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You Are What You Read :: My One Word for 2021

I taught our four sons at home for 20 years, from the time the oldest entered third grade until the youngest graduated from high school. Homeschooling was a “career” I loved and I would do it all over again.

Choosing curriculum and writing lesson plans for students covering a 10-year age gap exposed me to lots of great educational resources and opportunities, but the most valuable tool in my toolbox was our local public library. As a child, the library was almost my second home, so I was happy to turn my kids loose in the stacks at the public library in the nearest community. While they picked out what interested them, or what I’d assigned for a school subject, I chose my own pile of books. Memoir, fiction, history, self-help, spiritual growth, gardening, canning — I built my own “curriculum” during our homeschooling years.

In the same way that I was striving to give my sons a well-rounded education (science, history, math, language arts blended with work, service and play), I knew it was important to give myself exposure to diverse subjects and resources. In the homeschooling community, we called it “Mother Culture.” Reading books on many subjects and in different genre all at the same time gave me the freedom to read according to my mood, the season, the time of day, my interests. Always, I would be reading at least 3 or 4 books at a time. That habit has become a lifestyle. Now, I’m also consuming podcasts, blogs, social media and online teachings.

I took time recently to list the books I can remember reading in 2020. I’m sure I missed a few but in all I count more than 20 books in 2020. Add in the Bible studies and devotionals I’ve used in the past year as well as the books I started but didn’t finish for one reason or another and . . . well . . . that’s a lot of books.

I’ve highlighted my favorites in various genre, otherwise they’re in no particular order. I’ve also ended with the books I’m currently reading. You can find them all on Amazon, but lately I’ve been using Bookshop, an online hub for supporting small book stores. From their website, “We hope that Bookshop can help strengthen the fragile ecosystem and margins around bookselling and keep local bookstores an integral part of our culture and communities.”

Books I read in 2020:

  • Inexpressible: Hesed and the Mystery of God’s Lovingkindness — Michael Card
  • Be Kind to Yourself: Releasing Frustrations and Embracing Joy — Cindy Bunch
  • Celebration of Discipline — Richard Foster
  • Adorning the Dark — Andrew Peterson
  • All Who Wander (Spiritually) Are Not Lost — Tracie Rhoades
  • Let Your Life Speak — Parker Palmer
  • Becoming Sage — Michelle VanLoon
  • Everything Is Yours — Kris Camealy
  • We Are Beloved: A Lenten Journey with Protestant Prayer Beans — Kristen E. Vincent
  • How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People — Peter Greig
  • Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent — Richard Rohr
  • Your Story Matters — Leslie Leyland Fields
  • The Art of the Essay — Charity Singleton Craig
  • Be the Bridge — LaTasha Morrison
  • The Color of Compromise — Jemar Tisby
  • Stories That Bind Us — Susie Finkbeiner
  • Send Down the Rain — Charles Martin
  • All That We Carried — Erin Bartels
  • The Shell Seekers — Rosamunde Pilcher
  • Hannah Coulter — Wendell Berry
  • The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane — Kate DiCamillo

Books I’m currently reading:

  • Monastery of the Heart — Joan Chittister
  • We Make the Road by Walking — Brian D. McLaren
  • The Tale of Despereaux — Kate DiCamillo
  • Jesus and the Disinherited — Howard Thurman
  • The Road To Stillmeadow — Gladys Taber


There’s a lot of history in this one brick. As a book-obsessed adolescent, I spent many summer days in the children’s section of my public library. What was left of the Carnegie-style building of my childhood has been razed. A dear friend, who works in my hometown library, salvaged this one for me.

Have You Discovered Your One Word for 2021?

Considering where we found ourselves as 2020 drew to a close, I’m guessing a lot of folks are joining the “one word” tradition in 2021. We want something solid to hold onto as we struggle to get our footing in the wreckage that we’re carrying into this new year.

My one word for 2020 was actually two — Begin Again. I had the words inscribed on a bracelet and wore it proudly as a reminder of fresh starts, new days and do-oversI read essays on starting over, and I explored the concept as interpreted in The Rule of St. Benedict. A small book that I still refer to almost daily provides a blueprint for “a meaningful and creatively balanced framework for life.” It is titled Always We Begin Again.

Two significant conversations pointed me toward my one word for 2021. The first was a text from a dear friend who lost his father to Covid-19, then lost his mother to the heartbreak of losing her lifelong partner. My friend said this:

Use this as a reminder of how extremely fragile life is and since we don’t know when our number is up, we all need to live life super full and super rich. No regrets!!

My second “conversation” was with Father Richard Rohr. His beautiful little Advent guide Preparing for Christmas is new to me this year and it’s become my favorite resource for observing the season. In the third week of Advent, he offered a meditation titled What You Seek Is What You Find. The Franciscan priest said this:

We all tend to aim for the goal instead of the journey itself, but how we get there is where we arrive. The journey determines the final destination.

Father Rohr reminds us that God is in the driver’s seat. “You have not chosen me, I am always choosing you.” (John 15:16) And though we may think we’ve “arrived”, we will never entirely possess the kingdom in this lifetime. Rather “The kingdom of God is in your midst.” (John 17:21)

If “how we get there is where we arrive” what should be our posture as we embrace the kingdom of God, if it is indeed in our midst? Wholeheartedly.

With all we have. No half-baked commitments. Nothing that says “I’m trying” or “I’ll do better next time.” We approach and embrace the kingdom of God — this everyday life he’s given us here and now — with our whole hearts.

“Enlarge your tents,” says the prophet Isaiah, “stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back, lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left.” (Chapter 54, verse 2)

Or, in the words of my friend, “live life super rich and super full. No regrets.”

“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.” ~ William Morris

Join me in paying attention to the details.


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