A Year of Orthodoxy

It may have been my footsteps, or perhaps it was a slight disturbance in the breeze — imperceptible to me, but enough to set off a flurry of motion and a rustling of black feathers in the bare tree branches. The birds rose as one, and then, without hesitation cut to the north and rose higher, perfectly synchronized, beautifully fluid.

How did they know?

Who decided on that sudden change in course, and how did she communicate it? 

On that same walk, I was puzzling over a “situation” with our house. Furnaces, roofing, windows, and doors have come and gone in the past 24 years of life on this country hill, but this time the jarring news from the carpenter is that there’s a problem with the foundation. The repairs needed will not add a whit to the beauty of our home, but are, nonetheless, essential for its health and stability.

A Foundation of Orthodoxy

And thus, together, our family-fixer-upper and those well-choreographed birds played a role in setting my direction for 2018 and in helping me to choose a focus word for the year:  Orthodoxy.

Orthodoxy is not a path to lock-step uniformity in which we all move as one, but it may result in a harmonious unity that is freedom itself and is beautiful to behold in the Body of Christ.

Orthodoxy is the foundation to everything. It governs the way I understand and interpret Scripture; my comprehension of God and His ways; and even the practical application of Truth in my homeschooling, dish-washing, laundry-folding, floor-vacuuming, Bible-teaching, and blog-writing life.

There, under the clear, blue winter sky, I decided it was time to return to G.K. Chesterton’s classic book, Orthodoxy, which has been on my Kindle for a couple of years (and which I’ve started multiple times and then stalled).

With nine chapters and 239 pages in the edition I have, that will mean reading and interacting with approximately 20 pages or around three fourths of a chapter per month, and it is likely that I’ll be reporting on that pondering here in this space. If you’d like to join me on this year-long journey, you are most welcome, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts along the way.

From his vantage point of the early 20th century, Chesterton described his book as a “slovenly autobiography,” so his quirky personality will, apparently, be evident in his writing. Orthodoxy is not an apologetic work, but rather, a collection of Chesterton’s musings as he attempts “an explanation, not of whether the Christian Faith can be believed, but of how he personally has come to believe it.”

The Anchor to Orthodoxy

Of course it is, ultimately, the Word of God which anchors us in Truth and in right thinking. To chart my progress in this at the outset of 2018, I’m making a fresh start with two brand new journals, both my gratitude journal and my all-purpose-catcher-of-random-thoughts having filled up by the end of 2017. Reviewing entries from past years is always either an encouragement or a rebuke, and I need both from time to time.

A Year of OrthodoxyTherefore, I was happy to discover Deborah Haddix’s Journaling for the Soul. Her handbook of journaling methods is a thorough and very accessible resource for anyone who wants to embark upon the exercise in soul care that journaling has become for me.

Deborah urges her readers to loosen up and enjoy the process of putting the pen to the page. This was reassuring for me because a few years ago I started keeping one journal for just about everything in an effort to live a one-piece life. So if I have an answer to prayer that I want to remember, an insight from my reading of the book of Jeremiah, or a great quote from a podcast, I scribble them all into the same pages. It’s also where I maintain a list of all the books I’m reading. Therefore, when I re-read journal pages, it’s enlightening to note all the different things that were feeding into my thinking at the same time.

One of the challenges I’ve heard women express about journaling is that they want to record their thoughts about prayer and Scripture, but they either don’t know where to begin, or they run out of steam at some point and abandon the discipline. Journaling for the Soul provides a collection of methods and approaches that can serve as an encyclopedia of options. I recommend that anyone who is not sure how to proceed just work their way through the book and try each method until they find an approach that resonates for them, and feel free to change as needed. List-makers and chart-lovers may gravitate toward inductive studies while creatives may find that color coding and verse mapping work well for them.

A journal is a tool and maintaining it is a means to an end:  deeper communion with God. It should not become the main thing, but rather a means for documenting the main thing, which, of course, is a living and active relationship with God. When I read The Journals of Jim Elliot, I was amazed at how much mundane (and even sort of bombastic) wool-gathering there was in its pages. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” is Jim’s brilliant statement of a spiritual principle, but, rest assured, he did not spout such riches on every page — and neither will we. Our journals are home base to the space we create to be with God, and we will be wise to take lots of grace in our stumbling steps toward intimacy with Him.

Deborah Haddix offers words of encouragement to us all as we drill down into orthodoxy in 2018:

“Stay with it. Journaling for the Soul is a discipline that requires perseverance. When its newness wears off, when you don’t feel like it, when you are going through the ‘hard,’ press on. Ask God for His help and strength and energy to keep going in this worthwhile endeavor.”

This book was provided by the author in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Photo by Rowan Heuvel via Unsplash

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60 thoughts on “A Year of Orthodoxy”

  1. Do you know, I had a dream a few mornings ago, which I won’t bore you with, except to say that it made clear that I need to make sure that I don’t cram too much in to any given life space I have, AND that I need to both minister and also do out on the edge kind of activities in order to satisfy my heart. But that’s not what I’m writing about… as I was on the way to waking, I dreamed that I should make a journal (to sell) that was called Courage Becomes You … a beautiful teal green cover and silver writing, and 300 pages upon which to write, each with a quote that relates to courage, and some full pages with woman centred (but not fluffy pink and gold woman centred) boldnesses.

    So.. I’ve made a beginning … have about 100 quotes so far and my daughter in law, Ondine, who is a graphic designer along with her architectural talents, is going to do the art work. How cool is that! Certainly something I never would have thought of.

    I hope you’re well and I’m so sorry that you have foundation work to do in the house. I remember back about 25 years ago, the house that Rick physically built from scratch (except the brick laying) including designing it … it was large 6 bedrooms and on one level. What we didn’t know was that back decades before that, there was a huge tree on that site. It had been removed but with a cycle of drought, flooding rains and drought again, the ground dropped on one corner of the house and the house dropped with it, so there were gaps in the brickwork, etc. Rick had to repair it… it took months and months, because every time he got the hole around one of the piers dug deep enough to pour in the concrete, it rained again… on repeat…

    My patient patient husband was finally tested beyond all patience… he went to God trying to work it out. He understood God to be saying that because patience was his strong point, it was that which had to be tested…oh dear… twas ever thus! God did a good thing, but it was tough.

    I am doing the funeral of a little three month old baby girl tomorrow. Her name is Grace. Her mum and dad are not together, and they’re just kids themselves and have a little boy as well. The mummy lives with her own mum, and there’s such pain. I feel grieved for them, and all the more because I have three little babies under one (including Toby and Katie’s little foster daughter Tahlia) in my family… very very sad.

    Much love to you …x >


    1. Wow, Bev, that’s a stunning idea, and you are so wise to get moving on it before you could talk yourself out of it!
      Ugh, that test with your house’s foundation sounds just awful. We won’t be able to do anything here until spring after the ground thaws. Right now we’ve got over a foot of snow on the ground and another 12-18 inches promised for today.
      I’m glad that you are the one doing that funeral for little Grace’s family. I’ll be praying for you.
      Always so good to hear from you, Bev.


  2. Oh dear, I wish you Godspeed and God’s grace on getting the foundation repaired. May the Lord give you patience and provision. I need to go back and look again at Deborah’s handbook. It looks so good, and I was privileged to have her use one of my journaling methods, but I look forward to learning more from her.


    1. Yes!! Betsy it was such a fun surprise to see you popping up in Deborah’s book!
      I learned so much about the purpose for journaling by reading about all the different approaches she suggested.


  3. Michele,
    Great word to choose and who better to revisit than Chesterton? Cheering you on in setting and adhering to the foundation found in His Word. Thanks for the encouragement to “loosen up” with the journaling! I need to drop the idea that someone is going to put a grade on it in red pen.
    Bev xx


  4. What an interesting word, Michele. Can’t wait to hear how it teaches you over the year. I’m sorry to hear about your home’s foundation. ((hug)) — And, thanks for sharing the thoughts on journaling. I’ve let it slide over the years, but love the idea of a specific one for each year. — Happy New Year, friend. xoxo


    1. I’m up to my fetlocks in chapter 2 right now, Brenda. And trusting that I”ll be able to sort through all the material (so much!) in order to share some of the most valuable gleanings.
      Happy 2018!


  5. Michele, I have been seeing a lot of repeated words for 2018, but yours is very unique! I will be excited to read your insights! I hope your repairs on the foundation will go well! Happy New Year~


  6. Orthodoxy definitely sounds like a book you’d need a year to chew on. I look forward to reading your thoughts and musings, Michele! I, too, have gone to one book for journaling and treated myself to a Sacred Ordinary Days journal this year. I love it! Happiest of new years to you and your family and I hope the foundational issues aren’t too severe!


    1. So happy that you’re going to be focusing on journaling this year as well. Blessings to you as you reap the spiritual benefits of it — and thanks for reading and for taking the time to comment today!


  7. Ahh Michele, your word for the year is so delightfully unorthodox! Love it. I must tell you that your December musings’ mention of Chesterton’s book was just the incentive I needed to pull out my beautiful little copy that I have not ever managed to get through, and commit to getting through it along with you! This is the time of year for reading and making book lists. Being at the top of mine means this one is not likely to last all year. I’ve already passed the twenty-page mark. And behold this advice on page 20: ” HOW MUCH LARGER YOUR LIFE WOULD BE IF YOUR SELF COULD BECOME SMALLER IN IT…” My word for the year hasn’t percolated to the top yet but it may be somewhere here in this concept… Maybe I just need a bracing walk to consider the birds… or some journaling (which is among my first loves!).

    Thank you for the book recommendation and your own commentary. The book that has stuck with me on this topic is: Ronald Klug’s–How to Keep a Spiritual Journal. But my own variety is pretty free-wheeling and happily sloppy. Just a record of whatever is on my mind especially related to time in the Word, and sometimes the random Haiku ( : and often at the top of the page a distracting ‘to do’ that needs a home for the moment till I transfer it elsewhere or DO it! I keep it cheap and simple so I won’t mind filling it up and including anything and everything that wants writing down. Well, not everything. More extensive lists (To Do’s, Books, Schedules, Reference data, Birthdays, Work related) are kept in my own version of a ‘bullet journal’ which I prefer to call my DayBook.

    Anyway, I enjoy re-evaluating these things at this time of year and so this article was perfect! Thank-you Michele. Enjoy being snowed in while you can ( : Good thing you have some able-bodied men in your household!!

    Blessings on your new year’s beginnings!


    1. So glad you’ll be reading Chesterton, too. I fought off an urge to email you the day I decided to plow into that long neglected Kindle book because I was hoping you’d read, too, but I squelched the urge so as not to put pressure on you during a busy season. I haven’t run across that amazing quote yet, but my eyes will be looking for it, because I need that kind of bracing truth right now. Cheap and simple is my journaling “method” too, and I’ve got everything in mind as well. My “daybook” is a planner which is truly my right arm as I keep track of boy schedules, appointments, blogging schedule, and daily do list which I delight to check off.
      And I’m enjoying the piles of snow. My husband’s school had a one hour delay to give everyone time to dig out. College son is home, but doesn’t have to work today; high school son had wisdom teeth out day before yesterday, so he’s convalescing still (and will awaken VERY swollen this morning), so it’s going to be a two-cup-of-tea morning, methinks.
      It’s great to hear from you at the beginning of a new year. I luxuriated in the pages of Hannah Coulter over Christmas vacation. Very nice gift from my thoughtful husband. She had lots to say about the empty nest, which I completely missed in earlier readings.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What a pleasure it is to read your blog, Michele. You are such a good writer and I love your message. I told my husband we could be millionaires if we didn’t own a home – there is always something. Your plans to read interesting books, and share with us is something I will look forward to in 2018.


  9. Orthodoxy, a unique choice, and one I can’t wait to hear more about through the year. Thanks for the book review, as always. I went directly to Amazon and purchased this one; I like to journal but my perfectionistic tendency raises its ugly head too often so I neglect it. I’m sorry about the foundation of your home. But I imagine your readers will benefit from the lessons you learn along the way.


    1. Deborah’s book is a great resource. I’m going to share it on Sunday with the women in my class — lots of great approaches to journaling for every personality and preference. I hope you’ll share how it works for you, Debbie.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Reblogged this on Deborah Haddix and commented:
    Orthodoxy and journaling.

    In her recent post on the topics, Michele Morin shares:
    “Of course it is, ultimately, the Word of God which anchors us in Truth and in right thinking.”

    Why, yes, being in God’s Word is foundational, and what a wonderful way to engage with it.

    Thank you, Michele, for sharing your review of Journaling for the Soul as part of your blog post this week.


  11. Michele, your word for the year is weighty. I am impressed (and excited to read what your share.)

    I am off to check out Deborah’s book on Amazon — because I am a journaler, and you’ve piqued my curiosity.

    HUGS and Happy Friday to you!


    1. As I round the corner on page 20, I’m feeling the weight of this word and of the thoughts in Chesterton’s book! I’m glad that I’m spreading the read out over the year.
      Hugs back to you — have a great weekend.


  12. I really have no journal for years, even though I have notes from messages, devotions I have given, profound thoughts I have written down but not really journal. I do write a blog, in fact I think that was when I stopped journaling. Your post has created that thirst again to buy a journal and start carrying it with me often and just let it rip. I probably would have more material for my blog if I did. Thanks for the motivation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, so often my blog posts find their beginning in the shard of a quote or a thought I had while reading Scripture or wool-gathering on a walk. Thanks, Betty, for sharing your thoughts here.


  13. I’ve never been great with journaling…if it feels like a “diary” then I just can’t do it. I am SO MUCH better if I write as if I am talking to someone else and make it about them. How does it work for you?

    As for Orthodoxy, you and I are in the same boat. I have started it multiple times (it was one of C.S. Lewis’s favorite books) and yet I have not been able to push through. I’m hoping your reflections on it will give me a jumpstart.


    1. I do better with journaling if I refuse to “edit” — and if I don’t let myself think too much about how awesome Luci Shaw’s or Madeleine L’Engle’s journal excerpts sound. And one of the reasons I kept trying to chisel my way into Orthodoxy is the Lewis connection — and all the terrific Chesterton quotes that seem to float out of the text in other people’s writings.
      Right now, I’m struggling to connect the dots between all the amazing moments in the book and to see the big picture. Every once in a while it occurs to me that I’ve taken on a project that I can’t predict the outcome for, but I guess that’s true more of the time than I would like to admit.


  14. What a great word for 2018 Michele. Mine is Thrive as I want to thrive in life and make the most of every day. Thank you for sharing with us at #BloggersPitStop and wishing you every happiness for 2018!


  15. I loved your description of the birds taking off. I’ve often wondered how they communicate so well. Good luck with your home and your writing ventures. Thank you for linking up at #BloggingGrandmothersLinkParty.


    1. Hope it’s helpful! I shared it with my Sunday School class this morning. So often women start journaling – or want to start – but get overwhelmed or discouraged. Deborah’s thoughts are very encouraging.
      And . . . I’m looking forward to hearing more about YOUR book!


  16. Ah Michele – this was overwhelming a bit, today. I don’t have a word for the year, I’m not really doing a journal, although I am attempting a gratitude list on my phone. I feel very NOT put together and reading blogs of what all these Christian women are doing is making me feel inadequate. However, I will tag along with you from time to time, and get re-inspired every now and then! 🙂


    1. Oh, Lord, you hear and know Carol’s heart. I pray that you would meet her in the midst of the overwhelm and that you would speak words of truth, by your Spirit, into her life. Thank you for her faithfulness in so many ways and on so many fronts, and I pray that you would give her spirit rest.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I admire how you desire to always challenge yourself and go deeper. It sounds like Orthodoxy will do that for you. I am interested in Deborah’s book on journaling. I also have always kept one journal and by the time it is full the thoughts are so scattered, I question whether that was the best way to approach it. This year already I find I have several journals that I already started. I am allowing myself to be more specific in what each journal is used for. So far I like it much better. It leaves me with a much bigger pile of daily books but I think it will be worth it.


  18. I’m excited to read your thoughts on Chesterton. I, too, have “Orthodoxy” on my Kindle and feel encouraged to open it again and read along with you. I’ve read approximately 14% of it (up to pg. 21) and I must confess it was so long ago I may as well start over! I’m going to do so, though, because I know it will be worth it.

    I saw the quote Linda shared: ” HOW MUCH LARGER YOUR LIFE WOULD BE IF YOUR SELF COULD BECOME SMALLER IN IT…” and realized that must have been in the last little bit I read and I don’t remember it.

    This time I around I simply must journal about it in order to remember.

    Then I saw your talk about journaling. What I’ve been doing for some years now is to keep my journals saved on my portable hard drive. I take it with me wherever I go and always have an open document so as to add to it daily. (I do have a bullet-journal in my purse as well so as to actuary WRITE in when I’m away from any type of computer, and also use as a planner).

    I find it helpful since I started doing month end reviews on the blog to put everything in one place so I can find it. I have a document for each month and a folder for each year.

    Still, I’m always wanting to improve on my journaling techniques so I’ll have to look into your suggestion of Deborah Haddix’s book. I like very much her thought, “Journaling for the Soul is a discipline that requires perseverance. When its newness wears off, when you don’t feel like it, when you are going through the ‘hard,’ press on. ” My word this year is “Press” as in press on, so I feel her book might have much to say to me.

    Looking forward to your blog about Chesterton. Hoping I will have at least re-read the first 20 pages by the time you do!


    1. Press is an amazing word. And I’m feeling a bit better about my situation now that I know I’m not the only person who has started and abandoned Chesterton a few times! I think I was about the same percentage into it as you, Jerralea, until this most recent attempt which is taking me past page 36, I believe. So much good stuff, it’s going to be hard to keep these monthly posts short enough to be a reasonable read.
      You are a much more organized and intentional journal keeper than I am. I still struggle a bit with feeling like my keyboard is a ball and chain. So I scrawl little notes here there and everywhere, keep a pretty organized day planner, write in a journal that I keep with my Bible, and record daily blessings in a gratitude journal that resides on my cookbook shelf. Keeping folders as you do would certainly be helpful in writing recap posts.
      Thanks, Jerralea, for sharing ideas that always stretch me.


  19. I’m going to check out this journal. It looks like it may be a good fit for me! Thanks for sharing at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com! Always a pleasure to have you!


  20. Such a unique word of the year, Michele! I’ll be looking forward to your insights! Thanks for the thoughts on journaling. Pressure to fill pretty pages with pretty words kept me from journaling for a few years, but writing is how I think! Once I relaxed and accepted my journal as simply thinking and praying by hand, it’s a wonderful part of my day. I’ve been reading “In the Shadow of the Almighty,” which is loaded with Jim Elliot’s journal entries too. Your description of “bombastic” is so accurate, haha. But yes, of course, his journals are also peppered with wisdom! Have a great week!


    1. We forget how young Jim was when he died. He was only 28, and what we know now about the maturation process for young adult males bears on what we observe in his writings. Of course, having said all that, he was a unique warrior for God and his words are worthy of reading and respecting.
      And, yes, I actually resisted “orthodoxy” for a long time, wondering if I could just read the book and quietly ponder it instead of dragging it out into blog-dom. But these are my marching orders for 2018. Following by faith!


  21. This post was a ‘two-fer’. You gave us a bonus, Chesterton plus Haddix. I was introduced to Chesterton quite late so I’m intrigued by your book selection and will be trying to follow your insights as you work through the book. The journal sounds interesting too. Thanks for your, always, substantive posts.


  22. Reading your description of the birds, I could imagine standing right there. Beautiful. There is nothing more solid than a good foundation. In all things. Wishing you all the best for 2018. #globalblogging


  23. I’ve been enjoying the huge, amazing flocks of blackbirds that have been flying over for the last couple of weeks. They seem to go on for miles and miles, from one horizon to the other. I like the way you compare them and their flight patterns to “harmonious unity that is freedom itself and is beautiful to behold in the Body of Christ.”
    May the Lord help you and lead you and your family this year both in the learning of His foundational truths and in the unified flight of freedom with all the Lord’s flock.


  24. Michele, I’m so intrigued by both books. I’m tempted to read the Orthodoxy book with you, but I’m concerned I’ll commit to more than I can do well. Since my husband just retired, we’ll be doing some conferences together and teaching a class at another church. I’d appreciate your prayers if you think of us as we start a new chapter in our lives and ministry. I know I’ll invest in the journaling book as I think my journaling needs some fresh inspiration. I’ll definitely be looking forward to reading your thoughts on orthodoxy in the coming months.


    1. So terrific that you are getting to do some teaching with your husband. I should “tesser” to where you are and get some pointers because we’re going to be team teaching a parenting class in March, and I think the idea of harmonizing with another person (rather than just teaching alone) has me more nervous than all the preparation that needs to happen in the next few weeks.


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