10 Favorite Blog Posts of 2011

While my family and I are gallivanting around this week, I want to share with you my own personal picks for the 10 Favorite Blog Posts of 2011. (When you capitalize things, it makes them Super Official). I have nothing to offer these 10, no award or certificate or badge or banner. But great writing deserves some attention. All of these posts have moved me, some even months after I read them. Of the many lovely and soulful posts I’ve read this year, here are 10 that seem to have lingered for various reasons (listed in no particular order).

Unstyled Life by Jules at Pancakes and French Fries:: Having just recently watched my family sort through the many collections of everything from manilla envelopes to Waffle House pins that make up the remnants of my father-in-law’s earthly possessions, this post struck a chord somewhere down deep. She writes beautifully and I am left standing right next to her, shaking my head. For anyone considering the purpose of all our stuff, this post is a must read.

Please Don’t Miss It by Sara Frankl at (in)courage :: She wrote this on her birthday, the last birthday she had on earth. She wrote to us, begging us to see, to open up, to live fully. She wanted us to learn from her life: don’t miss your own. Read it. You won’t soon forget.

The World Needs More Artists by Jeff Goins :: Jeff is a great voice for those of us who work hard at our craft but have trouble with the last five percent. He reminds us that making great art is its own reward and that we have a say in the kind of legacy we want to leave. His blog is one of my favorite new finds of 2011.

We’ve Been Conditioned to Not Make Mistakes by The Nester at Nesting Place :: She reminds us that while home is supposed to be the safest place on earth, some of us manage to make it our biggest source of shame. It’s not supposed to be that way. Read at your own risk.

What is Deployment? by Ashleigh Baker :: Think of honest writing and then go two steps deeper. That is how Ashleigh communicates on her blog. She spent many, many months alone with her two boys as her husband served overseas. And then he came home, and she wrote about it, and it was beautiful, and I still think of it sometimes. So here you go.

Hold Your Fire by Jenny S. Allen :: I met her on Canadian Thanksgiving in a Toronto hotel restaurant, she with my lost luggage and stories so similar to mine it made my head spin. We chatted over pizza until we closed the tired place down and shared nervous laughter over the interviews we had the next morning. And in that magic way that doesn’t happen all that often, a girl from Texas and a girl from North Carolina connected like girls who grew up only miles apart, swimming at the same pool. For any woman who feels a tug and a pull but is terrified of leading, read this post.

Here and There by Shannan Martin at Flower Patch Farm Girl :: She writes about home in ways that make me wish I had one. Not that I don’t have a home, I do. But we moved around so much when I was a kid that the roots she talks about didn’t have time to burrow deep. So I read her words and I know I feel that way about something but I just haven’t figured out what yet. So while this post is one of my favorites of the year, her entire blog is one of my favorite finds ever.

Because God Really Knows How to Meet Needs by Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience :: She wrote this post in November and I’ve thought of it more than I can say since then. Because The Farmer didn’t want to leave his pigs, but he did it anyway. And God has lovely ways of weaving our giftedness and our passion into our service and our worship. That is what he did on a small plot of land in Ecuador. I simply love this story.

These Are Magic Hours by Tara at Pohlkotte Press:: I found this post just a week ago. Tara linked up with Tuesdays Unwrapped and I’m so glad she did. She makes words dance. A taste? “These are the hours that make the years fly, folding us into life with grace and love.”

My Dead Hope by Gary Morland at New Life’n :: Don’t let the title fool you. It’s a post about broken dreams, yes. But it’s also infused with a beautiful, rich, scary hope that weighs even heavier than the dream. If you had goals for this year that never quite came to be, read this before the next year begins. And as a bonus? Gary has an ebook based on this series available for free download any day now – just look for Scary Hope (I’ll let you know when it’s available). And also he’s my dad so you know. There’s that.

Cherry Bomb by Megan Jordan at Velveteen Mind:: Whenever I feel wimpy in my writing I read this post by Megan and it makes me brave. She has a way of bossing without making me defensive, instead it just makes me get to work.

What do you think of these 10 posts {ok it’s 11}? Which ones would you add? (Feel free to share links in the comments, but if you leave more than one link, the blog will think you’re spam and block you). Would love to hear some of your favorite picks of the year.

And to you who have gathered here for yet another year, thank you for writing, for speaking truth into this chaotic world, for making your art, and sharing it with us.

let earth receive her King

“In opting to celebrate His birthday in Bethlehem in such low-key fashion, Jesus revealed himself free from public opinion, from fear of what others might say or think. Jesus is the incarnation of the Father’s freedom. Paradoxically, while the freedom of Jesus is contagious for some, in others it arouses defensiveness. They have set their faces against freedom, against surprise, against novelty.”

Brennan Manning, Lion and Lamb

Maybe it’s why we cheer for the underdog, why we are attracted to humility in others, why we long for simplicity in the midst of this crowded, competitive world. It’s because love came down as an unlikely hero — small, scrawny, helpless, needy. And in coming that way, he declared freedom from the world’s expectations before he could even open his eyes. How can a King be a baby? How can God be a man and God?

Maybe all of life is really about coming back to the stable, learning to believe that because God came as a baby, then the last ones are first, the weak ones are strong, and all of heaven hangs upside down. May we set our face toward the freedom that comes from living like it’s true. May we believe with our lives that all of these things we so desperately seek – worth, attention, love, belonging – are found in Him. And He has come, and we are free.

Merry Christmas, friends. Repeat the sounding joy.

if your Christmas feels upside down

Is this Christmas season filled with a heaviness you can’t shake? A loss you still can’t believe you feel? Empty hands you grasp desperately to fill? Whether this is your first Christmas without someone you love or the last Christmas before a big change, Grief doesn’t take off for the holidays. In fact, sometimes it seems he works over time. We’re having this conversation over at (in)courage today and I can’t help but notice the  hope and depth of insight coming through in the comments section. If you are walking a bit upside down this week, I want to invite you to join in the conversation and hopefully, be encouraged that you are not alone.

tuesdays unwrapped :: the last one

It sounds simple: go outside, step into the quiet, if just for a few minutes, and see what rises to the surface. But we can’t do that! It’s almost Christmas! We must do that. It’s almost Christmas. This is perhaps one of the most frustrating disciplines I’ve faced lately. Mainly because what rises to the surface is not very spiritual sounding. It isn’t profound, deep, or even very interesting. I’m tired. My hair is dirty. That leaf looks like a puppy. But I keep walking, avoiding on purpose the temptation to critique myself. Just keep walking.

Things don’t change. Problems are not solved. Angels are not singing. Rainbows are not bursting from clouds. There is no light shining like a halo around me. Simply, I am quiet. And that is it’s own miracle. With the rhythm of walking, breathing, being with God and what is true about me, there is a slight and almost imperceptible shift. My frantic movements are not so frantic now. I see things I would have missed.

We tend to pray with words because we aren’t brave enough to pray from our groaning soul ache. And so we chatter away with our Dear God, just…and we miss him in the middle of all. this. noise. He’s still there, though. He doesn’t roll his eyes or cross his arms or tap his foot with impatience. He hears all the chattering and he sees what lies beneath it. Even in the noise, He gathers us up and pours Himself out.

I come home after my walk, cheeks red from the wind, camera filled up with images of hope, soul breathing more deeply. I spent the time listening, but I can’t tell you what I heard, exactly. The language of the soul doesn’t always translate well into English. Instead, I lean my weight heavy into Him, longing to live in the quiet even in the midst of the noise. I know that may not be possible, not the way I hope. But this walk was a gift for reasons I’m not really sure of yet. And for that I am thankful.

We would love to read about your Tuesday walk by inviting you to add your link below. Be sure to include the permalink to your Tuesday post. If you need help to link up, this page will hopefully answer all of your questions. Be sure to link back here to Chatting at the Sky so that others can find our community. If you wrote a regular Tuesdays Unwrapped post, by all means still link up! I’m delighted you are here and so thankful for this community. What a gift these Tuesdays have been. The links will be open to add until Thursday evening.



a monday invitation to a tuesday walk

What a delight it has been to host Tuesdays Unwrapped in December. Tomorrow will be our last one. There are so many things that may be happening for you this week. Perhaps you are wrapping, preparing, shopping – things waiting to be finished on this last Monday before Christmas. I want to invite you away for a few minutes …

If you already have a Tuesday post prepared, then by all means share it with us tomorrow. But if you haven’t, and if you are feeling the weight or the pressure or the fatigue, come away for a bit. Go outside, walk if you are able, drive if you must, sit if it’s all you can manage. But go outside, step into the quiet, if just for a few minutes, and see what rises to the surface. As you do, listen for the sound of your soul speaking to you, telling you where you are this day. Lift up your anxieties to the only One who knows the future. Don’t force answers or analyze results. Simply take a few minutes to be with what is. If you wish to share, we’d be so glad to hear. Either way, let this be a gift.

Edited to add – read A Walk at the End of the Year for inspiration and to take the pressure off. Hope to see you tomorrow.

for your weekend

May your weekend be filled with the warmth of family, the mystery of the incarnation, and the courage to show up for your own life. Embrace the obvious gifts and search for the hidden ones. Grab on to the hands of Joy and Hope and let yourself smile both wide and deep – you are alive, breathing, present, a miracle. Celebrate the truth of it.

Christmas Tour of Homes 2011

One of my favorite things to do during the Christmas season is to drive around at dusk and try to look into people’s houses. I know it’s more polite to say “I’m looking at Christmas lights” but the truth is I’d much rather see what’s on the inside of those warm windows – the trees glowing in the corner, photos framed on the far wall, TVs playing It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s curbside Christmas stalking and it’s fantastic.

Though I don’t post about house-y stuff as much as I used to, I can’t resist joining in my sister’s Christmas Tour of Homes every year. It’s like standing on the curbside at dusk and having hundreds of people come out to their porches shouting, Merry Christmas and come on in! And so whether you decorate fancy or small, grand and colorful, or not at all, our homes are our haven and this time of year they are especially sweet to share.

“Setting the stage in our homes for us to celebrate Christmas with our families and in our hearts is no useless thing. I hope the effort you made works to bring your family closer and creates an atmosphere of rest and safety and belonging.” – The Nester

So this is me, standing on my front porch, welcoming you in. Now, it hasn’t snowed yet this year so I’m borrowing a photo from last year to kick off the tour. Enjoy the little walk through of our home here in December. I do hope your month has been restful and filled with joy.

The dog had to make it in here somehow.

In the kitchen, I decorate for Christmas by not decorating for Christmas. This way, there is empty counter space to roll out the dough for the cinnamon rolls we’ll make for Christmas Eve and to spread out the ingredients for the cookies my mom will make with the kids when she comes next week. Plus, the empty space here helps me breathe a bit more deeply.

Merry Christmas, friends.
If you would like to see more Christmas-y house photos, here are the links from the past three years:

Christmas Tour of Homes 2010
Christmas Tour of Homes 2009
Christmas Tour of Homes 2008

Don’t forget to visit Nesting Place to see hundreds of lovely, lived in Christmas homes.
And since you have permission, it doesn’t even count as stalking:

Thanks for visiting today! If you would like to know more about Chatting at the Sky, this would be a good place to start. If you like what you see, I want to invite you to subscribe for free and have new post delivered into your inbox. And Merry Christmas!

tuesdays unwrapped

“One of the most important lessons I have learned over the past few years is how important it is to have time and space for being with what’s real in my life — to celebrate the joys, grieve the losses, shed my tears, sit with the questions, feel my anger, attend to my loneliness.”

Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms

I may know the importance of holding the truth of my life in my hands, of looking at it from all angles, of seeing what is. But there is a distinct difference between knowing the importance of being with what’s real and actually being brave enough to resist reaching for what I wish to be. It takes courage to sit with the reality of the questions, the desires, the sorrows and the joys and to simply let them exist on the surface in the presence of God. It takes time, a willingness to see, and the discipline to rest in the midst of it.

That’s what we practice here on Tuesdays. We take this day, whatever it holds, and look for the gifts. Sometimes it’s easy and quick, the gifts bursting from every common meal and conversation. Other times, the gifts seem to be hiding under deep piles of dust and broken things. But it has been my experienced during this practice that we generally find what we’re looking for. Might you join us in looking for the gifts today?

We would love to read about your Tuesday gifts by inviting you to add your link below. Be sure to include the permalink to your Tuesday post. If you need help to link up, this page will hopefully answer all of your questions. Be sure to link back here to Chatting at the Sky so that others can find our community. Welcome to Tuesdays Unwrapped.



for your weekend


May you know beyond doubt or shadow that you are not alone. Let the cold air cut sharp through your worries, the December sky beckon your soul out of its hiding place. Wrap your hands around that warm cup, laugh loud in the celebrations, and believe quietly in grace and truth. When you feel yourself being pulled into the anxious future, let Him gather you gently back to now. When your heartbeat quickens at the thought of your tasks, surrender the list into His hands and see what happens. When you don’t have an answer, let it be enough to walk humbly with your question. Enjoy your weekend, friends.

Leaving a quick note here to say my calendar has finally been updated. There you will find a few events, both past and future. I say few on purpose – I am a ridiculous homebody, but I love this message and connecting with women enough to venture out to meet you when I am able. And if you missed them, a few of the interviews I’ve done are available to watch there as well.

when you can’t see the forest for the ducks

I was trying to get a photo of the duck. See her (him?) there in the upper right? I crouched down low, my back up against the rough bark of a tree, and I tried to capture the silhouette of that duck. I took lots of photos of her but didn’t like any of them. I was too far away – even my cool zoom lens wasn’t zoomy enough. As I quickly scrolled through the shots, I nearly deleted them all. But I was on a walk and I wanted to keep going. I’ll just delete them later. Then later I forgot.

Until tonight when I uploaded them to my computer and scrolled through again. I didn’t even notice the duck. Those trees! That light! The reflection! Except for that duck, it’s like the whole world is upside down. Magic.

I’m so glad I was lazy and didn’t delete them when I thought they were useless.

Sometimes I chase ducks and miss the art. Have you been chasing any ducks lately?

The winners from Mondays giveaway of Grace for the Good Girl are Rebecca, Laura, and Christine.  Email me your address at emily(at)chattingatthesky(dot)com and put “winner” in the subject line. I hope you enjoy the book! If you didn’t win this time, Sarah Markley is offering 3 more books today on her blog! And she’s got some great words to offer those of us who struggle with this try-hard life. Enter by 9pm PST tonight.