What I learned in September & October


My summer break from What I Learned turned into a fall break and well, here we are. A bit of what I learned during the months of September and October:

Daniel was around 80 years old when he was thrown into the lions’ den. What?! He’s typically portrayed as youthful in all the children’s Bible illustrations I’ve seen, and I never stopped to look at the actual timeline and where this event falls in Daniel’s life. It changes the story a bit, doesn’t it? Can you imagine the scene?

There are always opportunities, even during the most mundane days, to be a light—including while grocery shopping.

• I did not succeed in writing every day for 31 days for the Write 31 Days challenge. But I did write 16 essays on grace, freedom, and the rules, and I learned something new about myself and about God’s love for us as I worked through each post. I also learned that I had more words in me than I thought I did. One of my biggest fears about participating and committing to a central theme was that I would run out of things to write. But as it happens, I barely made a dent in my list of writing prompts. I wrote a little more than 10,000 words during the challenge. And there are more tumbling around in my head—so I’ll be returning to this topic down the road.

Stranger Things is so good. My husband originally watched the Netflix series on his own and determined I wouldn’t like it. (I’m prone to nightmares and waking up in the middle of the night convinced there’s a dinosaur in my bathroom, so I didn’t blame him.) But I decided to be brave (or maybe just succumb to peer pressure) and watched it over a series of Monday nights with him, my sister, and her boyfriend—and surprise! I loved it. I didn’t want it to end! And bonus—no nightmares.

I can get carsick from the front seat. Yes I can, and yes I did. Constant turning around in my seat to assist kids in their snack and entertainment needs + stop-and-go traffic through Atlanta + that Chick-fil-a chocolate chunk cookie I just had to have = throwing up in the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel.

My family was so gracious to me in that messy, gross moment. We were trying to get to our weekend destination in the Georgia mountains, and the drive had already felt so long. My needing to stop (and then hunt for a convenience store with Dramamine in stock) made us late for our intended arrival time, which meant walking into an unfamiliar cabin in the woods with our children, in the dark, while our host casually chatted about bear sightings and house fires. (My 8-year-old immediately asked to go back home.) I felt guilty for all of it.

The kindness of my husband and girls was reflective of God’s compassion—and made me aware of how often I receive that compassion, only to turn around and act harshly with others. Would I have been so gracious and patient if one of my kids or my husband had been the one losing their lunch? I hope I would have. I certainly will be in the future.

Speaking of compassion… I can’t get through this list without mentioning what I’ve learned through this election cycle, so I’ll share just a few things (no political commentary here, so you can keep reading in peace):

Seeing photos of the candidates as children reminds me of their humanity and that God created them and loves them. The idea came from this guide, which helped me to shift my thinking about them.

These words from Beth Moore.

• I’ve learned that platforms are much, much more complicated than they appear on the surface. Some things are just not as simple as I once naively believed. I’ve also learned that I don’t need someone to tell me who to vote for and why, because I have the Holy Spirit, the Word in front of me—the life and words of Christ!—and the ability to seek God for wisdom and discernment. He gives generously to those who ask (James 1:5).

And back to Daniel one more time… If you need a little perspective during this election season and a reminder that God is the one in control, read the book of Daniel. He made King Nebuchadnezzar go crazy, eat grass, and eventually recognize God’s authority. Nothing is impossible. When fear threatens to creep in, I need to read the Bible. I already knew that, but during this season I need to be reminded every single day.

Want to check out past editions of What I Learned? You can find them here

What I learned {the summer edition}

What I learned_ summer 2016

There are still three weeks of summer left, if we’re getting technical about it, but my kids have been back in school for two weeks already and I’m itching for the next season. So, here we go!

I should never, ever post a photo online of the stack of books I’m planning to read in three months. It’s just embarrassing. There were seven books in my stack, one of which I’d already read most of and so will not count here (Steadfast Love by Lauren Chandler).


Seven books didn’t seem like a totally outrageous goal. But here’s what I actually finished: 

1. Stacey Thacker’s new book, Fresh Out of Amazing, which I had the pleasure of getting my hands on early as part of her book launch team. It was wonderful. Stacey’s stories are so clearly God-written, and I kept forgetting I’ve never met her in person—the more I read, the more I thought of her as a friend and a mentor. Her words are those of the girlfriend you sit and chat with over coffee at Panera, and I appreciate that kind of writing.

2. Three-fourths of Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton biography. Fine, one-half.

That’s it. No, really. I blame Netflix and my children.

Before helping your child say buh-bye to the pacifier, be sure you are prepared with chocolate. And earplugs. One day in July, I decided I was tired of chasing down my 2-year-old’s pacifiers. So I did something rash I never would have gotten away with when her big sis was little: I walked around the house with a pair of scissors and cut the end off every paci I could find. (Pure evil, I know. I know.) The look on her sweet face when she tried to put them in her mouth! She declared them all “broking” and threw them in the garbage, and I thought, Hurrah! I’ve won! I’m a genius!

And that moment was followed by the worst three days we had all summer.

This is why I’m not spontaneous.

Building websites is fun. My friend Lindsey and I launched a new monthly email newsletter just last week, and I had the best time pulling together the website (really!). We used Squarespace, which I was already familiar with and is pretty easy to use—I’m no master coder or anything. But there was something incredibly satisfying about working on it—the challenges, formatting, troubleshooting, coming up with work-arounds when Squarespace wouldn’t let me do what I had in mind. Nerd alert!

TheDraftingDesk_promo1PS: Go subscribe to The Drafting Desk!

It was harder than I expected to send both my girls off to school this year

IMG_7094_blogThere are coyotes in Florida. Silly me for not knowing this, right? I’d heard about local spottings via my neighborhood board, but the only coyotes I’d ever seen myself were on Wild Kratts, and this one:

wile_e_coyote(Doesn’t count.) Until last weekend, when this one showed up in my backyard. IMG_9389

So, who wants to send their kids over to play now?

On a solemn note, I won’t be able to recall the summer of 2016 in future years without acknowledging the Pulse shooting. I’m still struggling to fully wrap my mind around the devastation that occured less than three miles from the house I grew up in. We witnessed something incredible in the aftermath of the horror though. I watched (as did my little girls) an entire community come together, uniting in prayer, hugging total strangers, and giving—giving so much. My 8-year-old and I scrambled around our house to find notepads, pens, snacks, and little gifts for those stuck waiting at local hospitals for their wounded loved ones, and together we delivered them to a local church. She and I sat and wrote notes to encourage people we will never meet. And I learned that though my children won’t fully understand the tragedy or significance of that day for years to come, our response mattered. Our prayers mattered. More tragedy was to come in the weeks that followed, here in our country and around the world. I believe God continues to sing comfort and love over those still wrapped in grief.


I felt a cool breeze over the weekend, and the meteorologist might say it’s the result of tropical weather, but I’m calling it hope. Fall is coming, everyone. Hang in there.

I missed Emily Freeman’s link-up this time around, but if you want to check out my past editions of What I Learned, you can find them here

What I learned in May

What I learned_ May2016

It’s June 3rd, and the temptation to skip last month’s What I Learned post is big. We’re not even one full week into summer break and I’m running low on energy and inspiration. There are a few weeks’ worth of half-written blog drafts taunting me from their teeny minimized versions at the bottom right of my screen. Writer’s block has been real this month. Powering through, right? Here are four quick thoughts:

• I was introduced to this new month called Maycember, and ahhhhh, I get it. May brought with it the looming end of the school year, which meant extra activities, parties, a summer birthday to celebrate early, sorting out summer schedules and signing up for camps and dance class, rounding up thoughtful items for Teacher Appreciation Week, writing thank-you notes, attending closing ceremonies, and saying farewells for the summer. The jam-packedness of May rivaled the chaos leading up to Christmas break in December… dum da da dum, Maycember. (This blog post from Jen Hatmaker sums it up pretty well.)

• I don’t like cooking. That’s not something I learned this month; I’ve known that for a long time. I can cook. I just don’t find it fun. All that work, it’s gone within five minutes, and then you have to clean? Nah. (Don’t worry, family, I will continue to feed you anyway because I love you.) What I did discover in May is that cooking is a lot less of a chore when you’ve got an ’80s party mix blasting in the background. I’ve started rounding up my girls around 4pm every day for a dance party. We shake out the afternoon crankies to The Bangles and MJ and Cyndi Lauper (“Mommy, is this a grown up singing? It sounds like a little girl!”), and it is good. For some reason, I feel much more willing to feed them after that.

It’s already too hot to drag my 2-year-old in and out of Target for stuff. She won’t stay in the cart, and there is a serious lack of free cookies and balloons to bribe her with (God bless Publix, though). By the time I’ve finished wrangling/half-carrying her like a football around the store while pushing the cart with one hand and listening to her scream just for kicks (followed by a grin and a “That’s loud, mommy!”), I’m sweaty and ready for the day to be over. And that’s before tackling the checkout situation, getting the cart back to its corral, and safely loading kids into the minivan (constant vigilance!). It’s only 10am and I am done. Forget that. I will be ordering diapers and other necessities online this summer, thankyouverymuch. This is why God gave moms the internet.

• This article: Nicole Cliffe: How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life. It’s one of those pieces I had to read, think about, and read again, because Wow. I hope you’ll check it out. Let the Holy Spirit use her story to give you fresh eyes and a better understanding of people and the incredible ways God draws us to Himself.

Until next month…

Check out what others learned in May here, and join in! 

Want to check out past editions of What I Learned? You can find them here


What I learned in April

What I learned_ April

April went by so fast (cliché, I know, I know), yet its beginning feels so distant at this point that I’m struggling to remember—so I’m especially grateful today for my little yellow Moleskine notebook and that I had my wits about me enough to jot a few things down throughout the month. If I hadn’t, well, buh-bye memories. (Full disclosure, I spent 10 minutes looking for the notebook in order to write this post.)

So here’s April in a nutshell, short and sweet (well I tried, anyway): 

• I attended the Influence Network‘s one-day conference in Charlotte on the 9th (the first of several they’ll offer this year), and it’s tempting to just transcribe my scribbles for you here because there were so many takeaways that I found poignant during this season. (I won’t, though.) The kicker for me was this: Want to invite people into your life? Share your story. I listened to women talk bravely and honestly all day long, some through nervous laughter, some through tears. And I was completely ashamed of myself when I realized I had made judgment calls about several of them before walking in the door that day—solely based on their appearances and social media presence—and I had been so, so wrong. These were real women who had walked (or were still walking) through times of real pain and real struggle. I had no idea. Their faith was astounding. I was blown away by their testimonies and honored that they were willing to invite a room full of strangers into their stories.

There’s a lot more there, but this isn’t supposed to be one of those posts, so I’ll leave it for now.

Hamilton. I’m talking about the Broadway musical. (Yes, I was just introduced this month. Yes, maybe I do live under a rock.) Who lives, who dies, who tells your story? 

• Ready for another cliché? I blinked, and all of a sudden my tiny newborn baby turned 2. Didn’t we just bring her home from the hospital last week? When did she go from this:

10293562_10154158508470324_2110380520204866727_oto this?



Even journalism majors need to work on their writing skills. I’ve been taking Ann Swindell’s online course, Writing With Grace, and while it was humbling to acknowledge my need for a creative writing refresher, her course has turned out to be an incredible encouragement to me on this little journey. We’re a little over halfway through the six weeks, but I’m already willing to say I highly recommend it. There’s always room for improvement, and there’s always something new to be learned—not to mention the publishing field is ever-changing, and it’s been about, oh, 13 years since I’ve taken a writing class. Yeah, I was overdue. Onward!

• Finally, this month being brave looked like:

not pretending I like something just because it’s popular. Doesn’t that sound silly? But certain books, music, movies, blogs, podcasts, whatever—it’s hard for me to say, “Actually, I didn’t really enjoy that” when someone (especially someone I admire) is raving about it.

answering the question, “So, are you going to have any more kids?” with all the back story you could ever want. It was probably the most challenging post I’ve written to date, but God’s nudging on this one was not to be ignored. I was moved by the many responses I received, and it was affirmation, once again: When God tells you to share your story, share it. You need to tell it, and someone out there needs to hear it.

Until next month…

Check out what others learned in April here, and join in! 

Miss the March edition of What I Learned? You can find it here. 

What I learned in March

What I learned_ March

It’s a new month, and I’m here (a few days late) to link up with Emily Freeman for the March edition of What I Learned. I’ve been keeping a tiny notepad handy and jotting these things down so I wouldn’t forget—I’m so glad I did!

So, without further ado, here are some things I learned in March:

 For me, sometimes being brave looks like:

holding a friend accountable

saying yes to a playdate

asking for help

being honest—more specifically, not pretending I know what someone is talking about and then googling it later

chaperoning a 2nd-grade field trip

• I have been missing out my entire life by not going strawberry picking. We took our kids for the first time, and they loved it. This activity is going on the list of new family traditions. Which leads to…

Just because you can pick 8 pounds of strawberries doesn’t mean you should. My kids were all, “Yum, strawberries!” and “These are the best strawberries I’ve ever had!” until we got home from the patch, at which point they decided they were really more in the mood for other fruit.

Me: Want some strawberries? 

Toddler: I want bana! 

Me: But we have all these yummy strawberries, don’t you want some?

Toddler: I want booberries! 

You get the idea. I now have about 6 pounds of strawberries in my freezer. Who wants a smoothie?

Daniel Tiger offers good advice to my kids about 87 percent of the time. The other 13 percent have me running to turn off the TV.

Some examples:

“Whatever you do, think about what other people need too.” Good advice!

“When you feel so mad that you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four.” Not bad, Daniel.

“If you have to go potty, stop and go right away.” Yes, that’s wise, thank you!

“When you can’t do what you want, stomp three times to make yourself feel better.” Wait, what? Are you telling my kid to throw a tantrum? Daniel, I don’t know how I feel about you right now. 

Moving on.

OXO Good Grips POP Containers have helped us make major strides with our shortage of kitchen storage. They stack. The lids are interchangeable. The food stays fresh. And there’s no crumple crumple of cereal bags waking up the toddler in the morning. Add these to the list of items I should have registered for had I not been 23 years old when I got married. (Because at 23, I was not thinking about kids and goldfish crackers and all the cereal.) Thanks, Bed Bath & Beyond, for that 20 percent off coupon—I finally used it this month!

The Inside Out soundtrack is worth purchasing for $7.99. I love it, my kids love it. It’s delightful and inspiring. (That goes for the movie too, for that matter.)

• And [appropriately] last, I learned that sometimes it’s best to just be quiet. 


Check out what others learned in March here, and join in! 

Miss February’s edition of What I Learned? You can find it here

Something new: What I learned in February

This month I’m trying something new and confession: The process of figuring it out had me feeling a bit old and maybe not as tech-savvy as I think I am… ’cause I had to google to understand how it works. It’s this thing bloggers do called linking up. If you know all about this, it’s okay to laugh at me (but only a little! I’m sensitive) and if you don’t, well that’s okay too and welcome to the club, we can be kindred spirits.

At the end of each month, one of my favorite writers, Emily Freeman, does a link-up on her site called “What we learned in [month]” where she writes about (surprise!) what she learned that month—about herself, about someone else, about really anything under the sun that was new to her. And then other bloggers (like my friend Lindsey) add their own links to Emily’s post, linking up (eureka!) so readers can poke through and see what everyone’s been learning! Sound fun? I thought so.

you are lovelyNow that I’ve fumbled through the longest intro ever, here are some things I learned in February… 

About myself:
• I do not have a favorite book. Isn’t that a terrible thing for a writer to say? It’s really embarrassing. But I don’t. I can’t decide on one, and you can’t make me.

About mommin’ it:
• Once your kids turn 7, no one expects the parents to stick around at other kids’ birthday parties anymore. Wait, what? It’s true! I dropped my daughter off at a party and the parents said, “Feel free to go and just come back in a couple of hours.” I didn’t have to be told twice. I went to the mall all by myself, and it was a gift. I only had to carry snacks for myself.

About… ’80s movies:
• The writers of Pretty In Pink (which this year celebrates 30 years since its release date), intended for Andie to end up with Duckie, not Blane, but Molly Ringwald didn’t feel the chemistry with Jon Cryer the way she did with Andrew McCarthy. Ouch, sorry Jon. One of our local movie theaters showed the movie in honor of the anniversary, and this fun tidbit was shared during the bonus features. I also learned that McCarthy is wearing a wig in the last scene at the dance because it had to be re-shot months after filming ended… and he was completely bald at the time. If you were wondering why he looked so awful during that last scene, well, that’s why.  (More fun PIP facts here.)

About social media:
• When it comes to blogging and social media as a ministry tool… It doesn’t matter how big your audience is. It doesn’t. The people who tell you numbers are everything, well, they’re wrong. Because whoever is there—whoever is reading, connecting, watching, even if it’s just one person—they matter. If you were speaking at a conference and only one person showed up, would you ignore the one because she wasn’t the crowd you expected? I hope not. Gretchen Saffles of Life Lived Beautifully dropped this truth bomb into my lap on Periscope this month, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I recently launched a Write the Rough Draft Instagram feed and initially had been in a panic over the low numbers. Numbers—ugh! I don’t want that to be my focus at all. I just want to share what God puts on my heart with whoever is there, even if it’s just one. Thanks for this reminder, Gretchen.

• Speaking of Periscope… I’m not real big into podcasts at the moment (I know, I know), and maybe I’ll get there at some point. But I did jump on the Periscope bandwagon and that’s been fun. It’s a live video feed of whoever talking about whatever—you follow people who interest you and can be notified when they’re live. I’ve started tuning in to feeds with someone hosting live online Bible studies (how cool is that? Score one for technology), a behind-the-scenes look at a photo shoot, and my friend Ali Grace (see next item on my list!) chatting about what God puts on her heart, among others. Such an interesting way to interact. It’s a totally different vibe than the static photos on Instagram. (Don’t worry Insta, I will always love you.) Maybe someday I’ll turn the camera on myself? Maybe. Brave might be my word this year, but I don’t think this counts… does it?

Oh and that brings me to this other thing.

About friendship in the 21st century:
• It IS possible to build authentic friendships on the internet. For the past few months I’ve been part of an online community called The Influence Network. It was started by a group of women who wanted to equip other women and encourage them that they can be an influence for Christ regardless of where they are. I fell in love with the heart behind this mission and have loved getting to know women around the US I never would have met in my day-to-day and building each other up, praying for each other, and taking online classes together. Again, I tip my hat to you, technology. Last week I learned one of my online connection group friends was going to be in town, so we met up for an early morning coffee. And you know what? She was just as kind and encouraging and friendly in person as she had been in our interactions online. So there you go. An internet-turned-real-life friend.

Hey, that was pretty fun. I just might be back to give this another go next month. I’ll try to be less random and not so long-winded.

I said try.


Check out what others learned in February by visiting Emily’s post here.