Three Books to Hack Your 2021

(This post was originally published on the Baptist Convention of New England’s blog on December 31, 2020. You can find it here.)

hack: a strategy or technique for managing one’s time or activities more efficiently*

“Auld Lang Syne” swells in the background as you sweep the last bits of Christmas into storage, making way for countdowns and confetti. It’s time to break out your fancy glasses and talk about the dreams you plan to turn into goals, pandemic or no pandemic.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a handful of resources tailored to multiply every ounce of energy you put into meeting those goals? A way to get the biggest bang for your buck?

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Seasonal Living

In the middle of a pandemic, little excitements take on a larger-than-life quality. One thing I’m inordinately giddy about right now is an idea for a new creative undertaking: seasonal family notebooks. I scooped up four sturdy art journals on sale last week and haven’t stopped dreaming of the beautiful resources I’ll turn them into over the next few years. They’ll essentially be a repository for our family culture, curated collections of goodness specific to spring, summer, fall, and winter. While each notebook will feature unique entries based on its season, all four will include the following:

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A Thanksgiving Word Feast

The end of November has come, and festoon-feathered fowls everywhere run for cover. In light of the difficult year we’ve survived, I have gathered a smorgasbord of lyrics, verses, and quotes to help usher in a festive mood. Here’s hoping this feast of words will be to your soul what a really great pumpkin pie is to your tastebuds. Light the candles, put on some jazz, and dig in!

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Autumn Kindness

Election season.

Does that make your soul groan, too, or is it just me?

I do a pretty good job most of the time guarding my eyes, ears, and thoughts from drama overload. (Being super picky about media intake will do that.) But as November 3rd looms, the cacophony is building, even for those of us who try to stay on the periphery. My big takeaway from watching as a political outsider: the world needs Jesus. In a culture that’s growing increasingly mean-spirited, do you know what would be bold, rebellious, and shocking? Kindness.

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Lent for the Expecting Heart

(This post was originally published on the Baptist Convention of New England’s blog on March 9, 2020. You can find it here.)

Days swell with the anticipation of that larger-than-life rhythm that has marked humanity since the garden: death and resurrection. The groans of bringing forth new life hang heavy in the future. As I find myself waiting for our first baby this Lenten season, I’m struck by the phrase ‘expecting mother.’ What am I expecting? Surprisingly, my hopes are an awful lot like those of every other thoughtful heart during Lent, “great with child” or not.

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A Different Kind of Meal Prep

Step right up, ladies and gents! Today only, we’re showing you how to make a month’s worth of freezer-friendly dinners in only two hours!

Meal prep is a fairly recent phenomenon consisting of planning, purchasing, cooking, and assembling large amounts of grub at once so that meals throughout the week lose the meltdown quotient for everyone involved. It’s not a complicated concept, but it can get pretty crazy.

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A friend recently pointed out that the population of Connecticut moves to rhythms rather than to routine. As a native Okie gal, I found this observation intriguing; my soul took a deep breath and smiled. Of course! Of course Connecticutians (or Connecticutters, or whatever they may be) adhere more to rhythm than routine. And of course this would be another reason God meets me in New England in the places I’d least expect.

So my soul sways to rhythms, taking a cue from the weather (which, today, is deliciously foggy but warmer than it’s been in months). There are three possible responses to this fact: I can struggle against it, be dominated by it, or embrace it. There’s really no point in fighting rhythm, so the first one’s out. Being dominated by it doesn’t sound like much fun either. How, then, shall I make the most of this tail-end of winter?

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Onward to Autumn

“But you think perhaps you can smell caramel wafting through the evening breeze, beneath the crisp scent of the autumn leaves. A subtle sweetness at the edges of the cold.”

(Erin Morgenstern)

The windy shift from swimsuits to scarves is a happy one around here, and I don’t want to miss a single sensation. The music in my house has lilted away from turquoise and turned toward golden, the blankets from pastels to deep plum. Fall tastes like cloves, smells like wool, feels like being understood, sounds like a campfire, and looks like home. I’d love to offer a few practical bits of housekeeping (literal and otherwise) to ease the transition for us all. Let’s prepare our hearts for a gentle season of echoing the trees in the letting go of dead things.

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The Threshing

There once was a foolish farmer who loved his wheat field so much that he refused to harvest it. Months after carefully planting, watering, tending, and praying, his wheat was golden, ready to bring into the barns and be put to good use. The farmer walked his field, discussing the upcoming harvest. “After I gather you, I must thresh you.” The field gasped. “Does threshing hurt?” After a moment of hesitation, the farmer answered, “To loosen the grain involves beating and crushing and stomping on your stalks. I admit it doesn’t sound pleasant.” The field cried out sharply, wind rippling terror through the waving stems. It begged the farmer to relent, clutching at the ragged edges of his humanity. “Please no! That sounds unbearable!” Sobs and whimpers turned to stillness. “But the threshing is necessary,” the farmer replied. “If I can’t harvest you, you’ll be no good—just a lovely but wasted field. This process of harvesting is what you were created for. The pain will give way to joy, I promise.” The wheat implored him desperately until he finally decided that a lovely but wasted field was not the end of the world.

Three months later, the field froze to death under four feet of snow.

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