One of the ways I intentionally practice appreciating the beautiful but so-very-ordinary stuff of real life and regular days is by keeping track of what I’m learning. It’s far from complicated, but somehow jotting down notes of the small, the sacred, and everything that falls somewhere in between helps me stay grounded and present in the place where my feet are planted.
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: more than anything else, this 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 (even a Veggie Tales remix… bet you didn’t see that one coming).
Summer is my least favorite of all the seasons, and I’ve gone back and forth about making and sharing this list. So much feels in-process and “unshareable” (more on that below), but I clicked over to my list from last summer and was surprised to see so much (SO MUCH) carry over from one year to the next. And so this is for you, yes, and I hope you’ll learn a thing or two or laugh along below… but it’s also for 2019 me, who just might need to look back and see God working all along the way.
I said it last year, but it’s true once again: This summer has been incredibly busy and emotionally draining… but even in the crazy and the ordinary, there were lessons learned.
Ten Things I Learned This Summer:
1. Parks and Rec is, quite possibly, the most wonderfully funny feel-good show.
I have this problem where I tend to miss fantastic shows while they’re on the air. Please see: #1 on my list from last summer.
Somehow I missed all 7 seasons of Parks, but I jumped in this summer and was hooked from the beginning. When I think of Parks, I think of these words: light-hearted, hilarious, genuine, honest, friendship.
I mean, y’all. I could go on and on but basically, if you know then you know. And if you don’t know, you should go watch the show. In the words of Chris Traeger, it is literally the best.
2. Breakout rooms are incredibly entertaining.
Sure, it was a bonus that we broke out in time. But honestly, it would have been just as fun if we hadn’t. If you’ve never tried a breakout room before… give it a shot!
3. TAG (like the childhood game) stands for Touch And Go.
Please tell me I’m not the only one who most definitely did not know this…
4. I was not made for the desert life.
Oh sure, I assumed this. But after a steep hike, a camel ride, and a night spent on what can only be described as a one-inch-mattress (with no pillow/blanket), I now know. Assumption: correct.
5. There’s something beautifully powerful about a solo becoming a duet.
I don’t know if you struggle with doubt or lies and I don’t know if you cried while watching the Won’t You Be My Neighbor documentary, but I do and I did.
There’s this moment when Daniel Tiger admits the lies he too often believes, voices the doubts that whisper in the dark, and Lady Aberlin replies with truth. She puts new lyrics to a familiar tune. And then they sing — together.
Lies and truths, dark and light, mingling together. Because gosh, it doesn’t happen overnight, does it? Even when light breaks into the darkness, there are still shadows. And so we learn to rewrite the lyrics, to speak Truth and sing through the night.
After watching the documentary, I wrote a piece on the work of being a neighbor + Mr. Rogers + speaking truth to lies. The truths I included at the end of the post? They were chosen with certain people in mind, truths I’m speaking to specific friends (and also to myself). It’s interesting, though, that so many resonated with the words… maybe many of us need to hear the same truths.
6. Just because you can’t clearly see something doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.
Sometimes, maybe more often than not, we have only the foggiest glimpse of what God’s doing all around us. Sometimes, we can hardly see Him, hear Him, feel Him.
We wait and hope and beg and cry out. We learn to hold grief and joy together. We trust that there’s meaning in the mundane and that the in between seasons matter. We look for beauty in the ordinary and we cling to the promise that He isn’t done working. Even when we can’t see the next step, even when we don’t know quite what He’s up to and our timetable looks so different than His, we zoom in and look for His fingerprints.
We’re squinting our eyes, desperate for an answer or a promise-fulfilled to show up clear as day. But it’s there — already. He’s there — already. He is working in our waiting. Even when the fog rolls in and the mountains go missing, even when we can’t see beyond the next right step, even when there are far more questions than answers. Even then.
He is the One who doesn’t change, the One who remains faithful and true and constant and good and present — always present — in every storyline.
7. It is always worth the time and the cost to travel, for it gives you a new lens with which to view the world.
One full day in London wasn’t nearly enough for my liking (guess that means I’ll have to go back…..), but gosh I loved experiencing a new (to me) culture. The buildings, the food, the people, the transportation, the accents, the culture, the new mixed in with the old. And then to go from there to Israel, a place that so holds my heart.
In last summer’s list, I shared that I was planning another trip to Israel — the trip that I just took this summer. There’s nothing to announce this go ’round, but I’m dreaming and hoping and Lord willing, will be returning to Israel again. My time there has changed me in ways I’m still turning over and processing inside. But I know this: it gave me a new lens, and I’m forever grateful.
8. There is wisdom in going slow instead of stuffing down, there is grace for every moment, and always, there is goodness to be found.
For a week now, I’ve tried to find a way to wrap words around a huge lesson learned this summer. It’s really important to me that I don’t share stories that aren’t mine to share in the first place (that happened to me this summer, and gosh it’s awful on the other side).
Sometimes, though, the story is yours and yours alone, and yet you can’t find words that are both honest and honoring. And so here’s what I’ll say as I wait for the words to eventually come or make peace with the story simply playing out inside: It’s okay to not be okay all the time. It’s okay to take the time you need. Those who love you will encourage instead of critique, will show up instead of suspect, will choose to love you through instead of try to rush you through. There is wisdom in going slow instead of stuffing down, there is grace for every moment, and always, there is goodness to be found.
(Every single one of these are things I knew to be true long before this summer, but there’s a difference in believing it for others and believing it for yourself. And there’s a difference between believing it for yourself and actually living it out. That? That I’ve learned this summer.)
9. Some stories never get old – and this is one of them.
I didn’t want to write this book. I put it off, came up with a dozen reasons why it wasn’t the right timing, and told God that He had picked the wrong girl.
His response was kind but clear: to do anything else would be disobedience.
Three years ago, I opened a blank page and wrote exactly 2,000 words. I didn’t know where those words would go or what they might become. I didn’t know He’d ask me to write about singleness, revisit heartbreaks, or put words around night terrors and spiritual warfare. I had no idea that over the next several months, I’d need to show up in the darkness, look for the light, and write about what it feels like in the messy middle, in the in betweens of life. But that’s where He led me and I found Him there. On every single page, I found Him there.
It was anything but easy, but I’d do every bit of it all over again. Because this is the truth:
It’s been three years and I still regularly hear from complete strangers who have stumbled across Even If Not, readers I’ll likely never meet this side of heaven who say things like “this book is changing my life” and “I met Jesus between the pages.” And I shake my head and really truly honestly the only response I have to offer is simply this: Me too.
My name may be on the cover, but He’s the Author, the mender of the broken pieces spilled out in black ink. This isn’t necessarily the story I would have chosen, but I’m forever grateful it’s the one I was given. My history is really His story, and if there’s one thing I learned from writing Even If Not, one thing I’d go back and tell my August-19th-2015-self, it would be this: Get ready to be blown away by His goodness, because you’re going to find it on every page, in every high and low. He is always present and ever faithful, true and good even in — especially in — the in between.
10. I would never think to create a Veggie Tales remix, but these two guys did and the world is a funnier place because of it.
What better way to round out this list than with this ridiculous + hilarious remix. Have you seen it?
For the past four (!!!) years, 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” blog posts.