What I Learned: February 2017 Edition

I’ve been wanting to take part in Emily P. Freeman’s What I Learned community link-up for a while, but never made note of it early enough to get the jump-start on the writing that I need.

But I wanted to share with you what I’ve been learning because I wanted to spread the link-up to you and see what you’ve been learning, too!

I learned that living like love includes loving myself. Self-care, giving myself grace, resting, taking breaks, listening to my body’s need for rest days, exercise, good food, imageand balancing social commitments with solo time. I’m starting to get a handle on balancing my social calendar with my introverted need to recharge alone, knowing that it’s 100% okay (and even necessary) to spend time basically doing nothing, at least from a standard productivity perspective (like reading, coloring, or watching a few episodes of a show).

I learned more about writing for the right audience and creating a more cohesive voice through the Hope*Writers podcast and a webinar they did called “Why No One Reads Your Blog and How to Fix That.” I’ve also been getting advice from Chandler Bolt and Jeff Goins lately, so it’s been information overload at times, but truly good material and encouragement!

I’m realizing that my body is trying to communicate to me, and I should really start paying attention. Aches and pains, minor injuries, fullness and hunger cues… I haven’t been good at listening to them, but they’ve reached a fever pitch lately, so I’m starting to tune into them, and I think it’s going to make a world of difference.

I’m reading Joining Jesus on His Mission: How to Be an Everyday Missionary with my community group, and together we’re learning about what it means to live life on mission with God. I like the contrast the author, Greg Finke, drew between working for 4164727oxxl-_sx326_bo1204203200_God and working with God. I need to remember that He’s already moving (whether I can see it or not), and it’s not my job to strive to do good things for Him, but to humbly seek opportunities to join Him in what He’s already up to.

My eyes are slowly being opened to the fact that when spent correctly, I have time to do all the things I consider to be important. If I’m not paying attention, I can spend way more time than I am even aware of watching back-to-back episodes of shows on Netflix, calling it “down time” or a break between tasks, when I could (and probably should) cap it at one or two and move on to something more productive or more fulfilling. This weekend I was more conscious of how I spent my time, and while I did still watch several episodes of my current shows, I didn’t plan the rest of my weekend around them, and I turned them off when I needed to get other, more constructive things accomplished.

There are some things that are just worth investing more money in. I’m a naturally frugal person, so it’s sometimes almost physically painful to hand over a large sum of money for something (whether it’s objectively a large amount or just large for whatever I’m paying for in return). But I’m learning that there are instances in which I need to be able to see the value in paying more for higher-quality items that will last instead of going for cheaper options that will wear out or not be exactly what I was looking for.

The spiralizer might just be my new favorite kitchen gadget. It’s so easy and so muchunnamed-2 fun! I’ve made zucchini noodles, sweet potato noodles, and sweet potato fries so far, and I look forward to using it to make more delicious concoctions. I love how fast it is, because as much as I LOVE cooking, I’ve been looking for ways to speed up the process because it sometimes feels like I spend all my time in the kitchen.

I’m working on improving my Instagram photos (in terms of taking better ones and playing more with the settings) and posting more regularly. I really like Instagram, but always felt like I just wasn’t a good photographer. But after reading some tips and downloading the VSCO app for my phone (to use instead of the normal camera app), I feel like I’m making some progress!


What have you been learning lately?


Joining Jesus on His Mission image source: https://www.amazon.com/Joining-Jesus-His-Mission-Missionary/dp/193884002X

Let’s Share What We Learned This Winter by Emily P. Freeman

What Are You Gonna Do About It?

Have you ever felt like things in life just aren’t quite the way you want them to be? Do you get that nagging feeling that you’re not living life to the fullest, like there are things you can’t quite put your finger on that are slightly off-kilter?

I know how that goes. I’ve gone through times of disengagement and vague dissatisfaction, not quite sure what was “wrong,” so to speak, which left me unable to do anything to change it.

But when I started really thinking about it, I could do more than I initially thought. I can reflect on my strengths, talents, gifts, and personality, trying to see how God uniquely made me, and begin to search for ways to lean into them. I can evaluate the different areas of my life, asking myself whether I’m satisfied with them, noting what is going well and what areas I can improve in. I can process through how I can use my strengths in the various areas of my life, allowing more passion into my daily rhythms. And I can do what I can to improve my circumstances and choose to be content with the things I can’t change.

Looking back on previous seasons of life to see what worked and what didn’t reminds me of part of Tsh Oxenrider‘s book Notes from a Blue Bike, in which she talks about missing the culture of Turkey after returning to the US. She missed the laid-back atmosphere and the loose concept of time, being able to drop in on friends and stay the whole day without calling first or feeling like she was imposing on them. She knew it wasn’t practical to treat friends in the US the same way, since it rubs against the way our culture functions, but she challenged herself to incorporate the things she loved about Turkey into her family’s life in the US as well as she could, changing what was in her power to change and accepting the parameters around her as they were. When I first read her book, I couldn’t believe how I could have missed such an obviously beneficial practice for creating a life I really love.

As I prepare to move to a new place, I’m reflecting more on what I’ve liked and disliked about places I’ve lived in the past, as well as places I’ve visited, like friends’ homes. I’m working to incorporate some of the things I’ve enjoyed into my new space, and trying to find ways to avoid the things that didn’t sit so well with me.

Taking the time to think about what things I’ve liked about where I’ve been allows me to get to know myself better. When I think about my preferences, I catch a glimpse into a part of my heart that isn’t often exposed. I can move from a vague feeling of discontentment to knowing what it is that isn’t quite working to actually taking steps to change so that things do work well. Throughout the process, I continue to learn what works best for me and how I can work to build a life I love, even if figuring that out takes some trial and error.

I liked living with friends in La Crosse and in the Cities. I loved being able to walk nearly everywhere I wanted to go when I was in school, too, instead of having to drive like I do now. I now know that working in sales doesn’t suit my personality. I’ve also learned that being able to be involved in strong community is a must. The summer I moved home after college was hard without a good network of people to support me; since I have gotten plugged back into a church family, I’ve felt more encouraged, supported, and connected, and I plan to continue engaging in community everywhere I go. Not knowing my neighbors in my apartment building has been uncomfortable at best and guilt-inducing at worst, so I plan to make greater effort to get to know and interact with my neighbors when we move.

As I’ve learned more about how I’m wired, I’m able to make some small changes that allow me to spend more time doing the things I love, feel more comfortable in my surroundings, and pour passion and purpose into my life. Setting aside time to reflect and actually write down lists of things that have made me feel alive, things I’ve absolutely loved, things that have just fit, gives me a greater ability to focus, to say “yes” and “no” to the right things, and to feel like I’m slowly moving in the right direction and becoming the best version of myself. I highly encourage you to do the same.


What things in your life aren’t quite satisfying you? What are you going to do about them?

Dear Twenty-One-Year-Old Me

This month, I’m going to be writing letters to myself at various stages in my life. Below is the fifth and final installment, for my twenty-one-year-old self.

Dear twenty-one-year-old me,

Breathe. Just breathe. And then let go. Let go of your expectations. Let go of your agenda. Let go of your timeline. You are not God. You are not in control. He is. His timing is perfect. His plan is perfect. Relax. And breathe once more for good measure.

Preparing to leave such a rich community is heartbreaking, I know. But what you can’t see is that there is a wonderful opportunity for you to build a new community in a place that desperately needs it, if only you will keep moving forward instead of getting stuck in the despair of leaving your current home.

I know you’re agonizing over the fact that you still don’t have a job lined up for after graduation. I know that tortures you. I know it keeps you up at night as your mind continues spinning long into the night, trying to devise a new plan of attack to provide your own safety net in what feels like a free-fall with no view of the ground. But take heart; the moment you let go of your will in this is the very moment that the pieces will start to fall together without your interference.

God is going to do far greater things that what you can even imagine. There will certainly be a lot of painful goodbyes involved, but there will also be times of joyous celebration as you see how He will graciously provide for all of your needs. You will later be able to look back and see how He was working all the while, putting the pieces together to create something beautiful.

Life won’t unfold just the way you want; it’s not your story to plot out. You focus too much on what you alone are capable of, putting God and what He can do inside a box of your limitations. Lay down your expectations, and you will be surprised with what wonderfully amazing things come up that weren’t possible while you were holding so tightly to your own agenda.

Expect great things, but don’t tell God how or when to do them. Know that you will make a difference, but leave margin for the when and the how. Explore your passions, giving God room to work with them and fashion them into a meaningful way to spend your time and invest your life. And don’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.

All my love,


Dear Eighteen-Year-Old Me

This month, I’m going to be writing letters to myself at various stages in my life. Below is the fourth installment, for my eighteen-year-old self. Check back next week for the next letter!

Dear eighteen-year-old me,

You are about to embark on a grand adventure that has the potential to dramatically change your life. This is your chance for a fresh start. Be bold. Be courageous. Be a little crazy.

I know you don’t want to let go of the world behind you and the life you’ve lived until now, but you can’t hold onto it and move forward at the same time. Acknowledge that you will have to let go of what you’re trying to desperately to cling to in order to embrace the better things that lie before you. You will be okay. You will make new friends– some of the best friends of your life. You will find work. You will find a major that you love. You will find an amazing community of people to live life with. But you must start by letting go of what’s behind you.

You will never again have so much free time, so make the most of it. This is a unique stage of life– one in which you have the freedom to build your own schedule, live in close quarters with some amazing people, and have opportunities at every turn to do crazy things with them. Don’t miss out on it because you’re too busy trying to get everything on your to-do list crossed off.

Although schoolwork is important, don’t forsake relationships in the name of academics. Your homework will always be there; opportunities to build your friendships and create memories may not. My hope for you is that you will invest more in people than in things, so that you will be able to look back in three years and see that you gained more than a diploma, that you were able to accomplish far more in the way of life experiences.

Don’t be afraid to try things you’re not good at for fear of looking foolish. Join the dance party. Play sand volleyball. Throw a Frisbee around. Don’t allow fear to hold you back from living your life. Some of the craziest things that push you outside of your comfort zone will turn out to be the most memorable experiences. Don’t sacrifice those in the name of your responsible reputation and comfort with doing only familiar things.

You will meet and get to know some of the sweetest, boldest, most genuine people in the next few years. Let them get to know you in return. Don’t hold back just because you know this season of life is temporary. Your entire life is temporary. Live fully every day, as if it were your last. Cherish the friendships that come your way, for some of them will prove to stand the test of time and distance.

All my love,


Dear Sixteen-Year-Old Me

This month, I’m going to be writing letters to myself at various stages in my life. Below is the third installment, for my sixteen-year-old self. Check back next week for the next letter!

Dear sixteen-year-old me,

I know responsibility is beginning to creep into your wonderful life, and it will come in many forms. Resist the temptation to say yes to every opportunity to get involved with the things that vie for your attention. Remember what’s most important, and make sure you set aside time for those things above all else.

I know it hurts when you say goodbye to friends, and making new ones isn’t always easy for you. But one day you’ll look back and see that these experiences and relationships paved the way for much fuller ones later on. Seek out people who will bring out the best in you, challenge you to continually grow, and never stop encouraging you. Those are the real keepers in life, the friendships that will be worth fighting for when distance comes between you.

I know you’re starting to stress about your future, especially life beyond high school. Not knowing what you want to do with your life seems really daunting, and people don’t seem to stop asking. Relax and rest in the knowledge that you don’t have to pick your lifelong career at sixteen. Spend time discovering what it is that makes you feel most alive, and do that for now. Don’t worry about whether you’ll still like it in ten years. You can always change your mind later. Do what you love, and do it to the glory of God.

Choose joy, my dear. Every day, choose joy. Choose life, love, and peace. Wake up every day with the determination to shine for your God wherever you go, bringing desperately needed light to those around you.

Praise Him always. In the good and in the bad, in the light and in the dark, worship God in His infinite goodness. He never changes. There is always a reason to praise Him. And guess what? When you’re focusing on His goodness and holiness, the obstacles of life suddenly grow far smaller and less significant in light of how great your God is.

All my love,


Dear Ten-Year-Old Me

This month, I’m going to be writing letters to myself at various stages in my life. Below is the first installment, for my ten-year-old self. Check back next week for the next letter!

Dear ten-year-old me,

Oh, how quickly time flies! Enjoy the freedom of your youth. Don’t take all of those open nights and weekends for granted, for they will soon be filled with various responsibilities. Don’t fret over friends who move or pets who pass away, for there will be even more friends and pets down the road to lessen the blow.

Let go of worry, and live in the moment. Enjoy the present without being so concerned about the future.You are far too young to let your time and energy go to something so useless and consuming as worry and tension. Most of what you worry about won’t happen anyway, so don’t waste your energy focusing on it.

Don’t listen to what others might say or spend your time worrying about what they might think. You are a precious daughter of the Living God, a princess loved by the King of Kings. That matters far more than what anyone else might think or say about you, and His opinion of you will never change because He never changes. Take comfort in that, little one.

Read all the books. Develop a lifelong love of learning from an early age, and it will follow you. Do what you love. Develop passions and talents, and pursue them relentlessly. Draw, write, play. And don’t be afraid to share your heart and creative side with others.

Never stop dreaming. Don’t let people tell you the things you want aren’t realistic or attainable. Don’t let that little voice inside your head tell you that dreams are foolish things only for little children, things to be abandoned as we grow older. Dreams ought to grow with us. So dream. Dream big, knowing that your dreams matter and can be attained. And don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise, my dear.

All my love,