As we prepare to move into a new year and anticipate what’s to come, it’s important to spend a little time looking back. My natural tendency is to move quickly to the next calendar page, to peek around the corner, to squint my eyes into the clean future of 2016 to see what might come.
What We Learned in 2015 - emily p freeman

And so this practice slows me down, holds me still, and gives me permission to linger in 2015 for just a little bit longer.

There is plenty of time to plan 2016. Perhaps reflecting on this past year will help your soul to discern what might be next. What have we learned along the way?

At the end of this post, I’ll invite you to link up your own list – and that link will remain open for about five days to give you some time to create your own. I’ll use these categories: Habits + Rhythms, Finds + Favorites, Work + Ministry, Soul + Spirit.

Habits + Rhythms

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1. Writing Monday prayers helps my whole week.

After starting this new practice in November, I’m beginning to notice how it is starting to frame the week. I’m thankful for those of you praying along with me.

2. Audio books make the drive to and from school a fun event rather than a chore.

The girls and I finished one book this semester and I listened to three more on my own after I dropped them off and while driving around town. I checked these out at the library:

3. Walking around the block counts.

I tend to make movement hard and laden with expectations. But I’m learning the importance of a walk around the block to clear my head and loosen me up. This is a habit I hope to continue into the new year.


Finds + Favorites

Apps in 2015

4. Voxer is the phone for the introvert.

Lisa-Jo told me about this one for years and I resisted. But I finally tried it out and now it’s one of my favorite ways to connect with long-distance friends. And local ones. And also sisters.

5. Layout from Instagram is the best for grids.

This year brought the discovery of the layout app – right there in instagram. It’s the easiest way to make collages, something I do every week.

6. Slack is a friend for teams.

My assistant Traci is so lovely and organized and with this app she’s teaching me how to be that way, too!

Favorite TV

7. Light and funny TV is good for the soul.

Maybe it’s true every year, but 2015 felt like a hard and heavy year in the world and in the United States, didn’t it? Looking back at my TV watching this year, I see less news and drama shows and more comfort and funny: Less Mer and Der (RIP), more Chip and Joanna, Rory and Lorelai, Stewart and Dean.

(I will write a separate post in January sharing more favorites from 2015, including books I’ve read and podcasts I’m listening to!)


Work + Ministry

2015 was a year of new beginnings for us as a family and in ministry. Here is what I learned from these new beginnings so far:

Images collected from #itssimplytuesday.

Images collected from #itssimplytuesday.

8. Life truly is lived in the small moments.

It’s been one year since I first used the hashtag #itssimplytuesday on Instagram, sharing the everyday moments of Tuesday and choosing to celebrate them no matter how small. Since then, we have a stunning collection of over 15,000 images that represent our regular lives.

Simply Tuesday

9. Gathering a team of people who are willing to do their own thing well help me do my own thing better.

The Simply Tuesday book launch taught me this. More than any other book launch I’ve had, this one was probably the most fun. And the most stressful. Can those two things both be true?

I’m thankful I didn’t do this one alone, surrounded this time with a team of people who believed in me and the message of this beloved book, including a fantastic launch team 400 strong. Thank you!

Grace Discipleship

10. God’s work is never rushed. Though his provision may take shapes we never expected, he always will provide.

After several years of waiting and listening, this was the year John finally launched his non-profit ministry Grace Discipleshipoffering soul care and spiritual direction to people in our community. What a gift it has been to our family and our local community.


11. I love to talk with writers about writing.

I’m thrilled I finally have a place to do that.In November, we finally launched our new membership site called hope*writers to help writers stay healthy and write words that matter. This is my favorite project going into 2016. Also pretty much my only major project so that’s a good thing!

Soul + Spirit


12. Playing the piano is good for my soul.

I found some old piano books in the garage and ever since, I’ve been playing ever day again. I can be sloppy and hasty and I don’t have a lot of patience for pieces with a lot of sharps and flats. But I’ve played a lot more this year and it’s reminded me how in many ways, piano was one of my first loves.

13. There is freedom in competing with no one, including myself.

This year I’ve recognized a strong pull to unhealthy competition. Until now, I haven’t realized how deep that thread runs within me.

I’ve seen that quote around about competing with others makes you bitter but competing with yourself makes you better.

In my experience, that’s nonsense. I don’t want to be my own competitor. I’m learning to be my own friend. It’s way harder than it sounds, as it turns out.

14. Instead of a map, our Father offers his hand.

This year more than any other, I’ve learned that God is not a great travel agent but he’s a fantastic traveling companion.

And finally, the 15th thing I learned in 2015 that has no category but must be said:

15. Instagram is the best!

I hope I never stop geeking out over Instagram. This year brought a renewed love for my current favorite online platform. To commemorate the year, here are the nine photos that got the most likes this year:

Top Nine 2015

Images from my instagram: @emilypfreeman

  1. John marrying some young friends of ours.
  2. The cul-de-sac benches in Narnia.
  3. I kon-mari’d my makeup drawer.
  4. Home.
  5. The Washington Monument from an airplane at sunrise.
  6. Our neighborhood.
  7. John and me.
  8. My Dove chocolate message on book release day: “Treat Tuesday like Friday.” BEST.
  9. Luke in a tux. Going to school. What is happening you guys.

It’s been a gift to spend another year online with you, friends. Here’s to another year of learning to create space for our souls to breathe.