On New Year’s Eve, I sat with my journal, feeling as though I should do some sort of reflection or resolution-making or some version of tribute to another year passing. But the truth is that I don’t love making resolutions. They seem to typically leave the Lord out of the process of change. And I usually ask the Lord for my four words in the fall. And as I sat there, asking Jesus what was in my heart, I found that all I had was gratitude.
If I had any words for the Christmas season they would be
& oh so RICH.
Not long ago, a friend sent me a screenshot from my Instagram, telling me that what he witnessed was a rich life, the richest he’d seen. As I looked at what he saw, I couldn’t help but agree. In photos, you don’t see the tears from missing my family or the afternoons I’m taking pregnant naps or the wrestling in my own heart. And sometimes for me, the dark and hard parts are the loudest and can feel like all there is.
As I read my friend’s words, he gave me the gift of perspective. The gift of seeing my life for the nuanced, textured, complex thing that it is. Yes, there was grief and pain and heartache this holiday season. But, there were so many rich and simple and full things too. There was so much joy. There was so much of Jesus showing up and caring for my heart. There was so much of Jesus helping me to be braver and kinder than before.
As I sat with my journal on December 31, my heart had the ability to see not just the hard but the beautiful that is part of it and the grace woven throughout it all. I couldn’t help but hear Heather Holleman’s words from her discovery of the Hayden Planetarium echo back in my heart, “all seats provide equal viewing of the universe.”
No matter where you sit, you won’t miss anything. I almost burst into tears. I imagined all the children on field trips racing into the planetarium auditorium as the doors swing open. I imagine them all fighting for the best seats in an arena that has no best seats. I imagine the calm voice of the tour guide saying, “Children, all seats provide equal viewing of the universe.”
“Do you know what this means?” I asked. “It means that no matter where you are, you have an equal chance to perceive the beauty of God. All seats are equal. You can stop fighting for a special seat. Your seat is the special seat. All the seats are the special seats.” (Seated with Christ, 60)
Sometimes I feel afraid to share about my life because it is hard and vulnerable and scary. But sometimes I feel afraid to share about my life because I know I have been given such grace and there is so much beauty. But there is so much freedom to say that all seats are equal. My seat is not better than anyone else’s. We all have the special seat. We have the equal chance for grace.
I’m so grateful for my special seat. These past weeks, my seat was full of rich and simple things.
Even in heartache, I could see Jesus close to me; crying with me over the phone through my mom, offering to make me meals through my friends, sitting with me while I cry through my husband.
But he was with me in the delight too; smiling with me as L passed out our Advent chocolates each night, laughing with me at our family dance parties and ridiculous moves, helping me see how loved I am through so many texts and prayers and packages.
That night that I sat saying thank you to Jesus, my heart couldn’t help but say with David:
But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me. Psalm 13:5-6
He has dealt bountifully. And I’m so grateful to come into 2017 with the eyes to see it.
Here are a few of my favorite things of these past weeks that were so simple, rich & full. Thank you Jesus for the bounty.
- This red wine chocolate cake. We had the silliest date-night-in bottling our homemade wine. I’m sad to report it doesn’t taste great, but neither does is it unusable. So, we have many, many bottles of red cooking wine. This cake was a great way to use our copious supply AND it is a classy chocolate cake. Perfect for our simple New Year’s Eve celebration…or perhaps any occasion.
- Cozy nights of movies. We watched a lot more than we typically do, which was a special treat. I loved introducing L to some holiday favorites. I also enjoyed some more adult fare after bedtime over a mug of decaf coffee (and maybe a Christmas cookie or two).
- We loved re-watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy (extended edition, of course) over the course of many nights.
- We delighted in The Little Prince‘s whimsical feel.
- We laughed over the ridiculous antics in Central Intelligence.
- We even enjoyed a rare treat of going to the theater and seeing Rogue One (which we really thought was lovely.)
- We also blazed through all eight episodes of Stranger Things (which felt like a fun combination of a thriller, a Steven Spielberg 80’s movie & Lost.) I loved Hopper & Dustin’s characters most of all.
- I also watched the Gilmore Girls reunion. My thoughts are here.
- Walks to visit baby Jesus (“baby Geez”). About a block and a half from our house, the local hardware store has a display of fairly dated plastic Nativity scenes & Santa blow-ups. L can’t get enough of walking down to see them, sometimes combined with an additional block to the post office (which sometimes features a “poppy” (lollipop.) It can take from 30-45 minutes to walk the short distance and fully appreciate the sights and head home. These walks have really seemed to capture the tension in my own heart of wanting to be productive or fast, and the gift it is to meander at a toddler’s pace to enjoy something so mundane. Holding her sweet hand and delighting in “baby Geez” has been such a gift.
- Mail love & Google chat. I really missed being with my family this Christmas season. It was my first to not see them at all between Thanksgiving and New Year’s and I was not a fan. But I’m so grateful for packages and technology, for texts and phone calls. It is a gift to get to connect even with the distance. It is a gift to miss and long for each other.
- Winter sunshine & park days. W e had some unexpected sunshine (or maybe it just feels unexpected to this Pacific Northwest girl). It was a gift to have our first visits to the park near our house to be in December, soaking up the sunshine.
- Permission to stop read anything I wasn’t loving or engaged with. There were a few books I decided not to finish. My inner achiever girl wants to finish everything I start, but I’m getting better at putting books down when they aren’t feeding my soul or aren’t a good story. I sometimes have to remind myself that I have nothing to prove with the books I read.
This book was totally captivating. I loved this fictional look at World War II through the eyes of two very different sisters. The modern element of the elderly sister looking back was especially mysterious and only added to the complexity of the story (since we knew at least one sister made it out of the war alive, but couldn’t tell which one!) This book captured human emotion better than any book I’ve read in a long time. I felt like I was sending my own beloved husband off to war, or wondering if I was brave enough for the hard things ahead along with the characters. This book was beautiful and complex and deep. I loved it. A for me.
(spoiler warning) I think it worth mentioning that one of the characters is raped in the book and it was heartbreaking and horrific. It was a major plot point and not overly graphic, but for a book so good at conveying emotion, I felt the weight of this atrocity even if I didn’t know all the details. I would consider myself fairly sensitive and this was borderline for me of what I can handle.
This devotional by Max Lucado came at the perfect time for me. The cover is beautiful to look at and touch with its brown leather, which makes me want to read it. (Who doesn’t want to pick up a beautiful book?) The entries are short and simple, but enough to slow my heart and help me invite Jesus into that moment. Between pregnancy, Christmas and toddler energy, sometimes it is hard to carry something from my time with the Lord throughout the entirety of my day. This book was the perfect thing to pick up when I had only a moment in the afternoon, to still my heart and invite the Lord into that time. Max Lucado has a kind voice, as he pointed me to Jesus with these short readings. I’m grateful to have this book on my nightstand. A for me.
*Book Look Bloggers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255
I loved the depth of these readings this Advent season. I wish I could say that I read every day, but some days being brave meant being okay to not be okay. But on the days that I did have space to read, this book fed my soul. It helped me think through the longing and waiting that is ours, the gift it is to be expectant and hopeful. A for me.
This book was the PERFECT winter read. I’m sure I would have enjoyed it in any season, but I especially enjoyed learning about this British woman (and her husband)’s year in Denmark at the start of my own hygge season. This book was such a fun look at another culture, in addition to being permission for me to embrace cozy, warm, winter living. I’ve been lighting lots of candles and making more tea, feeling so grateful for a word to capture my desire to relax and be cozy and enjoy the simple, good things. I also loved learning about the world’s happiest country and their cultural norms that are so different from what one finds in much of the rest of the world. I loved Helen’s honest, down-to-earth, fun writing too. She was a good partner to journey into a different country with. A for me.
As one of my four words for the year, I was instantly drawn to this book that featured “humble” in the title. I was not disappointed with the depth and beauty found in this practical, book written from a place of Hannah’s own growth. I loved her use of stories of gardening and the richness of her rural Appalachian surroundings, as well as her own journey with the Lord, pairing them gracefully with Scripture. Hannah offers familiar-sounding truth in a new way that refreshed my soul and helped me to see humility for the true GIFT that it is. Humility is how we were meant to live. Humility gives us the eyes to see the grace of our lives, removing pressure and creating space to rest and truly see Jesus. I already know that I’ll be re-reading this book and am so grateful for Hannah’s writing. A for me.
*Moody Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255
This book felt dark and heavy, but engaging as the mystery unfolded. I wanted to know about the girl who claimed not to eat right along with the nurse hired to watch her. I’ll admit that I considered not finishing it, but the pull to find out what was happening was greater. It was a sobering tale, exploring faith and how children can be influenced. I honestly don’t know if I would recommend it. I’m such a feeler, and even though I found the ending satisfying, the overall feel of the book was hard for me. B for me.
I loved this book and want kids and adults alike to read it. The story of Auggie, a boy with severe facial deformities, follows him through his introduction to public school in his fifth grade year. I loved hearing multiple perspectives beyond August’s take on the events of the year, sharing insights from family members and friends alike. This book felt deeply human; funny, challenging, painful and beautiful. Highly recommend. A for me.
I am mixed on this book. Perhaps I had higher expectations because of how many authors that I respect recommended it so highly.
On the one hand, I truly appreciated the honesty and candor brought to the conversation on marriage. I don’t hear open conversation like this within Christian circles as often as I think would be helpful. She shares about her relationship with her husband with vulnerable stories; their struggles as well as their sappy moments. Regardless of whether she is sharing a triumph or a failing, her commitment to her marriage is seen throughout. We don’t often hear someone willing to talk in a helpful way about in-laws, what it means to be kind to one’s spouse or even having a crush (on someone who isn’t your spouse) after being married. I loved her confession of what it looked like to convicted of not being kind to her husband and the difference kindness made in their marriage (probably my favorite chapter.)
She offers a more liberal voice than is typically heard in the Christian community on the subject of marriage, which I think is sorely lacking. I didn’t agree with everything she says, but could appreciate that she is adding to the conversation in a much needed way. She challenged me to think about what I think about gay marriage, gender roles and divorce for the complex issues that they are. I truly enjoyed her writing in this memoir.
However, it was a subtle tone, but she speaks of several other well-known, more conservative pastors’ voices on the subject of marriage, in a way that felt unhelpful to me. I felt it discredited her views to belittle theirs, instead of taking the “same team, different views” approach. This wasn’t the overall feel of the book, but felt worth mentioning as it shifted the feel of the book for me. B for me.
I really enjoyed this book. This was a beautiful story that felt like an exception to most Christian fiction (in a good way), delving into deep emotion and complex themes. I loved how slow/realistic the character changes were, as one character recovers from surviving the genocide in Rwanda. Claudius reminded me of Matthew Cuthbert (from Anne of Green Gables) and I grew to have deep affection for these characters. A- for me.
It is a rare day when we don’t read to our daughter, and some days include a lot of reading. This is one selection that we both enjoy landing in the book pile for the day. She loves the flaps to lift on every page. I love the language of love being an action beyond just saying words and need to reminder for my own heart as much as hers. This book is simple and short, but perfect for a young audience. If desired, this could be an excellent teaching tool for talking with toddlers throughout the day of what it looks like to love. A- for me.
*Tyndale Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255
*I joined up with What I’m Into at Leigh Kramer’s blog as she shares what she’s learning and invites others to do the same. What a gift to reflect and learn together!
*affiliate links included