We do this every quarter and will share our next list (What We Learned in Fall) on Friday, November 29. If you are drawn to reflection but aren’t sure where to start, I’ve created an entire self-paced, online class to help you reflect on your life. Learn more and enroll in Discern + Decide right here.

Now on to the list! FYI Where books are shared in this post I use my affiliate links.

Welcome to What We Learned, where we pause to reflect on the past season before we move ahead into the future. “It’s not the experience that brings transformation,”says author and teacher Jan Johnson, “it’s our reflection upon our experience.”

If that’s true (and I’m convinced it is) then it’s vital we establish intentional time to reflect on our lives. Reflection is part of my daily and weekly routine, but once a quarter I like to share some of my list and invite you to share yours.

At the end of this post, you’re invited to link up to your own list of what you learned this quarter – be it silly, serious, sacred, or just plain useful. I like to share a mix of all of those.

Here are 10 things I learned this summer in no particular order:

1. I can trust my instincts in group settings.

As the years go by, I’m increasingly more aware of how important small group settings are. Whether family, church groups, masterminds, or artists, a gathering always carries transformative potential. When cues are missed, moments are trampled, and space isn’t held, I get huffy. Sweaty. Crazy-eyed. I’m paying attention to this rock in my shoe and learning to trust that what bothers us is actually one of the most powerful ways the Spirit leads.

2. Queen Victoria was 5’1 and Prince Albert was 5’7.

Thank you Lucy Worsley for your work on Queen Victoria: Twenty-Four Days That Changed Her LifeI listened to the Audible version over the summer and learned so many things I didn’t know about Queen Victoria. (Which was basically everything because I did not go in knowing much except for what I learned on Victoria, the PBS version.)


3. When I deleted Instagram for a month, I didn’t miss it.

I thought I would. I love instagram! But instead what happened was I didn’t. I’m back there now and I still love it. But I’m more sensitive to how much time I want to spend on something I don’t miss when it’s gone. I’m still posting as normal and still enjoy it. But this was an interesting thing to note.

4. The London Oyster card is named from a line in The Merry Wives of Windsor by Shakespeare.

Why, then, the world’s mine oyster, Which I with sword will open. There’s something magical about hearing now-common phrases embedded in their original source. Last year in London we saw Othello and I was thrilled to hear the phrase pomp and circumstance. So that’s where that came from!


5. Something has shifted in me ever since I watched Rachel Held Evan’s funeral on June 1.

I’m paying attention and I can’t fully name it yet. That week (the week of her funeral) like many of you, I saw a photo on Instagram of her writing desk still as she left it, seeming to wait for her return. Instead, her notes to herself are now, maybe, for us.

photo by Jeff Chu

“Your job: Tell the truth.”

“Better words. Active verbs. Strong metaphors.”

“Be faithful to the work.”

Thank you, Rachel.

6. No matter how good we get at the Internet, in-person is still the most powerful way to connect.

After nearly four years of co-leading our hope*writers community with Dad and Brian, we are unbelievably grateful to finally have a team to do what we could not do on our own. We live all over the country but finally in August we gathered together for a few days of planning, shared meals, and lots of conversation.

We accomplished in a day and a half together what would have taken a year over email and Voxer. Here’s to face-to-face, in-person toasts, and linking arms toward a common goal.

7. “We are all fragile in front of the future.” – Jean Vanier

No matter how powerful, smart, or rich you get there’s at least one thing you can never control, predict, or determine: the future. It’s the great equalizer, this realization that we are small. You’ll want to listen to the entire conversation with Jean Vaneir and Krista Tippett, which you can do right here.

8. Chuck Taylor is from my childhood hometown.

I guess I knew this years ago. But visiting Columbus, Indiana for our family reunion this summer I learned all over again this fantastic bit of history.

9. My parents graduated from high school in 1969.

The 60s have always been the most fascinating decade in recent U.S. history to me. If you look at the beginning of the 1960s and compare that to the end in 1969, so much changed in our country. And that was the decade that shaped my parent’s tween and teen years. I knew this peripherally but it wasn’t until this summer that I thought about the significance of this. I need to ask them way more questions.

10. People thrive when there are clear expectations.

And the opposite is also true. With the growth of business and ministry comes lots of opportunity for new partnerships and team members. It’s been an invitation for me to lead, listen, follow, and sometimes fail. I’m learning when it comes to collaboration, it’s better to err on the side of over-communication than under and everyone likes to know how to win at their job.

When I started writing books over a decade ago I never dreamed so much of my job would require me to be a boss. But that’s the work and I’m grateful for grace as I stumble my way through it. What I’ve learned the most in all this? It’s much more satisfying to work with a team than it is to work by myself. I never thought I would be able to say that.

Speaking of hiring: We are looking for two new team members for our support squad at hope*writers. Applications just opened and will close Monday night September 2. Here’s where you can learn more!

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