It’s my birthday, so I thought it would be fun to do a list today. You know, one of those lists that has the same number of items as the year I’m turning. Of course, I first typed in “37” in that heading, because apparently I don’t know how old I am, LOL. Literally have to stop and do the math. Am I the only one who can never remember my own age??
But there you go–I was born in 1982, so the math insists it should be “38 Things.” And I’m going to do a random combination of things.
Things I’ve learned this year. Things I’ve discovered. Things I’ve loved. Things that are going to be a challenge moving forward.
Upon writing this list, I’m keenly aware of how old I’m getting, LOL, because it is LONG! But here are my year’s reflections.
- Sometimes we just have to survive until we can thrive.
This last year of my life was, in all honestly, the hardest in my memory. I was burned out creatively, the business my husband had worked with for the last 17 years closed its doors, there were some personal upheavals, and then of course toss in a pandemic and racial rioting. This year was not fun. It involved more tears than I can recall ever shedding before (I’m not given to crying), a lot of hard work (including completely rewriting a couple books), and a lot of exhaustion. But it’s also involved a lot of faith. A lot giving up what I’ve always clung to and putting my hand in His. A lot of saying, “I don’t know where you’re leading us, Lord. But I can’t wait to see.”
- Macarons are awesome.
I’ve long wanted to try those beautiful little cookies, but I never have…in part because they’re described as a meringue, and I historically haven’t cared for anything in that family. But I’ve subscribed to the ma-ka-rohn newsletter for about a year simply to look at the prettiness, and I finally ordered some for my birthday. Conclusion? LOVE THEM!
- Family prayer deserves its time.
Ever since the kids were tiny, we’ve prayed together each night before bed. But we’d fallen into the rut of always praying a variation of the same thing, and it was ringing hollow. So we decided to give our family prayer a kick in the rear and bought a book called Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. Each day, morning and evening, there’s a reading, Scripture, a pre-written prayer, and time for free prayer. Some of the readings have us scratching our head, LOL, but others have really made us pause and view the world in new ways. And it’s been so awesome to see how, knowing we have set time for prayer concerns each day, my daughter especially will make it a point to ask her friends what their needs are so we can bring them before the Lord.
- Harry Potter ain’t so bad.
I finally gave in and picked up the Harry Potter books to see what all the fuss is about, LOL. I’ve heard everything from “They’re the best thing ever” to “They’re evil” and figured it was time to draw my own conclusions. I’m only in book 2 (listening to audio), but thus far I’ve found them enjoyable. I’m not really in love with them yet, but I can certainly see why they’ve captured the imaginations of millions of kids. (And I’m finding the magic to be of the Disney variety—clearly fanciful and good-versus-evil. So in answer to the moral questions about it, I would ask, “Do you have a problem with Sleeping Beauty or Frozen?” It’s the same sort of thing.)
- The more you pray, the more connected you become.
That family prayer time has connected us as a family, sure. But it’s also connected me more to the people I’m praying for. When I lift them up to God every day, that also serves to remind me that I need to get in touch with them, follow up, and ask for updates.
- Dalgona coffee is fun
Have you seen the whipped coffee craze? I hadn’t until about a month ago, when Xoë asked if we could make it. It’s quite simply equal parts instant coffee, sugar, and boiling water, whisked to a stiff peak and then poured over milk. But it makes for a really rich flavor and a thicker drink that mere coffee alone, thanks to the whipping. We make it regularly now as a fun, quick treat!
- I have a hard time asking for help or knowing how to accept it.
Am I the only one that does this? I’ll feel like I’m drowning and just want someone to ask how they can help…and then when they do, I have no idea what to say. Is it pride? Maybe. Do I just need practice? Quite possibly. Whatever the reasons, this is something I’m working on. I want real, true connections with people; the kind that gives and also knows how to graciously receive.
- Custom tape!!
I got ridiculously excited a few weeks ago to realize that I could order custom-printed packing tape for boxing up book purchases from my store (for less per foot than what I pay for regular rolls). As of the writing of this, it hasn’t arrived yet, but I’m so stoked to see it! [Edit: IT’S HERE AND IT’S AWESOME!!!!]
- I love my teen
My daughter is nearly 15, and while I’m sure there are bumps ahead of us, as of now, these teen years have been so awesome. We have such great conversations, and it’s a real blessing to see the sort of woman she’s growing into.
- I read more than I thought
As someone who has been in the homeschooling life for ten years already, I’m keenly aware of all the times I want to read for fun and am just too tired, and hence of the TBR pile that just grows and grows. It’s made me think I don’t really read that many books anymore. So in 2020, I began keeping a list. I include the novels I read to my son for school, as well as those I edit and read for fun. If you’d asked me before I started the list, I would have said I only manage 1-2 books a month. In fact, I read 4-5 a month, sometimes more (not counting my own when I edit them). Not so shabby!
- Tea parties are ALWAYS fun
Since I began my online #TeaPartyBookClub a year ago, I have hosted 14 of these events, and I love them now as much as I did when I got the idea. There’s just nothing like fun treats, a good book, and an hour to talk about it with other book lovers!
- Ideas are easy. Action is hard.
I have no problem coming up with ideas for anything. But actually putting action to it? Yeah…I have a bad habit of thinking that because I thought or talked about a thing, it’s done. Follow-through, whether in something simple or soul-deep, is something I’m dedicated to working on.
- Kittens are adorable
News flash, right? We’ve had 2 cats for nearly 10 years, but then we rescued a stray kitten last September, and oh my gracious. I’d forgotten how adorable kittens are. It was a challenge to get the older cats to warm up to her, but she makes us smile and laugh every single day. And she’s also worked herself into the first book in my new series, in which her name is Darling (for realsies, she’s Sammy).
- Video games and YouTube
I think it’s easy for those of us who grew up in ye olden days to automatically assume that all these video games and YouTube channels are terrible, brain-rotting developments. But I watch my son build recreations of things like the Arc de Triomphe in Minecraft, and I’m forced to revise my opinion. The fact that he builds on a screen is no less impressive. I’m still amazed that he can just look at a picture and then build it in 3D. And he comes out daily to tell me what he’s learned about this spider or that fish or some odd natural occurrence from the science-oriented YouTube channels he subscribes to. So you know…different doesn’t mean bad.
- Best. Socks. Ever.
I’ve been jogging a fair amount this summer, and talking walks with my husband too, and the result was blisters. After some reading, I learned that my little cotton socks actually aren’t the best choice for this activity, so I invested in some Bering athletic socks. And oh wow. They’re the most comfortable things I’ve ever put on my feet, and I want to wear them all the time. (Also, I haven’t had any new blisters.) These have combined with…
- Actual, grown-up running shoes are pretty sweet too
The last new pair of athletic shoes I bought are now about 9 years old (ahem), and they were kids’ shoes, because, well, they’re half the price of adult ones. But as mentioned above, I was getting blisters, and I also kept slipping on our gravel hill, so I decided it was time to buy some actual, grown-up running shoes. I asked my best friend Stephanie what brand she recommended, since her husband’s one of those crazy people who actually runs marathons, and they said to check out Hoka. So I did. I bought a pair from Poshmark that had only been worn twice, and I love them!
- I can’t brains today. I has the dumb.
We saw a T-shirt with this on it a while back, and it’s become our joke any time one of us does something stupid. I’d mentioned it at a writing conference last summer, and then a few months later, a friend I made there sent me a mug she’d found with the saying on it. I laugh every time I look at it. <3
- A Christmas Carol
Can you believe I’ve never actually read this classic Dickens novel?? I couldn’t. So we decided to remedy that by reading it last holiday season as a family. We actually started it one evening when the electric went out (read by book light), and finished it up in the week between Christmas and New Year’s. It was so much fun!
- I love recording things
I decided a while back that it would be fun to record my own audio books, so we invested in a good mic. I’ve actually gotten started with podcasts (to make sure I know what I’m doing with something shorter than a book, LOL), and it’s so much fun! I’m going to start recording my novellas soon, and I’m super excited.
- I just turned in my 25th book
Twenty-five. Two of those were novellas, but otherwise, these are full-length novels. It’s so amazing to look at that list and have a visual reminder of what I’ve accomplished in the last ten years. Thank you, Lord, for letting me do this thing I love!
- New imprints
WhiteFire is going to be launching another new imprint soon. Can’t officially announce it yet, but it’s one of those things that God lined up the pieces for in that way He sometimes does, and just sprang it on us. So exciting to see how it’s coming together!
- T-shirts and tote bags
We’ve had print-screening equipment for about 10 years, but we’ve only used it a handful of times. When we got the idea to start a line of bookish T-shirts, I wasn’t sure how it would go. But we did it as a family, teaching the kids how to help, and it was a surprising amount of fun! So glad my best friend suggested tote bags too!
- Just give ’em chores
For years, I’ve been trying to creatively inspire my kids to do the things I want/need them to do, using as a reward the things they want to do. Earn that computer time by doing X, Y, and Z! Yeah…none of that ever worked. So this year, I said, “Heck with that. New rules. Until you get this done, you don’t do anything else.” Much better, LOL. We’ve been lax over the summer, but overall it’s working great.
Instagram is one of those things I admire but hadn’t taken the time to really commit to doing. But the Bookstagram world has won me over. My assistant, Rachel, and I have been taking fun photos of books, and it’s so much fun! My daughter helps me stage ours. Follow me HERE!
- New authors
This year I’ve also been trying to actually read some of the authors I’ve always wanted to but just hadn’t picked up yet—or hadn’t read anything of theirs in the last decade. And they’ve all been great! I’ve thus far introduced myself to Toni Shiloh, Kristi Ann Hunter, Karen Witemyer, J.K Rowling, Siri Mitchell, and Ted Dekker. (Those last two I’d read before, but so long ago it hardly counts.)
- Friends that elevate
Something I’ve noticed about my friends, and which I really love, is that spending time with them, whether in person, on the phone, or through email and chat, lifts me up. We have conversations about things that matter. We explore ideas and philosophies. We can talk about kids and school and knitting one minute and then segue into how to reach modern unbelievers through quality fiction. Talking to you guys makes me a better person. I’m so grateful God put you all in my life!
- Tea tins
Thanks to the #TeaPartyBookClub, my kitchen has become a bit of a tea room, LOL. I have no fewer than a dozen varieties of loose leaf tea at any given time, and I adore the cute little tea tins I got to store some of them. They double-seal for freshness, and lemme just tell you, it’s way easier (and less wasteful and messy) to scoop from them than from the zipper bags the tea comes in! But that also reminds me of…
- The Georgia Tea Company
All my tea varieties come from this awesome online company, and they’re amazing. The teas themselves are fabulous, they offer blends I’d never heard of but absolutely adore, and the company itself is a pleasure to work with. When I explained my tea party idea to the owner, he graciously sent me samples of half a dozen blends so I could pick which ones to offer. I’ve ended up using them all over this last year, and trying others too! (Also, if ever you want to try their tea, I have a referral code coupon that will save you some money. Just let me know!)
- Broken phone screens
I have never had a phone with a broken screen; my husband has broken his, but in a way that rendered the whole thing useless. I fell while jogging last autumn and landed directly on the pocket in which I had my phone, and the screen cracked in several places—but it still works! So I’m going on a year with a broken screen. (I was far more irritated at the damage to the phone than to my gravel-torn knee and hand. Because, you know, I heal.)
- Kids get tall
My daughter stopped growing at 2 inches shorter than me, and she’s been that height for years. But Rowyn, at twelve, has officially caught up with her and is closing in fast on me. He’s always been short for his age, but now all of a sudden he’s a bit above average on the charts. It’s so weird to look over at him and basically look eye-to-eye! He keeps saying, “I’m not used to being this tall.” I replied, as any good mother would, that he now has no excuse not to put things away on high shelves. 😉
- “Timely” is scary
I have a book releasing next month that includes the Spanish Flu. And one in January set in Savannah during the Civil War, so obviously it deals with racial issues. Both of these things are timely. And that makes it TERRIFYING as an author. What if I got it wrong? What if people are so tired of the issues they don’t want to read it? What if…? Of course, all I can do is put it in God’s hands and pray that He does with these stories what He wills. He gave them to me years ago, knowing that they’d come out now. My job is to trust.
- Where God’s working
One of our daily prayers in recent months is that God will show us where He’s working so we can join Him there. And He’s been doing just that. Pretty amazing stuff.
- Grocery pick-up
Our local supermarket chains just began offering the curbside pick up in the last year (before the pandemic, happily), and I love having this option. Especially now, but even beforehand, I was using it to ease the burden on busy weeks.
- Best S’mores ever!
Our campfire discovery for the summer: use Chewy Chips Ahoy! chocolate chip cookies as your cracker, a Reese’s Cup Thin, and then a marshmallow. Oh. My. Gracious.
- I still have a lot of work to do
On me, that is. I’ve been trying. Trying to be deliberate. Trying to love each one in the way they need. Trying to build community. Trying to build relationships. Trying to walk worthy of the call He’s put on my life. Trying to take everything to Him. But I’ve got a lot of work to do still. I’m realizing how much every day.
- If you hear me say, “It’s totally fine!” when talking about my work load…
…then it totally isn’t, LOL. That seems to be what I say when I’m feeling overwhelmed and don’t know how I’m going to get things finished by deadline. The statement is true—God always helps me deliver what needs done, and everything will be fine. But the more I say it, the more I’m trying to convince myself. It’s Roseanna Code for “pray for me, I’m getting desperate!” LOL
- I’m clearly getting old…
Because this list took FOREVER to come up with! Would have been way easier a decade ago. 😉
- But wherever He takes me next…
I can’t wait to see it. I don’t know where the path will veer. I don’t know what He has in store. I don’t know what heartaches and joys await me. But I’m going to keep my hand in His and trust it’ll be someplace amazing.