The Year in Review

The Year in Review

The Year In Review

The Year In Review 2014 was a year of great change and growth. As I’ve been walking down memory lane lately, in conversation and personal reflection, it’s been amazing to realize how much truly happened this year, both in my personal life, and in my writing. I’m not sorry to see 2014 pass away. It takes its place with the last few years, which have been hard, but I am thankful for the things that happened within it, blessing mixed with bitter.

One of the greatest blessings of this year has come through emails, comments, phone calls, texts, conversations, in-person meetings and hugs from those of you who read this blog. You’ve been on this wild, beautiful journey with me and I am so thankful for all of you. I hope you enjoy this year in review.

I started out the year, in January, with a broken lease. It’s taken me until now to write in an unveiled way about those hard days between finding out that there was a pervasive mouse problem (adding to the list of all of the other problems the house had), not thinking that there was a way out of the lease, and finally breaking it and moving back home to re-group and try again.

In the days after that experience, I was shaky and vulnerable. I wasn’t sure if I’d have the courage to trust myself as I made decisions in the future.

In the midst of all of this vulnerability, I began to write about things that scared me. I wrote this piece about summer camp and my most embarrassing moment. There was a time that perhaps five people (who were not present) knew about those events. It was freeing to tell it with self-compassion.

That piece was later published as part of an online anthology called How to Pack For Church Camp.

I wrote a piece about divorce after much thought and prayer. Unlike my own embarrassing moment, I offered my own (not universal) opinion with as much grace as I could muster. It was a wonderful experience in many ways. I received notes and comments about it telling me that it was hopeful and full of freedom (I still get a note about it every once in a while, even now). But, there was also the backlash, which came fast and hard (entirely from men, which I found interesting). I took the opportunity to practice the art of disagreeing well (in which I need all the practice I can get). I also practiced the art of letting it go, when needed.

I drove several hours to Walla Walla to meet my dear friend Natalie Trust halfway for the weekend (to celebrate her birthday). It was our first time meeting in person, and it was as if we’d always known each other.

It was the first of many joyful in-person meetings with friends I’d only known through the internet.

I started a guest post series called de(tales). I asked each contributor to focus on one concrete detail and tell a story starting from that point. I wrote the first one (about my experiences with “American food” and hospitality when I was in Korea) and since then I have hosted 46 writers and a myriad of topics. It’s been a gift that I didn’t expect (and it’s still going).

In February, I traveled to Texas to attend the IF: gathering, not knowing what to expect, only that writers I admire and respect had pledged support for the event.

Although there were things that I had hoped for which happened: meeting internet friends in person, and getting to hug both Sarah Bessey (who recognized me without my saying a word) and Shauna Niequist (I led with: “I went to counseling because of you” and she understood what I meant).

There are memories from that weekend that I will always cherish, and there are those that I would love to forget. Still, looking back, I know that it was a catalyst for the next step in my church journey.

I returned from IF on a Sunday and met with the woman who would become my pastor that Monday. We talked about a lot of things, including the hurt that I’ve experienced in church. IF had shown me just how raw all of those wounds were, but Liv was patient with me. We met together regularly until I started going to church again in September (just in time for Advent).

I wrote this piece for Bronwyn Lea’s blog about Liv and one of our visits together.

I traveled to Luxembourg for my birthday to meet another far-away friend I’d met through the internet. Unfortunately, that experience wasn’t as seamless as my visit with Natalie.

Still, I spent time in France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, where I had the opportunity to meet another Twitter friend in real life.

My favorite memory of that trip is from Maastricht, sitting outside (despite the time of year) getting a taste of the spring to come and sipping coffee as we chatted. The sun-bathed Netherlands were truly glorious.

Almost as soon as I got home from Luxembourg, I set off for the Faith and Culture conference in Oregon. There, I had the opportunity to meet a friend I’d corresponded with for 7 years, at last. Sarah Bessey was the keynote speaker, and I had more time to chat with her. I connected with people whose words had meant so much to me (and a few of my own readers as well). It was a great introduction to the world of writing conferences.

I started trading writing back and forth with Claire De Boer, who has proven to be the perfect writing partner. Over the months, we have discovered that our writing strengths and weaknesses complement one another, that we see things that the other cannot (as well as both being fans of the other’s work). But more than that, we’ve become great friends, and I am so thankful for the way she is pulling the strands of my book out of me and helping me to examine them in the light.

On another controversial note, I wrote about being childless by choice (even though I’m single). I’ve taken a long time coming to this place, and I’m thankful for every inch of that road. (I’m also thankful for the support and friendships that have blossomed as a result of saying these words out loud.

I responded to what happened with World Vision, and their decision to hire gay Christians (and the later revocation of that decision). I don’t usually write about the events of the day in this space, and it was unexpectedly healing and community-building. My focus has sharpened and my views shifted a bit since this time, but I still stand by these words.

I traveled to Michigan for the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College. I stayed with a dear friend (bringing yet another friend along with me) and began to drink in the whole experience. It felt like sleep away camp for writers, and I was delighted to be meeting new, interesting people and connecting (and embracing) those I’d known only through their words.

The sessions continue to come back to me in pieces, and snatches of conversation from that time find me in my everyday life.

Also, I met Rachel Held Evans and invented the hashtag #rachelheldme (which she thought was pretty awesome).

I can’t wait to venture back in 2016.

I moved into a house with two roommates in the middle of May. There were no mice, but there were beautiful wood floors and a big sunny kitchen. After all of the angst and pain of the early part of the year, it began to feel like I could relax and stay a while.

In the early part of the summer, I listened to my body and mind and started seeing a therapist again (after a not-great experience the year before). I’m so thankful that I tried again. I’m convinced that finding a therapist is like dating, it’s important to find the right person. Slowly, we are working through some of the knots in my mind and heart, and I’m learning to deal with my particular brand of depression.

I recently wrote about my depression for the first time, and I’ve found the experience to be so liberating. Not only that, I’ve gotten emails and notes and messages from all sorts of people, sharing their own stories with me. It’s nice not to feel so alone in the midst of hard things like this.

Emily McFarlan Miller wrote an article about millennial's changing views on marriage and interviewed me for it at the Festival of Faith and Writing. She describes our conversation, here. When it came out, I was excited, and a little nervous, to see that it opened with my first and last name. I hunted down a copy of the July/August issue to keep forever.

As a result of the article. I have met two new local friends who read it and searched for me on Facebook because they thought we might have something in common.

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This summer, I started getting up before the sun and venturing to yoga classes. I’ve faltered a bit, here and there, but I love the way I feel when I get up early and take good care of my body.

I celebrated St. Martha’s Day, July 29th, by having a few friends over for dinner. Martha is the patron saint of cooks, and I figure that she knew a think or two about anxiety, so I have claimed her as my own patron saint for an anxious cook.

I announced my 2000th blog follower in my alumni magazine, like a baby.

I met the Poet Laureate of Spokane and he asked me to participate in a reading (my first in nonfiction) with a visiting poet. I spent the week prior preparing and doubting whether anything I’ve written is any good.

But when I began to read my work out loud, a hush came over the crowd. I heard the little gasps and the laughter. The evening filled me up full.

The day after that reading, I woke up to discover that I had won The Junia Project guest post contest with my post about Mary and Martha. That stands as one of my favorite pieces of the year, and I’m still reveling in the honor of getting to be a part of the good work happening at The Junia Project.

I became a featured artist on Altarwork.

In October, I was part of a panel at a local university about English majors with jobs. Later that month, I flew to Colorado for my first speaking engagement, sharing my journey and thoughts on writing with English majors at Colorado Christian University.

It was a wonderful, life-giving time, and I’m still pinching myself that I was the visiting author. I’ve long known that being a writer means that there will be the occasional speaking engagement. After this trip, I not only know that I could do that, but that I just may enjoy it.

I became a member of my church in just two months. I like to call this “a short engagement.”

I had my first acknowledgements credit in Karen Swallow Prior’s Fierce Convictions. It was a delight to read and comment on the book before it was published, and even more of a delight to read it in its finished form.

I did my second reading at an event to prepare for and welcome Advent. I’m learning how much I love seeing the reaction to what I write in person.

I recorded my first two YouTube videos: readings of two Advent reflections: Come Further In, and Advent(ure).

I launched my newsletter (loosely following the church calendar, with cocktail recipes).

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I started writing for Spokane Faith and Values (about food and singleness). My first post is about tamales and my first romantic relationship.

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I ventured to Orlando with my brother to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was magical, the perfect capstone to the year.

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Other than the pieces I’ve already mentioned, I had the honor of guest posting for Christie Purifoy (with an Advent reflection), The Hope Diaries (about a piece of scripture I love), You Are Here (about avocados), Accidental Devotional (about singleness and long weekends), Amy Peterson (about my new church, and extreme grace lessons), Jane Halton (about shedding the negative stereotypes of singleness), Carly Gelsinger (about liturgy and Lauren Winner), Claire De Boer (about the letters I write to myself), and Cara Meredith (about body image).

My ten most popular posts were:

10. Make Yourself Scarce

9. More Room: thoughts on World Vision

8. Letter to the Next Guy I Date

7. After Church

6. Too Much To Carry: a few words on my body

5. Divorce Optional

4. Even If: thoughts on the IF:gathering

3. Making Peace With My Mental Illness

2. Oil For My Lamp

1. Things I Don’t Regret

Some of my favorite posts were:

Sushi

Stripping the Altar

Life As a Crepe

The Art of Losing

Things I Didn’t Photograph

What We Ate

Drawing Back the Veil: some thoughts on weddings

Traveling the Oregon Trail

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Here's to all that 2015 has to offer. Looking forward to walking the path with you.

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