Rhythm: My One Word for 2020

Last year was one for the record books. Resigning our church of twelve years. Selling our house. Moving to a new state and a new church. Our oldest son graduating from high school. My husband’s gall bladder attack and surgery. Building a house. New jobs. Sickness. Emergencies. There was nothing routine or normal about 2019.

I’m a creature of habit who thrives on routine, but this year, all my routines went out the window. Moving changed everything, and I can honestly say that in almost twenty years of marriage, this was our hardest move. Physically and logistically, it was hard.

This year, we’re finding our rhythms again. We’re settling into the home we built on a piece of land that will become our small farm. We’re learning the rhythms of seasons and work and church and balance. But all these rhythms and routines are new and unfamiliar to us. We’re learning all over again.

I’m finding my rhythms again this year. Some are the same. Some are new and different. I’m struggling to find a new morning routine since the one I followed and loved for years no longer fits my lifestyle. I’m reading a lot, but I’m listening to lots of audiobooks as part of my reading life – listening while I drive to work, while I work around the house, while I crochet. The vast majority of books going onto my “read” list are thanks to the Hoopla app. Our family schedule has changed even more this year with my oldest starting college and working part time.

This whole move, this whole past year, has been about moving us out of our comfort zone. God has pointed us to new ministries, to things that stretch us and show us we’re capable of learning new roles, to new routines and new ways of doing things. With these new roles again come new rhythms. This will be a year of learning and leaning into what God has for us. I can’t wait to see what new things come from it.

My 2020 Creative Goals

If you follow me on Instagram or know me in real life, you know I’m a very creative person. I write fiction. I crochet. I’m learning hand lettering. I thrive when I’m being creative, and when I’m stressed, the first thing I want to do to relax is make something.

The downside of being a creative person is that I tend to be easily distracted. I have so many ideas it’s easy to bounce from one to another, never getting around to some of the projects I wanted to finish. This year I decided to set some goals for myself. I’ve got some ideas I really want to work on and skills I want to build. I don’t want to get distracted. Here’s what I want to work on:

Build my intermediate level crochet skills.

I started crocheting about three years ago. I’m comfortable with advanced beginner projects, but I really want to move beyond that. I’m ready for finer yarns and more detailed projects, including socks, color patterns, and a sweater. I won a pattern for a gorgeous sweater recently, and I’d love to make it this year. I’m also doing my first ever crochet-a-long. It will consist of a square a week for 50 weeks, learning new stitches and techniques with each one. At the end of the year they will all be crocheted together to make a blanket. I’m really excited about it!

Finish the blanket I’m loom knitting for my oldest.

I started this blanket forever ago. Actually, I started it in January 2018. It should have taken me a year, but remember how I said I’m easily distracted? I want to finish this year and start my youngest son’s blanket in 2021.

Make Christmas gifts.

I obviously can’t go into a lot of detail here because the recipients of my gifts might be reading. I do want to make quite a few of my gifts for 2020, though.

Make projects with my “wish list” yarns.

I’ve used Red Heart Soft Essentials for a blanket and it’s so soft and snuggly! I want use some of their solid colors. I’ve also used Scarfie and loved it, but that new pink and gray is stunning! And the new Mandela Tweed…my first crochet blanket was made with original Mandala. I’m excited about this variation! I haven’t used Red Heart Chic Sheep but I’ve heard so many good things about it. Of course, I have tons of yarn…but look at this yarn! I need it. My rule is that I’ll only buy yarn if I have a project for it. I see some blankets and scarves coming soon.

Make a cowl with the yarn I got from Knitcrate.

In November, I saw a special offer for Knitcrate. I’d wanted to try their premium yarn subscription service for a long time, so when I saw an offer to get a month for only $5, I had to try it. The yarn I got was absolutely stunning-a merino/silk/alpaca blend with a crochet pattern for a gorgeous cowl. I really want to make this cowl for next winter.

Learn and practice more hand lettering.

I’ve dabbled enough to know which pens I like best (Tombow Fudenosuke) but I’m ready to get down to serious practice.

Tweak my finished novel and pitch my idea for a romantic suspense trilogy.

I wrote a book a few years ago. After lots of polishing, it won the ACFW First Impressions contest one year and semifinaled in the ACFW Genesis contest shortly after. I searched for a publisher for a few months, then life happened and I had to put writing on the back burner for a while. Now I’m ready to get back. I’ve got some ideas for minor tweaks, then I want to pitch my book and see what happens.

Write a book to pitch to Love Inspired Suspense.

I’ve had several short stories published, but my dream is to become a published suspense author. As I work on finding a home for my first novel, I’m ready to write another one for a specific audience: Love Inspired Suspense.

What projects are you excited about this year? If you want to follow my progress on my projects, be sure to follow me on Instagram.

My New Planner Setup for 2020

The perfect planner is hard to find. I spent years looking for it, trying to find the perfect setup to help make sense of a chaotic and unconventional schedule. Five years ago, I discovered bullet journaling. It was the perfect system for me for five years. Until 2019 came, our year of new beginnings, and suddenly, my system wasn’t working quite as well. Drawing out my weekly layouts became too time consuming, and the format just didn’t work as well for me anymore. I needed more space to plan and track multiple schedules for our family.

I’d had my eye on the Passion Planner for quite a while. I kept seeing people post about it and even saw people mention bullet journaling in it. The more I researched it, the more I liked it. The Passion Planner website offers free PDF’s of the current planners so you can try it out before you buy it. Starting in July 2019, I used the printouts for my weekly layouts and my planning life was changed. It was exactly what I needed to track multiple schedules: mine, my husband’s, and our two boys. In many cases, the four of us are going in four different directions at any given time, and this was the perfect way to track overlapping schedules.

The new layout worked so well for me that I ordered a 2020 Passion Planner the week they went on sale. I chose the medium size with a Monday start in blush. The color is gorgeous, and a donation is given to the Malala fund for every blush planner purchased.

There are so many things I love about this planner! The Monday start was a must have for me. I’ve used a Monday start for years. Since my husband is a pastor, we have a lot of weekend events, and it just makes more sense for our planning weeks to start on Monday. The paper is thick and luxurious to write on, and I don’t have any problems with my Mildliners or Staedtler pens bleeding through. The weekly layout is perfect! It gives me plenty of space to block schedules and write lists for the day as well as for the week.

There are 40 pages in the back-half blank, half dotted. This gives me the perfect way to continue bullet journaling in a more structured planner.

I’ve added tabs from Chelsea Brown Designs on Etsy to my planner so I find things quickly.

I also love magnetic bookmarks. I’ve picked up a few sets over the years to mark important pages, trackers (like my “books read” list), and more. My favorite set by far is the Gilmore Girls four pack I found at Books-a-Million a few months ago. I also love the yarn themed ones I recently picked up at Hobby Lobby.

The back of the Passion Planner has pages for the extras I like to have: my reading log for the year, social media and blog trackers, lists, and more.

Passion Planners come in three sizes. The dated version gives you the option of Sunday or Monday start dates. There are also undated options available.

I love this planner so much that I signed up as an ambassador! If you’re interested in trying one for yourself, you can check them out at http://rwrd.io/nedszh6.

I’d love to hear about what planner you’re using this year!

The Best Books of 2019

Last year was a very unusual year for me and my family. We started off with a 450 mile move in February. The entire year centered around moving and settling into our new home state. Our days were full of packing, moving, updating resumes and job hunting (for me), getting my dental hygiene license transferred, building a house, and the dozens of other changes that go along with moving. And so it was a very ‘off’ reading year for me.

While I might not have read as much as normal, I did read some amazing books. So many, in fact, it was hard to narrow this down.

1. The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright

Jaime Jo Wright earned a spot on my favorite author list with her very first book, but with her third, she’s taken her writing to a whole new level. She deals with important topics that, in my opinion, are not well covered in most Christian fiction – topics like anxiety and mental illness. She flawlessly weaves two storylines together into one story that you can’t put down. And she writes the perfect level of creepiness, giving her book a ‘ghost story’ feel…minus the actual ghosts.

2. Afraid of All the Things by Scarlet Hiltibidal

I’ve never seen a title that describes my life so well. I’ve struggled with fear and anxiety as long as I can remember, even as a child. This new-to-me author wrote a hope filled book about overcoming fear that I can’t recommend enough.

3. The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay

I’ve been a fan of this author since her very first book, Dear Mr. Knightly. Her books are full of great literary references and deep characters that pull you into their stories. I’m so excited for the follow up to this one, coming next year.

4. The Secrets of Paper and Ink by Lindsay Harrel

This is the second book I’ve read from Lindsay Harrel, and she’s quickly working her way onto my favorite authors list. I love everything about this book – the setting, the dual timeline, and the characters.

5. Storm Rising by Ronie Kendig

With each book Ronie Kendig writes, I think, “This is her best ever.” Then she writes another one and she somehow does even better. This series is full of action, unexpected twists, and such incredible characters that it kind of makes you sad they aren’t real people, because you’d really like to meet them all in person.

6. Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

I honestly didn’t know what to think of this book at first. It’s so different from anything I’ve ever read before, but my boys couldn’t stop talking it and both begged me to read it, so I stuck with it. I quickly realized this book is brilliant. The historic references are obvious but handled so creatively. The characters are deep, and the plot is full of twists. The ending was absolutely incredible.

7. A Rumored Fortune by Joanna Davidson Politano

This new author’s first book, Lady Jayne Disappears, was one of my favorite books last year. Her second book did not disappoint. She paints a vivid picture of the setting of each book and makes you love the characters.

8. I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel

This book is just pure bookish fun! I’ve been following Anne Bogel’s blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy, for years, and I do her reading challenge every year. I listened to the audiobook of this, narrated by Anne, and loved listening to her talk about the joys and challenges of the reading life.

9. The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman

Emily’s podcast by the same name is my one and only must hear weekly podcast. For an anxiety ridden, high stress person like me, her words always soothe my soul. This book is more of the same – quiet encouragement to stop stressing and just do the next right thing. This was another audiobook narrated by the author, and it’s perfect.

10. Echoes Among the Stones by Jaime Jo Wright

Two books in one year from one of my favorite authors? How did I get this lucky? It takes a talented author to write one good mystery…but it takes a brilliant writer to write two mysteries in two timelines and weave them together effortlessly. This is another author that just gets better with every book she writes!

What were your favorite books of 2019?

The Year of New Beginnings

Some years will be forever marked by a major life change: a graduation, a marriage, the birth of a baby. 2019 was a milestone year for our family because it was a year of new beginnings: a move, a new church, new jobs, building a home. It was the year everything changed. My husband accepted a new lead pastor position and resigned from our church of twelve years. We left the small town our boys grew up in and moved from the southeast Texas coast to the hills and mountains of eastern Oklahoma. Our oldest son graduated from high school. We started building our home on a small farm – our second time to own a home but our first time to build. January 2019 looked nothing like December 2019.

Change is never easy, not even good change. There’s always adjustment. This move has been no different. While I’d excitedly planned a blog reboot for 2019, that went on hold as our lives shifted dramatically. It took months for us to settle into our new surroundings and find new rhythms for our new life. I took several classes and tests to transfer my dental hygiene license and earn additional certifications I wasn’t allowed to have in Texas. Everything but the essentials was put on the back burner as we transitioned into our new lives.

Years ago, I read a quote in a Modern Mrs. Darcy blog post that said, “Every ten years you have to remake everything.” (You can read the entire post here. It’s still of my favorites ever from MMD.) After twelve years in one place, I guess we were past time for a remake. Those years of being settled made it hard to change. After twelve years at one church, church members have become family. After twelve years, we knew the area we called home. We had our favorite meals at our favorite restaurants, places where the waitress didn’t ask for our drink order, but brought one diet Dr. Pepper, two regular Dr. Pepper’s, and a Mountain Dew to the table as soon as we sat down. There was the movie theater with recliner seats where we got tickets in advance for opening night Star Wars and Marvel movies. There was the house full of memories of Christmases and backyard forts and birthday parties and tucking babies into bed at night for year after year. Saying goodbye to the life we’d known wasn’t easy, but we knew it was what God was calling us to.

Starting over is exciting, though. It isn’t easy, but it teaches you things. It pulls your family together. You’re experiencing the same stresses and same feelings, and you realize the best thing you have to rely on is each other. You have new adventures together as you navigate a new life. Starting over brings a richness to life that you’d never have if you stayed in the same place forever. It stretches you, teaches you, and most of all, it makes your heart grow. The words of Miriam Adeney are true: “You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” We left a piece of our hearts in Arkansas, in the towns where we grew up and where we pastored. We left pieces in Texas. And now we’re planting pieces in Oklahoma, with people who welcomed us like long lost friends. They’ve celebrated our new home and our son’s graduation and all the other exciting milestones we’ve hit over the last several months.

Our year of new beginnings has been one of the most beautiful, hard, exciting, stressful years we’ve ever experienced, but I stand of awe of what God has done over the past twelve months. He’s making beautiful things here in Oklahoma and in our hearts and lives.

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