One easy way to make more informed decisions in your life is to reflect on past decisions you’ve already made. Our choices define our lives – not just the ones we’re carrying now about our future, but also the ones we’ve already made in our past.
– Emily P Freeman
As winter rolls into spring, I find myself expectant.
I’m waiting for something new, something to change. My outside experience is changing, so it feels almost natural that my internal world will change too. However, as we’ve learned over this past season, nothing happens on its own without our dedication and encouragement. Just as my attitude about winter won’t change unless I take an active role in it, my inner world won’t experience change unless I am dedicated to that change.
As I try to look forward, I find myself necessarily looking backward. In times of transition I think looking back is helpful, arguably necessary work. But what does that mean? How far should I look? What if that’s overwhelming?
In her podcast, The Next Right Thing, author Emily P Freeman helps us think about making good decisions from a place of love, not fear. In episode 61, Emily talks about the times throughout the year that she intentionally sets aside for reflecting. We often only think about this at the turn of the new year, but she recommends setting aside time with the turn of every new season. She recommends asking yourself this question to stimulate your reflection time: “Have you learned something about yourself, about God, about people, about your work, or even about your daily rhythm and systems that could help you bring more joy, patience, or ease into your daily life?”
In short: What have you learned?
In order to keep this from becoming too overwhelming, Emily suggests that we should reflect seasonally, only analyzing the last 3 months. By narrowing our time frame, we will have an easier time focusing on just the things we have learned recently.
Keeping that question in mind, I have found myself reflecting on this winter.
What have I learned from this winter about myself?
I learned that my need for snow to reset my internal life is real. I used to just think it was sort of a joke that I needed the ground to be covered in snow to really reset my brain and heart. But this year I really did find myself becoming irritated, restless, and distracted by the overwhelming layers of brown. I found myself searching, only to find more brown and more questions.
However, I felt my soul sigh and relax as we drove to our winter vacation through upstate New York and into Vermont. As we drove we moved from our snow-less home state into states with snow on the ground, and eventually even driving into an active snow storm. I felt myself relax as my external environment became less complex. Suddenly there wasn’t as much nuance in the landscape, what was lawns and driveways and trees and bushes, became white, white, white, and more white. Hmmm it was so good.
After a few days in that environment I came home more relaxed and ready.
What have I learned this winter about God?
I’ve been a Christian for a long time, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still so many things to learn. In fact, one way I can tell that I’m not as in tuned with the Lord is when I feel bored and like I know it all.
This winter my husband and I made several deliberate attempts to grow closer to the Lord and each other. Two main things happened: we started reading through the Bible out loud together at night and also joined a Bible study with some other couples.
These studies helped me learn something about my relationship with the Lord: I tend to forget about the Holy Spirit. Part of coming to Christ is accepting the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life. Not only is the Holy Spirit an out-there presence, it is in us—in me. And I am learning what it means to live with that in mind. My decisions aren’t just impacting me and they don’t just impact other people. They have an impact on the Spirit’s presence in my life. That realization brings both comfort and reverence.
This spring I will move forward in my life-long journey with the Spirit.
What have I learned this winter about people?
I have learned that people need to be listened to. This probably seems super basic, but I have learned that I struggle to stay present when others are speaking. It’s not so much that I’m physically distracted by my phone or the environment, but I’m definitely distracted by my thoughts. I’m always rushing ahead and planning my next words in the conversation. This isn’t always bad, but it definitely does damage to a listening and learning posture.
It is harder to learn from someone else if your brain is always running off in some side direction. Thinking ahead like that also results in me jumping in and cutting people off.
So I’ve been making an effort to let others talk, let them finish, ask questions, and leave room for silence.
What have I learned this winter about work?
To be honest, I’ve really struggled with this one this season. In January and February I went through a really dark period, mostly brought on with my dissatisfaction with my job. For months I struggled with feeling like I was wasting my time, suffocating my soul, and enabling a company I didn’t really believe in.
However, recently (no joke, it happened while I was on vacation) I realized that the reason I was so dissatisfied actually had more to do with my identity than the place I worked. I learned that I was so upset because I was putting my identity in the job I had. I was Jenny, *insert job title* instead of Jenny, child of God, or Jenny, wife, or Jenny, she who loves books, or really anything else.
This realization has really changed the way I feel about my job. My job is no longer me. It’s not so much of me that it damages who I am. I am able to go to work every day with a greater degree of joy, trusting that the Lord has me there for a reason.
I could go on about other things I learned this winter, but even just recognizing and naming those few things has helped me feel more confident moving into the spring. Knowing that this past season wasn’t a waste or a time I was stagnant really gives me hope.
The thing with feathers.
I pray that we move into spring with mindfulness and hope. May the lessons we learned this winter serve us all the year long!
The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.