arms wide open.

It’s been a year, y’all.

I’m just not sure how else to put it.

And I’m not really one for New Year’s Resolutions and super-sentimental wrap-ups but it has been. a. year. So I’m doing this. Let’s talk 2013.

Things that happened in 2013: I lived in Malta for 4.5 months. I swam in the Mediterranean and learned how to bake without measuring things and stole lemons and jumped in a pool at midnight. I drank lots of tea and talked and laughed, so so much, sitting around the kitchen table for hours. I met great people and picked up some British slang and miss you all, all the dang time.

2013-06-09 16.15.15

I visited Rome, Florence, Venice, Budapest, Paris. I freaked out, on the regular, that I was actually in Venice and Budapest and Paris. I wore the same pair of jeans for 15 days straight while I lived out of my backpack. I wandered around Rome by myself. I met up with my bestie in Florence and we looked at art and ate and ate.

I ate so many crepes and gelato and pastries. So many.

I took a selfie with the Mona Lisa. I took selfies in front of lots of things. It’s cool.

I spent a month in Kenya with the best team ever. I learned what community is and how to love on others. I held so many kids and they broke my heart. I saw elephants. I got an awesome chaco tan. I discovered how many people you can actually fit into a five-person car. I learned how to make chapati and cut cabbage the Kenyan way. I met God, daily, constantly, truly and fell crazily, head-over-heels in love with Him.

And this happened.

I came back. I worked at summer camp for a week and hung out with the coolest kids around. (I got asked if I was a boy, several times). I went back to Greensboro after 9 months away and found my friends, my church, my college family. I started my senior year, I dropped a major and realized that I was actually graduating this year, I freaked out that I was actually graduating this year.

I blogged every single day for a month. I decided to be a woman of valor and worked on my brave. I found blogger friends and laughed in front of my twitter. I found a home in this internet space and wrote my heart out and learned and dreamed.

I saw a cousin get married and selfied with the extended family. I listened to Maya Angelou speak. I baked a lot of cookies. I danced with all I had. I read a lot of books. I knitted some things. I successfully fed myself for an entire semester, and kept the kitchen kinda clean, too. I was surrounded by the best people you could ask for. I cried a lot but I laughed a lot, too.

So it’s been a year. A crazy, all-over-the-place, hard, hilarious, challenging, fun, insane, growing year. And here it is and here it’s over, and we’re starting a new one tomorrow.

Last year, I wrote about 2013, my hopes and fears.

I hope to live this next year with arms wide open. With a heart full of love, ready to pour out onto anyone who comes near enough to let me hug them. With total surrender of myself, or at least total surrender of a tiny bit more of myself, and a little bit more dependence on the Lord.

It’s going to be an adventure, and I’m terrified and thrilled and nowhere near ready, but maybe by the time this year ends I’ll be ready for it.

I wasn’t ready for it. I don’t think you can be ready for it. I think you just have to open your arms wide and take it as it comes. And I didn’t do that perfectly, but I think I did it. I’m gonna keep doing it. Arms wide open, babygirl. Arms wide open.

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[december 2013]

Let’s be honest: this month has mostly looked like my bed, netflix, and cookies.

No shame.

Maybe a little bit of shame.

reading (book-wise)

  • The Book Thief, Markus Zusak. I finally finished this. I cried. It’s cool.
  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte. This was an AOJE-inspired re-read, as it’s been years. Um, this book is weird. I forgot how weird this book is. But still good.
  • Ready Player One, Ernest Cline. This was a re-read for me and still tons of fun – a sci-fi novel about an Easter Egg hunt in massive multi-player reality game. I think I would have appreciated it a lot more if I had lived through the 80’s, though.
  • Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant, Veronica Roth. I just felt like re-reading the series. Still cried.
  • The Scorpio Races, Maggie Stiefvater. I’d read her Shiver and Linger books in high school and wasn’t super impressive (werewolves. you know.) so I’d been avoiding anything else Stiefvater, but my aunt lent me The Scorpio Races. She’s a high school librarian who understands my undying love for YA fiction, so I took her advice and this book, guys. I love it. It’s got a fantastic heroine, a cute boy, a love story (but it’s not a love-story-book), and fantastic prose. Easily one of my new favorites.
  • The Greatest Gift, Ann Voskamp. This year, I actually did an Advent devotional (okay, maybe skipped a few days) and really enjoyed reading this.
  • Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin. What can I say? I’ve been really into the re-reads this month. Working on the second one now.

Also, my new year’s resolution is to actually use my Goodreads account (aiming high!) so you can find me over there if you want.

reading (blog-wise)

As we learned last month…when I’m not really writing blogs, turns out I’m not really reading blogs, either. This section will be back next month. Hopefully.

listening

it’s mostly been this playlist I made for a more love letters writing party. Also, Sufjan Stevens’ Christmas  music, because yes.

I went to Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God tour, and dang. The concert tells the story of Jesus – from Old Testament to New – and also, Ellie Holcomb is insanely talented and adorable. They were all insanely talented, actually. If it’s coming to your city next year, go.

watching

  • newly addicted to Firefly. I’ve got a few episodes left and am already mourning the end.
  • Doctor Who! everybody say hello to Twelve. We’ll see how I feel about him later. So far – based on his, like, two lines – I like him.
  • Autobiography of Jane Eyre because it just keeps getting better.

eating

  • okay. Joy the Baker’s ginger chewies + the frosting from this  make the world’s best whoopie pies. They’re addicting. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I’ve made them three times now. yes. three.
  • the traditional Christmas morning breakfast of monkey bread and orange cinnamon rolls. and, of course: bacon.
  • all the cookies. ALL. THE. COOKIES.

loving

  • a little bit of snow, a little bit of oddly-warm weather. December can’t make up her mind this year, but it’s not so bad.
  • hanging with the fam bam. aka, tabletop gaming.
  • running my first 5k! no, I didn’t actually run the whole thing. no, I’m not telling you my time because it’s horrible. but as a life-long run-hater, I consider this progress.
  • catching up with high school friends over the break
  • baking cookies. lots of them.
  • knitting.
  • rock climbing with my brothers. things I learned: I have zero grip strength, you use your forearm muscles for a lot of thing and you don’t realize it until it hurts like heck, I’m not a huge fan of heights, and rock climbing is fun.
  • christmas lights.

as per usual, linking up with Leigh Kramer to talk about my December loves. what have you been loving? also – I’m trying something new and making myself a to-read list for next year. what would you put on it?

we’ll figure it out.

Words have always seemed cozy to me.

Welcoming. Inviting. Sentences seem so beautiful I want to knit them into a sweater and wear them on my sleeves all winter long, curling my fingertips ’round the hem and burrowing deep, deep inside that word-sweater and letting it keep me warm.

(I’ve probably used that metaphor before. Forgive me.)

But lately, it’s seemed all sharp edges and unfamiliar corners.

I want to make myself a haven inside this blog, curl up and whisper to you about my hopes and dreams. About my fears, too, my failures and fallings and forgettings.

I’m not sure how, anymore. My sentence-stitching fingers are clumsy and my heart seems to have said stop, stop pouring me out on the page. Cause sometimes it gets tiring, wearing your heart on your sleeve. I’ve been working toward vulnerability, and that’s thin ice to walk on. And I know I wrote about this already – about coming back and rust and pounding the keyboard, spilling the words out and making this place home again.

And I meant to make it home again. I mean to make it home again. I do.

I don’t know how.

And I’m not even sure why I’m saying this – why I’m forcing the words out, because do you really need to hear this? Do you really need to know this?

Probably not. Feel free to close this tab and carry on with your life at this point if you would like. I understand. It’s a busy world and ain’t nobody got time for a rambling girl.

But I think I need to say it. I think I need to write it, to inhabit this space again, to try it on again and again until it fits. Until it feels just right.

I want this. I want to be back here, I want to write. I want to want to write. And maybe if I can say that, if I can put it out there, if I speak it, I can make it happen again.

I want to slow down. I want to spill my heart out again. I want to juggle words like balls, laughing when I catch them and trying again when I don’t. I want to believe that maybe you’ve got time for a rambling girl. I want to believe that my rambling sentences might form coherent thoughts. I want to believe that my shouting into the internet does something. I want to believe that these rambling words can make a difference. Can find someone out there, someone feeling the same way, and say: It’s okay. We’ll figure it out.

All of it. This writing thing, and this heart-on-sleeve thing, and this life thing. We’ll figure this out.

reflect | five minute friday

It feels rusty. It feels like coming back to a place you once called home, where you curled up on the couch and wrapped blankets around your legs and let your soul settle.

This little blog space doesn’t seem to fit right. I’ve been gone, for a while. I took November off and I was silent here. If I’m going to be honest, I was silent in a lot of places. My journal didn’t see much sunlight and my God waited patiently for me to start speaking.

And now that month is over, and I’m back, and here I am, time to write again, and it feels so right but also so wrong.

Maybe I’m just out of practice. Maybe I just need to do it, to keep doing it, to pound these keys and pour the words out and over time, it’ll fit right again. The couch will recognize my body again and this blank page will look like home again.

I don’t know. I don’t know what happened, in that mad month of every day writing – when I hit publish on so many things that probably, certainly aren’t my best writing without fear – and in that month of stillness. But I’m afraid, I think.

I’m afraid that my writing won’t be good enough. That my words aren’t good enough. That my dreams, dreams that I realized and let into my heart – won’t ever be reached. That I’m not good enough to reach them.

But I guess it’s not really about that, it’s never been about that. It’s not about being good enough. It’s about me and words and questions. It’s about puzzling out my heart, myself. It’s about sentences so beautiful I want to sink into them. It’s about asking and seeking and searching. It’s about broken hearts and healing and finding.

I’ll find my way home again. I’ll keep asking and seeking and searching, and the words will come.

———————

it’s Friday, and for the first time in a while I’m joining in with Lisa-Jo Baker again for Five Minute Friday. five minutes, one word, no editing.

Keeping Advent [at Redeemer]

I’ve never been very good at keeping Advent.

When I was younger, we would make paper chains and drape them around our rooms, cutting off a link each day, watching as the red-and-green string of loops grew shorter and shorter until one morning we woke up and there was only one link left, a gold strip of construction paper stapled into a circle.

This year, my church is doing a blog series on Advent, and today I’m writing for it. Join me over there, won’t you?

[november 2013]

So it’s December.

That’s cool.

It’s been quiet around here, very very quiet, because I did a little thing I liked to call #noblogvember in an attempt to recover from the mad sprint that was 31 days. And it’s been nice, but also weird. I gotta get my writing groove back on.

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In any case, let’s talk about everything I did in November while I wasn’t blogging. as we do around here, linking with Leigh Kramer to talk about what I was into.

reading [book-wise]

  • A Million Little Ways, Emily P. Freeman. Finished this and let me say, it is just too good. My first read-through was basically just breezing through so I’m going to re-read, slowly, and probably underline lots of things. If you’re into writing, or art, or life, read it.
  • Committed: A Love Story, Elizabeth Gilbert (aka…the Eat, Pray, Love person). Gilbert discusses the history and traditions of marriage as she comes to terms with her upcoming, Homeland Security-prompted wedding. It’s funny and interesting and thought-provoking.
  • Wild, Cheryl Strayed. Here’s the deal: I have no interest in months-long backpacking journeys. Yes, this book made me want to buy some hiking boots and wander through the wilderness for a while. Strayed’s writing is beautiful and full of heart.
  • Graceling, Kristen Cashore. This is a third or fourth-time reread for me, but I love Cashore’s writing. Easily some of my favorite fantasy novels.
  • in progress: Out of the Silent Planet (C.S. Lewis), Emma (Jane Austen), Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), The Scorpio Races (Maggie Steifvater), The Book Thief (Markus Zusak and yes I’ve been reading it for like three months now I promise I’ll finish), and the poetry books from last month, because I cannot for the life of me read a single book at once.

reading [blog-wise]

okay, admittedly, #noblogvember kinda turned into #noblogreadingvember. I’m sure I read some good things, but I didn’t save any links, so all I’ve got is this, from Hannah Brencher: don’t miss the bells.

listening

this is my november jams list. does it include two versions of Say Something and two covers of Royals? yup. no shame.

John Mark McMillan and The Civil Wars were my Thanksgiving break road trip music, and they make it so much better than listening to Counting Stars 568 times on the radio. Don’t get me wrong, I love that song, but if I have to hear it again in the next week I might lose it.

and, of course…CHRISTMAS MUSIC IS OUT. IN FULL FORCE. that’s right, even pre-Thanksgiving. I go there.

watching

  • CATCHING FIRE CATCHING FIRE CATCHING FIRE. I mean, it was okay, I guess. (I loved it. It was fantastic. I want to see it again.)
  • the regulars: Elementary, Parks & Rec, Once Upon a Time, Agents of SHIELD, The Voice.
  • also, confession time: totally addicted to Junior MasterChef. oops. it’s great.
  • this twelve-part documentary on New York City Ballet.
  • on the vlog-y side of things, Emma Approved has left me mostly disappointed due to some weirdness with transmedia and lots of weirdness regarding what’s occurring in/out of world, but I still watch it for snarky Knightley. Autobiography of Jane Eyre, just keeps getting more and more perfect and has inspired to do a re-read of Jane Eyre, as it’s been ages since I read it.
  • and of course: Doctor Who! The 50th anniversary special was this month. I enjoyed it and loved seeing some old faces back on the screen, but honestly, I’m getting a little tired of Moffat’s shenanigans.

eating

  • Thanksgiving. duh. lots of pie.
  • made some vanilla lime coconut cookies that turned out great (the ones that I didn’t burn…whoops)
  • other than that, nothing new and exciting. lots of crockpot recipes on repeat.

loving

  • a weekend retreat with my bible study girls where we ate a lot of food, talked about Jesus, collected seashells, and waded in the ocean. in November. yes please.
  • picking up knitting again, and feeling like I’m doing doing something productive when I watch tv.
  • road tripping. okay, this is a love/hate relationship. it’s a 6 hour drive from home to school, and I just did it twice in a week and will be doing it again in another week. learning to love it.
  • decorating our little apartment for Christmas. my roomie and I set up a little tree and made snowflakes for the windows and there have been several nights of tea and Christmas lights in there.
  • catching up with some friends over break. bestie time.
  • end-of-the-semester performances! I stage managed a concert and then smeared blue face mask all over my clothes and face to perform in one the next week, so I pretty much lived in the dance theater for 2 weeks. it was fun, but glad it’s over.
  • speaking of that concert, my mom and grandma came down to see me dance. we drove through campus, went to church, and ate yummy food.
photoshootthese ladies. they’re the bomb.

so tell me…what’s on your love list for November?