20 Things I Learned in Twenty-Thirteen

It’s New Year’s Eve, and I’m feeling reflective, nostalgic, and thankful for this wild, beautiful year. Here are a few things I learned in 2013.


1. God loves the cynic heart. I thought a lot this year about my own cynicism – the years when it was so ever-present and the ways it continues to linger in certain aspects of my faith life. As with so many things, I think when you begin to recover from cynicism, it’s easy to dismiss it in others. And yet, as I remembered my own mad season, I realized that cynicism is a kind of paralysis that keeps you from asking for what you need. And I want to be the kind of person who picks up the edge of the mat where the paralytic is lying and carries her through the crowds. I want to haul her to the top of that roof, lower her straight down to Jesus.

2. There’s not really anything the police can do when your 2-year-old locks himself in the house with the oven on. You’re better off calling Mick the Locksmith right off the bat.

3. Don’t judge your parenting against that of the Man with the Yellow Hat on Curious George. He has cartoon patience.

man with yellow hat

4. Faith is messy. I think that I figured that at some point, my faith would be a well-ordered room, and everything would have a place. But really, so much of this is middle-mess. It’s standing in the questions, doubt, and pain. It’s a steady stream of purging and reorganizing. Hanging on and letting go. The transformation occurs not in a finished product of some kind but in the middle of all this wild, angry, beautiful mess.

5. Winter always ends. Eventually.


6. Bathtub crayons might seem like a good idea at the time. But they’re not. Trust me. They’re just not.

7. Prayer is about coming weary. I wanted to learn about prayer this year. I wanted to know what it meant to ask with hope and expectancy instead of with cynicism. What I learned is that no matter how much I read or learn about prayer, I still come to God so often distracted and unfocused and falling asleep. And also? That doesn’t mean I’m doing it wrong. There is no doing it wrong. The only thing that matters is that I come.

8. That sour milk smell can be removed from the inner-workings of your couch with a baking soda satchel stuffed in a sock.

9. Sitting outside in the sun is never a waste of time.


10. We don’t have just one “God-Shaped Hole” that is perfectly completed by a Jesus puzzle piece. This year, I had a miscarriage and realized that we are, all of us, full of holes, living with a little bit more emptiness each year. We are waterlogged, going down. And God is not some perfectly shaped stopped, meant to keep a sinking ship afloat. He is something else entirely. A life boat. A raft. The Rock we cling to when the whole thing is going to hell.

11. Best friends (and brothers. and sisters.) are rare and wonderful people. Hang on tight.


12. The day after the 7-hour road-trip is always the worst part.

13. Not that much changes when you publish a book. My book went winging into the world this year on October 15th after years of writing and rewriting and emailing and proposal-ing. It is a dream I’ve chased maybe my whole life, and this year, it actually came true. It’s been amazing and surreal in so many ways…and yet my life is still the same hard, beautiful, screamy, kid-filled, messy thing it always was. The stress of promoting yourself and marketing your work to the “right people” doesn’t stop when your book finally hits the shelf; in many ways it’s only just beginning. I don’t feel like I’ve arrived; I still don’t feel like an “author.” Publishing is not the end of the rainbow, just another step in the journey.

14. The craft project will always take at least three times as long as you think it will. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.

Zierman Family Halloween

15. Social justice doesn’t have to look like big, life-altering, world changing actions. Sometimes it’s just about practicing one small change that reminds me think, pray, notice.

16. Turtles bite.


17. Cheap high-heels are never worth it. What you save on the shoes, you pay for in Blister Band-Aids.

18. It’s hard not because you got married young. It’s hard because you got married. After a decade of life with Andrew, I have learned that marriage is hard and beautiful and fragile and worth it.

19. “Breakfast dessert” is a thing. And sometimes it’s okay.

breakfast dessert

20. You are not alone. When my book came out, I invited other bloggers and writers to share their own “on fire” stories of faith, struggle and redefining. And I realized that so many of us have been along similar journeys. In my mad season and the depth of my Depression, I felt so completely alone. The reality? There are so many of us quietly struggling along the same rocky path.

And if we have the courage to be honest, we just might find each other.


What about you? What did you learn this year?

23 thoughts on “20 Things I Learned in Twenty-Thirteen

  1. Wow, love no.1 especially, and can relate so well to the cynicism thing. May we ever learn to pray without it!

  2. Lovely post, Addie. Your blog has been one of my favourites this year. Wishing you all the very best for 2014. (Dare we hope there’s another book in the pipeline?)

  3. #7 is very true in my life. I have found peace after many prayers blurted out in frustration and exhaustion…the words themselves not worth repeating to anyone but God. And #20…I think if we’d all stop being so stinkin’ independent we’d find rest tucked in the connections with other people. Happy 2014 to you and your family!!

  4. Thank you, Addie, for a list that made me laugh! Here’s to a beautiful 2014. Also, I have to ask — is the cookie pictured in #19 a chocolate chunk cookie with mocha frosting? If so, I recently made them, and I can attest that they are marvelous any time of day! 😉

  5. Thank you too for your honesty about cynicism and prayer. I finally came to the conclusion that it is ok if I fall asleep during my “Quiet Time.” And with cynicism, I keep having to tell myself that I don’t know the intentions of others or of God, so I need to stop judging and focusing on others craziness. Easier said than done.

  6. I forgot to mention that after you said you didn’t feel like an author, I thought “What?” If you don’t there is no hope for me! I tell others I am a writer and I feel like I am lying or joking. What a pathetic mess we writers are.

  7. Powerful words, Addie! I just ran into your name via Phillip Yancey/Books & Culture and can’t wait to read your book.

  8. The Man with the Yellow Hat was patient because he left Curious George alone all the time. The man had a serious problem with providing adequate supervision, and we would all be more patient if we just told our little monkeys to be good at the start of each day and then went about our business. I say you’re a way better parent for hanging around, however impatiently. 🙂

  9. I’m so sorry to hear about your miscarriage. You’re right. There is no perfect plug to fill the hole of loss. That kind of pain fills you up and threatens to drown you. Thankful with you for that Raft, that Rock.

  10. Appreciating the realness of this post. What I’ve learned: It’s very hard to find those who can choose empathy over sympathy when your raft is going down. Love these rare people, thank them, sit with them, and learn from them about how to do this empathy thing right. Yeah for at least one lesson learned in 2013!

  11. I was so happy to see this post go up yesterday! Glad you took time off at the holiday for yourself and the family, but so delighted to find this list. And as for the list, well, to echo my kids, True dat. The weariness and the messiness, yes, and sitting or doing anything outside in the sun is always worth it. Really appreciate you reflecting and asking us to also, as all these lists many are publishing of goals for the year broken down into categories with 50 steps…make my head reel. Maybe it’s age, or life teaching me I can control so little, but today I am glad that it’s not raining and we are healthy and all the kids texted Mum a Happy New Year last night. I have learned to take it one or two days at a time and be thankful and present and not so anxious about the next. But that is just what I have learned, everyone is at different places so this was just the right thing for me this year, not necessarily for all. Now its time for my breakfast dessert!

  12. I literally just had a cookie for breakfast. And honesty is what I learned this year. Best to you in 2014!

  13. What a beautiful, reflective and fun list. Sounds like a lot happened for you in 2013. I love the pictures of you and your family. What a great way to end the year.

  14. Addie, you are such an inspiration to so many, me included, you are gutsy and honest, you are right when you say you are just beginning, you have not arrived………, I just turned 65 december 29 and I am still struggling……., encouraging eh???? : ) Keep on going girl!!
    ( did your dad tell you I read your book? )

  15. Hey Addie, I read your book up in the wilds of northern Minnesota over Christmas break, and i loved it. We come from such different backgrounds, but I was just telling someone today that that really didn’t matter, because so much of what you wrote from your heart about estrangement from religion and faith really resonated with me. I’ve been there (am there) – different circumstances, different history, but much of the same story, in a way. So thank you for winging your book out to the world.

  16. Oh Addie,
    So good to hear your voice again. My hear has started out difficult and left me weak. These words? They were what I needed today. Thank you so much for sharing the road with me, friend. You are always one that helps me feel less crazy and reminds me that I’m not alone.

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