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I told friends that June was probably the roughest month in Australia since our move. There are no ways to prove such superlatives, but it felt like it. I went to sleep later and later, our children woke up earlier and earlier, and for anyone who has been reading this blog for a while, you know I’ve written those sentences before. You know me well enough to know that no one in our home does well in those circumstances.

The trap of difficult seasons is it casts our eyes backward, Life was so much better when…. or it drags us into the future, If only I had or was in or… We think we need a big change of relationship or a new home or if we spent more money on clothes or a course, we may have the opportunity we look for. Painful seasons leave me with little capacity to do big things, but as the fog lifts, I can see four small changes that helped ease the difficult weeks or would have helped when the challenges hit. Most of these I can only see in hindsight, but I am tucking it into a little file in my mind to pull out when the next rough season comes. Here’s hoping that if you are in a difficult season, these will help you out.

1 Remember the stressors. I got in a car accident, a minor one, but it required adjustments – my car was in the shop for a week, we had to rent a car for a few days, I lost my phone in the middle of all of this, which meant I was harder to contact, and I couldn’t do some of the administrative work I do for our family. Once the car was repaired, something else went wrong with it, and it had to be taken in again. The whole process lasted about three weeks. Husband had several hectic weeks at work. Our children woke up earlier than normal in the morning. We took the our littlest’s paci away. The boys got new bunkbeds, and the little one isn’t in a crib anymore but a bed. He doesn’t like to stay in his bed in the evening. Or in the morning.

When I read that to myself, I’m amazed the past month wasn’t harder. A pacifier is a huge source of comfort for my youngest. A car accident where no one is injured in the slightest and the car is drivable without repairs, doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it puts pressure on our schedules. I wish I had paid attention to these things while it was happening instead of adding guilt to myself for not coping. Hard times need to be named and called out, so that you know you will have to gather up your strength and bear up underneath the difficulty. There are seasons, sometimes days or weeks or months or years, where you just have to stand (or sit) as the hard times blow around you because there is nothing for you to do except outlast the storm and find a way to live inside of it in a way that is whole and healthy.

2 Embracing screen time. Almost everyone has opinions on screen time, I certainly did. Likely you could find some of those ideas in archive. I’m still a believer in limited screen time, but I’ve come to embrace what it can do for me when I need it. And to embrace it without guilt because I will not put my kids in front of a screen and then feel guilty about it. The boys were on two weeks of school holidays in June, and they watched a movie a day, there was one day when I think they watched something for most of the day. I did laundry, cleaned the kitchen, cooked, cleaned our bedroom and got some quiet time to myself. It felt wonderful to get things done, and to get a lot of things done in one go. I loved getting quiet time to myself while the boys were happily watching something in another room.

Screen time is no replacement for relationship time, and I’m not suggesting kids get a free pass to watch what they want, when they want. But I am saying that there are days when it is in everyone’s advantage to turn a movie on and to do so joyfully and willingly without feeling like a failure as a parent.

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3 Reach Out I emailed a few friends, women who know me well and whom I trust, and I spilled. I gave them the raw version of daily struggles, they heard my despairing, discouraging thoughts about myself, and I asked them to pray for me. Each of them emailed me back, encouraged me and prayed for me. I can tell you that I started to see a difference in my daily circumstances in almost 24 hours. One of them challenged me on some things in a face time call, and I needed to hear it. Difficult times – because of the mistakes of others or our own – have a way of pushing us further into a cave of our own making. No one else feels this way, I’m the worst person in the world. But the truth is that there are few things I need more in this time than the arms of those who are stronger, coming around me, picking me up and bearing the burden with me.

4 Pray Big God, please make them sleep longer. Most of my mornings of the past five years involve some version of this prayer. In seasons we’ve had dependable, peaceful mornings, but for the past two months it has been wake up calls from very tired children anywhere from 5 am to 6:30 in the morning, too early for them and too early for me. But this morning last week, as I lay in my bed begging God for more sleep for all of us, I sensed instead his kind, corrective words.

Don’t you have something more to ask me about? Don’t you think I can do more than this?

It stung because it’s true. I spend a lot of time daily praying for God to change something in what’s happening with my kids so that my life will be more manageable, and while I have nothing against that, there are other things happening in our lives and in the world that require bold, persistent, vision-filled prayer. My dad told us that we think we change God’s mind when we pray, but really he is changing us. I believe it. One of the ways it changes me is that it casts my eyes outside of myself, it reminds me that I have a place in a much bigger story where things are happening, and it is not all about me. I still pray for my kids to get 12 hours of sleep a night, and I won’t stop, but I have been praying about other things, too. For their souls, for their friends, for the people in my life who are in a difficult season, for the world that seems to unravel around me one gunshot at a time. For the enormous number of things I could not name here, but require faithful, faith-filled prayers, I have asked and asked and asked again. And it feels good.

There is hope, my friend, whatever season you may be in today. You are not alone, you are not alone, you are not alone.

Now it’s your turn: What small thing helps you get through hard times? 

Maybe you’re frustrated by the list of big goals but wanting to seize your life and change? Small changes are for the rest of us, the ones whose dreams mock us from the sidelines, the ones who yearn for change but know they can’t just shove everything to one side. We do it bit by bit, piece by piece, and we believe that each piece is making a difference. If you want to read more about small changes, you can start here:

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March may have been one of my best months in this season of transition. We left Sweden at the end of August, spent seven weeks in Germany and moved to Melbourne on October 22. It has been a crazy few months, but the past 30 days were normal in the most glorious of ways. Here are some of the lessons I learned.

Making my bed in the morning. I invested some money in new bedding for our master bedroom. To say that it changed my life may be an understatement. I make my bed every morning now because it’s pretty and easy, and I enjoy it. When the house starts to fall apart – hi Lego – it has been a relief to have one spot where I can rest my eyes and know, it’s beautiful, it’s peaceful, and it took minutes to get that way.

Primary schooling in Australia is not what I expectedI visited primary schools in March in preparation for our oldest’s first year of school in January 2017. This may be the most grown up thing I have ever done, other than not maintaining my kids’ vaccination records. I went into it without knowing much about Australian early childhood education, and I learned that almost no school does group teaching, the one where the teacher stands at the front and instructs the big group of kids sitting at their desk. The schools, both private and public, had kids grouped and they did group work and each group had focus time with the teacher. After a day of school visits and questions, I have more respect for teachers than I have ever had before.

Small changes for the win. Last month I wrote about the way small changes were transforming my days, and I’m still loving this challenge and learning from it as well. Small breaks give my brain much needed rest and my soul a quick recharge. I used to think I needed half a day or a whole day to myself, but I’m learning that a 30-minute walk alone or an hour in a coffee shop alone before church starts can give me the energy boost I need.

Too many small changes don’t work. Keep it simple. My list of small changes in March was exciting and long, and truthfully I have hardly done anything on the list. I floss now more than I have in the past year. Incidentally my boys started flossing as well. I’ve gone on lots of walks in the past two weeks, and that has been great. But our walls are empty and so many other things are left undone. Going into April, I know now to keep my list to two or three small changes, and that will be much more doable and a lot more fun.

A combination of toothpaste, butter, soap and warm water removes superglue from the palms of my cheeky toddler. I learned this one last night when Husband found our almost-three-year-old wandering in the hallway (when he should have been in bed) with something strange covering his palms. It was superglue. We can only be thankful that he didn’t glue his hand to a wall. It took about 45 minutes of Husband’s hard work (I bailed after about 15 minutes). It was definitely a Send Wine moment except my full wine glass was right there on the bathroom counter while we each scrubbed a hand.

If you missed it, I wrote a few more posts on the blog in March.

Buying my own flowers bring me joy, helps me embrace beauty in a daily kind of way and help my soul rest.

I learned this month that Instagram’s algorithm may potentially change, and I learned that I care too much but can learn to not care at all. Mostly I learned that everything in the world is going to change. I can keep creating, I can keep writing, no one can stop me from doing this, and I can trust that my work will land where it needs to.

Thanks as always to those of you who subscribe (scroll down to do that), read, comment and share. I appreciate it so much. Now tell me, what did you learn in March?

I’m linking up with Emily P. Freeman today and lots of others who are sharing what they learned in February. It’s a wonderful way to chronicle the small and big ways we grow, change and learn, and I love it. Right now, I’m trying to capture moments of beauty and change over on Instagram, so head over there and follow me if you want to see more.