Monday, January 4, 2016

Best of 2015

Well, 2015 whizzed by. I'm now halfway done with seminary, pushing thirty, and getting settled in Durham NC. It’s the time to celebrate some of my favorite things of the year.

Books: (Only three; I didn’t read enough non-school books this year)
3. Wearing God by Lauren Winner: Fantastic exploration of different images for God in the Bible. You know, Christians like to call God creator and king, but God is also described as clothing, fire, pregnant woman, friend, bread, wine, aroma. These chapters expanded my spiritual imagination and invited me to celebrate a God who is beyond my limited conception.

2. Lila by Marilynne Robinson: This deals with the same characters, and some of the same events, as her two earlier novels Gilead and Home, but from a much different (fascinating) perspective. Robinson doesn’t write page-turners, and her books don’t follow a typical plot, but the writing and characters are impeccable, and the themes are rich with human questions. What is it that defines our souls, our capacity for good or ill, our relationships and our loneliness? Lila asks questions especially about the feral and gentle within us, about how early experiences shape us, about how spirituality is relevant to those for whom the main question is survival.

1. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson: I’ve been recommending this one to everybody. Stevenson’s book reads as part memoir, part documentary, part true crime. You’ll be flipping pages to find out what happens to Walter, a man on death row who swears he’s innocent, and meanwhile you’ll be confronting our justice system, the depths of brokenness within all of us, and the persistence of hope and redemption.

Media and Arts:
3. Most of my TV and movies you've all already seen. Probably my two favorite movies were Boyhood and The Theory of Everything (and yes, I also enjoyed Star Wars.

2. Much better than staring at a screen is experiencing art in reality. I saw Swan Lake by the Carolina Ballet in Raleigh last spring and it was lovely.

1. While visiting the Getty Museum in LA last March, I was drawn to a painting in a way I’ve never before been drawn to art: “Mary Magdalene at the Sepulchre” by Girolomo Savoldo. I see myself in it, I suppose. And I see the most perfect, realistic-but-hopeful balance of darkness and light. It's not the same on a screen, but:


Best things:
4. Preaching: Sometimes a class becomes a community; sometimes an education becomes real life. My preaching class this fall was perfect. We were creative together, we helped each other grow, we laughed, we learned what it is to occupy this space of being called to share the gospel of God. I’m thankful for reminders that this path I’m walking into is one that fits.

3. Trips:  California (lovely former roomie plus meeting the life goal of peeing in all 3 oceans that aren’t at Arctic Temperatures plus riding a bus with some silly college choir kids plus biking across the Golden Gate); Minnesota (spirit home plus two of my dear college friends marrying each other!); Western Massachusetts (friends’ wedding plus camping and napping under trees).

2. Presbyterians: I’m working at a Presbyterian Church right now, loving especially the honor of listening to people’s stories and grateful to be mentored by a wonderful pastor. And since September, I’ve been officially on the list as an “inquirer” to become a pastor in the Presbyterian Church. This basically means I’ve passed the first of three steps in discerning and becoming certified as a pastor. It’s getting real, y’all.

1. Reunion: If you read any of my pieces this summer, you know that I had a beautiful and possibly life-changing experience with Church of the Saviour this summer, especially the time I spent learning from the people at Reunion, seeing both the heartbreaking reality of the prison pipeline and the redemptive possibilities of community. I’m so grateful for the servant leaders of that community, for the men and women coming home from prison, for the encouragement to be authentic across lines of race and class, for a place which nurtured my spirit so.

What’s ahead:
3. Durham, NC: In one of the harder decisions we’ve had to make since our marriage, John and I decided to turn down a job offer he had received in DC, since it would have started this summer and necessitated us spending a year apart (it also wasn’t his dream job). I love DC so it was sad to say, “not now.” But John graduates in May and we’re looking forward to staying here in NC like for a few more years. I won’t say I don’t have second thoughts when I visit home and reunite with all the wonderful people there, but it’s nice to be putting down roots and slowly building community here in Durham.

2. Being able to walk! After lots of biking and running this summer, I started noticing minor foot pain. It took four months of no running or biking, five weeks on crutches, two X-rays and one MRI to finally figure out what it was—irritation and inflammation of the sesamoid bones, which are on the bottom of the foot near the big toe. I’m now mostly recovered and in physical therapy, looking forward to being active again, not depending on people for rides, hiking the Grand Canyon in May and maybe running a half marathon later this year.

1. Writing again: It’s been a draining semester, and I didn’t write a blog post from July until now. I’m not sure what the future holds, but I do know I’ve signed up for a non-credit journaling group this semester. I’m hoping that will get the creative juices, the truth-telling juices, flowing again.

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