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Make Up Your Mind || Issue 08
Connections and Memories
Last month I wrote to you about my bad attitude and how making connections was helping. It’s still helping, I’m glad to report. Oftentimes I’ll discover something and make a change but it is only for a short season, or I'll get tired of it and quit. For example, at some point last year I removed the Instagram app from my phone and only used it on my iPad. The goal was more focus; less distraction, and it worked for a little while. But I got tired of the inconvenience of having to send photos from my phone to the iPad in order to post anything to Instagram, and I went back to using the app on my phone but paying more attention to my time there. Instagram is a place for me to find and share inspiration, and I don’t feel guilty about enjoying it. But I did feel guilty about staring at my phone too much. Making the “drastic” change of deleting the app from my phone did help me in the long run, even though I didn’t stick with it. It was a good, hard stop; a good way to evaluate my time. Anyways, I am sometimes discouraged by my swiftness to drop good habits or to announce a change, only to revert back too quickly. So I am happy to say that God is still teaching me about the importance of connection and He continues to bring people into my life whom I connect with.
Spring is coming early, according to groundhogs and willow buds. The daffodils are almost spent, and today my walk was a sunny 60 degrees. I know there will be frost in the morning still. I also don’t count out the possibility of snow. We all had pictures of last year’s “Snowmageddon” pop up in our social media feeds as “memories” this week, and it’s hard to imagine—looking out at the clear, blue sky and turning over the soil in the garden. This time last year we were in the middle of eleven days of no power, with 18 inches of snow on the ground. I want an early spring; am content with grey, foggy mornings; but please, Lord, not another winter storm like that.
Connections and memories are both ways to reflect. I’ve been using the Monk Manual for two months now and it’s another tool helping me to make connections, as I look back on each day, week, and month to see the patterns—both in my behavior and mood, but also in the work of God in my life. My mood and my actions fluctuate fairly predictably, but not in huge ways. My life is almost a straight line of even-keeled emotions and routines. Reflecting with the daily journal has helped me see the swiftness of my moods and the surprisingly gracious way God answers my desires. (I say surprisingly because I’m still, after all these years, expecting the service and worship of God to be something hard, something distasteful. I’m sorry. It’s true that I feel that way, but it’s even more true that God keeps proving me wrong.) I’ve never been a great journaler and I can’t seem to fill a whole blank book before giving up, but using the Monk Manual has helped me at least have some bullet points to reference. It’s helping me remember more than just the tasks and appointments, which is good. I heard Jonathan Rogers use the term "brain on a stick" in reference to treating ourselves as just human doings and not human beings. I like that. I'm not just a brain on a stick.
Spring will surely arrive. The world is set upon this foundation of cycles, and that makes me feel better about my own personal seasons. Now is a time of connecting and remembering and praying about new directions. I’m looking forward to a new season but I’m intent on connecting well to the one I’m currently in, and there are things to give up and things to add. Dare I tell you I’ve taken Instagram off my phone again? It’s been a month and I won’t say this is my new way, but it’s my current way.
Here are some things I’m doing at the end of the month to help me stay connected, reflected, and directed:
Taking care of February pictures—for me, this means choosing the best moments and putting those photos into my digital Project Life app, so I can print my pages later. I also use Chatbooks. They send me a mini photo book every time I get to 60 Instagram photos.
Adding some new meals to my boring menu list—tacos are great, but it’s time for some more variety in the weekly menu. I keep a list of simple meals in my notebook and I’m continually adding to it, trying to come up with new things to do with ground venison, beef roasts, and now the half a pig we’ve been blessed with. Don’t worry—we eat vegetables, too. We’re just bona fide carnivores and the meal centers around what meat we have in the freezer.
Scanning receipts into Evernote and updating accounting spreadsheets—I’ve just finished all the gathering and sorting and spreadsheeting necessary for our personal and business taxes, and I am hopeful that I can do a better job of monthly maintenance on all that this year. Evernote is the tool I’m using to go nearly-paperless and it has a lot of helpful functions built in. If I can keep up on the scanning and spreadsheeting, next February will be a happier time for me ; )
Looking back one month and forward one month—this is what the Monk Manual helps me with. (I promise this is not an ad.) Emily Freeman has great resources for monthly and quarterly reflection, as well. I am looking for patterns, lessons learned, accomplishments, and goals still unmet. With a big picture look at a three month chunk of the year, the Monk Manual helps me break goals down into reasonable pieces, rather than resorting to my idealist nature and dreaming about how much time I’ll have in the summer or how much writing I’ll be able to do when x,y,z is done. I’m a dreamer and a procrastinator, so help me God.
By the way, I have to choose a day of the month—either right at the end or right at the beginning—to do these things, and consider it like a New Year’s Day. Every month needs a New Month Day, right? I love the planning and organizing that always happens around New Year’s so I’m trying to make a mini-version every month.
WHAT I READ, LISTENED TO, AND WATCHED
I used to start this section of the newsletter with a link to an Evernote file where I tracked what was happening with my Homeschool MFA. I am a little loosey-goosey with things right now—still writing and reading and researching things that interest me, but I'm not really tracking them in Evernote currently. I'm being less spreadsheet-y and more inspired in my Homeschool MFA plans.
My current plans look like this: word study (I love Blue Letter Bible and the Online Etymology Dictionary); lots of reading on the subject of truth, goodness, and beauty; (almost) daily writing; tracking ideas in my journal; and offering my writing for feedback so I can grow as a writer, even when it hurts.
When I see people's lists of the 10 books they read last month, my inner-person shakes her finger at me a little bit. But hey—quality, not quantity—right? Here's a short list of the one book I finished last month:
Adorning the Dark, Andrew Peterson
This is the only book I finished in February that wasn't for tutoring, but I could, and will, read it again and again. The kindle version is $3.99 right now but you may want to learn from my mistake and buy the print copy—there will be so much to underline and annotate. (You do that, right?)
"I'm no longer surprised by my capacity for self-doubt, but I've learned that the only way to victory is to lose myself, to surrender to sacredness—which is safer than insecurity. I have to accept the fact that I'm beloved by God."
"Truth without beauty can be a weapon; beauty without truth can be spineless. The two together are like lyric and melody."
"Since we were made to glorify God, worship happens when someone is doing exactly what he or she was made to do."
Mooring Lines for Mental Health by Amy Lee for The Cultivating Project
Amy is someone we need to be reading. Her voice is gentle but she tells the truth, and it's really beautiful to read. This piece is a profound reminder for me, about the thoughts and worries I nurse and the strategy for being at peace in the world. Please read it.
"As a hypochondriacal hobbyist, I shall accept the progressing brokenness of my body. I give thanks that I have the opportunity to wear it out through the length of my days, and that I have no need to preserve or pickle it as one who has no hope. I shall seek care when care is needed, but once that is done, I shall return to the welcome relief and the solemn charge of seeking Christ’s kingdom and righteousness first, taking Him at His word that He will attend to the rest."
On reading more than one book at a time by Austin Kleon
Part of the reason I didn't finish more than one book last month is because I'm in the middle of three at once. Three is about my limit. I love what Austin's article says about how the books you "randomly" choose to read at the same time will communicate and bounce off of each other.
Berry, hooks, and the Courage to Live Small by Rusty Woods
Thoughts about urban vs. rural life
TO WATCH:: The Centric Genius from Anselm Society.
This is a short intro video for Anselm's series on The Centric Genius:
February through April 2020, the Anselm Society (across all its podcasts, blogs, and events) will explore an alternative vision: the rooted and grounded, or centric, genius. We'll encounter story after story of artists (living and dead) whose work was rooted in strong relationships and support systems; unpack different frameworks for seeing the world and understanding our place in it; and glimpse a vision of a new normal: one where everyone has a place in God's Kingdom and where thriving as an artist and thriving as a person coexist. [Here's a link to Episode 1 of the podcast series.]
The Bible Project
Ethan and I have started watching these together in the mornings before school. They're quick, graphic overviews of books and narratives in the Bible, with amazing artistic talent and insight. They are done as a form of sketchnoting, which I'm dreaming of being able to do well.
The Good List by Tsh Oxenreider
This is Tsh's new podcast format and I'm really enjoying it. Check out Episode 9: You, at 5 & 85.
The Rabbit Room Playlist on Spotify
Good music you may not have heard yet.
This Too Shall Last podcast with KJ Ramsey
This link is to Ep. 4, where KJ and Lore Wilbert talk about their friendship. It inspired me to make my own friendships more personal, as well as reminding me to be open to new friendships.
On Monday, March 2nd, I'll be sharing an essay on patronage with the listeners of One Thousand Words, Matthew Clark's thoughtful podcast. I've always been annoyed by my own voice but I am truly honored and excited to get to share my heart there! I sheepishly hope you'll listen, especially if you haven't thought much about how our current internet-economy affects musicians, writers, and other artists.
WHAT I WROTE
Just two new posts on the blog last month but I did change the looks of things over there. If you subscribe to blog updates and read them in your email provider, you won't have noticed the changes. Click through to the website and check it out! I'm always trying to both simplify and beautify.
Make Useless Things || "This world is housing all of our bodies growing old, our minds growing cynical, our hearts fighting to stay soft; this is true. Creation is groaning; that in itself is beautiful, because nature holds a knowledge that is a mystery to us and in its groaning we can be sure it longs and waits for something better. The rocks and trees have lived longer than us, and if we pay attention we’ll learn a lesson."
Carefully Chosen Words || "I will endeavor to hear what you mean and I hope you'll do the same, and maybe little by little we’ll make a culture that cares for words because words are expressions of our hearts—not simply displays of power or knowledge or grammatical snobbery. What you think is more important than correcting the way you say it, and I will get over worrying about what you think when I say things wrong. We’ll just keep trying."
The newest issue of Joyful Life Magazine is shipping now. "Awaken" is the spring 2020 offering, and I have a poem featured in this issue among the essays, beautiful photographs, helpful study guides, and project ideas for spring.
I learned that I can take that last unusable chunk of my precious beeswax candle and melt it down into a new votive.
I learned that most things I continue to only think about will continue to be complicated.
I learned that some of the best help in my writing life comes from the people who share my home.
I remembered that I bought new daffodil bulbs last fall but apparently never planted them...
There was a whole week in February where I was completely exhausted, and I am learning to kinda plan for this regularly. I can look ahead and see it coming, and adjust my expectations accordingly.
I learned that I am that age now which requires me to warm-up for twice as long as I plan to play. Volleyball on Sunday nights can mean an inability to walk until Wednesday if I don't plan things right.
I learned that I can combine a series of notes in Evernote into one document. I use an app called DayEntry to record random stuff throughout the day, and it syncs to my Evernote as separate notes for each day. When I consolidate them, I have a document I can scroll through with entries separated by date. Does that make sense? Basically, all my random notes collected into one document.
Here's to March. May we look forward and backward with the same kind of gratitude for the grace that brought us to this moment. Nothing is wasted.
Thanks for reading, friends.
You can reply to this email or find me on Instagram and tell me what you're reading, watching, listening to, and enjoying. What are you learning about simplifying in this particular season?
I love to hear your ideas.