Reflection and Roundup: My Writing in 2017

Reflection

2017 has been a landmark year for me as a writer, in some ways obvious and others not at all. I’ve written for more publications than ever before, and while that’s been a satisfying accomplishment to be sure, there have been two other developments in my writing life that mean immeasurably more to me as both a person and a writer.

The first is that I learned to appreciate editorial feedback. The first time I received substantive edits on my work, I started sweating, slammed my computer shut, and considered never writing again. 24 hours later, I relooked at the feedback and slowly began to realize that if someone cared enough to critique my work, that meant they saw something in it that was worth saying.

Good editors aren’t destroying what I’ve created, they’re helping me mine it for treasure. My affection for editorial input has risen to an almost comical point now. I crave feedback, which leads to the second development.

I used to think of writing as inherently lonely, or at least as a task primarily undertaken alone. But due to friendships with fellow writers, editors, and readers, I now think of writing as one of the most profoundly communal dimensions of my life. A few pieces I wrote this year were conceptualized by other people, including my favorite piece of 2017, and there’s been nary a piece I’ve sent to an editor without asking at least two other people to read it and offer feedback first.

I’ve formed friendships over the past year that have offered me safety, challenge, comfort, and encouragement both as a person and a writer. While I have every intention of continuing to pursue new writing and publishing opportunities, there is no byline or book deal in the world that could offer me the joy those friendships born of vulnerability in both writing and relationship have offered to me.

Roundup

These are my favorite nine pieces I wrote this year.

When Mark Driscoll, Tullian Tchividjian, and Derek Webb seemed to reappear at once in my Twitter feed, I contemplated the allure of Christian celebrity and the precarious nature of Provocative Platforms. [Fathom Mag]

Upon the conclusion of the Gilmore Guys podcast, I penned a tribute to the way they offered Hope in my Earbuds. It is, in one sense, a piece about a niche bit of pop culture, but in a much greater sense, it’s about hospitality and family. [Christ and Pop Culture]

Life often seems to pay no mind to how hot the water is getting, how greatly the pressure is bearing down. I wrote about this broken world’s way of Extracting the Essence in an essay to my husband. [Mothers Always Write]

Through the lens of the poem Good Bones by Maggie Smith, I explored the idea of Parenting as Narrating, and what it means to tell the story of life to our children. [Fathom Mag]

My marriage is the result of two teenagers choosing one another when we barely knew what that meant, when we were novices at the practice of Shedding Summer Skin together. I pondered our story, the power of music and memory, and the band Death Cab for Cutie in a reflective essay. [Christ and Pop Culture]

After writing only prose since my days of angsty high school poetry, I tried my hand at a poem about motherhood called I Smile at the Bruises. [Fathom Mag]

A Thursday night of Shondaland viewing led to a conversation with several friends, and ultimately an article, about a question I find myself asking often: Are Women Really Welcome in the World? [Christ and Pop Culture]

It’s of deepest importance to me that my practice of writing be deeply intertwined with tangibly doing justice and loving mercy in my day to day life. That intertwine found its way into a piece on How to Be Faithful and Focused in the Face of the World’s Pain. [iBelieve]

I asked what it is about Louisa May Alcott’s March sisters that keeps us coming back to them, and how the church might embody a similarly compelling posture, in Little Women and the Imaginative Power of Family Identity. [Christ and Pop Culture]

I’ll think back on 2017 with deep fondness as a writer for decades. It was the year I turned over a new leaf in writing toward my voice, became a podcast co-host, wrote a study guide for a book, and traded in tightly clenched fears for hands more free to love in word and deed. It was a year of continuing to be pressed thin, of undoing and redoing, of preparing me for the mantra I’ve chosen for 2018: “an ear to the ground–and wait” (Charles Bruce).

Toward greater love, deeper listening, and what I pray will be beneficial writing, I go.

a few quick thoughts + excitement for tomorrow.

When I first started considering the possibility of crafting a newsletter, a somewhat nebulous fear orbited around me. I wondered if I would be able to produce enough material to blog regularly, work on book projects, pitch articles elsewhere on the internet, be engaged on social media and give the newsletter the attention it deserved. I don’t want to be tossing words out into the wind, filling your ears (eyes?) with more and more and more stuff. Heaven knows that each of us is inundated with “content” day in and day out, and sometimes, it’s just too much.

I have many thoughts on that problem of our era, and perhaps I’ll explore them more in future pieces, but for now, what I want you to know is this. I’ve found that life gives birth to life. As I write words which I am confident came from the Lord and share them with you, He seems to give me more to share, and insight into the best places in which to share them. Some ideas are book ideas, some are for the blog. Some questions fit better in a devotional than a newsletter. Some links are better shared on social media than anywhere else.

This discerning, life-giving spirit is the one in which I’m learning to dwell, and I’m so thankful for how I can see the Lord guiding me in it as I craft April’s newsletter to release tomorrow. I want you to know that it’s written from a place of authenticity, joy, and reality, and that it was written with you in mind, your heart and mind and needs and desires. I’m so excited to see what you think about it.

Make sure you receive Carefully Curated, the Joy Woven Deep newsletter, by signing up here. I can’t wait to give it to you!

From Him | Through Him | To Him,
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where you are when you are here.

On Wednesday night, I attended a mentoring call with Bronwyn Lea through Redbud Writers Guild. During that call, she said something that I think will stick with me permanently, because Bronwyn’s words were ones I’d been looking for but seemed unable to find inside myself. Her words were simple, yet so poignant. I cannot stop thinking of them.

“This is how I think about my blog,” she said. “I think of my blog as an extension of my living room. The things I talk about on my blog are the things I would talk to you about if you were sitting on my couch.”

That is exactly how I feel about this space.

In the world of writers, there is a lot of emphasis on having a sharp, defined focus, on knowing what your niche is and staying within it, as in, “be able to say the distinct purpose, audience and tone of your blog in one sentence.”

(It’s okay, go ahead and laugh at the thought of me trying to communicate anything in one sentence.)

I understand this advice and agree with it to a certain point, but when I’ve tried to sit down and hammer out what it is, exactly, that this blog is meant for, I’ve gotten stuck. I’ve asked friends for help, I’ve talked to writers further down the road, and they’ve helped me get a lot closer, but here’s the thing – I’m just not a 100% pragmatic kind of gal, and I don’t think I ever will be. I love practical application and seek to give tangible advice, but I traffic in the philosophical and theoretical, the patterns behind what we can see, the meaning underneath it all. I tend, eventually, to get to the thing we should do, or be, or embody, but I’m also comfortable lingering a while, spending time in the swirl of thought. And sometimes that just doesn’t boil down very well into a one sentence purpose statement.

But I also want you to know what you’re in for, reader. I want you to know what kind of living room this is, how we talk here, what we discuss. So, with the help of some friends, here are some of the parameters I’ve set around Joy Woven Deep (JWD).

  • JWD exists to help people uncover the deeper places, encouraging them on their daily walk of faith.
  • JWD is a place for writing toward the wild and the rooted, to reveling in the mysteries of God and peering in to all that He reveals.
  • JWD is a reflection of the path God is leading me on, the gifts I believe He has given me, and the insight He imparts to me to share.
  • JWD is motivated by the prompting of the Spirit and conviction surrounding the truth and the ministry of reconciliation; it is not motivated by clicks, readership or numbers.
  • JWD is a space for sharing and conversation, for spurring one another on toward deeper thoughtfulness, stronger affections and meaningful action.

You know what I love about that list? It’s (in nearly every way) the same list I have for my life, relationships, ministry opportunities, family engagement…all of it.

So, yes, this blog is an extension of my living room. A place where I’ll talk personality tests, literary fiction, mass incarceration, Shonda Rhimes, trinitarinism and clinical depression with you in the same night. A place where my kids will make appearances but not be the epicenter of the evening. A place where we come with questions, and sometimes we leave with answers, but sometimes we leave with even more questions. A place where we know each other and love well. A place where you are welcome.

I’m so genuinely glad that you are here with me, that you are a part of what is shaping this space and my desire for it. If there’s anything you would like to see featured or discussed on Joy Woven Deep, would you let me know here or in the post comments? I’d just love to know.

As of yesterday (hooray!), I have a public Facebook page. Would you hop over and “like” it for me? I’ll be so excited to see you. We’ll be hosting a great deal of discussion over there and I don’t want you to miss it.

Thank you for being in this with me.

From Him | Through Him | To Him,

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