At the end of last year, I did one of those “find out your word for the year” Instagram things. I rolled my eyes just a little as I did it—do I believe the Lord can speak a word through an Instagram post? Sure, God can do anything. Do I believe that he does? Probably not as often as we’d like to think. Anyway, the word that the very scientific and spiritual word generator gave me for 2023 was Root—which is very rude if you’re Australian, and just a bit puzzling for the rest of us. What does that even mean as a word for the year?
I went about my year and didn’t think of it much, but I find that word coming back to me as I reflect and sit down to write this post. 2023 was a year of healing, growth and getting to the root of things. God lovingly dug beneath the surface of my heart to bring light, truth and freedom. I started the year in a very hard place both emotionally and physically and I’m ending it much healthier and happier. I have a better sense of who I am and what my life is about, and I feel more rooted in the love of God.
Overall 2023 was a little bit easier and better year than the last, and often I felt like I was just putting one foot in front of the other. Lots of normal, everyday days for which I’m truly grateful. Let me tell you all about it…
What did you do in 2023 that you’d never done before?
- Got Shellac nails
- Had an IV
- Watched a K Drama
- Watched a Formula 1 Grand Prix
- Went inside a generating station
- Attended an Executive Team meeting
- Rode the Eurostar
- Went to a Premier League match
- Ate dinner in a restaurant by myself
- Had my credit card compromised
Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I’m sorry to say that other than meeting my reading goal of 50 books (54 thankyouverymuch), I didn’t keep my resolutions from last year. They were: to go for at least four months without buying new clothes, shoes or anything wearable, and to exercise more regularly. I did start swimming regularly at the end of the summer and was loving it. Swimming is the one physical activity I enjoy doing and am moderately good at. I kept it up for a few months into the fall but by November busyness and travel intervened and I got out of the habit.
Here are my goals for this year, not in order of importance:
- Curb my online shopping, specifically with new clothes/shoes/anything wearable. Starting with No-Buy January
I don’t want to give the impression that I’m out of control and spending my life savings on new shoes. That’s not it—I’m just keenly aware that I have more than I need, and I’m spending more than I need to on things that will eventually end up at the Salvation Army. In a time where our planet is crying out for us to take better care of it, and the price of things I actually need to buy like milk and tomatoes seems to be going up and up, it’s irresponsible to own 48 t-shirts. That’s an exaggeration (I hope, I’ve never counted). On a related note, I also have a personal savings goal but I’m not going to share the specific details of it on the internet.
- Swim on a regular basis
I realize that “on a regular basis” is a bit vague so let’s say I will aim to swim enough to make it worth buying the monthly pass to the rec centre, which is roughly 6 times a month. Sharing this goal with the internet feels like I’m setting myself up for failure.
- Read through the Bible in a year
Last year I read a lot of books about Jesus and theology that really helped me, but lately I’ve noticed that my scripture reading has dropped off. I’ve been reading more about Jesus than his actual word. It’s been a few years since I’ve read through the entire Bible and I’m going to try a chronological reading plan this time to give me some structure. I’m following this one if anyone wants to join me.
- Read 52 books
Same goal as last year. That’s a pace of one book a week which feels doable, but not too easy. I’m giving myself an internal stretch goal of 60 but I’d be very happy reading 52 again.
Did anyone close to you give birth?
In March Tiff gave birth to the boy with the best smile in the whole world, Cohen or Coco as we like to call him.
Then in early November Chars gave birth to a baby girl, Madeleine Zion. She’s healthy, perfect and a total joy. We’re already best friends.
Did anyone close to you die?
In early June we lost Grace’s nephew Evan. It was and still is so devastating to lose someone so young with their whole life ahead of them. My heart breaks for Grace and her family, and all of the people who knew Evan well and feel him missing in their lives. We mourn with those who mourn and long for the day when we’ll see Evan again.
What countries did you visit?
The U.S.A., England and Belgium. I’m adding Canada to the list this year. I know I live here, but I’m counting the trips I took to other parts of the country (Alberta) because it took me hours and hours to get there so I think it counts.
I went to visit my parents in Phoenix twice this year, in March and November. Highlights of these trips include: drinking the best orange juice I’ve ever had in my life, going on a very short hike in Papago park with Grace, and doing the worst puzzle of my entire life with Mom.
My first time to Belgium and my first time riding the Eurostar. I chose to go to Brussels for three reasons: I’d never been there before, I wanted to go on a short ride on the train, and I didn’t want to go to Paris because I was afraid of getting bedbugs.
Brussels itself was ok but my favourite part of the trip was taking a day trip to Ghent and Bruges. If I had to go again, I’d stay in Bruges. Highlights of this trip included eating waffles with ice cream for breakfast every day, eating dinner at a restaurant solo for the first time ever, a boat ride along the canal, and the best hot chocolate I’ve had in my life.
The trip to London and Brussels was my first time travelling solo and I could not have asked for a better experience. Everything was lovely: the food, the places I stayed, the people I met, and the weather. I was able to wander in my favourite city without much of an agenda, visit some of my favourite places and take my time just enjoying being there. I spent the time in a glow of thankfulness, including a few peaceful mornings with a coffee in Regent’s Park. When I was in London the year before, I was at my worst physically (with my undiagnosed-at-the-time severe anemia) and emotionally. Being there a year later, healthier and happier was a signpost for me of how far the Lord brought me this year, and the difference a year can make.
While it was a solo trip I still met up with a few friends. Lani was ending her world tour in London and we happened to be crossing over for a few days. We ate together at my favourite restaurant, Padella and went to see a cool art exhibit of the moon in Southwark cathedral. I’d purposely timed my trip to coincide with my friend Jacqueline being in London so we could go to a Premier League match together. The match itself was a bit of a dud—Chelsea didn’t even score—but the experience was great (we even got to hear a “wanker!” chant). Jacqueline and I met up with a friend of a friend of a friend of our friend Nadia’s husband who was selling his season tickets in a Chelsea supporter pub. We drank a round with them before walking to the ground, and it was a full-on cultural experience
I went back to Edmonton for a number of family things this past summer: my Dad’s 70th birthday, a family reunion, and my parents 40th wedding anniversary. I also camped in Banff with Colleen, Lynn and some new (to me) friends from the school they teach at. We got a campside at Two Jack Lakeside which is the nicest campground in Banff, and were even able to have a fire because we were there early enough in the summer that there were no bans yet.
What would you like to have in 2024 that you lacked in 2023?
An Oiler Stanley Cup win, a boyfriend, Chelsea Champions League football, a Canadian English spell check (a girl can dream), and world peace.
What dates and events from 2023 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
- Going on a yacht for Chars’ birthday
- September 10 – My parents 40th wedding anniversary
- October 28 – My first Premier League game
- November 9 – The day Madeleine was born
- Christine Sinclair’s last game with team Canada
- The 1975 Concert
- December 16 – Hope Alight
Did you suffer illness or injury?
At the tail-end of last year I learned that I was severely anemic, so much so that I needed three rounds of IV iron infusions to get my iron levels back to within normal range. One of the ways I’ve healed this year has been getting my iron levels higher. I have more energy, my hair has stopped falling out, and I feel overall less completely terrible than I did at the beginning of the year. Get your iron levels checked, ladies!
What was your greatest accomplishment?
Pulling off a large-scale Christmas production with only a few weeks of rehearsals, maintaining an entire conversation in French with my Belgian taxi driver, and achieving my best ever finish in fantasy football—made it to the podium for the first time!
What was your biggest struggle?
At the beginning of the year, I hit a new low with my mental health. I shared a lot of the heaviness, grief and uncertainty I was wrestling with in my new year’s post last year, and a few weeks after that everything caught up with me. In 2022, I simultaneously dealt with the loss of my best friends’ daughter, and the emotional rollercoaster of my brother and his family moving to Pakistan. At the same time I was temporarily covering two portfolios at work, and whenever I took time off I was flying somewhere. It was a lot. In January of this year all the emotions I hadn’t wanted to look at too closely, the lack of rest and the aforementioned iron deficiency became too much and the dam broke.
I was exhausted emotionally and physically, and I had to take two months completely off from everything except work. I talked to my doctor and I talked to my counsellor, I went to bed early, I did a lot of quiet activities like puzzles, I prayed short, honest prayers, and I gave myself space to grieve, breathe and rest. After a few quiet months, I started to feel a bit better, and I’m very happy to say that some eleven months later I feel both emotionally and physically like myself again.
That’s the Coles Notes version of my biggest struggle and it makes it sound super easy, like I just had to wait for things to get better. That is not the case, but it’s all I’m going to share with the whole internet. If you’re in a similar place starting 2024, just know that there is hope. You might need to learn to be gentle with yourself, you might need time and space, you might need to see your doctor or a counsellor but it is possible to feel like yourself again.
What was the best thing you bought?
Where did most of your money go?
Travelling, savings and clothes. Next year I’d like to kick clothes off this list. See New Year’s Resolution #1.
What did you get really, really, really excited about?
- Kev & Micaela coming home
- The Willertons having another girl
- Finding out Lani was going to be in London at the same time as me
- Going to see a Chelsea match
- The 1975 concert
- The Brennans buying a house
- Going to an Oilers game with Shannon and Jacqueline
- My fav sports radio show coming back on the air
What songs will always remind you of 2023?
- Vertigo by Griff
- Get Him Back! by Olivia Rodrigo
- Every Chance I Get by Brooke Ligertwood
- Good Ground by Citizens
- Looking for Somebody to Love by the 1975
- Vert1go vol 1 by Griff
- Being Funny in a Foreign Language by the 1975 (this was on the list last year but I listened to it so much I’m including it again)
- GUTS by Olivia Rodrigo
- Stick Season (We’ll all be here forever) by Noah Kahan
- Church by Anna Golden
- I Can’t Find the Edges of You by Citizens
My podcast listening dropped way off this year because I stopped following the news quite so closely. However I did keep up with:
- Straight out of Cobham
- Off Menu
- The Fast and the Curious
- I just found a new one that I really love: The Rest is Entertainment with Richard Osman and Marina Hyde
Compared to this time last year are you:
- Happier or sadder? Much happier
- Thinner or fatter? Considerably fatter
- Richer or poorer? A bit richer, but only because I’m still renting
What do you wish you’d done more of?
Exercising, writing for fun, reading my bible, spending time with Jesus.
What do you wish you’d done less of?
Online shopping, watching my favourite teams lose, scrolling Instagram, worrying about things outside of my control.
How did you spend Christmas?
For the first time in a few years I spent Christmas in Edmonton with my whole family. My brother and his family arrived back in Canada in late October and have been staying with my parents so most of the family was even under one roof. We didn’t do much other than enjoy being together and eating all our favourite Christmas foods (tourtiere). We all went a little bit crazy getting presents for the kids and it took us nearly an entire day to get through opening them all due to short attention spans and breaks for food.
Did you fall in love in 2023?
No. Someday, someday, maybe.
What was your favourite TV program?
- Bad Sisters
- Crash Landing on You
- Drive to Survive
- The Last of Us
- Abbot Elementary
- Jury Duty
- The David Beckham documentary
- Welcome to Wrexham
What were the best books you read?
- How God Sees Women: The End of Patriarchy by Terran Williams
- Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
- Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
- Never Cast Out by Jasmine Holmes
- Woke up like this by Amy Lea
- West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge
As always you can read the full list on Goodreads.
What was your greatest musical discovery?
Learning the piano line from the beginning of Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays by *NSYNC.
What did you want and get?
A trip to Europe, the Oilers to win the Heritage Classic, a new baby girl for the Willertons, tickets to see Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, Kevin & Micaela home for Christmas.
What did you want and not get?
An Oilers Stanley Cup, Chelsea to stay in the Champions League, a Guilt Trip Coffee diner mug, to see a musical in London.
What were your favourite films of this year?
- Little Mermaid – I went into this with low expectations because of how much I hated live action Beauty and the Beast, but it blew them out of the water (see what I did there?).
- Barbie – While the Barbie movie did not start my feminist awakening this year, it definitely came out at a good time for me personally.
- Spiderman: Across the Spiderverse – I watched this on the plane home from Europe and I loved the animation and music and everything about it, basically.
- The Three Musketeers Part 1: D’artagnan – Look, I will watch any Musketeers movie or TV show, and this one was actually in French so you already know it’s one of the good ones.
What did you do on your birthday?
I kicked off the day with brunch with Ariana at the Red Wagon which I had shockingly never been to before. Then I went home, talked to my family and Douze on the phone, and had a nap. In the evening we BBQed burgers for dinner at the Willertons before heading to the Vancouver Canadians game with a few girlfriends. We did not get to have fireworks afterwards due to the drought but it was probably the most exciting baseball game I’ve been to—ending with a walk-off. A low key, nice birthday spent with my nearest and dearest. I’m happy to report that I did not cry on my birthday this year!
How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2023?
What kept you sane?
Therapy, rest, prayer, a few good friends, taking my vitamins, the Lord
Which celebrity or public figure did you fancy the most?
Thiago Silva, Conor Gallagher, Leon Draisaitl and the Scottish guy from Starstruck.
What issue stirred you the most?
The patriarchy. 2023 was the year of my “feminist awakening.” I like to call it that mostly as a joke, but I’ve been on a real journey of deconstructing complementarian theology and all the messed up, not-biblical things I’ve been taught over the years about what it means to be a woman, and the value and role of women in the church and society. For a long time I’ve felt a dissonance between how Jesus treats women in the bible, and the way women are treated in church and in church culture. As I’ve gotten older, had more success in my career, and worked closely with strong female leaders in a company that values their expertise, capabilities, knowledge and leadership, that dissonance has grown exponentially.
As a single, childless woman going to church I always felt like I wasn’t as good or important as my married friends with kids—like my life and work were somehow less valuable. That’s not something anyone ever told me or taught me directly, but I picked it up and internalized it over the years as it was implied over and over again in a church where it was taught that women should be the primary caregivers in the home, focus on hospitality, and not teach or lead outside of women’s and children’s ministry. I would go to work and feel capable, valued for my knowledge and expertise, and like my thoughts and concerns mattered. Then I would come to church and feel like I couldn’t or shouldn’t voice my opinions, that I had to soften or qualify my thoughts, and that the work I was doing wasn’t as interesting or worthy of conversation as other women’s marriages and kids.
This year God started to pull on those threads and show me that that’s not how he sees me or wants me to live. I read a lot of books on this topic, I prayed, I read my bible, I talked to other women and some close male friends, and over and over I felt the Lord showing me that the gender hierarchy that exists in complementarian churches is not from Him. I’ve come to a place where I don’t believe that male headship is biblical (gasp!) or that God ever intended there to be hierarchy between men and women.
Anyway, I know this can be a real hot topic and I’m not looking for an internet argument about it. For my brothers and sisters in Christ I would encourage you to seek the Lord, pray about it and talk about it with the people you’re close to. If you’re a man, please ask the women in your life about their experiences and be open to what they have to say. If you’re looking for a good, theologically-sound book on the topic check out Terran Willam’s How God Sees Women.
And if you’re not a Christian and you’re reading this thinking, “whoa the church is so messed up” let me tell you—it is! But it’s also a beautiful community of people who love God and love each other, who are trying to do the right things and definitely get it wrong sometimes. The things I’ve described were subtle and didn’t happen all the time. I also don’t think anyone intentionally tried to make me feel less valuable, in fact their intentions were probably quite the opposite. Thankfully we have a God who is always good, right and perfect that we can put our trust in.
I’ve grieved a lot this year over the hurt this has caused so many women—I’m far from the first woman I know to come to this realization. But I’m hopeful that these things are and will continue to slowly get better because God is faithful and he never leaves us in our mess. I’ve already seen small changes in my own church and changes in the wider church. And if nothing else, I’m confident that there will be no gender hierarchy in Heaven.
Who did you miss?
My brother and his family, Douze, Ava, Gramma Miller, TSN 1260, and Mason Mount—although I’m over those last two now.
Who was the best new person you met?
Other than the babies, I don’t think I met a ton of new people this year. I have enjoyed getting to know Christin and Mariangel better this year, but I’m fairly confident I met them in 2022 or earlier.
Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2023?
As always, I struggle to boil the year down to just one lesson. It’s especially hard in a year like this one where I’ve grown and learned so much. Here are a few things I’ve picked up along the way:
- Life is joy and sorrow, often both at once. Nothing is ever all bad or all good.
- You don’t have to finish the show/book/movie/podcast if you’re not enjoying it.
- Real rest is more important than you think. If you don’t give yourself rest eventually your body will force you to whether you like it or not.
- Your favourite sports team will probably lose the games you pay a lot of money to see in person.
- Jesus is infinitely more gracious with me than I am with myself and I need to listen to him more.