Every year, I find it a bit therapeutic to look back on the last year. I know my heart is bent toward nostalgia, and at times, I wonder if that is one of the reasons I find looking back easier than looking forward. That's something for me to mull over, perhaps. All that said, at the close of a year, I find that it is good heart medicine to ruminate over the good, the hard, and the in-between. To think on the things that are the same, things that are wildly different, what didn't produce joy, and what did.
Once this is done, I can look forward, with clearer eyes, a lighter heart. I so often feel lighter from observing the heavy pieces one last time before putting them to the side, emptying my hands in order to take up the next year in our life.
For ease of reading (and ease of writing!) I group my thoughts about the year into link-heavy sub-categories. The links all direct to original posts that I wrote this year,:
Knitting: Creatively, the start of the year felt a little slow, since morning sickness derailed any interest in much of anything. I did regain my knitting mojo, but then life circumstances were hectic with a cross-country move, etc. I wrote all about this year's knitting projects in a post here. But overall, it was a year marked by "comfort" knitting: small, portable, mindless projects, and lots of gift knitting. I did manage to finish one adult sweater that I started in December 2017, and I knit from my stash quite a bit. I knit several baby items, a few shawls, and a few hats. In some ways I had to learn completely new habits of creativity, in that I have to choose to make more than I did before. But in some other ways, it feels easy to incorporate it as a daily intention, since most of my days are more routine-filled versus the sporadic scheduling of a full-time,12-hour shift-filled week as a nurse. Now, I do most of my making after Cooper goes to sleep, or on longer drives, since Nicholas likes to drive.
Sewing: I did far less sewing this year than in any recent year. Morning sickness/pregnancy made it sound unappealing, and by the end of my pregnancy, when it sounded fun again, I couldn't sew clothing (or rather, I couldn't check fit of clothing), and couldn't easily maneuver to cut pattern pieces, etc. And then, we moved and my machines were packed up. I did manage to sew a few zippered pillowcases for the couch, matching zippered pouches for me and my mom, and two (very simple) baby blankets for Cooper.
Work: At the beginning of the year, I was still working at my (then) current nursing job on a MedSurg unit. Thankfully, in the midst of a rough first trimester (and part of second trimester), I did quite a bit of relief charge nursing, which allowed for a slightly better pace for me at the time. I worked my last shift at the hospital in late March. And then, since I was already in my third trimester and we had about one billion life things to get in order, I didn't look for a new job, prior to having Cooper. I am so thankful for my career and the sweet friendships with friends and colleagues, but I know that in this season of life, I am exactly where I want to be. As it stands, I am loving being home with Cooper full-time, and not working outside the home.
In the kitchen: I ate few things besides burgers and caprese salad, fruit and cheese and smoothies for the first two months of the year (poor Nicholas). Once my morning sickness subsided somewhat, we ate with a bit more variety, but I wouldn't say this was my most inspired year-to-date in the kitchen. Early in the year, I drank a lot citrus-infused water (I really need to do that again!) I shared food preparations prior to having a baby and my method for tried-and-true hard "boiled" eggs in the Instant Pot. I (of course) still managed to bake like crazy, since it's a form of self-care and it's always good for my mood. I wrote about the last thing I baked before having Cooper, and the first thing I baked when I was postpartum (that was a big day)! I wrote about the happy Midwestern-ish idea of making cookies into bars instead (and how to modify recipes to do so). I wrote about reclaiming lunch, that sometimes lost, middle-of-the-day meal that can feel hard to prioritize. And in this post, I wrote about my favorite nursing snacks. I discovered my new favorite recipe for homemade apple crisp with my friend, Jessica, when she visited and we baked with apples from the orchard.
Beauty: Not too much changed. My makeup routine stayed about the same as it has been in recent years. I don't mind putting makeup on, but the anticipation of needing to remove makeup at the end of the day that gives me pause. I wore makeup more when I was pregnant, since it made me feel a little more pretty, a little more familiar, when my body felt anything but. If bother putting on any at all, my go-makeup items are: moisturizer (sometimes), concealer around my eyes and to any areas of redness, black pencil eyeliner (usually just weekends or social events), sheer blush pink eyeshadow, black mascara to top lashes only, matte brightening powder, bronzer (in winter, for sure), and brow gel (usually clear). I did get a balayage the day we moved out of our Texas apartment (I couldn't do much lifting, so why not get my hair done ;). Oh, and I went through the lovely postpartum hair loss phase, so now I have tiny new bangs growing in, covering up the bald spots. And I finally got a haircut eight months after we moved back to the Midwest.
Favorite music: I listened to a lot of my tried-and-true favorites, including Tom Rosenthal, Gregory Alan Isakov, and Relient K. I loved upbeat pop music during the summer (the weeks leading up to and immediately after Cooper's birth), so the Jonas Brothers new album got a lot of play. New-to-me artists I loved were Michiganer and Phil Cook. And I listened to a lot of not-necessarily-seasonally-appropriate Christmas music, but that's my usual. I also listened to States by The Paper Kites, Enneagram by Sleeping at Last, and Front Porch by Joy Williams quite a lot.
Favorite reads: I read the Mama Natural Week-by-week guide to pregnancy cover to cover. In This Mountain by Jan Karon was a slow, soothing read for me. I also read her Shepherd's Abiding and Light From Heaven. I like nostalgic fiction the best, if that were a genre. I also read a few practically-minded books about baby-led weaning, and a few other partially finished books, since I'm a chronic non-finisher of books.
Traveling: I flew to Indiana the week before we moved for my baby shower. And we drove up to Minnesota at the end of March for a whirlwind weekend and to have another baby shower to celebrate baby boy with our MN friends and family. And of course, there was our cross-country move itself. Shortly after relocating, we roadtripped to North Carolina with my in-laws for several days spent at a beautiful cabin, which was the last big trip before Nicholas started his new job and before Cooper was born. We had a few little day trips, including Cooper's first visit to Chicago in mid-September. And most recently, we visited Minnesota in the fall to spend some quality time with my family.
Locally: Little things, events, activities, and things we did close to home:
- In Austin, this post mentions a lot of my little life favorites, including walks, coffee, seeing friends, etc. I loved eating at Picnik (everything + butter coffee), smoothies from Juiceland and Daily Juice.
- In NW Indiana, I took Coop (en utero) to the Big Lake (Michigan) for the first time when my family was visiting. And when Cooper was six weeks old, I went to Lake Michigan with Cooper and my SIL, and it felt like a victory. We went on near-daily walks during the summer, along with multiple trips to the farmer's market. We visited Grandpa DeVries' farm and had lunch with family, marveled at the bigness and the abundance of the skies. We celebrated Grandpa DeVries' 90th birthday, and took a photo of four generations of DeVries men. I visited the apple orchard with my MIL, SIL, and Coop.
Visitors: Katelyn came to visit us in Austin in January, and thanks to a polar vortex, her visit was extended by three days. Our friends Lauren and Josh came to visit us in February, and to think, and she and I were both pregnant! My family came to visit on Memorial Day weekend, a few weeks before Cooper was born. My friend, Molly came to visit us (well, her family and hometown, primarily, but I got to see her!). Family (from both sides) came to visit a few weeks after Cooper was born. My friend, Liz, came to visit us in late July with her little girl. Our friends, Clara and Jacob came to visit in September. My friend, Jessica, came to visit Indiana all the way from Texas, and we visited the apple orchard and hiked the dunes barefoot and wore sweatshirts. My family, including my Grandma Donna, came to visit us for an early Christmas!
Finances and practical things: We rearranged some investments, and we went down to one income when I left my nursing job in Texas. We had a few big purchases, including our dream leather couch, a new TV, a new coffee table, and we swapped out the kitchen benches for chairs. With a move, we found a new place to live, figured out where to shop for groceries, switched insurance over, etc. So many tedious-by-nature-but-necessary adult tasks. I wrote about newborn and postpartum essentials we loved, since having a baby requires a lot of purchases, and we wanted to be thoughtful about what we bought. In that sane post, I also wrote about little helpful items to improve quality of life, like nightlights for the hallways, etc.
Rest: I had to prioritize it the first few months of the year, out of necessity. I took a lot of naps, even pausing in the middle of dinner to sleep, to then wake up and finished my meal. Apart from that, because it was such an eventful year, it wasn't particularly restful. I already struggle with resting while an ever-present to-do list scrolls through my mind. However, many of our weekends with Cooper have been filled with family downtime and rest.
Movies and TV: We watched the weekly-released episodes of The Great British Bake Off, and every week, I baked a treat for us to enjoy while we watched. We saw the newest Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, in theaters a few weekends ago. And apart from a few attempts at other shows, we didn't consistently stick with that many shows.
Living in light of the seasons: The changing of seasons felt especially poignant to me this year, so it came up in a lot of my writing:
- Amongst a million life changes, I just needed to look around to see so much beauty in a Midwest spring.
- I wrote about "the sweetness of now" and the little routines we fell into within a week of Cooper's birth.
- Life in the middle of July, embracing summer and all the little snippets of a week, with farmer's market visits, and walks, and a visit to the farm.
- I wrote about the first few hints of fall (and savoring summer, like I want to savor every single stage with Cooper).
- The edge of summer and fall.
- The details of a fall day, and on all days, the whole earth shouting His praise.
- We got to experience Cooper's first snow with him.
- I prayed for eyes to see the holiday/Thanksgiving/Christmas season with a soft heart, a season that stirs up a myriad of emotions, and I also wrote about our slow, quiet Christmas preparations.
- We celebrated Thanksgiving with family, locally, and I wrote about my favorite early December things.
- I wrote about the richness I feel when it snows (every single time).
- And we had a mellow Christmas at home, enjoying our first Christmas as a family of three.
Motherhood: Twenty-nineteen was the year we got to meet our little boy, so motherhood was a common theme throughout the entire year. I had to adjust to the thought that there was, indeed, a new little life on the way. What joy! And also, that motherhood isn't the ultimate fulfillment, nor should I see it that way. I wrote posts sporadically, including pregnancy updates at 15ish weeks, 22 weeks, 26 weeks, 33 weeks, 35 weeks, 36ish weeks, 37 weeks, and almost 39 weeks. I wrote about our preparations for the baby, including meals, cloth diapers, etc. And then, Cooper was born! I wrote about his birth story, and that incredible (and difficult and wonderful) day, and our new life with a tiny neworn & things I was learning as a brand-new mama. I wrote about embracing the pauses of motherhood and not just viewing them as interruptions. I wrote about little victories in early motherhood, like a trip to the big lake, but also working out and getting dressed most days, and applying a little makeup (this is one of my favorite blog posts from this year). I had morning sing-a-longs with Cooper. I wrote a bit about Cooper at three months. And I talked about our days at home with zucchini bread baking, snuggling a five-month-old, admiring second snowfalls, etc. I wrote about our little bedtime routine with Cooper, and how my joy isn't dependent on the length or quality of daytime naps.
Love & marriage: Dates this year looked like the usual coffee dates and walks, but other more life-circumstance-specific activities, like stroller shopping, or trips to IKEA for nursery furniture. We made foot baths at home, multiple times. I wrote my annual love letter for Nicholas on his birthday, including this excerpt: "Marriage with you keeps getting better. As a newlywed, I housed some fear of the familiar rhythms, worried that when the newness wore off we wouldn't know how to act. Almost immediately I saw how those sweet, familiar rhythms are like creases in fabric, little bits that get softer and easier with each re-folding." He took incredible care of me as I grew a baby, loving on us both. We squeezed in meaningful time together with (our favorite) talks on long car rides about life and baby names. After several years of marriage with just the two of us, we welcomed a third family member. And when Cooper was six weeks old, we celebrated six years of marriage with dinner and mini golf. It was out most eventful year of marriage yet, but it was a good one, filled with growth. And also, it's been nearly ten years since we first met.
These are my "top nine" posts on Instagram, where every single one includes something to do with Cooper (but of course!)^^
Works in progress: I wrote about an effort to be more fully present, where I mentioned phone limits. There are some ways that I have spent less time on my phone than ever (facebook, etc.) and in some ways, I've spent far more time (Marco polo for community with faraway friends--a great thing!--but also too much scrolling instagram). I still want to work on boundaries in this area, in the coming year.
- Our circumstances don't move us, Jesus does, and not labeling myself as an "endurer" forever: "I also can't expect that the long-awaited answer to prayer (this little baby) to be the source of what moves me. The Holy Spirit does the moving, not external circumstances in our lives. And no matter how wonderful those blessings in our lives are, they do not move us the way Jesus does, nor were they ever intended to."
- I can see just what tremendous things God did in the waiting. My heart wasn't in the place to move back to the Midwest, a place we so desperately wanted to live; there was still work to be done. There's always work to be done, but there was a lot that had to happen while we lived here in Austin. A season of more hope and longing brought me to a place where my heart was more reliant on the Lord.
- In the words of John Piper, after a trip to the mountains: "The manna in the wilderness was given one day at a time. There was no storing up. This is the way we must depend on God's mercy. You do not receive today the strength to bear tomorrow's burdens. You are given mercies today for today's troubles."
- I wrote about abundance and overwhelm in our preparations for a baby: "Where I see clutter and disorganization, He shows me His blessings. When I feel overwhelm, He shows me His community. When I feel exhausted, He shows me His rest, both in His Word and physically. When I drive across town to leave a third store empty handed [...] I see blue skies and baby leaves on greening trees."
- Embracing the quiet: "And in the midst of new parenthood, there are times when I need to face irritability or envy or hard-heartedness head-on. That may mean that dishes stay in the sink until the next free moment. That may mean I leave my phone in the basket under the stroller during our walks, and take time to just breathe and pray.[...] Life feels full, but looks slower (and far sweeter) with a baby, but I think I'm beginning to see that's exactly what my heart needed, all of it illustrated in a way, by morning walks and a decision to embrace the quiet."
- Being on the edge of a new season, all the time: "I think the key is to take a deep breath, notice the beauty of the current moment, give thanks, and face whatever is next with expectation and anticipation [...] I want to keep taking my son on walks and to the beach and out to see a pretty sunset, even if he won't remember it (I will). I want to help him see the tiny, beautiful things as he grows and surprises us each day. He is our joy."
- I wrote about turning twenty-nine, fighting the urge to compare what motherhood looks like for me to how it looks for other families, and also, how I'm feeling more settled this year. Learning to routinely ask my mama friends, "What about motherhood is bringing you joy right now?"
- I wrote about noticing beauty, but then moving on to acknowledge the significance of the Author of the beauty: "The point [...] is not to highlight or glorify us, but to show that He is good and He did good work in His creation of us. He gets the glory. And we get to see glimpses of that glory if we're truly looking."
- Getting what I want won't make me a better person: "God is still working on my heart, softening it, refining it, and despite the notion that I will be a better person once I get what I want, that's not how it works. There are so many new joys in our life now, but on the other side of a long waiting season, I can see that receiving long-awaited things doesn't perfect my heart. Even on this side, I cannot expect to find fulfillment in the circumstances of my life. They bring me joy (oh, they do!) but not absolute contentment, that is a task for Jesus alone."
Big life events: We announced that we were having a baby(!), and that we were moving across the country, back home to the midwest. We said goodbye to Austin. My mother-in-law received a cancer diagnosis a week before we moved back, coincidentally. We couldn't be more certain that God knew the best timing for all the big things this year. I'm glad we could be close as we navigated a lot of hard things with family, all together. We moved into our current apartment, and began the task of settling into a new life, back in the Midwest.
So much about this year was wonderful, and so many things were very difficult. Some life events were both wonderful and difficult (moving to a much-desired place is still oh-so-stressful). Many members of our families on both sides endured really challenging things, as well. But I firmly believe that there is no wasted time. Even if the benefits of hardship are hidden, God is always working. And of course, we consistently referred to Cooper as a "bright spot" in the midst of an oftentimes challenging year. The joy this little boy has brought to so many lives speaks to the little light that he is.
Honestly, I feel a little exhausted seeing all that the year held, my goodness. It was a weighty one. Getting it out in writing does help to lighten the load, as we move forward into 2020, with hope.