Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Introducing the ABBYs: My Best of the Year

There’s nothing like an end-of-year “Best of” list for prompting an argument with your friends, so have this one on me. Through a complex set of algorithms, I am pleased to be able to announce the first annual Andy Butcher Best of the Year awards, hereafter to be known as the ABBYs (trademark pending).

The details of the careful selection process will be beyond you—involving a cup of Starbucks coffee, one of their napkins, and a borrowed Bank of America pen—but the results will give you a glimpse into my past twelve months. You may disagree with my choices, but remember, they are the result of intensive analysis.

Book of the Year: Amanda Houten paid a high price for her youthful naivete, when the aspiring journalist was abducted while on assignment in lawless Mogadishu, Somalia. Through more than a year’s abusive confinement she discovered a deep well of resilience. Her ability to transcend her awful experiences is elegantly captured with the help of Sara Corbett in A House in the Sky.

Album of the Year (Runner-up, actually, to The Kids Are Gone by Matt Butcher & the Schoolyard Band): Maybe it’s my lingering Protestant work ethic, but I am not a fan of overnight sensations; I think people should have to pay their dues. But I make an exception for young Sam Smith, whose soulful debut In The Lonely Hour has deservedly won a GRAMMY nod. Sweet heartache and longing has not been served up better in some time.

Movie of the Year: Your heart will go out to troubled teens and the people who work with and care for them, through Short Term 12. This low-budget drama, written and directed by Daniel Destin Cretton, and based on his own experience working in a group facility, achingly captures the pain of so many abandoned and abused young people.

Podcast of the Year: Like many people, I was a big fan of This American Life‘s spin-off, Serial, but the award actually goes to Death, Sex & Money. Yes, the three taboo topics pursued with a fascinating range of subjects—from musicians to a transgender couple and a long-term prisoner—by Anna Sale. Thoughtful questioning, enlightening answers.

Blog of the Year: Through the struggles of a loved one over the past few years, I have seen and experienced the ugly consequences of addiction—more hospitals and police and rehabs than I care to remember. Heather Kopp’s Sober Boots is a place of wisdom, encouragement, hope, and comfort as she writes with candor of and from her own recovery.

Digital Resource of the Year: There are all kinds of places to find free music and movies, but none friendlier than Hoopladigital. You can stream or download albums, audiobooks, and films courtesy of your local library, and when time’s up they just disappear from your device like magic. An honorable mention goes to the libraries that enable you similarly to borrow free digital magazines from Zinio.

Personal Lesson of the Year: Failure may be mine, but it isn’t me. I crashed and burned on one of my 2014 freelance projects. When I discovered what a poor job I had done, I struggled for a long time with shame and insecurity. There’s still some hangover, some residue, but I am shaking loose of letting it define me, and trying to embrace it as an exception that spurs me on, to aspire to better.

Insight of the Year: “Intensity is not intimacy.” I don’t remember where I heard this, but as I have observed unmarried friends navigating the dating world it has stuck with me as a profound principle for relationships—albeit one that challenges the message we are bombarded with by popular culture. Intensity flows naturally from intimacy, but the reverse is not guaranteed. “Chemistry” is important, but with the wrong mix of elements you can get an explosion that destroys them rather than a reaction that transforms them.

Dog of the Year: Wet noses, slobbery nuzzling, and constantly having to step over someone who’s wrapped round your feet. No, not the joys of grandkkids (a category mine scoop, by the way), but Woodley. Not having grown up in a hound home, I am a latecomer to the wonders of doghood and could have no better introduction than our lovable, goofy Golden.

Person of the Year: No contest. She is creative, courageous, compassionate, cute as all get-out. When she smiles, the national power grid dims its lights in defeat. She makes me a better person, and makes me want to be a better person. In and through her I see more of Jesus than anyone else I have ever known. My amazing wife.

Now, feel free to go and disagree. You’re welcome. And Happy New Year.

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