Indulging in unspoken permission to lollygag through the last days of 2008, all while making big plans for the year to come.
If you know me at all, you know I am nothing if not reflective. I absolutely love the year-end Countdown to the Biggest! Thing! of The Past Year! articles and programs that litter the collective streets of the nation this time of year. Seriously, love them. Adore them so much that I simply cannot resist sharing my own look back with everyone.
The Bigs and Littles of the Year Gone By
Best Read: Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
I started the year reading this with my Prayer Coffee group in Texas. This is by far the most powerful writing on marriage I've read in the past ten years. Extremely challenging but inspiring at the same time. The chapter titled "Make Me a Servant" haunts, convicts, infects, and motivates me daily. The question on the cover of the book asks, "What if God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?" How's that for making you squirm a bit? Throughout the book, Thomas invites believers to recognize that God can work out His amazing plans for redemption and grace through the covenant He created to bind two people together for a lifetime. I highly, highly recommend this one.
Honorable Mention in this category is Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicalsby Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw. Did the endless talk, talk, talk of the campaign leave you a little jaded and cynical? This book is a brilliant breath of fresh air that will upend what you thought you knew the Bible says (and doesn't say) about the kingdoms of the earth. Oh, it's challenging (can you tell I like a good challenge?) and if you allow it, maybe a little life-changing.
Best Album: Patty Griffin's Impossible Dream
Now, clearly, this is not a new release. Patty Griffin is new to me, however, and I have to say thank you, thank you again to my dear friend Melissa for recommending this one as an introduction to Patty. I have listened to, thought about, and walked around with these songs since last spring, and I find myself still getting chills of appreciation for her lovely poetry of her lyrics and the powerful, passionate diversity of the music. "Love Throws a Line" is perfect for dancing to while doing the dishes. "When It Don't Come Easy" captures what my heart would sing to my husband this year, if my heart could sing. (It can't. Just like my vocal chords and pitchy ear.) "Mother of God" takes my breath away, and "Florida" makes me crave cigarettes and coffee like crazy, and I haven't smoked in well over four years. Over all, just amazing, amazing music.
Practical: Sister Emily gave us a video monitor to soothe Mommy and Daddy's nerves when D made the big move from crib to Big Girl Bed earlier this year. (Oh wow. D was still a crib dweller this time last year! I think I might cry.) LOVE THIS. It has to be one of the best ideas evah. And actually it has been put to much better use in keeping an eye on AJ than on the Big Sister. Of course.
Fanciful: Remember back in May when I asked for your musical recommendations? So many of you came through with a bounty of great directions to take, but my wonderful long-time friend Laura astounded me with two CDs brimming with her favorite tunes. What. A. Gift. Without her, how would I have ever day-dreamed to Guy Clark's "Magnolia Wind," sung terrible duets with my husband to Sarah Harmer's "Around This Corner" (that's his favorite in the mix), or grinned goofily along with Bright Eyes' "First Day of My Life"? Oh, ya'll. The mix tape/CD/whatever-the-incarnation-these-days is such a dying art!
Best Blogging Discovery: Small Notebook
Last spring, Rachel of Small Notebook and I connected through our blogs. After reading just a couple of posts, I was absolutely delighted with all that I read and saw there. Delighted but shocked that no one else was mentioning this absolute jewel of a blog. The simple and lovely ink drawings, her amazing gift for capturing everyday life in pictures, her practical advice on everything from composting to the wisdom of renting . . . I loved every bit of it. And Rachel herself was so charming, friendly, and accessible. I knew it wouldn't be long before she really took off. I was right. Upon my return to blogging last fall, I was thrilled to find that Rachel's readership had exploded and that over two thousand people (and counting!) are now reading Small Notebook daily. I look so forward to her Daily Features which are always meaningful, and sometimes find when I have a decision to make (should I watch TV tonight or not?) that I will, in all honesty, ask myself, "What would Rachel do?" True story. I totally want to be Rachel when I grow up.
Best Show on PBS KIDS: Word Girl
We don't really allow the girls to watch much commercial TV (a decision made so much easier when we cut cable back to the bare-bones-so-basic-you-have-to-ask-for-it package), but we do love ourselves some PBS Kids. LOVE. No commercials, lots of literacy. My favorite of the year is one that kind of annoyed me to begin with, but I have grown to love - the clever and witty vocabulary-enriching stylings of Word Girl. OETA shows Word Girl at the end of the kids' broadcast, at 4:30 in the afternoon, and it's just what this nearly-brain-dead-by-then mama needs. The writing is amusing and The Narrator makes me giggle. And it REALLY DOES help kids learn new words. D is forever asking me things like, "What does redundant mean?" Word Up!
Honorable Mention in this category: Sid the Science Kid, a new show this season from The Jim Henson Company, is lots of fun and has spurred more than "science experiment" in the SortaCrunchy Casa. Also? We love the dancing.
Best Movie: ummmmmmmmmmmm. hmmmmmm. Lots of swings and misses for us. How 'bout you?
Best in natural living goodness: Oil Cleansing Method
I know I wrote about OCM back in May, but it's been on my mind again a lot as the cruelties of winter have caused me - even me (she of the grease-prone skin) - to have dry skin woes. I was reminded after a recent run-in with a bar of Dove how drying even a little soap can be. It's back to OCM for me, maybe with a tad more olive oil in the mix than before. What? You still haven't tried it? Well the holidays are nearly over, and January seems like as good a time as any to try new things. What are you waiting for?
Good stuff/Bad stuff
It's been an unforgettable, life-changing year in the life of my family. From euphoric hope for a new life imagined to crippling despair in the new life played out, change has been the only constant. Miraculous, long prayed for things have happened in my marriage. Good stuff beyond belief. But with all of that has come a rawness, a humbling beyond what I could have imagined. And yes, I'm still homesick for Texas, still trying to fit in as The New Girl, still mourning - every day, in a hundred little ways - the loss of the community of friends I love so much. I'm choosing to believe that all the fallow ground that's been tilled in the past year will not be laid to waste; that I'll choose to surrender the fragile freshness here as something open and receptive to planting.
The Year Ahead
My mind spins with the possibilities for 2009. I do so love standing on the brink of the New Year.
In the year ahead, I
* hope the economy turns around
* know that I will find God trustworthy even if it doesn't
* want to grow in the practice of photography
* desire to get serious about how I spend my time
* look forward to knowing my husband even more
* would love to lay the groundwork for a community of moms at home, praying for and encouraging one another
* will send D off to school, real school, in August
* would love to get AJ at least night-weaned; a full night's sleep would be so nice
* (and this is so big and exciting and scary I can hardly bear it) will join with my dear friend/writing partner/mind twin Laura and take the next step in a writing project we are both passionate about by taking some real risks; risks like daring to use the word book in conversations outside of our own heads and writing query letters to agents (!!!)
Thanks for indulging me in this list.
Now what about you? Favorites and Bests and Worsts to share? Oh, please humor me! I want to know how your 2008 will shake down when it's all said and done. I would love to read your lists (make sure to leave comment with a link if you write up your own post).
Photo courtesy dps