Let’s Share What We Learned in January

At the end of every month, we have a regular practice here of looking back before moving forward. While some of the deeper, more in-process things I may keep private for a while, other things are fun to share here. And when you share things you’ve been learning, I always discover lots of fun tips, great new shows, and encouraging thoughts to begin the month.

We’re all at different spots on the journey, and these end of the month posts are a way to reflect, share, and celebrate on purpose.What We Learned in January 2015

Here are 10 things I learned in January in no particular order.

1. Blogging is not dead.

2. Anything can be a spiritual discipline if you do it in the presence of God, like wearing better pants and the practice of learning nothing.

Airplane Views

Alright. I’m not proud of what I’m about to tell you, but it’s something I have recently learned about myself when I travel that I think I need to shake it. Ready?

3. I get way too involved in the lives of my fellow travelers.

Because I talk to them? No, no. Without saying anything except for “Excuse me” and “Sorry” and “Do you mind if I put the shade down?” I learned the following about the man sitting next to me from Chicago to LA:

  • he owns a fitness club
  • divorced in 2013
  • served in the army
  • might possibly be in trouble with the IRS

I also saw his home address and know that he has poor eyesight (the texts on his phone were so big I think you could read them from the ground.) I promise I didn’t try to learn these facts. I was even reading my book and watched a whole movie. But he was on his laptop and sitting one half an inch from me and the observations were endless and I couldn’t keep myself from writing a character sketch in my head.

What I want to know is WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? Why do I waste so much energy paying attention all the time? It’s exhausting. And also creepy and weird.

4. “Our souls weren’t made for the easy life. Our souls were made for the easy yoke.” Thank you for that reminder, John Ortberg.

5. This Waterdeep album is everything right now.

6. Most readers who get my notes from The Bench prefer one fat secret letter rather than two shorter ones.

January’s newsletter was rather long, so I asked how many of you preferred that or if you would rather me split them up into two shorter letters. While several responded wanting two (which I completely understand and also expected) the majority of you prefer one longer letter a month. This kind of surprised me and also made my heart sing a little.

It seems like having less email always wins and many of you like knowing when they come you can settle in to read them slowly when you have the time (Sign up here to receive the letter in February – complete with my current reading list, favorite music, and words to help your soul breathe.)

7. I’m happiest in my work when I care the least about what happens.

8. Just because something is good doesn’t make it mine.

I’m slowly learning to discern the work that has my name on it. Shauna Niequist’s advice to “do your thing with great love” is surprisingly helpful in this venture.

9. Writing a manifesto for staying sane while writing on the Internet has actually helped me to stay sane while writing on the Internet.

I have been thankful for this. I came up with fifteen thoughts to remember while I write and have reviewed them each time I craft a post this month. They have helped me to write in line with my purpose and my personality. (You can download the list for yourself here or use it to write out your own.)

10. “Identity is never simply a creation. It is always a discovery.” This from Dr. David Benner in The Gift of Being Yourself.

Now it’s your turn.

The Importance of Following Clues

The sun went down laughing last night, leaving behind evidence of a beautiful exit. I never saw her directly, though it wasn’t for lack of trying, let me just tell you.  But she had her path and her timeline and she kept to it, no matter if I could find a good perch to spot her from before she slipped away for the night. Still, it was obvious she’d been here.


The trail of beauty left behind points to a source beyond itself.

And you know what? Burdens leave a trail, too.

 “The soul was not made for an easy life. The soul was made for an easy yoke.”

John Ortberg, Soul Keeping

Since my soul wasn’t made for the easy life, I know hard circumstance aren’t my problem, not really. My problem is in how I carry them. When my soul feels downcast, it starts to show evidence that I’ve taken in the burdens of life in a way I’m not meant to – anxiety, overwhelm, frustration, defensiveness. These are signs of the heavy yoke. Burdens don’t come without leaving clues.

I’m writing more on what your soul really needs you to know today at (in)courage. Join me there?

For Your Weekend

for your weekend - january

May we find a friend who keeps our secrets, do the work placed in our hands, read a book that speaks our language, trusting all into God's hands. Enjoy your weekend, friends. Here are a few good reads for along the ways A Complicated Peace by Sarah Bessey - Because sometimes life takes turns you don't expect and we need to make room for grief and joy to co-exist. Home Is Where My People Are: The Roads That Lead Us to Where We Belong by Sophie Hudson - Because lately I want to read everything … [Continue reading]

The Spiritual Discipline of Wearing Better Pants

colorful clothes in my closet

When I graduated from high school, my youth pastor gave all the seniors a book on the spiritual disciplines. Good girl that I was, I marked that book up in all the best ways, purposing to tackle a discipline a week for however long it took to become the best possible version of myself - prayer, scripture reading, fasting, etc. I knew I couldn't be perfect but I thought it would be alright to get closer than anyone else. Several years of Bible college, marriage, and mothering later, I … [Continue reading]

The Hope*ologie Podcast :: Episode 5

The Hopeologie Podcast - January

"Hope is contagious. Hope is like yeast and baking powder. It has an energy that makes things rise. If you want to know if you are good for others, ask yourself how much hope you've given them. It is there you will find your answer." - Macrina Wiederkehr, Seasons of Your Heart Sometimes you do things that light up the sky, firework light that dazzles and sings. And that light draws attention and crowds with all kinds of joy and excitement, what some might call a movement. Most times, … [Continue reading]

One Book I Hope You’ll Add to Your 2015 List

Simply Tuesday

When John and I were first engaged, the one question people asked me the most (right after "When's the big day?!") was where we were planning to honeymoon. One night several months before the wedding, a girl asked me this question as we made hi-I-just-met-you small talk. "New England," I answered, ready to give her the specifics. "Oh! Have you ever been?" "No," I told her, pleased by the look on her face when she heard it, "I'm really looking forward to it." She promptly launched … [Continue reading]

The Spiritual Discipline of Learning Nothing

Releasing My Lesson Obsession

Last week we walked through a profound disappointment with one of our girls. I use the word "profound" because that's how it feels when you're eleven. Basically, she longed for something that, in the end, belonged to someone else. As her mom, I see all the necessary parts of growing up happening in this one disappointment -- the spiritual discipline of letting go, the practice of faith, the understanding that smallness is not always something to run away from. But in her most vulnerable … [Continue reading]

For Your Weekend

For Your Weekend in January

May I be willing to see myself as I am and not as I wish I was. When I choose pretense over presence, may it be to me so foul an experience that I give up and give in, bringing every try-hard moment to Christ. Rather than working hard to create my own identity, may I be willing to receive the gift of myself from the hands of God. Enjoy your weekend, friends. Here are a few good reads (and listens and watches) for along the way: Finding God in the Ordinary by Ruth Haley Barton - A good reminder … [Continue reading]

The 10 Best Books I Read Last Year

My Favorite Books of 2014

Here are some of my favorite books I read last year. (To get more lists of great books, you can check out Anne Bogel's post where she shared her favorites and invited others to share theirs.) To be clear, these aren't books released last year, simply ones I read and enjoyed. For perspective, I only read about 30 books total, so here are my top third in random order:   The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle Melanie's memoir about motherhood is on my Recommended Reads … [Continue reading]

How I Plan to Stay Sane on the Internet in 2015

How I Plan to Stay Sane on the Internet

Over the past year or so, I've been listening to the low, rolling hum around the Internet. It comes in as a wave on the shore of the cyber beach every few years, depositing questions and doubt like flotsam after a storm. You've heard it, too: the whispered rumor that blogging is dead. It's an important conversation for those of us who read and write blogs. It feels a little like that first time we watched The Sixth Sense - wait, he was dead the whole time? How did I not see that?! There's a … [Continue reading]