What I Learned in February

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For some people this is the month that shall not be mentioned. It’s smack dab in the middle of winter and most of us are getting cabin fever and we are dog tired of winter and begging for spring once again.

February has always been a mixed bag for me. I have a friend, bless her dear heart, who remembers to pray for me each February. She may know me better than I know myself, that I am prone to despair and discouragement, especially in the heart of winter. But each February I get to celebrate life, particularly, mine. And with each birthday comes a bit of reflection of where I am in life, where I’ve been, and where I’m going. And that’s always a good thing.

So, here’s what I’ve learned in February.

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  1. I’m an old fashioned girl, and I still like old fashioned magazines. I was checking out at my local Sprouts, spied the magazines while waiting in line, and decided, “Hey! It’s my birthday month!” so I thought I’d splurge. Reading a magazine feels a little retro–like reading a newspaper–but I like to hold the paper and turn the pages and dog-ear my favorite articles. I still don’t like all the advertising (really, I’m paying for this?!) but you can read a magazine in the bathtub, and that’s my jam.10-dragon-fruit
  2. Dragon fruit is one of the most beautiful (and yummy!) fruits in the world. I had the pleasure of visiting many of my students in their homes this past month as part of our Parent Teacher Home Visit program in Denver Public Schools, and I learned so much. I heard stories of families moving across the world to Denver, a story of a father who spent seven years in a refugee camp before coming to the US, and a little of what life is like halfway around the world. I ate delicious triangle sambusas, sipped Iraqi black tea with cardamom, and tasted Asian dragon fruit for the first time. For a black & white polka dot-loving girl, this is my new favorite food. It’s the queen of all fruits, in my opinion. I love my job.IMG_5135
  3. Families that braid together stay together. My daughter and I decided to twin one day and do our hair the same. We were instantly besties. (Good parenting move for these crazy emotional teenage days.) I felt like like was 12 again, so I may be braiding my hair more these days. : )
  4. Space. It matters to me. I interviewed for a teaching position for next year, as mine is ending at the end of this year due to budget cuts. So as I am thinking and praying about the students I will teach next, I am also thinking about the place and the space I teach in. The space I teach in matters to me, and as many ESL teachers get stuck in a closet or the hallway, I’m thankful to have had a space that I can call my own these past few years. I’m also hopeful to have a space (and position!) to call my own next year. I care about that, and I think God cares, too, because that’s how he’s wired me. One verse that has stayed with me these past few years is Psalm 18:19: “He brought me out into a spacious place…because he delighted in me.” I’m thankful for these past few years of teaching part time, because it has been the spacious place I’ve needed to grow as a teacher-mom. This month has been a bit stressful as I anticipate where I will land next, but I’m hopeful that God knows and cares and will guide me to my next spacious place.IMG_5136
  5. My first born son looks like Ferris Bueller. Can you believe it? Thankful he’s a young man of greater character than Ferris, and plus, I think he’s much cuter. : )
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10 Things I Learned in January

1. Walmart To Go is my friend.

I was amazed when public libraries first started to collect my list of reserved books years ago and put them on a shelf to pick up at my convenience. Somehow I felt like this was my responsibility as a library patron, and I couldn’t believe that someone else would actually go to the work of finding my books for me. Now, it’s a new day in grocery shopping. Walmart is not my favorite place to shop for groceries, and they must have figured out that so many others feel the same way, so they birthed Walmart To Go. Now, I can go online and select the groceries I want, pay online, and then reserve a time to go and pick it up the next day. And it’s free for orders over $30. Sometimes grocery shopping is overwhelming for me; sometimes is relaxing. I choose to use Walmart To Go when I need a break, a little extra help, and food in my pantry. Do you shop online for your groceries?

2. I love “Favorite Books” posts.

These lists have been popping up all January, and it reminds of the fact that if I come to your house, you better be ready for me to snoop around on your bookshelf. Do you do that, too, when you go to people’s homes, or is it just me? I haven’t had a chance to share my favorite books of 2015. I know I read more, but here’s a few of the ones that I actually finished and that impacted me the most.

The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan
I love, love, love this book, this topic and Mark Buchanan’s writing. Highly recommended if you want to discover what it means to find rest for your soul in this fast paced culture.
Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Tim Keller
This was hugely impacting. For a few years, the word “flourishing” has resonated with me, and Tim Keller writes about what it means to help cultures and society flourish as agents of restoration in God’s world. For a refreshing and inspiring perspective and theology of work, read this.
For the Love by Jen Hatmaker
This is Hatmaker at her best. A variety of topics from wearing yoga pants to cross cultural ministry, she is so relevant and real and relational in her writing. If you need to laugh and learn how to take yourself less seriously, Jen Hatmaker is your girl.

3. Laughter is good medicine.

This month I had to help lead an interactive group activity at my school for a staff professional development. We did something I’ve never heard of before–Laughter Yoga! This almost makes me laugh out loud even now, because I’m the most serious person I know and this is the craziest thing ever. Seriously. But if you need a little stress break, check it out. I recommend the Milkshake Laughter exercise.

4. I want to pray more, worry less.

Speaking of laughter, our family watched War Room finally this month. I’m not always a huge fan of these big screen Christian productions (just a little too canned, in my opinion), but this one impacted me. We had a good laugh over one of the characters in one of the scenes, especially, and this reminded me of the power of laughing with your family. Which is no small thing when you’ve got a family of moody teenagers. Also, it reminded me of the simple power of praying for my family. I needed this reminder as my kids are getting older and the stress level in our family can rise when I try to take control of people or situations that seem out of control. {Just so you know, this never works so well.} But I am asking God to quiet my heart and my anxiety and grow in trust as I pour my heart out to Him in the daily stress and ask God to do battle as I surrender in the fight. Not easy, but powerfully true.

5. Probiotics work!

I went to more of a natural, functional medicine doctor this month to help me get to the source of some health issues I’ve been struggling with and learned that I need to be taking probiotics. Who would have thought?! Since then, I’ve learned much more about how the health of our gut affects our overall health and well-being, and I’m finding that to be 100% true for myself. I seriously feel so much better. Goodbye brain fog, hello health!

6. The 2016 American Girl of the Year…is from St. Louis!

I can’t wait to read her story. Who cares that I’m 41? I’m a {St. Louis} girl at heart!

7. George Washington Carver lived and taught in Iowa.

Another reason to love Iowa. I watched an amazing documentary about him on MLK Day, and I’m so inspired by his life story. {Plus, watching it made me really hungry for peanuts.} Thanks, GWC, for your contributions as a botanist, inventor and life-long learner. You overcame so many obstacles and modeled humility and strength for generations to come. I hope to inspire young scientists at my school with your story.

8. I learned that I like to discover new bloggers.

I’m still checking out some recommended bloggers to read, but I discovered that I like hearing from others which blogs they follow.

Do you have a favorite blog you follow? Here are some of my favorites that you should consider reading this year:

Chatting at the Sky by Emily Freeman

Repurposed by Christan Perona

Stooping for Manna by Karen Brown

Jones Design Company by Emily Jones

Iowa Girl Eats by Kristin Porter

The Faux Martha

9. I enjoy tea in the evening.

As much as I love coffee in the morning, I’ve turned into a nighttime tea drinker. My latest new flavor of tea is Licorice Spice by Stash. So yummy!

10. I’m up for whatever.

Actually, my whole family is. We started a new tradition this year, and it’s called “Up For Whatever.” In an effort to carve out some family time and make memories together, we are going out on Friday nights for a late night outing to be together. We are taking suggestions from the kids, but they won’t know where we are going or what we are doing until we do it. There’s only one rule: No complaining. We have a theme song and everything. We are dorks. Actually, we are counting down the years and summers we have left with our kids at home, and it’s slipping away all too quickly. We are also hoping to add some whimsy into our sometimes stressed out family. Or at least provide our kids with some interesting stories to tell their college friends. I’ve got a short list of late night activities that fit into our budget, but we are open to any and all suggestions for memorable, creative family activities. And preferably ones that our teenagers won’t roll their eyes at.

{I’m linking up at Chatting at the Sky with this “Things I Learned in January” post. Emily’s inspired me to be reflective each month and share this monthly post.}