Autumn seems to be a favorite season for so many of us. I wonder sometimes about the reason—more than the respite from summer’s heat or a return to normal schedules, perhaps it’s that autumn reminds us change is always assured.
For me this year, autumn meant a change in routine, a change in focus, and a change in priorities. While summer meant rest and slow movement, autumn was all about new work rhythms and laser-like focus.
Here are a few things I learned along the way.
No. 1 Asking for help is the only way to do life
I began learning this, slowly, several years ago when I got married. Up until then, I was a do-it-all-myself girl, and, in my mind, asking for help meant shirking responsibility. No more.
I was busy writing a book proposal this autumn, and friends, that just wasn’t going to happen without a team. The biggest team member was my husband, who developed a game plan for the project with me, and then made a million small sacrifices to see it through. Early mornings, meal prepping, cleaning, and cooking were all things he took in stride, and I can promise you that that’s the only way the proposal was completed. In addition, family and friends stepped up to help cook food, watch our kiddo, and offer feedback on the project. I am still so grateful and humbled by their generosity.
The proposal got done in time for the deadline, but maybe the biggest takeaway from the process for me was the value of speaking my needs out loud and accepting offered assistance when I do. The work itself and the finished results were both incredible; but the friendships and relationships that grew through this proposal process were the greatest gifts of all.
No. 2 Cold brew coffee is a pregnant woman’s must-have
Heartburn is always an issue for me during pregnancy, but it started early (beginning of second trimester) this time around. I have learned that if I drink a classic cup of coffee first thing in the morning, I will pay for it the rest of the day. Enter cold brew. This overnight, cold-water method of preparing grounds provides a cup with a much lower level of acidity than traditional brew. I’m a convert, and unless it’s the middle of the day and I have food in my stomach, I won’t touch regular coffee for a few more months.
We usually make cold brew at home, but if I want it in a coffee shop, I’ve had to get used to the frowns and blank stares when I ask for a cup of cold brew heated up. I’ve learned that Starbucks cannot make a hot latte with cold brew (something about their preparation process), but if I warn them that I have a special request and then speak very slowly and clearly, I can usually get something similar made with cold brew. (No offense to any baristas, but when I first started asking for hot cold brew, the responses were pretty confused.)
No. 3 The presence of God is not about remembering as much as it is interacting
I used to think the key to enjoying and experiencing God’s presence was the act of remembering that he is here, right now, always. No matter what. And, I still believe that this is the first step. But for me, I have to take it further. I have to interact with him, as if his presence is an understood, ever-present fact. (Because it is.) I have to tell him what I’m feeling in the moment, or ask him questions about what is going on around me, or complain about something. (Yes, I complain to God. I learned how from reading Job and the Psalms.)
This act of interacting with him, like he’s real and really here, has become the foundation of my spiritual life. And it reduces my habit of trying to compartmentalize the “secular” aspects of my life as something separate and non-sacred.
No. 4 Balance is a myth and I’m happy about that
I heard Shelley Giglio say this once on a podcast, and I’ve tucked it tightly into my pocket of Live-By-This truths. She said there is no such thing as true balance—that there will always be something that needs more attention than other things in life, and that it’s constantly changing. Sometimes it will be the house, or the kids, or the marriage, or the work at hand.
I clearly remember a day this fall after completing several difficult projects. I was excited about how well things were going—then I saw my sink, absolutely overflowing with dirty dishes and pans. But balance is a myth. So instead of feeling upset about all I couldn’t get done that day, I smiled and remembered that nobody is actually “doing it all”…and even if they are, I don’t have to.
I’ve learned that to try and tie myself to a belief stating all must be perfectly balanced is to doom myself to regular disappointment, self-criticism, and dissatisfaction. But remembering that balance is a myth gives me the freedom to delight in what is going well, and nurture what next needs attention, without feeling like I’m continually failing by not meeting an impossible standard.
No. 5 Failure doesn’t change my identity
We talk a lot in this space about identity, specifically identity in Christ [What Is My Identity in Christ?], and what this means for our everyday life. I am learning to see challenges, mistakes, and failures as new opportunities to recognize the truth of who I already am in Jesus. Without performance. Without success. Without getting it all right.
I wrote a whole post about this [How to Hold onto Your Identity in the Midst of Failure], so I won’t say much here, but I experienced a disappointing failure this fall, and it gave me the opportunity to keep living this story I believe in so much. I am so thankful for that experience, and deeply grateful for the understanding of grace that has allowed my perspective to shift in this area.
No. 6 I can’t rush feeling at home, nor do I have to
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One year ago today we moved into our new home. I’ll be honest—it took a long time for me to feel like I was home. Despite the months of muscle-building work, and the long hours of drywall mudding, and the thousand-and-one trips to Lowe’s, I felt like I was trying to wear someone else’e clothes and make them fit. And this only made me feel guilty. I was “supposed” to be excited, and ready, and contented, and all the things. Here’s one thing I’m learning: I can’t rush home-ness, and I don’t have to. Being at home—in a new place, with particular people, or even in my own skin—is not a snap-my-fingers kind of deal. Sure, there are things we can do to help the feelings along. But sometimes we try everything, and there’s still not the sense of settled-ness we’ve been expecting. This is okay. This is, actually, normal. And this is an opportunity. An opportunity for faith. Faith in time. Faith in the process. Faith in being where you belong. There’s this subterranean belief that when you’re really home, really with your people, or really yourself, there’s a ‘click.’ Things are comfortable. Things are easy. True or false? I say both. Sometimes, that click is legit. And sometimes, like a seedling pointed skyward, you just have to grow into it. I say the growth is worth the time.
We celebrated our one-year anniversary in our home this November. I spent some time thinking about it, and wrote a post about it for Instagram. The bottom line is that even the best things often take time to grow into.
No. 7 Celebrate every. little. win.
I have always struggled with this. I am usually so satisfied by finishing something I set out to do, I actually forget to celebrate it. I’m busy thinking about the next thing, or processing what I’ve just done.
But I have learned this autumn to take a moment and celebrate the tiniest things—getting the kitchen cleaned up, or editing a few sentences, or going one more hour without a potty training accident. It’s all something to acknowledge and appreciate. And this can be done simply for its own sake. Not for any other “more important” reason. Celebrating the small stuff in the presence of God is a practice I want to cultivate for the rest of my life.
What about you? What have you learned this autumn? Share in the comments below.
This post is one of many shared by a community of writers who meet up every quarter on Emily P. Freeman’s blog, to trade what we’ve learned. Check it out here.