The words that changed my life this month

IMG_3776January is my least favorite month. Followed by February. And March.

As a mother of three girls under age four, I’m doing my best to beat back the winter doldrums. We tiredly pull on our boots, zip up our jackets, and pop our hoods over our heads.  We’re trying to function mostly indoors: community play places, the gym, the library, the grocery store.

In winter, everything takes more effort and energy. No lie – even breathing in the cold takes more work, since our bodies have to warm and humidify the air.

I could go on and on. The sky is the same color as the rooftops, which are the same color as the ground, and it’s easy for all of the vibrancy of life to feel drained down to a muted, dirty white.

This starts a spin cycle of questions for me… Just why do I live in Minnesota again? Why did I say yes to X? Why does my baby insist on dunking her stuffed animals in the toilet? Why am I not on vacation? Why does everything have to be so HARD?

My whiny perspective is simple evidence of one thing. It’s easy, far too easy, to lose track of the good plan for my life…and then start looking around with cheating eyes at everyone else’s lives.

But friends, I have a quick encouragement for you today. I didn’t come up with it, but the girl who did is pretty amazing. I recently heard her speak at an online Thrivemoms retreat, and what she said changed my whole perspective over the past few weeks.

“God’s good plan for you doesn’t look like his good plan for someone else. Stop comparing the two.”

Stop for a second. Think it through. God’s good plan for you is not His good plan for me. My life is unique to me, and your life is unique to you. And each of us is promised enough grace and compassion to get through each day in our own situations, difficult or otherwise.

PS. I also get the view from the other side. Maybe you’re in a place that feels as far from God as you can get, and if this is His plan for you, forget it. You’re out. Or maybe you felt like you knew God once, but you’re not so sure about Him and his plans anymore. (If this is you, do me a favor? Head over to my friend Addie’s recent post at Off the Page “When you want to believe…and can’t”. It’s poignant, and true, and might help you search out some things.)

I’m no guru. I don’t have an answer to why our lives are lovely sometimes, and crappy in others. But I know that when I fall face-first into my rock bottom, this truth from Jeremiah 29 is always the bedrock gravel I’m picking out of my teeth.

11 For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 You will find me when you seek me, if you look for me in earnest.

So guess what. It doesn’t matter how many times hardship and comparison step into our days if we’re equipped to sweep them aside. And Truth makes a pretty darn good broom.

Friend, your life has a good plan. It is a plan that is completely your own and no one else’s. Take a second to look around it. Look at the roof over your head, the food you had for breakfast, the people who have your back. Look back through your recent social media feeds and be reminded of all the things you wanted to share with the world.

I don’t know what your plan is. Heck. I don’t know my plan is most days. But I can trust that the foundation is sure, and that it’s working toward a future and a hope.

May that be good enough for all of us today.

Defining “Hygge”

1779301_10152138179680502_1263730929_nEvery year, our annual winter getaway with friends grows a little crazier.

More children. More bags. More dinosaurs, more story books, more baked goods I never, ever want to stop eating.

But this year, I went as a single parent. Jason has been sick for almost a month now, so he (very sadly) opted to stay home. I totally understood, but I was also a little desperate. I needed to double over in laughter with friends. I needed winter sun in my eyes and four feet of snow under my shoes. I needed towering pines.

I needed to broaden the narrows of my winter.

So I packed up three pack ‘n plays, two bumbo seats, a doorway jumperoo, three bags of food, two backpacks worth of clothing and diapers, five blankets, and three children under the age of 3 into the van.

In theory, it was possible. In reality, it was madness. In retrospect, it was very, very good.

***

1239733_10152138170690502_1027633142_n I read a great article a month or so ago about a mystical Danish word called “Hygge”, (pronounced HYU-gah). The word has no direct translation in English, but instead sounds like a conglomeration of emotions: well-being, contentment, camaraderie, coziness. The article says it’s kind of like Christmas, just not limited to once a year.

I was fascinated with the idea – this non-translatable word for something so meaningful. Really – when you have a second, you should definitely read the article. Anyway. I put it on my bucket list of words to study, ideas to play with.

I haven’t started the word study. (Go figure.) But after this weekend, I think I have a new word to add to the mix of not-quite-there-but-close definitions for hygge.

Collaboration.

Because without collaboration, hygge can’t happen.

Without collaboration, I would have driven North alone, praying through clenched teeth that nothing would go wrong. (Instead, I caravanned with dear friends who drove out of their way to let us tag along.)

Without collaboration, I would have made seven or eight trips to unload my van. (Instead, four very kind gentlemen made an extra trip or two each to shuttle in my babies and belongings.)

Without collaboration, I wouldn’t have gotten to snowshoe in the woods, feed babies, make supper, take a shower, read bedtime stories, or ever really just sit down. (Instead, there were open arms and helpful hands in every situation – even the darkness stumbling, nook fumbling, face rubbing, please-just-go-back-to-sleep-for-the-love-of-everything-good-and-holy-because-it’s-bedtime moments.)

IMG_2881But it wasn’t just about helping me.

Collaboration is what makes weekends like this possible. From finding accommodation, to organizing meals, to bringing toys and gear, to caring for one another’s children, it is our combined efforts that create an environment for hygge to happen.

And in that moment, the glow of the fire, the children asleep, the roar of laughter, the pine paneled walls and windows full of stars, hygge comes. It widens our hearts. It fills us with thankfulness. It becomes the thing we can’t describe.

ab377e29-7a2c-4d0f-9c0e-ad7a59cb4d77.1.10Maybe that’s okay. This word hygge, this word with no translation – maybe it’s meant to stay nebulous, a little mystical.

Perhaps hygge’s blessing is simply the bright consciousness of experience, our windows blazing light against winter’s dark, our laughter rising through the chimney and spreading like sweet smoke into the night.