Let's Make Everything Beautiful
My word of the year for 2022
I love a good restart, but it’s impossible to jump on the “New Year New Me” train in Spain on January 1, because everyone is still preparing for Día de los Reyes Magos on January 6. School is out until the weekend after, people are rushing around like it’s Christmas Eve, and no one is thinking about the new year, except to say Happy New Year. I have grown to love it because it forces us to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas and gives me an extra week to reflect and make my plans. And I get a giant brioche with whipped cream.
The past few years, I’ve chosen a word that embodies a goal, intention, change or value I am implementing. Recent words I’ve chosen:
Resurrection / 2021 - I focused on being creative this year, and prayed that God would resurrect in me discipline and joy in creativity. He totally did! It was so intense that I actually thought my word was create until I went looking for a journal entry about it. I wrote more, read wonderful books about creativity, and feel inspired to keep at it.
Heart / 2020 - I tried to be whole-hearted in 2020, and was given many opportunities to serve my family with joy. I took this photo of these beautiful apples in Germany right before 2020 kept us in Madrid for over a year.
Welcome / 2019 - I increased my hospitality efforts and grew in so many ways. This was perfect for our first full year on the field.
Intention / 2018 - According to a post I wrote at the end of 2018, living intentionally was kind of a joke. However, as I reflect on this year we moved to Spain, I recall a lot of intention in the area of homeschooling, relationships with people we were leaving, and nature study, since we changed climates. So while I didn’t record a lot about this word of the year, it was quite intentional. Also, we intended to move to Spain, and we did!
Esperanza / 2017 - there was one post with the hashtag I chose for this year, which was the year were were in language school. In the post, a photo of tiny Susanna and Austin sitting at a table with two little girls, I wrote, “we asked the Lord for friends in this new place, and He granted our request.” So many requests were granted that year!
My word for the year for 2022 is… beautiful
let this be the year of beautiful beautiful words contemplated, written and read beautiful worship of my Lord beautiful feelings processed and embraced beautiful moments relished in two countries beautiful plans for the future prayed over, planned and purposed
Continuing to create, and developing discipline in that creativity, is still my resolution. I know I have a story to tell, and I want to learn to tell it well. This newsletter, and simplifying my creative life by closing down the blog, is part of that.
What to expect from my newsletter
:: First of all, I promise I won’t send more than two letters a month. In fact, I promise it will average out to less than that, at least at first. I try to participate in Exhale Creativity Blog Hops, so that might comprise the occasional extra post.
:: You’ll find an essay. I’m just going to come write out and say it: I’m stretching my memoir muscles. The phrase I’ve used to describe this newsletter is memoirish prose on expat life, hospitality, faith and discipleship. Through my writing, I hope to inspire you to notice beauty in not-so-obvious places, which I have always tried to do.
:: You’ll probably find a book review or list of books. There will always be something related to books.
:: Other places you can find my work. I am humbled that anyone would sign up for a newsletter of my writing. In the blogging days of yore, you just put your stuff out there and maybe people read it, maybe they didn’t. But if you’ve requested to receive this note in your inbox, you’ve blessed me. I hope I won’t let you down!
:: Finally, a curated exhibition of places I found beauty unexpectedly.
Too Many Books
I read way too many books last year—over 120—and most of them weren’t that great even though I stayed up late reading them. I did read some gems, however, and I share them with you here.
Gentle and Lowly by Dane C. Ortland
Reading this book was like getting a long hug from Jesus Himself. I know Him so much better now, thanks to Ortland’s research and writing.
The Brave Learner by Julie Bogart
Inspired me to infuse my home with charm and enchantment even though the kids go to school. Recommended for homeschoolers especially.
Raising Up a Generation of Healthy Third Culture Kids by Lauren Wells
I participated in a book group with other missionary moms in my organization while reading this practical book, and Lauren joined us for the last session. This equipped me to better shepherd my kids through our various transitions and missions-related issues.
Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl
I just spent 20 minutes trying to remember why I liked this book so much, and I just can’t because I read it over a year ago. I’ve read all of Reichl’s books, and I only gave Save Me the Plums and this one 4 stars (I gave Garlic and Sapphires 3 stars because New York foodies are quite pretentious). If you like culinary memoirs as I do, then you’ll love this one.
Becoming Elisabeth Elliot by Ellen Vaughn
This is my number one pick for 2021 across all genres. Bonus points because I read it while on vacation in beautiful Northern Spain. Elliot’s books have long been on my to-read shelf, as I often resonate with excerpts from her writing, but this authorized biography is the first account I’ve actually read. Vaughn weaves together “Betty’s” journals, quotes from those who knew her and other experts on her mission field to tell the story both factually and with a thread of analysis of her motivations and spiritual walk. From my original review:
EE grew up in a Christian home, was very disciplined and cerebral, shy, and sheltered. I became a Christian as a high school student, did not grow up in a Christian home, and struggle deeply with discipline in nearly every area of my life. I do have other things in common with her, though, and found a kindred spirit and mentor in her through her journaled responses to her many trials. As a missionary myself, I was profoundly moved by how efforts seemed to produce no results except continued obedience and faithfulness.
The following quote from the Betty’s journals has deeply influenced my perspective on my own missionary career.
“I suppose the general opinion of missionary work says that it is intended to bring [people] to Christ. Only God knows if anything in my ‘missionary career’ has ever contributed anything at all to this end. But much in that ‘career’ has brought me to Christ.”
Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This list makes it look like I had a nonfiction heavy year. I didn’t, but most of the fiction I read just wasn’t that great. I read all of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s book, though, and this was my favorite because of the unique radio interview style in which it was presented. Heads up for sex, drugs & rock n roll. That’s literally what it’s about.
The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
I have enjoyed every Kate Quinn books I’ve read, but this was a fantastic novel about three women whose very different paths cross through code-breaking jobs at Bletchley Park during WWII. I loved the well-developed characters, the British 40s turn of phrase, and of course, the story.
A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus
A set of London siblings are sent to the countryside during the war find comfort in a local library. What’s not to love?