passing on my social media first, and the comments and messages I received helped¬†me feel a little less alone. It’s not always a big thing; sometimes the smallest things convey the greatest love. Like a friend sending me a text to make sure I’m okay, or getting me out of the house so I can get away from everything for a while; those things have been lifelines to me.

Something else I learned is that laughter is truly medicine. I’d always liked that Proverb, because I love to laugh, but it wasn’t until this week that I considered laughter medicine. I wondered if I would ever laugh again when Mom-mom passed away, but I have. Even until my sides ached. I felt guilty the first time, but she was a lady¬†who laughed easily and often, so the sound of laughter makes me feel close to her again. And laughing seems to heal a little bit of the fracture in my heart. I think there’s a reason the Proverb compares laughter to medicine. Medicine isn’t taken unless you’re sick; laughter is needed most when you’re hurting.

The last lesson I learned was really more of a reminder: God keeps His promises. His Word promises healing, and my mom-mom has hers at last, in a place far better than this earth. She’s living the promise of Revelation 21:4-5 now:

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. (Rev. 21:4-5, KJV)

And even in my sadness, I take comfort in knowing I will see her again.

One day, when all things are new.

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P.S. One last thing: It probably goes without saying, but I don’t know how soon I’ll be back to posting regularly. February was an unsteady month as Mom-mom’s health declined, and I know March will be difficult for me as well. I didn’t take a formal “leave” from the blog last month, but I am for some time this¬†month. Writing is therapeutic for me, and I do truly enjoy sharing with you here, so it may not be overly long. But I don’t have the emotional capacity to pressure myself, so I’m not setting an official timeline. I’ll look forward to sharing life again with you when I return! Thank you for being here, and reading this far. It truly means a great deal to me. ‚̧ — Sarah