If you’re visiting from The Next Right Thing Podcast, welcome! We do this every quarter and will share our next list (What We Learned in Winter) on Thursday, February 28. Grab your free printable list here to help you keep track and plan to share with us then. Now you can also share your list on Instagram using #wwlcommunity.

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.

When I link to books, I use my affiliate links which means if you make a purchase a tiny percentage helps support the work I do here at no extra cost to you. Now here are things I learned this fall in no particular order:

1. “Shame needs three things to grow exponentially: silence, secrecy, and judgment.”

This is a quote from J.R. Briggs in his book Fail: Finding Hope and Grace in the Midst of Ministry FailureHe goes on to say that “when empathy is present, shame cannot grow.” The temptation toward shame, I have learned, is to be my life-long companion. But I’m learning how to confront it with empathy.

2. Wednesday youth group night is good for our marriage.

John was a youth pastor for the first 12 years of our marriage so he spent every Wednesday night working. He’s been out of youth ministry for over five years and this year all three of our kids go to Wednesday night youth group. What used to be one of our busiest nights of the week has now become a date night. It’s basically the best.

We think things will always be the way they always were. And then time passes and everything is different.

3. Listening to friends read their own book is a delight.

My dear friend, Annie Downs, had a book come out a few months ago called Remember God. I knew I didn’t have sit-down-and-read time on my schedule this season, but I for sure had pop-in-my-earbuds-on-the-go time. Listening to my friend read her own story in her own voice was a gift and I’m so grateful for it.

4. If a show has cliffs and water, a beautiful soundtrack, and British accents, I’m probably going to love it.

John and I discovered Poldark this fall and it’s the show we hate to love (love to hate?) It’s maddening and beautiful and compelling and repetitive and I can’t get enough of it.


5. “The world is a basket of clues about what the kingdom of God is like.”

Lauren Winner said that during a plenary talk at a conference at my school and I haven’t stopped thinking about it. God is a clue-weaver, dropping hints and leaving love notes all over our everyday, ordinary lives.


6. Friendships that start online don’t have to stay there.

(Someone wasn’t listening to instructions here. It’s fine.)

Seriously, though, Shannan and I have talked for years about how John and Cory would be friends if only they could meet in real life. In October, it happened! Here we are with all our kids. They really did have fun I promise.

7. Suddenly I cannot handle owning clothes with colorful patterns.

I don’t have a capsule wardrobe, a uniform, or a minimalist style by any stretch of the imagination. But this fall I cleared my closet of clothes I didn’t wear and noticed a pattern (literally).

Ignore the fact that I kept way more than I got rid of. Until I decided to pay attention, I had not noticed that I just don’t wear floral patterns anymore. This will, I’m sure, keep me from buying something that catches my eye but I won’t actually wear.

See how reflection can save you money?!

8. I love to write books.

While I have known this since 2009 when I started work on my first book, this fall I wrote my fifth book and remembered all over again the joy of deep, undistracted creative work. I want more of that in 2019.

If you want a detailed explanation of how I reflect on my life every 90 days, you can listen to (or download the transcript of) Episode 61: Look Back: How Reflection Can Help You Make Better Decisions.