From how I should be studying the Bible, to food tips, to God’s timing and more… here’s what I learned this winter!
Winter is not my favorite. I grew up in Arizona, so the whole cold thing is not my comfort zone, and even after more than a decade here, I’m not used to HOW COLD it really gets. Especially this week with this whole polar vortex situation… yeah, not a fan.
Thankfully, there are good things helping make these brutal months a little better, and thanks to Anne Bogel’s prompting, I’m sharing them all with you today! (Be sure to check out her post and all the posts from friends sharing in her comments!)
1. A solid bedtime routine
This has seriously made a big difference in my sleep. I’m COMMITTED to it.
I diffuse oils in my room starting about 30 minutes before I want to be asleep, having it shut off after 2 hours total (using this timed diffuser). I mix up my sleep blends just for fun, but it’s usually some combo of these: lavender, frankincense, cedarwood, orange, white angelica, sacred mountain, vetiver, NLBS, or sleepyize.
I have a salt lamp on for a warm glow as I’m reading before bed. (I turn it off before I fall asleep!)
I spray a DIY sleep spray (recipe here) all over my blankets and pillows before getting into bed.
I looooove using this weighted blanket every night — so calming and helps me fall asleep super fast! If nothing else, this thing alone has helped me sleep like a CHAMP with the added bonus of helping calm me down when anxiety flares up… it’s my favorite investment ever.
2. A SAD lamp
I have this one and I sit by it while I’m doing my quiet time at the kitchen table in the mornings. It helps wake me up and is a really great boost as I start my day.
3. A solid morning routine
So, it turns out if you have a solid bedtime routine, you can more easily have a solid morning routine… nobody is surprised, I know, but here we are. A few simple tweaks have made a big difference for my mornings:
I keep all of my quiet time things in a basket so it’s easy to move it all out to the kitchen table where I do my Bible study in the mornings.
I use that SAD lamp.
I light a candle and bring a blanket with me to keep me snuggled up and warm in our chilly kitchen.
4. Schitt’s Creek
Thanks to Hannah and Lauren, I am now HOOKED on Schitt’s Creek and also VERY sad I’m all caught up on Netflix and now have to wait for season 5 to come to the states (it’s a Canadian show!) — it’s hilarious and such a mood booster.
5. The Great British Baking Show
I am years behind the curve on this one, but it’s been such a lovely addition to my life lately. It’s all the things people said it was — gentle and fun and endearing and delicious looking… it’s been great to watch when I just need to unwind and let my brain calm down.
6. A new project
I’m an enneagram 1 who STRUGGLES to let go and just play and have fun (I move toward 7 when I’m healthy, but yikes, it’s hard) so I’ve made it a goal to try new things JUST FOR FUN without trying to be perfect. It’s a work in progress. My latest endeavor is making my own kombucha! I’m currently on the second fermentation process (the part where you flavor it and bottle it up to get carbonated) and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.
7. Setting goals (and letting goals go)
It would be very tempting to wrap up in a blanket burrito all winter long and do nothing… but having goals written out in my PowerSheets each month and in my 31 things list helps me stay much more motivated to have fun (sensing a theme here?) and get ish done. Also? I set some goals lately that I quickly found didn’t work for me. Instead of spiraling into shame and criticism of myself, I just made adjustments to the goals. LOOK AT ME BEING HEALTHY.
8. Essential oils
Having oils diffusing in the evenings (especially uplifting and cheery blends) has helped my moods immensely. Diffusing as I fall asleep has always been my favorite, and still is. I’ve discovered some new blends lately that I LOVE (currently obsessed with wintergreen + tangerine for a candy hearts scent!) and it just adds great vibes to my life.
9. Ningxia + fizz sticks
For the afternoon slumps, I’m staying away from coffee (and the coffee jitters) by either drinking a YL Ningxia Red packet mixed in a La Croix, or an Arbonne fizz stick mixed with water (loving the green apple flavor!). Both give me a boost I need to make it through the rest of the day without a huge caffeine crash, which is great.
I’m still not great at getting to the studio consistently, but every time I do, it’s both restorative and energizing for my soul and my body. I miss my long walks around the neighborhood, but I’m grateful for a place to go move my body when the weather is frigid and I can’t get outdoors.
What’s saving your life this winter?
As life rushes on, I never want to forget...
...The first night that finally felt like winter, and sliding the wide window above my bed open to let the chill fall over me as I slept. Bundled up in a tangled mess of blankets, I slept better that night than I had in weeks. I can count on one hand the number of times I turned the heat on in that apartment of mine...being cold at night has always been my preference.
...The night that rain came crashing down with an anger that whipped branches from the trees, and standing on my balcony to watch it all. Just barely covered by the roof above me, rain still reached my feet and misted my face. I didn't want to stay inside, barricaded away from it all. I wanted to encounter the storm and see it all for myself, watching the rain's wild dance in the light of the lampposts in front of me.
...The night I collapsed on the couch, crying until my stomach hurt and my head throbbed and the box of tissues was empty. The emptiness felt so real that night. I didn't know I could miss someone so much.
...Cooking the same batch of triple ginger cookies three times in my temperamental oven, failing at first and eventually perfecting them (meaning my friends were surprised to find they were totally gluten-free and vegan-- SUCCESS.)
...Coming to the realization that I'm happy on my own without a relationship to rest on. Looking back at my life and realizing how much time I spent on relationships spurred me to into a season of fully embracing and enjoying being single. I now know I don't need a someone just for the sake of not being alone. I'm a someone too, and I've realized I'm the someone I want to spend my time focusing on right now.
...The swelling feeling in my heart when I get to experience someone pouring their heart out into their passions. A band before me on a foggy stage, giving everything they have to the music they play in perfect harmony together. A team before me on a bright green turf field, bodies acting and reacting quicker than I can take in, every fiber on fire as they chase the win. A writer spilling honest words from the depths of their soul onto a page I get to have and hold and soak up.
...We are all on journeys. Sitting around a table with women seeking Jesus for the first time for real...sitting around a living room with friends all laughing at unruly board games...sitting across the table from two new friends...sitting on the floor surrounded by a million Lego pieces...we are all on journeys. I want to always be full of enough grace to cover that fact. We will never all be at the same place. We will never all see eye to eye. We will never always agree or get along or like each other. I want to give grace big and sweet and amazing enough to cover that in every way.
...This life is so good. Even on the twelfth snow day, even in the bitter cold, even on the fifth day of a migraine, even when I can't sleep, even when friends let me down, even when things fall apart...this life is so good. I want to always be abundantly grateful for the gift of this life.
Read more Friday freewrite posts here!
The rain is pouring down, the kind of cold, misty, constant rain that reminds me so much of my England days. I've always liked this kind of weather, always adamantly defended cities like London and Seattle with all their gray and rainy days. They're peaceful, cozy, relaxing, I argue. They aren't depressing. They aren't annoying. These days are the best days.
These are the days where it just makes sense to put on your brother's big old flannel and chunky socks under your worn-in, favorite boots. It makes sense to drive in the wild rain to the best corner cafe in Shockoe Bottom, the one with the massive windows more than twice as tall as you are. It makes sense to order the large soy chai latte instead of your usual small...it's just that kind of day. The best kind of day.
The rain won't let you forget it today. It eases up at times and passersby tuck their collapsed umbrellas under their arms and peel the hoods of their rain jackets back. But then it dumps down again with vengeance, slowing every car to a painfully slow crawl and forcing everyone under the cover of awnings and umbrellas again.
This rain will bring winter here to stay. The last leaves are slipping off the trees, having given up hope of holding on much longer. With the Christmas music already taking over the radio and every store's sound system, the holidays seem unavoidable. This rain would be snow if we were just a few states away, and I'm not quite sure how to feel about that.
I have long held onto the belief that all things Christmas should be contained in the month of December. It shouldn't spill over into November, that's Thanksgiving's month to shine.
This year, though, I've surprised myself. I found myself cooking dinner with Frank Sinatra crooning his Christmas classics in the background. I couldn't help but listen to JOHNNYSWIM's new Christmas album when it came out, and Pentatonix's new version of Mary, Did You Know played through my computer more times than I would like to admit. Even now, as I sit here under the warm glow of lights hanging from exposed wooden beams, Michael Buble is singing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas in my ears.
This rainy day makes it all make sense. This weather is the kind that seems to fit so well with the songs of the holidays. While the scene outside of these windows is still one of falling leaves instead of snow, it seems to be welcoming me to winter. It seems to make sense that I've made an exception to my usually strict rule this year and let Christmas creep in early.
This is the best kind of day. The kind where the words are plenty and the ideas are endless. The kind where every conversation around me is hushed and gentle, like none of us want to spoil the magic of these moments. The kind where big bowls of soup are on every table next to our foam-filled mugs. The kind of day where only couches or coffeeshops seem appropriate and I'm glad I've found them both.
Call the rain depressing, call this day a typical Monday, call me crazy, but I firmly believe this is the very best kind of day.
The season changing gives us freedom to change too.
The leaves falling from the trees they’ve clung to for so long free us to give up our grip on the life we’ve been holding on to so tightly. The vibrancy of their colors reminds us that beauty comes even in the breakaway, even in the falling down, even in the change. The remnants scattered on sidewalks and streets show us all things must come down and find the ground. Nothing can stay the same forever. No life can go on unmoved as time carries onward. We can’t cling to what we know and think we’ll be safe there forever.
The season changing gives us freedom to change too.
No, we must come down, we must let go. We must trust that even though this looks a lot like the end and a death of something that once was alive and beautiful, this is just the preparing for a whole new life that will come again soon.
The winds are cold and seem to get under our skin as they chill us to the bone and steal our very breath. The warmth of summer is long gone, the heat and the sweat a vague memory our layered bodies can hardly recall, but this cold is good for us.
When it’s cold, we gather together. We gather by fireplaces and on couches and around long tables. When it’s cold, we come inside, we sit down, we stay awhile. We have time to pause, reflect, breathe. When it’s cold, we slow down. Our souls have time to rest.
The winter is coming, and it will be gray and barren and seem lifeless outside our foggy windows. But winter is necessary. The cold gives us and the land a chance to just be, to stop trying so hard, to stop growing new things and focusing so much on activity. Winter says, rest, all who are weary. Winter says, stay, be still, just wait.
We weren’t meant to bloom in every season. We need the seasons of letting go of what we worked hard to grow, trusting in faith that we won’t stay barren forever. We need the seasons of vibrancy, of beauty bursting forth, of great and creative art coming out of us, but we need the seasons of stillness, silence, solitude just the same.
The season changing gives us freedom to change too.
Winter felt long this year, lingering far past its welcome. A dark gray gloom seemed settled all around, an unshakable feeling. Occasionally the sun would break through and give us a ray of hope and a reminder of brighter, lighter days, but mostly a melancholy sat around in low clouds and cold winds and barren trees.
Winter is felt deep down in our bones. It's like you'll never feel warm again, never feel hot sun on your skin again, like the bitterness of the freezing rain and few hours of daylight is always going to be around. I feel a little less alive in the winter. Beds and blankets and fireplaces call to me, and I shrink inward into this little ball of myself, trying to make it through until the season ends.
Spring is a tease. There were days I thought it was back, days I shed my outer layers and stayed outside as long as I could, joyfully embracing warmer weather. But then winter came back, the sneaky beast that it is. When we thought it was gone and we had shut him out and locked him away, he broke through to remind us he's a strong one.
But now (I so desperately hope), old man winter is banished. Sweet, sweet spring is here. The world around me seems to be coming to life again. The sun is waking up earlier, excited to start shining. The birds are tweeting their melodies outside my window when I wake up, adding a simple chorus to the season. Tiny buds are blooming, shoots of green grass are popping up, the palette covering this canvas of our world is slowly transitioning from blues and grays to bright and beautiful colors.
Joy wakes up again in the spring. Cities seem to have a whole new magic about them. People come out of their caves, squinting at the shining sun, eager for adventures. It's like we see the world in a whole new way in spring. It's a rebirth, a reawakening, a reminder of glory and grace. A season of celebrating new life, new mercies every morning, new seasons. A time of rejoicing that death and darkness and gloom couldn't hold us down forever-- light breaks through and life conquers victoriously.
Spring is like a glorious dawn, a radiant sunrise after a long, dark and sleepless night. Hallelujah.
Driving home a few nights ago as the sun was fading out of the sky, I was in awe of the stark beauty of winter trees against the streaky, watercolor sunset. When the sun is almost out of sight and the clouds are illuminated with colors so vibrant and rich, the silhouette of the trees is bold and beautiful. The branches are bare, no leaves to hide the setting sun from view, just dark shoots of wood in harsh lines against the soft sky.
We are those trees. There are seasons of our lives where we are barren. We feel stripped of the things that make us beautiful. We feel dead, naked, exposed, far from our fullest potential.
But it isn’t about us. It’s about the radiant, glorious Light of all the world. It’s about not just the sun, but the Son of our living God. And when are lives are seen up against His, it isn’t the nakedness and the bareness of our lives that stands out, it’s the radiance of His shining through us. It’s a season where we feel like we aren’t offering the world much, we aren’t bearing fruit, we aren’t seeing the growth, but He is using those times when there is less in the way competing for His attention, and He is shining unbelievably through us. Can you picture that?
It’s not about us. It’s not about our best efforts and our best fruit and our best seasons of growth. Those make us who we are, yes. But our life has always come from the Son, like a tree’s life has always come from the bright and shining sun. Our growth has always come from taking root in Him. Our beauty has always come from His beauty radiating out of our souls. Our light has always been a tiny flicker of His mighty fire.
Our dead branches stand out in stark contrast against His beauty, His glory, His perfection. But that contrast is what makes us human, what makes Him divinity. We are His, and He makes us glorious when He shines through us, even in our seasons of winter.