What I'm Into: Right Now

Friday, April 28, 2017

March 30, 2017
The other day I jotted down a list of ideas to blog about. This post wasn't on that list, but creativity leads to creativity, so here we are. Let's share some things that we're into RIGHT NOW...

* The Little Prince. A Man Called Ove. Grantchester (season 3 is airing in America, you guys!!!).

Broccoli Salad. Chocolate Chip Cookies. Turning leftovers into dinners two and three times over.

* Dry cereal without milk.

* Learning more about writing from F. Scott Fitzgerald himself.

* Mornings on the patio.

* Friends...Getting together with them. Talking with them. Having conversations in the comments of each other's blogs.

* When the sun starts to shine just as I'm getting ready to clean the house.

* Opening the windows.

* Having so many reasons to say "Thank you" lately.

* Writing fiction again.

Before I sign off for the weekend, I'll leave you with a few more things...This poem. This song. This video (which I may or may not quote whenever I see someone swerving). This hobby. And two lovely examples of what happens when bloggers decide to ramble.

So, tell me, what are YOU into right now?

On Writing: Lessons from Dorothy Sayers

Thursday, April 27, 2017

March 13, 2017

"Lord, teach us to take our hearts and look them in the face, however difficult it may be." 
- Dorothy Sayers, Gaudy Night

It hit me that that is the task of writers - to look at and express their hearts and the hearts of others - that is what makes for good writing. That's also what makes it scary and difficult. But, the likes of L'Engle and White and Dahl and Fitzgerald and Berry and Sayers...They all GOT that and doing it, they have found themselves spanning decades and generation after generation. For as much as they deceive us, human hearts are what we know and they do not change much, regardless of the culture they live in.

The scene that came before that prayer was a conversation between Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane about a book she is writing and how she needs help to get the plot moving again.

It went like this,

"You would have to abandon the jig-saw kind of story and write a book about human beings for a change."

"I'm afraid to try that, Peter. It might go too near the bone."

"It might be the wisest thing you could do."

"Write it out and get rid of it?"


"I'll think about that. It would hurt like hell."

"What would that matter, if it made a good book?"..."You haven't yet," he went on, "written the book you could if you tried. Probably you couldn't write it when you were too close to things. But you could do it now, if you had the - the -"

"The Guts?"


"I don't think I could face it."

"Yes, you could. And you'll get no peace till you do. You've been running away from yourself for 20 years, and it doesn't work..."

And that lays it out perfectly. That's what writing is. Learning from your mistakes, writing the human heart - even your own. It hurts, but people relate and when they relate, the book is exceptionally good.

Taken from an entry 
in my journal dated
January 11, 2016. 

Blog Design: My List

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

After I decided that I wanted to redesign my blog, I started by looking at the blogs that I visit most often and made a list of the things that I loved as well as a list of the things that bothered me.

I was brutal. I compared my blog with each one in order to figure out what I wanted to improve on and what I was doing that might be driving my readers crazy. I also asked myself what I already liked about the way things were.

I'll let you in on my list...It went something like this:

First things, first. I noticed that every single blog that I was most drawn to had a super simple greeting. The heading was less about art and more about a nice font. The navigation bar was centered and big and had headings that you found yourself wanting to click on.

I loved the feeling the picture behind my header gave to my blog and the way it brought in the blues and greens that I loved, but after much deliberation, I decided that it needed to go.

As much as I liked the font, I decided to find one that was similar, but easier to read.

Another trend I noticed was that people had started trying to make individual posts stand out by the way they were formatted. The easiest way to do this is to make the post headers large and to center them.

As much as I love purple, I decided that the body of my post being purple was probably not the most attractive choice. I'm still not 100% happy with my font choice. There are several bloggers whose font alone draws me in. I've tried to figure out which font it is, they all say they don't know or that it's Arial. I've loaded Arial as my default font and it doesn't look right. Either way, I streamlined my fonts and colors and I THINK it's much better than before.

Giving my sidebar a makeover probably made the biggest difference. Everyone commented on it. I cleaned it up, made buttons for different categories I post about most often, and created specific spaces for different features. I also made my own social media buttons and started working on connecting with my readers at each one.

By the time I got to the different footers, the biggest decisions were behind me. I had learned a ton about the different ways you could customize even the smallest details and I was brave enough to start trying them.

Prior to updating my blog, I had decided to try adding Engageya. I chose it because of the option to have the circular links rather than square ones. Everyone loved it. I loved it. And so, I decided it would stay.

The messiness of blogger's default for their footers was really bugging me. I wanted to do what I could to make it easier to navigate, more appealing to look at, and to make it match the rest of the aesthetic of clean lines and easy to read fonts I was going for with the rest of my design.

Once I had decided what I liked and what I didn't, I made a list of specific tasks that I needed to complete. As I did my research, I kept my eye out for tutorials and started emailing my friends so that I could actually make the changes that I wanted to make.

What are your pet peeves when it comes to the blogs you read?

Is there anything about your blog design that you put a lot of thought into?

Exploring the Cape pt. 2

Monday, April 24, 2017

The final stretch of road that took us to Provincetown was amazing. There was sand everywhere except for on the road. The streets of Provincetown were super narrow and I'm honestly not sure how people even get around there during the height of the summer. It was beautiful with a lot of old world kind of charm to it.

We ate our picnic lunch in the safety (and warmth) of the van before wandering down the boardwalk or pier or whatever it's called. A police officer stopped to show Joshua the siren on his cruiser.

We headed back to the car and watched a poor guy load wrestle a port-a-potty onto the back of his truck. The WHIPPING wind was NOT making it an easy task. Hearing Jake and Paul cheer him on with their British ways of saying things made it ten times more funny than it already was. 

The day was getting on and the car had grown silent. We'd seen all that there was to see and we were headed home for a quiet night with Hannah's parents. We'd gone from strangers to friends. The silence was comfortable and interrupted with bursts of conversation or snippets of songs that were possibilities for the reception. Joshua suggested several of his favorites. He knew the titles AND could hum enough of the beat that Jake knew EXACTLY what he was talking about.

 The first day of my trip couldn't have gone ANY better.

Open Letters pt. 3

Friday, April 21, 2017

March 30, 2017
You guys, I just finished sitting down with God and my journal to go over a few things. Do you ever do that? Let me tell you...It's good for the soul! It's shaping up to be another sunny day which can go down on the list of the things I'm grateful for right now.

Last night, I hosted my second "somebody else sent the invites" get together and it went really well. When you tell God you want to work on something, He gives you opportunities. I'm making the most of them, saying "let's do this" as often as I can, and praising Him for the grace that He is granting me along with each one.

It's Friday...The house is CLEAN, I'm meeting with Jay for coffee, hoping to have Abigail over, and going over to Emily's for tea tomorrow. It almost seems like I'm overdoing it, but then, maybe this is just the way things are going to go for a while. In any case...How about a few letters?

Dear Easter 2017,

You were about as lowkey as they come and I kind of loved you. From spending alllll morning at church eating and worshipping and visiting to laying around the house for the rest of the day with my family, you turned out to be just what we needed.

Dear McCafe,

I should have known that your coffee was going to be the worst. Just a little tip, you've really got to switch things up. Take a line from Don Francisco's book. We won't be buying you again. Sorry. Only, not really.

Dear John,

Thanks for including the words of God in verse 28 of chapter 12. I can't get that verse out of my mind lately and I'm super grateful. Ever since I was a kid, I've needed to know the reason behind everything I do and that verse has been doing all kinds of work in my heart lately.

Dear Rachael,

That spa night we had last month was just what I needed. Between the face scrub and that mask, my face hasn't been this soft in years. Every time I wash my face, I'm still amazed at how soft it still is. We may just have to have some east coast/west coast spa nights. I wasn't kidding about facetiming when you're having a night in...Let's make this happen!

Wherever you find yourself this Friday, I hope your soul is feeling refreshed!!! The sun comes out after the night passes. It's something we can count on. Happy Weekend!

Basking With Dickinson

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Here's a post I've had sitting around in my drafts folder since Jan. 5. Enjoy!

March 30, 2017
I see thee better in the dark, 
I do not need a light.
The love of thee a prism be
Excelling violet.

I see thee better for the years
That hunch themselves between, 
The miner's lamp sufficient be
To nullify the mine.

And in the grave I see thee best-
Its little panels be
Aglow, all ruddy with the light
I held so high for thee!

What need of day to those whose dark
Hath so surpassing sun,
It deem it be continually
At the meridian? - Emily Dickinson

If you've been around here for a while, you'll remember that I've gotten into poetry over the last few years and that however cliche it sounds, Dickinson is one of my favorite poets. I meandered over to the poetry section at the library on the last day of the year and came away with a small volume of her poems in my hand. I devoured a good bit of it while I waited for my Mom to get off of work.

The sun was shining as I sat in the van reading poem after poem. When I got to this particular poem, I stopped and read it through several more times. In these four stanzas, Dickinson had captured what I had been learning from God. It goes along so well with my word for 2017 that I had to share it here with all of you.

Oh, that I would be one whose dark had a sun that made it seem as though I lived right at the equator (or as I have since learned, that "meridian" can refer to the noonday sun). As one of God's own, I DO have such a sun. My prayer for this year is that I would bask in it whatever darkness threatens to draw me away.

Have you read any poems that are especially good lately? 

Has your word been showing up? 

What Designing My Blog Taught Me

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

My Old Design

Two years ago, I set about the task of redesigning this little space. From scratch. I was armed with inspiration and Adobe Illustrator and had no idea what I was in for. It turned into a fun project and I am very pleased with the results. So pleased that I haven't changed a thing since then.

A month later, on February 2, 2015, I wrote a list of the things that I had learned during the whole process. Here's what designing my blog taught me:

*The number of bloggers doing their own design work is shrinking. Most people replied to my questions with "Ummm...I'm so sorry, I don't know! Someone else designed my blog. I have no idea!"

*It's not going to happen without great friends and a googling monster for a Mom. Whenever I came to a dead end, I would reach out and ask for help. I e-mailed people who I thought could help and while most of them couldn't, the few that did, saved the day! We can't forget my Mom. When nothing was working, I'd ask her to look for a different tutorial. She even sat there reading coding for me so that I could find my mistake!

*Tutorials are everything. I found NOTHING on pinterest and everything from bloggers who shared tutorials or lists of tutorials on their blogs.

*Getting started is easy. The hours of finding helpful tutorials, designing elements, and playing with coding isn't too bad.

*Making the jump to actually APPLY them to your blog and share it with everyone is the hardest. It was so difficult that I almost didn't go through with it.

*The best place to begin is to look at the blogs that you visit most often and make a list of the things that you love and a list of the things that bother you about each one. Be brutal. Compare your blog with theirs and ask yourself where you need to improve and what you're doing that drove you crazy on their blogs.

*Don't hesitate to e-mail other bloggers. They might not be able to help you, but they all want to!

Do you do any design work or do you hire it out?

When was the last time your blog had a makeover?

Exploring the Cape pt. 1

Monday, April 17, 2017

Getting to MA was an overnight expedition this time around. Normally, I try to catch flights that leave early in the day so that it's not super late by the time I make it to the east coast. It turns out that flying out after dinner, traveling through the night, and then arriving mid-morning the next day is actually really, really nice. I'm not sure if I had a unique experience, but from the way my trip went, I would highly recommend this kind of flying. I kept telling everyone that I felt great even though I was giving it a few days to see if things caught up with me. They never did. 

Airports are always entertaining. It turns out that they are especially entertaining in the middle of the night. I only slept on the planes, so my airport time was spent doing some major people watching. At one point, I was convinced that I was sitting feet away from Anne Lamott. I may have been, but after totally staring at her for the longest time, I changed my mind. People were doing laps. There was a lady talking at the top of her lungs on her cell phone. And then there was a guy who was on both of my flights. He was SUPER friendly and I think he made friends with nearly every person on the plane. He wandered around the gate chatting up whoever he made eye contact with. 

The morning after I arrived in MA, my friend Hannah announced that we were going to pile into the van to explore the Cape. There was a lot of rain, people were fighting sicknesses, and yet, the day was sunny and about as warm as it was going to get, so we needed to make the most of it. Hannah, Jake, Paul, Marja, Joshua, Finn, and I maxed out the mini van with plans to see Coast Guard Beach, The Atlantic Spice Co in Truro, and Provincetown. We took along a picnic lunch and headed out with the whole day ahead of us. 

I've known Hannah since I was 19, but had only met everyone else HOURS before. It was kind of hilarious being in the car with a bunch of strangers who also happened to be British. I kept finding myself tuning out their conversation because A) it didn't feel like it was my business to listen and B) it occasionally sounded like a foreign language. They were all super friendly and a day exploring the Cape was the perfect way to get to know everyone A LOT better. 

Coast Guard Beach was every bit as beautiful as I remembered it. Making our way out further onto the Cape was exciting to me. Especially since tourist season was still at least a month away. Things were deserted and deserted tourist towns make amazing places to explore. We took our time. We looked at what we wanted to look at. We weren't rushed or hurried along by other vacationers. We had almost everywhere we went allllll to ourselves. 

At Coast Guard Beach, Joshua (who is 4 1/2 years old) came over to me and pressed two sea shells into my hand. I tucked them into my purse. That little boy managed to work his way right into my heart over the course of our visit to MA. We played with his toys, making sure the "baddies" and the "goodies" were equally matched. We read books. We ate snacks. We played outside. And in short, we became fast friends. By the time the wedding rolled around, he was my little buddy. He even left his place at the front of the church during the middle of the ceremony to walk down the aisle and wave at me. <3 nbsp="" p="">

Back to the first real day of my trip...Hannah, Marja, Finn, and I chose to stay close to the cliffs to stay out of the wind. Jake, Paul, and Joshua headed straight for the part of the beach where the tide was going in and out. They got as close to the water as they could without getting wet. There was one point where Joshua ALMOST fell right into the ocean. He was being sooooo careful to follow Jake's lead, but the sand was mushy and it was a close call. Jake looked like a Nervous Nellie, Joshua was totally shocked, and the rest of us thought it was absolutely hilarious.

The Atlantic Spice Company is a fun little stop. I overheard one lady telling her friend that her Mom ALWAYS stops there whenever she visits. I can't say that I wasn't keeping my eye out for Mary Higgins Clark, just in case.

And there you have Part One...I've got one more post to share on this day and then a handful of others to cover the rest of my trip! We'll get through them.

Have you ever been to Cape Cod? 

Alright, Alright, Alright, Alright

Friday, April 14, 2017

April 3, 2017

When I was shooting hoops with my friend Jeremiah the other day, we got to talking about music. You know that my taste in music shocks everyone. Jeremiah had already found out about my obsession with love of hip hop, so I didn't have to wait for him to get past that before we could really talk about what we listen to and why. Like everyone before him, he brought up Toby Mac in an attempt to find some common ground. Later on I brought up Tedashii and to my great surprise he knew who that was. Why is it that nobody thinks to bring up artists like HIM when hip hop is mentioned?!?!

Anyway...We talked about hip hop and then we moved on to other genres. I've listened to just about EVERYTHING over the years. 80's rock, country, 90's pop, R&B,  and who knows what other styles were all "phases" that I went through.  Sometimes admitting the time I spent listening to certain artists feels like sitting in confessional. We always had music playing when I was growing up. My parents were into music. My Mom's parents were always humming or singing. I had so many songs memorized by the time I was 5 years old and I delighted in belting them out right along with whatever adult was in charge of the radio.
The conversation kept flowing as I tossed up shot after shot and I was thinking back on the role that music has played in my life. I'm NOT a musical person. Somehow, the songs were played and played and played. The lyrics cemented themselves into my brain and worked their way into my speech. And it got me thinking...

My taste in music has been wide and varied. There truly are very few genres that I've never enjoyed listening to at one point or another in my life up to now. The songs were played and they stayed with me. Long after each "phase" ends, there are lessons and lyrics that stay with me.

Outkast granted me a ton of my most used phrases...To name a few: "Alright, alright, alright, alright!" "Hey ya!" "I'm sorry Miss Jackson." "I am for real." "So fresh and so clean clean."

The Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain and She-Daisy taught me to stand up for myself as a woman. It may have been 90's feminism, but there were some nuggets of truth in there. We don't have to and shouldn't take disrespect. There are good guys out there. Put the cards on the table and be HONEST.

Creed and Matchbox 20 and 3 Doors Down and Mat Kearney and Jason Mraz and Train are the ones responsible for the songs that go with nostalgia. They told stories and their voices are capable of making me slow down in order to remember. 

There are others...So many others, but I think that'll do for now. The point is, I haven't listened to the music that I used to for soooo long that I forget about a lot this. And then, every once in a while, a song pops into my head and takes me right back. To the days when "Drops of Jupiter" was on EVERY SINGLE MIXTAPE that I made. To the years when my friends and I would sing "Kryptonite" and "Lose Yourself" and "Underneath Your Clothes" at the top of our lungs whenever we felt like it. To the summer when "Complicated" and "Soak Up the Sun" and "The Remedy" seemed to be on the radio constantly.

Making the shift to listening to guys that rap the gospel was a game changer. These men are responsible for helping me memorize Scripture. "There's a rap for that" is a saying at my house. I don't care what the topic is, there IS a rap and I WILL tell you about it.

Music stays with you. It's important to put some thought into what you're pumping into your car and your home and your ears.

What genre are you most embarrassed to admit having enjoyed?

What has stayed with you long after you move on?

5 More Things About Me pt. 6

Thursday, April 13, 2017

November 7, 2015

If I could have a superpower it would be teleporting. Too many of my favorite people live too far away.

I am obsessed with scavenger hunts. I used to make them for my brother and sister all of the time. They are the perfect weekend activity...I don't care how old you are.

I have no problem watching movies in multiple sittings. This is half because I tend to fall asleep and half because I actually enjoy watching them this way. When we were in jr. high, my friend Jordan and I spent several weeks making our way through Pearl Harbor. After school we'd pop the tape in while munching on bowls of cereal, hot pockets, otter pops, or banana cookies from the freezer. The day we finished it made us both feel so lost. We didn't want it to end. Later on, we took a Saturday and watched it all in one sitting.

I will go for a walk or sit out in the sun anytime anywhere. If it's "safe", of course.

I cannot start or keep a fire going. For anything. I can, however, roll up a mean sleeping bag. As long as it has a string and not one of those elastic bands.

What are some things I might not know about YOU?

Welcoming Them In

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

March 29, 2017
Making friends can be TOUGH. We talk about it all the time. We move to a new place or get a new job or settle into a new church and all of a sudden we realize just how much having friends means to us. We strike up conversations and go to gatherings in an attempt to connect with people to share our lives with. We meet a lot of nice people. We meet some really strange people. We discover who has time and space and who doesn't. Explaining ourselves over and over again grows old. Just about the time we decide we can't do this much longer, things click. We settle in. We look around and realize that one friend turned into a whole group of them and it wasn't so bad after all.

I'm finally to that point. I didn't know that I was, but going away for two weeks made it clear that I am. It took a solid year before I met someone who wanted and had time for the same kind of friendship I was looking for. I don't know if my attitude changed or if being her friend meant that some of her friends became my friends by default, but six months later, I found myself on the other side of the country looking forward to the get togethers that would happen when I got home. If you've ever started over from scratch in a new place or grown weary in the hunt for some good friends who live nearby, then you know how HUGE this is.

I spent a lot of months trying to be super friendly and it wore me out. When I had reached the place where I was admitting that I was tired of meeting people, all of a sudden, I became fast friends with someone. We got together when we could and texted in between times. I was satisfied with having just ONE solid friend, but God wasn't finished. I kept putting myself out there and slowly but surely, I connected with more people. Connecting is one thing. Welcoming them in is another.

The work of welcoming them in means being honest. It means explaining yourself, asking questions, answering questions, and really taking time to listen. It means making time and granting time. It means learning things about them and trying to find common ground. I've never been the kind of person who needs to have a ton of friends. I like to have one or two people who know me really well and are just as much my go-to person as I am theirs. That said, I have a lot of long distance relationships. I've learned that having friends close by is important too.

When my attitude about anything bothers me, I step back. I ask myself what bothers me, why it bothers me, how I got there, and what I need to do to "fix" it. As you know, my attitude towards hospitality had reached an all time low and I KNEW that things HAD to change. So, I did what I do. I wrote it out. I prayed it out. I sought God. I talked to myself and observed myself and figured out that I already knew what I needed to do.

Before I left for my trip, I had two very specific opportunities to practice what I was calling myself to do. My friend Annika texted me asking if I wanted to meet up for a walk. Schedules were tight, but I found a way to make it work. She left her car at my house and we walked the trail my brother and I bike. We walked and talked and it was great to stretch our legs on such a long walk after so many months of being cooped up. When we made it back to my house, a voice in my head told me that I should invite her in. I knew that voice was right...So, I did. I invited her in for tea. I offered her some of the cookies I had made the day before. We sat in my living room and talked about her family's new business venture and who knows what else.

A few days later, I was with some friends who were talking about a movie that I knew about but had never seen. One thing turned into another and by Saturday, we were planning a get together to watch it. That voice popped up again telling me to offer to host it. It was the Saturday before I flew to MA. I was busier than busy getting ready for my trip, keeping up with regular life stuff, and running extra errands that had to be done before I left. But, I spoke up and invited them in. The next afternoon, I bustled around the kitchen making simple snacks. The time we had set arrived and the doorbell rang. One by one, they came in. We stood around my kitchen munching on snacks and visiting. We started the movie and when it was over, we sat in silence until the conversation picked back up. We moved back into the kitchen and talked and talked until everyone decided that they really had to go.

Neither offer was a big deal. It was a cup of tea, a movie, some cookies, and a buffet of snacks. It wasn't perfect, it wasn't fancy, it was just welcoming them in. And you know, it was really nice.

I told you to ask me how it was going when I got home. And I'm checking in to tell you that it's going a lot better. Sometimes hospitality falls into our laps, like it did the day after I got home. Other times, hospitality is something that we have to consciously pursue. I'm working on it. So far, I'm doing alright.

Have you ever started over in a new place?

How is hospitality going for you right now?

Reading Lately

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

I haven't done a reading recap since the end of February. So, today, I bring you a look at the books I read in February and March. These are all books that I'm super excited about for one reason or another. I haven't read a TON of books lately, but the quality has been such that I almost always seem to have a book in my hand.

I realize that these reviews are LONG. Feel free to skip around  or to only read the ones that interest you most. These are all four and five star books that captured more than just my attention and filled more than the hours I spent reading them.

Ready? Here we go...

Harry Potter #5 by J.K. Rowling // There is so much I could say about this book. It's my least favorite because of Umbridge. I absolutely despise that woman. I sank right to the depths with Harry because of what he had to endure. During the last third or quarter of the book, Rowling's writing took off. I was coming upon quote after quote of SOLID truth and making my own escape. It reminded me of reading through the Chronicles of Narnia last year and realizing that the book I enjoyed the least was going to be the one that left the biggest impact on me. 

So, it gets four stars. It disturbed me. It bothered me. It nearly sunk me into depression (yes...I was that sickened over Umbridge). And yet, it was full of truth and beauty and victory and I kind of loved it. 

Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard // Honesty in literature always makes for a first rate book. Bard put everything into the pages of this memoir and while I'm not sure I would have been so brave, I admire her for it. She may be Jewishish. She may have spent the better part of her adult life living in countries she was not familiar with. Her language and relationships and decisions may have been far different from my own, but this woman's story reminded me of the whole purpose of being alive. That one way or another everything always works out. That what you've got to do is stick with it. Keep living, and loving, and cooking, and writing. Eventually it all adds up and you realize that you've made it. 

This is one woman's story of doing just that. Of making it even when she was sure that she never would unless she turned back. If you're wondering how she made it or if she turned back or just exactly how things turned out, then you'll just have to pick this one up for yourself.

Harry Potter #6 by J.K. Rowling // You guys, this book is my FAVORITE in the series so far. This is the book where events force each character to act and to act quickly. We learn which ones we misjudged. We celebrate with the ones who triumph. We cry as reality sinks in. 

God is not part of the world of HP, but He is very much a part of my world. I can relate to Harry and Mrs. Weasley and Hagrid. The ways they express their anger and worry and sadness and fear make me think back on specific times in my life that left me acting and feeling the same way. They fight on and I fought on. Other than defeating Voldemort, I'm not sure what their hope is. I used to think I had to "fix" things. To "hang on tight" and "never let go". And sometimes I still sink back into that. I'll never forget what it was like to learn that God was my only hope and that my hope in Him was surer and stronger and more secure than any other hope I have ever and can ever know. The twists and turns and darkness ARE frightening...Harry doesn't have God to look to, to trust in, to hope in, but I do. Reading through these pages helped me to take a few more steps toward CLINGING to the hope that I have in Him.

There you have it...Six is my favorite because of the places it takes these characters we have come to love and hate and admire and fear. When you've read this far, you can't help but jump into the pages and live the story right alongside of them.

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh // This is a book cannot recommend because of content. However...It was soooo well written. It's pure thriller. You're never quite sure what's happening even though you THINK you know. The author's attention to even the most trivial details works the kind of magic that means you must keep reading.

Without spoiling the plot, I will tell you that the struggles the characters face are faced and described in such a way that is not only accurate, but hauntingly so. For people who have faced similar circumstances, this book will strike chords that cause them to wade through how they've dealt with them.

It's beautifully written. The plot is well-crafted. She lets things get more graphic than I am comfortable with, but it certainly wasn't done for the sake of "entertainment". I appreciate that.

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis // I am NOT a sci-fi junkie. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.There is more to it than space travel. I truly believe Lewis used this story and the worlds and creatures in it to develop, explore, wrestle with, and explain some DEEP themes about the meaning of life and intelligence. Ransom is a very likeable character. It was actually fun to read about his time with strange creatures in a place so unlike anything most of us can imagine. His relationships with the creatures were actually touching. The way Lewis portrayed Divine and Weston should cause every reader to pause in order to consider their own evil intentions.

The last few chapters and postscript sealed my fate. I can't wait to read more of this story! If you can read any part of this book in an airplane shortly after sunrise, that ups the ante. There's something about being in the clouds above the earth that helps set the scene in a way that few other situations could.

Unashamed by Lecrae Moore //I've been listening to Lecrae since he released his first album. I didn't grow up in the ghetto, but I always found his lyrics and his story relatable. The pain he experienced was the same pain I was still wrestling with when that first record made its way into my collection. When I found out Lecrae had a book deal, I was excited for him but SCARED to pick it up. I wasn't sure if it would be a collection of lyrics that he expounded on or a poorly done take on the life of an artist or worse. I saw the book. I checked to see if my library had it (they do). And I decided that MAYBE someday I might read it. And then I found myself in Shauna's kitchen on the first night of my visit. We devoured giant bowls of salad and skipped the small talk. It had been six years since we'd seen one another in person, but facetime and Bible study and book club and FB kept the friendship going and we picked up right where we left off. She offered the book and I decided I'd get to it before I left. 

This is the story of birth to NOW. It tells the whys and whats of WHO Lecrae is and the how of his journey to this point in his life. You'll learn about Reach and his hip-hop story. You'll learn about the sins he struggled with all along the way and the grace God sent his way. This is the story of a man who has been led by and taught by God. Whether you are a fan or not, this book will be encouraging, challenging, and inspiring. It's the story of the hand of God at work in the lives of His people.  

What have you been reading? 

Currently: April 2017

Monday, April 10, 2017

April 4, 2017

In an attempt to get back on the blogging train, I'm writing this post on Friday afternoon. By the time you read it, it'll probably be Monday morning. The rest of the so much that has been happening will have happened over the weekend and I may be more tired than I am today. Good thing there is a way to schedule posts in advance.

 I'm currently...

Accomplishing: Keeping up. Or at least, trying to.

Feeling: Like things are going a mile a minute right now. I've been reminded of just how many wonderful people I have in my life here, there, and everywhere. I'm grateful. I'm excited. And, as tired as I seem to be in this moment, I wouldn't change a thing.

Needing: Honestly, the only thing I need is a reset button that snaps everything back into place. I guess that's known as God's grace. Which is good news, because that's something I can count on!

Practicing: My morning routine. Making time to write. Having a heart given to generous hospitality.

Pinning: I haven't used pinterest in the longest time, but if I did, I would pin this recipe, this quote, this hairstyle, this poem, and these window boxes. Also, have you seen this video or heard this song?

I'm linking up with Anne and Jess.

What are you currently into?

Since I've Been Home

Friday, April 07, 2017

April 7, 2017

After a long day of travel involving a brief run-in with airport security that included a pat down and hand swabbing as well as a bag search because of some trail mix that apparently looked questionable, I arrived home late Tuesday night. I have to give it to everyone I encountered at the airport. They were all super friendly and extra helpful. The lady at the gate even re-routed my flight so that I wouldn't have to go through JFK (I was sort of bummed about that, but glad that it meant I wouldn't be getting stuck in an airport). I visited with a guy from Maine on my first flight and a Zag student on the last. I slept and read and people watched just like I always do.

When I arrived at baggage claim, my sister was waiting for me holding a piece of paper with my last name written on it. Maybe I was tired, but seeing as how she had no idea what I had gone through that day, I found it hilarious. We snagged my bag after being "jumped" by my brother (whose favorite thing in the world is to scare me from behind) and made our way to the van where they had two lunchables and my favorite chocolate milk for me to snack on.

When I got home, I washed my hands and then fell into bed. Because I am a crazy person, I only slept five or six hours before finding myself completely awake. I settled into my chair with a coffee and the fact that I was "home" began to sink in. I opened the curtains and realized that it was going to be a beautiful day. After rain, rain, and more rain, I was pretty excited about that. I got ready for the day and hours after I arrived home it was time to jump back into my routine. While on the way to my first errand of the day, I got a message that some friends of ours were coming over to spend the night. Over coffee I had told my Mom that I would need a few days to settle in...God had other plans. 

My family made sure that I came home to a clean house, but there were still some "company is coming" things to take care of. I got all my laundry done, washed the screen door that was installed while I was away, and then set about getting the house ready for Nick and Jeremy's visit. I was making decent time. When I went out to sweep the porch I realized that what I call "basketball in the driveway weather" had arrived...It was the perfect night to shoot hoops. Unfortunately, my brother had a lot of homework. Fortunately, I came up with a plan b and got someone else to go. 

I turned back onto my street to hear a diesel engine slowing down beside me...Nick rolled down the window and I realized that our company had arrived earlier than I expected. We swapped hugs and "my goodness, it's been a long time" greetings and made our way into the house where we sat for several hours just catching up. Before we knew it, it was getting LATE and since they needed to be on the road by 6 the next morning, we called it a night. 

I was up and at em' around 5 the next morning to fix some eggs and biscuits before they headed on their way. When they left, I realized that the last two weeks were catching up with me. I felt sooooo drained. I had some things to do, but after that, the rainy day was the perfect invitation to lay down for however long of a nap I needed. I knew I wanted to go to my Thursday night group, but I wasn't sure if I had it in me. By the time I needed to start dinner, I realized that I was feeling slightly more with it. I made some pizza dough and prepped a salad and announced that dinner was ready just in time for me to head out the door. 

I made it through a few hours of volleyball, took second in a game of bump, and basically kept myself upright on the basketball court. I stuck around for a bit of visiting and then I wandered out to the van in a daze. I went to bed when I got home and didn't wake up until after 9 this morning. I'm feeling a lot better, which is a good thing because I've got a lot going on over the next few days. 

The weather has been warm and sunny, cold and wet, and full on stormy (we're talking thunder and hail and wind) which honestly kind of matches what's been going on inside of me. I'm grateful for the last two weeks and everything I had here waiting for me at home. I almost always hit the ground running when I get home and yet it's always a little discombobulating. 

I still have a few things in my suitcase to put away and pictures to put on the computer and surprises to hand out and a thank you note to mail. My feet will be underneath me soon enough. So much has happened since I've been home. This weekend is going to be more of the same. I wouldn't have it any other way. 

What have you been up to?

Do you take it slow when you get home from a trip?

Checking In

Monday, April 03, 2017

March 30, 2017

My trip is coming to an end. I'm writing these words from my spot on my friend Shauna's couch. There's a Bible study group meeting upstairs and I have a little more time to myself. Any time I travel, I like to think through the trip before I leave the place I visited. That's what I'm doing today. I've said most of my "see you laters" and so far I haven't cried.

The last few weeks have been fabulous. They were everything I hoped they would be. Reuniting wity my friends who are basically family was sweeter than sweet. Six years is a long time. In some ways it feels like I've been here all along. But, then there are moments when I feel the years. We're all six years older. We're concerned with and wrapped up in and celebrating different things than we were all those years ago. My friends who did everything together don't anymore. Distance and schedules have seperated all of us. The last few weeks brought us together. Church and meals and the wedding and spa nights and hanging out made the years melt away in a way that was surreal.

I'll write about the specifics of my trip and share the pictures I took later. Right now, I'm preparing for my final round of goodbyes and praising God for what He has given me in this place. The last two weeks, the last six years, and the days He sent me here that started it all have been nothing less than gifts that I am extremely thankful for.

I may come back to this with edits later...but, I'm going to sign off for now. We'll talk soon!

On Rest: Part Three

Thursday, March 30, 2017

February 23, 2012

If you haven't read Part One and Part Two in this series on Rest, you may want to do that now.

Like I said before, Mark 6 isn't mainly about rest or food. It's about the Gospel. It's about learning how to respond when interruptions come. 

Today is the part where I tell you where these truths found ME. I've been to God's Word. I've journaled and prayed my way through this theme that God is bringing to my attention. And like He almost always does, He keeps bringing it up. Kaycee wrote about rest when she linked up with Renee.  Matthias Media shared a post about One-To-One ministry on their FB page. As I was cooking dinner (brats, alfredo, and salad) for my family last night, I had my iPod set to shuffle and this sermon by Carl Medearis came on. I thought I was done learning what I had to learn from Mark 6, but I was WRONG. 

I was in the mood for music, but something about Medearis's message sucked me in. I didn't hit the skip button. I listened and before I knew it, I was REALLY listening. Things are tighter than they've been in a long time. We're spending more money on gas and theatre stuff than ever before. I know it's what we came here to do, but I put a lot of pressure on myself not to waste a single cent as I keep our pantry stocked with food. It's to the point where I'm terrified that an extra mouth or two will show up for dinner because I know I've only set aside EXACTLY how much meat we need to feed the five of us. I've actually encouraged my brother and sister to plan game nights and get togethers so that people show up after any reasonable meal hour so that I don't have to figure out how or what to feed them. 

And this is me...The one who loves to feed people. The person who has always been complimented on how welcome she makes people feel. The girl who thought hospitality might be one of her gifts. I've turned into the person who can come up with at least five excuses of reasons NOT to invite people over for dinner without even trying. I've turned into the person who guards the nights we have at home to ourselves because they seem to be so few and far between. I've turned into the person who doesn't see interruptions the way Jesus taught His disciples to. And I don't like it. 

I'm beginning to see now that I am in desperate need of God's grace where hospitality is concerned. He's shown me that there will ALWAYS be strength for the work He calls me to. And I want to get this clear, I'm not talking about visiting with widows or taking care of children or feeding homeless people or preparing sermons. I'm talking about staying out at rehearsals and auditions and shows until LATE a bunch of nights in a row. I'm talking about spending anywhere from 1 to 4+ hours in a car in one day driving around in circles getting people to where they need to be. I'm talking about figuring out how to arrange my day around said taxi duties so that the laundry still gets done, the groceries get picked up, and the meals are prepared. I'm talking about being super emotional over the fact that there just doesn't seem to be any time left over to go visit my friends that live only a few hours away. He's granted me strength and shown me that every ounce of it came from Him just when I needed it. I trust that He's about to do the same thing with hospitality. 

Funny that He would choose one (a story about rest) to introduce the other (a lesson on hospitality). That's how He works, you guys. Here a little, there a little. He calls us to BE His people and then He shows us how. 

I don't have the answers. I know what Mark 6 and Medearis have made me WANT to do. I know that I want to stay in the Word. I know that I want to continue consciously basking in the light that God is to His people so that it becomes a habit. I know that I want to take time each day to quiet my soul before Him. And now, I know that I want to view interruptions the way He does and to use them the way He would, as though they are part of the plan. After all, they are. Like one of my favorite Southern Gals always says, "There is no plan B with God." 

I'm writing this on March 9 and by the time you read this, I'll be with friends in MA who are like family. I've had a lot of those over the years and each and every one of them has opened up their home, their family, and their dinner table to me on countless occasions. I've had some amazing examples of what it is to be hospitable, but somewhere along the way there was a major disconnect. 

I know it doesn't have to be perfect. I know it doesn't have to be fancy. And I know that God calls His people to imitate Him. So, ask me how it's going when I get home. 

Over and Out

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

December 16, 2014 via my sister :)

The last few weeks have been a WHIRLWIND. We finished up School House Rock and after we rested up from that, I decided not to worry too much about figuring out our "new routine" because I knew my trip was coming up. 

The last few weeks have been FULL. We got the house back into shape after coming and going at all hours of the night and day during the run of the show. I finished up the sixth Harry Potter book (and failed to post my latest reads post). I'll tell you this, six is my FAVORITE!

We played volleyball and I continued meeting up with my mid-week group when I could. I said yes to a spontaneous walk with my friend Annika. We went to trivia night at a local pizza place and took third overall!

The weather warmed up and I puttered around in my garden and made my first trip of the season to the dump with the odds and ends I picked up. I obsessed over diligently worked on the two pieces I'm entering into a writing contest. And like a crazy person, agreed to have a movie night at my house.

Now, it's Tuesday. I'm flying out to MA and I'll be gone for a few weeks. I meant to schedule posts, but then decided not to. I'm soooo out of whack that I only JUST packed my bag this morning. Yes...Hours before my plane leaves. I really hope I didn't forget anything.

So, I'm off. I do have ONE post scheduled for later next week. Thanks for putting up with my "schedule".

I'll see you when I get back!!! 

On Rest: Part Two

Friday, March 17, 2017

May 6, 2014
If you missed Part One, you'll want to go read it now. :) If you read it, then let's pick right back up where we left off! 

So, there they are, pleading with Jesus to send these people away. And Jesus does what He always does. He is moved by compassion for the people, the work His Father is doing, and the concern He has for these men He has gathered to disciple. It's not about rest. It's not about food. It's about the Gospel. A lot is happening here. I don't want us to miss it. Jesus responds to them with a simple sentence. I can imagine the smirk on His face and the gentle tone of His voice. In Mark 6:37, Jesus answers the disciples' pleas like this, he says, "You give them something to eat."

They answer the same way we would. The place is desolate. The crowd is massive. They came here to rest and they are probably just as tired and hungry as the people Jesus has told them to feed. They answer Him accordingly and He tells them to go see how many loaves of bread they have. I think He does this because He wants them to know exactly what is about to happen. They come back with the report, "Five, and two fish." Jesus tells the crowd to sit in groups. He looks to heaven and says a blessing and then gives the food over to the disciples who pass it around to the people. We're very familiar with all of this. We know that everyone got fed and that there were leftovers. We may have even clung to verse 42 which tells us that "they all ate and were satisfied." We know about the five loaves, the two fish, and the 5,000 men.

What I missed and what you may have missed was that the people did not go there intending to teach or feed anyone. They went away to rest at the command of Jesus. They had been working and burying the man sent by God to prepare the way for Jesus. Times were tense and they were more than ready for an opportunity to recharge. What I missed all these years is that Mark 6 teaches us how to treat rest. It teaches us that it's important. It teaches us that it requires a desolate place. It teaches us that it gets interrupted. It teaches us that we need to know how to respond when interuptions come and it teaches us what can happen when we respond the way Jesus does.

They obeyed. They tried to reason their way out of one of the most famous miracles in the history of Jesus's time with them. They acquiesced and obeyed more. The crowd that had gathered was satisfied with the words of Christ and the food He gave them for their bodies. The disciples aren't done yet. We keep reading and we watch as another famous experience takes place. They get back in the boat while Jesus dismisses the crowd and stays behind to pray. The wind rises up against the men in the boat. Like so many of us, they are taking the scenic route to a lesson Jesus is trying to teach them.

It never tells us if they ever got the rest Jesus originally called them to seek. What it does do is show us what the disciples would have missed out on if they would have had their own way. If Jesus and His disciples would have sent that crowd away or hid from them or headed up onto the mountain, one of the most encouraging stories we share with one another never would have happened. The disciples would have got their rest, but those 5,000 men and whatever women and children were with them wouldn't have the testimony of the time they were taught and fed by the Messiah. The disciples would have rested and been recharged. They would have had time to pray. But, they would have missed out on an opportunity to be used by God. When Jesus calmed the wind and joined them in the boat, the chapter begins to come to its close. What follows is a sad declaration of the state of their hearts.

We can read Mark 6 and learn so many things. On my most recent read through, I've learned that:

Rest is vital. If the Son of God needed it, then we certainly need it. True rest requires peace and quiet. We have to silence the voices around us and in us and go away to a desolate place where we can be alone with God. We live in a culture that praises introversion. We are all about self-care and treating ourselves. While we can all use a lesson on what true rest is, we don't have to be taught to value rest or to seek it.

Rest is almost always interuppted. Jesus was interuppted time and time again. He couldn't ever truly get away. In Mark 6, the disciples are interuppted. We are interuppted. The phone rings, the children ask for something, the neighbor knocks on the door or calls over the back fence. Our own minds turn to other things and the rest we set out to get vanishes. Interuptions come and we've got to know how to respond. If it wasn't for Jesus, the disciples (and the 5,000 and those of us who have come after them) would have all missed out on something God was about to do.

I've got one more post to share with you in this series...Until then, would you tell me about a time your rest was interrupted as well as the good work that God allowed you to accomplish because of that interruption?

The First Half

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Today is my "half-birthday". As of today, I am half-way through the first year of the second half of my 20s. Say that ten times fast. In the days surrounding my 26th birthday, I put this post together with plans to share it on whatever day March 12th fell on. So, here we are. It's spring-winter. Time is flying, just like it always does. I'm closer to 30 than ever before and it's really starting to sink in. 

Turning 21 (the oldest bday picture I have on THIS computer)

Early in the day on September 12th, I realized that the first half of my 20's were officially behind me. I started thinking about what they held and what I learned and, well, everything.

During the first half of my 20's I...

Lived in seven bedrooms in four towns in three states.

Finished college.

Worked in the fields of healthcare, food service, agriculture, education, business administration. This is a fancy way of saying I was a live in caretaker and nanny, part of the kitchen crew at the ranch, on a list of emergency help at the coffee shop, tending gardens everywhere I went, tutoring, teaching kindergarten science for a semester, completing student teaching requirements for K-8th grade, and teaching 6th and 8th grade, and working alongside my Mom to keep up the books at my Dad's office.

Learned a ton about gardening. Alice and Heidi and Dennis and Al and Jay all taught me so much.

Faced depression.

Bought my first DSLR and learned to shoot in manual.

Started painting my nails again. Fun fact: I stopped in junior high because I let one of my friends convince me it was for little kids even though I knew her older sister ALWAYS had her nails painted.

Re-embraced my love of the color purple. Again, I let the dumb things my friends said about it being a dumb color convince me that it really was. See the theme here? Growing older teaches you how to care a lot less about what people think and say.

Made a list of classics to read and made a good dent in it.

Gave up on finding a stylist and learned to cut my own hair. The way I take care of my hair is soooo much different than it was when I entered my 20's. I cut it every 8 weeksish. I wash it two times a week. I let it air dry whenever I can. And...I put coconut oil in it as a deep conditioning treatment.

Got really good at being alone.

Learned to say "no" when I needed to, "yes" when I could, and to look for ways I could serve people well when they needed a little extra help. These three things pretty much shaped the first half of my 20s and I hope they are habits that I continue for the rest of my life.

Joined a church for the first time in my life.

Put my writing out there. Won a prize for it. And kept at it.

Tried new things that people thought I would NEVER do. Some things: went on a 21 mile bike ride after not riding a bike for 7 years, went bow hunting, ate goat (and bear and venison), rode a ride that I promised myself I would never ride, shared recipes, went square dancing, went to midnight premiers (The Hobbit 1 and 2 and Star Wars).

Got super into geocaching.

Drove 13 hours straight. In a blizzard. Oh, the things you'll do to see a brother you haven't seen in three years. It was BEYOND worth it.

Learned to write my own recipes.

Implemented the capsule wardrobe thing and loved it.

Made a brand new group of friends three times over (and four if you count blogging, but that one was so easy, it hardly seems worth noting). Since turning 26, I've settled into yet another group of new friends.


Sometimes it's easy to look at where we are and to be discouraged about where we thought we would be. None of us know how much time God plans for us to spend here. The minutes turn into days which turn into months which turn into years. I look around and am amazed at what God has done with the 26 1/2 he has granted me so far.

The same goes for you. Whatever age you are now is one that you have made it to by His grace. The relationships and heartaches and successes and failures all passed through His hands. He is in the business of making Himself known throughout all the earth and even if you can claim nothing else, living to pursue Him is a grand adventure!

Here's to a second half that is as full of Him as the first half was! For me. For you. For all of us.

On Rest: Part One

Friday, March 10, 2017

January 11, 2017

For the last few months I've been spending time reading the Gospels. I'll give you a quick snapshot of how my time in the Word works. I choose a book to focus on and then I make why way through it reading anywhere from a few verses to a handful of chapters at a time. I begin each "session" by journaling, then I switch to reading, and then I alternate between reading, copying down key verses, making notes, and praying until I'm out of time. This usually goes on for about an hour or so.

About a week ago, I made it to Mark 6. Mark is the third gospel that I've read in the last few months, so the details of many of the stories are starting to become familiar. I've noticed that this has freed me up to focus less on the WHAT and more on the WHY of each one. When I came to Mark 6, I read about Jesus being rejected in His hometown, Jesus sending the disciples out with the clothes on their back and a staff to call anyone who was willing to listen into repentance, and then I read about the death of John the Baptist. I reached the end of verse 29 feeling the weight of the faith that these men must have had and the heaviness that must have settled onto their shoulders as they faced each of these events.

Then, in verse 31,  Jesus tells them it's time to follow His lead. He says to them, "Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while." The verses that follow tell us that they got into a boat and headed to such a place. I was marveling at this Scripture and wondering how I had missed it during the countless times I've read this book. I've studied Jesus's habit of going away by Himself to pray over and over again. I've tried to figure out how how He knew it was time and just exactly what He did while He was away. I've tried to imitate Him and cling to the Father the way that He did...Here, in Mark 6, Jesus was teaching His disciples to do the thing that I'm convinced sustained Him during His time on earth. So, I'm reading along and thanking God for finally showing me this. I'm copying down the verses and settling in to read what comes next.

Maybe you already know what comes next or maybe you've disconnected these accounts the way that I have. I'm sorry to admit that it's highly likely that I skimmed over verses 30-33 during my previous encounters with this chapter.

Jesus recognized that the disciples needed rest. He tells them to go away to a desolate place to rest for a while. They obey. They get in a boat and head out. A lot has been going on. Some of the most trying days of their early ministry have happened. They are tired and hungry and they must be looking forward to this rest. Then, comes verse 34. They make it to shore and a crowd had figured out where they were going and was gathered together waiting for them. Jesus gets out of the boat and begins to teach them. Get this. Jesus tells the disciples to rest and they are interrupted. The crowd stays gathered. The teaching goes on and on. It grows late. The men who were tired and hungry are more tired and more hungry and the desolate place Jesus told them to find would be the very place they are in except that all these people won't go away. The disciples ask Jesus to send the crowd away to find food for themselves so that the disciples can get to this "rest" they came to this place to find.

What's about to happen is the account of the time five loaves of bread and two fish fed 5,000 men until they were satisfied. Get this. The story they taught you about in Sunday school every year happened because people who were seeking rest in a desolate place were interrupted. I'm still going over all of the implications of this story. The fact that Jesus knew exactly what they were going to find when they reached that desolate place is weighing on my mind. The emotions the disciples must have been feeling are the ones I find myself relating to. The point of the whole encounter is something I do not want to miss.

And since this post is long enough already, I'm going to leave you hanging. We'll pick up part two next week. Until then, I'd love to hear about what you're reading and what God has been teaching you through it!