What’s Saving My Life Right Now

Today, I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to share what’s saving my life right now.

I’m so cognizant of how rough this current season could be, as we slog through both winter and the newborn phase. And while I’ve certainly had my moments, these past few weeks have really been very joyful (though exhausting), and I’m feeling enormously grateful.

And in the midst of that, I’m trying to pay especially close attention to the small moments and lovely things that make my winter days feel slightly less gray and a bit more cozy.

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1. My husband’s paternity leave. I know maternity and paternity leave is a hot-button political issue right now. (It’s crazy to me that I even need to write that sentence!) Just a few months before Ruthie was born, Evan’s institute changed their leave policy, and he was able to be home with us for three full weeks. I can’t express how much this eased our transition into being a family of five. It was a relief to know Evan didn’t need to use up his sick leave or vacation time (especially with his sister’s wedding coming up later this year). We didn’t have this luxury with our first two pregnancies, so this was such a big deal.

2. Merriam-Webster’s Twitter feed. During one of the presidential debates, I retweeted a Merriam-Webster tweet about people searching for “leppo,” as in “A leppo.” (It’s one of those things you have to laugh at, otherwise you will cry.) I immediately got some (well-intentioned) snark from some friends about how–being the nerd I am–I would follow Merriam-Webster. But here is what they quickly learned: Merriam-Webster’s Twitter feed is hilarious and very well-done. And let’s be honest—Twitter can be a depressing place these days. My feed needed a little fun, but this feed is still relevant and interesting.

3. Wonderful, heartwarming novels. I haven’t read much good fiction lately. In fact, since reading All the Light We Cannot See almost a full year ago, I’ve been in a bit of a fiction hangover. Nothing has quite gripped me. I checked out a few fiction picks from the library, but almost always returned them before finishing them. (I’ve read some great non-fiction, though.) All that changed this month! I read both The One-in-a-Million Boy and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. They aren’t really comparable to All the Light, but I think they’ve both broken the spell. I loved them both. They are easy reads, but they have great emotional depth. In both books, the characters are flawed and complex but also endearing. The writing in The One-in-a-Million Boy is phenomenal, and The Storied Life… is a great read if you are book person. I feel buoyed by these books, and I can’t wait to read my next piece of fiction.

4. Hot coffee in the morning. Before moving to Michigan, I was a strictly iced-coffee girl. Last winter, I finally took the plunge and started drinking the hot stuff, out of pure necessity. This year? I am learning to love the ritual of a hot cup of coffee in the morning—the savory smell of freshly-ground beans, the clink of the mug, the swirl of white cream, the warmth against the palms of my hands.

5. Our baby swing. Seriously, I’ve fallen more in love with this contraption with each successive newborn. I love that it’s compact. I love that it’s a swing and bouncy seat in one, saving us an extra piece of gear. But most of all—I love that our babies have loved it.

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6. My word of the year. I haven’t written much about it yet, but I chose “dwell” as my word of the year. I wanted something that had tangible as well as spiritual applications. I wanted something that embodied coziness, stillness, presence, and focus. I wanted something that would encourage me to release some of my anxiety and fully enjoy my present moment (whatever it may be). I wanted to stop always wanting to be elsewhere. As I waited for Ruthie to be born and in this hazy newborn stage, it has been so helpful to reflect on this word. And—because this is how God works—this word is already shaping up to mean more than I could have expected this year. (I can’t wait to share more about that soon!)

7. Voxer. Voxer remains my favorite app. It’s the best way I’ve found for keeping in touch with long-distance friends, and over the past few months, I’ve been participating in a few writing-specific Voxer groups. I love it.

8. Google photos. Digital photo organization used to be my nemesis. The frustration of finding one specific photo used to drive me crazy, and the fear of losing all my photos perpetually hung like a dark cloud over my head. Not so anymore. Google Photos is proving to be the easiest method I’ve found for getting pictures from my phone to my computer and visa versa, and I love the way it’s organized and the features it offers. My favorite feature is the search option. I can search “baby” (or “house” or “flower” or “winter”) and it will pull up every one of my pictures with that item.  (Not to mention—free, unlimited cloud storage.) Yes and amen.

9. Ellie Holcomb’s new album. Ellie Holcomb’s new album, Red Sea Road, came out this week. It is so wonderful, guys. I love Ellie’s voice, and I love the way her songs incorporate Scripture. I’ve had this album on repeat all week.

10. The way Ian says, “Ruthie Elizabeth” when he talks to his sister. It’s really more like “woo-fee ee-lissa-bet!” (When choosing her name, I didn’t think to consider how hard it would be to say “Ruthie” for a preschooler with articulation issues!) Leo and Ian are both so sweet to little Ruthie right now, and I especially get a kick out of how Ian interacts with her. It just makes my heart swell, really.

And what’s more life-giving than that?

Obsessions (January 2017)

There is so much good stuff on the Internet these days, but a lot of it is being drowned out by all the crazy, all the politics, all the arguing. When the cultural climate is the way it is now, I often find out that my frustration edges out inspiration and creativity. These stories, essays, articles (and even a poem!) have lent me a little more of the latter.

Here are some good things to read on a day when you find the Internet overwhelming and disheartening.

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  1. “2016 and the Risk of Birth” by Rachel Held Evans. “In 2016, the world bared its teeth and my baby giggled back.” This is the single best reflection on 2016 that I read. I love and so related to Rachel’s thoughts here.
  2. “On being a Christian and being a feminist…and belonging nowhere” by Sarah Bessey. “Jesus made a feminist out of me. It’s true. I can’t make apologies for it, even though I know that Jesus plus feminist might be the one label that could alientate almost everyone. I understand that–I do.”
  3. “What the Bible Says About How to Treat Refugees” by Jesse Carey for RELEVANT. “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)”

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  1. Goodnight Moon author Margaret Wise Brown Was No Old Lady Whispering Hush” by Barrie Hardymon for NPR.  “Goodnight Moon, and indeed most of Brown’s exceptional and quirky bibliography, are that perfect marriage of mesmerizing for children and tantalizing for adults. They’re a pleasure to read — precise and rhythmic — words that don’t rhyme still harmonize so beautifully that even the most halting reader can become a poet, telling her child a blessing.”
  2. “This is Your Morning” by Enuma Okoro for aeon. “When my people deny me, I no longer labour with insistence. I shrug my shoulders. I shape my lips into plastic lines. I do not argue with them to claim me. I had not thought about not fitting in. I had thought only of a home.”
  3. “Love is Not All (Sonnet XXX)” by Edna St. Vincent Millay.  
  4. “To Obama With Love, and Hate, and Desperation” by Jeanne Marie Laskas for The New York Times Magazine. “She looked for stories. Not pro-this or con-that, not screeds, not opinions about what someone heard on N.P.R. The president needed to hear the stories — that’s what he couldn’t get himself.”

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  1. “These Unproductive Winter Days” by Addie Zierman. “Now, I’m standing here in the shock of reality that is mid-January in Minnesota, sufficiently humbled and a little bit paralyzed. Everything is slower, harder, slippery-er here in the actual work of the new year.”
  2. “You Don’t Have to Be In Crisis to Ask for Help” by Kendra Adachi. “But if we wait for tragedy to strike before we ask for help, we lose.”

 

Read anything good on the Internet these days? Please, send it my way!

Dear Ruthie (3 weeks old)

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Dear Ruthie,

Welcome to the world, little one. I suppose I’m being true to birth order stereotypes;  you are already three weeks old, and I’m just now getting around to writing you a letter. I hope you’ll appreciate the gesture anyway.

With both your brothers, labor was induced one full week past my due date. So, that’s about what I expected from you as well. On Wednesday afternoon, I texted our neighbor Jolanda and said, “I’m not holding my breath for her to arrive any time soon.” Less than a few hours later, contractions had started. It was as if you heard my thoughts and said, “I’ll show you, Mom!”

We arrived at the hospital a little after midnight. Around 3 a.m. I moved out of triage and up to the labor and delivery floor, where they gave me my epidural. You were born at exactly 11 a.m., after only 15 minutes of pushing.

This was your sacred and surprising entrance into the world. Two things stand out to me as I look back on that day.

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The first is this: when you were ready, you were ready. Of course, so many variables determine and shape the course of labor; I don’t pretend to understand any of it. But you forged a very different path than your brothers, who may have been content to stay in utero forever. You surprised us with your eagerness, with your readiness, with your sudden presence. I am so looking forward to the ten million different ways you’ll surprise and challenge us over the course of your life.

I tend to hesitate, to waver, and to second-guess. At times, I let my insecurities and doubts trip me up. I hold back. That wasn’t true of you in birth, and I’m hopeful that quality will persist, changing with you as you grow. I hope you never stop being ready, hungry and thirsty for an abundant life. I’m praying you always move and act with wisdom, but that you don’t hold back more than necessary.

Here’s the other thing: you are loved, Little One, and our family is loved. Living here in Michigan with all our family and most of our friends in Florida feels very lonely sometimes. I worried about how your arrival would work out. I was stressed and indecisive about when your grandmother’s should schedule their flights up here, hoping they would arrive in time for your birth but not wanting them to waste time and money flying up here if you weren’t going to arrive for weeks. Dad and I felt a bit isolated.

But that truth is, that feeling wasn’t at all justified. When it came time for you to arrive, we were not at all alone. Katie and Bryan across the street watched your brothers that night and the next day. Lindsay and Jolanda both helped make sure Ian got to school and Leo was well cared for. Both your grandmother’s immediately started texting making plans to change their flights and get here as soon as possible. Our small group at church—new and still getting to know one another—has already set up a meal schedule, and other friends have offered to do the same. People have rallied around us.

The timing of your arrival and the way it coincided with other events in our lives reminded me of how carefully, thoughtfully, thoroughly God provides for us. His provision is sometimes practical and other times less tangible, but it is always real. I am so grateful for our people. I want you to know that as you grow, you have a whole big tribe who loves you and will care for you. Bob Goff often says that God doesn’t pass us notes; instead, he passes us each other. It’s true.

I’m so glad you’re here, Ruthie!

Love you lots,

Mama

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Ruthie, at 3 weeks old:

  • Eating 2-3 ounces of formula, every 4 hours or so
  • Burping an awful lot and spitting up otherwise
  • Wearing a lot of footie pajamas, and the onesies Dad’s family made you at the baby “sprinkle”
  • Wrapped up in a big blanket all the time (because Michigan)
  • Crying loudly (And to think we spent the first day of your life wondering why you had barely cried at all)
  • Sleeping at least one good four hour chunk at night, but…
  • Wanting to stay awake and be held after you eat at night
  • Growing well; you’re already up to 8 lbs
  • Smiling at us (unintentionally) as you fall asleep
  • Loved by your brothers, who jump up to check on you whenever you make the slightest noise
  • Swinging in the swing a lot; it’s your favorite place to sleep and rest
  • Sporting what may be the world’s chubbiest cheeks

How I’ll make it through winter

When we lived in Florida, “winter” (the quotation marks are very important there) ended on January 2nd. “Winter” was basically synonymous with the holiday season, and once Christmas and New Years passed, we moved headlong into spring.

Not so now, living here near what feels like the very top of the world. It’s almost the end of January, and I have a long ways to go before I can enjoy the the fresh greens and pastels of Easter or my the sprouting tulips in the front yard. The ground is still frozen around me, snow is in the forecast for tomorrow, and I feel lucky if the sun ever pokes her head through the clouds.

This year, I embraced the fact that the “winter blues” may, in fact, be a real thing for me. I’d go so far as to call it Seasonal Affective Disorder, but I’m not really sure. I’ve also had a newborn this year, so HELLO, hormones. All of this is an excellent recipe for a bit of melancholy.

One of 2016’s greatest lessons to me was that I navigate hard seasons much better when I have things to look forward to. I also learned that I need to acknowledge what I’m looking forward to, in the same way that writing a gratitude list helps me recognize what I’m thankful for.

So, I’m trying to preempt whatever sadness might come wandering through the front door. With no further ado, here’s what I’m looking forward to throughout the rest of this winter.

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Visits from friends. Two of my very best friends, Courtney and Melissa, are both coming to visit us in February. I continue to be amazed and so very grateful that our friends and family are willing to trek all the way to Michigan to keep us company and engage in our life here.

Hearing Sarah Bessey speak in person! Part of the reason Melissa is coming to visit is because Sarah Bessey is coming to speak at our church! (It was just the excuse we needed to get Melissa up here.) I consider Sarah to be a pastor in my life, someone who talks about Jesus in a way that speaks right to my heart and whose writing has transformed my relationship with God in very meaningful ways. I can’t wait. I’ll probably cry.

Ruthie’s smiles and coos. Newborns are such sleepy little things, and this isn’t the most exciting phase. One of my favorite things about motherhood are those very first intentional smiles and coos, each a sign that our baby is finding her place and voice and joy within our family.

More snow. All our snow melted away over the past week or two. I’ve been grateful for a few warm days, but I don’t like the cold if there’s not at least a little snow to make it pretty! The world feels so gray and bland right now; some snow will brighten things up.

Hanging up our spring wreath. It’s the little things, you know?

A beer or glass of wine at the end of the day. #notpregnantanymore

Reading more of The Jesus Way. I set this book down for a very long time and am finally picking it back up again. I have basically underlined the entire book. It’s enlightening and convicting and helping me look at Scripture differently.

Getting my first issues of Real Simple in the mail. This is my favorite magazine, and my sister bought me a subscription for Christmas! Magazines feel like a small indulgence, a small pleasure, and while picking them up in the grocery store is fine, I enjoy them even more when they arrive in the mail.

Drinking more hot chocolate. It’s become Evan’s job to whip us up some hot chocolate on cold nights. It’s a lovely ritual.

Getting back to our small group. We took a few weeks off for the holidays, and then Ruthie was born, so we’ve missed both of January’s meetings. I am missing these Tuesday evening gatherings, and I’m excited to jump back in for February.

I’d love to know: what are you looking forward to this season?

What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” –John Steinbeck

Advent, Week 3: Joy

Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” (Luke 2:10-11, NKJV)

Back towards the beginning of November, I tweeted that I had started listening to Christmas music. “Desperate times call for desperate measures,” I wrote. I said I wanted joy at all costs, even if it meant breaking my strict No Christmas Music Before Thanksgiving rule. But in the weeks since, I’ve mostly been listening to Joni Mitchell’s “River” on repeat (and every good cover of it I can find), with “Winter Song” and “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” sprinkled in for good measure. I made a “Contemplative Christmas” playlist, but that may just be an alliterative name for a playlist full of the saddest Christmas songs out there.

I know that Advent isn’t all about joy; it’s about the wait, the anticipation of the joy that will arrive with that baby’s first cries on Christmas Eve. I know that we are called to carry both our joy and our sadness, to feel them both fully, to not expect one to replace to other but to slog along, one bucket in each hand. Still, I really wish my melancholy would go away.

Back in January, I chose “joy” as my word of the year. If you know me much at all, you probably know that I chose “free” as my word of the year in both 2014 and 2015, and it quite literally changed my life. The ongoing conversation I had with Jesus about His promised freedom was the truest “renewing of my mind” (Romans 12:2) I’ve ever experienced. It’s how for the first time, God began to loosen the chains of striving, accomplishment, and perfectionism that had enslaved me all my life.

Near the end of 2015, I began asking: If I’m free from perfectionism, what do I want to be free for? The answer was clear: joy. I wanted and needed more joy. And I expected that “joy” would have the same profound effect on my life that “free” did. I was looking for tangible, profound, more than all I could ask or imagine change.

So, how did 2016 go? I haven’t done much of anything with my word (besides scribble “choose joy” on the tiny chalkboard by my front door). Lessons about joy haven’t shown up unexpectedly in my reading, writing, or podcast-listening. The word hasn’t leapt off the pages of Scripture. I feel like my word let me down a bit, or like I let myself down by not doing enough to make joy a reality.

During Advent, the temptation to manufacture joy is stronger than ever. If I bake just one more batch of our favorite chocolate chip cookies or hang one more cute printable on my wall, if I come up with another silly thing for our elf to do or serve up another batch of hot cocoa, then our Christmas season will feel joyful. Or maybe I just need to switch playlists and turn the Christmas music up a tiny bit louder.

But as I think about it, I know it deep in my soul: I’ve missed the point.

Joy isn’t something I can create by sheer force of will. Joy is not something I can chase. Joy is a fruit (Galatians 5:22). It is only something I can be filled up with, as I am filled up with the Holy Spirit. It’s something I can only receive. All year long, I acted (and prayed) like I just needed a better attitude, and then I would feel joy. While my attitude certainly needed adjusting some days, I think this is where the difference between happiness and joy can be found. Happiness has more to do with my attitude, and joy has more to do with my soul. Joy isn’t a response to my circumstances; it’s a gift I receive from Jesus in the midst of my circumstances, whatever they may be.

When the angels appeared to the shepherds, they didn’t say, “Go be joyful now!” Jesus’ very presence created and brought forth the joy; the shepherds could only receive it.

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Admittedly, I’m still trying to hash out what this actually means in the context of my real life. So, I pray.

Dear Jesus, help us not wait for the light to break through before we receive the gifts you offer us. I want my anticipation of your coming—your salvation, your redemption, your making all sad things untrue—to lend me real and tangible joy, even in the midst of the darkness. Help this be true of my life. Fill me with your spirit and transform my heart; in the process, may my whole life become a reason to rejoice.

Advent, Week 2: Peace

Last week, I wrote my Monday Benediction and a blog post all about hope, so as to match the theme for the first week of Advent. My plan was to do the same thing today, for peace, and so on through the rest of the season. But yesterday came and went and I found I had little to say about peace, and no clarity came this morning.

All day long, my boys seemed determined to get on each other’s nerves. They spent most of the day pushing and shoving one another, snatching toys from each other’s hands, crying each time the other got in his way. And doing it all at the loudest possible volume. I walked around the house thinking (because “praying” is probably too strong a word), “Isn’t this week supposed to be peaceful?!”

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This concept of peace also feels heavy this year, given all that’s happening in the world: Syria and refugees, Trump and tweets, Standing Rock and ISIS. We all have very different ideas about what peace entails and what will bring it about. Some of us believe letters, phone calls, and blog posts are the path forward. Some choose legislation while others choose sit-ins and picket lines, and still others believe in the power of boots on the ground. And I think each of us believes peace exists solely in the past, or in the status quo, or in the future.

Peace, like the rest of Advent, feels like a lesson in contradictions right now. On the one hand, I believe it’s something we need to work for, strive for, build, create, cultivate, even fight for. On the other hand, I believe peace is being handed to us, a fruit being offered, something we can only receive as a gift. It’s both an internal and external reality.

The other day I went through the Starbucks drive-through after dropping Ian off at preschool, and scrawled across my red cup were these words: “Love and joy, crafted by hand and by heart.” I snapped a photo, because it reminded me of one of my favorite Brené Brown quotes: “We move what we’re learning from our heads to our hearts through our hands.” It was just a Starbucks cup, but I can’t stop thinking about it.

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As I’ve mulled over this post, I wanted to land in one spot or another: hand or heart? Which is it? Do we work for peace, or do we receive it as a gift from Jesus?

Of course, the answer is both. Just as both God’s spirit and Jesus’ physical presence are required for our redemption, both our hands and our hearts are essential for peacemaking. Advent is an irrational season of contradictions: darkness and light, impoverished little babies and kings, angels and shepherds, virgin unwed mothers, now but not yet. It is possible that while the entire world is walking away from peace, Peace is still coming. And peace is forged—simultaneously—through the transformation of our hearts and the work of our hands.

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. —Galatians 5:22-26 (The Message)

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Dear Jesus, may we sense peace in our hearts and may be we create peace in the world. In this season and in every season moving forward, may we work out the implications of peace in every detail of our lives. And in your mercy, please bring peace to our hurting, broken, war-torn world.

What Stars Hollow taught me this time around

In the spring of my freshman year, a big group of girls crammed into my tiny dorm room to watch the finale of Gilmore girls. We each had a spoon, and we passed around a tube of Tollhouse cookie dough to share. We moaned and groaned about the terrible seventh season, and we smiled and laughed and gushed about this show we had loved so much.

I distinctly remember, too, the first episode of Gilmore girls I ever watched: it’s the one when Lorelai and Emily steal bathrobes from a hotel. (Season 2, Episode 16, Google tells me.) I was hooked from the get-go.

In an attempt to prepare for the revival, I started rewatching the show a few months ago. I suppose I forgot how much parenting small children eats into binge-watching time, because I only made it to the beginning of Season 4. Even so, I’ve realized how much about this show I didn’t appreciate during my first go-around. I did not appreciate the relationship dynamics between Lorelai and her parents (Emily is a Gilmore girl too, you know!) or how deeply flawed Lorelai and Rory are (and really terrible decision-makers). I didn’t realize how much the four seasons affect what’s happening in the show. (Has anyone on the Internet done a meta-analysis of what kind of plot points take place during which seasons?). I didn’t appreciate the subtle humor of Sookie or Mrs. Kim, and I didn’t feel the intense pity for Paris I feel now.

I guess what I mean to say is just this: for me, the show is better upon second watching.

Last week, I drove up to Traverse City so my cousin Meaghan and I could watch the new episodes together. Admittedly, my expectations were perhaps irrationally high, only because I loved the show so very much and because the original writers were involved in this reboot. (Not to mention—hello, Internet hype!) Did the show meet my hopes and expectations? Nope. It left a lot to be desired, I think, and I agree with the vast majority of the Internet: Rory was terrible, and her decisions were terrible, and just generally WHAT THE HECK RORY, GET IT TOGETHER.

However.

I still found the experience of watching the show so incredibly enjoyable. As cheesy as it sounds, it felt like being reunited with old friends. But what I keep coming back to more than anything else is this: I love Stars Hollow.

It’s true. I love that quirky, unrealistic little town. On a recent episode of The Simple Show, Tsh Oxenreider and her guest Kendra talked about how Stars Hollow is a character in and of itself; it has personality and in so many ways, it drives the plot. I couldn’t agree more. (That episode is full of spoilers, just FYI.) All I keep thinking since watching the revival is that somewhere, deep in my soul, I needed a visit to Stars Hollow, and I am missing it even now.

(Please note that there may be some spoilers here. You’ve been warned!)

Here’s what Stars Hollow taught me and reminded me, this go-around:

1. Our commitment to home matters. Our move to Michigan has left me feeling like my heart is divided between so many different homes, and I guess that’s ok. After all, C.S. Lewis has said that our longing for something this world can’t satisfy reminds us that earth, after all, is not meant to be our home. And yet. I don’t want to live like Rory, three different cell phones in my purse, never actually feeling committed or tethered to any given place. I don’t want to walk around saying, “I’m not back, I’m not back, I’m not back.” I don’t want to put too much pressure on any given place to be something it’s not or never could be. At the same time, we can not be whole and healthy if we are divorced from our physical surroundings. We need to choose a place and be all in, for as long as life’s circumstances allow. Rory’s inability to choose a home mirrors her inability to choose who she wants to be in this season, and I don’t want to fall victim to the same trick.

2. Achievement matters little, but integrity matters a great deal. I, like Rory, have fallen victim to the idea that a college degree, prestigious career, and impressive resume is my highest calling. Rory had one great achievement and then felt completely lost in its wake. Meanwhile, Luke actively avoids building the “empire” Richard hoped for, but we love him all the more for it. And aren’t Paris and Doyle choosing achievement (in the form of careers and a crazy house) over each other, dismantling their marriage? Stars Hollow may not provide many opportunities for achievement or upward mobility, but it does allow people to be their most authentic selves.

3. We all need people who see us, believe in us, and call out the best in us. This is what Jess does for Rory always (but specifically, in the revival, by giving her the book idea). This is what Sookie and Luke do for Lorelai. Sometimes, the loudest voices in our lives are not these most helpful voices; we need to seek out the good ones and give them highest priority. #teamjess

4. It is worth working for the kind of families and communities we want. Lorelai did this for much of her life—working hard and forsaking almost everything to build the kind of home and family she wanted and needed. Taylor does this with every insane statute and community initiative. Even Kirk does this in his own crazy way. Yes, you have to suspend disbelief a lot in Stars Hollow, but I find that this relentless optimism is giving me hope in these crazy times.

5. To be people of integrity, we’ll sometimes need to forge our own path and write our own rules. A friend of mine pointed out that Rory thrives when the rules are written for her and when there is a rubric or syllabus to follow; she excels in school because the expectations are perfectly clear. Rory flounders when the rules aren’t spelled out for her, when someone might be disappointed, or when the right answer isn’t immediately clear. She second-guesses herself and makes poor decisions. As someone who has clung to the rules far too tightly for most of my life, I get it. Meanwhile, people like Lane and Luke seem to be people of such integrity because they are more concerned about who they are becoming than what they are doing.

I can’t count the number of conversations I’ve had about Gilmore girls over the past week, and even that fact seems to mirror Stars Hollow somehow. Let’s be honest—the Internet has been straight-up terrible in the aftermath of the election. But the Gilmore girls revival reminded me that the Internet can also be a place to discuss, analyze, and celebrate together. (Not to mention, collectively groan over a fictional character’s terrible decisions.)

Thanks, Stars Hollow, for being a lovely little home away from home. Thanks for all you’ve taught me about family, community, forgiveness, and loyalty. I can’t wait to visit again with my own daughter one day.

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