What a year—2016 was a pretty painful one for our country collectively, am I right? Personally, it was a both a wild one—learning how to be a mom, returning to work after maternity leave, dealing with bouts of intense anxiety and pain—and a joyful one—soaking up precious moments with my daughter, feeling deeply fulfilled at work and at home (most of the time), and adopting a new set of standards for myself in which I try to remember to ease myself off the hook.
Truthfully, I hope 2017 brings a heck of a lot less change than 2016 did, but I know I can’t rest in that. So I hope 2017 brings me, once again, to a place of deep need for Jesus, deep gratitude for all I’ve been given (so, so much more than I deserve), and deep tenderness and love for the people who are by my side for this journey. (And I hope it maybe brings a little more time for me to read and write.)
In the blur of the days leading up to Thanksgiving and Selah’s first birthday party, I completely forgot to write an Armchair Chat for November. I thought about combining November and December, but then realized it might be fun to do a reflection on the year collectively. So here’s a little more about what I learned and enjoyed during 2016.
What I Learned
- Healing doesn’t happen on my terms. I’ve always thought of healing as a single event: God heals someone, even someone who has been waiting a long time, and then the pain is over. Oh hello, my name is Brittany and I’m in for a rude awakening because I’m a bit naive. I’ve been waiting for healing from a frustrating condition brought on by Selah’s birth, and I’ve realized the road to healing can be painful and painfully long, sometimes involving two steps forward and then one back. I’m learning that it doesn’t mean I’m giving up or settling if I accept this rhythm, as long as I continue to believe that God is good. My mantra through it all has been “It won’t always be like this,” and it has helped enormously.
- Nap times and bed times are not jokes. I used to wonder why parents were so adamant about sticking to nap times and bed times. Granted, I’m a total creature of routine and get very grumpy past my own bed time, but I used to think, Come on, will the world REALLY end if your kid skips a nap or gets to bed late? YES. Yes it will. Sticking to these routines keeps everyone in my house sane and healthy and rested. I’ve been able to ease up as Selah has become more flexible and less needy about sleep these past few months, but for a while there, I was, by choice, a slave to the schedule. I’m reaping all the benefits now, and I’m not a bit sorry.
- Everything is seasonal. Some seasons are long and some are short; some seasons may overlap or feel indistinguishable. But, mercifully, seasons always end.
- Motherhood is every bit as challenging and dreamy as everyone said it would be. Enough said, right?
What I Wondered
- How Dan and I can get back into a regular rhythm of going out on dates. Maybe my word/phrase for 2017 should be “Date Dan!”
- If I’d ever feel normal again. I do. It took more than a year, but I finally do.
- How other working moms handle their daily and weekly responsibilities. It’s a lot to juggle, and I genuinely love learning from others who are doing this career + mom + wife thing day in and day out.
What I Loved
- High-rise jeans. My first year of postpartum mom-bod saw the mass rise in popularity of high-rise jeans. I’m thanking my lucky stars.
- Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. I did not love every single story line (I won’t share spoilers, but I think those of you who have seen it will know exactly what I mean.) But I loved getting the chance to travel back to Stars Hollow, and the fact that this revival got me to genuinely fall in love with Emily is no small thing. Also, I’m still Team Jess, but maybe not for Rory anymore. Team Jess, for himself, forever.
- Newsroom. This is one of the best shows I have ever watched. Dan and I watched this series early in the year, shortly after we mastered Selah’s bedtime routine and had some time on our hands at night. It’s only three seasons, but true to form, Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue is ahhh-mazing, and I appreciate that he told the story and ended the show without dragging things out.
- My Kindle. My Kindle was my best friend for marathon nursing sessions, especially in the middle of the night. I still prefer reading a real book (something about holding a physical book and turning real pages slows my brain down to truly savor a book), but I also love that I can read it without an overhead light and I can toss it in my purse easily.
- My people. I loved them fiercely this year.
What I Read
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg; A Woman’s Place by Katelyn Beatty. Both offer a astonishing insight into the culture of work, the role of working women, and the treatment of working moms, especially in the church.
- Ruined by Ruth Everhart: I wrote in detail about this book here, but I couldn’t pass up a chance to name it again. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read.
- Still Waiting by Ann Swindell: An absolute must-read for anyone who is waiting for healing, whether it’s emotional, physical, spiritual, mental (aka, all of us). Releases March 2017.
- Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham: It wasn’t an earth-shattering read, but it was so fun to hear her perspective on Gilmore Girls (both times) and Parenthood. She’s just as funny as she seems, and she’s a good writer to boot.
- The Lake House by Kate Morton. I’m a big fan of Kate Morton and her masterful twist endings. This wasn’t my favorite of hers, but it did deliver in her classic style.
- What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. This was the first Liane Moriarty book I’ve read, but I really loved the unromanticized, complex characters. Laura Tremaine noted that Moriarty writes women characters well and with great depth, and I would say that’s true of this book. I’m eager to read more from her.
- A Man Called Ove by Frederick Backman. Prepare to feel ALL THE THINGS. This is the story of a curmudgeonly old man, how he came to be curmudgeonly, and as you might expect, how his heart is slowly melted. I ugly-cried over this one, and it wasn’t just the nursing hormones.
What I Wrote
I didn’t write nearly as much in 2016 as I did in 2015, but what I did write was meaningful and purposeful; the time I found to write was fought for and treasured. I’m so, so grateful to each person who read these. These are some favorites from this year:
- The Words We Speak Over Our Children // published on (in)courage
- When Your Body Becomes a Home // published on this site and on TODAY Parents
- On Advent, Waiting Well, and the Fullness of Time
- A Love Letter to Selah on How You Got Your Name
- A Love Letter to My Husband on an Ordinary Day of Marriage
- The One New-Mom Expectation that Changed Everything
- Looking Back on My Twenties as I Turn Almost-Thirty