My 2018 theme was Draw Near, based on this passage from the Book of Acts:
“And [God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ ” (Acts 17:26–28, emphasis added)
God proved Himself to be “not far” from me in many ways this year. Even though I am called to seek Him and feel my way toward Him, it seemed like God was seeking after me way more than I was seeking after Him. He is faithful, even when I am not. Here are the ways He found me in 2018.
The aim here was to tend to my soul in 2018 by seeking God. Looking back, I think it would be better said that God did the tending of my soul this past year. He met me in the spring during my weekly train ride to Chicago, as I stared out the window and prayed for wisdom and peace. He met me in relational distress. He met me in life’s trials—specifically during the Week of Appliance Fails and the resulting Water Catastrophes. He met me at beach retreat and in the discovery of new worship music that soothed my soul.
Most surprising, however, is the way God met me through a YA-lit fiction series by my friend and colleague K. B. Hoyle. The Gateway Chronicles introduced me to new friends whose adventures transported me into another world full of fantastical creatures and curious mysteries. I grew to love these characters over the course of the six books, each one devoured in a matter of days. But the series was more than just a wonderful diversion. It awoke in me something that I didn’t even know had been lulled to sleep: my passion. Life is full of responsibilities, and it’s just so easy to tackle them devoid of any wonder or excitement or joy. But reading The Gateway Chronicles reminded me that other worlds aren’t fiction. There is more to this world than what my eyes can see, and if I’m living only with this world in mind, I’m missing the adventure. The way I live my days on earth matters immensely—nothing I do here is devoid of purpose, everything I do here makes a dent on eternity. Living with my heart engaged means it will feel deeply all the joys and all the sorrows, and it is worth it.
I cannot recommend these books enough. Anyone who loves Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, and Lord of the Rings will love these books too.
Coffee and books made my heart quite happy in 2018. I read 37 books and just over 7,200 pages. And I tried 11 coffees for my coffee-a-month goal (summary post here).
I wanted to make a concerted effort to read more day-to-day in 2018 as a way of training my brain to concentrate. My work can make my brain feel a bit disjointed and scattered, so this was my way of pushing back against the fray. I didn’t read 30 minutes a day, but I did find books being a more common companion in my down time, so I’m calling it a win.
Mike and I didn’t see as many movies as I’d hoped this year, but we saw some great films. I especially loved Black Panther and Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
The aim for this category was to care for and be a good steward of my body so that it can function properly. I tried to use an app alert so I wouldn’t sit at my desk for hours on end. That was a fail for me, because I would just turn off the alarm without walking around. I did finish the Illinois Half Marathon in April, despite a lack of decent training. Sadly, I didn’t do a ton of regular running the rest of the year. I did, however, find a second weekly workout to attend, so that is a plus!
The one consistent thing here is a weekly coffee date with Mike. It’s a highlight of the week, giving us space to sync calendars, discuss plans, and catch up. Plans with friends and family were not as consistent this year though, which makes me sad. I’m thinking about what I can do to change that in 2019.
My work was a bright spot this year. I had excellent clients—several new ones!—which allowed me to complete a variety of marketing and donor communications projects. In the spring I taught nonprofit communications once a week in Chicago, which I loved. I met great students and colleagues, and the course solidified my expertise and renewed my passion to help nonprofit orgs. Being self-employed means I don’t get paid vacation days, but in 2018, I attempted to schedule days off. I’d call it a 50% success—I’m still figuring out how to take days off without having to work double on each side, which sort of negates the break from work I need. I hope to build on this for 2019.
WRITING & CREATIVE WORK
This year was rather barren in terms of writing. But my previous writing did pave the way to a few speaking engagements, which were wonderful creative outlets. We had a reboot of the Persuasion podcast this year. Hannah Anderson and I decided to switch to a season-based format that allows us to take a deeper look at specific topics over a series of episodes. It was also a great joy to lead Word+Craft Weekend with Hannah at Leaf Institute.
I was able to do some purging and organizing this past year, but more is needed. I cleaned out our pantry and extra fridge, my closet and shoes, and my cosmetics. It feels so good to put chaos in its place (even if it’s only for a short while!). We were forced into some home maintenance this year (see SOUL section above) but also completed exterior painting and the replacement of some old, deteriorated windows.