I know it’s almost the end of January, which means I’m about 30 days late on a 2017 wrap-up, but here it is anyway.
The end of 2017 was especially whirlwind-like, with Selah’s birthday and Thanksgiving and preparing for an overseas trip in November, then actually being away from home until the middle of December. I devoted the little space I had left before the holidays to getting enough sleep (some days I still feel jet-lagged), resting and playing with my family, and doing a handful of things that always make Christmas feel like Christmas. I curled up with good books and tried my best to transition from couch to bed by 9:00 pm. I ate a lots of leftovers and cookies for lunch, and I kept the instrumental holiday music on soft in the background. These were the tiny actions that made the ending of 2017 pretty sweet, even if not every choice was perfectly healthful.
Since the last two months of the year were totally crazytown, I decided to make February 1 my personal New Year’s Day, and I spent January catching up on a bunch of unfinished projects that have been hanging over my head for too long: making 2016 and 2017 photo books, sorting out my social media habits, and finding a china cabinet for our dining room. I thought that getting some of this bigger-picture, swirly stuff out of my head would help me to make progress on new habits for the year, and so far, it seems to be working. I’m easing back into creativity and productivity, learning to be okay with leaving some things behind, and focusing on what matters most.
One thing I have definitely not figured out yet is some sort of snapshot or system for keeping track of my writing. At the moment, I organize everything into folders on Google Drive: ideas, drafts, finished/published, plus separate folders for pitches and pieces that are in process for publications that are not my blog. But I often forget where I am in the process with each piece, and sometimes I’ll discover a draft I forgot about for months. I feel like I need to create some kind of spreadsheet to give me an overview of everything that it’s in progress, but as much as I love organizational tools, I get so overwhelmed when it comes to creating them myself. I’d love to hear about your tried-and-true systems!
I hope your 2018 is off to a slow/easy/pleasant/super/organized/joyful (or insert your adjective of choice here) start. Here’s more about what I’m learned, loved, and read in November, December, and January. (Because holy cow, it’s been a long time since I published one of these things.)
What I Learned
- Don’t wait until everything is perfect to take that trip/do that thing/make those memories. More on this coming to an essay soon (I hope)!
- A few extra pounds may actually be a sign of great freedom. For a complicated mess of reasons (medical issues and fear, mostly) I ate a near-perfect diet in 2016. I remember actually saying to a doctor, “I don’t want to lose any more weight.” But 2017 brought liberation, and also an additional 10 pounds. Whenever I feel down on myself about this, I remember that at this time last year, I would have traded a whole lot more for healing.
- Always, always, always check the airline’s luggage rules before you fly. Apparently international airlines have totally different baggage rules than US airlines, so the night before we left for vacation, we frantically had to change our approach (including downsizing, measuring, and weighing all our bags).
- There is really, truly nothing magical about January 1 (even though it still feels like pure magic to me).
- I am beautiful (and so are you). You can read more here.
What I Loved
- Good coffee: Every now and then Dan and I will spring for Starbucks or Peet’s at the grocery store, but nothing compares to artisan coffee made from high-quality beans and roasted in small batches. My mom gave me a bag of Starved Rock Coffee as a stocking stuffer this year, and I’m sad to admit I’ve already burned through it.
- Instrumental Christmas music on YouTube: This is the perfect way to ease into listening to Christmas music before it’s culturally acceptable (and long after, not that I’m still listening or anything).
- Powersheets: I snagged this goal-setting tool an hour before it sold out (though the six-month version is still available!), and I’m loving it so far. I’ll report back in a few months and at the end of the year!
- Melatonin: These little gems seriously saved me from jet lag. Despite a 13-hour time difference between Chicago an Thailand, it only took me a day to adjust to local time.
- Slow Cooker Tuscan White Bean and Sausage Soup: I pretty much make the same three soups on rotation all winter long, and this is quickly becoming one of my favorites. (This one and this one are my other two favorites. All three of these freeze well and make great, healthy options to bring to someone who needs a blessing.)
What I Read
There’s a lot here, so in the spirit of keeping this post a readable length, I’m trying to keep these reviews short. I’m linking to Amazon (not affiliate), as always, in case you’d like to find out more.
- Me Before You by JoJo Moyes: Nuanced, heart wrenching, gorgeous, un-put-down-able. 5 stars.
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid: A smart beach read with well-crafted female characters. Fascinating, powerful. 4 stars.
- The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty: Honest, funny but deep, excellent female characters. 4 stars.
- Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham: Important topic (race riots and whitewashed history), but contained all the things I don’t like about YA (flat characters, angsty teenagers). 3.5 stars.
- Scripture and the Authority of God by N. T. Wright: A little tough to read without a seminary background, but an important critique of the Western church’s often-inappropriate use of the Bible. 4 stars.
- Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans: It’s like she was in my head and writing about my actual life. Brave and unflinching. 4 stars.
- Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown: Short but weighty, incredibly timely. 4 stars.
- Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker: Made me laugh out loud and cry real tears, sometimes on the same page. 4 stars.
- A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny: More interesting than the first book in the series (see my review for Still Life here), still cozy and charming. 3 stars.
- The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny: Even more interesting than A Fatal Grace, and now we’re getting a bit of conspiracy and character development. Yes! 3.5 stars.
- The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion: Quirky, charming, but sort of forgettable. 3 stars.
- Born a Crime by Trevor Noah: Eye opening, tragic, endearing. I only wish I had listened to this one on audiobook instead. 4 stars.
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson: A mind-blowing, gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, and surprisingly hopeful account of mass incarceration, capital punishment, and prison reform. A must read. 5 stars.
What I Clicked
- “I miss the comfort of easy answers to made-up questions, of knowing all the rules, of the sense of control that comes with being a card-carrying member of an exclusive, hierarchical community. But as my friend Trevor says, if you find yourself in a room where everywhere agrees with you, get out of that room.” (I Live in the Tension, Too by Emily Fisk)
- “I do not think God is absent. I believe God is in the wailing and in the weeping. He is waist deep in water finding bodies that are still breathing, and in the lives that ended while draped over the people they loved while bullets were flying.” (He Lives In You by N’tima Preusser)
- “Perhaps, just perhaps, you could make it your intention to – this year – rest from your battle against your body and simply embrace her with peace and love and joy and gratitude.” (Maybe This Is Your New Year’s Resolution by Sarah Bessey)
- “If I’m going to spend five years of my life on social media—and Lord, I really hope I don’t—but if I do, I want it to mean something.” (Make It Count by Ashlee Gadd)
- “Christianity has far too easily called individual, private behaviors sins while usually ignoring or even supporting structural and systemic evils such as war, colonization, corporate greed, slavery, and abuse of the Earth.” (How Can Everything Be Sacred? by Richard Rohr)
What I Wrote
- I knew exactly what my parenting style would be—until I became a mom // published by Motherly
- Could It Happen to Us, Too? // published by Coffee + Crumbs
- Stealing Joy // published by The MOPS Blog
- A New Kind of Question and Answer
- 5 Practices to Navigate Touchy Conversations // published by The MOPS Blog
- There’s Still Time
- Armchair Chats // A Fake Break