Blood and Guts and Skin and Bones

I have very two distinct memories when it comes to my weight as a teenager and an adult. In one memory, I’m about 15 or 16 years old. I’m wearing white shorts, probably a size seven or nine in juniors. I’ve got on a red college t-shirt and (this is probably the worst part), I’m wearing red-and-white striped toe socks that went to my knees, like Where’s Waldo was hiding himself in my skinny calves. I have a picture of me in this outfit, standing in my grandma’s living room. I’m grinning at whoever was taking the picture. My hair was black (this was a really unfortunately fashion phase for me when you think about black hair and those Where’s Waldo socks!) and pulled up in a messy knot, and on my left wrist I wore two jelly bracelets. I was so, so thin — not unhealthy, just normal teenage thin.

The other memory that can hold my mind captive for hours is the first time I discovered a stretch mark on my belly. I wasn’t a newbie to stretch marks when I discovered the one on my belly, but all of the other ones I had were on my breasts and thighs. When I was 20 I began to gain weight, but it wasn’t significant, not at first anyway. One afternoon when I was about 25, I stood in front of the mirror while I changed my pants. I’d taken a nap wearing a pair of jeans and I was changing to go out to dinner with a friend. My pants had left a deep red mark on my belly near my belly button and I rubbed the spot, trying to make it go away. But it didn’t, I realized with horror a few days later, actually disappear. It was a stretch mark. On the formerly flat and smooth skin of my belly. And I gained more weight and saw more of those marks weave their way into my skin, ruts in my flesh that I wished would go away but would not.

I remember both of these things with the same weird emotion: I never once looked at my body and felt like the girl I saw reflected in the mirror or the picture matched the girl in my brain. As a teenage, I felt so big, like my body filled up far more of a chair or room or personal space than it did. I wasn’t; it didn’t. I had some very, very thin friends, but I definitely was normal, maybe even slightly thinner than normal. And as a 25-year-old, I felt, finally, like that thin girl, even as the weight piled on against my will. At both times, I sometimes looked into the mirror and felt shocked, the face of the girl reflected not the person I pictured myself to be.

The weight gain I experienced in my 20s was the result of many things. It was when I really started to address the feelings I’d been repressing for years after being sexually assaulted at 18 and sexually abused for most of my childhood. I also began to experience problems related to my hormones that made weight gain so simple and weight loss impossibly hard, but I wouldn’t have any idea that my body was betraying me from the inside, making my skin stretch and distort even as I tried so hard to make healthy choices, until I was in my 30s.

My 30s brought some stability and some answers to the question of why I gained weight the way I did, but it also brought some new physical challenges with it. My brain felt extra-sharp, alert and ready for anything. That clarity didn’t stop me from taking one wrong step during one of those runs where you get colored paint thrown at you. We were running through a campground, over tree stumps, and I tripped. I caught myself but the next morning, I woke up with a horrible pain in my back, around my left hip. I stretched and used fancy phrases like “I really hurt my hip flexor” because it sounded better than “I tripped over a tree and jacked my back up.” Months went by and my doctor gave me muscle relaxers, which didn’t actually help much, and non-narcotic pain medications, which also didn’t help and made my stomach hurt. Finally I realized I had sciatica and was able to get the help I needed to heal it. And wouldn’t you know, maybe two weeks after I woke up for the first time in months with no pain in my back, I had this horrible, debilitating pain in the arch of my left foot. (Apparently I hate the left side of my body.) It got worse and nothing helped. I iced it (brrr!), I rolled a lacrosse ball under it (which honestly made me wish I was dead because the pain was that bad), I wore different shoes that supported my very high arches, and eventually, I used this stuff that I called “voodoo tape,” which is what actually fixed the problem. It was stretchy tape adhered to my skin, pulling the muscles and letting the blood flow more freely and also maybe there was some magic involved. All that to say, this was how I spend the spring and summer months of 31, my body betraying my brain’s desire to get up and do stuff and have fun.

I am 33 now and sometimes, when I’m getting dressed or when I’m out shopping for new clothes, I feel waves of sadness wash over me when I look at my body. I think the feelings are two-fold. One, this isn’t the body I imagined I’d have, especially when I think about my body as a teenager. And two, I am sad for all of the shame and indignity I heaped upon myself for not looking a certain way whether it was at 15 or 25. I think back to those agonizingly difficult years between 17 and 23 when so much anger and sadness filled my heart that I felt like the only thing I could do was slice deep lines into the skin on my arms with a razor blade. I feel so broken and sorry for what I have subjected this body of mine to, whether in word or in deed.

I just want to whisper, “I’m sorry, body, for the lies I’ve told you and believed about you. I’m sorry for all the times I believed you weren’t good enough. I’m sorry, God, that I doubted that you knew this body when you made it. I’m sorry I have spent so long doubting the strength and dignity you’ve given to me in these bones.” So often I believed that my body had failed me or that I had failed it, but when I actually stop and look at what I have done with this achy, breaky body of mine, I am left speechless. This body has done so much.

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I’ve traveled the world and I’ve traveled my country. I’ve been to tiny, dirty villages in El Salvador and I’ve walked through beautiful historical buildings in South Africa. I’ve flown to Europe and walked around the streets of Rome and Bethlehem and Jerusalem. I’ve had coffee in Turkey and stood in the oceans of Greece. I have flown to many states to visit my friends and adventured with them. I’ve driven 16 hours and a thousand miles in a car with a friend and her two kids, stretching my legs when we got gas, flexing my back in the seat when it was my turn to drive. I’ve slept on beds and couches and floors, rolling my bones loose in the morning.

I’ve picnicked at parks, my bare legs stretched out on the grass, itchy bumps rising on my skin. I’ve felt the sun scorch my skin bright pink and peely in the summer and I’ve shivered in the coldest months, feeling snow numb the tips of my fingers and soak through my boots.

I’ve held babies and shushed them to sleep. I’ve kissed sweet little cheeks and wiped away snot and tears. I’ve chased these tinies across playgrounds and parks. I’ve swung high and pushed littles into the sky, their shrieks and giggles filling the air. I have loved so deeply because of these tiny people who fill my life.

This body has run races, no matter how slow the clock might read, and it has walked miles down sandy beaches in beautiful places. I’ve paddled a surfboard in the icy parts of the Pacific and I have snorkeled, eyes big and bold with wonder, in the warm waters of Hawaii. I’ve hiked up mountains and swam to waterfalls and lifted my feet through piles of cold, bright snow.

I’ve been brave in times of great fear. I have laughed in times of great rejoicing. I’ve allowed grief and sorrow to burrow deep within my skin and I have allowed my heart and my body and even my skin to heal and to be rebuilt. I have traced the scars that line my arm in wonder and in sadness, thankful for hope that has healed me and shattered that I ever felt an anguish deeply enough to do that to myself.

My body has made tears for me to cry, both the wounded tears and and the kind that come when you laugh so hard you can barely breathe. My body has felt its heart race in anticipation and with regret. I have stood on stages and told people hard things, shining light into dark and bitter places. I have shared the truth about Who I believe in and what I love, even when faced with losing things. I have a backbone that has made me proud of stand up for myself.

Maybe my body doesn’t look like I imagined it would or like I think it should, but oh my goodness, it has done and does everything I’ve wished for. Who am I to look at it and think it is anything but good? Some days lately I wake up and I think, “Man, God, my body isn’t like I imagined, but neither is my life, and look how good everything is! So thanks for it. Thank You more than I will ever be able to express for the blood and guts and skin and bones.” Some of the years in the body have been difficult, but I’ve lived loudly and laughed hard and loved well, and I will praise God for the body He gave me that has survived so far in this wild and full life.

 

Oceans (when my feet do fail)

I have a confession to make.

I am the worst Southern California girl in the history of ever.

Why, you ask?

Let me tell you. I have lived almost all of my life, for 30+ years, within 15 minutes of the beach.

I don’t actually like the beach that much.

Listen. In my defense, I grew up with some pretty gross beaches. The sand is gritty, the water is icy cold, even when it’s warm and sunny inland the beaches near me are usually overcast and cold (not to mention windy), you can’t see the bottom through the murky mix of sand and seaweed and foam, and there are so many brave and obnoxious seagulls that I’d rather just chill out at a swimming pool. I have curly hair and and even when it’s pulled back tightly, little frizzy curls escape and I look like I’ve been moderately electrocuted when I spend time at the beach, its heavy and wet air messing with me. Even if it’s cool, walking in sand is practically the more difficult exercise on the planet and by the time I get back to my car, I am sweaty and clammy and my legs and lungs burn. It doesn’t help, either, that I am fair and freckled and red haired with blue eyes. I’m like a billboard for sunblock. A doctor once told me, “Your body was made for a cloudy island called the United Kingdom.”

I was just not built for the ocean.

Now, if we had beaches like they have in Hawaii, I would be all over them. But we do not so mostly I avoid them. And I’m okay with that.

I have classmates from high school who would go surfing or bodyboarding before first period. That means they’d have to get up at 5:30 in the morning, before the sun came up, to get a good spot in the water. And then they had to sit through a full day of classes. That seems like basically the worst thing I could ever do, but more power to them. These are the same classmates who have kids now, and they post pictures of their families smiling outside their RV at a beach campground. I love nature and find myself in awe of trees and bright blue skies and mountains and flowers, and I even like looking at pictures of the ocean, but I just don’t love going to the beach.

Sometimes, though, I find myself longing for the beach in ways that seem illogical, considering I don’t actually like it most of the time. It calls to me to the point where I don’t want to be anywhere else and I have to make a way in my busy day to get there.

When I was a kid, we went to the beach pretty often. As an adult, I find the beach no bueno (please reread the last few paragraphs if that wasn’t clear), but when I was a little girl, I love beach days. The city where I grew up wasn’t nearly as developed and so many lots that have big houses down near the ocean today were just air and sky and sandy parking spots 20 years ago. We’d pack up a cooler and grab towels and head down the beach, driving slowly down the alleyways of side streets until we found an open spot on an undeveloped lot, and then we’d lug everything we brought down to the sand. The kids would race to the water, so very cold, and shriek with joy as it splashed up against our legs and torsos.

When I wasn’t in the water, testing how far the adults would let me go without one of them shouting for me to turn around, I sat in the sun-warmed sand drinking Orange Crush sodas from the can and eating bbq potatoes chips gritty from the sand sticking to my fingers. I built sand castles and yelled in disgust when I saw the tell-tale air bubbles of sand crabs. My hair curled and tangled up as it dried, the salt making it sticky. I picked at the tar stuck on my feet.

Finally, we’d pack everything up and make our way back to the car. We’d try to brush off all of the sand, but sand is very clinky and the floor of the car would be covered with it before we got home. What I loved best about leaving was getting into the hot car. Sweat would bead along my hairline and the warm, stuffy air would make me drowsy. Usually we’d get ice cream cones on the way home and I’d drift off to sleep for a few minutes in the car before coming home and cleaning up.

Somewhere along the way, these things lost their appeal and the beach became a chore, not a fun visit. I realize lives change and people’s likes change, and so I became the Southern California girl who preferred to stay home from the ocean.

As I get older, I’m discovering there is something curative in the ocean. Surely you’ve heard the quote that goes, “The cure for anything is saltwater: sweat, tears, or the sea.” I hate being cliche, and it feels like every girl who’s grown into a woman around me has posted some pretty version of this quote at least once, but I think maybe it’s cliche because it’s true. I cry a lot (I’m the self-proclaimed “most cryiest person ever”). Sweating and physical activity, while not fun, always makes me feel better. That’s science or something.

And lately, the sea has been healing me and my heart beyond what I could ever expect it to do.

Maybe it’s the water that most days seems so cold, the water that makes my bones shiver with ache. Every once in awhile, the waves that slash and froth around me don’t seem unwelcoming with their chill – they seem refreshing, like I’ve been panting and I’m hot and scorched, and they cool me and satisfy my thirst. The extinguish the burning, yearning of my heart, heat that I can’t bear to carry on my own anymore.

Maybe the solace I find on these hard days is in the sound of the ocean. I hear so many things, but they all blend so perfectly together into one noise when I stop and just listen. Apart, it might sound like a cacophony, but together the noise rises in perfect harmony as the waves crash and the gulls squawk and the children shriek and laugh. It’s a lullaby to a mind roaring with words and big, passionate feelings.

Perhaps it’s the sand. Mostly it’s the sand, I think. All that sand, whether it’s the soft, fine sand of a Hawaiian beach or the rough sand of my local beaches: it was once rocks, big and small and medium, and the ocean pounded those rocks together for hundreds of years until they broke, broke, broke into smaller and smaller pieces that now line the shore. I see myself in that sand, the breaking apart into pieces too small to count, yet moldable like clay when the conditions are right.

And if it isn’t any of those things (though I’m hedging my bets on the sand), it’s the scope. The ocean makes me feel so small. When I went to Hawaii for the first time, I went snorkeling with my family. The entire time we were on the boat, our hotel was within sight. It was how I figured out where we were; the hotel was my constant point of reference. The first time we were able to get into the water, we snorkeled above huge underground caves. Fish and sea turtles swam below and around us. Flowers and plants grew in the water, things we could never see from above the ocean. At one point I looked down and swimming into the cave far beneath me was an enormous stingray. I couldn’t shout for anyone to look with me, so I just watched, in the cushioned silence of the ocean, as it glided into the cave. The waves moved my body up and down, gently, as I pushed my hands through the clear water.

When I came home from Hawaii, everyone asked me about our trip, and that day in the ocean was the thing I talked about the most. “It made me feel so small,” I said. “Not small, like insignificant. But small, like I understand better how big and huge God is. All I see is what’s above, but there’s a whole world of life below. I’m just one tiny piece of it His creation.” And that was just one part of it. There are hundreds of thousands of miles I’ll never see. There is a whole world underneath the sea out of the sight of my Hawaiian hotel.

That is really it, then: the scope. When I am filled big with fear, when my emotions seem to multiply to the point where everything feels uncontrollable, when I fall asleep and wake up crying with sorrow and even with joy, that is when my bones hunger for the ocean. When I begin to feel big in my power to control things, when I want to take charge and when grief takes me over, I feel like that giant ocean calls to me, just like a magnet, to humble me and give me perspective. I need to go and sit on a blanket on sand that clings to my legs. I need to stand in water that makes me shiver as it rises up my calves and thighs, soaking the hem of my shorts with salt and foam. I need to hear the sounds rise and mix together.

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Mostly I need to sit, cross-legged with a Bible and journal on my lap, the Psalms opened in front of me, with no cell phone reception, no way to Instagram the moment. I need the time to cry and weep and be still with God and let Him speak to me. The last time I spent a morning at the beach, feeling utterly wrecked with sorrow, I flipped the Psalms open and read these words:

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
for my hope is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be shaken.
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
(Psalm 62:5-7, ESV)

He is the rock Who made that beach, Who made those waves, Who made my tiny wild heart that beats with passion, Who shattered giant rocks into miniscule grains of sand, and Who ultimately calms and quiets everything big in me by taking me to a place that will, so quickly, remind me of the beauty of my smallness.

“Read, my child. Read.”

33booksracialinequality

Today, as I watched Donald Trump be sworn in as the President, I felt an ache inside of me grow — it threatened to envelope my heart. And then someone shared this beautiful video of John Lewis receiving a National Book award and the tears poured down my face as I heard him say, his own voice catching, that a teacher one told him, “Read, my child. Read.”

In that moment, I thought, “I am gonna be okay. We are gonna be okay.” I have spent my whole life fighting the very things that held me down with books and Lewis’s words reminded me that my battle doesn’t have to end today.

We are a country torn apart. I was texting some friends later in the day and one friend pointed out that people didn’t suddenly become racist because Trump became the President; they simply of the freedom now to voice their racist beliefs without restraint. Do I believe we’re better off than 50 years ago?

I don’t know.

But no matter what, there’s work to be done. And as I have always done, my solace in learning how to fight injustice comes from other people’s words. The words of others have always inspired me and pushed me past my comfort zone. The next four years will be no different.

I asked people on social media today to share with me their recommendations for books that will help me grow. I’m sharing that list with you below. Most of these books I have not yet read, so I can’t vouch for them, but I have respect for those sharing. The people commenting represent a truly diverse representation of my friends: liberal, conservative, moderate; religious and not religious; parents and childless. Please join me in reading them, working through our biases, and learning to love people for every part of who they are.

I hope this list makes you uncomfortable.
I hope it is hard for you to read and watch these things.
I hope this list makes you put all of your beliefs on the table.
I hope it makes you sort through them, seeing what you’ve never seen before.

I hope the same things for myself.

I don’t want to remain unchanged. I don’t want to pretend this isn’t a problem. I want to safe, comfortable, white world shaken up so I might not just know better, but be and do better.

If there are books that you want to recommend, I’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments. I also welcome other forms of media for growing in my understand of racial (in)equality! (Books are listed alphabetically by title — no order reason for their order!) This list certainly isn’t comprehensive. I’ve bolded books I’ve read.

Non-fiction
A Call to Conscience by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (a complication of his speeches)
America’s Original Sin by Jim Wallis
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley***
Between the World and Me 
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Black Boy
by Richard Wright
Bloodlines by John Piper
The Color of Water by James McBride
Colorblind by Tim Wise
Ghettoside by Jill Leovy
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
March trilogy by John Lewis
Negroland by Margo Jefferson
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Race Matters by Cornel West
Racist America by Joe Feagin
Roots by Alex Haley
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals
White Like Me by Tim Wise
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum
Why We Can’t Wait by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Yellow by Frank Wu

*** I want to point out that I do not advocate for violence. However, I think hearing about what made Malcolm X do the things he did is relevant and important as we engage in this conversation.

Fiction
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Brown Girl Dreaming
by Jacqueline Woodson
Home Going by Yaa Gyasi
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
The Kitchen House
 by Kathleen Grissom
Native Son by Richard Wright
Small Great Things
by Jodi Picoult
The Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Other resources
Be the Bridge

I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about those who’ve participated in Be the Bridge groups! I heard LaTasha Morrison speak at the IF:Gathering last year and she really made my heart beat faster at the thought of racial reconciliation.

13th (link to trailer on YouTube; available exclusively on Netflix)
This documentary is about the 13th amendment. I started watching it and it’s really thought-provoking.

“Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
We all have heard Dr. King’s “I have A Dream” speech. But until this year — yes, 2017 — I’d never read this letter. Whoa. It’s lengthy but good. So good. Read it. Print it. Take notes. (If you’d rather listen, you can do so here.)

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Big thank yous go out to my friends on social media: Bethany Beams (Bethany’s list is long and I didn’t include every book from in here so I recommend checking it out!), Rachel Mueller Hill, Kodi DeBevlle, Diana Cherry, Jaclyn Snyder, Lindsay Neveu Hufford, Rachael Jordan, Kristen Bulgrien, Corie Gibbs, Tanya Stanley, Karen Rodrigues, Claire Thompson Mummert, Karin Harrington, Jessica Wolfe, Bryan Carver, Tenease Ramirez, Liz Grant, and Tasha K. I’m excited to dive in to your suggestions!

so you want to read more

At the end of 2016 I sat down and did some goal planning. One of my goals is to read 100 books in 2017. I know what you’re thinking — I already read so much. How could I possibly read more, or even want to read more? Why would I want to read more?

Reading relaxes me.
It makes me a better writer.
It encourages my imagination.
It makes me feel deeply, and when you are sensitive that is a good outlet.

I usually set a goal each year with how many books I want to read and if I don’t make it, that’s okay. But it’s fun to have a goal. Usually by goal is between 75-85, but this year, even though I’m busy, I’m aiming to hit 100.

Whether you want to read 100 books, too, or you just want to read 1 (which I think is a totally awesome goal if that is a stretch for you!), here are some practical tips for making real progress toward your goal of reading more in 2017:

  1. Make time to read. We make time for the things that are important to us, period. Nothing drives me crazier than when someone tells me they don’t have time to read but then they start to talk about how they watched two seasons of some show on Netflix in a week. Don’t get me wrong: I love a good Netflix binge, too. After all, I am the girl who watched 5 seasons of Pretty Little Liars in a single month. But I also read 88 books that year. My encouragement is to set a daily reading goal. For you it might be one chapter, or five pages, or an hour, or during your breaks at work… Create a goal for yourself, making it attainable (if you read five minutes a week, it is not a good idea to decide to read for 120 minutes a day!), and building upon it as you go. For me, I try to read for at least an hour a day, and on days I know I won’t have tons of time, I try to read for all the spare minutes I’ve got. Even if I can only carve out a little bit of time here and there, reading is important, so I set aside time for it, every day if I can. Which leads me to my next tip…
  2. Read in your “fringe minutes.” I read a book called The Fringe Hours a few years ago and the author talks about how we have these little minutes here and there throughout our day that add up. If you have just 15 minutes to read every day, whether you’re in line at the post office or in a waiting room or taking a quick break at work, you would read for 5,475 minutes a year — that’s just over 91 hours! Even if you’re not a fast read, 91 hours will get you a couple of books.
  3. Read more than one book at once. This might not be for everyone, but it works for me. I rarely read more than one book at a time. My brain needs different plots  and story lines. Unless a book is so engrossing that I finish it all at once, I typically read several books simultaneously. That might not work for everyone, but if it does, then do it! I often keep a book in my car, something on the kindle app for my phone and iPad for those “fringe minutes,” one at work, and one in my room. No matter where I go, there’s a book, and I don’t have to take it everywhere.
  4. Read a variety of genres. This goes with number three. When I’m reading four books at once, I like to make sure they’re different genres because it helps me keep everything separate in my brain. Right now, for instance, I’m reading four books: Illuminae, the first book in a trilogy (and I am looking forward to the next two!), Claudia and the Bad Joke (as I attempt to reread all of the Baby-sitter’s Club books), Humble Roots (I’m reading this with a friend and talking about one chapter every two weeks, so it’s slooow going), and I’m listening to Jack of Diamonds while I drive. All but Humble Roots are fiction, but they’re so different. Illuminae is a dystopian space opera, Claudia and the Bad Joke is definitely low-level YA, and Jack of Diamonds is contemporary fiction with a more adventurous, action-filled plot. If you want to try to read more than one book at a time, I would l suggest starting with one fiction and one non-fiction or poetry book or a play — things that are very different.
  5. Read books you like. I like reading because for the most part I can’t wait to pick up the books I’ve had to put down in in order to sleep or to work. I rarely read books I don’t like. I’m not a book quitter (it’s totally okay if you are!) so if I start a book and hate it I will finish it, but that rarely happens because I know what I like, which admittedly is a bit of everything. The more you read, the more you will be able to hone in on things that pique your interest.
  6. There is no shame in the audiobook game. I mentioned in number four that I’m listening to an audiobook. I love audiobooks! Sometimes, I need to hear a voice when I’m reading that isn’t the voice in my head. They also make it possible to “read” while I’m driving. My brain operates at 3.2 billion miles per hour, so I usually speed my books up to 1.5x or sometimes 2x. Again, you don’t have to do that! Just find a book on Audible that has good reviews for its narrator and jump in! I also listen to books on Audible while I’m cleaning and while I’m out for a walk. Again, those fringe minutes add up. As a bonus, I find myself getting so invested in the audibooks I listen to that I look for activities that will allow me a chance to listen, so I am more motivated to fold laundry, organize shelves, and wash dishes if I’ve got a good book.
  7. Keep track of what you read. I love to track my reading on Goodreads, but I also have a ridiculously detailed spreadsheet with formulas that I’ve been using since college. I think I’m on my 13th year of the spreadsheet tracking method. WHOA BABY. It is so fun to look back and see what I’ve read and how much I’ve read. I like to analyze trends (it’s easy for me to see why there were a few years where I “only” read 44 books — I like to call those years “grad school and working full time”!). It also helps me know what to recommend to friends. I’m not great these days at writing detailed reviews like I used to, but I do try to write down a few things that made me like or dislike a book so I can tell people if they ask me.

There are countless other ways to read more, but these are seven things I’m doing in 2017 to help me hit that hundred mark.

What are your reading goals for 2017? How will you meet those goals?

Auld Lang Syne

I have really been a terrible blogger this year! But can you really blame me? I’ve been traveling non-stop all year it seems, and I’ve been writing, and it’s Christmas month… YIKES. So I thought I’d just use this last post of 2016 to highlight some of the best and brightest parts of my year!

  • In February I went to the IF:Gathering in Austin, Texas and I made a vacation out of it! I flew in to Dallas/Fort Worth, stayed with my friend Stefanie, drove to the conference the following day, had a great two days soaking in great teaching, went to church at Austin New Church (after having the most random flat tire ever) and met my new friend Jaclyn, and spoke with my friend Heather’s girls’ group. It was a whirlwind but I remembered so clearly why I love Texas, especially the Austin area! (I wrote a little about what I learned that weekend.)
  • Charisse turned 12 right after I got back from Austin and we threw her a rad Harry Potter themed birthday party! (Of course I wrote about that, too!)
  • Uh, maybe you heard, maybe you didn’t, but I wrote a book! (You can get Four Letter Words on Amazon!) I also had some fun writing blog posts leading up to the book’s release (although I kind of did a terrible job with the release!). You can read these posts for some four letter words and my reflections on them: heat | back | sift | rise | pray
  • Charisse started 7th grade and I realized I only have ONE more first day of school with her before I don’t take her to school anymore so I wrote a love letter to a 7th grader.
  • In September, I flew to Michigan to see a friend that I met doing the For the Love book launch get married. Several of us stayed with her and it was such a fun, carefree weekend. I’d gotten some really hard, upsetting news 36 hours before I left, news that left me in tears in on of the pastor’s offices, and leaving was so nice. My goal was to go and pretend my California life didn’t exist and that’s exactly what happened — I deleted my work email off my phone and I enjoyed the hell out of that weekend.
  • On November 1, I left for a two-week cruise to Europe and Israel and it was honestly the trip of a lifetime. The things I saw! I will post pictures and more from that trip after the start of the year.
  • Then — boom! — just two weeks after I got home from the cruise, I left again, this time to go to Missouri. I visited a friend who’d had a baby a few months earlier and it was everything the cruise was not. I slept in sweatpants and wore sweatpants and ate lots of food with cheese and snuggled my friend’s fat little baby and came home so refreshed.

I am excited for 2017. I’ve been goal planning, including using Powersheets, and I feel so confident about the goals I’ve set for myself. Some are very lofty, some are smaller, and all are very personal. Every goal is broken down into pieces and I feel like I have set myself up for a challenging and rewarding new year. I can’t wait to share my life with you (because yes, blogging more often is a goal, and I’ve got a plan to make it happen!).

See you soon, 2017! Until we meet again, here’s a little gift for you:

on grief

I haven’t picked a word of the year for a long time, but this year, I am very aware that a word has picked me.

Grief.

It’s a hard word to wear. I know that usually, when people pick their words, the words are happy. They’re cheerful and positive and inspiring.

But this word picked me.

It’s a stone I’ve carried in my pocket. It has been there for so long, wrapped in layers of gentle protection, not coming into contact with my body at all, until the day I was emptying my pockets for others to see and the wrapping fell off that stone and when I put it back in my pocket, its jagged edges tore into my flesh. I shifted it to the other pocket but the same thing happened over there.

I could have retraced my steps and found some new protective wrapping. But that felt wrong, like ignoring the problem, so I kept shifting that stone back and forth between my pockets. My skin got tougher. I got used to the way it felt. I ran my fingers over the stone every day, rubbing those edges and feeling their texture and grit under my fingertips.

One day I realized: that stone wasn’t so sharp anymore. My fingers have worn its edges down. It’s not yet smooth, but it’s getting there. One day it will be whittled down and down and down and down until it is gone and I am standing in the presence of Jesus.

But for now, I carry it in my pocket. this stone, this word, this grief.

I name it. I own it. And I refuse to fear it. I know it will go away. I know it will change, that its shape will shift countless times over the years of my life, and that it will be smaller, and some days it will feel heavier, but it will get easier to carry the more I share it and talk about it.

Let’s wear down those stones together, my friends. Let’s rid ourselves of the piercing pain of grief ignored.

Quick Lit, episode 1!

Every month there’s a Quick Lit post over at Modern Mrs. Darcy, a site I like to read because of book recommendations. I make no promises that I’ll do this regularly, but I’m going to try to participate frequently because it’s a fun and low-pressure way to share what I’ve been reading (which feels like lots and lots of stuff). So, here are some quick reviews of the last four books I’ve finished, all in October.

29414954The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer. I like Amy Schumer, but don’t watch tons of her standup because it makes me cringe, and I’m definitely harder to embarrass than most. I started reading this book while I was sitting at Barnes and Noble one day and it was making me laugh, and then I looked it up and discovered that Amy reads the audiobook. I bought it with some Audible credits I had not yet used. I will say two things: one, it definitely made me cringe in certain points. Amy does not mind using words for genitalia (a word I never thought I’d use on this blog) that I don’t even think, let alone say. And two, this book was laugh-out-loud funny. I made myself have a stomachache from the laughter too many times to count. Amy writes about light-hearted stuff but also serious things as well and I thought it was overall a really great book.

29527139All the Pretty Things by Edie Wadsworth. I saw several people post about this memoir on social media so I grabbed a copy of it and oh my gosh, it left me breathless. I wanted to devour it in one sitting but I had to put it down at times because it reminded me painfully and beautifully of my own book. It felt like a comfort read in that I just got it. Edie has a story that seems crazy to believe, and she tells it with raw honesty that makes you root for her the whole way through.

 

18596375Made for More by Hannah Anderson. My friend Deeann and I have been reading this book together since March or April and I just finished it a few weeks ago. We’ve been discussing a chapter roughly every other week and it’s been so enjoyable. Anderson writes about us being imago dei, made in the image of God. What she says isn’t exactly new, but the ways in which she says it are refreshing and encouraging. This book is one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read and is unlike any book about women’s identity that I’ve read.

26890725Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam. I got this as a Book of the Month Club selection (pst! use this link and get 30% off your own BotM membership — and a free tote bag, too!). It’s the story of two girls, now women, who’ve been friends for more years than not. One is getting married and they have to navigate the complexities of friendship amidst their own changing lives. I actually really liked this one, although I could not stand the way the f-word was used to reference sex. But I liked the characters and their respective arcs and thought the storytelling was solid.

That’s it for this month! What have you guys read lately, especially things you’ve loved? I love a good book recommendation!