2015 in review.

  1. In the first ten weeks of the year, I started a new job, turned 30, totaled my car, moved to a new place, and bought a new car. Nothing major or anything.
  2. Stag’s Head, where I have celebrated more birthdays than I care to think about, closed its doors, and I am still kind of upset about this.
  3. My church underwent quite a few changes this year–this is still not really a space where I feel like I can write about it in detail, but it’s been both a difficult and a beautiful year for all of us, I think. A lot of breaking happened, but a lot of healing happened, too, and quite a bit of rebuilding, and I am immensely grateful for what God has done and will continue to do.
  4. Visiting my friends Michael and Emily (and their kid) with our other friends Chris and Meagan in June.
  5. Getting to be the reader judge for the Tournament of Books!
  6. Watching the documentary The Drop Box with my roommate and crying through the whole thing. (It’s on Netflix, go watch it.)
  7. Getting to hang out with a bunch of my friends from grad school at various points through the year.
  8. Memorial Day festivities with my church.
  9. Learning how to be a cat person, thanks to my roommate bringing our cat Chandler home one day. Said cat also plays fetch, but only with bottle caps, which is both weird and freaking adorable.
  10. Speaking of Chandler, roomie also got me to watch Friends, which I somehow missed out on in the ’90s and ’00s.
  11. Attempting to drive down to Galveston to watch the fireworks on July 4th with Steph and her mom (it didn’t go quite as well as planned).
  12. Jurassic World, y’all.
  13. Not one, but two quote-alongs at the Alamo Drafthouse–one of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (with coconuts and inflatable swords!) and one of Serenity (with cap guns to shoot at Reavers).
  14. The duck army thing.
  15. The force of nature that is the musical Hamilton–I got a friend at church to listen to the cast recording so I could have someone besides the Internet to talk to about it, and I’m trying to get more people to listen to it so I’m not just venting at him all the time. (A friend went to New York and got to see it, and I am still immensely envious about it.)
  16. I had my first experience as a bridesmaid; that wedding was a blast.
  17. My friend Hannah and I got to go see the musical Once when it came through town!
  18. I sat in a counselor’s office a lot this year. One of the things he kept telling me is that I was strong and brave, and I think it finally hit me when I was alone one day while I took a week off (see #25) and I got washed over by such a wave of gratitude to God for giving me a lot of people who sustained me and for starting to heal me of a lot of stuff, and so I was ugly-crying and it was messy and glorious and wonderful. (Sorry for the run-on sentence.)
  19. I started sponsoring the excellent Christ and Pop Culture and as a result I got added to a super-secret group on Facebook, and quite honestly that’s one of two reasons why I’m even still on Facebook.
  20. Lots of watching Jimmy Fallon or random NBC dramas or chick flicks with my roommate.
  21. Sitting around with a bunch of other ladies–some old friends, some new–at my friend Steph’s birthday party. We ate tacos and talked about personality tests, which is a lot more entertaining than I’m making it sound.
  22. A handful of friends of mine went to be part of a church plant downtown and the church got written about in Houstonia, which blows my mind.
  23. I got to know a lot of friends’ dogs via housesitting this year…
  24. The week I took off of work in September during which I did almost nothing except read and watch Netflix, and it was glorious.
  25. I don’t know about y’all, but I’m tired of hearing about all the mass shootings–as in, let’s not let these keep happening.
  26. Also, can someone please just kidnap Donald Trump and drop him in the middle of Uzbekistan or something?
  27. I hung out with my extended family a couple of days after Christmas and we played cards, and it was rad.
  28. A member of my family had a (minor) medical crisis and I got to be the grownup in the situation for what I’m pretty sure was the first time, and it was actually kind of empowering.
  29. Oh yeah, some Kaleoians and I took the trek up to Lanier Theological Library for a lecture by Jeremy Begbie on art and the church, which included some excellent performances as well (spoken word poetry and cello, two of my favorite things). We also saw my friends Hannah, Jenni, and Johnny, people I’ve been meaning to get in the same room as each other for a while, and it was as delightful as I thought it would be.
  30. This year has been really hard in a lot of ways; I spent the first 2/3 of it working through a lot of emotional pain and things I’d left undealt with for years, and confronting my own sin and shame and fear and anger. But like I said, God also did a lot in me this year, and even though I felt crazy and sad and terrible, He continued to keep caring for me and looking after me, and I think I finally saw that He was both protecting me and letting me be made more like Him in all the times when I thought He’d just left me alone. And if nothing else, despite how hard a lot of this year was, I am still thankful for it.

the 2015 book list

I did you a favor(?) and linked to all these books on Amazon so you can take a look and see what they’re about if you want. An asterisk means it’s a re-read.:) Stats and the top 10 at the end…

January 17: Joy Davidman, Smoke On the Mountain
January 23: John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, March: Book One
*February 9: Marilynne Robinson, Gilead
February 26: Karen Swallow Prior, Fierce Convictions
March 17: Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven
March 23: Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See
March 25: Jesse Ball, Silence Once Begun
*March 27: Tim and Kathy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage
April 12: Ernst Cline, Ready Player One
April 21: John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, March: Book Two
April 25: James K.A. Smith, How (Not) to Be Secular
May 2: Ray Ortlund, The Gospel
May 9: Edward T. Welch, Depression: A Stubborn Darkness
May 12: Lauren Winner, Wearing God
May 24: Marilynne Robinson, Home
May 29: Edward T. Welch, Shame Interrupted
*June 3: Daniel Coyle, The Little Book of Talent
June 11: N.D. Wilson, Death By Living
*June 13: Adam L. Feldman, Journaling
June 22: Jared C. Wilson, The Storytelling God
July 2: Ed Catmull, Creativity, Inc.
July 8: Edward T. Welch, Running Scared
*July 8: Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
July 9: Stephen King, Joyland
*July 11: C.S. Lewis, The World’s Last Night
July 15: Andrew Klavan, The Last Thing I Remember
July 16: Andrew Klavan, The Long Way Home
July 16: Andrew Klavan, The Truth of the Matter
July 16: Andrew Klavan, The Final Hour
July 17: Paula Hawkins, The Girl On the Train
July 22: Tim Keller, Preaching
July 23: Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus
*August 5: Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class As Soulcraft
August 6: D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression
August 12: Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
August 19: Marilynne Robinson, Lila
*August 25: Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
September 1: Tim Chester, You Can Change
September 5: Jen Wilkin, Women of the Word
September 11: Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman
September 11: Mike Cosper, The Stories We Tell
September 21: Scott Sauls, Jesus Outside the Lines
September 23: Michael Connelly, The Lincoln Lawyer
September 29: Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken
September 30: Patrick Rothfuss, The Slow Regard of Silent Things
October 2: Kathleen Norris, Dakota
October 11: Marie Kondo, The life-changing magic of tidying up
October 19: Nadia Bolz-Weber, Accidental Saints
October 24: James K.A. Smith, Letters to a Young Calvinist
November 2: Robert Galbraith, Career of Evil
November 11: James K.A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom
November 15: R.J. Palacio, Wonder
December 10: Russell Moore, Onward
December 29: James K.A. Smith, Imagining the Kingdom
December 29: *Lauren Winner, Girl Meets God

total: 55
fiction: 21
non-fiction: 24 (including 2 graphic memoirs)
books written by women: I was trying to read more books by ladies this year and I got to 21, compared to 11 last year, so that’s improvement, I suppose.:)
most-read author: tie between James K.A. Smith (whose books I adored) and Andrew Klavan (whose books I kind of hate-read), with 4 apiece

top 10 non-rereads, in no particular order:
Desiring the Kingdom Imagining the Kingdom
Letters to a Young Calvinist
Station Eleven
The Night Circus
Shame Interrupted
Death By Living

second week of advent.

1. abraham
Father Abraham’s sons and daughters
started as the stars in the sky and a promise
and fire passing through the carcasses of covenant
the flame, the blood, the unseen day

2. moses
exodus from slavery led to desert mountain
the holy mystery descending in earthquake
a choice set before them for life or for death
the law, the land, the unseen day

3. david
a better king to shepherd the sheep
than the youngest son plucked from the fields
a greater son to rule forever
the throne, the temple, the unseen day

4. Jesus
the pilgrim, the prophet, the better son
the lamb, the priest, the greater law
the shepherd, the king, the truer temple
all found in one loud Word of amen

first week of advent.

You said once that You groan along with us
When language fails us to speak the grief
Or pain or pleas up to the Father
Word of God, pray for us

You said once that You come near
To the ones who draw near to You
But what if we can’t find our way in the dark
Good Shepherd, seek Your sheep

You said once that the poor and meek
The mourners, the persecuted
Were the ones that would inherit the world
King of glory, bring Your kingdom

You said once that You were coming back soon
It’s been almost two millennia and we still
Keep looking down the road to catch a glimpse of You
Son of God, come back soon

20 things: October

  1. It’s been raining since about 10 this morning. I am going a little nuts.
  2. Currently thinking about: The Hamilton cast recording (if you don’t know about this, please Google it and get back to me later); the tornado watch the city of Houston is currently under; my friends’ wedding in a couple of weeks(!), Reformed theology that isn’t soteriology (thanks, James K.A. Smith), how I should have paid more attention in my philosophy classes in college; how much I want to bake something from scratch for no real reason; what’s a suitable timeline for going back to school.
  3. A few years ago I said I was going to go to seminary and that’s still part of the plan, but I’ve been under a wee bit of financial strain and so I’m putting myself on a budget so I can save more money so I can go back to school. I’m going to have to do fewer things like, I don’t know, buy books I don’t need (I work for a public library, for Pete’s sake, and my to-read shelf is jam-packed) or eat food I get from a drive-through (which would be a better option anyway). But I still want to go. I still feel like I’m supposed to go.
  4. A week or so ago I went on this whole Twitter ramble about how I don’t know what I want to do with my future, even though I currently have an okay job and anyone would look at my life on paper and say, okay, what’s the problem. But I’m kind of restless and wondering what’s next for me, so I guess what I’m saying is, if you pray, I could use some wisdom here.
  5. And that’s the weird thing, too–I ask for prayer, I go to church (heck, I work for a church), I go to my community group, and yet my prayer and devotional life has been really kind of dead lately, the deadest I think it’s been in a really long time. I keep getting distracted by stupid stuff like YouTube and Twitter instead of opening up my Bible or even the Bible app on my phone. It’s kind of gross, really.
  6. And truth be told, I have been anxious and stressed for the past couple of weeks. I’m pretty sure that #5 is at least partially related to this. It’s not as bad as it has been in the past, but it’s not altogether pleasant, either.
  7. So I am a hot mess, is what I’m saying.
  8. But really, we all are, so.
  9. I think part of me, too, when things get weird or stressful, has the reaction to just want to run away and quit everything and start over entirely. Which is kind of crazy, really, but there’s always that something in the back of my brain.
  10. But I am understanding that sometimes maturity consists of keeping it together and not just reacting to life, to taking a few deep breaths and trying to endure whatever the thing is, because even in the difficult things God is doing something and teaching me something. And sometimes it means shutting up and listening to what He’s saying.
  11. OKAY need to lighten this mess up: Have a skateboarding dog.[youtube https://youtu.be/sor2oWkiA9g]
  12. Things I love, to remind myself to put myself in contact with this kind of thing more often: Knitting, hanging out with other people (even when I am feeling particularly anxious), reading actual physical books, the color grey, lying on the floor listening to music, naps, cups of tea, hugs.
  13. I have decided that what I want in a man is someone with whom I can discuss theology and how we’re going to apply it to our everyday lives, like how being an image bearer of God affects how we treat our kids, for example.
  14. I’ve also realized recently that I’m attracted to men that are slightly odd-looking–not weird-looking, just kind of odd and not for everyone. Benedict Cumberbatch, for example.
  15. Recently I’ve also discovered people on Twitter who will sort everyone possible into Hogwarts houses–e.g., the Founding Fathers, the characters in Little Women. (Prof. Bhaer is a Ravenclaw, for the record.) (I am also a Ravenclaw and have had a crush on both the character Prof. Bhaer and Gabriel Byrne since I was 9. Coincidence?)
  16. I also kind of want to start reading Harry Potter again. (When do I not?)
  17. Also considering how I need to stop eating stuff I know I’m allergic to, even though it’s delicious, because it’s making me break out in hives and is probably also contributing to my anxiety. (But…pizza, y’all.)
  18. But we are bodies–we don’t just have bodies, we are bodies, and souls, and minds. And our bodies are important, and how I treat my body is important, and how I worship with my body is important, too.
  19. I’ve been listening to this series of teaching from a church in Nashville about Jesus’ incarnation and what that means for us as Christians, and it’s really good. I recommend it. (It’s all the ones labeled “Word/Flesh.”)
  20. I love y’all. Good night.

Thursday 13.

13 things you wish you knew more about.

1. Physics.
2. Classical music.
3. History.
4. Music theory.
5. Art. I don’t know anything about the visual arts except what I think looks cool.
6. Islam. I speed-read the Koran in college for a class, but that obviously barely qualifies as any real knowledge.
7. The eastern religions.
8. Eastern Orthodoxy.
9. Philosophy. Yes, even though I have 2/3 of a minor in it.
10. Music from the ’70s and ’80s.
11. Classical literature (as in what classics majors study–the ancient Greek and Roman stuff).
12. Programming–Javascript and Perl and all that. I know just enough PHP to laugh at XKCD and that’s it.
13. Chemistry (if I could just get my brain to understand it).

20 things: September.

  1. The other day (the 10th) was World Suicide Prevention Day. I’ve said it in multiple media, but if you’ve ever considered harming yourself, please, please talk to someone you trust. You can talk to me. I understand, I promise. I’ve been there.
  2. That being said, if you know someone who’s depressed, the best thing you can do is listen to them and be there for them. No advice, unless they ask for it. Be Jesus to them and let them know that they’re loved and wanted and cared for. They may not believe you; keep telling them and showing them anyway.
  3. I say all this because, as I’ve alluded to, I’ve been having a pretty hard time this year, and a bunch of people have made sure to look after me, and a couple of weeks ago I got hit by a wave of gratitude so hard that it made me ugly-cry. So spread kindness. You might be saving someone’s life. I hope I can be that kind of person.
  4. That being said, I’ve also been learning this year that I’m not as empathetic of a person as I’d like to be, and that kind of sucks. I mean, it *is* kind of hard to be empathetic when you’re in the middle of a depressive cycle. But I’m like that when I’m healthy, too, unfortunately, because I am by nature someone who lives inside of my own head a lot, and unless I really work at it, it’s easy for me to be really self-righteous and judgy and to look at people and be like, “Come on, get it together” when they really, sincerely cannot get it together for whatever reason. And quite honestly, that is a terrible, unkind way to relate to people, and I want to be more like Jesus in this regard.
  5. But like I keep thinking about this year, virtue is like anything: It has to be worked at and practiced. Godliness has to be put on like you put your clothes on every day. And eventually it becomes really familiar and second-nature, and you don’t have to really think about it, you just do it, but it takes practice.
  6. There’s a song we’ve been singing at church called “That I May Please You.” It’s really simple melodically and lyrically, based on part of Hebrews 10: “I deserve much worse than this/I have trampled underfoot/And regarded as unclean Your Spirit and Your blood.” It goes on like this, a confession and a prayer to be made clean and whole, and why? “That I may please You and exalt You/In my body and my mind.” The phrase “in my body and my mind” has really stuck with me, especially as in this year I feel like I’m really starting to get that God actually cares about what I do with my body and how I feel about it–that He wants me to eat well and exercise and be chaste because my body belongs to Him, not me. Same goes for how I think and what I think about. So. This has been a good prayer for me.
  7. But it’s also a cry of praise, because I do sin in my body and my mind. I deserve much worse than what I receive. But God has washed me clean and is making me whole. Hallelujah.
  8. Doctor Who is back (yay).
  9. Current reads: Desiring the Kingdom (on how Christian worship forms Christian education, especially as that worship is enacted in physical space–against the belief that we’re all just idea buckets and that the body doesn’t matter); Onward (from the head of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Council, on loving our neighbors well while being people of conviction); thinking about starting up Harry Potter again
  10. Actually, here’s a quote from Desiring the Kingdom:“Being a disciple of Jesus is not primarily a matter of getting the right ideas and doctrines and beliefs into your head in order to guarantee proper behavior; rather, it’s a matter of being the kind of person who *loves* rightly–who loves God and neighbor and is oriented to the world by the primacy of that love. We are made to be such people by our immersion in the material practices of Christian worship–through affective impact, over time, of sights and smell in water and wine” (p.32-33).
  11. Back to the body and worship: What we do with our bodies affects our souls, and vice versa, which is something I’ve believed for years, but I think I’m just now coming around to understanding. For example, what does the way my church sets up in the YMCA gym teach me about worship? What does kneeling during prayer do, as opposed to standing or sitting or lying down? What difference does it make if I cross myself or not? What do physical rituals teach my soul? These are still things I’m kind of working out.
  12. I do know one thing: Physical ritual grounds me more firmly in the real world, which, as someone who lives inside my own head a lot and has occasionally had trouble dealing with my own thoughts, has been really, really helpful for me in healing. Just saying.
  13. Oh, and also, how does this affect how I think about eating and exercise? Or how should it, I guess.
  14. I say this right after I’ve discovered this website called Joy the Baker and she posted a recipe today for PB&J sandwich DONUTS, which I shouldn’t eat because a) although likely extremely delicious, they are probably also terrible for you (probably?!), and b) I’m one of those people who shouldn’t eat gluten because it does all kinds of bad things to my body (although, to be completely honest I still eat it sometimes anyway [and usually feel like crap afterwards]). But knowing that, I still kind of am curious about them, so what does a good theology of the body tell me about this now?
  15. If you’re reading this the week it was published, for the love of everything good, go listen to the cast recording for Hamilton at NPR’s website here. If you don’t know anything about the show, read this. And then be astonished at the music.
  16. There’s a lyric from a song on that album that I can’t get out of my head: “Love doesn’t discriminate / Between the sinners and the saints / It takes and it takes and it takes / But we keep loving anyway.” My musings on this may turn into a whole separate post, stay tuned.
  17. Ummmm what else.
  18. Still working, still doing the stuff. November and December are probably going to be 20 kinds of busy, so I’m trying to get ready for that. My friends’ wedding, maybe going to a conference, then the holidays and all that that entails–plenty to keep me out of trouble (or get me into it :p).
  19. Oh, yes. Today’s the equinox. We’re finally tipping over into fall, or whatever approximation we have of it in Houston. The light is a little more golden. The sun rises later and sets earlier. It’s kind of cooler, and I’m wearing more plaid shirts again. This is the best time of year for me–if I could keep the station tuned to autumn all year, I think I would. But there is a season for everything, including seasons, and heaven has its purposes even for Texas summers.
  20. That’s all, friends. I love you. Thanks for being here.