Dear friend: A favorite journaling prompt, You've Got Mail prints for you, 2 fall recipes & other joy-bringers.
I love picturing where we’re sitting and the mugs we’re holding as we lean towards each other and I share my heart in letter form. Today, it’s my couch with autumn harvest tea, hints of cinnamon and apple on our tongues, as the fog outside makes for a cozy day. I have made the commitment that this letter will be less newsletter and more of what I would truly say to a friend. This commitment means I can’t act like a machine here and sometimes I’ve been writing you letters in my head for weeks before they actually become a reality. This commitment means I won’t mechanically show up, but will wait until I have the space even if that’s longer than I’d like.
My last letter to you was sent in the early days of school starting, 2 months ago, and since then I’ve been trying to catch my breath. I hate that I haven’t the space to write a letter until now, but just like in my real-life friendships, I know that this is part of the deal. There is trust for the days when our plates are full, words are few and we’re trying to catch our breath.
One of my favorite journaling prompts comes from Emily P Freeman, and it is simply, “these are the days of…” I love how this prompt invites me to pause and notice what my days have held. This prompt helps me be curious and simply pay attention.
Here’s what has been filling my days:
These are the days of adding a part time job for someone I love and whose work I believe in.
These are the days of grieving that job not fitting the way I thought it would and setting it down, after wrestling and holding space for all that it brought up.
These are the days of feeling so out-of-breath, I didn’t even want to pick up a book, and I felt like an important piece of me was missing.
These are the days of re-reading The Hunger Games, gently easing myself back into reading and coming alive again as I read all three books in two days. Some books I’ve returned to years later just didn’t meet me the same way, but this series still connected with me, and I appreciated these characters anew (and their easy-to-pronounce names, bless.)
These are the days of finding a new breakfast date spot, delighting in pumpkin cold foam on our coffee, eggs benedict & lemon blueberry pancakes.
These are the days of trying a church for the first time in two years, and having lots of good, hard conversations about whether it is the right time and if this is the right place, and what we need in this season.
These are the days of another cold sore and no kissing for weeks, trying to be gentle to the ways my body is manifesting its stress.
These are the days of receiving the gift of a restful retreat all by myself, filled with naps and good food, baths and lots of books.
These are the days of the kindergarten pick up line and Marco Polo videos back and forth, as I wait in my car for my boy to come skipping out to me.
These are the days of triaging colds, an ear infection and lots of needs; waking up each day to figure out if school and work can happen, if we need masks and cough drops, and if plans need to be canceled yet again.
These are the days of taking a parenting class for Mothers of Spicy Ones and making a new friend, and holding space for the big emotions and specific needs that are part of this season of parenting.
These are the days of board games and reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets aloud to our family. My favorite parts to read almost always include Lockhart’s ridiculous antics or Ron’s snarky comments, while my kids are theorizing on what’s going to happen next in the story.
These are the days of kitten-sitting, being welcomed with purring and snuggles.
These are the days of family visiting, and the joys and aches of our days in proximity to each other in the midst of long-distance.
These are the days of November bouquets and the grace of flowers beyond when I expected them.
As often happens when I compile a list like this, it validates what I’m experiencing in my body. I almost always say to myself, “no wonder I was overwhelmed” or “this makes sense of why I couldn’t catch my breath” on the other side of documenting what was filling my days. I know when I’m not understanding why I’m responding in a certain way or have a behavior that feels confusing, it is easy to demand of myself “What is wrong with you?”
I’ve been paying attention to this posture and noticing when I have it, towards myself or others. It’s a harsh, bootstrapping, I’m a problem sort of posture. I want to trade it for a gentler, softer, more curious posture, where a person isn’t seen as a problem to fix but a person to be loved. I’ve been adopting this mantra to help shift my posturing in parenting lately, but it feels true here too:
This behavior might be confusing to me right now, but it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me. There’s always a need trying to get met behind every behavior I don’t understand yet. I can offer grace and curiosity until I have a better sense of what need is asking for attention. There is space for me to be figuring it out.
Dear friend, I’d love to invite you to make your own list, noticing what is filling your days. I also wonder what it might be like to offer yourself the gentleness of assuming your behavior and responses these days make sense, even if you’re not understanding them just yet. I know I’m right there with you in learning this. There is space for you to be figuring this out.
And now onto some joy-bringers…
Here are a few things bringing me joy in this season that I want to share with you:
These pumpkin cookies are absolutely lovely. I’ve already made two double batches this month because they’ve been enjoyed so much. I’ve never browned butter prior to this recipe, but I’ve become convinced the lovely nutty flavor is worth a little extra effort. It is worth noting that we like them better without rolling them in the cinnamon sugar, but the sea salt sprinkled on top is essential to optimum enjoyment.
I loved making this cinnamon sugar apple cake for our family, with several options for chopping apples (none of which include peeling the apples) and its crisp topping. This one disappeared so quickly both times I’ve baked it and I’m so glad I got to bring it to an early Friendsgiving this past weekend.
My dear friend, Summer Gross made this beautiful choose-your-own-adventure workbook for noticing & moving through your emotions. I use so many of the tools she shares in the workbook, and it is a gift to have them all in one place. This is a free download, full of gentle invitations & I can’t recommend it enough. I had the privilege to chat with Summer about her workbook and different creative ideas for naming your emotions in episode 51 of The Presence Project podcast. I’d love for you to listen in to our conversation.
I didn’t know it was a dream to have a book dedicated to me until it happened. Having Elisabeth Bennett’s new book, Enneagram Life: Personal, Relational & Biblical Insights for All Seasons dedicated to me was such a gift. I had the privilege of leading Elisabeth’s launch team for this book and reading an early copy. It has been a joy of my fall to spend time in these pages. I never recommend anything I don’t truly enjoy, and this one is no exception. I highly recommend this book for people who already know a little bit about the Enneagram (since this one isn’t a primer) and for people who want to grow. Whether for your own personal growth or understanding those in your life better, this book is an invaluable guide. Also, you can watch me unbox this beautiful book here. What a joyful moment that was for my heart.
I’ve been full of anticipation for a You’ve Got Mail watch party with my book club that is coming up this weekend. This is one of my favorite movies, and even with it’s imperfections, it feels like an old, welcome friend. I often can’t help but hear lines in my head that fit into my every day life. I made a few prints with quotes I love, and am so glad to send them to you to enjoy too. You’re welcome to print them, save them to be a phone background, or just enjoy them however you’d like.
Dear friend, thank you for being here with me. It means so much that you want to read this letter. As always, I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to just hit "reply" to this email. Whether you want to share a prayer request, your own list of what’s filling your days, your own favorite You’ve Got Mail quote or if my words brought up anything for you, I’d be so glad to know.
PS. Even though I don’t quite feel ready to think about Christmas or Advent just yet, I know it is around the corner. I’ll be sending you a short letter next week to share some Advent resources, including what I’ve done in past years & my plan for this year. I hope this feels like a gentle invitation to listen to what your heart might need this year, whether you end up using any of my suggestions or not. I hope you feel free from pressure as you listen with the Lord about what would be a gift this holiday season, and how he might be inviting you to draw near.