As we prepare to move into a new year and anticipate what’s to come, it’s important for me to spend a little time looking behind. This is a great week to reflect on the year that has passed and consider what we’ve learned along the way.

What I Learned in 2014

At the end of every month here at Chatting at the Sky, I like to share what I’ve learned over the past 30 days. But since it’s also the end of the year, I decided to extend this invitation to include a year-long round up.

Because my post turned out to be so long, I decided to split up what I learned and what you learned. Today I’ll share what I learned in 2014 and tomorrow will be your turn!

Here are 20 things I learned in 2014 in no particular order:

1. Reading fiction makes me a better person.

I don’t know if it’s the actual reading of fiction or if I tend to read fiction when I am taking a break and it’s the break itself that helps me, but I do know this: entering into the make-believe world of a story tends to teach me more about the real world we live in than anything else.

one wall painted black

2. I adore a black wall.

I already knew I loved black kitchen cabinets, but until this year that didn’t translate to my walls. For years I wasn’t sure what to do with this wall in our living room. The piano bothered me with all the wires behind it and it felt like a useless afterthought corner. But then we painted it black and the wires disappeared and it became a happy corner that has both purpose and personality where the music and the books live in harmony together. And now I want to paint everything black.

3. To love Sunday.

It’s been over a year since John has worked at a church and during that time I have learned to love Sundays again. Not because they were terrible before, but because they felt like work days. Now Sundays feel like a true day of rest.

4. God gives visions without agendas.

I plan to write an update post in 2015 on what happened after John quit his job last year. But one thing I learned this year is that while God often gives a hopeful vision  of what’s to come, he rarely offers a clear agenda of how we’ll get there.

5. Choosing the one you least expect will change you.

When I traveled to Uganda with Compassion in January, I decided to choose to sponsor the child I was least drawn to. I learned a powerful lesson about snap judgments, first impressions, and my own world view.

What We Learned in 2014

6. When I feel overwhelmed with the poverty in the world, it helps to remember we are all under the same sky.

At first it makes me angry to think of it this way. How can riches and poverty all happen at once? But I also feel a heavy sense of responsibility to do the work in front of me and share what I have while, at the same time, being willing to receive what others have to give.

7. “What’s bothering you?” might be the most revolutionary question you can ask.

Dallas Willard said this in an interview with John Ortberg and I haven’t been able to shake it. This year I’ve learned the importance of paying attention to what bothers me and becoming curious over what bothers others. Irritation and frustration, if channeled into creativity, seem to be the most powerful indicators of passion and catalysts for change.

8. There is only one thing better than one kitten.

Two kittens are better than one.

Two kittens. Obviously. When my sister got kittens this summer, I remembered all over again the simple delight of holding a fluffy, warm, adorable animal. It’s a fantastically practical way to let your soul breathe if you ask me. Unless you’re allergic, in which case your breathing might be compromised.

9. My big camera is officially too big.

My big camera is too big.

This is the first year that the photos from my phone in my photo library outnumber the photos I took with my camera. I love my camera, but it can’t compete with the one I always have in my pocket. I’m not sure if I want to continue down that path in 2015 or if I want to resurrect the big camera in some way – maybe as a way to force myself to slow down? We’ll see.

10. 2014 introduced me to my favorite drink at Starbucks:starbucksIced Grande Hazelnut Macchiato with hazelnut instead of vanilla. This drink powered many a long writing day. And the sugar-free version is surprisingly good, too!

11. The My Heritage app – the one that tells you which celebrities you look like – is officially inaccurate.

Ask me how I know.


12. Most of you come here for encouragement toward having faith on a daily basis.

Out of all the reasons you might come to visit me here at Chatting at the Sky, being encouraged in your daily faith is the main one, as evidenced by the questions I asked you last spring:

Chatting at the Sky survey results

For the most part, you come here to pause,  take a breath, and to remember the simplicity and depth of your faith in a fast-moving world. And this is exactly why I write here. I’m glad we’ve found each other. I’ll be keeping that in mind for 2015 and plan to write accordingly.

13. I’m not crazy about cruise ships.

We took our first cruise this year and it will probably also be my last. I prefer my hotels and restaurants to stay still while I am in them.

14. Sometimes you just have to start something even though you haven’t figured out all the who, whats, and wheres.

This is what we did with Hope*ologie this year, the membership site I co-founded with my Dad and sister. We’re making it up as we go and sometimes it feels scary. Mostly, though, it feels right to serve this community of hopers even though we aren’t super polished about it. It’s the second most fun project I’ve worked on this year. I bet you’re wondering what the first most-fun project is.

the hopeologie podcast

15. I love having a podcast.

I didn’t know going in to it how much I would enjoy doing this, but the Hope*ologie Podcast my family and I host is the first most-fun project I’ve worked on this year. And our decision to make it public and free on iTunes was a good one. (If you’ve missed it, you can catch up on old episodes here and get the new ones, too).

16. I am a speaker.

For years when people asked me if I’m a writer who speaks or a speaker who writes, I’ve described myself as “a writer who sometimes speaks.” I still see myself as a writer first, but this year I’ve come to accept being a speaker doesn’t have to look just one way. It doesn’t have to mean I speak in stadiums to crowds of thousands and it doesn’t have to mean I am super polished. I can be professional without being a robot. Hosting a few smaller events this year (The Writer’s Barn and Hope*ologie Live) helped me to remember there isn’t only one right way to do things.

17. “With people, you can connect or you can compare but you can’t do both.”

That’s something I heard Shauna Niequist say this year and it’s changing how I relate with the women in my life.

Greensboro, NC

18. Greensboro is home.

I’ve lived here for over 17 years now so Greensboro has been home for a long time. But this year I have a new appreciation for this place where we live our lives and the people who live here, too.

 19. While writing is a solitary activity, being an author doesn’t have to be.

When you are your own boss and your own employee, sometimes you have to create a team so you don’t go crazy. This was the year I was tired of being lonely in my works I decided to do something about it.

I met Shannan in Indianapolis to write and talk writing. I brought Kendra with me on a speaking event we turned into a girls weekend so we could work and mutually encourage one another. I found and hired Traci as my assistant to help me with email, speaking requests, and a hundred other things she’s better at doing tun I am. I asked local friends, Amy and Lara, to join me on a regular-ish basis to talk about our art so we don’t lose our minds.

These women, as well as my sister who I talk to on the phone almost everyday, have made all the difference for me this year.

Working together

20. Tuesday is my favorite day and small is my new free.

After building this blog on the foundation of Tuesdays Unwrapped many years ago, I remembered again this year how Tuesdays are for living. I’ve become reacquainted with the smallest day of the week and all the regular living it represents. I’m re-learning how to celebrate my smallness in the presence of Christ. It’s been humbling, quiet, and life-giving work.

I can’t wait to hear what you’ve learned this year!

Tomorrow is your turn to share what you learned in 2014. Simply write a post on your own blog and link it up here. Or if you don’t have a blog, I’d love to hear what you learned in the comments.