What's saving my life right now (2016 edition)

Last night, I mentioned to my husband in passing, "Tomorrow's the first day in weeks I feel like I have some breathing room in my schedule." 

For me, January is always a sprint - one of the busiest months of my ministry year. To make matters worse, I always begin the month exhausted from the holidays. By the end of it, I'm usually just holding my breath, hoping I won't forget something important or end up sick. 

Sure enough, yesterday, I woke up sick, sprinted through a long, tiring morning at work, and then came home and crashed hard, exhausted and still not feeling well.   

It's in moments like these that I'm acutely aware of what's saving my life right now.   

This practice, one that Modern Mrs. Darcy introduced to me last year, comes from Barbara Brown Taylor’s Leaving Church. In it, Taylor tells the story of when she was invited to speak at a gathering, and her host assigned the topic: “Tell us what is saving your life right now.”

In the words of Modern Mrs. Darcy, "It’s a good question. Most of us know what’s killing us, and can articulate it, if asked. But few of us pay attention to what’s giving us life. The question invites you to do just that."   

So this morning, I'm taking inventory of those things that are saving my life right now.  

Hope Snuggles, Jan. '16

1. Snuggles with the girl. I'm never more aware of all that I have to be thankful for than in those moments when I'm snuggling or nursing my girl. This has been especially true this month, as we came upon the one-year anniversary of when I was hospitalized during my pregnancy. That weekend - and the weeks following - were so scary. We were so frightened we were about to lose our girl. Because of that, snuggles with her are something I'm deeply grateful for, something I savor.     

2. Encouragement from colleagues. The longer I've been in ministry, the more acutely aware I've become that there are seasons in which I'm ripe for burnout. January and August are prime times for that, I think because of the sheer exhaustion I typically feel during those months. Last week, a colleague stopped by my house simply to offer words of encouragement for my work and ministry. She'll never know how much those words meant to me. 

Devil's Head, 2016

3. Mini-vacations. Last week, we escaped to Devil's Head in WI for a couple of days. Thanks to the grandparents' willingness to watch our girl, Doug and I got to ski. Since I was pregnant during last year's ski season, I wasn't sure how the experience was going to be but it was fabulous! My body remembered what to do and the physical exertion felt SO good... As did being outside, enjoying God's creation. 

4. Research. One of the things I loved most about grad school was rediscovering my love of research. Since then, I've seized any opportunity I've found to dive back into research, which is something that breathes life into me like few others things do. I'm currently working on some analysis for Arbor Research Group and launching a refugee-related project through Exodus World Service. Both are incredibly energizing to me. 

Real Jesus Edits

5. Writing. I took an intentional blogging break over the holidays but it felt so good to be back blogging more regularly in January and even launching a new series about Things Youth Pastors Should Stop Wasting Their Time On. Additionally, I turned in edits (most of which I did with a baby in my lap) for my new book, The Real Jesus. It's a devotional about Jesus for teenagers based on the research published in The Jesus Gap. I'm crazy excited to get it into people's hands later this spring! 

6. Reading. Despite how difficult it can be to find time to read with a baby in tow, I've been intentional about seizing the moments I have for it - wherever they might be found, no matter how long or short they are. Time with a good book ALWAYS leaves me feeling refreshed, not to mention, slightly more sane. 

7. The crockpot. I actually really enjoy cooking but during the month of January, I had no time to do so. Thanks to my trusty crockpot, though, we still managed to have home-cooked meals most nights of the week. 

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the director of youth ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and the forthcoming A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

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