50 things: the year in review.

1. My friends got a lovely new house.
2. Going to Austin for TLA Annual, making some connections, seeing some old friends.
3. Housewarming/birthday party at my friends’ house.
4. New people, new friends.
5. Getting my gig at HPB.
6. *Not* moving to Kentucky.
7. The last Harry Potter movie at midnight with Hannah.
8. Mexican food + margaritas with the girls.
9. Post-church lunches, all the time.
10. S’mores night at Mayberry Manor.
11. “Hey, Greg.” “Hi, Amanda–” *double take*
12. Easter at the Stroms’.
13. Matthew Smith concert with C-Dub and Impero.
14. Meagan’s art show.
15. Discovering The Hunger Games.
16. Work nicknames: Amandapants, Mandar, Amanda Panda, Amandaconda.
17. David Crowder Band show w/some Kaleoians; the discovery of Gungor and their beatboxing cellist.
18. My church’s anniversary shindig.
19. Watching the BBC Sherlock with Steph in one sitting.
20. Blasting music before opening and after closing the store.
21. Catalina Coffee, Empire Cafe, and not one, but two Cowboy Coffees at Common Grounds in Waco.
22. Systematic Theology with Joel Burdeaux.
23. Wilco concert at the Verizon Theater in March.
24. The discovery of Doctor Who.
25. Abraham Lincoln, commie hunter (don’t ask).
26. Paul Simon and STOMP on Jimmy Fallon.
27. Funerals for the parents of people I love–community, joy, and hope amidst grief and sorrow.
28. Road trip to Austin with Hannah for one SXSW show with Hannah–coffee cupcakes, Marc Maron, barbecue, Italian ice, and driving through the hill country at midnight.
29. Laughing hysterically with Steph at our dining room table about this and this.
30. “That’s a lot of cast iron.” “…Really. A lot of cast iron?”
31. The discovery of Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather saga.
32. “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken.”
33. Praying on Sunday nights.
34. Praying before church with the boys (for some reason I think I am the only girl who shows up and does this).
35. Mia and Elaine’s housewarming party.
36. The Muppets.
37. Miscellaneous randomness at work.
38. “What are we going to do tomorrow?” “The same thing we do every day. Try to take over the world.” “B***s***! We are not!”
39. All my friends who got married and had babies or got pregnant.
40. “I think you might have been a cat in a past life.” “If I actually believed in reincarnation, I might agree with you.” “Maybe in a past life you were a cat who believed in reincarnation…?” “…” “Maybe you were a Buddhist cat?”
41. Company at the movies with Steph and Dave.
42. The Sing-Off, y’all. The Sing-Off.
43. The possibility of joining forces with Bellaire Central Baptist Church (I feel like it’s been part of most of our conversations in the past three months at church). The meetings, the joint services, the discussions, everything.
44. Miscellaneous shenanigans at band practice.
45. Oh, so, I got a Tumblr.
46. Bin-Laden got killed, the Middle East erupted (not in that order), the economy went to heck (not to hell, necessarily–we still *have* an economy, after all), Gaddafi, Liz Taylor, Kim Jong-Il, Andy Rooney, and Amy Winehouse died, and the world keeps spinning on.
47. Getting sick and missing my friend’s birthday party. 😦
48. Getting to listen to my whole church sing when I help lead the music. It’s a beautiful sound.
49. Being prayed for.
50. A God who keeps His promises to me, to all of us; the healing of a lot of hurt and fear; the ability to trust and follow; the opening up of my heart. Here’s to a 2012 full of more of that.

the 2011 book review…

Here begins the shortest book list I think I have ever blogged. This year was light, at least for me, partially because of my misguided attempt to read nothing but books that were over 100 years old (an attempt I abandoned about halfway through the year), partially because I was kind of lazy and unfocused (as long as we’re being honest). But still, I did manage to read a fair amount, so here we go. An asterisk before it means I’ve read it before…

*January 7: Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
*January 17: Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
February 5: Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
May 1: Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles
May 22: Dante Aligheri, Inferno
July 4: Paul Harding, Tinkers
July 9: Bill Bryson, At Home
*July 13: J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
August 3: Jennifer Egan, A Visit From the Goon Squad
August 18: C.S. Lewis, God In the Dock
August 29: Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games
*August 30: Lauren Winner, Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity
September 10: David Mitchell, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
September 13: Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire
September 14: Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay
??? (sometime at the beginning of October)- Tim Keller, King’s Cross
October 22: Bede, A History of the English Church and People
October 23: John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God
October 23: N.T. Wright, After You Believe
November 2: Andrew Peterson, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness
November 16: Scott Thomas and Tom Wood, Gospel Coach
November 20: Andrew Peterson, North! Or Be Eaten
*November 30: Molly Wizenberg, A Homemade Life
December 17: Brad House, Community: Taking Your Small Group Off Life Support
December 30: Tim and Kathy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

Five best books of the year: I’m going to cheat a little bit, but The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, and On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson. Now, these five books are part of two series, and yes, they’re young adult novels, but good lord, if you haven’t read them, what are you waiting for?

They’re very different–The Hunger Games takes place in a dystopian future North America and involves war, torture, and teenagers fighting one another to the death on national television; Andrew Peterson’s books, part of a series called the Wingfeather Saga, tell the story of a family of two brothers and a sister who are on the run from the law because of their ties to an ancient kingdom. But both deal with themes of loss, courage, family, love, and healing, and both will take you on major rides. Of course, I think they come to two different conclusions about where that healing comes from, but I would commend both series to you. There are actually two other books in the Wingfeather Saga, one of which hasn’t even been written yet, so you’ve got some time to catch up. 🙂

Honorable mentions: When I Don’t Desire God (great resource for folks like me who lose sight of their joy easily, and the people who love them), A Visit From the Goon Squad (which won that Pulitzer for a reason, kids), The Meaning of Marriage (which I would commend to single and married people alike) and At Home (fun for history buffs and anyone curious about where things come from).

I’m currently in the middle of two which should be finished in the next couple of weeks or so, which I’m looking forward to. Here’s to a good reading year in 2012.

What did y’all love reading this year?

goals for next year.

I don’t want to call these resolutions; I want to do something concrete and real instead of having a vague, abstract idea (which is kind of the thing I’ve been hammering all year, right?). It looks like a lot, I think, but I’ve seriously been thinking about reining in my life and actually acting like a grown-up. I mean, I’m about to turn 27. I’m in my late twenties now. If I were in an earlier generation, I would be married with a ton of kids by now. It’s time I at least wore something besides jeans and t-shirts every day.

So here we go:

* Actually dress like a grown-up: What do I mean? At the very least, I’d like to shed this slacker college student thing I have going now and get more professional-looking clothing. Nice tops and pants that aren’t jeans and dresses and such. Some jewelry. Nice shoes. That kind of thing.

* Fit back in my prom dress: Why? One, it’s a super-cute dress, and I’d like to get more than one wearing out of it, and I’d also like to find an event to wear it to. Two, that was about thirty or forty pounds ago, and so if I can fit in it, that means I’ve lost thirty or forty pounds. Which is good. Also, it’s #15 on my bucket list, so that’s one crossed off.

* I am not allowed to buy any books until I’ve read all the ones I own. This could mean that this spills over into 2013.

* Kick my caffeine addiction. It’s just time.

* Move out of my parents’ house. Again, it’s just time.

* Get a library job. Here’s hoping. 🙂

* Go to SWTX PCA/ACA, ALA Annual Meeting, and The Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference, if I can.

* Write for at least 30 minutes a day.

* Get through five whole television series on DVD/Netflix Streaming. This is going to be a feat for me, believe it or not.

* Cross five things off of my bucket list. Some of you readers will be involved, so you have been warned. 🙂

So that’s it! What are yours?

advent, week 3.

(a meditation on Isaiah 61:10)

I am, as yet, unmarried,
just like hundreds of other women
my age, in my socioeconomic bracket,
with my education level,
which I suppose should be comforting,
but most days, and especially
on the days when I am most honest,
it is not,

because I have listened to all the
fairy tales, the ones with princesses
and the ones with the waitresses who marry
millionaires, the ones in the books
and at the big picture show,
the ones that promised me my prince would
come someday–

but the longer I live the more
I realize that they were just fortune-cookie
papers that were directions to
the feast of love that is waiting for me
and all the daughters of Zion,
when we shall be clothed in stars,
we will be crowned with righteousness,
and we will be better than married:

We will be His.

the living room recommends

If you love hymnody or want some ideas about faith and art, check out this group of folks from Christ the King Presbyterian in DurhamRaleigh (thanks, Kristen), NC. They have a couple of albums for free download on the site, and they’re both really good.

Praying scary prayers
Mine recently: Lord, until I can serve You better as someone’s wife, keep me single. (As someone who tends to make idols out of relationships, this is FREAKING ME OUT.)

Empire Cafe (Houston, TX)
I can’t speak for their food, but they make excellent coffee (and you get cookies with it) and the atmosphere is really laid-back and conducive to conversation or reading or whatever you want to do at a cafe.

Sleeping with socks on
Seriously, when it’s cold out like it is now, it makes more of a difference than you think it will.

The Layover
This is a show on the Travel Channel in which Anthony Bourdain spends 48 hours in a city and eats and shops and hangs out and gives his recommendations on where to go with the usual aplomb and snark.

I’ve praised this show briefly before, but a refresher: It was a (sadly very shortly-lived) show on FX about two private detectives who get into miscellaneous misadventures. Really smart writing, really great dynamic between the two leads, lots of fun secondary cast. The reason I bring it up now is that it is now on Netflix Streaming, so now you have no excuse.

fa la la.

1. A lot of you who read this also follow me on Twitter, but just in case you don’t, I am happy to announce that I am the production editor for Achtung!, an online journal for the emerging field of U2 studies (yes, seriously). I’ll be making sure everything gets up on the Internet in good time and in the right format. 🙂

2. So I’ve had a stomach bug the past few days and have been more or less miserable (and missed what was apparently an epic birthday party for my friend, boo, hiss). However, it feels Advent-appropriate–I am groaning for the redemption of this body, and further learning to live as an embodied person, too. (I am feeling better by now, thankfully. Hungry, but better.)

3. Not sure what it is, but I’m not feeling Christmassy just yet…still very much in Advent/waiting/longing mode. Maybe that’s appropriate, too.

4. Actually, it might be the fact that I haven’t had any peppermint bark yet this year.

5. Houstonians, if you haven’t been to Ruggles Green, go. It is awesome. They have excellent veggie sandwiches, among other things.

6. …can you tell I haven’t eaten anything more substantial than toast the past couple of days?

7. Also satisfying is that time that we went to The Tasting Room and had community group there a couple of weeks ago. Our waiter: “Are y’all having a Bible study?” “Yeah.” “…I don’t think I’ve ever seen that here before.” *laughter* “…where do y’all go to church?”

8. I wish I could convey in words just how deep my affection runs for the people of my church, how wonderful the things are that the Spirit is doing in, through, and for them, how much these days make me want to love Jesus and hate my sin even more. I wish I could show you the sight of my pastor crying in his seat today after preaching; I wish I could play you the sound of us singing together on Sunday mornings; I wish you could come sit on my friends’ living room floor and eat with us. Words can’t express it; my life will have to do.

advent, week 2

When He comes
He will not be an icon of light
suspended in the heavens
like a neon sign

When He comes
He will not have to put on
some sort of costume
to clothe His immateriality
like a Halloween sheet-ghost

He already took on
bones and blood vessels
and lungs and glands and
everything else
the first time He came around
these parts

and heaven will only have made
Him brighter and brighter

we will get to hold His hands
and hear His laughter as He
makes all our materiality new