January: Hope and a Future.

Over and over this month, I’ve seen references to the book of Jeremiah. Hannah Brencher, my patron saint for this season, wrote a post about Jeremiah 30, “The city will be rebuilt on her ruins.” I’ve seen references in sermon notes and in books I’m reading. I’ve seen Jeremiah mentioned so many times that I’m wondering if this is foreshadowing – we’re going to have a 4th boy, and in the tradition of Bible names that end in -ah, we’re going to name him Jeremiah.

2019, and my people.

2019, and my people.

I’m kidding. I think.

But I do take January seriously – blank slate and all that. January is one of my favorite months of the year. That hasn’t changed. The thing that has changed is how hard it’s been to come up with goals for this year, in light of the next ten.

2019 is the last year of the “teens,” the last year before an entirely new decade. So how do I take this year and make it count a decade from now? And how do I take those dreams and distill progress into one year?

Right before our annual family New Year’s retreat, I wrote my goals. Then twenty-something days into the new year, I re-wrote them. And I realized that my goals weren’t just goals. They were prayers. And that “hope and a future” isn’t a checklist. It’s a promise. And after the promise is an invitation – to come, to pray, to seek.

These are a few books, etc. that are lighting that path for me:

Word By Word: A Daily Spiritual Practice – I ADORE this book. Reading it feels like she’s been going through my mail. It all applies.

Boundaries for Your Soul – Such an important book for healing from hard things.

The Rock That is Higher: Story as Truth – Madeleine L’Engle is probably my favorite writer, and I’m learning so much from this book.

A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L’Engle – Thinking and planning for the next ten years has me going down the legacy/memoir/biography alley.

Always Enough, Never Too Much – My favorite devotional book right now – I’m re-reading it. And Jess Connolly’s All Good Things Collective came out with an Enneagram line that is so good.

It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way – This book, and the Proverbs 31 study that go along with it, are game-changers for me in this season. So thankful for Lysa’s wrestling and her words.

First, Be a Follower – This is a Bible study, and not a book (see: Come Matter Here), but it has helped me to dive into truth in the best ways. If you’re looking for a study, I would start with this one.

One Word for 2019: Light

‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond all measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.’ We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? you are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
— Marianne Williamson
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If I’m honest, I’ve come into the new year a bit jaded and uncharacteristically hardened. That’s not the person that I want to be. And so, an antidote –

My word for the year: light.

Light as in seeing the light, speaking the light, shining light. More than anything, I want this to be a year of looking for God’s hand and seeing His grace. A year of noticing the gifts and seeking out the Giver. A year of cultivating warmth, positivity, and encouragement and surrounding myself with people who do the same. A year of journeying with my boys as they learn to shine their own small, but significant lights.

Light as in unburdened, light of heart, minimal. I want this to be a year of not holding onto what I am not meant to carry. A year of letting go of baggage, both literal and emotional. A year of few things – only what we need and only what we love.

Light as in sunshine streaming through the windows, sunsets on the beach and the glow given off of a fire pit around which we gather in Adirondack chairs making s’mores.

Light as in the opposite of dark. Because darkness in people, circumstances, our environment cannot always be avoided, I want this to be the year of looking for light in the dark places, the places where things are not what they should be. A year of “wak[ing] up with great expectation of these little reminders of God’s goodness.”

I’m beginning this year with Marilyn McEntyre’s book, Word by Word: a Daily Spiritual Practice, and in it she writes:

I invite you to discover, as I have, to my lasting delight, how words may become little fountains of grace. How a single word may open wide wakes of meaning and feeling. How a single word may, if you hold it for a while, become a prayer.

Light – my 2019 prayer and practice.

Looking back on 2018.

How much was a product of our decisions, and how much was in the cards all along?
— Lisa Gungor, The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Seen

Truth be told, I’d rather look ahead than look back. I could write a book about the lessons I learned, the mistakes I made, all the ways that I failed, but in the spirit of #2018bestnine, I’m grateful for these nine “bests.”

The highlight: the news and the birth of our third baby boy and the end of being pregnant. Our favorite getaway: The Beach Lodge. Best financial goal hit: paying off my grad school loan. Best habit: recalibrating with the Intentional Living Worksheet every month. Favorite house project completed: turning our loft into a “movie theater”. Best fitness goal completed: hitting a 60-day Peloton streak while I was 8/9 months pregnant. Best relationship practice: regular date nights and business meetings with my hubs. Favorite family goal: intentional monthly adventures, like Disneyland, with the boys.

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… and, of course, the books I finished reading this year (not including the huge stack on my nightstand that I’ve started), my favorites in bold.

  1. A Simplified Life: Tactical Tools for Intentional Living by Emily Ley

  2. Hello Sunshine: A Novel by Laura Dave

  3. Touch by Courtney Maum

  4. Love Your Life, Not Theirs: 7 Money Habits for Living the Life You Want by Rachel Cruze

  5. Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

  6. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

  7. Our Tiny Useless Hearts by Toni Jordan

  8. The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

  9. Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes & Jo Piazza

  10. Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy

  11. At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the World by Tsh Oxenreider

  12. An American Marriage: A Novel by Tayari Jones

  13. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

  14. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

  15. The Path Between Us: An Enneagram Journey to Healthy Relationships by Suzanne Stabile

  16. Reading People by Anne Bogel

  17. You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld

  18. Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown

  19. You are a Writer by Jeff Goins

  20. When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger

  21. A Lady’s Guide to Selling Out: A Novel by Sally Franson

  22. Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy by Getting More Done by Laura Vanderkam

  23. Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

  24. The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth by Chris Heuertz

  25. Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for an Active Life by Phileena Heuertz

  26. Come Matter Here: Your Invitation to Be Here in a Getting There World by Hannah Brencher

  27. The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller

  28. How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids by Jancee Dunn

  29. Be the Gift: Let Your Broken Be Turned Into Abundance by Ann Voskamp

  30. What Comes Next and How to Like It: A Memoir by Abigail Thomas

  31. Begin Again: The Brave Practice of Releasing Hurt and Receiving Rest by Leeana Tankersley

  32. Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan

  33. The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted by Gary Chapman

  34. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir by Haruki Murakami

  35. The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Seen: Opening Your Eyes to Wonder by Lisa Gungor

  36. The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile

  37. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

  38. Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst

  39. Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved by Kate Bowler

  40. The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs

  41. Girl Meets God: On the Path to a Spiritual Life by Lauren Winner

  42. Design Your Day: Be More Productive, Set Better Goals, and Live Life on Purpose by Claire Diaz-Ortiz

  43. Cozy Minimalist Home: More Style, Less Stuff by Myquillyn Smith

  44. The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty

  45. We Were Mothers: A Novel by Katie Sise

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2018 was beautiful and surprising and I won’t forget it, but I’m also glad it’s almost behind me. I’m already so excited about 2019 and what we have lined up – our annual new year’s family beach retreat, an Exhale writing workshop, the getaway that we just booked for our anniversary this summer, and a new house… maybe? So many things! Here’s to a blank slate and a new chapter. See you in 2019.