In some ways, 2016 didn't disappoint. Morgan and I got to travel to South Africa for the first time. I love exploring new places with him. I had many chances to speak and preach, which I love doing in increasing amount. And, even though turning turning forty was AWFUL I am grateful it's over, like a big ol' bandaid being ripped off at last. (Incidentally, don't let everyone tell you forty is the new thirty. It isn't AT ALL, unless the old thirty involved massive shifts in metabolism, an increase in your most charming neuroses, sadly diminishing skin quality, and lots of new and bizarre health concerns. In which case, they're totally the same.)
In lots of ways, 2016 was a real dud. Such is life, I suppose. I certainly didn't see the election going the way it did. But I am no political savant, so my naivete should not be surprising.
But this has been a year of unprecedented favor in some ways. I have never felt so lifted by God's grace before, and I end this year with a great deal of gratitude in my soul.
I read some really amazing books this year, too. Just this afternoon, I sat at the kitchen table with my friend Cori and gushed over the stack of seven books I'm loaning her for a trip she's taking this week. (I truly hope my enthusiasm for literature is my geekiest quality.)
I wrote some things this year. I wrote some posts I'm still processing internally. I also wrote six chapters of a book that will probably sell like HOT CAKES to at least a dozen people whenever I finally finish it and get it published. (BTW, if you are a book agent, I promise the dozen people will all buy at least 10,000 copies each. I have lots of friends named Oprah and Bill Gates.** You should totally represent my book!)
As a final farewell to this strange year, here are my favorite books and posts.
I hope you find that God's favor has rested upon you in surprising ways this year, and that His Light is leading onward through all the mysterious grace that 2017 holds for you. May it be your best year yet.
Cheers and Happy New Year, sweet friends.
Favorite Posts from 2016:
Spolier alert: I realized in the car on the way to church that I forgot to put on makeup. (This post could also be called, the day I proved I was exactly that vain.)
Gosh, I love being a mom. But it is so crazy hard to love them this much, be this angry with them when they make bad choices, and still let go a little more every day because they're becoming big people.
Who doesn't love a post about chasing the trash truck in your yoga pants??
Just this, forever and always: "Our love of books isn't just about reading. Books and reading will teach us empathy for others' stories and help us tell our own stories well. This is about the way technology is causing us to lose ourselves and each other a little bit, because we are more engaged with people on the internet than we are with the people right in front of us..."
I long for justice and unity in the area of race. I have too many friends with brown and black skin who are hurting and afraid right now. I carry their stories and I will not forget them, or that Jesus has carried all of us in the most amazing ways. "When Jesus carried the cross to Calvary, everyone could see He was carrying death, but only He knew He also carried the greatest gift of life on His back. He carried death so He could end its reign on earth, and life so He could lavish it upon the children of God for all the evers that ever will be. If we look away or fall asleep, we might miss our chance join Him in living for the sake of true Love...."
This is my heart as clearly as I can put it out there. I am clinging to my people more than I ever have before here at the end of 2016. I have learned this year that we only really heal in community. My natural and spiritual family are essential on my path to eternity, and I am grateful for all the people who let me be who God made me to be, and who love me unconditionally.
Favorite Books from 2016:
Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
This tale of a dysfunctional family was FUN. I finished it in about two days and then immediately loaned it to a friend. It's a good poolside/beach/sit and enjoy a book read. I liked it as much as What Alice Forgot, and to me, they're super similar in experience, although different in structure.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
What can I say about this? It's moving and meaningful, full of poetic language and science, too, which was really intriguing. Some tragic emements of the story made me angry, which may mean the author did a great job helping me to care too much about the characters. It's WW2 Historical fiction, and I would say that if you liked the Book Thief, you will like this, too.
One of my dreams in life is to meet BBT. When I read her words, I feel like I've found a friend who understands how much I love Jesus. She encourages me with our similarities, and challenges me with our differences. I'm a better human after reading her books.
A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman.
Backman writes beautifully, with a poetry that sort of sounds more like wisdom literature. This story takes place in modern day Sweden, but also tells Ove's life story, so it jumps back and forth a little. Ove's life is a sad and yet funny tale. It seems so true you easily forget this is fiction. The book is about a man of another era who is forced to accept the post-modern world he lives in by the neighbors around him. This is not Christian literature, so if you don't like to read books with very post-modern morality and worldviews, it's not for you. But it is a redemptive story in a lot of ways, and so if you can hang with the secular ways of the characters, you'll find yourself loving these awkward, broken people with great sincerity of heart. If you liked All the Light We Cannot See, I think you'll like this book.
Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty.
Such a fun book!! All of Moriarty's books have twists and secrets that are slowly revealed as you read and they are highly addictive. Her books are completely worth reading in one sitting if you can get your kids to leave you alone and stay up until 3AM dying of joy. I loved her books What Alice Forgot and The Husband's Secret so much, I will probably read every book she ever writes, because when you love a writer, you stay loyal.
Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist.
I had GREAT anticipation for this book because I enjoy Nieqist's writing supremely. I loved Bread and Wine, Cold Tangerines, and Bittersweet. Present over Perfect didn't disappoint. It was hard to read in parts, because it's so vulnerable. But I am extremely grateful for the challenge it brought me to redefine success in my daily life is still pressing into my soul. I have come face to face with my contorted way of trying to earn grace and impress Jesus lately. The emptiness that is in that endless race is not what I want. I am learning the beauty of being His is far sweeter than earning a crown I can't hold in His presence. Present Over Perfect may be my favorite book this year.
Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen.
Nouwen is one of my favorite writers. Most of his books feel like liquid wisdom flowing directly into my soul. This may be my favorite of his books. It is simple and yet exceedingly profound, and taught me many things abotu what it means to be God's beloved. Everyone should read this book.
** I don't really know Oprah or Bill Gates. But in my defense, they might love my book anyways!