Every Woman a Theologian
— End-of-Year Visioning with God —
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Dear friend,
Each December Josh and I go away for a day and a half for what we call our “annual visioning getaway”. I don't know if “visioning” is even a word (I made it up), but it captures what we do on these short times together. This is our fourth year doing this and our shortest time away (we were gone about 12 hours!). Whether you're single or married, this practice might bless you. This week I thought I'd share what we do and how it has impacted us over the years.
Let's get this out of the way first: you don't have to be a goal-oriented person to set a vision for the next year. Scripture says “without a vision, the people perish” (Prov. 29:18). We need vision - a mission for the future, something to live for and work toward - to guide our daily lives. Only when we live WITHOUT vision do our days feel pointless, rootless, and mundane. Average days driven by long-term vision move us toward something good, even when it's hard and slow.
Josh and I are very different people – complete opposites on paper. I like clear goals, something to move toward and check off. He's not as motivated by such things (though that has changed a bit over the years). As with most people, Josh does not appreciate goals being set for him; he wants to come to his own conclusions about what to change. Early in our marriage I made the mistake of “suggesting” changes in the name of family health — I learned to simply pray for Josh and God to come to those conclusions and focus instead on what we could change together. That's what this getaway is about: evaluating and improving our family direction, our priorities, goals, and mission for the next year. Despite our different personalities, Josh looks forward to this as much as I do and we have so much fun getting on the same page, celebrating our successes and evaluating what God wants to do in the future!
There are many ways you could go about something like this, but our strategy is really quite simple. Here's what we do…
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  • Break your life (or life together) into sections. You'll look at each area to discern what God is leading for each. It helps if you already have 3-5 family/personal values to guide you during this time: e.g. hospitality, frugality, honesty, devotion.
    • The sections Josh and I look at are as follows: community, family, finances, recreation, health/fitness, home/farm, spiritual growth, work/ministry.
  • Start by talking through the problems and successes encountered during the year. If we set a “word” for the previous year, discuss whether that was achieved. In this case, our word was margin.
    • Success in family: We set theme nights for each day of the week and though we had to adjust over the 52 weeks, we generally followed them.
    • Success in work: We blocked out four nights of the week that were unavailable for commitments away from home.
    • Problem in family: We had some issues with media creeping back into our habits, something we want to limit.
    • Problem in work: Inconsistent schedules and workers at the house throughout the week make it difficult for us to transition between our respective work times.
  • Discuss the problem (or if it's just you, journal it out). What potential solutions could be provided next year?
    • Problem: Media. Stick to our original plan of media on assigned nights, reading or hobbies on the others.
    • Problem: Inconsistent schedules. Move workers all to the same day to consolidate efforts, switch over at 12:30 pm. Batch tasks on specific days.
  • Choose a word, focus, or verse for the year (or combo of all). 
    • Josh and I debated a few different words for our family focus this year – we actually didn't decide on one over the weekend! We will pray about it, find some verses to focus on, then decide before the end of the year.
  • Look at failures through a lens of growth and grace, not shame. 
    • There were some financial improvements we wanted to make this year. We see other areas in need of self control, too. Rather than be ashamed we look at these as areas of progress. We set clear, measurable goals for them so we can see if we are moving in the right direction when we check in each week during our Sunday planning meeting (e.g., save $8,000 by August by reducing grocery trips and cutting spending. Check in on this each week).
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That's it! Like I said, it's quite simple. But this practice of bringing God into our vision – letting it be truly HIS vision, specific to our family – helps us enter the new year with a clear mission. Beautifully, each year builds on the one before. The rhythms we set in 2023 are building toward the systems we put in place in 2024. 
One last tip: Perfectionism is the enemy of consistency. Idealism is the enemy of contentment.
Josh and I are consistent, but we are not perfect. And because we choose to let go of perfection (which is impossible for flawed people anyway; we are not God) we are able to consistently get back up again, get back on track, and move forward without shame. Perfectionism leads to inconsistency and ironically, failure. Only those who accept their imperfection can contentedly move forward in growth… and on the other side, find the satisfaction of a life well-lived, purposefully accomplished. 
Try inviting God into your vision this year, whether you journal alone for a few hours or go away for a weekend with your spouse. Dreaming with God is the best way to dream!
Five Faves

  • The Christmas Journey. This weekend we attended a nearby church's nativity “journey” – a full scale, outdoor “play” walking you through the Bible from creation to Jesus' birth and death on the cross. It was incredibly well done and our kids loved it! We used to attend a similar event at a different location, but I think we'll return to this one.
  •  A Match Made at Christmas: I watched this cheesy movie with the girls (made by Great American Pure Flix) and was actually impressed with the acting and plot! I never expect much from Hallmark-esque films but this one was actually sweet.
  • Sally's Sugar Cookie Recipe: This is what I'll be using for our sugar cookies this year!
  • Current favorite snack: smoked oysters. I know, I know, this is the weirdest thing you've ever heard. But they are amazing, especially on crackers.
  • Our church's annual Christmas play: This is the cutest thing. I just love seeing all the kids pile on stage dressed as angels, singing out of tune. They did such a good job this year!
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Bible in a Year Club 2024: Reminder

Bible in a Year Club reopens for 2024 enrollments December 26th! I will be reminding about this weekly because we close enrollment January 3rd and will not open again until 2025. 
2023 was our first year offering this program. I spent 110+ hours creating content, videos, and finding extra resources for our students this time around, and hundreds of people are finishing the Bible (many for the first time!) at the end of the year! I am so excited to relaunch with a new group and add even MORE to the course.
Launch details will be sent later in the month, but for now, here is what Bible in a Year entails:
  • It is a SUBSCRIPTION based program. If you end your subscription, you lose access to the course. It is designed for the entire group to stay on pace with each other for community, hence the subscription based model (if you wish for a self paced program, Bible Recap may be better!).
  • BYC is focused on building the HABITS necessary to follow through on diligent Bible reading. Often the issue is not the Bible itself; it's a lack of training on habit formation, consistency, and discipline, paired with a perfectionistic mindset. This program will teach you to let go of perfectionism and find consistency!
  • We use Teachable as the hub of course content. There is an app for iPhone users (not Android) and while there is a discussion option in the app, most of us use a Facebook group for discussion. The accountability and community aspect are fundamental to success!
  • Each week you receive the week's reading plan, a summary of the upcoming content, tips for studying according to your learning style, and a list of optional additional resources (videos, podcasts, sermons, articles, maps) to aid your study.
  • How much time does it take a day?
    • That's up to you and your study style. I instruct you on how to manage the reading plan in the first module, which is essential to the success of the course. Typically people read 15-30 minutes a day if they are taking notes. Others do deep study 2-3x a week and listen on audio the other days.
  • I've failed in Bible reading plans before. Can I succeed in this one?
    • That's up to you! I will give you the tools and habit formation teaching to help you, but you must take me up on them! The KEY to succeeding at this plan is stop trying to “catch up” when you miss a day and simply start where we are. Start on the day's reading and listen on audio to “catch up” later. You must let go of perfectionism to finish the Bible in a year. If you are ready to do that, this plan is for you!
  • What is required of me in the daily reading?
    • Nothing except reading the passage! You can go as deep as you want or have time for. The extra resources are there to support you if you have additional questions. The weekly PDF and video set the tone at the beginning of the week, and you can refer back to them as needed. The Facebook group supplies community and there are check ins throughout the week so you can comment when you've done the reading.
  • If I unsubscribe can I keep the reading plan?
    • No, the plan and resources are part of the program. If you unsubscribe you lose access to the plan and resources. But there are many free plans available through places like YouVersion if you wish to do one on your own!
The registration announcement will come after Christmas. We are hoping to supply an annual option and the monthly subscription option if Teachable will allow us to do so :)
What I'm Reading

For my new friends: I don't count research materials or homeschool read-alouds in the below list. This is what I am reading for personal fun! I've focused on classics the last year as I work down a list of the ones I haven't read in a while or missed in high school. 
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
I am listening to this on audio because it's only 3 hours long. I've been reading Shakespeare to the girls using Shakespeare for Children and Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare but haven't listened through or read all the plays myself. My plan is to listen through them in 2024 and watch the movie versions (that the kids can handle) with the girls.
Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
Update: I gave up on this one. I will watch the show now that I got the jist, but it was SUCH a slow plot, the conversation was had no driving direction and the characters were just not for me. Quitting this to pick up Dracula. 
The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher
Been working on this one for several months and am almost finished. I loved it and found little to disagree with within it, but I can see how people who are not familiar with the lifestyle he describes would kick against the goads. Some of what he recommends is a bit unrealistic (living near your church isn't always possible, or living in close proximity to your church community; but you can fix that by being hospitable). He also holds to the same view I do on education - that it is for the cultivation of truth, goodness and beauty - and believes the public school system no longer accomplishes this. His strong stance for private Christian education (where possible) is probably why some people dislike the book. I'd say: Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater on this one. Most people crave the community he describes, but don't have it because they follow the standard American model for life, sports, education, commitments, and (lack of) church engagement. You have to say no to something to say yes to what you want - and that's what is in this book.
Other books I'm reading:
  • Journey to Bethlehem by Leland Ryken: for my personal study time
  • Seasonal Celebrations: I utilize the Scripture and readings for our Advent candle lighting at lunch on Sundays. We follow it with our Jesse Tree reading.
  • Parenting Toward the Kingdom by Philip Mamalakis
  • Heartfelt Discipline by Clay Clarkson
  • Teatime Discipleship by Sally Clarkson
  • House + Love = Home by Jenny Marrs
  • Wild Things by David Thomas
  • Once a Queen by Sarah Arthur
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At Home with Phylicia

  • St. Nicholas Day fell on Tuesday, our weekly small group night. Since we were hosting, we had the kids put their boots on the porch and hinted that someone might come by later (none of the families in our small group do Santa, so the kids were highly suspicious!). While the families sang carols, I - er, I mean St. Nick - came by to drop chocolate coins and oranges in their boots. He had to make a mad dash to escape the kids when they spotted him! Here's a great printable I bought on Etsy to teach the kids about St. Nicholas' true story. 
for the awakening,