1. This year, I've learned that it's normal for (my) kids to go through a period of bedtime difficulty around 3 or 4 years old, even if they've been terrific sleepers up until that point. The key words they use are ".....but I just miss you." And I've learned that throwing the bedtime rules out the window and snuggling up with them in their bed for a while will not do too much harm, and it will do a lot of good. I've learned that I did this all wrong with Lana, and I'm doing it kind of right with Tucker, and I feel quite a bit of guilt over that. Tiptoeing in her room and holding her while she sleeps helps a little.
2. This year, I've learned that when I run a few times a week and eat right and drink plenty of water, I feel and look healthy. I've learned that when I stop running, I don't eat right or drink enough water and then I feel like blah. Not rocket science.
3. This year, I've learned that I am a better mama for having a space for myself in my life. That revelation came to me through job-sharing: I get to be a mostly-stay-at-home mommy, but for two days a week, I get to be a teacher, and somehow, that makes me an even better mommy. I don't get it, but it's just true....those two days a week in the classroom make me even more grateful for my five days at home. I find I am more present. I hope I always can work these couple of days a week. I've also learned that feeling this way isn't any sort of moral failing on my part - it's just the way I'm wired, and it's ok.
4. This year, I've learned that parenting a child with a personality that is completely the opposite of mine doesn't come easily. I've learned that in order to let that personality blossom, I have to let go of things being done or said a certain way and revel in the parts of her that are different from the parts of me. And I mean not just tolerate or overlook them, but truly revel in them, so that she does, too. As my wonderful, wise friend Pam told me: "It's not about you, Rachael."
5. This year, I've learned that not everyone will love me, or even like me. (gasp) I've learned that the truth of that fact does not mean that there's something wrong with me, or something wrong with them, or that there's a problem to be fixed. I've learned how to smile at people who actively dislike me, and know in my heart that it probably has more to do with them than it does with me, anyway.
6. This year, I've learned that Panera Bread and Cactus Flower Cafe are really the sources of my most favorite foods, second only to my mama's kitchen. I've learned that an iced white mocha is a terrific boost to any day; and that while it's rather expensive, some days just require it.
7. This year, I've learned that you can't force friendships. When we moved to Pensacola, I had certain ideas or hopes about people who would become my friends. It really seemed like a no-brainer to me. I was confused and hurt when those people, although genuinely wonderful, were just not interested in my friendship. Out of that, I have learned that the best kind of friendships come from unexpected places, in their own timing, and that no matter how much I crave those heart-level relationships, I have to let them emerge in their own timing, as they will. And that it's ok if I have to wait a while, because it's nearly always worth the wait.
8. This year, I've learned that a dog really is worth all the trouble and expense.
9. This year, I've learned that I don't actually want to stop my children from growing older, because the older they get, the more I enjoy them. They are quite honestly two of my favorite people in the world, and the more I get to know them, the more they enlarge my heart and my life. I've learned that every age is somehow my favorite age with these two.
10. This year I learned that I often hide my feelings behind anger. When I feel sad or afraid or unhinged, I am reluctant to let myself feel those things, and instead just come out swinging. For years, I thought I had a struggle with anger, and while that may be so, what I've learned this year is that I often just use that to mask any sort of vulnerability. It's a defense mechanism that I learned early, and that truthfully has served me well, if the goal is self-protection and preservation. The Lord is teaching me that "self-" anything is not the goal. I am learning (present tense) how to let myself feel what I feel, and to lean hard into the Lord with those feelings.
11. This year, I've learned that the Bible really is the only anchor of my soul, and the Word made flesh really is holding it all together (Colossians 1:17). I've learned that when I feel needy, I often try to fill that need with something besides the Word, and that never ever satisfies. I've learned how desperate I am for the Word. In 2014, I am going to read it cover to cover again, and I can barely wait to get started. The last time I read the Bible through in a year, I loved Jesus so much, but I was mired in legalism. I was a Pharisee. In His great kindness, He has undone me, and this time, I will read it with different eyes. A different heart.
12. This year, I've learned that some things, once broken, can't be fixed. I've learned that the fixing isn't always my responsibility. I've learned that often I am just supposed to work on fixing me, and that will take all the spare time and energy I've got. I've learned that favoritism and jealousy and partiality, while deeply hurtful, are not things that I can control or correct, no matter what I say or do.
13. This year, I've learned that I have so much to learn. As a wife, and a mama, and a daughter, and a friend, and a teacher, and a person. The teenage version of me thought that I would have it all together by now - have all the answers, have this life thing down pat. Somehow, that's not how it's worked out, and I am so thankful for the grace of another year, to learn how much I still have to learn.