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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Wrapping up 2015

jenmichel@me.com

I have a couple of end-of-the-year updates for you and then I'm off to enjoy the holidays with my family! One:

Yesterday at 1:17 p.m., I emailed the first draft of my second book manuscript to my editor. I would share with you the title—if I had one. (My working title unfortunately showed up on someone else's cover this past year!) But generally, when people have asked, I've said that I'm writing a book about the longing for home. (Too bad The Longing for Home has also been taken—by Frederick Buechner nonetheless!)

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If you're a subscriber to Christianity Today, you might have seen my recent Her.meneutics column (in the December print edition) entitled, "Not Yet Home for Christmas." That piece is like an appetizer for the meal that is my next book. I write:

"Our first human parents were given a home and invited to sit and stay awhile. But they, and we, have chosen rebellion. So the drama of life unfolds not a home, but in exile . . . To be human is to be homesick, longing for paradise lost."

Should that sound depressing (and I guess it kinda does, excerpted like that), I promise it's not. The gospel is the story of a God, who enfleshed himself and left his home in heaven to make possible our homecoming.

Two:

I have wanted to tell you about my favorite reads of 2015. Here's my list with a short summary of why you might want to add each title to your library.

The Warmth of Other Sons by Isabel Wilkerson: If you, like I, never learned about the massive exodus of 6,000,000 black Americans from the south between 1915-1970, you must read this book. It will help in understanding the hostility characterizing current race relations in the United States.

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry: Hands down, this was the best novel I read this year. Granted, the first ten or so chapters shuffle at the slow pace of days in Jayber Crow's barber show, but the end of the book will have you weeping for the world and longing for the new earth.

Wearing God by Lauren Winner: I'm grateful for any book that helps me read Scripture more carefully, and Winner's book does just that. Winner is especially good at exposing the middle-class assumptions that distort the way we see God.

The Gospel of Ruth by Carolyn Custis James: Similar to Winner, Custis James is a careful reader of Scripture, and I'm grateful to have studied alongside her. Ruth is a gusty woman of faith.

To Hell with All That (Loving and Loathing Your Inner Housewife) by Caitlin Flanagan: The title alone gives you a taste of the force of Flanagan's writing. When someone recently asked which writers I'm reading and imitating, I'd like to say Flanagan.

Just a Housewife (The Rise and Fall of Domesticity in America) by Glenna Matthews: This is a careful history beginning with Colonial America and ending in the 1970s. Every woman should know the story of the American housewife, which has potential for clearing up a great deal of confusion about a "woman's role."

Lament for a Son by Nicholas Wolterstorff: There are too few good books about grief—books that don't deny pain and yet don't turn bitterly hopeless. This is a book I'll be putting into the hands of those suffering the loss of someone they've loved.

Scripture and the Authority of God by N.T. Wright: I love how Wright manages to make accessible his genius. This book is best in its final two chapters, where Wright applies his hermeneutic to the Sabbath and to marriage.

How [Not] to be Secular by James K.A. Smith: Smith, in my opinion, is doing some of the most helpful scholarship for the church. Here, he's condensing Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor's work. Every pastor and ministry leader should be reading this.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis: I cannot believe I hadn't read this until this year, but this is a book I'm going to be returning to, especially as I pray to become a better witness for Christ. There's no one more lucid than Lewis when it comes to demonstrating how Christianity makes fundamental sense of the world.

Honorable Mentions:

Getting Involved with God by Ellen Davis

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The Joy of Missing Out by Christina Crook

Are Women Human? by Dorothy Sayers

3.

I'll wrap up this update by saying I'm looking forward to a full-stop for the next four weeks. I've struggled, in recent months, with the constant pressure of deadlines and their imposition of hurry and preoccupied thought. And as much as I might say that I dislike the frenetic, busy pace, it is also true that I often choose it for myself. I don't even know that I would recognize myself at a resting pulse! So, with help from my spiritual director and her careful listening, I heard myself say in our most recent time together: I need rest. I'm nearly wrung out.

And that's what I intend in the next month: I'll finish the last few work responsibilities I have (and clean out my office!), then turn my attention to Christmas menus, cookie baking, reading a frivolous novel, and maybe even sleeping in past 5am! When the kids go back to school in January, I'll putter around the house. I'll paint a bedroom and chaperone a field trip. I'll enter the year with silence, not words. I'll look back, pray ahead. And hope to be restored by the easy yoke and light burden of Christ.

I wish this for you, too.

Merry Christmas!