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I plopped down in front of my computer after what felt like a completely pointless day, ready to do some mindless social media scrolling. I’d spent 10 hours hacking at a to-do list that ran an entire page but had nothing to show for it.

Or so I thought.

As my eyes scanned post after post, something niggled away in my brain. I did stuff—lots of it. I must have. Right?

Annoyed with myself for not even being able to zone out effectively, I grabbed a piece of paper and started scribbling a different kind of list than the one I’d made that morning. Point after point, line after line, I recorded everything I’d done that day, big and small, whether it was on the to-do list or not. The end result was a column of evidence that I had, in fact, done a great many things. I’d taken care of my husband, my house, my pets; I’d broken through on a sticky book chapter; I fixed a formatting issue on my website; I wrote six emails and dozens of texts; I learned about ebook coding; I made and ate food that made my body happy; I wrote this list.

Reading it over filled me with a sense of accomplishment and, dare I say it, pride. I could see I had done quite a bit with my time and energy that day. The miserable inefficiency cloud dissolved. Somehow, my entire ‘wasted’ day had been redeemed.

Thus, the TA DA! list was born.

TO DO? TA DA!

We’re all familiar with the tyranny of a to-do list. It starts out as a helpful tool, but then it sits there, judging you, as your day gets away from you one diversion at a time.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my to-do list. Jotting down what I need, want, and intend to do frees up my brain to think about other stuff—like not burning the frozen pizza I definitely forgot in the oven 15 minutes ago. Writing my plans down means I don’t need to constantly rehearse them to keep them from disappearing from my memory.

But it’s easy to turn the to-do list into a source of condemnation. We end up avoiding making one in the first place because we’ve been burned too many times by our lack of adherence, or by idealistic ambition beyond our scope. The incomplete collection of goals becomes evidence of our poor discipline and organizational hopelessness. Might as well give up.

That’s where the TA DA! list comes in.

Where a to-do list is designed to keep you on track for the future, the TA DA! list celebrates the past and turns it into joy for the present. It focuses on what you did, not what you failed to do, even if it wasn’t in the plan. It’s a daily reminder that little things matter, that progress is progress, that if all you did today was watch Disney+ on the couch and eat Cheetos in your pajamas, you still did something—that you’re alive and breathing.

And that’s worth celebrating.

CELEBRATING VS BRAGGING

Before we go any further with this perspective-shifting way of measuring our days, it’s important to remember that celebrating and bragging aren’t the same thing.

The big difference is our focus.

Jesus is pretty clear that boasting about our righteousness is a no-no (Matthew 6:1). Ditto Jeremiah (9:23), James (4:16), and Paul (everywhere). Getting puffed up and prideful about how great we are, the cool stuff we have, and all the things we’ve done puts us up on a solo pedestal and begs others to praise, admire, and envy us. It puts the focus on ourselves by taking all the credit and attention and giving none to God.

Not great.

Celebration, though—God’s all about that. Jesus’ first miracle was at a party, after all, and let’s not forget about David dancing in the street so crazy that his wife wouldn’t talk to him. God enjoys our joy, and Solomon goes so far as to say that it’s a gift for us to take pleasure in our toil (Ecclesiastes 3:13). There’s your permission slip to celebrate, in case you needed one.

Honoring our accomplishments with the TA DA! list shifts our perspective not only from negative to positive but from ourselves to God. It gives us an opportunity to glorify and thank Him for His role in everything we do (1 Corinthians 10:31), drawing attention to His goodness, and reminding us that He cares about everything (Luke 12:7) even when we think our efforts are insignificant.

The line between celebrating and bragging is fine, for sure, but easily navigated by checking your ego when you open your mouth (or phone or journal). Are you lifting up yourself or God? Are you redeeming your time or making an idol of it? Your spirit knows the truth, despite your soul’s uncertainty.

God is clearly at work in and through the lives of the five midwest darlings that make up The Gingham Apron, and the work of their hearts and hands have revived me in a difficult season. The beauty I found in “The Gathering Table” has shed some of those extra, unwanted, pounds of burden and I’m refreshed and inspired anew. 

At first flip, it appears a hearty cookbook, stocked with simple delicious recipes alongside inviting photos. It certainly is that, but so much more. This comprehensive treasure contains more than a peek inside an entire year of gatherings put on by this charming Iowa farm family. A family, I’m fairly certain I’d fit right into. Each sister, along with mom/mom-in-law, Denise, authors various portions and by the end they’re your best friends and you feel like you’ve spent all year together!

Oftentimes, pretty pages like these will snag my attention and make my heart swoon with possibility. But I’m quickly deflated when met with the unrealistic incorporation into my ordinary life. That’s not what I felt when immersed in the pages of “The Gathering Table.” I was inspired, encouraged, invited in. And while still swooning over content, my feet remained firmly planted in reality. I deeply desired to make our “home” and its rhythms better and more honoring, rather than changing our home to look and function more like someone else’s.

Without a doubt, my favorite section of the book is “Fall.” It’s my happiest time of year, so discovering new ways to regard it in light of Scripture and celebrate the unique gifts the season affords invigorated my hostess-heart. With new simple yet scrumptious recipes, gathering ideas, and “Apron Application” to try, I feel instantly equipped for an Autumn of wholehearted togetherness. Whatever season you flourish (or even flounder) in, this treasured resource will not leave you feeling overwhelmed, less-than, or urged to make superfluous purchases to craft special memories. I’m confident you’ll feel just as prepped, delighted, and eager to welcome and love others around your table.

UPLIFT YOUR SOUL, RECLAIM YOUR TIME

Speaking of which, that’s another great thing the TA DA! list does: encourages your soul.

Part of what gets us down when we fall short of the to-do list is self-chastisement. We lecture ourselves, tutting and tsking that we should be better than this, that we’re disappointing people, that we need to suck it up, knuckle down, and plow through. We get discouraged, which makes us less likely to connect with God because we’re ashamed of ourselves (Genesis 3:8).

It’s a striving mentality that goes nowhere good.

But just like David in the midst of his sorrow, we can speak directly to our soul and remind it that God loves us and is always with us (Psalm 42:5), that the One who has never failed isn’t upset when we fail in our humanity (Psalm 103:12). Our soul might get down, but it doesn’t have to stay there; we can lift it up as easily as we cast it down.

Reframing our day with the TA DA! list helps us do that. It fixes our eyes on what’s good—what’s true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy, as Paul instructs us to do in Philippians 4:8—rather than miring our hearts in what’s wrong. It takes time we’ve labeled as worthless or wasted and gives it value and meaning. It takes what we considered dead and brings it back to life.

It’s grace in bullet-point format.

REWIND, REFLECT, REJOICE

“Okay,” I hear you thinking, “that’ll preach, but how do I actually do this TA DA! list thing?”

It’s super easy.

Get out your favorite writing implements, find a quiet spot, and give yourself five minutes to write out all the things you’ve done that day, no matter how small or meaningless you think they are.

Start by rewinding your memory back to the moment you first opened your eyes. Getting dressed counts just as much as landing a juicy new account at work! Play through the internal movie of your day, making notes as you go.

Here’s an example of one of my days: Devotional journaling, kid up, breakfast, kid sent to morning teacher, wrote 900 words, lunch break, became afternoon teacher, explained sweat to three kids under 8, navigated many meltdowns, dishes and dinner prep while kid vegged, ate dinner, tried to put kid to bed, had a cry in the bathroom while husband put kid to bed instead, more dishes, quick video game session, Gospel of John online class, bed before 10. TA DA!

Your list doesn’t have to be this long or detailed—I’m verbose by nature—but it should include at least three things and be heavy on the positive. Remember that the idea is to shift from missed ‘shoulds’ into actual ‘dones’ to give you a fresh, uplifting perspective.

Reflecting on your day this way creates a natural pause in the craziness, which gives you a chance to thank God for all He’s done and to remember that every ounce of energy you’ve expended is noteworthy to Him. It’s only through Him that we can accomplish anything, after all (John 15:5).

And yes, the TA DA! at the end is mandatory.

CELEBRATE HIM

The TA DA! list is a celebration practice. When approached with a humble heart, it turns our focus from ourselves and our failings to God and His ability to work everything for good for those that love Him (Romans 8:28). It exchanges negativity for positivity, condemnation for gratitude, selfishness for glory, and points it all in the right direction: His.

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