New Year

January Favorite Things – 2019

 

It’s tradition in my family to watch The Rose Bowl Parade (#1 Favorite Thing) on New Year’s Day. My parents lived in Pasadena when they were first married and so we always had it on in the background when we woke groggily on the first day of the year. Nostalgia mixed with beautiful compilations of floral majesty – this parade is an amazing artistic effort.

The past few years I turned the live stream on with tears on my cheeks and we’d watched without Dad. Starting another year without loved ones is bittersweet. Sometimes, you still feel guilty for living.

Today, I turned on the parade and scooted our little leaf receiver, trying without success to get a clear stream via our janky attempt at living cable-free. I can’t find the ABC live stream and the ESPN account we share with a relative isn’t granting me access.

BUT – great news – the Spanish channel is coming in perfectly. So here I sit, watching the floats and the bands and the flowers and Dad is chuckling along with me because I can’t understand much.

‘Stop taking new starts without me so seriously,’ he whispers. I’m putting my head on his shoulder and trying to figure out the subtitles.

So, adding to the list, here are a few of my favorite things to start the year off right.

2. Electric Fondue Pot


I found an unopened wedding present in the cupboard this weekend and decided to continue another tradition of New Year’s fondue at our house. This little guy is so easy to use and dipping treats in chocolate is a guaranteed crowd pleaser. I knew we registered for this for a reason.

3. Photo Books on Shutterfly

I love making albums for the year just finished in January. Take a few minutes, download the photos from your phone, and upload the images to Shutterfly. Don’t be intimidated by creative limitations – if you want, you can use their “Make My Book” feature and they will put all your photos in beautiful designs for you. They’re always having a sale and you get a great keepsake.

4. Pick Your Word

I was introduced to the idea of picking a word for your year ahead in college. My small group leader encouraged us to prayerfully pick a word to focus on in the next twelve months. We know we break resolutions, but having a word to return to, shaping your choices and your hopes is easier to return to as time goes on. This book explains the idea in more detail. My word for this year is REACH.  What’s yours?

5. Pick Your Tunes

Bring in the new year with some new anthems. Dylan was given Miles Davis on vinyl and we’ve been filling our house with jazz. Buy a new album, pick a new song, add some life into your home with music.

Happy New Year!

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Let’s Create a Flickering Fire

“Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve, and hope without an object cannot live.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The week between Christmas and New Year’s always finds me feeling a little deflated. Like the giant blow-up characters sagging in lawns, folks turn out the lights and lay face down on the grass. We’re a little tired and need another burst of air to fill up our fragile skins. We require breath in the hope of new, good, and better in the year ahead.

For me, 2018 was packed with new things as I pursued a list of 29 things to do before I turn 30. I made big resolutions and dipped my toes out of my comfort zone.

My resolution for 2019? Just eat breakfast.

Sure, I’ve got big dreams waiting in the wings, yet I bat my hands at the spidery myth that living in the space of ‘next’ will be better than whatever this season provides. I know I never arrive.

I believe beauty in the imperfect will serve our messy world right here, wherever you sit or scan and read. I also believe in the tiny, magical glow of hope. Like a little ember on the edge of the fire ring, small sparks can turn to a flickering fire. Without holding space for fresh air of peace, we ache and crave and miss out on magic.

Thank you to the following folks who’ve entered the Give Light Giveaway and answered the question, ‘What gives you hope?’

They’ve started with small sparks. Add your input by tomorrow evening.

Let’s create a flickering fire of hope for the year ahead.

hannah-troupe-367604-unsplash.jpg

Photo by Hannah Troupe on Unsplash


Besides my faith in God, new life gives me hope: A precious baby, a wobbly-legged calf, or a tiny green shoot popping out of the brown dirt.  New life is such a miracle!

– Cathy P.


What gives me hope:

My children give me hope every day. And every child that walks into my life and shares their unfiltered joy with me. As long as new life keeps bringing new joy to the world I am hopeful.

– Christine C.


What gives me hope? Prayer gives me hope. When I pray for peace, faith, forgiveness or love; I’m given hope. When I pray for meekness, strength, comfort or mercy; I’m given hope. When I pray for courage, compassion, patience, and self-control; I’m given hope. When I pray for a sense of humor in a dark place, for listening ears when I want to scream, for self-love when I’ve made a mistake, for acceptance instead of judgment; I’m given hope.

For me, prayer is more than an expression of thanksgiving or a plea for help. Prayer is hope eternal.

– Suzanne M


There are two things that give me hope:

Seeing glimpses of how God has been preparing me and working behind the scenes for this season of my life.
Seeing the good that is still in the world.  I am reminded of friends giving gifts to their friends who are differently abled.  Giving baby dolls or stuffed animal dogs to those suffering from dementia to help make them feel purposeful and needed.  It helps remind them even subconsciously of previous times in their life when they were a caregiver for pets and / or children.
– Stephanie S.

Hi all,
I admit that it was hard for me to write a submission for this and I searched my brain and heart as to why. I realized that it’s because I don’t feel particularly hopeful this season. It’s definitely not like good things aren’t in my life right now, but it’s been a strange, quick, busy season where the gifts were unwrapped before I could say “it’s Christmas already?” My feelings seem to be echoed by everyone I talk to. I also feel like I’m in a strange limbo where I want to be working towards something but I haven’t figured out what.
However, there have been a few things that make me want to break down in tears just from the pure thoughtfulness of them, and they all have to do with children. I dropped by for a surprise visit to my friends’ house to visit with them and their kids on Christmas Eve. They were so welcoming and the kids were so excited that it immediately brightened my day. Not only that, but their daughter wrote me such a sweet note; I included pictures of it below. This is the same daughter that once picked the cheese out of the last cheddar biscuit for me just so I could have it (I’m lactose intolerant). Her kindness, uninhibited by motive or obligation, floors me every time.
              
The second thing that has brightened my days are the spontaneous hugs of my niece. My brother and his family are visiting from Mexico for the holidays and I don’t get to see her very often, but she seems to revere me like one would a big sister. Every time I’ve seen her over the last few days, she just randomly runs up to me and hugs me. It’s an expression of joy that I feel so grateful to be on the receiving end of.
The third thing is my tiny 1.5 yr old nephew diving in for a cracker crumb-filled kiss before he left my parents’ house last night. He has been so hesitant around me the past couple of months and I cherish those moments of closeness.
What do these all give me hope for?
The next moment.
– Katie M.

Submit your entry by Midnight on 12.31.2018

Details on how to enter here.

 

January Favorite Things

Hooray! I can put up my new calendar today! Never mind that I ordered it in November when Shutterfly was offering a deal for free ones. I love turning the page on a calendar and I like New Year’s Day. While I struggle with changes outside of my control, a new year feels fresh, hopeful, and promising. I get to start over on my attempt to read 20,000 pages in a year and I can dabble in my resolutions like writing a draft of that book inside my head and learning to play the ukulele that I was gifted for Christmas. If you know anyone who teaches this beautiful instrument let me know – so far I’ve got one chord under my belt.

Here are some of my other favorite things this month. Happy New Year! May 2018 bring beautiful things your way.

1. The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George

I read this book over the holidays. Compassionate to grief and a clever application of how books soothe the soul. I highly recommend it to anyone who delights in the power of story.

2. PG tips Premium Black Tea

I’m turning over a new leaf and trying to cut my vanilla latte habit. This is going to be hard – maybe you can help hold me accountable. I’m switching to tea instead. I’ve been told this is the best there is. Hoping this turns into a new favorite thing.

3. Happy Birthday to Me

My birthday is coming up! I like having a birthday that closely follows Christmas. It gives me something to look forward to after the post-holiday let down. Not sure how I’ll celebrate, but I rest in gratitude for another year around the sun.

Oh, thank you for asking! What’s on my birthday list? Here’s a few ideas.

Rabbit Original Lever Corkscrew , Ukulele for Beginners: How to Play Ukulele in Easy-to-Follow Steps or most things from J.Crew

I also want someone to send me a box of wine from Wine Awesomeness. Because really, wine in the mail? How awesome.

4. T-Shirts with Dogs on Them

bulldog

I didn’t realize that I’ve sorta got a collection of t-shirts with dogs starting in my closet. My momma gave me this one for Christmas. I also like this one and hope to grow my odd collection.

5. Write it Out

New year – a new place to capture your beautiful thinking. If you want to start a journaling practice in the new year, I recommend these great tools.

Moleskine Classic Notebook and these pens with this coffee.

Shoot, I forgot I now drink tea. I recommend this tea.

The Chair in the Middle of The Room

When I was growing up I was an avid youth group kid. I eagerly anticipated Wednesday night church gatherings, and was proud to be an evangelical – inviting my friends to come with me to weekly gatherings in the hope that they too may find the joy of Jesus.

I remember, quite vividly, a sermon one of our leadership gave about being the light in the world. We walked into the Youth Room, walls painted red, fresh carpet in geometric patterns, foosball table tucked in the corner, and at the front one of our leaders was standing on a chair.

chair

He invited several kids to come and stand on the chair, one at a time. Then invited the one standing to try and lift others unto the chair with them. It was hard for the one standing to get his friends up with him, when little effort was exerted by the  youth being pulled from the arm socket, onto the wobbly, wooden seat.

The demonstration shifted and the leader then asked those standing underneath to try and pull the standing youth off of the chair. With enthusiasm, the teen from the carpet swiftly pulled the other youth down from his perch. The leader paused, waited for laughter to calm, and explained his unfolding metaphor.

It is much easier to be the one pulling down onto the lower levels. When standing in a higher space, it can be difficult to lift others into the light, into the space of grace, onto “spiritual solid ground.” So what can we do to bring others up onto the chair?

Here is where the lesson gets muddy, and my spiritual growth starts to fail me. I’m not sure how I feel about this implied moral superiority – that I was taught that I was the one standing on the chair, in the cleaner, brighter air because of my faith. Seems a little wrong to instill in teenagers that they are ‘better than’ because they have Jesus.

I still have many questions about faith, and Jesus, and truth. Yet, I know that this year I have returned to the Gospel in ways I previously resisted, and do find comfort here in the mist of confusion.

Here is what I do very much agree with – It is so much easier to be pulled down from the chair. 

As I write this there are nine hours left in 2016. This has been one of the most challenging years of my life, and I know there are lessons I’ve learned from this year that will carry me forward. Many events outside of my control seemingly knocked me swiftly off my seat.

I admit that it can be exhausting to be optimistic, to look for the beautiful, to be pulling one after another up into the light, to the seat on higher ground.

Many people are saying 2016 was horrible, and anticipating that 2017 may be worse. To this I cringe – I don’t want worse. I want healing. And I want people to keep helping lift me onto the seat. To pick up my chin, and say ‘Hey, I’m here with you. Let’s climb up these rickety chairs together, and stand with arms triumphant.’

There is beauty in the suffering, and also beauty in the refusal to be dragged down by the negativity of others. Beauty in continuing to choose to look for the good. Beauty in afternoon walks, and the smell of laundry detergent, and sleeping in, and frozen pizza, and dinners in front of the tv. Beauty in music played on guitars, and backyard fires, and laughter, and treats from Trader Joes. Beauty in books, and phone calls, and text messages, and the mountains. Beauty in lattes and rosemary plants that grow indoors. In puppies, in warm socks, in kleenex, in healing tears. Beauty in peanut butter cups, and glasses of red wine. In intelligent conversations and witty comments. Beauty in games, and sweet smelling shampoo. Beauty in holding hands, remaining soft, and open to the world. Beauty in weakness, in vulnerability, in shared experience.

So this I ask you – who will you be in 2017? The one helping individuals into the light, or the one pulling us down from our seats?