10 Things I Learned This Month During the Covid-19 Pandemic

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Well, I guess it’s taken this past month of CRAZINESS to finally write in this blog again.

I used to write a monthly post called “10 Things I Learned Last Month” – you can search for past posts in the search bar.

Here is the latest addition of 10 Things I Learned, summing up March 2020 (which seriously felt like an entire year). This past month, we faced the global pandemic of Covid-19, with the U.S. going into a nation-wide sabbatical. Most people, aside from essential workers, are currently working from home, schooling from home, and trying to adjust to this weird limbo life for the unforeseen future. In our home, our family is still figuring out new rhythms that work for us.

In no particular order, here are 10 things I learned this month.

1. I am under more stress than I’ve ever been in my entire life.

There are many things about the current season that are inherently stressful. Global crisis, sickness and death, economic downturn, of course. And also personal things, like worrying about my older friends and family members’ health, helping my kids adjust to lots of uncertainty, and tending to the needs within our church community. And in the midst of stress, I observe interesting ebbs and flows in me that have been unpredictable at times. Some moments I feel certain and secure, armed with a we-got-this attitude. And then other moments I’m crying, stress eating ice cream, and can’t fall asleep because I’m anxious.

2. I need my tribe of people right now.

This is the time to tighten those relational connections with the people that matter most. And I am so grateful I have my people, and ways to deepen those connections. Phone calls and texts with friends have become lifelines. Family conference calls on Zoom and video messages on Marco Polo are keeping us afloat. Thank God for technology that allows us to reach out to others right now.

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3. We are all facing loss and disappointment.

Every single one of us is dealing with losses of some kind. My kids can’t see their friends, and that’s hard. Some of our extended family members and friends cannot work right now, and that’s hard. One big loss for our family is that we were scheduled to officially adopt our foster son this week, but now that’s on hold because the court system in Hawaii is essentially shut down right now. And that’s hard. Really hard. I’ve cried several times from all the loss I’m feeling.

(Since I haven’t written anything here about fostering, this may be news to you. It has been an adventure and joy for our family, and I hope to write a longer post about that at some point.)

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4. I love discovering unexpected beauty around me.

Though life in our home is more chaotic than normal, there are many joys worth celebrating. My kids are so resilient and healthy. Of course there are conflicts, but overall my kids have been really kind with each other. I love seeing their friendships and sweet moments together. There is a lot of fun and laughter in our family.

I also love the beautiful, creative ways people around us are reaching out, connecting with others, and offering what they have to bless others. Humans are so wonderfully compassionate and innovative!

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5. I need to pay attention to my inner world when engaging with social media.

RIght now social media feels like both a wonderful gift and a potential minefield, depending on the moment. On the good end, it’s a way to maintain social connections, read funny things that help me have a healthy level of humor, get parenting tips, and of course, learn about the gloriousness that is Tiger King on Netflix. But if I linger too long on social media, I start to get overwhelmed with news that worries me, posts that make me question whether I’m doing enough, and other things that do more harm than good. So I’m learning how to intentionally pay attention to how my heart and soul are doing while I’m on things like Facebook or Instagram. And at the point when I feel fear or anxiety rising up, it’s probably a wise time to shut it off and find other things to do.

6. More time at home means more time to cook, read, and write.

I am enjoying all this time to slow down and do things that I love, such as baking bread and reading books. Here are a few foods I’ve been making at home:

Feel free to check out my Recipe Archives for more food.

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7. When you know it’s a marathon, and not a sprint, your strategy changes.

At first it seemed like this stay-at-home thing was for two weeks, and our family went into a certain mode. It felt new and exciting, we had a long list of fun things to do, and I had lots of romantic ideas of what schooling at home would be. It was like a Quarantine Honeymoon. Now, with schools seemingly being closed for a significantly longer time, and no clear end date to staying-at-home and physical distancing, we’ve shifted into creating more sustainable rhythms. We have some structure to our day, but also a lot of fluidity, depending on the needs of our family. Here’s a resource list I created called Things to Do at Home With Kids. Some days we do a few organized activities, other days we do none. We’ve set up some longer term work spaces in our house for all the school and Zoom meetings. I think we’re still adapting to seeing this as a longer reality than when it first started, but that’s where our family of six is at.

8. Speaking of Zoom, I’ve been enjoying leading virtual Enneagram workshops.

Since becoming a certified Enneagram coach, I’ve been finding ways to educate and equip people with the Enneagram for personal, professional, and relational growth. And thanks to Zoom, I can continue leading group workshops. They have been so much fun! If you want to know more about the Enneagram and the training I offer for groups and teams, go here.

9. Thank goodness for TV (and other wonderful things).

Seriously, there is so much to be grateful for. I am thankful that we have things like a stable home, jobs, food, our sweet baby boy who is thriving, Netflix, audiobooks, coffee, a front yard and driveway where my kids can play, friends who check in with us, my kids’ teachers who are freaking amazing, a healthy family, toilet paper and hand sanitizer, moments of solitude on my front patio, yoga, my husband finally deciding he’s ready to watch Game of Thrones with me, virtual happy hour, Shipt grocery delivery, my older kids’ ability to be helpful and self-sufficient, pizza, a large stock of wine, and so much more.

10. Easter is stripped down this year, and that’s sort of nice.

With life being simplified and decluttered, this holiday weekend that’s usually full of activities and gatherings is fundamentally different. This year we’ll have a quieter Easter celebration at home, and rest in the truth that Jesus is victorious, life emerges from death, God is good, and we have nothing to fear. Happy Easter, everyone.

What about you? What things have you learned recently?

 

 

Reflections On 2017

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Happy new year, everyone! And welcome to 2018.

Near the end of the year, I take time to reflect on the past year. It helps me to remember what I learned, step back and take a deeper look, and embrace the coming of a new year. Here are my reflections from 2016.

1. What was the best thing that happened this year?

Our family had many adventures with God in ministry. It was a year filled with risk-taking, powerful moments, and loving people. Along with a team of friends, we started a faith community in our house that has been a place of so much life and joy.

2. What was the most challenging thing that happened?

Adjusting to new life rhythms. I had a hard time figuring out how to allot my time, especially with rest, exercise, and writing.

3. What was an unexpected joy?

Finding our beautiful house. This was a journey that began in fall of 2016, when Steve and I were praying, and sensed God telling us to move to Kapolei, a city in West Oahu. After twists, turns, miracles, and lots of seeking God, we were able to buy a home. It is in Kapolei, perfectly suited for our family and hosting gatherings. It feels very much like where God intends us to be right now.

4. What was an unexpected obstacle?

A need for friendship. I need more depth in relationship with peers, and have felt a lacking in that area of life.

5. Pick three words to describe 2017.

Messy. Presence. Planting.

6. What were the best books you read this year?

Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish – For any bread-bakers out there, this is a great book that teaches you principles and methods of baking naturally leavened bread.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates – This was such a powerful, haunting read. At times beautiful and painful, it stuck with me all year more than other books I read.

Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton – I’ve been slowly digesting the life wisdom within this book. Barton has long been a favorite author of mine. She writes with authority about the road to spiritual formation, and in a way that actually leads her readers into the transformation they are seeking.

7. What did you do in 2017 that you’ve never done before?

This year I committed to the practice of asking God, “What are you doing right now, and how do you want me to partner with you?” I asked, I listened, and more often than not, I sensed God speaking. This simple interaction with God has shaped me so deeply. I’ve become more expectant in mundane daily moments that God might show up in a powerful way. I’ve had a deepening conviction that God is active and alive. I’ve flexed new listening and faith muscles.

8. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I suppose the practice I described in #7 could be considered my new year’s resolution for 2017. Sometime early last year, I committed to asking God the question, ” What are you doing right now, and how to you want me to partner with you?” Also in 2017, I had the goals of planting a thriving faith community (which we’re continuing to do), start a gathering for artists and creatives (which I did), and buy a home on Oahu (which we did). I’d say I kept my resolutions from last year.

For 2018, I am going to do the following:

  • Exercise 3-4 times a week.
  • Meet with a spiritual director monthly.
  • Invest in a few primary peer friendships.
  • Do the Life Reflection once a week.

Speaking of resolutions, I wrote this post last year on my Spiritual Journey blog, 6 Reflection Questions to Help You Live Out Your Purpose. Reading through it again today helped me consider my goals for this new year.

9. For what are you most grateful?

I am grateful for a deepening relationship with God that is dynamic, alive, and ever-evolving.

10. How did you change this year?

I say yes more. Yes to God, yes to others, yes to my own soul, yes to opportunities that feel scary.

11. What moments were most memorable?

Moving into our new house. Getting our puppy, Pono. Meeting several people who are now part of our faith community. Reconciliation with a friend, where I received grace and forgiveness.

12. What were your greatest discoveries?

  • These fabulous bedsheets. Game changer.
  • The joy of baking naturally leavened bread.
  • I’m more of a dog person than I thought.
  • Having a community that comes together in pain and celebration is a beautiful part of life.
  • Times of solitude and quiet are precious to me.

13. What are you looking forward to this coming year?

I am looking forward to stewarding myself, my time, and my resources with faith and fruitfulness.

14. What was the most significant thing you learned this year?

I’m in need of grace again and again.

10 Things I Learned in November 2017

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This habit of writing down what I’m learning helps me pay attention to life, myself, and God’s presence. It’s my way of reflecting and celebrating. I love the process of looking back, and seeing the deeper lessons that I might otherwise miss.

In no particular order, here are 10 things I learned this month.

1. Getting a dog was good for our family.

This is Pono (Hawaiian for “righteousness”), and he is our sweet, energetic labrador. He joined our family in June. The first few months with our puppy were craaaazy – he chewed up everything, peed everywhere in the house, and took lots of attention. But now he’s mellowing out, and is super fun and less work. Look at his little face…LOVE.

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2. How to cook the fastest, easiest Thanksgiving turkey.

Over the years, I’ve probably cooked turkey using six different methods. But this method of butterflying the turkey really ended up being super moist and tasty. Note: I dry brined the turkey 48 hours ahead of time with a generous layer of salt. I’ll cook our turkey this way in the future because it was so delicious.

Also a good Thanksgiving tip: if you have lots of leftovers, invite friends over the next day for a Thanksgiving potluck!

3. A capsule wardrobe is the better way to pack.

I am a minimalist packer when I travel. I hate packing more than necessary, especially now that we have a family of five. So my solution for trips is now to create a capsule wardrobe when I’m planning what to pack. The idea is that you pick carefully chosen pieces that can work in multiple outfit combinations. I use the Stylebook app to do this, and I make sure to use a lot of neutrals with a few accent colors. If you’ve heard me talk about this app, you’ll know that I am an evangelist about it. Below is my capsule wardrobe for our upcoming December trip to California. Oh joy, I get to wear scarves and knit hats! The photo below doesn’t include undergarments or jewelry, but you get the idea.

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4. There is evidence that women have less confidence than men, and that confidence matters as much as competence.

This article from The Atlantic resonates with my own experiences as a woman, as well as many women I know. Reading this article caused me to reflect deeply about how confidence has played out in my life, what I’ve done in the face of inner fear, and how I’ve grown in self-assurance.

5. When I am upset, I need to take a deep breath and think before speaking.

If I am angry about something, my immediate instinct is to say something. But sometimes (often) the first thing out of my mouth is reactionary and unhelpful. I am working on disciplining myself to pause first. Consider what the situation is, and think about how to respond in a way that creates something good.

I have moments of forgetting to do this, and then need to apologize. When I do, I use this simple framework for a good apology.

6. The fall season makes me want ginger and soup.

I’ll pass on the pumpkin spice everything – I’d rather have gingerbread lattes. I’ve already made several batches of these chewy molasses ginger cookies. They were a hit at my friend’s cookie exchange.

As far as soup, some of our family favorites are Meatball SoupZuppa Toscana, and Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo.

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7. Mundane moments can be the place of miraculous God encounters.

Our faith community has been praying for and seeking more of God’s presence and revival, and it has been incredible to witness. There have been miraculous healings, dreams, prophecies, and spiritual breakthroughs, all happening in very ordinary moments and people. What a wondrous journey we’re on!

8. I get a burst of joy watching my daughter dance hula.

Alexandra is among the youngest dancers in her halau, and even though half the time she’s offbeat or out of step, her enjoyment as she dances is so fun to watch. She sways to the music with flair and smiles through every dance. I love it.

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9 . My guilty pleasure is Nongshim Hot & Spicy Bowl Noodle Soup.

I know…it’s terribly not nutritious, full of awful preservatives, and has a name with poor grammar (“bowl noodle soup”? Who speaks like that?). But I don’t care. If it’s a chilly afternoon, I drop in an egg and some spinach (healthier!), and zap it in the microwave. Yummy Asian comfort food in three minutes.

10. The book Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend continues to be an essential source of wisdom.

I think I originally read this in college, and have since read it several other times. It is all about having a healthy framework of identity, and defines who you are and who you are not. I love it because it guides you in how to relate to people in healthy ways. I’m now reading another book by the same authors, How People Grow.

Other good books I’ve read recently: Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull and Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

What about you? What things did you learn this month? Tell me your lessons or favorites!