I begin this New Year hesitant and hopeful. I’m not yet prepared to charge or even briskly greet the possibilities of the next 365 days. I feel as if I’m peeking around the corner — looking at new vistas but also comprehending that my scenery will not change dramatically. It has been a year unlike any other in memory.
I view this calendar border crossing as an opportunity to reflect, evaluate and be still. My direction and goals may remain unchanged, but I always find areas in my life and in my heart that are off-tune, squeaky and pitchy. I’m working through personal failure, parenting frustrations and anxiety over how fast time passes. I want to make the most of…everything and yet I can view the passing minutes, hours and days with an “hour-glass” half empty perspective. Guilt. Mistakes. Second-guessing. I run through the gauntlet.
And yet, I find December 31st and January 1st immensely beautiful. I cross this threshold with thankfulness. I’ve been gifted another year. Another year to be a wife, mom, daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece and friend. Seventeen years ago on New Year’s Eve, I had surgery to remove malignant melanoma from my leg. Accelerated by pregnancy, the melanoma had taken root rapidly. I held my two-month-old son and wondered if I would be alive to see him turn one.
This event, this season of uncertainty changed my course and informed so many decisions I made in the years that followed. No guarantees were offered to me, no guarantees are offered to any of us, but I absolutely knew that I wanted to be present fully in the life I was given. This has not meant and does not mean perfectly present by any stretch of the imagination. But, in the deepest spaces of my heart, this is what drives me. God has given me my beautifully messy and extravagantly ordinary life. I want to make it count.
As far as how this translates to my New Year vista, I’m not quite sure. So much in our world, in our country, in my city, in my community, and in my own home feel fragile. I feel fragile. But this I know, God is not fragile. God is not weary. In spite of my fears and questions and sorrow and anger, He is who He says He is. He will walk with me and my family into this new year. To walk with Him is my only good option.
I’m hesitant, but also feeling brave. I’ll step out into the sunshine or gray-spattered shadows and start walking. What else can I do?
I could give you a hundred books to peruse for your New Year reading options, but I won’t. My friend Tina and I are humbly recommending five books to consider, to simply begin with, as we tenuously tread on what feels like the pretty shaky ground of 2021.
The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi // If you are looking for better ways to organize your life without having to revamp your daily routine or completely redo your house, this is the book for you. Kendra has practical and simple ways to think about things which really do make a big difference over time. My husband and I have both started using Kendra’s “magic question” to help prep for the next day, and the simple practice of “batching” has helped me stay more focused during parts of my day where I’m usually doing too many things at once. Plus, Kendra has a great sense of humor which makes the book a delight to read. She tells great stories!
It’s Not Supposed to be this Way by Lysa Terkeurst // 2020 was the hardest year of my life on every level: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Between menopause, Covid shutdowns, struggling with sleep and anxiety, it was incredibly rough and at times felt very dark. A friend gave me Lysa’s book for my birthday and it was the light and encouragement I needed. Lysa writes in ways that made me feel known, at times made me cry, at others laugh, and she had great questions and word pictures to help me work through my own challenges. If 2020 was challenging for you and you don’t want to stay stuck in 2021, I highly recommend this read.
“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.”Ralph Waldo Emerson
My Tech-Wise Life: Growing Up and Making Choices in a World of Devices by Amy Crouch and Andy Crouch // I had the privilege of helping with the book launch of My Tech-Wise Life; it was a gift to me as a woman and as a mom. Amy Crouch wrote this book with her dad, Andy Crouch, with each chapter a combo of Amy’s words, followed by Andy writing a letter to Amy. I loved this format and the wisdom that came with it. Whether I like it or not, my kids are growing up in a technological landscape that is not disappearing. They will have to learn at a young age what I never had to think about as a teenager. I’m learning. They are learning. We can help each other.
This book is a book about technology, but more so, it is a book about living a meaningful, and fully present life. It’s about the richness of genuine and authentic community, not missing the opportunity to cultivate creativity in our consumerism, and basically, not letting tech dictate your life to you.
- The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place by Andy Crouch // This is a family must-read, in my humble opinion.
- My Tech-Wise Life: Growing Up and Making Choices in a World of Devices by Amy Crouch and Andy Crouch // I recommend this for a parent-teen read-aloud or read separate, but at the same time.
The Life-Giving Home: Creating A Place of Belonging and Becoming by Sally and Sarah Clarkson // Because we have been at home so much is exactly why this book is just as essential as when we were able to move more freely in our lives. We’re worn out and tired from this year. I love my home and being home, but I find myself dreaming of escape. A new year is beginning and much looks the same, but my desire is to be present in my home, to make the most of this strange time. This book is organized by month, so, after reading the introduction, you can simply flip to January and ponder your vision and goals for 31 days. In February, read that chapter and re-set for the next 28 days. I have a great deal of respect for this mother-daughter pair. I believe their words will bless you.
Every Moment Holy, Volume 1 by Douglas Kaine Mckelvey // This book has been a blessed surprise. I learned of it during this year’s Hutchmoot Homebound conference through The Rabbit Room and I have loved it so much. It’s a book full of liturgies, essentially prayers to pray on my own, with my husband, with my family, and with my friends over every ordinary moment in our lives.
To give you a taste, you’ll find liturgies for “the ritual of morning coffee”, for sunsets, for first responders, for changing diapers, for celebrations, for nights & days of doubt, for loss, for sleeplessness, for practicing the presence of God and a liturgy for those who feel awkward in social gatherings. This book covers so much. It puts words and petition to thoughts that swirl, it has helped me settle anxious thoughts, it reminds me that every moment in my life really is sacred.
Happy New Year, friends! And, happy reading!
In the hope of threading stories and threading lives,
Stephanie & Tina
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