(Florence Pugh, Saoirse Ronan, and Emma Watson as Amy, Jo, and Meg in Greta Gerwig's Little Women; Source: WallpaperAccess)

One of my favorite dialogues from the Greta Gerwig's recent film adaptation of Little Women comes near its end as Jo March describes her latest writing project to sisters Meg and Amy. She worries that “a story of domestic struggles and joys” won’t interest people, but Amy counters that perhaps such stories just don’t seem important because no one writes them yet. She encourages Jo to press on, saying, “Writing about them will make them more important.” 

I appreciate the dramatic irony of the scene, as Louisa May Alcott’s domestic tale did indeed make such stories important. For me, Little Women feels like a diamond that catches a new shade of light with each read. It especially comes to mind when I consider the home I desire. I discussed last year how Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry helped me reimagine homemaking as an adult. Little Women holds a different role in that it’s been part of the furniture of my mind since early youth. As my desires and views for home and family have matured, the story of the March family has taught me a few truths I hold onto. 

1. Beauty and imagination in a home are means to loving well with it 

Throughout Little Women, the March household is a riot of color, vibrancy, laughter, and creativity. Sisters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy have wonderfully varied personalities and interests. Their steadfast mother, “Marmee,” wisely shapes the home to cultivate the girls’ senses of wonder, guide them as they fight their faults, and harness their strengths for good. The result in their home, Orchard House, is a beautiful symphony of art, work, and companionship. 

Unsurprisingly, as a young reader, I didn’t fully appreciate Marmee’s centrality to the story. Now I see her as its irreplaceable backbone, for it is she who makes Orchard House a haven of beauty, learning, and care, not only for her girls, but also for friends and neighbors. She does so by ordering it around virtue and goodness, guiding her daughters’ minds and desires towards them at every turn. In the first chapter, readers learn that she raised the girls on the story of Pilgrim’s Progress, teaching them the lifelong journey towards heaven. The story captivates the girls’ imaginations for their whole lives and remains a constant help through joy and trial. 

Marmee also lovingly cultivates each daughter’s interests, always encouraging worthy work and play. Because of Marmee’s encouragement, Beth’s piano playing fills Orchard House, Amy’s drawings grow in skill, and Jo and Meg continually write and act in homemade plays for the enjoyment of many. She models for all of them the art of homemaking, which later looks different for each daughter, but all four use their future homes to cherish good things and serve others because of their mother’s example. 

2. A beautiful home reaches out and welcomes the goodness others can bring in 

On that note, Marmee also models extravagant generosity, both materially and relationally. Rather than withdrawing from others when hardships of the Civil War might have excused it, Marmee continually reaches out and teaches her girls to do the same. In a well-known early scene, she suggests giving away their unusually hearty Christmas breakfast to a needy family, and the girls cheerfully agree. And because of Marmee’s involvement in the war effort and various charities, Orchard House becomes known as a place sure to lend a helping hand. 

And as readers know well, the March women welcome a neighboring house of lonely men into their lives. The love found between the two houses forever reshapes everyone in them. Young Laurie Laurence comes into the Marches’ lives starved for affection, and the love overflowing at Orchard House gives him new vision for a real family. Marmee and the four sisters adopt him as a son and brother with eagerness that catches the attention of Laurie’s grandfather, Mr. Laurence, and his tutor, Mr. Brooke. Mr. Laurence, nursing long-ago grief, finds new purpose in becoming a protector to this house of women during their father’s absence in the war. And in time, gentle Beth somehow pierces Mr. Laurence’s long-held proverbial armor. Mr. Brooke, virtually alone in the world, encounters warmth and care for the first time in years in the Marches. All three of these men and all of the March women find forever family in each other, largely because of Orchard House’s determination to welcome and care for those who come in. 

3. Those who let themselves be shaped by both joy and grief are equipped to make a beautiful home 

Only in reading Little Women as an adult did I realize what a profound exploration of grief it offers. This manifests most clearly when death touches the March family through the tragic loss of Beth March. And even in their grief, the characters ultimately respond in hope, allowing sorrow’s touch to be at once painful and sanctifying to their souls. In letting both joy and grief work on them, they make better and more beautiful homes for those they love. 

Of all the characters, Jo becomes the most poignant example of a heart and a future home shaped by both gladness and sorrow. In an unlikely reversal of roles, timid Beth becomes the strongest of the Marches as she prepares to meet death, that ultimate and most fearsome of human enemies. And Jo, historically rough and audacious, learns new gentleness in keeping vigil at Beth’s bedside. As Beth gracefully accepts her end, Jo learns new patience and tranquility, letting grief soften her soul and vision for the future. Her journey is best expressed in a poem she writes on one of Beth’s final nights: 

“…Thus our parting daily loseth 
Something of its bitter pain, 
And while learning this hard lesson, 
My great loss becomes my gain. 
For the touch of grief will render 
My wild nature more serene,
Give to life new aspirations,
A new trust in the unseen.” (Alcott, p. 477-478)

Jo’s reshaped heart and life become Beth’s most beautiful legacy. With her parents’ help, she learns to “accept life without despondency or distrust, and to use its beautiful opportunities with gratitude and power” (Alcott, p. 497). In the days following her initial grief, Jo’s life does indeed become lovely and full. She writes thoughtful poetry and short stories, joyfully pouring out her heart on the page, instead of feverishly writing for money and approval as she once did. When Professor Friedrich Bhaer comes back into her life unexpectedly, she recognizes his value more deeply than she first did. Before long, the March sister who once said she’d never marry learns to open her heart to the love of a good man. Their home, while sparse, becomes one of the happiest in the neighborhood. It serves not only them and their children, but also becomes a home and school to love-starved orphan boys. Jo’s life and home look different from her youthful visions, but they are full and shaped by love of good things, sure testaments to how joy and grief have both worked their beautifying touches on her. 

Several years ago, I had the amazing opportunity to visit the real Orchard House, Louisa May Alcott’s home in Concord, Massachusetts. I distinctly remember the tightening in my chest as I ran a hand over the desk where she had written Little Women. Domestic stories now overflow the book world, but I maintain that Little Women still takes the title of the most important one. Its vision of hope, generosity, and beauty in the home has touched generations, undoubtedly shaping many girls’ dreams for their own homes. I know that Orchard House and the laughter of Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy will always live in my mind’s eye, helping me make a home wherever I live. I hope and pray that my home offers the kind of love and heavenly-mindedness that theirs did.

Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts

Autumn has always thrilled me at a soul-deep level. Every year, when the temperatures cool and the sun mellows, it feels to me like a proverbial homecoming. I relish the inevitable gusty rain of late September that gives way to October’s flaming scarlet glory. I’m rarely happier than I am on a crisp, autumn morning with candles burning and a mug of tea warming my hands. And in recent years, I’ve realized that I want to live well in the posture of autumn. Contemplative yet longing, surrendering yet zealous, content with the present yet hopeful of better things in the future. 

Of all the seasons, autumn most embodies what it means to live in the tension of the already and not yet. The sun burns harvest orange as the days shorten and shadows lengthen. It prepares to recede into winter’s mists, but not without burnishing the sky to glowing majesty one last time. As the earth retreats for its long annual sleep, it sings out with wild, red yearning, clothing itself in dazzling color once more. The trees grow fierce and crimson just before winter wraps them in her heavy grey mantle. Though the leaves will curl and drop, they will not go without a passionate reddening first, incantating with bright promise that beauty will come again. 

And even as earth surrenders to winter’s grip, beneath the rich mould of fallen leaves, the seed’s marrow and the tree’s sap still flow, making ready new life. Autumn’s colors herald this ongoing yet invisible work, telling me to hold on, to wait expectantly with a melody in my heart for the coming kingdom of beauty that is not of this earth. As I watch the trees burst into fiery autumn splendor, I’m reminded that I, too, can laugh at the time to come even while creation groans. As the shadows deepen, my flickering candles, whistling kettle, and hearty feasts with friends declare alongside the brilliant leaves that death is not the end. In earth’s vivid farewell to the year’s life and memories, I see an invitation to vibrant, vigorous expectancy. I want to meet all of life’s changes, joys, and sorrows with autumn’s amber song of determined hope, looking towards an approaching beauty that will never die.

“It was October again…a glorious October, all red and gold, with mellow mornings when the valleys were filled with delicate mists as if the spirit of autumn had poured them in for the sun to drain – amethyst, pearl, silver, rose, and smoke-blue. The dews were so heavy that the fields glistened like cloth of silver and there were such heaps of rustling leaves in the hollows of many-stemmed woods to run crisply through.” –L.M. Montgomery

Well, I’m late to the party, but I’d also rather be late on these kinds of lists than early. I do not understand all of you who share your favorite books of the year at the start or middle of December – don’t you know you have full weeks of prime reading time left in the year? What if you discover a new favorite between Christmas and New Year’s??

That said, I read lots of great books in 2022. As I reflect on another year of reading, I’m struck by the gift that reading is. Because when I think about a year of reading, I don’t just picture an impressive-looking stack of books (though that’s cool to imagine). I think fondly of places I visited via the pages of that stack, of poignant lessons learned, and of friendships grown and strengthened through reading together. I’m already excited to imagine the gifts that my 2023 reading might have in store, and I hope my 2022 reading recap here might inspire you to travel somewhere new through one of these books, or to experience the delights of an old favorite book again, but as if for the first time. So, here are my lists and nerdy book lover stats for 2022 J

Total Books Read (new to me): 40

Books Re-read: 7 –

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Persuasion by Jane Austen

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Son of the Deep by K.B. Hoyle

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Format Stats:

Read the physical book: 24.5/40 – 60%

Listened to the audiobook: 12.5/40 – 31%

Read the book on Kindle: 3/40 – 7.5%

This breakdown is fairly well back to its pre-2020 normal, but my Kindle is still fighting for its place. And yes, the decimal numbers do mean that I completed one book on 2022’s list –Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh – with both the hard copy and the audiobook. Probably an imperfect estimate, but it’s close. 

Other Fun Stats:

Male-authored books: 16

Female-authored books: 24

Most-read author: a tie between Wendell Berry and Agatha Christie at three books from each!

Shortest book: A Child’s Garden of Verses, 67 pages

Longest book: Anna Karenina, 838 pages 

Favorites of 2022 (in no particular order):

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy – My first Russian novel, and wow, what a masterpiece. I was intimidated by the big Russian novels for many years, but I was thoroughly, pleasantly surprised and moved by this doorstop classic. Many know Anna Karenina for the titular character’s immoral choices, but I now think it’s more accurate to say that it explores and contrasts the fallout of a life spent pursuing selfishness against that of a life lived in self-denying service of others. If you want an entryway into the Russian novels, I highly recommend this one. I also heartily commend the discussions on it from the Close Reads Podcast. These episodes require a paid subscription, but I promise it’s WELL worth even just a month or two of investment! These conversations were instrumental to my understanding and enjoyment of Anna Karenina, and I’m confident that anyone would get at least twice as much out of it by reading it along with the marvelous literary guides of this podcast.

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry – Will I ever go a year now without reading something by Wendell Berry? At the moment, I doubt it J Jayber Crow is now firmly in my favorites from him. It wrestles profoundly with faith, home, love, loss, family, and community through the eyes of Jayber Crow, the barber of Port William, Kentucky, and even though Berry says many of the same things in most of his work, somehow, he keeps making them shine anew. I read Jayber Crow with a friend (highly recommend that strategy for this one), and she observed that it’s impossible to speed-read Wendell Berry, which I think encapsulates him well. His writing is so deliberate and focused that it compels slowness. As he reflects on the sacredness of ordinary life, I am obliged to do the same, to my continual good.

All Creatures Great and Small Series by James Herriot – “How did you not grow up with James Herriot?” you might well ask. Well, I’ve been asking the same thing for the last year, I assure you! Somehow the delightful tales of James Herriot’s veterinary adventures in rural Yorkshire completely passed me by in childhood, but I’m making up for it now. I discovered Herriot’s stories because of the charming new TV adaptation of his books, but I’m happily staying for the show, books, and anything more. In 2022, I read the first two books in his memoir series, All Creatures Great and Small and All Things Bright and Beautiful, and yes, I’m counting them both in this list item J

Honorable Mentions:

Son of the Deep by K.B. Hoyle – A charming, magical retelling of The Little Mermaid that will make you laugh, cry, and daydream.

The Vanished Days by Susanna Kearsley – Yet another spellbinding journey through 1700s Scotland that keeps you guessing till the end, in true Kearsley style.

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles – I dove into Towles’s work in 2022 and was so glad this was my first from him. His exquisite prose and dynamic characters bring 1940s New York to glamorous life on the page.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – A count confined to a luxury hotel at the height of the Bolshevik Revolution? Some might not buy it, but I was there for it. The Close Reads Podcast also discussed this one in 2022 and it was one of my favorite sets of episodes (and they’re available for free!)

The Sisters of Sea View by Julie Klassen – I look forward to my annual jaunt to England with Julie Klassen’s characters. This one provided a lovely escape to the Devon coast, and I’m already excited to go back when the next one in the series comes out this year!

Andy Catlett: Early Travels by Wendell Berry – A moving reflection on the contrasts between our current times and those that came before, explored through the eyes of a young Andy Catlett visiting his grandparents at Christmas. Having lost three grandparents in the last 18 months, I found this one deeply affecting and thought-provoking.

That’s all for now, friends! I hope you find something good to read from among these lists. Please drop your suggestions for my 2023 reading in the comments!

Full 2022 Book List (new-to-me books, listed in the order completed)

Waiting on the Word by Malcolm Guite

The Vanished Days by Susanna Kearsley

Letters from the Mountain by Ben Palpant

Reading the Sermon on the Mount with John Stott by John Stott with Douglas Connelly

Carved in Ebony by Jasmine Holmes

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

Aggressively Happy by Joy Clarkson

Son of the Deep by K.B. Hoyle

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

The Generosity: Poems by Luci Shaw

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Deeper by Dane Ortlund

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr

The Vanishing at Loxby Manor by Abigail Wilson

Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot

Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner

Of Paupers and Peers by Sheri Cobb South

The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie

The Gathering Table by Kathryn Springer

Love Practically by Nichole Van

Adjacent But Only Just by Nichole Van

The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett by Annie Lyons

Given: Poems by Wendell Berry

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Harvesting Fog: Poems by Luci Shaw

Crooked House by Agatha Christie

A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Six by K.B. Hoyle

Holier Than Thou by Jackie Hill Perry

Beneath His Silence by Hannah Linder

The Sisters of Sea View by Julie Klassen

Andy Catlett: Early Travels by Wendell Berry

The Windsor Knot by S.J. Bennett

Jane Austen’s Genius Guide to Life by Haley Stewart

My ideas of home and homemaking used to be small. In years past, I associated such words with a comfortable house in suburban America, complete with a husband and a few children. My current self, living in a house shared with three other women in the middle of a big city, would have likely looked like an alien being to my 18-year-old self. While I’ve certainly grieved that some aspects of that youthful dream of home have not yet come to pass, at the same time, I understand more clearly now that making a home is more. I’ve seen that a home is made by loving well and pouring out. Homemaking is the opening of hands and committing to what the Lord gives in each season. It’s cultivating joyful, loving community wherever you are by bringing others in.

Unsurprisingly, stories have deepened my vision of home and taught me much about what it looks like. I hope to take a few posts to reflect on a few such stories. First up is Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry, which, for all its quiet prose and gentle introspection, truly axed me (as a friend and I once said of Wendell Berry).

I read Hannah Coulter in the spring of 2021, just over a year into COVID-19, which forced many questions of embodied community, loss, and home into sharper focus. I live in Washington, D.C., a city known for transience, politicians on the move, and basement apartments. I’ve said many tearful goodbyes in my years here and wondered if this city truly allows one to build a lasting home. In short, Hannah Coulter convinced me that it’s possible, even here.

That may sound odd, since D.C. is fairly opposite of everything Wendell Berry vocally advocates for – rootedness, enduring community, and commitment to a particular bit of earth. But Hannah Coulter moved me deeply because its characters’ fight for those things amidst shadows of grief and impermanence. The setting of Port William, Kentucky, a fictional stand-in for Berry’s own hometown, certainly sees less turnover than D.C., but even this little agrarian town, emblematic of longevity, can’t resist the march of time or the sting of loss.

Hannah of the title narrates the book as an elderly woman reflecting back on her life, now almost a complete tapestry of interconnected joyful and sorrowful threads. Her marriage to Nathan Coulter and the home she has built with him are things of beauty and endurance, but they have grown out of loss. Decades before, World War II took Hannah’s first husband, Nathan’s brother, and years of Nathan’s own youth. “He saw a lot of places, and he came home,” Hannah muses of Nathan, “I think he gave up the idea that there is a better place somewhere else.” So, they look right in front of them for their “place” and resurrect an abandoned homestead, making their own. Out of another’s loss, they make and commit to a home to love and cultivate and share.

Feelings of unmooring and uncertainty loomed large when I first read Hannah Coulter, and they still sometimes do – D.C. culture does not naturally encourage commitment to anything, and more people than usual left the city between 2020 and 2021. But in that season when uncertainty felt so much sharper, reading about Hannah and Nathan’s intentionality in loving each other, their land, their people, and their house grounded and challenged me. They still remind me that rootedness is often found in pouring oneself out for the place and people right in front of you. I don’t have a plot of land to work and keep, but I do have a house and backyard that I can make beautiful, both by caring for it and by welcoming in others with their joys, memories, and pains. D.C. may be a far cry from Port William’s tight-knit farming community, but I do have a church in the middle of the city that not only encourages, but expects and requires commitment. Deep love amongst members has manifestly followed. I expect to keep saying goodbyes for as long as I stay in D.C., but I can still intentionally love the people around me for as long as we’re all here, even though the leavings hurt.

Hannah Coulter showed me that homemaking is pouring out those very gifts of place and presence. It showed me a tangible example of how loving a place and its people go hand in hand. And that pouring out is perhaps especially important in a place like D.C., where things like deep community and commitment are so much scarcer. Hannah reflects, “There is no ‘better place’ than this, not in this world. And it is by the place we’ve got, and our love for it and keeping of it, that this world is joined to Heaven.” Her story has certainly strengthened me to “love and keep” the place and home I’ve got, city or otherwise.

Hello, friends! I’ve mentioned loosely here and there about my recent experimentation with writing poetry. Reading it has proved so valuable to me over the last two years that I’ve been compelled to try it for myself. Below are my latest attempts, wrought from miscellaneous prompts and desire to capture moments of beauty from life. I hope you enjoy them in all their amateurish eagerness.

“Sunrise in Maine”

Sheltered in a rock face,
Braced against the clifftop wind,
Looking east to promised warmth,
I’m watching, waiting.

Above, a velvet blue canopy,
Flecked in a thousand diamond lights,
Bids frosty welcome to those below.
They’ve traveled far to wait and watch.

Hemmed in by loyal company,
I hold my breath as dark recedes,
And ruby gold outshines night’s crown.
In wordless awe, we stand and watch.

Blazing autumn paints the mountains,
The sea awakens in shimmering dawn.
Watching souls sit soaked in glory,
Enthralled by new mercies
Numerous as the hues of morning.


Cabin lights dimmed,
Air sucked dry,
Time suspends
With the wings’ slow dip.

Rolling sore joints,
I peer at the glass,
Smallest of portals
To new country below.

Sloping emerald
Arrests my gaze –  
Stories abound,
Both written and waiting.

Dawn’s blue mist
Recedes in welcome
As England’s wild hills
Transfix me quite.

Gliding still lower,
My spirits rise,
Thrilled with hope
Of the tales I’ll find.

“Sacred Wednesdays”

It’s usually the same
When Wednesdays come around.
We’re taught the sacred Word,
We eat and hug and laugh.
And all the while I sit and marvel
At the gift of so much good.
The same good and sacred
Gifts keep giving
When Wednesdays come around.


I often forget the small things,
Like my charger or umbrella,
But, blessing or curse, I never forget
The bigger ones.

Where I met you, whether
You welcomed or shunned,
Throwaway words, if you
Remember my likes,
Your humor and quirks,
My own deep secrets –
For better or worse,
I won’t forget.


Savory soup and tranquil tea,
A fragrant candle or opening bloom,
Stirring tales and tantalizing song,
Ever beckon, softly call:
Taste and see.