Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best of 2013

I'm a sucker for end of the year reviews.  I love countdowns of the best songs of the year and scrolling through friends' best books lists and blog posts of the year.  I anticipate the New Year, even though I'm way too boring to actually ring it in, usually falling asleep hours before the ball drops.  But I love the hope it brings--a new start, a fresh beginning, like the potential of all the blank pages of the journals I start.  Granted, the journals collect on my desk unfinished, along with the resolutions and intentions I persist in setting.  But as we talked about in my Sunday School class this week, it's okay to have areas of incompletion in our lives.  As much as the young Jenny thought there would be a day when I would "have it all figured out" and truly feel like a capable and mature adult, I'm starting to realize as I get closer to 40 that it isn't likely to happen.  Instead, as I wait for God to complete me, I need to be okay with where I am in the ever-evolving process of growth.  There are changes I can work towards, but I need to also seek contentment in the incompleteness and imperfections of life as it is now.

As I look forward, I also look back on a year that has been full of opportunities, and also stress.  I have been challenged to grow in the job I love, which has demanded a lot of my time and energy.  My family has been wonderfully supportive, but I can also see where I need to swing the balance back to devote more of myself to my relationships with them (and developing more patience with the challenging phases the kids are in...there's something about the odd numbered years for us: 1, 3, 5, 7.  I'm glad they'll be turning even numbers early in the year!).  Thanks to the growth of John's business and his care of the kids and home, we've been able to maintain our schedules and also had a great family vacation to end the year.  While my extended family has had health set-backs, it's given us a chance to reach out more and strengthen relationships with them while offering assistance (John has been my hero in this).  I've had the chance to grow as a writer through this blog and through three published essays:

The Modern Magnificat: Women Responding to the Call of God


Thank you for reading and for your kind comments and encouragement of this lifelong dream.

Here are some of my favorite things from this year, in no particular order:

(I'm not a very avid movie watcher, and most of the ones I do see in the theater are kids' movies.  My favorites just happen to be ones I've watched recently during this break, and I hardly remember others I've seen.)

"Saving Mr. Banks"


"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire"

"Despicable Me 2"

(Still want to see "The Book Thief")

(I usually read about 100 books a year, but according to my Goodreads records, I only logged about 60 this year--evidence of how my workload has increased).  Here are some I particularly enjoyed:


The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving: A Novel by Jonathan Evison

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

The Last First Day: A Novel by Carrie Brown

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell


Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening by Diana Butler Bass

A Million Little Ways : Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman

Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible's View of Women by Sarah Bessey

Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed by Glennon Melton

Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair by Anne Lamott

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber

Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist

Hopes and Fears: Everyday Theology for New Parents and Other Tired, Anxious People by Lee Hull Moses and Bromleigh McCleneghan

Monoculture: How One Story Is Changing Everything by F.S. Michaels

Blog posts from others:

How the Hidden Dangers of Comparison are Killing Us {and Our Daughters}: The Measuring Stick Principle (Ann Voskamp, A Holy Experience)

Little Girls, Get Up!  Get Up and Eat!(Glennon Melton, Momastery)

The Pursuit of Enough: When God Makes it Beautiful (Micha Boyett, Mama Monk for Pantheos)

Dear Less-Than-Perfect Mom (Lea Grover for Huffington Post Parents)

In Which (love looks like) an Empty Parking Lot (Sarah Bessey)

"All Right, Then, I'll Go to Hell" (Rachel Held Evans)

In addition to these, I regularly enjoy writing by Katherine Willis Pershey  and MaryAnn McKibben Dana, along with the blogs of my friends Linda Moore and Julie Ball.

My most popular blog posts of 2013:

When Baptist Women Go Wild

Empowering the Good Girl: A Disney Princess I Can Get Behind

Art and Vulnerability

Being a Sanctuary for Others (part of my 31 days of Sanctuary series)

Watching Her Sleep

Birth Pangs in an Empty Womb

As we enter 2014, this is my prayer:

May we let go of the old things that have weighed us down and held us back, while reaching for the new promises that lie ahead.  May we always trust that we are lovingly created in God's image, that we are enough and have enough to meet the challenges of the present and the future.  May God guide us all forward into the ever unfolding Story, and may we delight in each new page along the way.  Blessings, my friends.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

When the light of the season feels heavy

It keeps coming back to light and darkness, joy and pain, and I realize how both good and bad are linked, drawing us into this season of Advent.  We wait joyfully, expectantly, to celebrate (again) the birth of Jesus, but no birth is without pain, tears, or mess.  We long for rebirth and renewal because of the darkness, the brokeness we all feel.  We grieve, with empty spaces around the table and within our hearts. We carry the heavy burdens of packages we can't afford, years of regret, and the thoughts of those we know who are suffering.  We need to lighten our load.  We search for the light, but fear that the darkness might overcome us.

Christmas is in the dead of winter for a purpose.  When the days are short, dark, and cold, we needed a real reminder that what we see is just a surface reality.  Beyond the ordinary time we experience is the world of miracles, where a baby born to a poor young mother would be the Messiah, an event that called wise men to leave the familiar and journey to give precious gifts to a lowly one that would one day be called a King, a shepherd born among real and smelly sheep.

We sing songs of peace and joy, realizing that these are already within us, just as Christ is with us.  We light candles of hope, peace, joy, and love to remember the gifts that God gives us through Christ, the lights that reveal to us that the darkness will not win.  We light our candle from the Christ candle and go forth to be lights of the world.   We seek the light from a star that will draw us ever forward into the Kingdom of God, which is among us.  We celebrate what we have know, but what is also made new to us again each year.

So we hold our light higher, knowing that the darkness still lingers, but that the light pushes it back.  We celebrate in joy, knowing that love has already won and that we are held in its embrace.  Now that we remember that we are beloved, we are ready to face the world and be love.