Reflections On 2017

Happy New Year (1)

Happy new year, everyone! And welcome to 2018.

Near the end of the year, I take time to reflect on the past year. It helps me to remember what I learned, step back a take a deeper look, and embrace the coming of a new year. Here are my reflections from 2016.

1. What was the best thing that happened this year?

Our family had many adventures with God in ministry. It was a year filled with risk-taking, powerful moments, and loving people. Along with a team of friends, we started a faith community in our house that has been a place of so much life and joy.

2. What was the most challenging thing that happened?

Adjusting to new life rhythms. I had a hard time figuring out how to allot my time, especially with rest, exercise, and writing.

3. What was an unexpected joy?

Finding our beautiful house. This was a journey that began in fall of 2016, when Steve and I were praying, and sensed God telling us to move to Kapolei, a city in West Oahu. After twists, turns, miracles, and lots of seeking God, we were able to buy a home. It is in Kapolei, perfectly suited for our family and hosting gatherings. It feels very much like where God intends us to be right now.

4. What was an unexpected obstacle?

A need for friendship. I need more depth in relationship with peers, and have felt a lacking in that area of life.

5. Pick three words to describe 2017.

Messy. Presence. Planting.

6. What were the best books you read this year?

Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish – For any bread-bakers out there, this is a great book that teaches you principles and methods of baking naturally leavened bread.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates – This was such a powerful, haunting read. At times beautiful and painful, it stuck with me all year more than other books I read.

Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton – I’ve been slowly digesting the life wisdom within this book. Barton has long been a favorite author of mine. She writes with authority about the road to spiritual formation, and in a way that actually leads her readers into the transformation they are seeking.

7. What did you do in 2017 that you’ve never done before?

This year I committed to the practice of asking God, “What are you doing right now, and how do you want me to partner with you?” I asked, I listened, and more often than not, I sensed God speaking. This simple interaction with God has shaped me so deeply. I’ve become more expectant in mundane daily moments that God might show up in a powerful way. I’ve had a deepening conviction that God is active and alive. I’ve flexed new listening and faith muscles.

8. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I suppose the practice I described in #7 could be considered my new year’s resolution for 2017. Sometime early last year, I committed to asking God the question, ” What are you doing right now, and how to you want me to partner with you?” Also in 2017, I had the goals of planting a thriving faith community (which we’re continuing to do), start a gathering for artists and creatives (which I did), and buy a home on Oahu (which we did). I’d say I kept my resolutions from last year.

For 2018, I am going to do the following:

  • Exercise 3-4 times a week.
  • Meet with a spiritual director monthly.
  • Invest in a few primary peer friendships.
  • Do the Life Reflection once a week.

Speaking of resolutions, I wrote this post last year on my Spiritual Journey blog, 6 Reflection Questions to Help You Live Out Your Purpose. Reading through it again today helped me consider my goals for this new year.

9. For what are you most grateful?

I am grateful for a deepening relationship with God that is dynamic, alive, and ever-evolving.

10. How did you change this year?

I say yes more. Yes to God, yes to others, yes to my own soul, yes to opportunities that feel scary.

11. What moments were most memorable?

Moving into our new house. Getting our puppy, Pono. Meeting several people who are now part of our faith community. Reconciliation with a friend, where I received grace and forgiveness.

12. What were your greatest discoveries?

  • These fabulous bedsheets. Game changer.
  • The joy of baking naturally leavened bread.
  • I’m more of a dog person than I thought.
  • Having a community that comes together in pain and celebration is a beautiful part of life.
  • Times of solitude and quiet are precious to me.

13. What are you looking forward to this coming year?

I am looking forward to stewarding myself, my time, and my resources with faith and fruitfulness.

14. What was the most significant thing you learned this year?

I’m in need of grace again and again.

10 Things I Learned in November 2017

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This habit of writing down what I’m learning helps me pay attention to life, myself, and God’s presence. It’s my way of reflecting and celebrating. I love the process of looking back, and seeing the deeper lessons that I might otherwise miss.

In no particular order, here are 10 things I learned this month.

1. Getting a dog was good for our family.

This is Pono (Hawaiian for “righteousness”), and he is our sweet, energetic labrador. He joined our family in June. The first few months with our puppy were craaaazy – he chewed up everything, peed everywhere in the house, and took lots of attention. But now he’s mellowing out, and is super fun and less work. Look at his little face…LOVE.

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2. How to cook the fastest, easiest Thanksgiving turkey.

Over the years, I’ve probably cooked turkey using six different methods. But this method of butterflying the turkey really ended up being super moist and tasty. Note: I dry brined the turkey 48 hours ahead of time with a generous layer of salt. I’ll cook our turkey this way in the future because it was so delicious.

Also a good Thanksgiving tip: if you have lots of leftovers, invite friends over the next day for a Thanksgiving potluck!

3. A capsule wardrobe is the better way to pack.

I am a minimalist packer when I travel. I hate packing more than necessary, especially now that we have a family of five. So my solution for trips is now to create a capsule wardrobe when I’m planning what to pack. The idea is that you pick carefully chosen pieces that can work in multiple outfit combinations. I use the Stylebook app to do this, and I make sure to use a lot of neutrals with a few accent colors. If you’ve heard me talk about this app, you’ll know that I am an evangelist about it. Below is my capsule wardrobe for our upcoming December trip to California. Oh joy, I get to wear scarves and knit hats! The photo below doesn’t include undergarments or jewelry, but you get the idea.

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4. There is evidence that women have less confidence than men, and that confidence matters as much as competence.

This article from The Atlantic resonates with my own experiences as a woman, as well as many women I know. Reading this article caused me to reflect deeply about how confidence has played out in my life, what I’ve done in the face of inner fear, and how I’ve grown in self-assurance.

5. When I am upset, I need to take a deep breath and think before speaking.

If I am angry about something, my immediate instinct is to say something. But sometimes (often) the first thing out of my mouth is reactionary and unhelpful. I am working on disciplining myself to pause first. Consider what the situation is, and think about how to respond in a way that creates something good.

I have moments of forgetting to do this, and then need to apologize. When I do, I use this simple framework for a good apology.

6. The fall season makes me want ginger and soup.

I’ll pass on the pumpkin spice everything – I’d rather have gingerbread lattes. I’ve already made several batches of these chewy molasses ginger cookies. They were a hit at my friend’s cookie exchange.

As far as soup, some of our family favorites are Meatball SoupZuppa Toscana, and Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo.

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7. Mundane moments can be the place of miraculous God encounters.

Our faith community has been praying for and seeking more of God’s presence and revival, and it has been incredible to witness. There have been miraculous healings, dreams, prophecies, and spiritual breakthroughs, all happening in very ordinary moments and people. What a wondrous journey we’re on!

8. I get a burst of joy watching my daughter dance hula.

Alexandra is among the youngest dancers in her halau, and even though half the time she’s offbeat or out of step, her enjoyment as she dances is so fun to watch. She sways to the music with flair and smiles through every dance. I love it.

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9 . My guilty pleasure is Nongshim Hot & Spicy Bowl Noodle Soup.

I know…it’s terribly not nutritious, full of awful preservatives, and has a name with poor grammar (“bowl noodle soup”? Who speaks like that?). But I don’t care. If it’s a chilly afternoon, I drop in an egg and some spinach (healthier!), and zap it in the microwave. Yummy Asian comfort food in three minutes.

10. The book Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend continues to be an essential source of wisdom.

I think I originally read this in college, and have since read it several other times. It is all about having a healthy framework of identity, and defines who you are and who you are not. I love it because it guides you in how to relate to people in healthy ways. I’m now reading another book by the same authors, How People Grow.

Other good books I’ve read recently: Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull and Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.

What about you? What things did you learn this month? Tell me your lessons or favorites!

How to Apologize

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Yesterday I apologized to my 8-year-old son, Aaron. I got angry, and spoke to him with a tone that was mean and harsh. Immediately after, I knew that my reaction had been unkind and ungracious, and had hurt his feelings. So I apologized to him.

I’ve had many, many times of needing to apologize. With my friends, with my kids, with my husband. And I can’t even count the number of times on any given day that we are coaching our kids to apologize to each other and reconcile conflict. I’m no expert, but I do have the experience of what a good apology can do to repair and strengthen a relationship. In contrast, I have seen how an incomplete or non-apology damages relationship and allows pain to fester.

We all mess up and hurt people. Conflict is inevitable. And when conflict happens, we have the power to choose whether we’ll allow the damaged relationship to stay that way, or to work toward reconciliation. In my marriage, I’ve experienced the messiness of conflict, but also the deep joy and intimacy that follows a good apology.

When we apologize, we open dialogue with the person we hurt, take responsibility and acknowledge the pain we caused, and ultimately, seize an opportunity to do better next time.

A good apology has two key elements:

  1. It shows remorse over your actions.
  2. It acknowledges the pain your actions caused to someone else.

It is not easy to apologize well. It is simple, but not easy. An effective apology takes courage and humility. Oftentimes, we react to our own wrongdoings with shame, fear, or defensiveness, all of which don’t aid us in good apologies. We’ve all probably heard (and perhaps spoken) non-apologies.

Here are some examples of non-apology apologies:

“I’m sorry that you feel that way.” A non-apology that doesn’t admit that there was any wrongdoing.

“I’m sorry that your feelings were hurt, but…” The non-apology that shifts blame to someone else, or essentially says that the other person is being overly sensitive. Adding a “but” to any apology basically ends up being a non-apology.

“Sorry to whoever feels offended.” The generic, vague non-apology that doesn’t require taking responsibility.

“Sorry.” Followed by a “Let’s just move on.” Another vague non-apology that doesn’t take responsibility for any specific wrongdoing, and doesn’t do any repair.

The Pre-Step: Listen

To truly apologize well, one must first seek to understand how the other person was hurt or affected by the wrongdoing. That means listening with empathy. Before apologizing, it may be helpful to clarify what the wrongdoing was. If I hurt someone, I usually first ask the person something like, “How did I hurt you?” or “What did I do that caused you pain?” Then I shut up and listen. Without protests or justifications. Only after getting to a place of understanding the pain I caused, I can then truly apologize. Listening also creates a pathway for the person to receive my apology, because they know that I am clear about my wrongdoing.

Now let’s look at the steps of a good apology. A good apology will communicate three things: remorse, responsibility, and remedy.

How to Apologize

Step 1: Express Remorse

An apology needs to express remorse (or regret) for the actions that caused pain. Use the words “I’m sorry” or “I apologize.” These words are simple, yet powerful. There is no apology if these words aren’t said.

In my apology to my son, I said this, “I am sorry that I snapped at you yesterday. I reacted too harshly, and wasn’t gracious.”

Step 2: Admit Responsibility

Take responsibility for your actions, and the effects they had on the other person. This step involves empathizing with the other person (no matter what your original intentions were), and demonstrating that you understand how you made the person feel.

“I know that I hurt your feelings, and made you feel bad. That was wrong.”

Step 3: Remedy the Situation

When you remedy the situation, you repair what has been damaged and make it right. You also commit to do better next time.

My words caused Aaron to feel bad. To repair that, I told him, “You are important to me, and I love you. I want to treat you with kindness. I’ll work on speaking more gently to you. And if I speak to you harshly in the future, you can call me out on that.”

Remedying the situation leads you to consider how to treat the person better, and not cause them the same pain as before. Remedying the situation means assuring the person that you will change your behavior, and following through on it. This is a commitment on your end to rebuild trust through doing better in the future.

A few other thoughts on apologies…

  • If apologies don’t come naturally, prepare your apology. It may help to write out what you want to say. You can also role-play your apology with a trusted friend.
  • An apology needs to acknowledge the truth of the other person’s feelings. It’s not a matter of who is “right” or “wrong,” since we all experience and interpret situations subjectively.
  • Express your intentions, but don’t excuse your behaviors. This takes nuance and thoughtfulness. You may express that your intention wasn’t to harm the other person, and that you value and care about him or her. But keep the focus on the wrongdoing, and take responsibility for it.
  • You can ask for forgiveness, but you can’t force it. Our family considers forgiveness to be an crucial part of repairing damaged relationships. But forgiveness isn’t always instantaneous, and is sometimes a process that may take time. We encourage our kids to ask for forgiveness as part of the Remedy the Situation in Step 3. The kid being asked for forgiveness is allowed to take time and space, and forgive the wrongdoing when they are ready.

If we’re willing to do the hard work of apologizing well, we’ll reap the benefit of deepening relationships with the people in our lives.