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I love my book club selections this month!

I have a slightly bigger reading goal this year (150), so I’m starting out ambitious. Some of these books are ones I started in December and hope to finish up this month, and some of them are books that I’m starting but know they will take longer than the month to finish. At any rate, I hope to get a good start on the 12.5 books a month needed to meet my year’s goal!

Book Clubs

I am a member of six book clubs (not counting the library club, where we talk genre instead of a specific book we’re reading together). Three meet at a specific time (in-person or Zoom, depending on various factors), and three are ongoing discussions online. All add fascinating reads to my TBR list.

  • Dial “A” for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto – We discussed this one on Tuesday, so I’ve already finished it. It was a wild ride. I listened to the audiobook. Highly enjoyable.
  • The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich – I love this author, and I’m looking forward to reading and discussing it over beer with the church folk.
  • I Forced a Bot To Write This Book by Keaton Patti – We were going to read this last month in Follow the Reader, but several had a hard time finding a copy so we pushed it to January. I’ve read some of it already, and it’s pretty entertaining. This is the sort of thing I’d enjoy reading aloud to party guests when I’m schnockered (aw, remember when I had parties? I…don’t miss it. But also I do. It’s complicated).
  • Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon – Happy Endings selection that sounds fun.
  • The Maid by Nita Prose – I’ve had this on my list since it was announced, and I’m so happy that it’s finally out and it’s our Fantastic Strangelings pick for the month. It sounds like a great read for fans of Clue, cozy mysteries, and charming characters. 
  • Noor by Nnedi Okorafor – My Christmas present to myself was a Literati subscription so I can just have Roxane Gay’s book picks mailed directly to me. I don’t choose a lot of science fiction on my own, but I think I’ll like this one.

Reading Challenges

In addition to my book club selections, I want to be more intentional about keeping up with the two reading challenges I’m doing this year. 

Lush Reads

Committing to my word for the year through reading/study/reflection worked really well in 2021, so I’m going to continue the practice. Part of this is to get back in the habit of journaling, so I’ve chosen four books that help me explore topics on well-being-esque topics with daily or weekly prompts. Real talk – I’ve already gone off the rails and completed several “days” in one sitting for at least two of these books, so I’m not sure it’s going to take me all year to finish them as designed, but at least they will get me back into the habit of daily journaling, which is my purpose in reading them in the first place.

I also am finishing up/starting three books that talk about living abundantly and seeking delight and remaining healthy and sane in the process, all of which go along nicely with “lush.”

  • The Book of Delights by Ross Gay – If being utterly charmed is something you’re into, just go ahead and keep this one by your nightstand.
  • Don’t Overthink It by Anne Bogel – Practical advice from Modern Mrs. Darcy.
  • The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell – I ran into this one as I was going down a hygge rabbit hole after seriously cozying up my bed linens. Intrigued.

Other Selections

December was one of those months I couldn’t settle on just a few books. So I have a couple of books I’ve read a few chapters of and want to finish up. Also, I have quite a few books that I need to return to friends or the library soon, so they’re on the list, too.

  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – I have been slowly reading this one for about three months now. The story and characters and language are all wonderful. 
  • How the Word Is Passed by Clint Smith – I started listening to this on the way home for Christmas and the chapter on Angola Prison made me madder than it’s responsible to be while driving. So I’m only a little bit into it, but it’s a fantastic tour of several monuments and landmarks and their significance. Highly recommend. Check your blood pressure beforehand.
  • Role Models by John Waters – I borrowed this from Sarah 14,000 years ago, and I found it while dusting shelves last week. Past time to read and return it!
  • Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro – This has been on my TBR list a long time and is due at the library this week, so I want to hurry and finish it so the person waiting for it can get to read it. It’s so lovely.
  • Music on the Brain by Arlene R. Taylor, PhD & Michael R. Hudson – I received several copies of this from my friend Matthew (thank you!), who works across the hall from Dr. Taylor, so I have a couple left to loan if you’re local. Great read so far!
  • Blood Hollow by William Kent Krueger – Gosh, I love mystery series. And I want to get this one back to Lois so someone else can enjoy it. 

So the list may look a little daunting, and I’m not expecting to actually finish everything this month, but this is what’s on my current pile.

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I Said Hello/Goodbye to…

The prompts for the December Reflections Challenge for today and Sunday are “I said hello to…” and “I said goodbye to…” but I’m just going to put both in one post. There were some small adjustments that I made this year that are working out better for my schedule and my sanity.

I said hello to… 

  • Rise and Shine Book Club (public library) – I always enjoy finding new people who like to talk about books, so joining the monthly discussion about different genres and recommendations within them was a sure win. I enjoyed both the online and the in-person versions, but I am definitely partial to meeting in person where there is coffee and free ARCs to take home.
  • RIC – Our church is exploring whether we want to be a Reconciling in Christ church, and the process has been a lot of work but it’s important to me, so it’s worth it. I think it’s going much more slowly than our team anticipated, but not necessarily because people are opposed. The feedback we have gotten from the people who are participating has been really positive; we just aren’t getting a lot of engagement from even some active members. We have a small church, which means those who are active are typically stretched pretty thin. So what comes across as apathy may just be the fact that they’re already committed to doing a lot of things with the church and are hesitant to commit to one more thing. We don’t want to rush a vote, though, because it’s important that as many people as possible understand what being inclusive (and thus the designation) means before we claim it as something we do. And this understanding requires engagement. This is probably not a good time for me to reflect on it, as I am currently pretty discouraged. Maybe people will be more enthusiastic about having these conversations in the new year.
  • Making an album – Probably the most exciting new thing of the year is the album I’m working on with Sarah. We are doing field recordings, playing instruments, singing hymns, and adding spoken word pieces (etc.) on the theme of growing up in West Texas. We are getting a lot of recordings together the days after Christmas. Someday, I’ll be able to share a link with you!

I said goodbye to… 

  • Pilates – I mean, not really completely goodbye. I’ve been doing mat work at home and I still make a few classes a month. But I haven’t been to the studio as much this year as when I first started going. I wanted to start going back since being vaccinated but…it’s been so nice not having to wrangle it into my schedule, and I’ve gotten used to that. The studio only offers classes on Monday-Friday mornings from 6:00-11:00, Monday-Thursday evenings at 5:30, 6:30, and 7:30, and Saturday/Sunday mornings. This doesn’t really fit my life. If there was just an 8:30 or 9:00 class on a couple of weeknights, or if they offered Friday/Saturday/Sunday night classes, I would be able to make 8 times a month no problem. I might even upgrade my account to unlimited. As it is, though, scheduling is a struggle. Before the pandemic, I used to take a class every free weeknight I had (leaving me no actual free weeknights, which was not ideal for my mental health) or set an alarm on Saturday (OMG THE WORST I HATE IT) to go to a class then. If that didn’t fill out my 8 classes I was paying for each month, I would shift my entire work schedule some days so that I could make either the 5:30 p.m. class or the 7:00 a.m. class (see note above re: THE WORST). Now? I’m not so motivated to kill myself making it work. Turns out, I’d rather exercise at times that actually work with my existing schedule. That’s been working out pretty nicely.
  • Traditional grocery shopping/food service – I can count on one hand the number of times this year I walked into a grocery store or ate in a restaurant, and I LOVE IT. Curbside pickup is everything I never knew I always wanted, and I’m so happy it’s persisted in many of the places where I shop/dine. Occasionally, it’s a pain in the ass when they leave things out I need or when they don’t plan well enough to honor the times they list as available, but overall, it’s one of my favorite services, and I may never go back to the way things were before.

Are there any changes that have made life a little less stressful for you this year?

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Food and wine with friends is always a good day.

The prompt for today is “best day of 2021,” so I thumbed through my planner to find the best day. I was already up to five by April, so I just decided to go top ten. In order (somewhat) of occurrence:

  1. Inauguration Day (January 20) – I am not a person who believes that political leaders (particularly milquetoast, capitalist, and/or status-quo-y ones) are the answers to our problems. I suspect that in order for someone to make it to the highest offices in our country, they’ve probably had to (and will continue to) compromise a lot and do some pretty shady things that likely do more to add to our problems than to solve them. When I vote, it’s typically for the least objectionable person who could actually win whose future speeches are the least likely to inspire me to damage whatever screen I’m viewing them on. But I enjoyed Inauguration Day. I enjoyed hearing Amanda Gorman share The Hill We Climb, and I loved watching her capture the day on Instagram. The Bernie memes still make me laugh. It’s just a day to take a breath, and it was nice to do so.
  2. Spiderweb Loves You – This virtual performance on Valentine’s Day was a poem I pieced together from text conversations with Maggie and Michelle. As with our conversations, topics ranged from favorite TV moments to the stressors of the day. I love them both a lot, and I love that Spiderweb gives us a specific space each year to love on the people who are important to us.
  3. Birthday celebrations (technically spanned more than one day, but let’s be real – there are no rules here) – Between visiting Texas Tulips and having lunch with Tammy, wine/coffee/pastry/book shopping, dinner and hangout with CM and Sarah, an All Booked Up outing with Sarah and Joan, and new shelves and delicious early dinner with Steph, Nathan, Tammy, and Matt, I was especially well loved on the days surrounding my birthday in March.
  4. Wine and pizza at Fortunata with Kim and Beth – It was the perfect evening. Friends, food, wine, live music that we definitely sang along to, getting out of the house. Such a lovely time with two of my favorite people and some of my favorite simple pleasures.
  5. Denton Community Market – Maybe I went on opening day? The day I’m remembering was at least one of the first days in April that it was open for the season. I usually avoid DCM early on (let the crowds thin out and the summer veggies show up), but this year I was excited about it. At any rate, my favorite DCM day was the one where I saw (and hugged!) so many friends in person whom I had mostly just seen virtually for the past year.
  6. Maggie and Michelle weekend!!! In late May, Maggie and Michelle came to see me! It was so exciting. We ate delicious things, chatted, and watched TV for a long, luxurious weekend. I miss them so much. The weekend was so fun we decided that it needs to be a yearly(ish) ritual.
  7. In-person gatherings – My Cookbook club, church book club, and Follow the Reader are meeting in person again! We started getting together again about mid-year, and it’s been so nice. 
  8. Spiderweb at the farm – One of CM’s friends has a farm nearby (with sheep! And donkeys!), and we were invited over to lounge in the pool, enjoy the outside and make art a few evenings during the summer. It was an amazing little mid-week reprieve. 
  9. Colorado trip! I actually took a vacation this year. I went with Spiderfriends to a cabin in Colorado where we hiked (well, they hiked. I mostly wheezed and stayed at the cabin), read, played games and enjoyed each other’s company. It was nice to take a real break (from both jobs!) for a few days.
  10. Spiderdead – So many of my best and most memorable days include Spiderweb Salon. I really love these people and the community we have together. I got to help share a friend’s poetry during our yearly grief ritual, and it was a great experience. It was my first time performing on stage at Rubber Gloves, so that made it special to me, too.

The fact that 2021 holds so many best days for me indicates that I had a pretty good year. It hasn’t always felt that way, so this was a nice discovery.

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December TBR

“Ruth knew that books had power…” From Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

If you ask me what my favorite month is, I’ll usually say, “October.” The weather starts cooling off, and spooky season is nigh. Fall/winter fashion is my favorite. Or I might say, “March,” since that’s the month I was born, and what’s better than that?

But December holds a special place in my heart. I’m not a fan of the busyness of the holidays or commercialization in general, but I must admit that I adore some of its side effects. Suddenly, there are twinkle lights everywhere. My favorite coffee company usually has some pretty good sales and it’s finally cold enough in Texas that I can stock up on their chocolate without it melting (yes, even with the ice packs). The church year in my tradition begins with Advent, which is my favorite season in the liturgical calendar. 

And best of all, I always have at least one week of the month off from work, which means extra reading time. Here’s how I plan to spend it this month.

Community Reads

Joy Reads

Seasonal Reads (Advent/Wintery/New-years-y)

I’ll probably also finish up some of the many books/series I’ve started in previous months. I hope you’re reading something delectable that you can’t put down!

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My reading plan derailed a bit this month as I was finishing many books planned for October and got a late start. And also in part because I just some different books than I planned to read. That happens sometimes. Anyway, here are the five books I read/started in November that I enjoyed the most.

  1. The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny – The latest in the Inspector Gamache series. This one hit differently because it dealt with themes of the pandemic and different people’s reactions to it. It is set as the beloved characters of Three Pines are celebrating together again for the holidays. I love this whole series, but there were times reading this one that I had to put it down and catch my breath.
  2. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman – Why did I wait so long to read this? I devoured this book in early November, and I’m already halfway through the third in the series. If you like magical realism and you haven’t read it yet, learn from my mistake. Do not wait any longer.
  3. Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God by Brian Zahnd – This is a quick read, but I was reading along with my discussion group at church, so I took it more slowly and finished it with them. Highly recommend for Christians who get mad at God every time they read the Bible. It might help you do that less. Be advised that it might not help you be less mad at Christians, though.
  4. Still Life by Sarah Winman – Not to be confused with the first Inspector Gamache novel. Beautiful storytelling. I am not finished yet because I keep going back to re-read really exquisite passages. The dialogue is particularly well done.
  5. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – Another “Why did I wait so long?!?!” title. For years, this book has been recommended to me by people who know what I love to read the most. They were right. It’s so good. There’s not one thing I dislike about it.

What have you read recently that you loved?

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From Hitting a Straight Lick With a Crooked Stick

I spent the evening with another one of my book clubs. A few women in our church started a book club a few years ago. Our attendees include retirees, some moms and grandmothers, potters, gardeners, adventurers, librarians and travelers. There are usually snacks; there is always wine.

This group is a good reminder of how easy it is to start a book club. Two people were talking about a book they both wanted to read after church one Sunday and said, “We should get together and talk about it afterwards.” Which easily became, “We should invite more people,” which turned into, “Let’s start a book club.” I got invited because I heard “book” and, like a dolphin to a chum bucket, I rushed over and made sure my availability to share in the bounty of the conversation was noted.

That’s really all it takes.

This month’s selection was a collection of Zora Neale Hurston’s short stories (compiled by a local English professor, Genevieve West), Hitting a Straight Lick With a Crooked Stick. Last month, we read The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See. We’ve read mysteries, young adult novels, and an inordinate number of books set during WWII. We’ve definitely read a lot of things that I never would have picked up on my own but am glad I got a chance to read them.

I think one of the reasons I feel at home at my church is because there are a lot of readers there. In addition to our evening book club that meets every third Tuesday of the month, there is also a daytime book club. And the Sunday School class often reads and discusses a book chapter by chapter (right now, for example, we’re reading Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God by Brian Zahnd, which, if you’re a Christian who sometimes finds it hard to like God very much, maybe this book will bring you some peace that you maybe haven’t felt for a long time, if you’re interested in that sort of thing).

This church is compassionate and justice-minded. It makes sense that a group of readers would respond to the world that way. When you regularly and enthusiastically chose to enter a story through another person’s perspective (even a fictional one), it becomes a lot easier to do the same in real life.

I am excited about the prospect of picking up the book bag project that our book club started a few years ago again this year. We weren’t able to collect books for a local nursery school’s graduates to take home over the summer the last two springs, but I bet they’ll allow us to do so again at the end of this school year. I hope so. I’ve been stockpiling. We love to encourage new readers. We can’t wait to see what this next generation does with the things they learn.

I love this group and the rich life experience that each of them brings to the table every time we meet.

I’m writing about books (and my friends who love books) this month.

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This week has been a little intense (some health things, some practical things, some Texas-summer-is-the-worst things), but I’m looking forward to the next couple of days. Maybe you want to enjoy a few of these things, too?

  • Playlist for The Magicians – Any time I really love a show or a book, I want a playlist that reminds me of it. The Magicians has a great soundtrack. I went to make one and found that there are already so many out there. This is a nice list to start with but this is definitely my dancing/reading/vegging vibe for tonight.
  • Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Readers’ Weekend – Minimal structure, maximum reading. Basically, the perfect weekend.
  • Suits Season 1 – I am rewatching this adorable show, starting this weekend. Yay!
  • Reconciling in Christ – our group is meeting on Sunday, and I’m glad my church is pursuing being more intentional about inclusion. This learning structure is not as…assertive…as I tend to be, but it’s a start.
  • Nectarines – I had a nectarine/cherry upside down cake at lunch and I forget every year how much I love nectarines but I think I’ll need some tomorrow. Maybe also apricots….

Hope you have a nice weekend as well!

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Some of my favorite images from the year

Well, here it is. The end-of-the-year review. I feel like a lot has been said about the world in general, and I’m tired and a little sad tonight, so I’m not interested in recapping it (didn’t I do this last year, too? I remember being very melancholy last year at this time. Maybe that’s just who I am now.). So I’m going to go through the year I thought I was going to have, how it changed for me personally, and maybe some more things as I ramble on.

First, some goal-setting changes:
1. I love resolutions, but I maintain the flexibility to adapt them. I did this really well this year – mostly out of necessity but also because it just makes sense to set goals that way. To work toward what you want until you get it or don’t really want it anymore or figure out something you want more.
2. Instead of plotting all the short-term tasks needed to reach goals in a chart for each month at the beginning of the year, I plotted one month at a time and based the new standards for each month on the previous month’s actual accomplishment (it’s like I KNEW) (I did not know) (No one knew). I like this much better, and it gives me a much clearer picture of the real progress I’m making.
3. I took the month of December off from the reward system of checking things off. Mostly I did this to just take a break from it, which was needed. But also it gave me a chance to see what habits actually stuck when I removed the reward of a check mark or a crossed-off item. Very illuminating.

Official resolutions I made at the beginning of the year and how they went:
1. Read 120 books. I did not quite make it. But, considering that I went for about four months where I had the attention span of a gnat and couldn’t read for more than five minutes at a time (I read a total of six books during those four months), I think my final total of 96 is still pretty respectable.
2. Finish Fishbowl again – nope. Although I’ve made considerable progress.
3. Keep up with microfictions on Ello – yes…ish. I haven’t even checked lately to see if Ello is still a thing. But I have written a LOT of microfiction and short stories. I didn’t set a specific number to write every month, so I didn’t keep count, but that was the main creative writing I did.
4. Perform with Spiderweb – yes x2! I was in the last in-person show, collaborating with Sarah Ruth for Spiderweb Loves You on Valentines Day. And I had a spot in our online Spiderdead in November playing an original not-really-a-composition-but-more-like-a-prompt called Maybe Hope is a Terrible Idea.
5. Find a doctor – yes. Done.
6. Find a new dentist and eye doctor – not yet. Have people picked out to try, though, in the first few months of the new year.
7. Continue to build Pilates practice – yes, but not back with the in-person classes yet (although my studio has been great with upping the cleanliness standards and thinking outside the box and serving customers – really proud of the way they’ve done things). When we started working from home in March, I accepted a 30-day strength challenge with Jessica and Mary in my office, though, and I incorporated a lot of Pilates stuff in that and have expanded it and kept up with it pretty well. I may be able to test into Level 2 classes when I return.
8. Work – vague resolution about continuing to figure out what I want to do with my life that got put on the back burner when I was just happy to still have work.
9. Word of the year was “alive” and we know how I feel about that. So that’s that.

Goals I didn’t have at the beginning of the year but added and met anyway:
1. Reduce plastic use and trash production. I started putting trash day as Monday on my calendar (I needed help remembering some things – see note above re: attention span). I soon found myself finding ways to prolong it to another day to see how long I could go without filling up the trash cans. I’m up to three weeks (except in the kitchen because food-adjacent waste really shouldn’t sit in my house for three weeks but I just use smaller bags).
2. Reduce food waste – my fridge had a hard year and I think it’s on its way to dying. My freezer still works great, though, so I began freezing leftovers. I’m down to almost zero food waste, so I think that’s a habit I’ll keep even when I have a fixed/new fridge.
3. Automate shipments – toilet paper, toothpaste tabs (the Bits ones – plastic free packaging!), laundry sheets (also plastic free!), etc. I needed to take things out of my headspace this year, so I automated a lot of shipments of things I normally would just run an extra errand to get when I ran out. Now I don’t run out. Great decision – 10/10 – highly recommend.

Things I learned about myself:
1. I’m way more adaptable than I thought I was. Like…my response to chaos has mostly been to fight and thrive (relatively speaking).
2. I am very particular about who I trust. And I like that about me. I mean, I’ll extend a basic trust to most people – I don’t want into new relationships assuming they’re shady – but past that basic trust? It has to be earned.
3. I can like and get along with someone without trusting them or letting them affect me. This makes me good at standing up for other people, and I want to practice that more in the future.
4. I need to be touched. Like…regularly. I knew this already but I really really know it now.

I lost a few people I love this year (some COVID-related, some not), and that’s been hard. I also had a few heartbreaks, one in particular that was really heavy and terrible. I feel like I’m in perpetual heartbreak these days, and I don’t know how to not be. I’m really trying to seek joy in the midst of it anyway.

Finally, to end on a sort of positive note, some highlights:
1. Staying connected to Spiderweb even though it’s online and particularly to the You Are Here support group
2. Monday night text study
3. Book clubs!
4. So many artists adapting to online performance and sharing really beautiful things
5. So many local businesses adjusting to changes and finding new ways to serve customers
6. The Science of Well-Being – free course from Yale
7. Wake and Bake fundraising boxes of baked goods
8. Backyard hangouts with people who love me

Goodbye, 2020.

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Day 8 – Seek and Find

“The spirit of the Lord is upon me…to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners…” – Isaiah 61:1-2

“Today is the Sunday of joy.”

This is the first thing the pastor said this morning in his sermon. I usually do my daily Advent activity at night, so I had forgotten that this is the week we focus specifically on joy in the liturgy. All throughout the service on Zoom, there seemed to be an emphasis on seeking it out that carried over from the annual meeting we held the hour before. This was a hard year to recap and put a tidy bow on, but it was easy to find joy in these people with whom I worship, who avoid neither hard truths nor practical, hopeful solutions, who have patiently and faithfully made all the adjustments we’ve asked of them this year and keep showing up online and responding with grace and exuberant generosity.

I know I talk about my church and mention faith in passing, but I don’t say I’m a Christian a lot because wow, the baggage. It’s a lot to unpack. Part of that baggage is the pull of the prosperity gospel that is popular in many circles, particularly in our culture. The name-it-and-claim-it, ask-and-you-shall-receive, vending machine Jesus where you put in a prayer and walk away #blessed. The “you just need to pray harder” message. And the inevitable flip side of the coin that quips if there is a God, then why is the vending machine so broken? Why is the world the way it is and why do bad things happen to good people (or for that matter, why do good things happen to bad people)? If you’ve been hammered with these messages, it can be hard to find joy even when it’s the theme of the day.

To be fair, this sentiment doesn’t come out of nowhere. “Ask and you shall receive” wasn’t lifted off a bumper sticker; it’s straight out of the gospels. And it’s got backup:
– If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray, I will answer and heal their land.
– If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you can ask what you will and it will be done.
– My God shall supply all your needs according to the riches in Christ Jesus (riches which, of course, the Bible teaches are unfathomably abundant or even limitless).

There’s a whole lot of “If A then B” going on in the scriptures.

Fortunately, this isn’t the whole story. Good news for me, because if it were, I’d be firmly in the second camp, unable to believe in a god who chooses to withhold resources and dole them out stingily based on a whim or performance or prayerful hoop-jumping. I’m interested in the scandalously extravagant God who pours out the wealth without feeling the insecure need to micromanage what we do with it (overbearing, controlling father metaphors? No, thank you.). My faith means seeing other people as the very image of God. This, too, is risky, because sometimes we people act like garbage, and that does not reflect well on any deity who would have us believe they are love.

But when I look for it, I get a glimpse of joy in actions born of that unfathomable abundance that we often try to keep locked up as only something God can access in order to avoid our own responsibilities to each other – to set captives free, to right every wrong, to feed and clothe and house and heal. It’s in every person. We don’t always see it or act accordingly and thus *gestures broadly* But I believe it’s there.

I contain unfathomable abundance. You contain unfathomable abundance.

This has been a hard weekend that followed a hard week (month…year…decade?). Seeking and finding joy has been and remains a difficult task. But yesterday, there were hours spent online with friends, sometimes talking but mostly just hanging out in the ASMR of some of us baking, some of us making art, some of us writing. And there is a church that doesn’t require me to sit quietly or to stuff everything and everyone I love into a box but instead encourages me to keep speaking up. And there are local activists, artists, and business owners who bond together to ensure mutual thriving and to bring our little corner of the world closer to what it would look like if all were true and right. And there are baked goods and rosewater that show up at my front door. And cards that come in the mail. And coffee. And candlelight.

Hello, joy. There you are.

I’m writing about chasing joy for the 31 days of December. Click here to see the whole list.

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IMG_0413

My first small, imperfect peaches of the season. 

My word for the year is “alive.” The universe is hilarious.

I had a few thoughts about how this would go. There were a lot of lofty quotes that came to mind and many goals I made that I thought would contribute to a more vibrant existence. I had no idea how often I would have to fight to actively choose living over becoming stagnant or something else.

Today I read Joy the Baker’s post on turning 39, and so much of it resonated with me. I can list the accomplishments I’m proud of and many things I do well, but most days I can’t help but feel that I, too, have been left behind – that I missed a turn somewhere that would have taken me down the path toward those Big Life Goals™ that I just assumed would come along as soon I was ready for them. I also love her curiosity and her intention to set aside the small life story in exchange for embracing the things that sparkle – to “do them badly, then less badly, then maybe almost well.”

When our church decided to start meeting remotely, we didn’t hesitate or put it off a few weeks to figure it out. Our pastor told council, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.” He didn’t mean, of course, that doing a bad job at online services should be the goal. Only that it needn’t wait until we had all the information to do it expertly.

As you can imagine, this is not my modus operandi. I am all for jumping off the cliff (metaphorically); I just want to be armed with a gigantic parachute of relevant knowledge before I do.

But I started the year with a commitment to come alive, so whether I know what I’m doing or not, here I am, doing it badly but consistently. This looks like a lot of different things:

To bake and eat the cake that I’ve been craving for a month rather than just think about making it.

To dance, enjoying the way my body – this body, the one I have right now – feels when it moves.

To choose to spend money in a way that actually makes a difference in my life and the lives of others rather than contributing to the greed of entities that exist to homogenize us.

To play Chopin. And also Joplin. And also brand new things that no one but me has ever heard.

To sing, even when there’s no one to carry the harmony.

To eat my veggies and stay hydrated.

To seek out the people who love me well and stop worrying about those who don’t.

To discover how much time I have when I cut out all the things that don’t really matter.

To discover exactly which things do matter so, so much.

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