Let’s Share What We Learned in February

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetIt’s the end of the month and that means it’s time to share what we learned! I’ll go first and then, it’s your turn. Here are 12 things I learned in February in no particular order:

1. I can still do a toe touch. Granted, it was on a trampoline. But it’s nice to know that if I needed to touch my toes in the air in an emergency situation while standing on a bouncy surface, I could.

jump2. Asking someone “What’s bothering you?” is perhaps the most revolutionary question you can ask.

3. Waterlogue is an app I’ll never truly need but will always deeply love. I even paid money for it because it’s fun to watch my photos turn into watercolor.

4. When I’m feeling lonely or discouraged, I can’t wait for someone to notice or pursue me. I have to notice and pursue. This does not come naturally but it is also not impossible.

5. It takes a week for my body to readjust to Eastern Standard Time after being in Uganda. Someone told me every hour you travel outside of your time zone is the number of days it takes you to re-adjust to your home time zone. I don’t know if this is scientifically true, but when I returned from 8 hours away, it took about that many days to re-adjust.

6. We have a box-like deer who lives in our front yard at all times. Learned this when I posted a before and after photo on instagram when it snowed a few weeks ago.

snow before and afterAnd everyone commented on the deer and it took me forever to see it. It’s a combination of my brother-in-law’s mailbox in the background and our next-door neighbor’s lending library in the foreground. See?


7. Speaking of neighbors, I remembered in February how much I like ours. Instead of holing up in the house in the snow, everyone comes outside for sledding, four-wheeling, and a fire pit.

Jeff Goins & Brianne McKoyJeff with the lovely Brianne McKoy

8. Jeff Goins’ last name is pronounced ‘Goyns,’ diphthong style. He is a first name-last name person (as in it’s hard to say his first name without also saying his last name.) So I repeatedly called him Jeff Go-ans in Uganda and he graciously never corrected me.

But then I finally told him I know I’m probably pronouncing his last name wrong and for this I sincerely apologize but I will never be able to fix it because I have friends with the last name Go-ans and it is forever stuck that way. He said the pronunciation varies even among those in his own family which made me feel a bit better. But he pronounces it Goins, as in “joins” or “coins.”

9. The International Space Station looks like a fast-moving star in the sky. And the app that tells you were to find it is spot on. John and I sat outside with the kids a few nights ago and watched it fly right over our heads. It was the first time I’ve seen it and even though it only looked like a star, it was fun to know it wasn’t.

10. Julian Fellowes might have a heart after all. After last years Downton Abbey season finale, it was nice to have a more gentle ending to the season this year.

my table11. The simplest decorating tip ever – clear the surfaces. Thank you, sister, for reminding me what a difference a cleared off surface can make. I took such great delight in cleaning of my kitchen table with a hot rag.

12. Speaking of my sister, we learned in February that her book The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect to Be Beautiful will release on April 29! It’s hardback and colorful and filled with inspiration for your home – not just how to decorate, but how to think about decorating. The best. Pre-order it now and give your future self a gift.

Now it’s your turn! (Tip: When you choose your image for your post, pick an image that people will be most likely to click.)

A Word to Writers: On Changing Your Mind

After reading your comments on Monday’s post, In Celebration of Slow, I realize with great relief how many of us are rowing gently down the same stream. We sit side by side, shoulders touching now and then, gaze set in the same direction, and we row one slow stroke at a time. We must refuse to feel ashamed of our pace. The goal of our life isn’t always to rush ahead to someplace different. Sometimes we simply need to learn to settle in where we already are.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetWe know this. I like this about us. I want to continue to create space here for our souls to breathe in that truth because it’s too easy for me to forget.

During that post on celebrating slow, I shared with you how I started a series in January that I never completely finished. It happens a lot here, actually. It isn’t always because I take a long time to process or need more space to gather my thoughts. Sometimes it’s because once I get started on something and begin to dig in to it, I realize I want to change course.

Last year I planned to start a series inspired by Oprah’s What I Know For Sure column in her magazine. But when I sat down to write an introduction to that series, it turned out I didn’t know much. Not for sure, anyway. Woops.

So I changed it from What I Know For Sure to Artists & Influencers, turning the focus from what I knew to what other people were teaching me. We did that series once a week for a month.

artists & influencers :: a series at chatting at the skyEach week I chose a specific area of life and the artists and influencers who were teaching me in those areas: writing, church, love, and home. I enjoyed writing that series, specifically because it focused on what I was learning from others rather than what I knew for sure myself.

I had intentions of continuing the Artists & Influencers series and maybe I still will. I could easily write about the people who are teaching me about marriage, community, hope, and art. But once I finished that in early February of last year, I wasn’t motivated to continue at that time.

If you are a writer, on a blog or otherwise, and if you have the freedom to make these kinds of choices, please forthelove don’t continue something just because you said you would. I’m not talking about committments you’ve made to other bloggers, publishers, or editors. But in our own spaces where we have the final say, it’s important (at least for me) to write not only what your reader wants to read but also what you want to write about. If I continually have one without the other, the result is frustration for everyone.

Once Artists & Influencers ran its course for me, I set it aside with freedom, knowing I could pick it up again if I wanted to. Then at the end of February, I was still thinking about the What I Know For Sure concept but decided to try not to take myself so seriously. Instead of coming up with what I thought I knew for sure, I shared a simple list of things I learned that month: 10 things I Learned in February. This was the first thing on my list on that post:

1. Mae Whitman (Amber from Parenthood) played Bernice in Hope Floats. She also played George Clooney’s daughter in One Fine Day. She was ALSO the little girl selling brown bird cookies who wanted to go to space camp on Friends. You’re welcome.

Mae-Whitman-Amber-young-parenthood-2010-30450941-610-410The other nine things I learned that month had varying degrees of impact in my life but were equally simple. It was light-hearted and breezy, two words that don’t always describe me or my space here online.

I liked it so much I did it again at the end of March, April, and May. Finally someone suggested I make it a link-up so the whole community could share what you were learning as well. What a great idea! (I’m slow, remember?) In June I invited the Chatting at the Sky community to join me in sharing what you learned and 150 of you did. As I read through your posts, I decided this linkup is one of my favorites simply because it is so much fun.

If you have ever started something you didn’t finish or started something and totally changed it, take heart.

We can’t always plan out exactly what we want to do and then execute it exactly how we want to execute it. We start with a scrap of an idea, sit with it, stare out the window for awhile, write around it, beside it, beneath it, and finally choose a direction. Sometimes what we find is just what we expected. Other times it takes two or three (or forty) different paths before we realize where we’re actually going.

It doesn’t mean we’ve failed, it just means we have further to go.

Tomorrow marks one year since my first Things I Learned post. This will be your first chance to link up since December, as last month I wrote 10 Things I Learned in January: Uganda Edition and didn’t have the presence of mind to make it a link up because time zones and midnight posting and Coke without ice. I’m back in my own time zone now with ice and everything so I’m happy to host a place for us to come together and celebrate what we’ve learned this month. I hope you’ll join us tomorrow!

10 Things I Learned in January: Uganda Edition

At the end of every month, I like to share a few things I learned in the last 30-ish days. Since we’re in Uganda right now and I pretty much can’t think about anything but this country and her children and very small planes, it only seemed appropriate to dedicate this edition of Things I Learned to Uganda.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Here are 10 things I’m learning in Uganda in no particular order:

1. If you go to Africa in January, it will snow back home. Especially if it hasn’t legitimately snowed AT ALL so far this winter.

2. Small planes are legit. As you know, I have been super nervous about riding in a plane you can’t stand up in. As it turns out, small planes are the way to travel. As we flew over Uganda this morning on our way to Kampala, I kept waiting for my hands to shake but instead I just felt peace. Thank you to those of you who prayed for that. (I’m looking at you, Mom.)

ticket for barbie plane

3. If you are in Uganda, place your iPhone in your lap. Turn the camera like you’re gonna take a selfie. But instead of taking a selfie, take a them-y. And don’t stop clicking.

ugandan selfiesYou will not be able to imagine where they learned this from.

selfies in uganda

4. Mike Varel is a fantastic, soulful, talented photographer. But even he can’t prevent the photobombs.

Compassion Bloggers Uganda 2014 - Day Three5. If you pull into a slum in a bus and a hundred children greet you with drums, cymbals, signing, hugs and TROMBONES, you won’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Especially when you realize what song they are playing. (Email subscribers click here to see this 10 second video):

And you will walk and half-skip with them through the slums they call home even though you know really horrible things happen here. But for a few moments you won’t be thinking of those horrible things and they won’t be, either.

Because it’s time to have a parade.

Compassion Bloggers Uganda 2014 - Day ThreeAnd when you talk about it later that night with the friends who were there with you, the one named Jeff Goins will say, “This must be what heaven is like – music, dancing, and children.” You will nod your head and agree with him. Because he has to be right.

6. Child sponsorship works. 

Compassion Bloggers Uganda 2014 - Day ThreeThis young woman on the right graduated from the Child Sponsorship Program and is now in her last semester of university studying criminal justice. She visits this center and teaches the children their songs. When she graduates from school, she wants to help make a change.

“Most people thought life had to end in primary seven and began to do immoral things. So I decided to stand out and make a difference.”

These are the stories we want to hear.

7. Child sponsorship doesn’t always work.

We sponsor a child to give that child care he wouldn’t otherwise have. But the long-term success may ultimately be in the hands of the parents. In the words of the pastor of the church partnering with Compassion in Kampala, “Our job here is trying to convince the parents to secure a better future for their children.”

But sometimes the parents can’t be convinced because poverty has already taken from them what poverty wants, including hope for the future. On the one hand, it feels like a risky investment. On the other, it feels like the Gospel.

Compassion Bloggers Uganda 2014 - Day Three

8. When the parents are convinced, you will know it.

If you visit the home of a child who is sponsored through Compassion, the mother will be very grateful to see you. Especially if you come along with the President Emeritus of Compassion International, Papa Wess. And the way she will show her gratitude is by jumping up and down when you hug her, inviting you to enter into her home (however small it may be) and offering you gifts of honor and gratitude.

papa wessThe gifts will be chicken. In its various forms.

9. If you sponsor a child in Uganda, you will not regret it.

You will go look at the photos of children waiting for sponsors, then you will pick one of them.

Do not, I repeat, do not over-think this step. If you need a guideline, just choose the one you are least drawn to. It worked for me.

In a week or so you will get a packet in the mail telling you more about your child and you will write them a letter immediately, not because you have to but because you can! You can even do it online (it’s so easy – no stamps! No paper! This is worthy of lots of exclamations!) This first letter will be one of many you exchange with your child, because sponsorship with Compassion is not just about giving money, it’s about being a friend.

10. If you go to Africa in January and it snows back home, you won’t care a bit that you missed it.

no regretsEspecially if you sponsor a child who lives in Uganda.

You know you want to. Here’s how.

Let’s Share What We Learned in December

This month I’ve learned a lot of things about rest, listening, and what it looks like for me to create space for my soul to breathe. But for me, those things need to be worked out in posts of their own. So today, on the almost-last-day-of-December, I bring you 10 less important but hopefully still interesting things I learned this month:

1. The smell of rosemary makes me feel sad. I tried that your-house-will-smell-like-Williams-Sonoma trick I learned on Pinterest, where you simmer rosemary and lemon and vanilla and some other what-nots in water on your stove. But a few minutes in and I had to throw it out and scrub the inside of my nostrils with peppermint.

2. The smell of bay leaves, lemon, orange peel, cloves, and cinnamon makes me feel happy. I had to redeem the first round. This one was delightful.

simmer on the stove

3. My smeller is apparently strongly connected to my feeler.

4. When walking through a store that plays music, I work hard to try not to walk to the beat. It is my grown up rebellion, I suppose.

5. I enjoy the lovey Christmas movies on Netflix. They are fantastically cheesy and highly predictable. “Love at the Christmas Table” with Winnie Cooper I mean Danika McKeller was my favorite. I already regret telling you this. You could watch the whole movie or you could just watch the trailer and you’ve pretty much seen it.

6. My kids know where I hide the Christmas gifts.

7. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas was introduced by Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis.

8. Netflix does not have Meet Me in St. Louis available to stream. Womp.

9. Songs have power similar to smell. They can take me back something fierce. Since June when I learned Jewel is a Kilcher, I’ve been paying more attention to her because Alaska. I listened to Foolish Games the other day and I was suddenly 19 and pining and craving swiss cake rolls and soothing my angst with Jewel like you do. Girl can sing.

10. Finally, this month I’ve remembered how important it is for me to write even when it gets hard. Margaret Feinburg is sharing an interview we did up on her blog today and reading my answers, I remembered how hard writing can be but also how thankful I am that I get to do it. It isn’t exactly something I’ve learned this month, but it’s something I’ve remembered – the importance of practicing what I already know to be true.

Now it’s your turn.

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on learning & favorites & things of that nature

lightSlipping in here to wish you a happy last weekend of December.

Two years ago at the end of the year I posted my favorite posts of 2011 written by some of you. I liked the practice of picking my favorites so much that I did it again last year.

But then 2013 happened and as of today I’ve only saved 3 of my favorites and what in the world?

So I won’t have a best-of-your posts this year, but I do have at least one more post planned for 2013 and it’s one of my favorite kinds we do here. At the end of every month I like to share a list of what I learned – from random celebrity connections to new-to-me iPhone tricks. I started writing these in February and enjoyed it so much I knew the only way to make it better was to have you write one, too.

Monday we’ll have our last What I Learned community link up of the year, where we all share our lists of what we learned in December. If you’re new here I’ve made a list of all the What I Learned posts in 2013 (minus October because I was traveling too much to learn anything that month):

I hope you’ll join us Monday!

P.S. I know you’re wondering what are those three favorite posts I remembered to record this year. Here they are:

What is one of your favorite posts you read this year? Feel free to link to it in the comments.