2013 In Review

Jen Bradbury
Jan 06 · 5 min read

2013 was a hard year for me; So much so that a large part of me just wanted it to be over. 

In contrast with years past, I didn't want to linger there any longer, or to reflect upon it. 

That said, after more than a decade in youth ministry, I've learned that anything worth doing, is also worth processing. After all, we learn by reflecting. 

So I borrowed this year-end recap from Rage Against the Minivan and forced myself to do what I didn't want to do and reflect on 2013 just a bit longer. 

1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?

I wrote a Master's Thesis.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

In 2013, instead of setting a New Year's Resolution (which I've never successfully kept), I instead spent time contemplating and choosing a word as part of One Word 365. My word for the year was brave. Throughout the year, I was amazed at the unexpected ways in which this word both anchored and challenged me. I'm committed to doing this again in 2014.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

I'm at the age where I feel like everyone I know is pregnant so, yes. Most significant, however, was not a birth but the pregnancy of one of my closest friends. In early December, we celebrated her baby with an unconventional baby shower in Chicago that included a chocolate tour.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

In 2013, I had a miscarriage. Our beloved cat, Franklin, died in November. Additionally, our church community (both my home church & current one) grieved the loss of several people, including one of it's saints, Bill.

5. What countries did you visit?

Canada, twice. We went to the Canadian rockies in early June and loved it so much that we returned to ski the week between Christmas & New Years.

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?


A child.

7. What dates from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

March 20 - the day I went to the doctor and found out I was having a miscarriage.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Graduating from Huntington University with a Master's in Youth Ministry Leadership. This program was an amazing one, giving me the opportunity to learn from some of the best minds in youth ministry, delve into the world of research (which I discovered I love!), and strengthen my philosophy and practice of youth ministry. I cannot say enough good things about it!

9. What was your biggest failure?

My failures this year weren't colossal, but rather ordinary and all too frequent. My temper got the better of me far more than I care to admit; I failed as a wife and friend more times than I can recount; And I managed to upset youth ministry parents from time to time. Thankfully, grace abounds – from these individuals and from God.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

A miscarriage.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Box of Design. I cannot speak highly enough of this service, which I also learned about from Rage Against the Minivan. My husband and I, who are the most indecisive people ever, used this service to redesign our living room, a longish, awkward, rectangular space we hated. Thanks to Hillary's design, we now love the room layout, it's aesthetic, and the furniture (We also love the fact that, thanks to Hillary, we purchased everything online). When we're home, this is now where we spend all of our time.

12. What did you get really excited about?

Research. I LOVED doing a research based Master's Thesis on the Christology of high school students in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and was thrilled when a former professor asked me to be part of a research project he's involved with. I have found this work incredibly energizing and life-giving.

13. What song will always remind you of 2013?

I'm a musical geek so I'd say the soundtrack for The Book of Mormon will always remind me of 2013. We saw this show in early 2013, and I listened to the music for days leading up to and following it.

14. Compared to this time last year, are you:

- Happier or sadder? Sadder – 2013 was hard.
– Richer or poorer? Richer – Monetarily, 2013 was a good year for us. We were blessed in that regard.

15. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Spend more quality time with family and friends. There are times when the stress of life overwhelmed me to the point of saying NO to get togethers with family or friends. In retrospect, I wish I would have made more time for these get togethers, which I never end up regretting. In ministry, I've always adhered to the mantra, “People over programs”. Perhaps I need to also apply this more to my life as well.

16. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Search the internet. In 2013, I cultivated a really healthy habit of reading blogs just once a day – in the morning right after I wake. However, I've realized that in the moments in which I find it difficult to focus, I tend to aimlessly search the internet or various social media sights. I'd like to curtail this habit in 2014.

17. How did you spend Christmas?

We went to Central Illinois to be with my husband's family for a few days leading up to Christmas. We celebrated Christmas with them on Christmas Eve before driving back to Glen Ellyn to attend our late Christmas Eve worship service. We spent Christmas day with my family.

18. What was your favorite TV program?

Breaking Bad. We watched this series – in it's entirety – in 2013 and loved it. It's also one of the few series that I'd say ended really well. 

19. What were your favorite books of the year?

See My Favorite Books of 2013.

20. What were your favorite films of the year?

We actually watched a lot of movies this year, but two come to mind.

The Way, Way Back : I saw this movie over the summer, right after it first came out. Though I didn't know much about it before seeing it, I immediately loved it – the cast, the acting, the storytelling, and the quirky storyline. What's more, to me this movie represents a tangible, practical expression of discipleship. As Joel Mayward said in his blog, it's a “youth ministry movie.”

About Time: I saw this movie because it's by the creators of Love Actually, a movie my husband and I love. Again, this movie is quirky. When I first realized it's premise, I thought “No way am I going to like this.” In reality, though, I not only liked it; I loved it. This movie hit me in all the right places, including on a very emotional level.

21. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 33, making this my “Jesus year”. My colleagues at work took me out to lunch and then my husband took me to Wildfire for a birthday dinner with my parents.

22. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Holding the baby I was supposed to have in November.

23. What kept you sane?

Family, friends, faith, reading, writing, and strangely, research.

24. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.

Even when life is incredibly hard, God is still with us.