Thoughts from This Christmastime

I know that it is time to write here because it has been more than a month since I wrote here last. That is reason enough in itself. If we pile on the significant facts that it is almost Christmas, and that I am, for the time being, off of work, the argument that I should sit down and write a blog entry becomes very, very convincing.

So at about noon, I opened a document and fussed around with all the phrases that have been running around my brain for the last few weeks, but none of them seemed to have much to say for themselves. They were tired, like I am. And then I started googling “Christmas writing prompts,” hoping the internet would save me. After a few abysmal minutes of that, I gave up and have spent about a quarter of an hour staring at the screen, wondering why the often-confident voice in my head is so quiet.

Perhaps it’s because I’m meant to listen for now.

I am meant to listen to the clock ticking.

I am meant to listen to the front door of my building squeak as my neighbor goes in and out.

I am meant to listen to the poetry read aloud.

I am meant to listen to the hiss and bubble of the chili in my crockpot when I stir it.

I am meant to listen when George Bailey shouts in exultation, “My mouth’s bleeding, Bert! My mouth’s bleeding!”

I am meant to listen to the sound of my sock feet padding on the wood floor.

And I am meant to listen to the heavenly refrain that’s been repeating my head, soft and sleepy, like waves on the shore, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests!”


A Brief Come-to-Jesus Meeting with Myself

Just so you know, previous titles of this entry have included “The Very Great Difficulty of Living in Grace” and “Gifts.” It has been sitting in my drive in a half-finished, bits-and-pieces state for a couple weeks now. Every time I come back and fiddle with it, I end up cutting more of it. So now I am just going to tell you (and myself) some things I really need to hear, because maybe you need to hear them too.

There is nothing I can break that my God cannot fix and better. He makes crooked places straight.

In every way that I fall short, he does not. The overblown catalog I have taken to keeping of my failings is, conversely, a list of all the things he is not and never will be. He fills every lack perfectly. So I don’t have to. But if I let him, he will make me holy like him. And that’s a promise.

I am a child of a Father who runs to meet me as I emerge from the slops of the pigs. Who am I not to have hope?

Jesus’ love is for me. I wrote that on here a while back, but now I have something to add: I am for it. I am meant for it, made for it. My very first priority is simply to allow his love to surround me, to exist within it. If I am really doing this, abiding in him, then of course I will be bearing witness to his love and showing it forth to the people around me. Of course.

If I am abiding in him, I am doing enough for today.

You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:                                                                               So I did sit and eat.

Things I Hope I’ve Learned by Now

Always say what you mean and not what you don’t.

If the lives of your friends seem always to be moving faster and more smoothly than yours, remember that the cure for this misconception (as with most misconceptions) is simply to listen more.

Buy yourself flowers whenever you please.

Plan a way to balance work and relationships and sleep and books and church and time to clean the bathroom. When you fail at balancing and fall on your face in the mud, which I promise you will, calmly get up and try again. It’s worth it.

Gas and plane tickets are expensive, but they’re also worth it.

Notice when the sun comes out.

Stock up on spices.

Take it as a compliment when people think you’re older than you are and take it as a compliment when people think you’re younger than you are. This way you will get lots of compliments.

Thank your parents often.

Find at least two convenient, reasonably-priced restaurants you really like. This will come in handy when people want to “Get lunch and catch up.”

If you make a habit of accepting responsibility, others will trust you.

Indulge your eight-year-old self by unclogging blocked drains with baking soda and vinegar.

Guard good friendships with your life. They get more precious every year.

Be decisive. It will make you feel good.

Change your oil regularly.

Accept that some adults never outgrow their childhood meanness. Be kind, but wear armor.

If you ever begin to feel played-out, as if every thought you think is something you have thought before, just read something new. The world is a big place and you can never truly run out of fresh spaces to live in and dream in, even if that living is vicarious.

There is a good chance that most of your greatest fears about yourself are quite true. But be certain that they are entirely insignificant in the face of God’s vast, unending grace.

How to Have a Snow Day (Parts I, II, III, and, apparently, IV)

-Be teacher during midterm exam week.

-Receive expected text cancelling Friday while watching movie with roommate.




Part I: Friday

-Sleep in.

-Smile at snow outside of window.

-Consider actually enjoying snow for once.

-Begin to layer winter clothing.

-Discover heavy boots are MIA.

-Continue to layer winter clothing to make up for deficit of decent boots.

-Gather phone, keys, phone charger, glasses, and similarly layered roommate.

-Realize am probably wearing enough clothing and equipment to go into battle as snow warrior.

-Feel invincible.

-Venture into white, sleety world.

-Climb (small) snowy mountains.

-Arrive at parents’ house.

-Make too-salty cookies.

-Read Wall Street Journal weekend section.

-Revel in Wall Street Journal weekend section.

-Play seven games of Solitaire on floor by wood stove.

-Win only one (by dishonest means).

-Discover heavy boots in parents’ upstairs closet.

-Put on heavy boots and consider possibility of actually becoming snow warrior.

-Ask very nice father for ride home.

-Once home, tromp across street to neighbor-friends’.

-Eat curry.

-Discuss unfortunate bodily functions as well as city council.

-Watch X-Files on squished couch and cover eyes to protect self from aliens.

-Laugh with roommate at people who have cabin fever.

-Make more hot chocolate mix.


Part II: Saturday

-Take hot bath.

-Talk to sister on other side of ocean.

-Marvel at ability to speak to sister on other side of ocean.

-Marvel at possibility of sister’s holiday to Netherlands.

-Enjoy marvelling.

-Layer items of winter clothing.

-Put on heavy boots.

-Rejoice in new freedom endowed by heavy boots and also own potential as snow warrior.

-March out alone toward local grocery store to buy supplies for tomato soup and grilled cheese.

-Walk in middle of street because if not now when.

-Become very warm from snow-aerobics (i.e. walking).

-Desperately remove items of winter clothing.

-Wisely decide against removing boots.

-Encounter happy walking couples, happy playing children, happy bundled houses, and angry driver who reproachfully waves self out of road.

-Decide snow turns entire world into Mayberry.

-Become caught up in joy and self-revelation.

-Decide to write blog entry about new person snow has made self to be.

-Arrive home full of good will and with groceries.

-Do yoga to calm rapidity of beating heart from snow-related epiphanies.

-Make pasta (not tomato soup and grilled cheese).

-Listen to Hamilton at behest of sister.

-Stare glowy eyed at computer for hours reading lyrics.

-Imagine Lin-Manuel Miranda writing brilliant things.

-Imagine self writing brilliant things.

-Consider writing blog entry.

-Consider doing laundry.

-Instead, watch angsty indie love movie in dark room.

-Make not-as-salty cookies.

-Learn to play Dominion.



Part III: Sunday

-Take too-cold bath.

-Walk to parents’ house.

-Play Scrabble and beat parents (though not brother).

-Ignore fact that parents had Very Bad tiles.

-Eat blueberry coffee cake.

-Play Trivial Pursuit.


-Eat pasta.

-Discover afternoon church is cancelled.

-Read Bible and sing hymns with family instead.

-Consider possibility of Monday school cancellation.

-Dismiss possibility as heresy.

-Walk to local coffee shop to meet roommate.

-Carry on long conversation with roommate and brother mocking others’ inability to drive in snow.

-Play Dominion again.

-Lose again.

-Clean off car and successfully run short errand in it.

-Feel smug and also relieved about driving ability.

-Receive woeful text cancelling Monday.

-Imagine students at home stewing in pots of own exam stress.

-Imagine self, on distant-future-day-when-school-resumes, being doused with said exam stress.

-Stew in pot of future-stress-related stress.


-Decide no one in weather-weary world wants to read snow-related blog entry.

-Realize self does not want to write said blog entry because self never wants to write lately anyway.

-Answer emails like a grump.

-Eat dinner cooked by nice roommate who makes food pretty.

-Decide even weather-weary world should not miss out on extreme cleverness and wit.

-Begin to draft cleverness and wit.


Part IV: Monday

-Wake up to sound of roommate heading off to work.

-Feel wistful.

-Watch Downton.

-Make make ambitiously grocery list including four kinds of cheese.

-Put on clothes and also hat and snow warrior boots.


-Discover main roads are clearer than clear.

-Wish main roads were not clearer than clear so would have excuse to avoid big stores full of tired people and school-aged children.

-Spend slightly too much money on food, mostly unnecessary but delicious prosciutto.

-Arrive home in relief.

-Make self hot chocolate as reward for conquering real world as snow warrior.

-Consider the remote possibility of snow day Part V.

-Dismiss potential Part V as heresy.

-Receive email with school schedule for tomorrow.

-Realize snow day Part V actually is heretical and false and definitively not happening.

-Have mixed feelings.

-Smile at remaining snow outside of window.

-Consider becoming sentimental.

-Decide instead to go ahead and start dinner.

Two Weeks

I am a first year teacher, and all year I’ve struggled with how to write on this blog–how to tell the truth, but tell it slant. There have been discarded entries (which I never had in the past) and few which did not really come out how I intended them to. There has also been a lot of staring at the blank page. I want so much to give a clear picture though, because writing helps me understand. The past two weeks have been strange and full and often strangely, fully good, and I want to tell you about them, but even these 336 hours have seemed to contain a lifetime.

I went to play practice for hours every afternoon and night and decorated the set with my favorite books stacked along the back wall.

As part of their prank, the seniors built a ball pit in the room I teach in. So I taught about Imperialism for a few minutes, but then I let my students sit in it and play with all the bright colors, while they wrote letters to someone they were thankful for. And I got to wear a princess crown all that day.

We prayed together during the junior girls’ Bible study and as a faculty at lunch one day–for those who are sick and those who are scared. (Those people are sometimes us.)

Lauren Robinson and I both graded all 44 senior thesis papers in a week and a half. I sat on the floor behind her desk on Wednesday afternoon madly calculating final grades, while the freshmen giggled their way through speech presentations. Late that night the two of us painted the rock, barefoot, with Paul Simon on full volume in her truck. They all passed.

My front tire got slashed by some unknown enemy.

I went down to the gym for a few minutes to watch the juniors and seniors have their last dance lesson. I was charmed by what a good time most of them seemed to be having, but was also deeply grateful that I was no longer out there on the floor.

I ate brunch with Sarah Moon, and we talked about things that were not students and teaching, and it all felt very surreal.

I averaged about four hours of sleep each night.

Students brought me food and Starbucks unbidden and I didn’t know what to do with myself.

It briefly seemed as if my social security number had been stolen by someone in Vermont, and I laughed very hard and happily at the prospect of someone wanting my identity. (It turned out to be a clerical error.)

I got tired of giving critical notes to the students at the end of rehearsal, and just decided they were all cute and could act however they wanted. (Thank God for multiple directors.) Instead, I wandered around Target and Walmart trying to find all the shades of foundation that our supply boxes were running out of and wished I knew something, anything about make-up.

While walking back in from letting my chaotic sixth period do their reading questions outside, I tripped and dropped my large stack of grading all down the stairs. I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I sat down and just looked pathetically back at my students, and they picked it all up in a stunned silence.

I watched our pride and joy, You Can’t Take It With You, from the audience each night and it was still funny every time, even when the fireworks didn’t go off. I laughed and I grinned and sometimes I felt very, very sleepy

And then I turned twenty-three, which is simultaneously much older and much younger than I feel.


Sometimes, in these past two weeks, I have felt blessed and unaccountably successful. At other times, I have wanted to find a small, cozy hole, crawl into it until we reach July, and then bring the calendar to a full stop, preferably for quite some time. But after oversleeping this morning and then cleaning the bathroom while listening to Andrew Peterson, I feel smaller, more on kilter, as if I can fit comfortably into my skin again–I think I had been leaking out of it for a while.

When I write I try to organize and find meaning between all the little things, but it is not always easy. Sometimes I must be content to believe that the truth is somewhere between “Life is pain, highness,” and “Love is all we have left in this world, Grandpa.” I must trust, trust, trust, that my God knows the substance of all this: the bungled works cited pages, the loudly laughing teenagers, the spray paint that took days to wear out of the creases of my fingernails, the chai tea lattes on my desk. He knows what all these little shadows mean.

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

Sixteen Women Worth Your Hero-Worship

This list came about in two ways: first, I was re-reading Jane Eyre. She mused on the inequity between the sexes, and I thought, Go, Jane, go… Then, a few chapters later, she calmly observed that beautiful, soulless Blanche was simply “too inferior to incite jealousy,” and she had me. I watched her forgive her terrible aunt, love and leave Rochester, survive on barren moors, find a family, become independent, resist (sort of) the manipulative advances of St. John, and, at long last, return to care for and marry her former master. I wanted to meet her, to befriend her, to be her. I thought she was the coolest, most self-possessed person I had ever met and she only existed in a book.
The other thing that happened was that I found this list. And I was very, very disappointed. I know, I know, it’s Buzzfeed, what did I expect? But really: about two-thirds of these women I don’t even like at all, and, as for the rest of them, well, I like their movies? But that in no way makes them worthy of large chunks of my admiration and emulation. Which, after my experience with Jane, was what I was searching for.
I believe that it is important to have heroes. (I’m twenty-two and about due for that revelation.)
Not just literary heroes, like Jane, but tangible examples of what it means to live a good life, to do what you can with the time that’s been given you. People to remember, to revere, to consciously try to live up to.
And if you ask most people from the Christian circles I grew up in to name their heroes, they’ll usually give you a splendid list. And that list is going to be almost entirely comprised of men. Great men, good men, wise men, and very few women whatsoever. It is true that well-behaved women rarely make history. For centuries, a woman could expend all her mental, physical, and emotional efforts to serve God and love those around her, and still her name would be forgotten just a generation or two after her death. Wallace was right to say that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world, but history has done an extraordinarily poor job at remembering the names and deeds of those to whom those hands belonged.
So what follows is my little attempt to begin to fix that inequity in my own mind, at the very least. If asked specifically for female heroes we’re likely to name our mothers and grandmothers, aunts and teachers. It is a good thing to recognize the virtues of those around you, particularly those who raised you, and I don’t want to discourage that in the least. But there’s something to be said for the larger-than-life quality inherent in someone who has had national or international impact. To adore and emulate the same virtues in the same person is to build kinship, affection, and understanding with people you have not met yet and may never meet a tall. Literary heroes will serve this office in a sense, but not with the same solidity as people who have actually lived. We need this combination of the actual and the mythic in our heroes. (Those were, after all, the qualities of the Man who died for us and then rose again.)

1) Deborah 1200-1144 BC

Judge of Israel. Dispenses advice under a palm tree. Admonishes the commander of the army for his cowardice. Drags him out of bed so he will go and fight. Rejoices in victory, and writes a song.

“Let those who love Him be like the sun when it comes out in full strength.”

Read: Judges 4-5

2) Esther 400’s BC

Orphaned and then adopted by her cousin. Grows up in lower echelons of society. Becomes queen through her charming personality and God’s providence. Risks death to save her people. Prepares a banquet in the presence of her enemies. Obtains justice for all concerned. Establishes Purim.

“And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”

Read: Esther

3) Eleanor of Aquitaine 1122-1204

Wife of two kings, mother of three (along with five other children.) Queen of both France and England, at different times. Fills her courts with troubadours. Imprisoned for supporting her sons over her husband. Rules England while her son Richard crusades. Generally rides all over Europe on horseback to retrieve wayward offspring. Most influential woman of the 12th century.

“Let the word of the Lord not be bound up in your mouth, nor human fear destroy the spirit of liberty in you. It is more acceptable to fall into the hands of men than to abandon the law of God.”

Read: A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver E.L. Konigsburg

4) Queen Elizabeth I 1533-1603

Outlives her enemies to become queen. Establishes the Church of England. Sends Sir Francis Drake to the new world. Fends off the Spanish Armada. Claims to have the heart and stomach of a king. While imprisoned early in life uses her diamond to write poetry on the window.

“Life is for living and working at. If you find anything or anybody a bore, the fault is in yourself.”
“Fear not, we are of the nature of the lion, and cannot descend to the destruction of mice and such small beasts.”

Read: Elizabeth I: Collected Works

5) Mary Sidney Herbert 1561-1621

Sister of Sir Philip Sidney and related by marriage to George Herbert. Has the queen over for dinner. Raises two sons. Finishes Philip’s translations of the Psalms after his death and completes her own translations of Petrarch. Manages the Pembroke estates. Watches Shakespeare with King James. John Bunyan models the “House Beautiful” on her home.

“Unlock my lips, shut up with sinful shame,
Then shall my mouth, O Lord, thy honour sing;
For bleeding fuel for thy altars flame,
To gain thy grace what boots it me to bring?
Burnt offerings are to thee no pleasant thing;
The sacrifice that God will holde respected
Is the heart-broken soul, the spirit dejected.”

Read: The Collected Works of Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke.

6) Anne Bradstreet 1612-1672

Leaves England for America with her husband at the age of eighteen. Suffers from joint problems and later tuberculosis. Moves all over the New World. Raises eight children. Becomes America’s first published poet and the first woman published anywhere.

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”
“There is no object that we see, no action that we do, no good that we enjoy, no evil that we feel of fear, but we may make some spiritual advantage of all.”

Read: The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning

7) Susanna Wesley 1669-1742

The twenty-fifth of twenty-five children and gives birth to nineteen herself. Has a sometimes absent and incarcerated husband. Raises and educates her ten surviving children, most notably John and Charles Wesley. Survives two severe house fires. Writes meditations and scriptural commentaries. Begins her own Sunday afternoon services in the absence of proper teaching from the church.

“Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, takes off your relish for spiritual things…that thing is sin to you, however innocent it may seem in itself.”

Read: Susanna Wesley, Her Collected Writings

8) Abigail Adams 1744-1818

Wife of the second U.S. president, mother of the sixth. Gives birth to six children. Restores the family home into what is now a National Park. Tells her husband to ‘remember the ladies.’ Has to chop the wood herself while living in the White House.

“If we do not lay out ourselves in the service of mankind whom should we serve?”
“Great necessities call out great virtues.”
“If we mean to have heroes, statesmen and philosophers, we should have learned women.”

Read: The Letters of John and Abigail Adams

9) Julia Ward Howe 1819-1910

Marries Samuel Gridley Howe at the age of twenty-four. Raises her six children while studying foreign languages and writing essays, poetry, and plays on the side. Writes the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Publishes multiple works without her husband’s knowledge. Works to establish Mother’s Day. Travels around Europe and the Caribbean.

“I am confirmed in my division of human energies. Ambitious people climb, but faithful people build.”
“I want to take the word Christianity back to Christ himself, back to that mighty heart whose pulse seems to throb through the world to-day, that endless fountain of charity out of which I believe has come all true progress and all civilization that deserves the name. As a woman I do not wish to dwell upon any trait of exclusiveness in the letter which belongs to a time when such exclusiveness perhaps could not be helped, and which may have been put in where it was not expressed. I go back to that great Spirit which contemplated a sacrifice for the whole of humanity. That sacrifice is not one of exclusion, but of an infinite and endless and joyous inclusion. And I thank God for it.”

Read: Words for the Hour, Modern Society, Sex and Education

10) Fanny Crosby 1820-1915

Blind from infancy. First woman to speak in the U.S. Senate. Joins the Faculty at her alma mater, the New York Institution for the Blind. Marries Alexander Van Alstyne and gives birth to a baby girl who does not survive. Writes almost 9000 hymns using almost 200 pseudonyms. Works devotedly in city rescue missions.

“Thou the Spring of all my comfort,
More than life to me,
Whom have I on earth beside Thee?
Whom in Heav’n but Thee?”
“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
This is my story, this is my song,
praising my Savior all the day long;”

Read: Fanny Crosby’s Life Story, The Blind Girl

11) Christina Rossetti 1830-1894

Youngest of four children, all of whom are very creative. Deals with bouts of depression. Becomes deeply interested in the church. Begins to publish her poetry and eventually hailed as the natural successor to E.B. Browning. Suffers from Graves Disease and breast cancer. Volunteers in a fallen women’s home. Never marries.

“Choose love not in the shallows but in the deep.”
“Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
Yea, beds for all who come.”

Read: Goblin Market and Other Poems

12) Laura Ingalls Wilder 1867-1957

Moves with her family from Wisconsin to Kansas to Minnesota to Iowa to Dakota Territory by the time she is ten. Survives one of the most bitter Dakota winters on record. Begins teaching school at the age of fifteen. Marries Almanzo Wilder and has one daughter, Rose. Eventually settles in Missouri. With encouragement from Rose, writes about her growing up years.

“Laura felt a warmth inside her. It was very small, but it was strong. It was steady, like a tiny light in the dark, and it burned very low but no winds could make it flicker because it would not give up.”
“Then he drew a long breath, and he ate pie. When he began to eat pie, he wished he had eaten nothing else.”

Read: the Little House series

13) Corrie ten Boom 1892-1983

First licensed female watchmaker in the Netherlands. Joins the Dutch resistance. Has a secret room built in her bedroom to hide Jews from the Gestapo. Is arrested and placed in various Nazi prisons and camps for ten months. Is released through a clerical error. After the war founds a rehabilitation center in a former work camp.

“And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness anymore than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives along with the command, the love itself.”
“Mama’s love had always been the kind that acted itself out with soup pot and sewing basket. But now that these things were taken away, the love seemed as whole as before. She sat in her chair at the window and loved us. She loved the people she saw in the street– and beyond: her love took in the city, the land of Holland, the world. And so I learned that love is larger than the walls which shut it in.”
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you.”

Read: The Hiding Place (Read, re-read, and re-read this)

14) Dorothy Sayers 1893-1957

Wins a scholarship to Oxford and is one of the first women to receive a degree there. Writes detective novels about Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. Gives birth to an illegitimate son and oversees his upbringing from afar. Also writes plays, literary criticism, and, somewhat reluctantly, apologetics. Translates Dante’s entire Divine Comedy. Known for wearing men’s clothing because it is more convenient and generally speaking her mind.

“God did not abolish the fact of evil; He transformed it. He did not stop the Crucifixion; He rose from the dead.”
“And what do all the great words come to in the end, but that? I love you- I am at rest with you- I have come home.”

Read: Whose Body?, Gaudy Night, Are Women Human?, Christ of the Creeds, “Why Work?”

15) Flannery O’Connor 1925-1964

Raised and remains a devoted Roman Catholic. Participates in the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop. While working on her first novel is diagnosed with lupus and moves home to her mother’s house in Georgia where she lives for the rest of her life. Writes many stories and two novels which most readers either misunderstand and hate or misunderstand and love. Obsessively raises poultry, particularly peafowl.

“‘Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead,’ The Misfit continued, ‘and He shouldn’t have done it. He thrown everything off balance. If He did what He said, then it’s nothing for you to do but throw away everything and follow Him, and if He didn’t, then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness,’ he said and his voice had become almost a snarl.”

“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.”

Read: Wise Blood, The Complete Stories, Mystery and Manners, The Habit of Being

16) Elisabeth Elliot 1926-

Moves to Ecuador. Marries Jim Elliot. After her husband is killed by the Auca, moves with her small daughter to live with them and share the gospel for two years. Moves back to the U.S. Marries twice more. Has her own daily radio program for thirteen years. Writes extensively on her experiences and on Christian living.

“One does not surrender a life in an instant. That which is lifelong can only be surrendered in a lifetime.”
“It is God to whom and with whom we travel, and while He is the end of our journey, He is also at every stopping place.”
“We want to avoid suffering, death, sin, ashes. But we live in a world crushed and broken and torn, a world God Himself visited to redeem. We receive his poured-out life, and being allowed the high privilege of suffering with Him, may then pour ourselves out for others.”

Read: Through the Gates of Splendor, These Strange Ashes, Let Me Be a Woman

This is not an exhaustive list, and tends to show my own biases, but I figured it was best to start with what I knew: most of these women are westerners and tend toward the more modern. Many of them are published authors and almost all are prolific letter writers. This list is not meant as a compendium of those you absolutely must love and admire. It’s just encouragement and ideas towards starting a list of your own.
And if you want some male heroes, I’m happy to oblige. I just figured that an inventory like that was, well, a little easier to find…

Things I’ve Learned in College

Do not listen to anybody who tries to tell you which are the best years of your life. Just go ahead and live.

People have layers. And they’re really funny and often wonderful. Be patient and you’ll see.

Take people up on their hospitality.

Sometimes there are good reasons to change your mind about other people and about yourself. This phenomena is more commonly known as admitting you were wrong.

Eat chocolate with your Earl Grey.

Spend a long time over meals, especially with friends.

Do not automatically believe what people say about you just because they know you well, or even because they love you well. Listen to them, but remember that they might be wrong. The only ultimate authority for your identity is Christ.

Smile at people on the sidewalk.

You are not owed forgiveness. It is a gift.

Tell good stories.

Don’t overcook your broccoli.

Make friends in class.

Listen with your mouth shut.

Do not compare or quantify pain. That’s the coward’s way. Find a hand to hold, look it in the eye, and walk through it. It may be long, but keep going.

Don’t be afraid to go ahead and grow up. Grown-ups can be happy too.

Try not to ask for extensions on papers.

Say hard things in person, but speak slowly when you do.

Sometimes everything will feel distant and unreal. Do not live by that feeling, but instead remember that home is not here and that there are other pilgrims alongside you on the way.

Write thank you notes.

When somebody wants to be your friend, take them up on it.

Make soup. You can freeze it forever.

When a friend confides in you, treasure that, especially when it is something hard.

Sometimes you will still be shy. And, so long as you are not rude, that’s just fine.

You will fail. You will not be the person you know you ought to be. And that’s okay, not because everybody fails, but because there is One who didn’t.


And most importantly, perhaps, the things I’ve been taught by others:

“Do the next thing.”

“Say what you mean.”

“Determine to love people.”

“Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.”

“Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot cover. Grace is enough. He is enough. Jesus is enough.”

An Open Letter to My Best Friend

Dear Karen,

In less than two weeks you graduate from college. And while I’m still baffled at how you managed to turn three changes of major into a degree in only seven semesters, I am so proud of you. I’m proud of you for letting your patience be stretched, for crossing the Mississippi, for keeping lists of books and movies, for knowing a whole different language, for quickly moving from dislike of avocadoes to a long, loyal infatuation with them, for being brave, for following your passionate love of purple wherever it leads you, and for always, always reaching out to those around you.

This January you’re going to Haiti for just a bit, and in the fall you are most likely headed to Hungary to teach English, but for the spring and summer, you will be at home, working and reading and waiting in the in-between. In the spirit of Mandy and Nancy’s detective notebook in days of yore, here are some things to do:

-Watch The Graduate exactly once and learn from Ben’s mistakes.

-Make at least two new friends.

-Visit me.

-Read all the Lord Peter Wimsey novels.

-Forget about being edgy. Remember about being kind.

-Make a t-shirt quilt.

-Use the word “wretched” when you feel angsty. It will make everything funnier.

-Re-read The Hiding Place as many times as necessary.

-Take your parents out for ice cream.

-Get that haircut you were wanting.

-Take walks in my neighborhood and hang out with my family.

-Give thanks.

-Buy dishes.

-Go hiking with me.

-Do that much-needed reconnaissance on Ballinger.

-Remember that the amount of frustration you feel when people don’t call or text or love you back is miniscule compared to how much of Jesus’ love you have yet to encounter.

-Don’t treat the next few months like waiting. Treat them like a worthwhile part of your life that God has actual, important plans for.

Last week I showed up at your front door to get you and watched as you chased your old Chocolate-puppy down the block in the rain, alternately expressing your awful anger at him and offering him cheese. I couldn’t stop laughing. Actually, I still can’t. Sorry for letting him out. But thanks for being the best person I know to be grumpy with.

For the record, you are also one of my favorite people to be happy with, to drive with, to talk on the phone with, to plan with, to buy dinner for. And even if we never get to realize together the dreams of going to England, or solving a grand mystery, or driving cross-country, or finally finding that fourth grade picture of us in our matching American flag bathing suits, please remember that I love you, Ka-ren. I’ve probably said that to you multiple times a week since middle school, often out of habit, but it’s always, always true. Thanks for the years of voicemails.

LYLAS forever and forever, no matter how bad my handwriting gets,



I loved this day. This was a great day.