Top Movies/Shows of 2021

Here are my top picks for movies and TV shows that PB and I watched this year. It’s getting harder to find television that is praise-worthy. Maybe you noticed. I went over my list and checked it twice to stretch this favorites list to ten. I didn’t include two carryovers from last year’s list (“The Great British Baking Show” and “The Chosen – Season 2”) even though they received a star in the margin of my journal.

1. Miss Potter (Amazon Prime) — This is the story of Beatrix Potter, the author of “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”. It takes place in Victorian England and is charming from start to finish. A little romance, a little comedy, and a look at the creative process of an absolutely delightful writer/artist. (PG)

2. The Repair Shop (Netflix) — This is a British television reality series that follows expert craftspeople who restore family heirlooms. They all work together in a barn in the English countryside. It is all very proper, but not in a stuffy way. These people are genuinely nice and polite to each other. It’s a wonderful escape from a world that has not been so nice and polite lately.

3. Get Low (Amazon Prime) — Robert Duvall plays a crusty old hermit in the mountains of Tennessee who throws his own funeral, where he uncovers a long-held secret. (PG-13)

4. A Week Away (Netflix) — If you’ve ever been to church camp in the summer, you will totally get this. A bad boy gets sent to camp and meets a good girl. Completely predictable and cheesy, but it’s like they know it’s cheesy, so it’s okay. Super fun music and dancing (it’s a musical!) with cameo appearances by Amy Grant (camp nurse) and Steven Curtis Chapman (lifeguard).

5. The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix) — This series is definitely a departure from my usual wholesome picks. It is rated Mature for many reasons, so beware (language, suggestive scenes, addiction and abusive behavior). It is the story of an orphan who is a chess prodigy. She grows up to compete at the highest level, but self-destructs. It’s pretty dark, but gave me compassion for people struggling with addiction.

6. Fatherhood (Netflix) — The previews to this movie led me to believe it was a comedy. I cried through the whole thing. Kevin Hart plays a widowed dad who has to raise his baby girl alone. There are some lighter moments, but grab a box of tissue. (PG-13)

7. Marvel Movies (Disney+) — I’m lumping several Marvel movies into one category. They are pure entertainment. We watched “Guardians of the Galaxy” (volumes 1 and 2), “Ant Man”, “Ant Man and Wasp” and “Dr. Strange”. (PG-13)

8. All Creatures Great and Small (PBS) — This Masterpiece Theater production is set in the 1930’s in England. It’s based on a series of books by James Herriot, a veterinarian in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. The characters and the filming all make for a really enjoyable experience. Season 2 is coming soon!

9. Awakenings (Netflix) Robin Williams stars in this remarkable story about a doctor who discovers an experimental drug that effectively brings catatonic patients out of their unresponsive state. Based on a true story, Robert DeNiro awakens after 30 years of sleeping-sickness. (PG-13)

10. Sports — I can’t overlook the fact that PB and I watched a lot of sports this year. Between the Brewers playoffs, the Bucks championship and the Packers run to the Superbowl, we logged in lots of hours. Plus, I can read a book while there’s a game on, so everybody’s happy. Full disclosure — I’m the only one who stays up when games go long. But I yell loud enough to wake up PB when there’s an exciting finish.

That’s it! Happy viewing in 2022.
Or read books, knit sweaters and bake bread instead.

My Top Books of 2021

I like reading end-of-the-year posts that reflect back on favorite things, especially books. Sometimes I find a few titles to add to my TBR list. Sometimes I shake my head and screw up my nose at people’s taste in reading. These lists are pretty subjective and mine is no different. So take what you want and feel free to leave the rest.

I read 53 books in 2021, 12 of which were fiction, which is a new record for me. Because I focused on prayer this year, there are several titles on that topic. Here we go!

10. How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People, by Pete Greig
Pete is the head of the 24/7 Prayer Movement. Back in 1999, a simple student-led prayer vigil in England went viral and people all over the world joined in to pray. And it never stopped. Twenty-two years later, Greig has learned a thing or two about prayer. This straight-forward, approachable guide was a good reminder of basics that I needed.

9. God On Mute: Engaging the Silence of Unanswered Prayer, by Pete Greig
What happens when the head of a global prayer movement doesn’t get an answer to his prayers? Greig’s wife suffered a series of seizures that almost took her life and she continues to live with a debilitating disease, despite prayers for healing. In this book, Greig gets personal and honest about his own struggle and helps us wrestle with the hard reality of unanswered prayer. He reads the audio version of his book — you can hear the pain and the hope in his voice.

8. Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep, by Tish Harrison Warren
Drawing on her own painful experience of loss and doubt, Warren was grounded by liturgical prayer when she had no words of her own to pray. She writes about going through hard seasons in a way that helps us see the beauty in the midst. Her book opened up to me the world of ancient prayers given to the church through the centuries — rich prayers that are deep and vibrant.

7. The Whistling Season, by Ivan Doig
One of my reading goals this year was to find a novel set in Montana in the early 1900s. Why, you ask? My great-great-grandparents went to Montana in the late 1800s and homesteaded near Lewistown. I have a pile of letters written by Great-Great-Grandma Harriet to her daughter Kate (my great-grandma) in Wisconsin. I have long idealized what life was like for them out in Big Sky country. This novel helped me enter into their world. Plus, it’s a really enjoyable story.

6. Reading Ruth, by Leon Kaas and Hannah Mandelbaum
Our church did a women’s Bible study this summer on Ruth, so I downloaded this short volume to read along. It is written by a Jewish man and his granddaughter, which I thought was charming. Although Kaas is not a Jesus follower, his insights into Jewish tradition and the Hebrew meaning of words really enriched the study.

5. Night Driving: Notes From a Prodigal Soul, by Chad Bird
This is the story of an arrogant pastor and driven seminary professor who destroyed his marriage and career with affairs and addictions. With his life in a heap of ruins, he started driving a semi-truck through the Texas oil fields at night. After ten years of bitter struggle, grace and healing finally won his heart. He was a prodigal soul who found his way back to God. Chad Bird became a humble servant who now writes like no one else. Other books by this author that I read this year include: “Your God Is Too Glorious”, “The Christ Key”, and “Unveiling Mercies”. I will read everything this man puts out there.

4. Pray Big: Learn to Pray Like an Apostle, by Alistair Begg
This book caught my eye at a radio station where PB and I were doing an interview. The host told me to take it home with me and since I can’t turn down a free book, I slipped it in my purse. I was afraid this little paperback would turn out to be one of those “name-it-and-claim-it” kinds of things. I was skeptical. I was wrong. This small gem held many nuggets of truth that I’m still thinking about.

3. God of All Things: Rediscovering the Sacred in the Everyday World, by Andrew Wilson
At the time I read Wilson’s book, I thought it was okay. But then I kept taking it off the shelf and referring back to it over and over. He takes the simple, ordinary things of this earth and weaves them around scripture, tying the holy to the common. My favorite chapter was entitled “Pigs”, but each short chapter holds its own treasure.

2. A Burning in My Bones: The Authorized Biography of Eugene H. Peterson, by Winn Collier
Collier was given the privilege of perusing all of Eugene Peterson’s personal diaries and journals, as well as compiling notes from hours of interviews with the famous pastor/writer before Peterson died in 2018. This biography doesn’t leave out the uncomfortable stuff, yet captures the remarkable life of a man of enduring faith, boundless creativity and lifelong devotion to the Word.

1. Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer, by Eugene Peterson
My number one book this year combined the theme of my year (prayer) with one of my favorite authors (Peterson). This book was a turning point for me in my quest to better understand prayer and become a better pray-er. “We cannot bypass the Psalms. They are God’s gift to train us in prayer that is comprehensive and honest.” Here is his recommendation: “That’s it: open your Bibles to the book of Psalms and pray them — sequentially, regularly, faithfully, across a life-time. This is how most Christians for most of the Christian centuries have matured in prayer. Nothing fancy. Just do it.” Most of my copy of this book is underlined. If you’re at all interested in falling in love with the Psalms, or learning to pray like Jesus did, this is the book for you.

As always, I’d love a good book recommendation!
I’ll add it to the 200 titles on my TBR list.
Here’s to a happy reading year in 2022!

What Worked For Me in 2020

So many things didn’t work this year. The usual routines went out the window. I’ve got to admit — some of it was a relief to let go of. As an introvert, being told to erase everything off my calendar and stay home sounded like a dream come true. But the world outside my window told a different story. It seemed to convulse with distressing bad news. I wanted nothing more than to bring some order into the chaos, some compassion into the vitriol, some saneness into the crazy. I coped by finding some things that worked for me.

  • Walks. Walks around the neighborhood. Walks through the woods. Walks by myself. Walks with PB. The strolls provided more than exercise for the body — they offered a place for my soul to breath, a refresh for my mind, and some tranquility for my emotions.
  • Focus. That was the word I picked out as my theme at the start of 2020. After all — 20/20 vision, right? I can’t count how many times this year I breathed the prayer “Eyes on Jesus. Eyes on Jesus. Focus.”
  • Sermon notes. I saved some pages at the back of my planner for taking notes on sermons. This simple practice helped keep my mind from wandering on Sunday mornings and gave me food for thought in the week that followed. PB also loved it when I quoted him.
  • Blogging. In my 10 years at “a small drop of ink”, I’ve never written so many posts. There was a series on Psalm 23 in the spring and a series on “The One Anothers” in the fall, but my magnum opus was “The Long Song — Psalm 119”. I posted five days a week for 22 weeks, which surprised even myself. The conditions were right for lots of writing.
  • Food. Food worked for me in 2020. When I wasn’t writing, I was baking. Sweet rolls, bread, cookies, cakes. My son introduced me to Korean Beef and Mission Street Tacos. I read cookbooks like novels and have so many recipes earmarked, I’ll never live long enough to try them all. Comfort food is real.
  • Sewing. My sewing machine came out of hiding and I made my granddaughters dresses this summer. It was just the project I needed. Something creative and functional, pumped full of love.
  • Frother. Yes, a milk frother. A little cream in my coffee cup, worked up into a foamy lather and then steaming coffee poured in — such a small thing, but so delightful.
  • BRP (Bible Reading Plan). Every year I put together a plan that helps me stick to consistent study of God’s Word. While I did flounder a while and missed several weeks during the summer months, I got back on track in September because I had a plan. Those early mornings of study and prayer anchored my soul this year. The plan for 2021 is up and ready to go.
  • Words. So many people came through with helpful, encouraging words this year. One of the quotes I copied into my journal as I wrestled with the reality that the pandemic is a “marathon without a finish line” came from journalist, Alex Hutchinson.

It turns out that, if you ask yourself “Can I keep going?” rather than “Can I make it to the finish?” you’re far more likely to answer in the affirmative.

Yes. I can keep going.
We can keep going.
Even after we hit the pandemic finish line,
we will keep going.

God bless us, every one.

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1

Favorite Listens from 2020

I know.
I turned a verb into a noun.
(“Listens” are not persons, places or things).
Oh well.

Podcasts, apps and music provided for some wonderful listening experiences this year, so they are all lumped together here. The fact that I won a free pair of Airpods only enhanced the adventure of finding good “listens”. Podcasts, apps and music are very personal choices, so take these lists or leave them. But get something good in your ears.


  • Wild at Heart Podcast — I’ve always enjoyed John Eldredge and the content he and his team put out on “Wild at Heart”. This year I needed it. Every Monday, from the onset of the pandemic until now, he has been a calming voice in my ear. Yes, the world is “gnarly” right now. These days call for maturity. God draws near and is full of mercy. His messages kept my chin up and my eyes on Jesus.
  • Pastor Writer Podcast — A weekly talk about books, ministry and writing by Chase Replogle. Three of my favorite things. He’s a very humble guy and is a top-notch interviewer of real quality guests. Plus, he sent me the free Airpods.

Those are the two I try not to miss. Here are a few others I tune in to from time to time:
The Next Right Thing, Emily P. Freeman
Knowing Faith, Jen Wilkin, JT English and Kyle Worley
The Habit: Conversations with Writers About Writing, Jonathan Rogers
Tony Evans’ Sermons, Tony Evans
The Village Church, Matt Chandler


  • Grace and Mercy, Jess Ray (song)
  • Behold the Lamb of God, Andrew Peterson (album)
  • Resurrection Letters, Vol. 1, Andrew Peterson, (album)
  • Yet Not I, City Alight (album)
  • American Standard, James Taylor (album)
  • Song of the Lamb, Harvest (song)
  • Psalm 119, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, Exodus Music (albums)
  • God So Loved, We the Kingdom (song)
  • Goodness of God, Bethel Music (song)
  • Psalm 116 (I Love You, Lord), Mission House (song)
  • No Doubt About It, We the Kingdom (song)
  • Evergreen, Audrey Assad (album)
  • Birdsongs (Time to Relax), (album)


  • Lectio 365 — a free 10-12 minute daily devotional by the 24/7 Prayer movement. It’s so good.
  • Dwell — a scripture listening app with 10 different voices to choose from. There are 64 Bible listening plans, 55 themed playlists, and 286 passages. This one isn’t free, but so worth it.
  • Libby — the library app that lets me borrow audio books. I plan to use this more in 2021.


  • This is also a very good idea.

Favorite Movies/Shows of 2020

When “Stay At Home” orders were issued in March, PB and I started taking a walk every evening. Then we would sit down and watch “The Andy Griffith Show”. Every evening. It was a routine that provided some comfort, a bit of stress relief and a little escape from the headline news.

We watched more TV than usual this year, something I ordinarily consider to be a colossal waste of time. But I discovered that it’s not all twaddle (trivial, silly or tedious). In fact, I welcomed the entertaining diversion and even learned a few things. Here are some of my favorite films and shows from 2020.

  • Little Women — I love every version ever made of this classic. PB and I saw this movie in a theater in January. Haven’t been inside a theater since.
  • The Great British Baking Show series (Netflix) — seasons 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11. Yep, we got hooked. I even bought a thermapen and a digital scale.
  • Somebody Feed Phil series (Netflix) — One of the happiest people on earth, traveling all over the world, eating amazing food. A perfect trifecta.
  • The Chosen series (free app) — The best Jesus film I’ve ever seen. Finally, a Jesus with personality. I have so much appreciation and respect for the director and his approach to this project. Beautifully done.
  • Chef’s Table – BBQ (Netflix) — Especially episode 1: Tootsie Tomanetz, an 85 year old pit master.
  • Lars and the Real Girl — A sweet movie about the power of community to help a young man work through mental health issues. Don’t let the blow-up doll throw you. We borrowed it from the library, but I bought a copy so I could make all my family and friends watch it.
  • Hamilton (Disney+) — PB and I saw the show in Chicago, but watching it in our living room, with subtitles on, was such fun. Then we watched it without subtitles. Twice.
  • Pioneer Quest series (Amazon Prime) — Two couples spend a year out on a Canadian prairie, living like it’s 1870. Filmed in 2000, it’s reality TV before it was a thing. I would have lasted a week. Maybe. Pioneers were tough folks. Alone series (Netflix) was a modern day version of survival in the Canadian tundra, but had a competitive twist. I would have lasted a day. Maybe.
  • The Crown series (Netflix) — Can’t stop watching those British royal historical dramas. Also Victoria (Masterpiece Theater – PBS)
  • The Mandalorian series (Disney+) — I never was a serious Star Wars fan, but it was fun watching this series with our son and daughter-in-law every Friday night this fall. Mando is so cool.
  • Enola Holmes (Netflix) — A smart, quirky mystery featuring Sherlock Holmes’ sister, Enola. Pure fun.
  • A Most Beautiful Thing (Amazon Prime) — A documentary about four young men from rival gangs from Chicago’s west side who became a rowing team.
  • The Movies That Made Us (Netflix) — The behind-the-scenes stories of how movies got made. We just watched the “Home Alone” episode. Then we caught the “Elf” episode on The Holiday Movies That Made Us. The insider information produced in an engaging style was interesting and entertaining.
  • Just Mercy — PB and I saw this in a theater in January, too. We didn’t know then how poignant this film would become in the coming year. As I write this, I am reminded of a quote from my #1 book of the year, “Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers”.

“But God, being rich in mercy…” (Ephesians 2:4) Nowhere else in the Bible is God described as rich in anything. The only thing he is called rich in is: mercy. In his justice, God is exacting; in his mercy, God is overflowing.

Dane Ortlund

May the same be said of His people in the coming year.

That’s just a sampling! We watched about 50 movies/television series this year. I’m not necessarily proud of that, but I also feel no shame! After all, it was 2020. Got any film recommendations to get me through the winter?