It’s almost the end of January (somehow – someone help me figure out how we got here), so I’d like to reflect on some things I’ve learned in 24 days and some things I’m headed toward in the next 11 months.

You cannot prepare for winter living out of a backpack.
Many of you will remember the month I spent in China in 2012 (and if you don’t, head on over to the travel section to see photos and a quick recap). That winter was the coldest China had experienced in 60 years. To set the stage for you, I arrived in China with nothing but a backpack after spending three hot months sweating it out in southern Africa. Read: not adequately prepared. This winter has been mild according to fellow Bostonians, but we’ve had one great snow storm (was this a nor’easter? I’m not sure, but we’ll call it that). The snow was super fluffy and fabulous, but turned to ice basically overnight because of wind and the lowest temperatures I’ve ever experienced in the United States. It was what I like to call “China cold” but to Liz’s point, having the right gear (like these boots and this coat and an abundance of fleece-lined leggings) makes all the difference. I’m not quite ready to go camping in this level of cold and I’m not really happy living in it all of the time (because who doesn’t miss sunshine?), but it is substantially less dreadful with adequate clothing. Nothing will ever compare to wearing all of my clothes every day in China to stay warm. 

You don’t have to finish the book.
I’ve been in a bit of a book funk this month. While I’ve finished four books so far (review blog will drop on February 1), I’ve started six. I got about a third through the other two but couldn’t finish them. I’m not sure what kind of book I’m looking for right now, but what I’ve got isn’t it. Instead of getting stuck trying to finish them I started a different one. Not every book you start is going to be the best book for the time you’re reading it (and sometimes… let’s be honest… they just aren’t the best book for us ever). Reading is a more fluid experience than we let ourselves have, I think. Some people have told me they had trouble finishing a book I absolutely loved. It doesn’t mean the book is bad or they are terrible readers. It’s just not the right time or place for that one. It’s okay to not finish the book, but don’t give up on reading. 

The world is loud.
I’m always affected by what’s going on around me because I love stories and I have this inclination toward empathy. Sometimes the world gets too loud with its heartache and tragedy and happenings that I have to take a break. The last few weeks have been full of wild moments – personally, nationally, globally – so I’ve taken a few breaks here and there from social media, the news, my phone, television. I’ve honestly lost my phone for a few hours because I couldn’t remember where I left it. I’m sure some of you are saying that “losing a phone” is such a millennial thing to say and that’s okay. To an extent, it is. We’ve grown up in this always-on culture. But I’m also 1,300 miles away from my ride-or-die community, so my phone really is my lifeline sometimes. It feels good to let it go for a little while when the world feels loud.

Hang the pictures. Put up the curtains. Get some sunshine.
I’ve honestly not been in a super healthy place the last few weeks. January has done a number on me and I’ve let it. There have been week-long migraines and crying over bowls of soup and days when I’ve felt like staying in bed. Those are okay sometimes, but not this often. I’ve kind of tried to do this Boston thing with one foot in and one foot out. I go to work. I see work people. That’s it. I haven’t invested, haven’t gotten involved. I’m afraid to be here because I’m afraid that stepping into a new community here means I’ll have to stay or I’ll end up leaving again. What a catch-22, huh? There’s fear of being this far from my people for so long, as if what I’m dreaming in my head about some middle-Tennessee town will disappear if I like this place too much and I’ll lose everyone – out of sight, out of mind. But there’s also the flip-side of that coin. If I get involved and meet great people, leaving will be like ripping off a bandaid again. Both of those are terrible ways to live. So, I’m going to put my suitcases away and maybe find a church or some local ACS group to volunteer with rather than wasting away day-in and day-out with just work. And I’m going to go outside when the sun is shining (which is rare) because winter isn’t going to last forever, but it will kill part of my soul if I let it.

Baseball is coming.
61 days. I’m counting. 

Three things that are saving my life right now:
Hammerhead Sharks on the SharkTracker
Living Hope (The House Sessions) by Phil Wickham
Hot Chocolate from L.A. Burdick