A Year of Small Changes: January—Gratitude

I quit setting New Year’s resolutions years ago. They’re too easy to break. I had a tendency to overshoot, fall far short of my goals, and get frustrated. I’ve chosen a word for the year since 2013, and I usually have some goals for the new year, but nothing structured. This year, I decided to try something different. Each month, I’m choosing one area I want to focus on—a spiritual discipline, a habit, or a small change I want to make. I’ve chosen most of them, and I’m thinking about the last couple of spots I need to fill. After a year of small changes, I think I’ll look back and see a big change in my life.

For January, my small change is gratitude. I’ve written before about how gratitude changed my life. But during the past few years—years full of moves and pandemics and general chaos—I got out of the habit of daily gratitude journaling. The effects of losing this habit were noticeable: more stress, more anxiety, more complaining, more negative thoughts. So this month I’m focusing on getting back into my habit of daily gratitude.

I started the new year with a new journal. My old one was barely written in, but there’s something about the fresh start of a pristine new notebook that helps reset my mind for a new year. I also printed off One Thousand Gifts prompts from Ann Voskamp, whose book by the same name started this gratitude journey years ago. You can find the prompts free on her website.

Each morning, I start with my journal and my favorite pens. To be honest, I have a lot of favorite pens, but for journaling, I love PaperMate Flair felt pens. I use a Paperage journal with 100 gsm paper, so there’s no ink bleeding through the pages. Sometimes I have a ton of things to list and I don’t use the prompts at all. Other days I’m struggling and use the prompts to help me get started. I list at least three things per day. Sometimes I list a lot more.

Whether it’s a short list or a long list, I find that gratitude journaling changes me. It trains me to look for things to be grateful for. It changes my mindset from pessimistic to optimistic. It makes me look at the world differently. The timing of this habit was no accident, either. God knew I would need an outlook of gratitude when I found out at the beginning of January I would need surgery. It was a scary start to the year, but I found so many things to be grateful for and saw God’s hand in so many details. Gratitude journaling helps me remember the many blessings He showed me in small moments.

Do you keep a gratitude journal? I’d love to hear about it if you do.

OneWord 2022: Peace

I wasn’t planning to choose a word for 2022, but God had other plans. That seems to be the story of much of my life: God had other plans. I wasn’t even considering a word, but days before the new year, He whispered His word for me: peace.

The past two years have been hard for all of us. Life as we know it radically changed—let’s face it, probably forever. Last year was a hard year for me personally. I lost two friends, both just 45 years old, one to a heart attack and one to cancer. Two childhood friends, both with young kids, lost their husbands just weeks apart. I faced my own personal struggles. It wasn’t a peaceful year—it honestly felt more like a year of loss.

This year promises to be an emotional roller coaster of a year. In May, my oldest son will have his graduation ceremony for the associate’s degree he finished in December. He will finish his first semester at another local college and turn twenty. In late May, my youngest son will graduate from high school. We’re facing the beginning of the end of life as we’ve known it for almost twenty years. Our roles as parents will change drastically over the next few years as we parent adults.

On top of that, I’m facing a struggle in my life that I never anticipated—one of those “God had other plans” moments. But He’s given me peace. I know that I’m inscribed on His hands, and He hasn’t forgotten me. He’s carrying me through. His plans were a surprise to me, but not to Him.

The older I get, the more I realize how untrue the phrase “When life settles down…” is, because it never happens. Life is change. Life catches us off guard. Life doesn’t look the way we expected it to look. But it’s never a surprise to God. I’m thankful for His peace through all life’s changes.

Five Minute Friday: Important

Everything in life screams “important.” The meeting. The to-do list. The class. The social media stats. It’s all important and it all demands our attention every second of every day. But what really matters in life?

At the end of the day, there’s really not much that’s important. Sure, there are short term things that matter. Our jobs matter. Getting laundry done and groceries bought and getting everyone where they’re supposed to be on time—it all matters, at least in the short term. But what really matters? When we take our last breath, what’s going to be important at that moment?

Last year, I lost two friends and a high school classmate, all in their 40’s. My friends loved Jesus passionately. I had lost touch with my classmate, but from what I heard about her, she loved Him, too. Their deaths at a similar age to my own made me take a long, hard look at my own mortality and at what really matters in this life. In the end, only one thing matters: Jesus.

This year, I’m starting with a fresh focus on what’s important. I’m carving out more time to start my days with Bible study and prayer, spending time with my Father who loves me. In the end, He’s what matters, and if I build my life with Him at the center, everything else will fall into place. As my husband often says, “If Jesus is all that matters when you take your last breath, He should be all that matters when you take your next breath.”

This year I’m renewing my focus on knowing Him and on leaving a legacy for Him. I want to build my life around Jesus, and I want others to see Him in me. I want to point people to Him, to his love and grace and mercy. And one day, when I take my final breath in this life, I want to be ready to meet Jesus, because I set my mind to the only thing that’s really important.

Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2022

One of my favorite parts of a new year is planning. I know, it sounds weird, but lists and planning make me happy. One of my favorite lists to make is my book list: what I want to read, books for reading challenges, and new releases. Today I’m linking up with Top Ten Tuesday to share my most anticipated new releases for the first half of 2022.


Twilight at Morington Cross by Abigail Wilson

I discovered Abigail Wilson’s books last year and love them! If you love Regency novels and mysteries, you’ll want to read this one. I hope to read this and catch up on her backlist this year.

High Wire Heartbreak by Anna Schmidt

I love the Doors of the Past series! I’ve been especially excited about this one. The circus has fascinated me ever since I read Kristy Cambron’s The Ringmaster’s Wife.


In Search of a Prince by Toni Shiloh

Thanks to Rachel Hauck, I’m a sucker for a royalty romance. I’m so excited about this new release from Toni Shiloh—and isn’t the cover just gorgeous?

The Lady’s Mine-Francine Rivers

The newest Francine Rivers book—need I say more? She’s an amazing author.


Malicious Intent-Lynn H. Blackburn

Lynn H. Blackburn is my favorite romantic suspense author right now. I loved the first book in this series and have been eagerly awaiting book two.

The Do-Over by Bethany Turner

Nobody can write a rom-com quite like Bethany Turner! Any time she releases a new book, I’ll drop everything to read it.

False Pretense by Heather Day Gilbert

I love this series and I’ve been waiting a long time for the newest installment! I am so excited to finally rejoin Tess on a new case.


The Souls of Lost Lake by Jaime Jo Wright

Jaime Jo Wright is another author I’ll drop everything to read. And this cover, y’all—this is her best cover yet. It gives me goosebumps just looking at it. I can’t wait for this!

A Perilous Perspective by Anna Lee Huber

I binged almost the entire series in the last three months of 2021. I’m anxiously awaiting the audiobook, because the narrator is just so good.


My May list is empty. If you have any great suggestions for this month, I’m listening. If there’s nothing, I’ll play catch up on some of last year’s great releases that I didn’t get to.


new Charles Martin

I haven’t found a title or a cover for the third and final book in the Murphy Shepherd series, but honestly, I don’t care—I just want this book in my hands. This series and this main character are some of my all time favorites and I just want more.

What books are you most excited for in 2022?

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