It’s the beginning of summer for us in Australia, and time for me to write my favourite list. I started keeping track of what I learned a few years ago thanks to Emily P. Freeman, and it became a way of caring for my soul, not just something to write. I hardly wrote on the blog during our winter and spring, but I never stopped writing down what I was learning. In a world that keeps changing and moving, I need these practices to keep me grounded and firmly here. Maybe you should try it too? The easiest way for me to do it is to have a place in my journal (like a page), and whenever I learn something, I go there and jot it dow. Re-reading the list at the end of the season (I keep my list according to the seasons) puts a smile on my face every time.

Our spring was warm and beautiful, and here’s what I learned:

I learned how to bullet journal (see above). I love it and will probably write more about it in the coming weeks. The short story is that I enjoy having everything in one place, and it’s become a creative space for me. More life-giving creative outlets are usually a good thing. For an explanation about bullet journaling, you can start here. My version is this one: It’s a homemade planner with whatever you want in it. The end.

You can’t really sift wholewheat flour. I started sifting flour this year, and feel super grown up doing so, but when I sifted wholewheat flour in October, the bran was left behind in the sifter.

For a few weeks in early October (our spring), the evening air smelled like perfume. I think it was jasmine or something else, but all I had to do was step outside for lungfuls of the sweetest smelling perfume. It wasn’t like this last year, and by the end of October, the scent was gone. But it was delightful while it lasted and a good excuse to get outside in the evening.

Grocery shopping in person is a major energy and decision-making drain for me. Even if I have a good list. Even if I meal plan. I’ve been using a few places for online shopping in October and November, and it’s been a sanity saver.

How to wash my face. Apparently you can learn how to take care of your skin as a 35-year-old, and adding a skincare routine to my life gave me so much more than clearer pores. You can read about that here.

Always keep bacon around. This has been a lesson of 2017, and you will have to trust me on this. When you have bacon in the fridge, all things are possible. Including (especially) happy meal times with children. Also, breakfast for dinner. Also, fast tomato sauces. Also, fast white sauces. The sky is the limit.

Putting up photos is a good thing. My phone has lots of photos. My laptop holds lots of photos. Photos that I just look at, on our walls, in a book? Not so many. I changed that up with a giant photo board for our wall as a gift for my husband’s birthday. It brings us all so much joy to see these memories from the past.

The pruning of the trees in the forest is done by the seasons, and I think it is the same with us. I wrote a bit about the way time can cut back our branches for GraceTable in October.

Re-reading my old blog posts reminded me of the ups and downs of the past years and reminded me of the woman I used to be, the good and the bad. It was a sweet walk down memory lane, and it gave me many reasons to be grateful for this space and your investment in it. I wrote about that here.

Ecclesiastes wasn’t written by Solomon (blog post coming about this soon). I finished my first grad school class two weeks ago. Studying again was one of the most enriching and even fun parts of 2017 (also one of the most stressful). I learned a lot from the class and from the process of formal study, but one little lesson was a comment my professor made in class during our 45 minutes on Ecclesiastes. I’ve been told by almost anyone who mentions the book that it was written by Solomon, but he said most scholars – conservative and critical – dispute this claim now mostly because of the Persian loan words in the book. Persian didn’t exist when Solomon was king.

 

I love to keep track of what I’m learning each month, and it’s become a celebration of growth in small and big ways, a way to measure my days. Emily P. Freeman via her blog introduced me to the process, and I like to join her linkups each season. You can head over there to find others who participate. Please do sign up for my email list in the tool bar at the top of the page if you want to be notified of blog posts in your email. I send out a short, weekly email with links to my posts and other little things along the way.

rest

One year ago in May we were in Melbourne for my sister’s wedding. It was the trip that led us to move here, so this one year anniversary comes with a mixed bag of emotions. We’ve been in Australia seven months now, and it is familiar and strange all at once. Thank goodness for the fabulous weather. It’s a winter day today, bright sun is shining and a high of 15 degrees. I can survive bright winter days. I’m not even wearing a coat.

Here’s what I learned in May.

Ed Sheeran, in keeping with the theme of me discovering musicians years after everyone else does, I listened to Photograph for the first time in May. It’s my new favourite song.

Rest is the key to my sanity, you’ll be hearing more about this in the weeks to come, but for now I’ll say that the first few weekends in May were jammed with events, and I could feel myself wilting day after day. It wasn’t until we scheduled in a Sabbath for two weekends running that it hit me – again – I was not made to go, go, go. I need a hard stop, I need regular, refreshing rest. And rest is not the absence of things to do. Rest is the choice to set aside the things that need to be done, and it is so worth it.

Small changes work, some of the small changes continue to make a big impact on my day-to-day life, and I wrote about a few of them here (a new alarm clock, keeping my bedroom neat, and a simple meal plan).

Red sauce + meat does not work says MasterChef, Husband and I are obsessed with this Australian show, and several weeks ago a contestant cooked duck with a caramelised beetroot broth, which was bright red. Matt Preston remarked that the delicious sauce looked like blood and was quite unappetising to look at.

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 May?

I’m linking up with Emily P. Freeman today and lots of others who are sharing what they learned in May. 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.

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The sweaters came out of the boxes a few weeks ago, and I had to buy a new pair of fuzzy house shoes. Husband and my annual argument about heating is in full swing because cooler temperatures are here (I want the house to be around 23 degrees, and he’s fine with 18). Autumn in Australia has been my learning template for April, but I still feel upside down here in the southern hemisphere. We have some green shoots in our garden, and I wondered yesterday if it may be daffodils, forgetting completely that it is not spring. Here’s what I’ve been learning.

Not everything dies in an Australian autumn, it’s what I keep expecting, but instead there are new flowers on bushes and fresh growth in the hedges even as leaves fall from trees. In the past years in Europe, autumn has been a season of preparing for death, a celebration of endings as everything slowly died around me. Instead this autumn reminds me that God brings life, he gives life alway and sustains life.

April is Australia’s October. The warm light. The cool mornings and evenings and the warm days (ok, maybe the warm days aren’t an October in the northern hemisphere). It has been all kinds of glorious.

Autumn is not boot weather in Melbourne. I’ve tried wearing boots a few days now, and it is way too warm, which is a fantastic problem. I think I will have to wait for the dead of winter to pull out the boots again.

Listening to good music unlocks my emotions and helps me create. I’ve taken to listening to music on Spotify during creation times, when the boys and I are painting or when I’m writing, and the right kind of music unlocks something in my soul. It has been so good. Sara Groves’ album Floodplain is on repeat right now.

On the blog this month, I wrote about the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, and his comments about identity, and I finally published a recipe again. It’s something to do with two-minute noodles. No it’s not a make-your-own-two-minute noodles. Why mess with something that’s essentially perfect, am I right? But it is a way of eating ramen that brings my heart and my tastebuds so much joy.

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 April?

I’m linking up with Emily P. Freeman today and lots of others who are sharing what they learned in April. 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.

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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.

camping

Camping with small kids is doable and a lot of fun. I like a bed under my back, and I like not sleeping in the same room as my kids, so the idea of a tent, squished next to my (cuddlesome) two-and-a-half-year-old who likes to wake up at 5:15am, was less than attractive to me. But we live in Australia now, my parents are here, my sisters and their hubbies, and it was determined that we should go on a holiday all together. The truth is that it was amazing. We camped for two nights, and not once did I hear a little person whine about when they get to watch Jake and the Neverland Pirates. The boys played with dirt, sand and water, we ate two-minute noodles and drank hot chocolate. My back still feels out of whack, but write it down in the books: Camping may be the easiest family holiday we’ve ever had.

schedule

Bite-sized goals are changing my life. I didn’t make resolutions this year, but I had two goals for January: No eating at McDonalds for the boys and I, and I will wake up before the boys. We had zero fast food until last weekend, and I’ve woken up before the boys more than I used to. It was a boost, a good one. So I made a list for February. It was a bit longer and required more of me; I would have to organise my kitchen drawers, and figure out how we are storing our books. But it got done. Midway through the month, when I didn’t want to do anymore (the bookshelves, our bedroom), I saw the things I had done, and thought, keep going. You can do it. I’ve made a list for March, and hopefully this new trend of goals for each month will continue bringing small changes throughout the year.

photos

I love taking and sharing photos. It had been months since I picked the “big” camera up, but I had been watching golden hour for days with longing. I paid attention, picked up the camera and snapped a few photos of the boys and our yard. It felt clunky at first, I had forgotten how to use the settings, but it still felt good to come back to the camera. I’ve been posting again on Instagram, too, and you can follow me over there. It’s met my need to share what I’ve been learning when I don’t have time to blog and also to capture moments of beauty.

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don’t like choices, but I pretend like I do and this stresses me out. Here’s what I mean. For the past few years, I’ve felt an unspoken pressure to find new cute (and cheap!) places where I can grab a cup of coffee or catch up with a friend. Moving to Melbourne made it worse, there are great cafes around every corner, and I never wanted to be at a place that had (gasp) less than inspiring ambience or (shudder) bad food. (Hashtag firstworldproblems.) But what this meant is that the slivers of time I had to myself were full of internal pressure: Should do this, should be there, should see so and so, and instead of being able to unwind my mind and my soul, I was getting more and more wound up. So I’ve eliminated some choices. There are several cafes in our neighbourhood, I chose one, and every chance I get for 30 minutes or more to myself, I go there. I order the same thing – a small mocha – and I journal, read, make lists, or read the newspaper. It has made the time I have to rest that much more restful. 

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.