soulful healthy living

Things I Learned This Winter – 2020

It’s been a mild winter here in the Mid-Atlantic. Springtime is coming. The sun has begun to warm the soil. Just the other day, I noticed green spikes of crocuses and snowdrops poking through the wet, icy soil.

Once again, I join writer Emily P. Freeman and other fellow writers for this season’s “What I Learned This Winter.”

At the close of every season, I look forward to sharing “What I Learned.” Sometimes, the season brings life lessons that are somber and weighty. While others are frivolous observations about mundane topics like hairstyles.

Failing does not make me a FAILURE

what I learned this winter

I shared with you in my 6 Soulful Things I Learned This Summer post that I returned to grad school at mid-life.

So here’s an update, as promised.

I love everything about being a student. Okay, except the tuition fee.

The reading list makes me giddy with anticipation. Organizing my binders, picking out Post-It Notes, and gel highlighters add to the excitement.

Even though my nest is nearly empty, which proved to be the best time to enter school, life stills require a balancing act. It’s the balance of those spinning plates that gets me every time.

I tend to drop spinning plates. They shatter into tiny, jagged pieces.

A few weeks, I tried to stuff too much of life into one week. I had a huge assignment due for class, so I got started early. I finished the homework and still had two days before the deadline. So I decided to give my thoughts time to marinate.

A sick kid, family commitments, and work deadlines later, I woke up at 4:58 the day after the assignment was due and realized I had failed to submit my paper.

At 5 am, I sleepily shuffled to my office and submitted my paper along with a note to my professor, basically begging for mercy.

In a gentle and polite email, he declined my request for mercy and gave me a “0” on the assignment.

My initial response was to drop that class like running from a virus.

With a few days to think about my next move, it hit me.

One of the skills I practice as a faith-based health and wellness coach is to help clients learn to celebrate failures. Often the most significant barrier to a client’s progress is the fear of failing.

We think of failure as shameful. At first, my defeat stung, but as I moved forward, I discovered the rich learning opportunity connected to the experience.

Giving Experiences Instead of Gifts

It took the sixth kid and 656 birthday parties later to embrace the idea of gifting experiences rather than a wrapped gift.

Unlike my friend Sally, who wraps gifts with as much care as one would wallpaper a dining room, I can barely remember to restock my ever depleted wrapping paper inventory.

Ironically, gift-giving is one of my love languages. You are wondering, so what’s the problem?

what I Learned This Winter

It’s not the actual purchase of the gift that I dread. It’s the shopping part. A gift-giver always locates the perfect gift like the lock whisperer in an Escape room event. You just have that special touch.

Except to find that perfect gift, you must endure hours of shopping.

I learned to channel my peculiar gift-giving talent to an area that creates memories through experiences.

My dad, the art aficionado, turned 75 this year. Instead of buying the typical “over-the-hill” gag gift, we took him to the Smithsonian Institute’s National Gallery of Art.

Before you plaster me with kudos for taking my dad to the American equivalent of the Louvre, the National Gallery is a quick drive from my house.

My tween loves giving her friends these experiences as gifts because she gets to join in on the fun. Providing experiences personalizes the gift because you thoughtfully consider interests and hobbies that make your family member or friend smile.

Practicing Soulful Listening

Just before Christmas, I developed an inability to focus while having a conversation. Because of the usual busyness that comes with that time of year, I assumed my usual attentive listening habits would return after the rush of Christmas.

By January, my listening skills did not get any better. They got worse.

Busyness and distraction prevented me from actively listening to a sermon, a conversation, or a podcast. It was as though I was experiencing some sort of auditory breakdown.

what I learned this winter

I sorted through scripture and extracted verses that addressed listening. Then I combined that wisdom with researched-based listening skills I learned in grad school.

I wrote a post about my discoveries that I now refer to as the practice of “Soulful Listening.”

On occasion, I find myself easing back into the slump of passive listening. When that happens, I glance at my guidelines for soulful listening to get back on track.

Eating as a Spiritual Discipline

what i learned this winter

The practice of soulful healthy eating places food in a sacred context.

I enter the wrestling ring at least once a week with God on this topic. Sometimes, I jokingly, well, sardonically refer to the topic I write about as my ‘Jonah message.’

And, yes, like Jonah, I often find the shade of a tree to sit under to sulk and complain to God for entrusting me with this topic.

Pulpits, for the most part, remain silent when it comes to the role of food and its impact on the church. Much of the faith-based community remain complacent regarding eating as a spiritual discipline

Leslie Leyland Fields writes, “without recognition of the God who has made the earth, our dependence on water and food may move us elsewhere—toward communion with the earth, even communion with food itself. 

Without harnessing motivation for healthy eating from a spiritual perspective, we will continue to struggle with disordered and dysfunctional eating.

Deep down, we want to change our unhealthy eating habits and poor food choices. To do so, we have to be willing to change our perspective on food.

To experience lasting change with eating, we must move the focus from outward appearances to a transformation from within— a spiritual transformation.

I discovered the way to liberation from our love-hate relationship with food is through the decision to view it through a sacred lens.

This winter, I moved from sulking beneath the shade of the tree back into the world with my message.

Copycatting Rachel Green’s Hair From Season 10 of ‘Friends’

what I learned this winter

Unless you lived under a rock, you’ve seen at least one episode of ‘Friends’ so the saying goes.

I’ve never seen a full episode of the iconic sitcom. The show made its ten seasons cultural splash across television screens while I was up to my elbows in changing diapers, managing temper tantrums, and living life on one income.

From a distance, I watched Rachel’s hair-volution. Back then, before the golden age of social media, People Magazine kept this cable-free, SAHM informed of anything I needed to know about pop culture, like every time Rachel Green changed her hairstyle.

Between breaks at library storytime, I shuffled to the magazine section, grabbed the current issue of People magazine nestled in the heavy-duty magazine protector. I plopped in the ancient overstuffed chintz upholstered chair and caught up with the world.

While ‘Friends’ turns 25 and I turn 56, Rachel’s season 10 hair seems a perfect fit for me. The side bangs provide a stylish curtain of sorts to hide the fine lines formed on my mid-life forehead.

The beyond the shoulder-length Rachel style builds in days for chic ponytails between shampoos because, after all, I am in grad school and nurturing a business.

The long frock boho style suits my granola girl, earthy-crunchy lifestyle.

And we all know by now, I don’t balance too many things well, including a beauty regime. Let’s keep it simple, please.

Until next season,

“While it is February, once can

taste the full joys of anticipation.

Spring stands at the gate with

her finger on the latch.”

Patience Strong

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8 Comments

  1. Michele Morin on February 28, 2020 at 6:44 pm
    I also live in a wrestling match with God over eating habits. It circles back around, seasonally I think, and surprises me. My heart aches for you over the missed deadline. Oh, so hard.
    • Denise Sultenfuss on March 1, 2020 at 4:27 pm
      Hi Michele, thanks for stopping by to offer some insight. I want to invite you to join my circle of soulful healthy living friends.
  2. Linda Stoll on February 29, 2020 at 8:20 am
    Denise, good lovely morning from over at Emily's! I'm resonating with your emphasis on experiences over gifts, the huge gift of listening to another soul, and eating as a spiritual discipline. Being here has been a very good way to start today. Bless you!
    • Denise Sultenfuss on March 1, 2020 at 4:29 pm
      Hi Linda, thank you for you thoughtful comment. Ah, yes, building memories with experiences speaks to my family these days. Let me know if there is anything else I can help you with regarding soulful healthy living.
  3. Julie on February 29, 2020 at 12:08 pm
    Wrestling match about eatng! Yes. I know it well.
    • Denise Sultenfuss on March 1, 2020 at 4:30 pm
      Hi Julie, Thanks for stopping by the blog. What other insights can you share about the wrestling match you have with eating? Feel free to email me. I would love to help in any way that I can.
  4. Karen Martins on March 3, 2020 at 5:52 pm
    So much to read here that I'll have to come back later when I have more time. Chock-ful-o information! Just wanted to let you know that after seeing you today-- your hair looks much better than Rachel's!;)

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