Photo by stockerre
I’m all for not dwelling on the past—for making the New Year all about new dreams and goals and ideas. But I’m also a fan of continuity and transitions. I want the New Year to be one that builds on the relationships, lessons, and progress of the old year.
So I just spent some time reflecting on some of the best moments of 2012—particularly the good things that stem from my online community and life as a writer. I hope you’ll enjoy this little stroll down Memory Lane 2012, revisiting some important lessons and getting to know some pretty special people.
The Bible & Beer discussion group Jason and I help lead opened 2012 with a series examining “Christianese”—all that jargon that rubs lots of Christians and non-Christians alike the wrong way. The Bible & Beer discussions were great fodder for blog posts and for extended conversations via the blog and Twitter. I’m continually thankful for a community of friends—on-line and here in town—who are willing to wrestle these topics with me. Trimming back the Christianese and Should all Christian jargon be taboo? are two posts on the topic.
One of the things I love about building a blogging community is the opportunity to write guest posts for smart friends who dream up great blog series ideas. In February, when my passion for blogging and everything else might have been in hibernation, both Preston Yancy and Hopeful Leigh asked me to write posts for their series—one about “the beautiful, mangled church,” and the other about love:
- Vernon’s Chair
- This Is How We Met
March always makes me think of my kindred spirit, Jennifer Luitwieler, whose birthday is one day after mine in March. Jen and I first met the summer of 1990, and our friendship has been all over the map (literally and figuratively) since then. (There’s more about it in this post.) I’ll keep it short and just say if you don’t know Jen, you should. (She’s @jenluit on Twitter, btw.)
And thanks to Jen, I also got to know Shawn Smucker, a great writer and friend who released the book “Building A Life Out Of Words” in March (I wrote about it here). Over the summer, Shawn, along with his wife Maile and their four kids traveled across the country, stopping along the way to visit Jen’s family and then my family (and then Shawn wrote a book about their journey: How To Use a Runaway Truck Ramp). How cool is that?
April was a pretty amazing month in terms of both writing inspiration and finally getting to meet some of my closest online friends in real life. It all happened in the span of a couple of days at the Festival of Faith and Writing. Here’s the post I wrote about the most important things I learned (The writer vs. fear), and here are some of the people I got to deepen friendships with:
- Suzannah Paul
- Ed Cyzewski
- Addie Zierman
- Micha Boyett
In May, my husband Jason and I celebrated our fifth anniversary. While it might seem like my relationship with Jason is sort of out of place here in this review, it also fits perfectly, because my marriage has a lot to do with my redemption story, which means I end up writing about it a lot—on my blog, in the book I’m working on, and for Huffington Post. Here’s the post I wrote for our anniversary: Why I said “yes” to marriage again.
June is when Shawn Smucker and his family (see March) stopped by our house for dinner, which resulted in a post about the ins and outs of online communities (Keeping up with the Twitter Jonses), but mostly when I think about June I think about the incredible week I spent at the Glen Workshop, in Lauren Winner’s memoir workshop. Lauren Winner been a faith and writing hero of mine for many years, and she opened my eyes to some pretty important ideas about writing memoir (I wrote about them in the post What growth looks like). I also got to spend the week getting to know some amazing people:
- Katie Noah Gibson (we shared a dorm room—it was like we were in college again!)
- Stephanie Smith
- Kari Baumann
- Jenni Simmons (editor of Art House America)
- Alissa Wilkinson
- Daniel Bowman
- China Kent (an amazing songwriter and musician)
I started writing a regular column for RELEVANT in July, which led to my meeting Christianne, who was my editor for the first six months. I was so grateful for her insights and encouragement then, and I’m glad our connection has continued through Twitter and our blogs. Here’s one of my first RELEVANT posts: Uniquely you (sort of).
Summer—especially late summer—can be tough when it comes to keeping the ideas flowing and your blog alive. But this past August, some controversy around Chik-Fil-A kept the blogosphere hopping. I was thankful for a group of feisty-but-wise friends (led by Jen Luitwieler and Andi Cumbo) who organized a blog link-up around the idea of being “quick-to-listen” rather than quick to add fuel to the culture wars. Here is my contribution (which includes links to others): Can love silence all this shouting?
I had already treated myself to so much writing inspiration and community building, with the Festival of Faith & Writing and the Glen Workshop, but when I heard how many of my favorite blogging friends were going to be at the STORY conference in Chicago, I could resist (and I couldn’t resist talking Jen Luitwieler into driving up from Tulsa to join me). In the days leading up to the conference I wrote a post about all the good that comes out of online communities. Here’s a recap of what I learned, and these are some of the amazing writers and friends I was able to hang out with:
- Alise Wright
- Emily McMiller
- Caris Adel
- Elora Nicole
- Tony Alicea
- Bethany Suckrow
- Sonny Lemmons
- Lisa Colon Delay
- Leanne Penny
- Lore Ferguson
- Katie Axelson
Rachel Held Evans, who I first met at the Festival of Faith & Writing in 2010, released her second fabulous book in October, A Year Of Biblical Womanhood. The book was met with much acclaim as well as much controversy, and while I feel alternately sad and angry about the things Christians argue about, I’m also proud of Rachel for advancing important issues with so much intelligence and grace. Here’s a “letter” I wrote to her on the publication of her book.
In October I was also invited to speak to the creative writing students at Taylor University, where Dan Bowman (who I met at the Glen) is a professor. I loved the opportunity to meet with students and share much of what I’ve learned this year about writing creative nonfiction. My post Stories are shaped like C’s sums up part of what I shared with them.
November was a month marked by serious book writing, thanks to the Non-fiction Book Writing Master Class I signed up for at Media Bistro. The course, taught by Columbia University writing professor Leslie Sharpe, required turning in 10 new, solid pages of writing each week, which amounts to about a chapter. It was quite a journey, both emotionally and in terms of craft. These two posts share a bit more about that experience: When we need peace most and Is all writing right for blogs?
Finally, December was a month of emotional in-betweens, so that’s what I often ended up writing about in posts like A home in-between and Anger and Advent. While the process of writing was decent therapy, I was particularly encouraged by others who were experiencing and writing about some of the same emotions, including Alise, Preston, Addie, Suzannah, Lisa, Jen, and Ray. Having kindred spirits in those in-between places, and throughout the year, has been a gift from God.
Happy New Year, friends! Blessings to all of you who are in some way a part of my community—you all bless me in countless ways.