Category Archives: lessons learned

31 [lessons learned] this year

in tribute to my 31st birthday, here are 31 things i have learned over the past year — about myself, about life, & about completely random & maybe even useless stuff! these are in absolutely no particular order.

in the past year, i have learned…

1. … that i love brussel sprouts.
after hating them my entire life, it’s been mind-boggling to give them one more try & to actually love them. i mean, love them like i love chocolate. i crave roasted brussel sprouts now on a regular basis. they’re like candy.

2. … all the words to train’s “50 ways to say goodbye.”
this took alot of practice.

3. … more about the meaning of godliness.
this topic could be a whole blog post & probably will be someday. but for now, i’ll just say that my current understanding of godliness revolves heavily around prayer.

4. … how to make homemade vanilla.

5. … a little more about maintaining balance in my life.
although this still remains one of my greatest daily challenges to date.

6. … greek.
yep. ancient koine greek. i’m working on a beginner’s level still, but i love it.

7. … how to drive our riding lawn mower.
for pete’s sake, i didn’t even know how to start the thing! shaun let me take it for a whirl around the yard the other day. i decided it needs power steering.

8. … why people jump out of planes.
because the door was open! shaun & i went skydiving one year ago tomorrow, & it was the most exhilarating experience in my life so far! i can’t wait to do it again.

9. … the book of james like never before.
i did beth moore’s “james: mercy triumphs” bible study earlier this year, & it has been incredibly powerful in my life. james is one of my favorite books, even though he writes such hard stuff. i like his bluntness & sometimes snarkiness!

10. … how much i love morning routine.
as a notorious night owl [hence, the timing of this post] & major sleeper-inner, most mornings i usually wake up just in time to rush around before i have to be somewhere. but when i take the time to do my full morning routine, it’s so relaxing & centering. i love each little activity i do & how one flows into the other. if i could just get up on time now!

11. … about the walt disney pandora station.
thank you, conner dixon!

12. … that i have an auto-immune disease.
it’s of the inflammatory arthritis kind. it’s loads of fun. [read with sarcasm.] but seriously, i’m so blessed that it’s not worse. so far, the worst of it is daily pain meds & bi-weekly shots. otherwise, i function pretty normally so far.

13. … that ted dekKer wrote an alternate ending to his book “green.”
i haven’t read it yet — can’t wait to get around to it.

14. … that shaun has never actually seen “mary poppins.”
we’ll be remedying the situation shortly!

15. … what esse quam videri means.
and how to pronounce it properly. thank you, jayson rawley! for that, & an unforgettable, life-changing week of camp this year. [it means “to be, rather than to seem” & you say the “v” like a “w”]

16. … tons about equipping ministry.
which is good since i’m the coordinator for our equipping ministry at church! i am still inadequate in person & knowledge, but it has been an awesome year of learning & growing & especially seeing God work in mighty ways!

17. … homeopathic remedies for lots of stuff.
since i have an auto-immune disease, & i have to take pain meds every day, i want to minimize my reliance on them & on the need to increase the dosages or switch to stronger drugs. plus, i just like the idea of holistic health, which goes hand-in-hand with alot of homeopathic approaches. i’ve learned how to make my own non-toxic bug spray & how to ease headaches without additional pain pills [which i can’t take]. i’ve really enjoyed it!

18. … more about the jewish passover from experience.
we had friends invite us over for a messianic passover, & it has been one of the highlights of my year! the symbolism & ritual is incredibly beautiful & deeply meaningful.

19. … how to restore a rusty cast iron dish.
thanks to my brother-in-law, jeffrey. also, he makes the best campfire eggs-&-bacon breakfast in a cast iron skillet ever!

20. … the power of team work.
i have had the blessing of working with several teams of people over the past year. the roll-out team that launched our conneXions ministry, the current conneXions team, our church ministry & office staff, & event teams. i have been consistently overwhelmed by the wisdom that God brings forth through the people around me, how they are willing & graceful vessels of His wisdom, & how He creates such synergy among us.

21. … ephesians 4.
this is my “theme passage” this year, so i memorized it. i’m a little rusty right now though…

22. … more of the history of my current county.
i really enjoyed going to the feast of the hunters’ moon last year & learning more about the rich heritage in the tippecanoe area. and the food was amazing!

23. … how to open my heart ever wider to love two new nieces to the moon & back again!
shaun’s sister carrie had sweet emily back in february, & my sister rachel had paige-bug last month. my cup overflows!

24. … how to make my own household cleaners.
i’ve done some simple ones before, but now almost every cleaning solution we use is made at home from things like vinegar, baking soda, & dawn. it makes me feel so domestic!

25. … how to mix & do real tie-dye.
i’ve done tie-dye for years at camp, but when i threw my sister rachel’s baby shower this summer, the fun activity was tie-dying onesies & burp cloths. they turned out fabulous, & i love getting to see paige wear & use them now!

26. … how to give myself a shot.
i can’t believe this one myself. but i have a b12 deficiency, & it’s permanent, so i have to get shots regularly [currently bi-weekly] to make up for it. since this is a lifelong issue, i had to learn eventually. it’s actually not so bad!

27. … indesign.
technically, i’ve used indesign many years ago, but i had forgotten all but the very basics. i’ve done all my design work for years in some seriously gerry-rigged ways, but they’ve always worked & looked fine. but still, indesign is easier, faster, & has more fine-tuned capabilities. it’s been really nice.

28. … that loss does not mean the end.
that may be cryptic, but we’ll have to wait for another time for me to unpack it for you. suffice it to say for now that even in a time of devastating loss, there can still exist joy, hope, & life.

29. … greater awareness of the materialism & excess that surrounds me/us.
i also did beth moore’s “daniel” study, & the focus of the first half is intentional godly choices against the excess of our culture. it was eye-opening to say the least.

30. … that being 30 isn’t so bad after all.

31. … that getting older is a privilege & more a matter of attitude than about time passed.
you know, you’re only as old as you feel/act/think you are — something like that!

[lessons learned] in FAITH

i shared my story of focusing on faith for a year & how i learned more from failure than from any successes. still, i did learn. some of the things i learned may seem like common sense, obvious, & profoundly unprofound. but like i said in the last post, knowing these things in my head, from books & lessons, is incredibly different from knowing them in my soul, from my own experiences. my hope in sharing these lessons with you is not that you will be struck with the profundity of them, but that reading about them will cause you to be more observant of these same patterns & realities in your own faith journey, hopefully propelling you further along the way. being able to put into words the things i learned through my year on faith has done this very thing for me.

>> we can have faith because God is faithful.

it is recounted over & over in the pages of scripture. God is faithful. we can trust Him. we don’t have to be afraid because He is with us. He will not fail us. [that statement alone has carried me through more darkness than i can recount.] this is true even today. anyone who has walked with God for very long can share their own stories of His faithfulness. some stories are miraculous & exciting. others are simple, taking place among the mundane. but all are true & important. our faith is pointless without something worthy in which to place that faith. God is infinitely worthy. He proved it over & over in bible times. He proves it over & over today. 

>> it is important to remember how He’s been faithful in our pasts.

those stories of God’s faithfulness are important, & we would be wise to remember them, record them, & recount them. establishing memorials is an ancient practice of God’s people. the passover is one of the most prominent memorials that God established so the israelites would remember that He delivered them from slavery in egypt. my personal favorite is the story of the ebenezer stone. in first samuel, the ark was captured by the philistines, then it was returned. the israelites mourned their sinfulness against the Lord &, per samuel’s instructions, they got rid of all their idols & gathered together for samuel to intercede for them. while gathered together in prayer, the philistines came to attack them. the israelites cried out to samuel to keep praying. the Lord thundered against the philistines & threw them into a panic so that the israelites could easily defeat them. samuel sets up a memorial stone & calls it ebenezer [which means “stone of help”], & he says, “thus far has the Lord helped us.” that phrase has become something of a slogan that i’ve used in my faith journey. the implication is that God has helped us so far, & He will help us again!

i have taken this story to heart, & when i began regularly journaling in 2006 in conjunction with my focus on faith, i came to refer to my journals [there are now several tomes] to my ebenezers. they are filled with my own stories of how i have seen God faithful in my life. an answered prayer, a needed friend, a conflict resolved, a new lesson learned, a victory achieved. these stories remind me that if He helped me then, He can & will help me now. He’ll come through for me again. the practice of recording & remembering these experiences — setting them up as “memorial stones” — has significantly contributed to my increased faith. life is uncertain, whether you follow God or not. but when you walk with the Lord & actively remember what He has done for you, you can turn around anytime & see your path strewn with ebenezer stones. and it gives you the courage to take the next step into the unknown, with Him by your side. 

>> it’s never easy, but it gets easier.

faith in God is not easy. it is “being sure of what we hope for & certain of what we do not see” [hebrews 11:1]. these things are not easy for temporal, tangible creatures like us. that is why recording the times when we do observe God’s presence & experience His help is so important. when the enemy surrounds us with temptation or the storms of life rage around us, it is difficult to keep God & His promises in view. we need good memories in these times. we need to practice faith now & in the “small” things so that we can be ready when bigger trials come. and come, they will. standing firm against the enemy will never be easy. surviving the storms of life will never be easy. but we have great strength & assured victory in all things when we have faith in God to fight in our stead & to bring peace to/in the storm. and we have great hope when we have faith that God will bring good through any thing, no matter how awful. relying on His strength & goodness makes these times of trial so much easier. but it requires faith. not just faith in God existing, but faith in God coming through for us, being who He says He is, doing what He says He will do. we need to exercise this faith now & record His faithfulness in our pasts. He never promised this life would be easy. but He did promise that walking through this life with Him is easier. “My yoke is easy, & My burden is light” [matthew 11:30].

[lessons learned] vol. 1

it’s only been a couple of years that i’ve been called [& been calling myself] a “student of Life.” but even in that time, i’ve learned much. here are a few lessons among many, in no particular order:

>> being “right” without being loving is still wrong.
boy, have i gotten myself into plenty of trouble with this one. i’ve learned this more by being wrong than right. i am a passionate, opinionated person. i feel strongly convicted about my beliefs & values. but my means of communicating them can be abrasive, unloving, & ineffective. thankfully, & by the immeasurable grace of God, He’s grown me a lot in this area. but i had to learn the hard way. the way that has lost me many a disagreement & cost me many a friendship. because no matter how “right” i am on the issue, if i don’t act rightly as i communicate what i think, i’m still wrong. railroading people is never right. dismissing people & their thoughts, beliefs, & opinions is never right. and even arguing a point just because “i’m right” is never right. there needs to be a point beyond “i’m right” for engaging in disagreements. there needs to be something at stake besides my pride & need to be right. plus, it’s just not effective to share your thoughts in these ways! Jesus & the apostle paul taught that quarreling is never becoming or productive for a follower of Christ. they also taught that when disagreement arises, perhaps even in the manner of correction, it is paramount to treat the other person with love & gentleness. this is a tough teaching for someone like me, but it is the way Christ, the Life, has called us to live.

>> education does not equal effectiveness.
i can not preach this one enough! having a degree in a particular subject does not make one an expert. it does not mean you are guaranteed to know more than someone else who does not have that same degree or education in that same subject. and it certainly does not mean you are or will be effective in the active field of that subject. i might say this from some personal experience… i’ve seen this to be true in several areas, including design & teaching, but i’ve learned this lesson most strikingly in the area of ministry. knowing a lot about theology &/or ministry tactics will not ensure a person to be an effective minister. and it does not necessarily indicate gifting or calling from God. conversely, not having attended seminary or having a degree in theology does not necessarily mean a person cannot be extremely effective in ministry & even called to it. God does not gift or call people according to the letters after their name or the fancy framed paper in their office. He calls who He calls, for His purposes, & God has a long track record of working through people the world would deem unqualified. i’m certainly not against going to seminary — my sister is studying theology on a graduate level right now. i also don’t think that hiring ministers with degrees is a bad thing — i have lots of godly & effective degreed minister friends. rather, i have learned that a degree is not an absolute indicator, nor is the lack of one.

>> embrace the current season.
i just turned 30 last year, & for over a year leading up to that milestone, i was dreading it. and then a dear longtime friend of mine told me this attitude didn’t seem consistent with or becoming for a student of life. she said she imagined a student of life would embrace the season in which they currently found themselves, no matter what it might be, & they would intentionally prepare for & even look forward to new seasons in life. and she was right. i still often struggle with the reality that i’m 30. working with teens can cause that! but reflecting over my 20s, i am thankful for all the ways in which God has grown me up to this point. i have plenty of regrets, mainly the regret of squandered time, but i also have lots of triumphs, to the glory of God. side note: i asked another friend if i should “freeze” my age at 29, & she advised against it. instead, she said to wait until i turn 32 to “stop aging” because who would ever think you’re lying about being 32?!

i’ve learned much more than these three lessons, & i’ll write more at another time. but these lessons have been pivotal for me in learning how to live the good life.