Thursday, December 26, 2013

The best of 2013

#5. Dreams from My Father, by Barack Obama
John made fun of me for reading this. Love or hate the president, or just feel exceedingly disappointed in him…either way if you can put that aside, this was a fascinating, well-crafted, insightful memoir on race in America, written long before he had a political career.

#4. Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate, by Justin Lee
This book honestly opened my eyes. Justin is a rational, level-headed, patient guy with an amazing story, and he is so good at being understanding of people on all "sides" of this issue. His vulnerability in this memoir made me more compassionate.

#3. The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller
This book came out in 2012, but it is my top pick for fiction I read this year. Haunting, disturbing, and ultimately hopeful, Heller tells the story of a pilot who has just a little too much humanity to make it in a post-apocalyptic world. The characters feel like real people, and the book is ultimately an affirmation that the risk of love makes life worth living.

#2. The Pastor, by Eugene Peterson
Maybe it’s just because I want to be a pastor, but this was a lovely memoir by a pastor and the author of The Message paraphrase of the Bible. He’s got some hilarious anecdotes, profound moments, and most of all the narrative is wound around the idea that becoming a pastor was a sort of gradual, slow journey that happened upon him by accident, only for him to realize he was meant for it all along. That ultimately his calling was gifted to him.

#1. When We Were on Fire, by Addie Zierman
I didn’t grow up in quite the evangelical bubble she did, but lots of details she wrote about 90’s Christian culture were familiar. Honestly, though, what makes this memoir amazing is the empathetic, achingly beautiful way she describes loneliness, growing up, love, friendship, and grace. If you have ever longed for friendship and community, if you have ever had any interaction with Christian culture whether from outside or in, if you have ever looked for love in all the wrong places only to find it was right beside you all along…you will love this book.

#5. Catching Fire
Because I shamelessly love the Hunger Games story. And because Jennifer Lawrence.

This was a fun web series, and an extremely smart modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

#3. The Office Finale Season
I know it wasn’t as funny without Michael Scott, but  I loved so much the Jim and Pam story this season, because I love when television tries to be realistic and true to life. And then it was nice to see everyone get their happy ending. 

#2. Meet Me at the Edge of the World by Over the Rhine
Granted it’s the only CD I bought this year, but I’m still sure it must be the best one out there! With rich melodies, gorgeous singing, poetic lyrics, this might be my favorite Over the Rhine album yet, which is saying a lot.

It’s not often that someone could have the compassion and poise necessary to hold off a gunman in the school office until he calmed down and surrendered himself to the police. Sure, there was some luck and grace involved here, but she decided not to run away, she decided to treat him with the dignity of a regular person, and that is what made the difference.

#5 Discovering brownie-in-a-mug
You can make a single-serving size in 2 minutes in the microwave. Need I say more?

Photo by ABC Open Riverland
#4 Hiking the Appalachian Trail
My brother Michael and I hiked 74 miles of the Great Smoky Mountains in August. It should be closer to #1, but it rained every single day and we had to wear wet socks. We also saw some sweet views, ate lots of fruit and nuts, and fell into the enchanting rhythm of the woods.

#3 Running the Smoky Mountain Relay
John and I were part of a 12-person relay team running 212 miles across the Smokies. We slept in a van, got lost in the woods, ate granola, and mostly ran and ran over rolling hills with bright green trees and blooming pink buds.

#2 Writing a blog
It’s been reinvigorating to focus on writing my story and terrifyingly good to share it. I need to write to process, to express, to keep moving forward.

#1 Celebrating weddings 
Because nothing beats the combination of best friends, red wine, and coming together for a happy moment. And because when John and I get to sit down and watch the rain from a cabin porch in the mountains and really talk about things and affirm each other, marriage is the best.


#1 Wallace Murchison
He was generous, joyful, kind, affirming. Every interaction or phone conversation with him began with a whoop of excitement and ended with a reminder that “I love you and I’m so proud of you.” I have been interviewing my family members, compiling stories about him. There are sweet anecdotes about book readings and piggy back rides, embarrassing moments, sage advice. But no matter who I’m talking to, it always ends like this: “He was just the best father/father-in-law/grandfather. The best.
So it’s not surprising that when he passed on to the next realm this year, peacefully and gratefully at 93, he was celebrated and missed by many. At the church before the service, the family had been eating sandwiches in one of the church meeting rooms after the private burial service. When it was time for the public funeral, we walked in from the front of the church. It was all I could do to keep my mouth from dropping wide open. The church was absolutely packed. The balcony was full. There were people standing in the aisles. There was a crowd in the lobby, peeking into the sanctuary. Four hundred people, they said later.

I was just one of those, lucky to have shared with him so many dinners, concerts, graduations, and my wedding. Lucky to have swum in the ocean with him and gone for walks and asked his advice on life and sat next to him in church as he prayed earnestly and sang loudly. I am lucky to have had a week with him this past Easter, a sort of goodbye, a blessing. I undoubtedly took him far too much for granted. All of us were lucky to have him for 93 years.

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