I have always appreciated the opportunity to reflect on the month gone by even though I don’t always take the time to document it. Taking the time to slow down long enough to jot down what was meaningful for me in the midst of a busy work day doesn’t always seem practical, but the accumulation of these moments all in one place reminds me of the simple beauty of my life. I’m so grateful for the wisdom of Emily P. Freeman for encouraging this simple, but meaningful practice.
Here are some of the things I learned (or observed) in September:
There is true value in reflection.
I think one of my greatest lessons this month has been the value of my own personal reflection. As I mentioned, jotting a few notes down in my bullet journal seems impractical to me at times, but doing so holds immense value. Twice this month, I have used the power of reflection (with my Morning Pages-see below) to work out a tricky situation in my role as a parent. It wasn’t until I got every bit of the specific situation down on paper that I was able to fully understand where I went wrong and what I could have done differently. It was in the reflection that I learned–not in the experience itself. Also, the accumulation of my reflections remind me of the beauty of my ordinary life. I sometimes don’t catch beauty in the day-to-day, but when it is compiled, I can see God’s hand all over my life. It’s such a simple thing, but it is so worth it.
The Wings of Fire series is fun reading for both kids and adults.
Back in August my eleven year-old Carson started reading the Wings of Fire series by Tiu T. Sutherland. I’ve tried for years to hand Carson something to read that would really ignite a love for reading within him. I’ve even bribed him with a promise of $75 to read the Harry Potter series. So far, it appears that this series is doing the trick. He just picked up book one in August, and as we wrap up the month of September he is finishing up book 13! This is the first and only series that he has been so completely immersed him. He even convinced me to read the first book, and I just finished it. It was such a fun read for me as adult as well.
It’s never too late to start a new habit, or pick and old one back up.
This month I dusted off two old habits that I’ve long neglected. The first is evidenced by this very blog post. I’ve worked writing back in to my weekly rhythm. I have had trouble in the past figuring out where and how my writing life fits in with the rest of my life, but I seem to be on the path to finally figuring that out. Also, this month, I picked up knitting again. I used to knit regularly, but the habit has slipped away. In fact, when I went to find my knitting this month I couldn’t even find my yarn or knitting needles. I quickly went to Hobby Lobby to find some new supplies, and I’m well on my way to finishing a scarf. A scarf is the only thing I know how to make, by the way, but I find the practice of knitting soothing–especially in the Fall and Winter months.
Theme days actually work.
This is another productivity hack that I learned from Emily P. Freeman. I first heard this idea on an evening walk as I listed to “The Next Right Thing” podcast. You listen to that podcast episode here, but the idea is simply that each day has a theme or a specific purpose. My job as a professor requires me to wear several hats, and when I try to wear my multiple hats at once, or I try to switch hats many times throughout the day, I quickly become overwhelmed. The theme day practice in my life looks like deciding at the start of the week what I will focus on each day. I’ve been practicing these theme days for several weeks now, so I have a pretty solid rhythm down at this point. My favorite thing about this practice is that it allows me to have my entire focus on one aspect of my job, because I’m only focusing one one thing, I tend to get much more done when I did than I was trying to focus on several different areas of work in one day.
This month I started to write Morning pages. Those of you in the creative and artistic world will likely recognize this practice from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. It was a bit overwhelming for me to think of writing three full-pages first thing in the morning, but it has become something I am starting to really value. I’ve never been much of a journal-er, so writing this much long-hand just isn’t something I’m used to doing. I use these pages in several different ways just depending on where I find myself on a particular morning. Sometimes I’m processing a tricky parenting situation, often I’m writing prayers to God, sometimes I’m working through a spiritual question, and other times I’m just writing whatever comes to my mind. It’s amazing though how much comes out of me. This practice does require a time investment (it takes me 45 minutes to an hour) each morning, but so far, it has been worth it.
Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Dane Ortlund’s book Gentle and Lowly as part of my growth in September. At the start of the month, I realized that I needed to read something that really challenged me spiritually. Specifically, I wanted a fuller understanding of Christ. I picked up Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund, and it has been just what I was looking for. In a series of short chapters, Ortlund focuses his writing on the heart of Christ. Each chapter focuses on a specific aspect of Christ’s character and uses Scripture to provide examples of different characteristics of Jesus. The chapters are short enough that I can read them easily in the morning before work, but they are rich enough that I usually have something to think about throughout the day.
Finally, here is the quote I loved the most this month:
“In a profound way, our intentionality is a key ingredient determining whether we notice God everywhere, or only in church, or only in suffering or nowhere. It all depends on how we choose to fashion our world.”Elizabeth Dreyer | Earth Crammed with Heaven as cited in “The Next Right Thing” podcast with Emily P. Freeman | Episode 191