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 and 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!

10 Things I Learned in February 2017

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It’s been a while since I wrote a “10 Things I Learned” post. Life has been full lately, so I’ve had less capacity to blog. But here we are!

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. “10 Things I Learned” are some of my favorite posts to write. 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. I love baking bread with wild yeast.

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For several months I’ve been maintaining a sourdough starter, and using it to make all sorts of bread. This is the method used before packaged yeast was created. The rhythm of feeding the starter (which I named “Nasty Woman”) with new flour and water to keep the yeast active has become a part of my daily routine. And now our kitchen is often filled with the scent of rising dough, freshly baked sourdough, and crusty baguettes.

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2. If you’re ready to do a deep dive into self-awareness, explore your Enneagram type.

The Enneagram is a tool that helps you identify your personality within a spectrum of 9 different personality types. I began learning about the Enneagram several years ago, and it has given me so much insight into who I am, what motivates me, and how to continue growing.

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I’ve read several books on the Enneagram, and recommend The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Riso and Russ Hudson, and The Road Back to You by Ian Cron and Susanne Stabile (they also have a podcast!). For those who are curious, I am a type 1 (the Reformer) with a 2 wing.

3. Spotify is amazing.

We just started using Spotify, and YOU GUYS, GAME CHANGER. But you all probably know this because I’m pretty late to the discovery. I love that I have access to so many digital albums and songs, without the hassle of having to actually own and store them. I thank Spotify for all the hours I get to listen to Hamilton on loop and create Disney playlists for my kids.

4. My favorite weekly ritual is our family’s “Golden Fork and Spoon Night.”

Once a week, one person in our family gets to use the special golden utensils at dinner. During that meal, the rest of the family shares all the things we appreciate and love about that one person. It is a way to celebrate and affirm each person, and create space for gratitude as a family.

5. I get excited about packing.

This makes sense given I am an Enneagram 1 as mentioned above. Creating lists and order are comforting. But now I love packing even more since discovering eBags.

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I received the eBags Weekender Convertible, an awesome carry-on travel backpack, as a Christmas present. Later I purchased the packing cubes and toiletry case. I’m a huge fan of the well-designed eBags products.

6. I am rich in friendship.

Several recent occasions reminded me of this. Steve and I took a trip to Los Angeles, where we had the pleasure of reconnecting with many friends from our 15+ years of living there. We’ve also hosted a few gatherings in our home in the last few weeks. These experiences were brief snapshots of the many lifelong friendships I’ve been given, and I am so grateful.

7. Parenting three kids makes my life a lot more fun.

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I love how much fun my kids add to my life. Because of them, my days involve more play, imagination, and humor.

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8. Lagunitas Brewing Company is churning out some of my current favorite beers.

Try their IPA, Undercover Investigation Shut Down, or Brown Sugga.’ Mmmm.

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9. Storytelling is a powerful way to increase empathy and compassion.

Have you watched a movie or read a story that invites you into a human experience other than your own? If you allow yourself to enter into the story without judgement, you begin to understand the perspective of other people. I watched a recent episode of This Is Us (so good!) that showed a major character experiencing an anxiety attack. It was heartbreaking, and deepened my compassion for people who deal with this level of anxiety.

Our world is filled with an ocean of human experience. Let’s all resist the temptation to remain in our own bubbles, and listen to stories of people who are different than us. Listen to the people with whom you cross paths. Read books from authors who have a different background than you. Watch films that shine light on topics that may make you feel uncomfortable. Perhaps you’ll grow.

10. If I could, I’d wear a flannel shirt and jogger pants all the livelong day.

Steve Jobs was known for wearing black turtleneck and jeans every day. Maybe my flannel shirt and jogger pants uniform will increase my visionary leadership and innovation. Or maybe it’ll decrease all my productivity altogether.