Faith,  Growth,  Life,  Peace,  Teens

A Few Lessons I’ve Learned This Fall

I’m taking inspiration from one of my favorite authors, Emily P. Freeman. Her blog is a breath of fresh air and I instantly feel relaxed after reading her posts or listening to her podcast.

Another author I adore is Melanie Shankle who adds just the right amount of real-life to everything she writes. In fact, in the latest episode of The Big Boo Cast (episode 212), she mentioned that the two things have saved her through this season are Jesus and learning she could substitute vodka in a margarita. I can’t express how much I appreciate her real-ness.

I’m just saying, it’s so healthy to be real every now and then. So in the spirit of just laying it all out there, I thought I’d share some very real things I’ve learned over the past several weeks. A little bit light and a little bit heavy. There’s always room for healthy balance.

  1. I used to take a lot for granted.

Fridays used to be reserved for Date Night with my husband – a night out where I put on real shoes and probably even earrings. Spending time together, enjoying a meal, and reflecting back on the week filled my emotional bucket. Sometimes we would even get fancy and order an appetizer.

Recently, the number of cases in our county began to rise again, and dining-in at restaurants is currently not an option. I’m sitting here dreaming of a juicy Bacon Avocado Burger with a side of sweet potato fries and a giant plate of roasted Brussels sprouts, because…fancy appetizer.

Yeah, it’s not gonna happen.

Instead, we’ll sit around our kitchen table with a lukewarm take-out order that got soggy on the drive home. I realize this is a first world problem, but it doesn’t weigh any less heavy. I’ll never take for granted walking up to a hostess stand, holding a real menu, or the loud hum of conversation inside a packed restaurant ever again.

A clear-ish picture from our 2019 trip to Vegas, where we dined with a sea of people in crowded restaurants 3 times a day.

2. Men and women are different.

In case I’m the first one to let you in on this secret, I’ll elaborate further. After being at home with my husband all day every day for the past 10 months, we’ve adopted similar schedules and routines. This includes eating similar meals, for the most part. In turn, I have learned that my husband could lift an Amazon package off the front porch and burn 779 calories. I could jog to Toronto and back and possibly burn a solid 145. This revelation seems entirely fair and reasonable.

3. We can’t compare our losses.

My kids have been at home for the past 9 months. They attended in person school for a whopping 8 days before our district shut it down again. I have to closely monitor my social media intake as a result, because I have friends in various states across the country who still have kids attending in-person school. They are going to football games, playing sports, and participating in extra-curricular activities.  All masked, of course, but still living those experiences.

And as social media would have us believe, their lives look pretty joyful, as if they haven’t missed a beat.

I feel the impact of those losses deeply, and often find myself wallowing in jealousy.

My teens are not attending football games with their friends. There was no homecoming. An entire year of choir concerts have been cancelled. Volleyball has been shut down. My daughter decided not to get a letter jacket because there’s not really anywhere to wear it to and she only has one (iffy) school year left anyway so what’s the point. (In case it wasn’t clear, that tone you heard was self-pitying defeat.)

I’ve learned that it’s ok to grieve things that are painful for us. I’ve learned that comparing your pain to someone else’s is pointless. I’ve learned that feeling guilty for grieving my losses when someone else has had it far worse is unhealthy. I’ve also learned that other people’s pain doesn’t negate my own, and that’s ok.

It has been quite a journey coming to this conclusion. Knowing that God is close to the broken-hearted – ALL of us, no matter what is breaking our hearts – has helped comfort me.

I’ve learned that comparison is, indeed, the thief of joy. I need someone to put that on a t-shirt.

4. Consistent monitoring of outward appearance is critical.

I pulled up to the window of a local coffee shop yesterday. It does not rhyme with Barbucks because honestly, I can’t stand their coffee unless it’s loaded with sugar. It was a smaller coffee chain with a quaint drive thru where you order face to face.

I pulled up and rolled my window down to hear the barista greet me with, “Hey guy! What can I get for you?!”

So, if you pull up to a coffee shop wearing a black hoodie, sporting day-three hair thrown into a bun and sprayed within an inch of its life with dry shampoo and the barista greets you with “hey guy”, it might be time to reevaluate your approach to the “comfy casual” look.

Yes, Mom, I was at a stop light when I took this.

5. Heartache and joy can coexist.

Some mornings I wake up and just feel the impact of our losses. Other mornings I wake up and can’t believe how fortunate we are. I never know which I’m going to get on any given morning, but I’ve learned to welcome each emotion with open arms.

I have discovered that if I let enough hours in the day pass by, the opposite emotion will circle around again. There have been days where I mourn for what my kids are missing out on as they sit in their respective rooms, headphones jammed in their ears, talking to their teacher and classmates who are all confined to a 1×1 inch box on a screen.

Then that very same day, tears of joy threaten to overcome me, and I’m just undone by the blessings we drown in every day. Just one year ago, my emotions were on thin ice as I realized how little time I had left before my girls both graduate. I lamented over how infrequently I saw them on any given weekday. Between my work, their school hours, after school practices and time spent with friends, I calculated that I was only getting to see their face around 3 or 4 hours each day. I wanted a do-over. I wanted more time.

And…here we are.

Stealing a hug between English and World History and sitting around the kitchen table together at lunch every single day has been an example of God’s provision, even in the midst of this trial. I longed for more time with them before they graduate and leave home. And now…I’m basking in it.

But I’m simultaneously grieving the rite-of-passage teenage experiences they are losing, slipping like sand through their fingers as each day passes.

I’ve realized that opposing emotions can share the same space within the quiet moments of our everyday lives. And I’m ok with it.

Bonus: A Parting Gift

I created this handy list on my phone the day after a national emergency was declared. Remember when we just had to quarantine for 15 days to flatten the curve!?

Guys, I was going to organize closets. I was going to make freezer meals and get so much cleaning done. Productivity would ensue and I would use that time wisely before life went back to normal in two weeks.

I think we can all appreciate the level of optimism I was operating with.

So my bonus lesson is this: I now know to hold plans loosely. When things work out the way I hoped, it’s icing on the cake.

And when they don’t, I’ll just get really good at ordering take-out.


  • Lisa

    This is quite possibly my favorite thing you’ve ever written. Like ever. Partly because every single thing got an audible Amen, and partly because I spit out my coffee (it did rhyme with Barbucks). So hey guy – keep up the writing and the encouragement that you’re giving.

  • Stacy Mcclelland

    I love every crafted word of this post…the reality, the raw emotion, the humor. And, “hey guy…” oh my stars! No way! You truly encourage me on this writing journey. You are gifted with words and I am so very thankful to call you friend. Miss you

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