Top 5 Things I learned in 2019

Happy 2020! As I sit down to reflect on what I’ve learned this past year, I realize that I began this blog one year ago today.  My first post was about the Top 5 things I learned in 2018 and after that, I continued to write about what God was teaching me through the ordinary moments of my everyday life. Thank you for taking the time to read along and connect about what you learned, too!

I don’t take this community for granted because I believe there is power in togetherness. I’ve discovered growth doesn’t happen in isolation but in the spaces where we collectively learn, dialogue and have the courage to be known, as God knows us. 

In examining my own life, my hope is to invite you to do the same because what we pay attention to directs our steps and our steps become our lives.

I’ve found peace knowing that God is with me in every single one of my ordinary steps. He is with every one of your steps, too. My goal for 2020 is to become less hurried and to pay even closer attention and I’d love for you to join me.

So here I am a year later, ready to share what I learned in 2019. I’d love to hear what you learned too!

1. Rhythms either sustain or drain my soul.

I’m beginning to see that my life is a collection of micro-decisions. I can decide to sleep through my alarm, because I stayed up too late the night before watching TV and then be angry at my children for needing breakfast. How dare they!? Or I can put away my screen and read an ACTUAL book until I fall asleep and then wake up early to find God in the dark and peaceful silence. For where the world yells, His voice is a still, quiet whisper

Or I can find a rhythm of saying yes to everyone and everything, as to avoid disappointing people. But then I’m too tired to say yes when my kids ask for my attention or my husband wants to talk about his day.  

I’ve learned that a fast-paced, yes-filled rhythm leaves me burnt out, exhausted and neglecting the people I love most.

A slower rhythm, where I’m intentional with fueling my soul with silence and contemplation, my body with exercise & healthy, brightly colored foods, and my heart with relationships that mean the most to me, is what sustains me on this journey through life. 

Jeff Bethke captures it perfectly in his book, To Hell with the Hustle, saying, “think of rhythms as your daily vitamins of nourishment, which is different from an ordinary routine.”

Finding rhythms that sustain instead of drain me, takes work, and intention, but becomes the difference between living my life nourished or burnt out.   

2. Margin is like air. Without it, I can’t breathe.

I recently heard pastor, Mark Comer, refer to margin as the space between your load and your limit. His podcast turned my world upside down, in the best way. It’s the white space on your day planner, between activities. It’s the extra cush in your bank account so you don’t accidentally overdraw money. Without margin, we feel like we can’t catch our breath because we are frantically running from one activity to the next.  We need space to recover and notice our lives.

Jeff Bethke continues to  write, “time is not a replaceable asset. It cannot be bought, rolled over, transferred or cashed in. It can only be stewarded or wasted. And by wasted I don’t mean lazy. I mean the opposite: wasting time by being busy or over-scheduled…..

Time is not something in a Petri dish or beaker to be measured and broken apart. We are not in control. Time is something to be submitted to. A table to sit at. Where every moment is holy and beautiful and special.”

To Hell with the Hustle, p. 100

So I’ve purposefully created margin where I sit in the white space. I catch my breath with God. I enjoy the delight in my children’s eyes.  I taste good food and soak in meaningful conversation with my husband. We Sabbath. We rest. And we are trying to eliminate hustle.

It’s not easy. It’s countercultural. But it gives my soul space to breathe.

3. If it’s uncomfortable, lean in.

I don’t mean harmful or toxic, but simply uncomfortable. This has been one of the practices I’ve adopted in my pursuit of whole-hearted living. Brené Brown has taught me a lot about daring greatly, with my whole heart, in this one life I’ve been given. My first instinct is to only expose part of my heart, or at least the presentable part, so to avoid uncomfortable feelings. She calls this numbing and teaches that often, we numb, whether with busyness, alcohol, food or screens, to avoid feeling.

We don’t want to feel the instability of our insecurities, or our “not enoughness” or our insignificance. Gahhhh….this hit home for me. So what’s the solution?

When I catch myself wanting to turn away or avoid because something is uncomfortable or I feel like I’m not enough I choose instead to lean in.

For me, that looks like daring to have the uncomfortable conversation when I disagree or feel misunderstood. Instead of hiding, avoiding or defending, I ask the question, “Help me understand….”

Or if I catch myself saying yes because I think I should, I lean in and ask myself:

Is this commitment life-giving and/or mine to do?

When I find myself wanting to run or numb, I now know that I need to gently lean in, and face the insecure feelings. Because in the words of Robert Frost,

“The best way out is always through.”

4. My children might be small but they are big teachers.

Hilarious, endearing and frustratingly lovable,  I’m continually reminded that my son and daughter have just as much to teach me, as I do them.

When I take the lead from my daughter, I notice how she gets dressed every morning. She picks what she loves: lots of pink, sparkled unicorns, silly sunnys and a tutut on top. She dresses in what brings her heart joy, not what will bring the approval of others.

What if I clothed myself in what brought my heart joy: like a reckless amount of optimism, a dress that twirls or hot pink, just because. Instead, if I’m honest, I dress to earn approval and fit in. And as we all know, the hole in our heart that wants approval can never be filled by the approval of others. It’s only the voice of God, saying, “you are my beloved” that fills that deep void in our hearts. 

Thank you, kiddos.

5. Be a friend to yourself. 

What if I talked to myself the way I talk to my friends? “Damn girl, those pants look good!” Or ”You cooked dinner and kept 3 humans alive amid their screaming and incessant questioning…you must be superwoman!”

What if I was as gentle towards myself as I am towards my friends?

In the scriptures, Jesus tells His disciples, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. AND Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37)

This year, a mentor reminded me: “Devany, you can only love your neighbors as well as you love yourself.” 

God’s deep love and never-ending grace is extended to everyone, including me. And how often do I forget this?

This year I caught myself giving the mic to my inner critic when things got hard or uncomfortable. My inner critic sounds a lot more like an enemy than a friend. Thanks to Tara Mohr and her book Playing Big, I’ve spent some time naming her.

My inner critic swings between anxious and doubtful or bossy and angrily disappointed. She doesn’t sound anything like the voice I use when responding to my friends.

Devany The Friend is hopeful, encouraging, patient and likes to throw in a joke or two. She says things like:

Don’t be afraid, you can do this.

Keep going, this is your gift to give.

Your week hasn’t been easy. I say you take the afternoon to read a good book.

When I am a friend to myself, I am reminded to see through eyes of love. For this is what God’s grace offers me time and time again. When I extend myself love, my life becomes fueled by compassion and patience instead of fear and judgement.

So here’s to another year of learning together! I’d love to cheer you on, so please share what you’ve learned below in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Top 5 Things I learned in 2019

  1. Oh. My. Gosh. I love this so much!!!

    Every word spoke to my heart and I felt my spirit rise up and shout, “heck ya, that’s true!”

    Beautiful words, beautiful life…… I’m inspired.

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