Welcome to What We Learned, where we pause to reflect on the past season before we move ahead into the future. 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.

What We Learned Summer 2017

If you’re visiting for the first time from my podcast The Next Right Thing, welcome! We do this every quarter and will share our next list (What We Learned in Fall) on Thursday November 30. Grab your free printable list here to help you keep track and plan to share with us then.

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


1. It’s no good to save your abilities for later.

“Very often people seem afraid to put their own capabilities to use, as though one could save one’s abilities and draw interest on them.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

This line in Eleanor Roosevelt’s little book, You Learn by Living stuck with me. The more I study the intersection of faith and creativity, the more I see how fear keeps people from moving toward what makes us come alive. Following your desire and calling is not a selfish endeavor. It’s vital to the Body of Christ.

You Learn By Living

2. The Popcast is better than People magazine.

I’ve been listening to The Popcast for a while now, but this summer has sealed the deal for me: I officially choose Knox and Jamie over People magazine for my pop culture news. I knew this when, on an airplane, I had a crisp new People right there in my hand and I chose to listen to The Popcast instead.

Knox McCoy, Kendra Adachi, me, and Jamie B. Golden

If you like strong opinions on “things that entertain but do not matter” listen and subscribe to The Popcast now. Like, right now.


3. It’s MANwich, not Mamwich.

My entire childhood history has shifted on its axis this summer when I finally read the can of sloppy Joe sauce – John! Wait! It’s MAN-wich. Like a sandwich for a MAN?!

Uh, yeah.

Wait, WHAT?! I thought it was MAM-wich. Always. Forever! It’s always been MAM-wich right? 


Hold please while I re-think everything.



4. Schmidt was on Gilmore Girls.

Schmidt from New Girl (Max Greenfield) appeared Gilmore Girls Season 4 Episode 4 “Chicken or Beef?” I was re-watching and heard a familiar albeit slightly higher pitched voice. It’s Schmidt!

schmidt on gilmore girls


5. A 93.8% eclipse is not the same as a 100% eclipse.

I knew this. But I learned it first-hand this summer, as reflected in this post I wrote: For All the Sad Americans Who Missed the Total Eclipse.

emily p freeman


6. When you see the quiet faith of a woman who is 104, it changes you.

Visiting John’s grandmother in Memphis this summer was a gift. She’s adorable, quick-witted and remarkably present. She drives, lives by herself, goes to Wal-Mart, teaches 1st grade Sunday school.

And she is 104.

She is kind of a miracle. Or a unicorn. Or both.

Listening to her talk simply about her faith in Jesus brought tears to my eyes, over and over again. Upon reflection, I realized why.

It’s because we are a generation of tired people, longing to see evidence that what we wait for in secret is worth it.

We believe and want help in our unbelief.

Our souls make quiet work of always scanning for truth. When we find it, the tears spill over and take us by surprise.


7. Collections makes Instagram more fun + useful.

I learned by accident what most of you have probably known for a hundred years: that when you see a photo on Instagram you can not only bookmark it and save it (I’ve known that for a while) but if you hold down the bookmark icon on the photo, your collections pop up at the bottom of the screen and you can file it immediately! Saves so many steps.

Instagram Tips

8. Don’t expect your ideas to explain themselves. That’s not their job.

This is something I’ve been learning for the last three years or so, but I continue to learn it on new levels. Ideas won’t tell you what they are, where they came from, or what they want to become. That’s not their job.

Instead, they simply present themselves and it’s our job to figure out what to do with them. I share more about this process in 8 Ways to Start a Project Even When You Don’t Know What You’re Doing.


9. What bothers you is the beginning of redemption. It’s the first step to admitting something is wrong.

Without discomfort, there is no change. In the face of heartbreak, division, longing, confusion, racial tension, terrorism and actual white supremacy, it’s more important than ever for us to be who we uniquely are in Christ.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Let’s be people who are bothered and let it wake us up to action, to movement, and to bear God’s image in the world.


10. How to record, edit, and launch a podcast.

image via The Blissful Willow on instagram

image via The Blissful Willow on instagram

I learned that this summer – learned how to record, edit, and launch a podcast. That’s the technical part, though. Really, I learned how to start before I’m ready, how to move even when I’m not sure where I’m going, and how to do the next right thing in love. I’m 5 episodes in and am loving it so far.

You can listen to The Next Right Thing right here (just click on the episode you want) or subscribe in iTunes, SoundCloud or Stitcher.


I keep track of what I’m learning by using my seasonal reflection lists. You can get your own printable lists for tracking your reflections by signing up right here. If you’re new around here and want to know what, how, and tools to track what you’re learning, check out A New Page for Your Bullet Journal.

Some linking tips: 

  • Just use your name for the “link title” – it’s simpler
  • Be sure to link back here on  your post so your readers can join in!