Winter: a time to throw away and a time to gather

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A good beginning is half the work.

(Old Irish Proverb)

Happy New Year, friends! How do you approach your new year? Do you set goals? Make resolutions? Come up with a word for the year?

Winter, especially the first month of the year, is all about bringing things into fresh focus. The snowy landscape even reflects this in the way you can see a tree’s actual form and shape without the covering of leaves. Everything in nature becomes more obvious against the backdrop of white snow and bright skies. The clarity is refreshing.

It is winter proper; the cold weather, such as it is, has come to stay. I bloom indoors in the winter like a forced forsythia; I come in to come out. At night I read and write, and things become clear; I reap the harvest of the rest of the year’s planting.

(Annie Dillard)

Mentally, most of us use this time of year to prioritize and plan. The cold days and long nights seem to provide more opportunity to take stock of how we spend our time and allows us to alter and adjust for the year ahead. For some this means doing a health cleanse or detox. For others it looks like committing to a budget. And for others, it’s simply taking the inspiration to change a habit and making a commitment to do certain things differently.

All change begins with removing the old, the stuff that doesn’t work, the dusty unused things, the bad habits and practices and replacing them with the new, the new gifts, the useful and helpful things, and fresh habits and practices for a new season.

These cold months provide a time to throw away material clutter and to gather fresh organization. It’s a time to throw away negative mindsets and habits and to gather positive attitudes and practices. It’s a time to throw away striving and comparison and to gather contentment and confidence. This snowy, cold season strips everything down to the most essential, the core, the heart and gives us fresh eyes to see what matters most. It blows in winds of inspiration that lead to transformation.

For me personally, this looks like going through my day and making small adjustments where I feel led to change. Life with a newborn can be a challenging season with sleep deprivation and learning a new rhythm, but there have been a handful of things I’ve felt convicted to change in the midst of this transition.

In spending habits: to purchase with the environment and the local economy in mind

(think beeswax wrap over plastic wrap and local stores over Amazon)

In health: to move two times a week (think walks in the woods and yoga with Adriene) and eating a vegetable with every meal

In parenting: to value presence over productivity — this one is especially difficult for my type A personality, but it’s something I’m keeping top of mind with the time I spend with my kids

In relationships: to encourage and reach out more often — as someone who doesn’t mind going days without connecting with friends this looks like being more intentional with being the one to send a text or message rather than the one who always receives

Within each of these areas there are things that need to be thrown away in order to gather the new intentions and make them a reality. If you haven’t yet taken time to reflect about this new year, take some time this week and ask yourself what habits, thought patterns, or things need to be thrown away in order for you to gather some healthy, fresh ones. Don’t feel pressure to start big, rather think of something achievable and maintainable and go with that.

Watch, now, how I start the day

in happiness, in kindness.

(Mary Oliver)

It’s easy to lament the lack of sleep during this season and the challenge to wake up each morning with a song rather than a complaint is intense, but so worth the effort. Psalm 59:16 says, “but I will sing of your strength and will joyfully proclaim your faithful love in the morning.” This has been top of mind as each day begins with the opening of the curtains. I’ve created a bright and restful playlist on Spotify called Winter Wonder 2018 if you need something to listen to this season.

Click here to find listen.

I pray this is a time where you are able to throw away those things that have become hindrances in your life so you are able to gather the things you feel rising in your heart to do. Letting go of the old to grasp onto the new can be difficult, but God’s grace is sufficient and His mercies are new every morning so don’t feel disheartened when you stumble a little. As Scarlett O’Hara famously said, “after all, tomorrow is another day!”

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Chamomile and crickets: a summer playlist & some quick pickle recipes

Summer is slowly unfolding and each day looks different depending on the weather. The only consistent activities include checking in on the garden and listening to soothing and fun music all day long in the background. If you want the summer playlist we’ve had on, click here for the playlist.

I’ve also begun harvesting chamomile flowers to dry for tea. Frederick and Edith love plucking the flowers with me and they’ve been happily drying out on cheese cloth for the past week. Besides drying chamomile for tea, quick pickling has become a weekly activity this summer.

Quick pickling is becoming one of the most rewarding summer activities. You need a few ingredients to quick pickle and there’s no need to boil jars or spend a lot of time preparing. It’s also easy to prepare a single jar with a handful of ingredients. Here are some of the main things to have in your pantry if you want to quick pickle:

  • Clean glass jars
  • White vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • Sugar
  • Black peppercorns
  • Fresh garlic
  • Fresh dill (if usuing cucumbers)

The two quick pickle recipes below are simple and super delicious. Even if you’ve never pickled, they’re easy to make and you can enjoy the food the day after you make it.

There is a surplus of dill growing in our yard and they sell boxes of small cucumbers for a couple dollars at our local farmer’s market. This recipe for Refrigerator Dill Pickles is a winner and our family easily eats a jar a day of these crunchy, slightly tangy spears.

Our jalepeño plant is overproducing and, after a little research and some trial and error, discovered this Quick Pickle Jalepeño Recipe that makes amazing tasting pepper slices. We’re putting them on top of all the things – eggs, nachos, potatoes, burgers, sausages.

With August around the corner, I’ve been taking every opportunity to spend time outside. Last week after ditching the to-do list for the day, I threw all the beach supplies in the car and headed to the nearest state park. When it rains, pickle veggies. When it’s sunny, go outside. Summer is best spent making the most of the fresh produce and the warm sun. Wishing you a happy August soaking up all the fresh food, blue skies, and summer storms.

Fourth pregnancy, two kids

“How many pregnancies? How many children?”

This question is a sharp reminder of loss and grace. It’s a matter-of-fact statement that happens in an instant without pause or acknowledgment. The first time I answered 4 pregnancies, 2 children it took my breath away. It became real again. The grace and gift of two. The loss and grief of one. And the hope and desire of another.

Happy photos of parents with babies usually have a story behind them.

My first two pregnancies were uneventful, healthy, and straightforward. Knowing the statistics on miscarriage I tried to keep myself from connecting too much and becoming too excited – it was a form of self-protection from potential heartbreak during the first twelve weeks.

The birth of Frederick was shocking and blurry. He had the cord wrapped around his neck twice and after an hour at the hospital trying to fix the intense dips in his heart rate with every contraction, he was delivered via an emergency c-section.

When I became pregnant with Edith, my doctor encouraged a natural delivery and it took faith and hope to believe that a new story could be written. The labor was “textbook” according to the doctor – no complications, no red flags, no concerns. But she didn’t breathe. And refused to take a breath until 6 minutes of intense intervention from a team of experts who rushed in seconds after she was born. Looking over at a huddle of doctors surrounding your 6 pound 14 ounce baby is terrifying. You can’t breathe. Your heart stops beating. You pray. She spent 6 days in the NICU and made a miraculous recovery with no signs of the initial trauma.

Friends began to ask if we planned on having more. For two and a half years I absolutely refused to entertain the question or idea. After almost losing both babies right as they entered this world, it was terrifying to think about risking it all over again. Rolling the dice and hoping for a different experience was unimaginable. It wasn’t until a friend sat in our sunroom and challenged me to believe for something different with tears rolling down my cheeks that my heart began to change. She planted a seed of hope that didn’t exist. A month later, glancing up as I emptied the dishwasher I noticed three arrows we have hanging on our living room wall. Two silver ones face east and a gold one faces west. In that moment, I felt God speak to me that our third baby would be different.

I became pregnant right away. Unlike the other two where I protected myself from connecting and feeling excitement, I thought to myself, “it will be different from the beginning – no fear or doubt.” We shared the news with a few close friends and asked for their prayers and support. The evening my miscarriage started I couldn’t stop crying. It felt like a thousand pounds of bricks fell on top of me and I couldn’t breathe or move.

The weight of disappointment is crushing. It causes you to curl up in a shell of comfort and retreat to a cave of safety. I read the entire Harry Potter series in 2 weeks. It took every ounce of strength to get up and be mom to my two living, breathing children, every other obligation faded in an effort to be present for them.

Friends who knew I was pregnant and then about our loss cared for me and it was a massive learning curve in vulnerability. Life was stolen before it even had a chance to breathe. A good friend messaged me saying that in an eternal perspective the baby will always be my child – just not here and now.

I wish I could say that when I got pregnant again hope filled my heart and faith was restored, but until I was twelve weeks it was a tightrope walk of restoration. Carefully balancing hope and realistic expectation is tricky business. Today, fourteen weeks along, it’s becoming less tightrope walk and more balance beam. Peace in the process is a practice that requires trust in the word that this third baby on earth will have a different birth story, one without trauma and drama. Perhaps the beginning days of conceived life have been tenuous and tearful but the beginning days of life in this world will be peaceful and beautiful.

I’m certainly not the first to speak about the grief of miscarriage and I won’t be the last. Some have done so far more eloquently, but there is something powerful and restorative in sharing and hearing stories of loss and restoration, disappointment and hope.

“Even in times of trouble we have a joyful confidence, knowing that our pressures will develop in us patient endurance. And patient endurance will refine our character, and proven character leads us back to hope. And this hope is not a disappointing fantasy, because we can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (Romans 5:3-5)