From organizing my Notes app with emojis to learning I’m an HSP to discovering that the royal family doesn’t use their last name… fall 2017 was really something.

My friend Emily is the mastermind behind the simple but meaningful practice she calls “What We Learned.” For years now, I’ve joined her by jotting down notes of the small, the sacred, the silly, and everything in between.

More than anything else, it helps me pay attention to what’s happening around me, what’s happening within me, and what surprises me along the way. This list holds a little bit of everything.

The royal family members don't use their surname... who knew?

1. If you select a color and then hold down on the screen, you’ll have a solid background on Instagram stories.

Please don’t tell me how I’m the last one to figure this out. And please don’t laugh at how, for months, I would select a color with the “paint brush” and take way too much time out of my day covering the entire screen.

And then one day I chose a color and accidentally held down on the screen and lo and behold, the entire background changed. Praise God from whom all blessings flow.

cute flats from WalMart

2. Cute and comfortable flats – for those with wide feet – do in fact exist.

Have I ever in my entire life worn flats that A) fit properly and B) didn’t cause pain? No and no.

As you and I both know, fashion blogging is not my calling. But for the transition between flip-flop weather and boots season? These flats, y’all. I found them at Wal-Mart for all of $10 and I’m such a fan.

3. Two people can collect way too many pumpkins in a very short amount of time.

Ask me how I know…

Happy Fall?

What I learned this fall: two people can collect way too many pumpkins in a very short amount of time.

4. Making custom prints + sending snail mail is the best way to begin year 25.

To celebrate my birthday this month, I sent custom prints to email subscribers (so. much. fun.) and mailed prints + coffee gift cards to those who left a review for my book.

At the end of the day, my hope was to bless subscribers and blog readers… but it ended up being such a blessing to me to hear the “why” behind each custom print and the “thank you’s” that went along with the book reviews.

Although I send subscribers exclusive gifts several times a year, I’ve never offered custom prints before. But my gosh, based on the response I received — I definitely think I’ll do it again. And as for all the gifts for those who left a book review? The cut off was originally tonight but I’m going to extend it until tomorrow night (December 1st) if you want to read the post with all the details and then email me! I’ll make sure the gifts are in the mail to you this weekend.

5. The first time you see someone reading your book is the strangest, most wonderful, crazy, and humbling thing.

I’m not sure I’m ever going to get over this. And I’m not sure I’d want to, anyhow.

reading Even If Not

6. Life is good, death is brutal, but resurrection is worth it.

That sentence ^ is straight from the mouth of Annie Downs. And just so we’re clear, if you give a message on relationship breakups and then straight preach the Gospel, I’m absolutely going to cry through the entire thing. Partly because that’s a big part of my story, partly because God is in the redemption business, and also because there’s just something about hearing someone’s story, about sharing the vulnerable in betweens that don’t have a beautiful bow wrapping everything up, and pointing to the One who is authoring it all.

Showing up for (in)RL was, in and of itself, a resurrection of sorts. This isn’t the place to go into it, but long story short: God redeems broken things. Resurrection doesn’t look just like life, but it sure is good. It’s hard work, it requires so much waiting, but it is worth it.

(I shared a few pictures from (in)RL in this Instagram post, if you’d like to see. If Annie’s message becomes available in the future, I’ll be sure to let you know.)

7. An emoji-organized Notes app makes every list happier.

An emoji-organized Notes app makes every list happier.

8. Members of the royal family have last names — they just don’t use them.

It occurred to me, after Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s engagement announcement, that I’ve never used a last name when referencing Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, William and Kate, etc.

Instead, I’ve simply used their first name or title. Example: the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

It turns out that before 1917, they were known by their house. In 1917, King George V decreed the family surname would be Windsor. Queen Elizabeth II made a slight change to distinguish her own line (Mountbatten-Windsor). And so technically, if they need a surname for a legal document, they use Mountbatten-Windsor.

But if I understand it correctly, no surname is needed if you’re a direct descendant with a royal style and title. For example, the Queen’s name is Elizabeth Alexandra Mary. Prince William’s name is William Arthur Philip Louis and Prince Harry’s name is Henry Charles Albert David.

I don’t know what to do with all of this information, but I find it absolutely fascinating.

9. I’m a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)

This fall, I read several articles about HSPs and found myself nodding along, relieved by many of the descriptions. When I first heard the term, I assumed it meant you’re an emotional person. The truth is, it’s tied to how your nervous system behaves (1 in 5 people are an HSP).

For example, HSPs generally think about things deeply, notice things others miss (they’re sensitive to subtleties), have stronger emotional reactions one way or the other, and can be easily overwhelmed or stimulated. They may process things very slowly and need white space, clutter-free environments, or daily/weekly routines, etc.

stunning yellow flowers

In Reading People, Anne Bogel says, “They [HSPs] are passionate by nature…They have laser-like focus and dedicate boatloads of time to the things they care about. They’re able to explore issues in depth, seeing the nuances that others miss or choose to ignore. They’re extremely perceptive, picking up on all sorts of things nonsensitive types miss. They are really good at deep conversations and are eager to explore meaningful topics. And they’re creative, able to turn their hyper-awareness within to generate new ideas.”

If you’re an HSP, you’re probably nodding along to both descriptions.

I won’t go on and on forever, but to give you an idea:

I remember random details and dates for no logical reason. Clean countertops make a world of difference when it comes to how settled or overwhelmed I feel inside. If I walk out of a room and you move a stack of books from one table to another while I’m gone, I’ll know something is off almost immediately upon re-entering the room. (I don’t know how I know, I simply do.) Years ago, for several months, I drove around in a silent car. (I still do this sometimes, but until reading the articles I didn’t understand why it felt so important and necessary. When my schedule is full, I’m facing a difficult decision, or someone I love is struggling, I need every bit of white space I can find.)

Although there are dozens of different triggers, with this new knowledge and framework, I’ve been able to look at past situations and decisions in a different light. Most importantly, it’s helping me approach life with a bit more grace and understanding.

There’s a reason why I’m always writing/creating something in my head, why I push the dining room chairs in every single time someone else forgets, why all notifications are turned off, why the dripdripdrip of the faucet sounds loud, and why I need time to think/process (more time than 4 out of 5 people) before making a decision. Instead of heaping on guilt for all of these things, I’m learning (slowly) to both give myself grace and let somethings go.

(For two years now, I’ve joined Emily Freeman as we’ve written and shared our “What I Learned” lists. For more fun facts + inspiration, visit Emily’s corner of the Internet or click here to look through any of my previous “What I Learned” posts. This link will take you to the list of what I learned last fall.)