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What I Learned

November 27, 2017

What I Learned This Fall

At the end of each season I’m linking up with Emily P. Freeman and other women as we reflect back and share what we learned in that season. It’s a wonderful practice that’s helped me reflect, process, and transition into the next season. As someone who is a self-proclaimed slow-processor and suffers from a forgetful mind/ spiritual amnesia, this has become such a blessing to me each season.

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September 1, 2017

What I Learned This Summer

At the end of every season I’m linking up with Emily P. Freeman and hundreds of other women as we reflect back and share what we learned in that season. It’s a wonderful practice that’s helped me reflect, process, and transition into the next season. 

So what did I learn this summer?

It feels more like what didn’t I learn this summer?!

This summer has been full of change and glorious adventures, and it would be impossible to share all I’ve learned especially considering all of the visits to new places with so much history (like NYC, Boston, Yale, etc.) so I’ve tried to narrow it down to 10 things that struck a cord with me.

(I hope maybe you’ll learn something new here too!)

Here we go – What I Learned This Summer: Read more

May 28, 2017

What I Learned This Spring


I’m continuing to love linking up with Emily P. Freeman and practicing the art of slowing down to record, reflect, and share what we’re learning in our lives each season.

This is definitely not an exhaustive list of what I learned this spring, especially considering all I learned and experienced in Italy, but here are 8 of the highlights.

What I Learned This Spring:

1. Life Savers were NOT created with a hole in the center to save a child’s life by preventing choking on the candy.

My little boy asked me if he could have “one of those hard circle candies with the hole in the middle, just like Grandma has in her purse.” I shared with a friend that I’m uneasy about giving my little ones any type of hard candy, including Life Savers, because of the fear of choking, even as they get older.

This friend looked at me and unknowingly shared what I now know (thanks to Google and Snopes) to be a myth that has continued to circulate over the years. I had never heard it before.

And so I learned the myth before I learned the truth. My friend’s story made sense, maybe, I thought. But I still wasn’t sure so I “researched.” According to, the claim that “Life Savers candy was so named because the inventor’s daughter died from choking on a non-holed mint” is FALSE.

Really the story behind their creation has nothing to do with choking or saving a life. So mommas, beware this myth and keep your little ones safe.

2. The name “Israel” means “to struggle (or wrestle) with God.”

I labeled myself as a struggler for a long time now. Struggling with various aspects of and roles in life, struggling to be successful or see victory in certain areas of my life and battling feelings of failure, wrestling with God over deep spiritual things…. struggling with almost anything that appeared in front of me, wanting to do better and be better but always struggling to do so…. You get the picture.

I saw my identity as a struggler. I tried to make light of it. My favorite hoodie reads “THE STRUGGLE IS REAL.”

But deep down struggling is tiring and depressing and shame was growing wherever I struggled, especially as someone who loves Jesus and knows and believes His Word.

Of course God spoke softly to my struggling heart, reminding me my identity is one of victory in Him. But it wasn’t until my rereading of the book of Isaiah with She Reads Truth over Lent that I learned the meaning of the name Israel.

Y’all it was a healing revelation.

One of my favorite verses in Isaiah has always been 43:1b:

…the One who formed you, Israel– Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine.

But honestly I generally skipped right over the word Israel in the verse, and for all the times the name Israel appears in the Bible, I never took time to pay attention to it’s meaning – at least not until it spoke to me personally.

God changed Jacob’s name to Israel and later God gave His people the name Israel: “struggles with God.”

Me, the one who struggles with God. Me, replacing my name with Israel. How much more powerful did this already powerful scripture become. It was incredible and freeing.

I further learned that some translate it to mean “May God prevail” or “God perseveres.” Amen.

3. When packing for Italy, leave the sandals at home.

Italians do not wear sandals. They wear cute and comfy close-toed shoes. I learned this my first day in Rome.

Of course I was wearing smart comfortable tennis shoes for walking that first day, but my suitcase was packed full of sandals.  I quickly noticed NO ONE wore sandals. And I did not want to be “that” tourist so my sandals stayed mostly packed for the rest of the trip.

If you’re ever going to visit Italy, pack multiple pairs of comfy walking shoes and leave the sandals at home (unless you visit the coast in which case you only need a pair).

4. I learned how to make pasta from scratch in Italy. 

This was one of those “bucket list” items / life dreams fulfilled in Italy. I watched and learned and then made my own spaghetti noodles.

It was all that I dreamed it would be. It was simple and beautiful and scary yet easy and so fun. It made me want to buy one of those noodle machines (clearly I need to learn its name) even though I would probably use it once a year. But we’re talking homemade pasta, maybe it’s worth it even once a year??

Did I mention it tasted deliciously amazing too?

5. Dinners in Italy are delicious and late and loooooooong…. 

In Italy restaurants don’t open for dinner until 7:30 or 8PM.  The meal is then served course by course, very s-l-o-w-l-y… On average our dinners would last until 10 or 11PM, at which point we always felt like we had to beg (politely) for our check.

Don’t get me wrong, a nice slow-paced dinner is lovely. Especially in Italy. And the food is amazing. But just prepare yourself if you ever visit. It’s just how they do dinner. Late and long.

6. These gorgeous iconic Italian trees are called Italian Cypress trees. 

I had no idea of their name. I only knew I loved them in every picture of Italy I have ever seen. And then I saw them in person.

Thanks to my good friend Google, I was able to determine that these dreamy trees are called Italian Cypress trees.

7. Michelangelo’s David is truly magnificent and stands over 17 feet tall.

Of course it’s a masterpiece. Of course I should not have been surprised by its magnificence in person. But I was.

What I really didn’t expect was how large it would be. I had no idea of the size of the famous sculpture before seeing it in person. It really was breathtaking when I walked in the room standing just over 17 feet tall. Almost 3 times my height.

Not only was its size magnificent, but the detail astonishing. I mean can you see the veins?

8. Yale is in New Haven, Connecticut – and we’re moving there this summer! (Surprise!) 

Proud wife! I will forever get to proclaim “I know someone who went to Yale” and that someone is my husband. He will be attending grad school there. Super excited for him.

So yes our whole family will be moving this summer. This was not in our long term plans at all and just recently unfolded in our lives.

Change is hard. Moving is hard. (Especially when you just bought your dream house exactly a year ago). Starting over is hard. (Especially when it’s for less than a year).

But it’s Yale. And I’m going to be able to visit cities and places I’ve always longed to visit! Like NYC and Boston! And show our kids more of our country. So we’re focusing on gratitude and excitement and good in this new assignment.

If you happen to have any Yale or Connecticut insights to share please message me all the things!

I also learned that as a spouse of a Yale grad student, I can audit courses, which means I can take courses at Yale for FREE! I won’t receive credit nor will I have to fulfill any course requirements. But FREE education at an Ivy League school. Yes please!! Give me all the writing courses!


What did you learn this spring?

Share here the comments or link up on Instagram with #whatwelearned #whatIlearned and tag me in your comments @an.expectant.heart

February 26, 2017

What I Learned This Winter

I’ve been participating in Emily Freeman’s “What I Learned” link up for a few seasons now. Every season we reflect on what we’ve learned and share it with each other. From deep, spiritual lessons to genius life hacks. Emily recently created a new, free printable to help keep track of what we’re learning as we go through the season here on her website in case you’re interested in playing along!

Without further ado, here’s what I learned this winter:

1. Bathroom Paper Towels Life Hack

Ready for this? When in a public restroom, dispense your paper towels before you wash your hands. Genius. Why didn’t I think of this before?! Saves you the awkward wet hands trying to turn the now slippery dispenser knobs and, best of all, saves you from acquiring new germs after having just washed your hands. It’s more sanitary. It makes sense. Just dispense the paper towels, tuck them under your arm, wash, dry, done. (Thank you girl in the bathroom at CrossFit for teaching me this!)

2. Petroglyphics vs. Hieroglyphics 

While on my amazing getaway to Nevada with my husband for a work trip, we were able to sneak away for a few hours one morning and go exploring so we visited the Valley of Fire State Park.  Who knew rocks that are not mountains could be so breathtaking? This state park is beautiful. Gorgeous red rock formations with beautiful layers of colors in them – reminding me of how God is both mighty and that He’s in the smallest of details.

The extra amazing thing about these rocks was that some of them contained ancient petroglyphs. I didn’t know these were a thing. I knew of hieroglyphics but had not idea there was something called petroglyphs. To my untrained eye they basically looked the same. They were carved drawings in the rocks and were amazing. My favorite was the one of the family we came across.

I learned that petroglyphs are simply rock carvings. “Petra” means “stone” and “glyphein” means “to carve.” And they can be found all over the world. “Hieroglyphics” tends to refer specifically to the ancient Egyptian (and Mayan) writing system and means “sacred writing.” Sometimes the two categories overlap but that’s when my brain goes blurry on the subject. Anyway, pretty neat and inspiring to think that these were made by the first writers….

3. Why Teller Doesn’t Talk

While my husband and I were visiting Las Vegas, we also caught a show one evening and went to see Penn & Teller. I’ve remembered watching them here and there on TV appearances since I was a little girl. In case you’re unfamiliar, Penn and Teller are magicians who perform together and are known for their comedy. Teller has always been my favorite, and I’ve always been intrigued by his silent act.

During their live performance, Penn explained a little about Teller’s silence (and I Googled to confirm the authenticity of the story). Apparently when Teller started out in comedy in college, he faced a lot of hecklers. He found that if he didn’t talk, he wasn’t heckled so much. Ever since he’s continued his silent act. So Teller can talk. He just chooses not to and now I know why and you do too. Maybe there’s some wisdom in that…

4. Book Darts

These are amazingly awesome and – again – why am I just learning of them now!? I first saw mention of book darks on @annebogel’s Instagram. They are these awesome little, paper thin, metal devices that slip over the edge of a page. If you’re like me and highlight and make notes in your books and don’t like to use those flappy, paper sticky tabs and don’t like creasing your page corners, but find yourself constantly flipping back through the pages to find the quotes you had marked up: these are your solution! Plus they’re pretty gorgeous aren’t they?  I ordered myself a set off Amazon and just started using them. (Just over $13 for a set of 125.)

5. Pentecost 

If you’ve spent any time in a church, you’ve probably heard this word before: “Pentecost.” Please don’t shame me but before this winter I had little to no idea what it actually meant or referred to. And I’d actually studied and read scriptures multiple times about Pentecost but still missed it. This year. I got it.

Pentecost refers to the day the disciples received the Holy Spirit. I mean this is huge. I firmly believe the Holy Spirit is not preached on or discussed or studied enough. The Holy Spirit is the most amazing gift from our Savior. It’s how God lives in us! It’s how I can die to myself and walk with Christ. It’s how I can throw off my selfishness and other sinful habits and produce fruit that is not naturally of me! (The fruits of the Spirit we tend to be more familiar with, right?)

So Pentecost refers to the day God indwelt Himself in believers. The disciples first. And since then it has come to refer to the celebration of this day. After some more studying, I learned that Pentecost is celebrated and held on the seventh Sunday after Easter. To Jewish believers, Pentecost celebrates God’s giving of the ten commandments to Moses. This year Pentecost will fall on June 4th (it’s always 49 days after Easter on the 50th day – “Pentekostos’ means “fifty” in Greek).

6.  I Have Not Been Shepherding My Child’s Heart Well

Honestly, there’s a lot behind this one. I think we will all doubt ourselves as parents no matter how hard we try or how much we seek God’s help in parenting our children. But I’ve been struggling for a couple of years now with a few specific aspects of parenting our oldest son who is now 5 and half. We’ve seen success and growth at times, but still there’s been a clear problem. In January I read the book Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp after seeking wisdom from my mentors. After reading it, which was challenging, honestly some of it was hard to digest, I sat on it, and I prayed over it. And God revealed to me that I was missing a huge part of how He wants me to shepherd and train my children and that included a new take on discipline, well not new, biblical, but new to me. It’s not culturally popular, but I learned a lot about what scripture has to say about raising and training children.

7. I Think I’m Allergic to Gluten

I’ve struggled with a wide range of symptoms from physical to emotional that basically accumulated to me not feeling like me last year. My doctor suggested I remove gluten from my diet. I knew this was coming because I knew my doctor’s approach, and I also know about how food can affect our bodies. I learned from my own children’s food allergies and seeing firsthand how foods they react to not only bring about rashes but terrible behavioral problems (which just complicated #6 above for me). Anyway, my husband’s whole family suffers from food allergies. My boys suffer from food allergies. I thought I was all good. But I was desperate to feel like me again. I knew something was not right. So I was ready to try anything.

We have been a dairy free house for 5 years, and I’ve learned how to deal with that. Certainly if I could do that, I could learn to go off gluten as well. So I did, for 3 months. I didn’t see complete healing of all the symptoms that were a problem for me, so I went back on gluten for a month (which just so happened to be over the holidays, our trip to Vegas, and my birthday so I could splurge on Christmas cookies and confetti cupcakes from a box that just don’t come gluten or dairy free). And it was then that I realized how much success I had actually seen off gluten. And mostly in my mood and energy. So… I think I’m allergic to gluten, and I’m back to gluten free again. I want to feel like me. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

8. This Donut Shop has the Best Donuts in the World

Speaking of gluten…. When I wasn’t avoiding it, my husband and I stopped at this donut shop (called The Donut Bar) while on our trip, and I learned it has the best donuts ever. Seriously. Donuts from heaven. Donuts as big as your head. Donuts created with whimsy and flavor. I enjoyed the Homer (pictured above). So, if you are not gluten free and, if you’re in Las Vegas, go to this donut shop.

What did you learn this winter? Share or link up with me in the comments!

November 29, 2016

What I Learned This Fall

In keeping with the tradition and community started by Emily Freeman, this is my “What We Learned” post, which is a quarterly “community link up where we each take some time to reflect” on what we learned in the past month or season before on to the next.

Here are 8 things I learned this fall:

1. Trade Halloween Candy for a Toy


My boys have a pretty extensive list of food allergies, the most challenging being “food additives,” which are found in just about anything processed, including candies, making Halloween in all its candy glory tricky for our family. My kids are also allergic to milk, which easily eliminates chocolates. Thankfully they happily give the chocolates to mommy, and mommy gladly takes them off their hands. But as far as the other sugary sweets go, Halloween is an exception to our strict “no consuming foods with allergens” rule, and I let them live a little, risking the reactions (most of which are behavioral with the food additives). Well, no big surprise, after two days of enjoying their hard earned Halloween candy, the behavior was out of control, immediately I regretted my leniency, and I had to take the candy away completely. Worst mom ever? Worst holiday ever? My poor boys loved trick-or-treating, they had so much fun and laughed and were kids and worked so hard for their loot–I hated to take it away. We didn’t figure out the trading it in at the dentist thing (maybe we’ll save that for another year too), but I did catch an idea from another parent that I opted for, which is to trade their candy for a small toy. Genius move right there. Easy. Done. Perfect solution for us. My boys picked out a $3 light saber from Target and never looked back at that candy.

2. Veteran’s Day & The Significance of the Red Poppy


After my boys brought home some painted red poppies for their Veteran’s Day crafts from preschool, I decided it was finally time I educated myself about their significance, especially since I’m married to a veteran, because I really didn’t know anything about the red poppy. Turns out that the red poppy started to become a symbol to remember our veterans during WWI after a poem written by a Canadian officer and surgeon gained fame. You can read the poem in its entirety and more in my post here – it’s all incredibly moving and worth the read.

3. County Jail 


Thankfully my story leaves me mostly ignorant about jail, but like with the poppy, I don’t want to live a life of ignorance. When I found out my son’s pre-K class would be taking a trip to the county jail, I knew I needed to go. I was curious, intrigued, a little worried to be honest, and it was time for this momma to have a field trip of her own to open my eyes and learn. What I learned after attending the field trip is that county jail is a lot more intense than I had imagined in my mind. The inmates may be there for a few years, which I didn’t realize. There are no chairs, tables, tvs, anything at all, I expected it to be cushy maybe (?). I learned about the miserable “food” they eat and why. How rarely they’re allowed visitors or time out of their cells. I watched inmates released from their handcuffs through the slots in their doors, and the gravity of it all hit me. Of course this field trip provided a lot of talking points with my five year old. We talked a lot about mistakes, consequences, injustice, grace, forgiveness, love, and Jesus. After hearing the stats about how alcohol and drugs play into the majority of the criminals landing in jail, I walked away a little heart broken for how sin so easily corrupts and destroys us all, hurting for hurting people. Praying for those imprisoned, because how often do we really pray for this group of people? I’m reminded that everyone needs Jesus and no one is beyond His reach.

4. The Shepherd on the Search


So thankful for this new product from DaySpring. I have been wanting something like the Elf on the Shelf to do with my boys at Christmas, but not the Elf on the Shelf because for me personally I want to focus on Jesus as much as I can. If you’re a subscriber, you already received an email from me in which I told you all about The Shepherd on the Search. If you’re not, essentially, The Shepherd on the Search is a faith-based alternative to the infamous Elf on the Shelf that is designed to help families focus on the true meaning of the season – our Savior’s birth – which is exactly what I’ve been wanting! I bought it right when I heard of it. I love that it helps teach our kids to look for Jesus. And that’s what we adults always need reminders of too. That’s what I love writing about on here – looking for Jesus in the trials and every day moments. It’s so awesome that this is a small, fun way to engage my boys and begin to teach them to have expectant hearts, to seek Jesus in our lives and expect to find Him, because He’s always there, and to keep Christmas about Jesus. (Also, FYI, DaySpring also offers you ideas for daily activities and printables you can use with your shepherd so no need to day any extra leg work or creative thinking and planning).

5. Copper Fairy Lights

fairy lights

A friend introduced me to these copper fairy lights for sale at a charming local antique marketplace in our town. They are the most perfect twinkle lights. Battery operated. Adorable. Affordable. I bought one set. Then went back the next week for two more. Perfect any time of year, but especially perfect as I decorated the house for Christmas. Seeing their sparkling lights around the house is similar to the $4 bouquets of fresh flowers I buy from Kroger almost every week; I walk by them and smile. Little joys. Inside my home. Worth it.

6. How to Make Pumpkin Pie


If you’ve followed along with me on Instagram or Facebook at all over Thanksgiving, you may know this already, but I learned how to bake pumpkin pie from scratch. Actual, edible, delicious, pie. Learn how to bake a pie has been on my bucket list for about 5 or 6 years now, and I finally did it this Thanksgiving. I found a recipe by The Minimalist Baker for a gluten free vegan pumpkin pie and tried it, and I might dare say that I nailed it! My little boys helped, and it was easy and delicious! This will be a new Thanksgiving tradition of ours… Now onto learning how to make an apple pie that meets our allergy needs, maybe for Christmas? If you have any gluten free and dairy free tried and true apple pie recipes send them my way!

7. I Sacrifice My Joy Too Much


While listening to Joyce Meyer’s Battlefield of the Mind on Audible, her words spoke a revelation to me. While speaking on joy and gratitude and happiness, she said that we can either choose to sacrifice our thanks to God or our joy to the enemy. Right then I realized how often my unhappiness was a result of my choosing to sacrifice my joy to the enemy. It re-inspired me to live a life that chooses gratitude and joy; it may require a sacrifice of other things, but I won’t be sacrificing my joy to the enemy as long as I can help it. You can read more about this here and here.

8. Pray in Expectation by Giving Thanks


Through a series of events (you can read the whole post here), the Lord showed me that I was giving thanks for many things and seeking Him in prayer whole-heartedly… yet something was missing and had been for a long time. I learned that I needed to pray in expectation. For the things burdening my heart, I need to give thanks to God for what He’s going to do in those situations. For example, praying with an expectant heart might look like this, “Lord I thank you for the work you’re going to do to [in this situation burdening my heart]. I thank you for the break through you’re going to [in this area]. I can’t wait to see what You do, and I thank you for it!” God showed me that I need to pray and give thanks, in hope, in expectation, for future things, and with confidence. To look for that breakthrough. To look for Him. To expect Him. And give thanks for what is yet to come.


Your turn!

What did you learn this fall? Leave a comment. Link up. Hashtag on Instagram #whatIlearned.