The vibrant fall colors were starting to turn brown last week on our Thanksgiving drive through the NC mountains to Indiana. We made an impromptu stop to hike around Pilot Mountain, a first for our seven-year-old, the neutral-hued views still beautiful as they contrasted a bright blue sky on the cool sunny day. Choosing spontaneous fun to get wiggles out before finishing out our 10-hour drive.
There are still glimpses of vibrancy around our neighborhood – golds, oranges and reds hanging on to the last days of fall. The rest fallen, waiting for my husband in his Ghostbuster-like backpack leaf blower to take them to their almost-final resting place on the curb to be sucked up by huge City of Raleigh truck vacuums to be taken away to…where, exactly, I’m not sure.
So I reflect on fall, thanks to Emily P. Freeman’s prompt to mark each season with What We Learned. (Listen to her latest podcast on the whys and hows of this practice or check out #wwlcommunity on Instagram. I’m loving it!) Here are my five big takeaways from fall.
I’ve learned that I can walk in 90-degree weather and not die – haha! Truthfully, this is a new practice I took up in late summer, continued during a hot September, one I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. I finally decided that, even though I have a body that can’t do a lot of things, I can do some things. And walking is one of them.
I don’t break any speed records, but it allows me to notice – houses, people, trees and the way my left foot turns in ever so slightly step after step. I’ve noticed that that slight limp has straightened out the more I walk and it’s resulted in a need for less naps. I’ve noticed that I’m more willing to say “yes” to things with my family if I’ve taken a walk – time that gives oxygen to my cells and space for my brain that doesn’t include housework or groceries.
Walks have also given me a love for podcasts. I’ve learned that I will walk longer if I’m listening to talking rather than music. I’m pretty late to the game on discovering podcasts, but these are two of my favorite (The Next Right Thing and Revive Our Hearts). What are some of yours – fun or serious?
I’ve also been trying to intentionally listen to others this year – to let people talk out their grief or experiences without forming words in my head or quickly offering my opinion. For this extrovert, this is not my default. As much as I love big parties with lots of people and energy, one-on-one conversations are where it’s at. It has been a rich discipline to really listen, then give time to process what someone is offering me. I can then give a thoughtful response through a card, text or prayer. Sometimes the best ministry is just listening.
I’ve said “yes” to a few things that have surprised and delighted me – including bike rides with my family and joining the church choir. Both impacted me so much that I wrote about them. In addition to my blog (which I launched eight months ago – wow!), I’m stepping my toe into submitting guest posts for online Christian websites and some freelance writing totally unrelated to spiritual topics. After a seven-year break from the workforce, I wondered if I still could write decent content, edit someone else’s work and learn about new industries. It turns out, while this 40-year-old is a little rusty (technology intimidation, anyone?!), it’s just like riding a bike…see what I did there?
Thankfully, I’m in a season where my health is not demanding all of my time and energy just to function or heal. This has allowed me to have eyes to see others’ hurt around me and take it to the throne of God. And this year has been difficult for so many around us. I have two dear friends who have lost siblings, our church family has faced the death of two young adults and other deep losses, and I see things happening on social media that break my heart.
As a result, this fall I started a notebook of Very Hard Prayers for only the most difficult requests. I want to keep these in a special place so they don’t get lost in my daily journals. I remember a line from a song someone sang in college that said, “I love the word ‘impossible’ – it’s what my God does best.” I have no idea what the song was (90’s Christian music, anyone?), but I remember distinctly who sang it and how that line shot straight to my heart. Anyone else have random vivid “god-wink” memories like that?
Over the past few months, I’ve posted a weekly-ish #thankfulfive list my Instagram. This has been harder than I thought. Years ago, I wrote five things daily in my journal for which I was thankful. My gratitude muscles are pretty atrophied right now and the only way to strengthen them is to work out. I’ll continue my weekly gratitude lists on Instagram, but I’m going to challenge myself to do it daily in my personal journal – it’s a discipline that cannot be overstated.
“When gratitude becomes your newly adopted attitude and lifestyle – even in the midst of pressures and problems – you will see His deliverance in new and amazing ways.” Choosing Gratitude,* Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
So what have you learned this fall? Fave podcast recommendations? Small memories with a big impact? Do you have some Very Hard Prayers I can add to my notebook? I’d love to pray for you! Post below or privately message me via email.
*affiliate link. I will earn a small stipend if you purchase this book through my Amazon affiliate link.
Prayer Photo by Ruben Hutabarat on Unsplash
Sandra J says
I’m visiting from Emily’s and I was blessed by your lessons. Sweet, simple truths I needed to be reminded of today. Thanks for sharing!
Erica Baldwin says
Thank you, Sandra! I love this practice – it’s such a neat way to track growth. I’m so glad you were encouraged and could use the reminders – me, too! Me, too!