I wouldn't say 2015 was a groundbreaking year for me. It was a good (and, in other ways, a hard) year, but it wasn't one of those where I look back and think, Wow, what a crazy ride. I can't believe all that happened. Has it not even been a year since ______?
However, even without any monumental changes, there have been a few things I started doing consistently that now, stepping back, I can see that, even though they're small, they've blessed my life in a significant way. And let that be a lesson to me: small steps, consistently taken, sometimes have a bigger long-term impact than world-rocking ones (and, if I'm being honest, I actually prefer those types of changes as opposed to the ones that leave me reeling).
Listening to a Conference Talk Every Morning
Every April and October, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (of which I am a member) holds, what's known as, General Conference. Lasting for two days, it consists of four general sessions filled with dozens of talks from leaders in the Church. Those are some of my favorite days of the year. They're a time for me to be filled up spiritually, and I always come away with a stronger testimony and sense of purpose.
Around the time of last April's conference, I was trying to figure out how to give more priority to my spiritual life. I was reading my scriptures every day but usually that was happening at night and sometimes I could only get a few verses in before I fell asleep. I knew I really needed something at the beginning of the day to give it a boost and help me stay focused on the most important things. All of the conference talks are archived, and I decided to start listening to one talk every morning as I got ready for the day.
This has made a huge difference in my spiritual well-being. It hasn't replaced my daily scripture study but it's been a way for me to start the day off building my faith and thinking about my Savior, Jesus Christ, without having to find a quiet place to read my scriptures (which is pretty much impossible in the crazy chaos of the morning). Instead, I can just pull one up on my phone, put in my headphones, and listen while I'm making lunches or cleaning up the house or doing my hair. It was one of those habits that slid into my normal routine so easily that it was like it was meant to be there. (Two of the talks I've returned to the most from last conference have been Yielding Our Hearts to God by Neill F. Marriott and Faith is Not By Chance, but by Choice by Neil L. Andersen.)
Going on Weekly Dates
This has been something Mike and I have tried to do our whole married lives, but once we added children to the mix, it became much more difficult. Finding a babysitter stressed me out and often, it felt easier to just stay home than try to coordinate all of the logistics to make an evening out happen. Plus, I harbored a little resentment because, when we did go out, I felt like I was the one who did the bulk of the planning, and it seemed like something we should both be invested in.
Then, early in the year, my sister-in-law, Sonja, mentioned that she and her husband were trying really hard to go on weekly dates. They traded off the planning every other month, and that sounded like a pretty awesome idea to me. I sold the idea to Mike as a competition (we would each take a month and keep track of the dates and whoever ended up planning the most dates would be the winner), but within just a couple of months, we stopped talking about the competition aspect of it. We were just having fun spending quality time together. Since we trade back and forth, I actually enjoy when it's my turn to do the planning because I get to do things that are fun for me, and when it's Mike's month, I relish not planning anything while knowing the dates will still happen.
Doing it this way has also helped us branch out from the standard "go out for dinner" or "stay home and watch a movie" dates we were used to. In the past year, we've gone to an art exhibit, been on a couple of hikes, gone to concerts and plays, and even done a room escape mystery.
Also, over the last nine months, we've discovered that we love middle-of-the-week, middle-of-the-day dates. They feel so indulgent.
Making lunches for the boys
A few months ago, Janssen mentioned that she was packing lunches for both of her older girls, even though only one of them is in school (an idea she got from Miranda). When I read her post, I had one of those lightning bolt moments Gretchen Rubin talks about. What a genius idea, and why had I not been doing such a thing all along? I was making a lunch for Aaron every morning anyway so it wouldn't be that difficult to just pack lunches for Maxwell and Bradley at the same time.
I started that very day, and I haven't looked back. It was one of those habits that fit our lifestyle and our schedule so perfectly that it took virtually no effort on my part to adopt.
And it has transformed my life.
I know, that sounds so dramatic, but I promise you I don't make such a statement lightly. Think about it. What is usually one of the worst times of the day? Lunchtime, right? (The only time of day that could possibly compete with it is the 4:30pm witching hour.) My kids tend to go a little psycho around 11:30am, which tends to make me go a little psycho. But by making the lunches in the morning, when things are relatively calm (and I'm just listening to my conference talk), I've eliminated the stress and craziness of that time of day entirely.
And if we ever decide to go to the park or a friend's house, I can just grab the lunches on our way out the door.
I'm telling you, transformative.
Learning to knit
Early last spring, a sweet older lady in our neighborhood taught me how to knit. It had been something I'd wanted to learn how to do for a long time. I started with a dish cloth (isn't that what you always start with?). Then I moved onto a pillow. And right now, I'm halfway through making a vest for Bradley (I'm using small needles, so it's taking me a long time.)
Everything about knitting is calming and relaxing to me (well, except for trying to decode the pattern, but luckily, my teacher hasn't abandoned me). I love the feeling of the soft yarn sliding through my fingers, the methodical click of the needles, and watching the finished product magically grow beneath my hands. It's the perfect thing to do while listening to an audiobook or watching a movie or just sitting tucked up on the couch watching the falling snow. I'm constantly planning out future projects, all while continuing to enjoy the project I'm currently working on.
Plus, learning to knit was one of my actual goals for 2015, and it felt so good to be able to check it off after wanting to learn for so long. I thought I would have to take a class or find some tutorials on the internet, but instead I formed a wonderful friendship with someone in our neighborhood, and that has had its own blessings.
Poetry Snack Time
When I first heard about "poetry tea time" on the Read-Aloud Revival, I decided to try it with my kids, just for fun. The idea is that you combine reading poetry with eating, and that just sounded like a winner combination to me. However, these types of things are often hard for me to stick with simply because, since it's not something we do every day, it can be tricky to know when to fit it in.
But again, as with everything I mentioned above, this tradition took hold with virtually no prodding from me. My kids immediately fell in love with it and look forward to it every time. Over the summer, we did it once a week. Now we do it about once a month (or every other week if we're lucky). I've tried not to force it into our schedule because it's meant to be fun, not essential.
We've tweaked a few things since we started, and I keep meaning to write a full post about it. Hopefully soon.
And that's it. I'd love to know what things YOU started doing in 2015 (big or small!) that changed your life for the better.