I’m still reeling from 2014 in many ways. It’s been one of those good-hard years. It was a learning curve year for me in many ways – figuring out what I love and what I don’t, what I’m good at and why it’s exhausting to do things simply because others expect it of you or because you thought it sounded like a good idea at the time. I made a lot of mistakes this year. (I won’t subject you to all of my navel gazing in this area, not yet anyway. I am a blogger after all, so no doubt some narcissistic pondering will follow at some point.)
But one thing I did learn this year was to keep my own secrets and sit with my thoughts a bit better. Sometimes I wonder if, in our rush for authenticity, we have forgotten how beautiful it can be to keep secrets. Not the shameful kind but the “just for us” kind, I mean. I’ve purposely been practicing the spiritual discipline of secrecy for much of what is going on in my heart and spirit these past few months. At first it was so difficult and weird – is it real if you don’t document it on Facebook or blog about it?! – but now I’ve relearned the truth that new life often comes forth in quiet, hidden, and sacred places. In the meantime, keeping secrets and holding more of our stories and evolutions, our victories or sorrows close to the bone suits just fine. Who knew, eh?
As a writer – or any kind of minister or artist perhaps – it’s hard not to turn one’s life into content or impose narrative for every moment. The discipline of keeping secrets is a good cure for simply letting it unfold for a while, without expectation of affirmation or criticism.
But practically, this meant that I didn’t blog as much as usual and a lot of what has been happening in my heart/mind/spirit has gone unwritten. I went from blogging almost every day to just a few posts every month, even taking whole months off here and there throughout the year. I’ve even had to take a break from responding to email altogether which is way out of character for me (I love to hear from readers and usually make the time to respond personally to each email I receive).
Of course there are other reasons for my sporadic blogging this year: a surprise new baby coming which completely disoriented us, a new book to finish writing (and I will share all about that in January), travelling and speaking all over North America, stewarding the message of Jesus Feminist throughout her first year of life, creating the Jesus Feminist collection with Imagine Goods, a trip to Haiti, new opportunities as a writer, three tinies at home with their own lives and drama and growth and change, remodelling parts of our home, marriage, church, friends, life, work, laundry (oh, can we talk laundry?!), meals, and everything that goes into keeping the wheels on the life of a busy young family.
No wonder I need a nap.
Anyway. Enough of that.
Here are the most popular posts that I wrote in 2014 … with a few behind-the-scenes thoughts for each one.
1. In which I am learning to live with the ache :: I dashed this one off last January, never dreaming that it would strike the nerve that it did. Turns out, we’re not alone. Of course, just six months later, we had a surprise pregnancy and one of the first things everyone said to us – online and off – was “So much for that ache!” But I still love this post so much and I deeply connect with it, I know I’ll be revisiting it again soon since we are DEFINITELY COMPLETELY DONE after this tiny arrives.
2. In which I have a few things to tell you about Ferguson :: I very rarely editorialize like this anymore. But I was so deeply moved – and remain so deeply moved – by the protests in Ferguson and the growing #BlackLivesMatter movement in the United States as it continues. And it bothered me that it took so long for the American white Christian blogosphere to react to the so I just went and ahead and did it. I probably didn’t have any place weighing in. I got a lot of hate for this post but I don’t regret it. It was a small and insignificant thing to do in the big picture, I’m under no illusions.
3. 173 Beats a Minute: On one surprising little baby and the possibility of miracles :: This is our miracle baby story. I still can hardly believe that this really happened and is happening right now. I’m 31 weeks pregnant as I write this and I’m still just stupid grateful – when I’m not overwhelmed.
4. In which I disagree with Candace Cameron Bure about “biblical” marriage :: I read Bure’s comments about “biblical marriage” and I had to respond to that phrase in particular as she re-ignited the conversation in pop culture about what Christians really believe about headship/submission in marriage. I’m passionate about the topic, personally, of course, but in all of the conversations I’ve had since Jesus Feminist came out, I’ve come to realise that it’s even more important than I could have dreamed to speak the truth here and teach the truth in our communities. My husband and I submit to one another as we both submit to Christ. We learned that from our Bibles.
5. In which this is for the ones leaving evangelicalism :: I wrote this after the World Vision thing earlier in the year. Their hiring reversal hurt the GLBTQ community deeply as well as their allies, let alone the 10,000 vulnerable kids who lost sponsorships, so a lot of people were talking about how they were done, done, done with evangelicalism. Which I thought was just fine. And so I began to think about when I took a step out of the culture of evangelicalism – many years ago and my reasons were more related to women’s issues as well as the Iraq war – and I wrote this letter to all the ones who were leaving, the way that I wished people had spoken to me when I set out away from my faith tradition. I also did a follow up piece about the ones who chose to stay. These themes are a big part of my new book, incidentally.
6. Soapbox Warning: On Jian Ghomeshi and the acceptability of sexual violence against women :: Oh, this post. What a firestorm this one became. I was overwhelmed with responses of support, the devastating stories from survivors, and then the inevitable backlash. Eventually, it became hard for me to sort out the legitimate critiques from the violent abuse that came my way from every angle and that was when I had to step away altogether and simply let it stand as-is.
7. Guard Your Gates :: I loved this post and I’m happy to see it in the popular ones for the year. I don’t write about the tinies as much anymore, out of respect for their own stories and lives. So that means that a big portion of my life and heart never makes it onto the blog. I felt like maybe this was a way to write about how God parents me as I parent – without selling my tinies out – so I will try to do more of it in the future. Parenting is my greatest altar for meeting God and I am still figuring out how to write about it as the tinies grow up.
8. Women in Bikinis :: The backlash to this one shocked me. I thought I was just writing a nice little homage to my friends and the way that they set me free in so many ways, using the bikini thing as a metaphor, but instead I set off a modesty debate in the comment section that left me shaking my head. I don’t get it, man. Some debates are just a baffling waste of time to me and this is one of them.
9. In which you are not forgotten :: This was my first video released from The Work of the People. Travis Reed had come up to visit back in April and he filmed a day of conversations. In this one, I talked about a pastor who encouraged me with a word from God after one of my miscarriages and how her words – “You are not forgotten” – have become one of my cries of my heart for our world. I loved how it turned out and I love that so many watched it and felt seen, even if just for a moment.
10. In which I don’t mind if the tinies see me on the computer :: I absolutely hate mum-guilt. And I loved this post because it married a few things I’m passionate about – motherhood, freedom, the sanctity of work, and family dynamics. It was one of the rare times when I didn’t regret getting out my soapbox and having a good old-fashioned rant.
Okay, now in looking over these popular posts, I see a trend….. The posts that get shared or commented or liked are often controversial ones. And let’s be honest, I’m not that controversial. I very rarely write what I call “response” posts – editorializing, ranting or reactions to either news or the writings/sayings of other people. And yet those are often my most popular posts with the most traffic, the most comments, the most shares, the most accompanying outrage – and the most overwhelming email inbox.
Meanwhile, the posts that I personally like the best or feel most represent me as a writer are often flying under the radar.
So in addition to the Top 10 of the year, I wanted to share a couple more posts – these are the posts that I actually liked or feel represent my year of writing, even if no one else liked them or tweeted about them, even if they are an out-of-fashion style of blogging like story-telling or moment-capturing. I’m more that type of blogger than the click-baiter or the response-writer or editorialist anyway, who are we kidding?
I needed to see her :: I wrote this one after my church’s Christmas ladies’ event. I was feeling very emotional about it already – I could blame the pregnancy hormones but we all know I’m a feeler – and then my friend, Tracy, who is our worship pastor sent me that picture in the post. It seemed powerful to me somehow – the image of a pregnant woman preaching about the Incarnation – and i got to thinking of all the women I needed to see in my life in order to step out into freedom and the post grew out of that.
Being Brave Together :: I loved this post because it captures so much of what drives me these days, what makes me brave, and the real-flip-side of how bravery doesn’t feel good to me. some people get a rush from being brave, not me. I’m too much of a people-pleaser still to love it. So this was a wrestling. And then I published it right after my Jian Ghomeshi post even though I actually wrote it before I had even heard of the scandal. I had it ready to go in the queue when I decided to hold off and do the Jian one first. But boy, was it timely to re-read after that one erupted.
October’s Lady :: This is some of my favourite writing to do and yet the stuff that rarely resonates with readers. Go figure.
Instructions for an evening :: Again, I love to write like this but it seems that the Internet world isn’t made for this kind of work anymore. But I’m more committed than ever to keeping on with it. It’s how I think and move through the world, so it’s going to show up in my work. This feels more like the truest version of my self.
Be Not Afraid: A Letter to my Charismatic Brothers and Sisters :: I wrote this letter after Charisma News wrote an absolutely heinous editorial justifying islamophobia and then the evangelical world freaked out because Michael Gungor dared to say that he didn’t believe in six day creation (news flash: a lot of Christians don’t and haven’t for millenia). And because I have quietly become more neo-charismatic as I get older, returning to the traditions of my youth, I felt compelled to write about why that kind of stuff drives me bonkers. It’s an insider letter, perhaps, but I still think that’s where good critique arises – from within the family.
We underestimate the foolish and the kind ones: On building the Kingdom of God, peace-making, and bridge-building :: If I had to pick a post that sums up where I am at right now as an activist, this would be it.
In which I fall for the beautiful facade :: Returning to Haiti this year was an important part of my year. I joined the board of Help One Now and so this was an important trip to see the completion of several projects and the rise of a few new ones, as well as reconnect with our partners on the ground. But this post pretty much serves as a parable for how I miss the point and fall for the beautiful lie in development or activist work still. I wish it had gone a bit more popular because I felt like the idea behind it is applicable to so many areas of our life as believers, particularly in the Church, but what can you do? When I post about Haiti, few people read, even fewer share.
Tell them about the love that doesn’t show up in movies :: I didn’t do much writing in my never-ending series of “What Love Looks Like” but I did love this one. It’s a song for the vast middle part of a love story.
Before I sign off for 2014 and begin to look ahead to 2015, I need to take a moment to thank each of you for reading here and for being part of our life. It means more to me than you could know that you are here with me.
Saying “thank you” seems inadequate but it’s all I have right now: thank you. Thank you for reading, for commenting, for our funny and deep and weird conversations on Twitter and Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, for your emails and letters, for your support and critiques, for showing up to the events in churches and community centres where I stumbled over my words and hugged you a bit too tightly and likely cried, for buying my little yellow book, for your prayers for me and my family, for staying with me, really, for all of it.