One Hundred Nine

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One day last week we had plans after school. It was a mini-festival of sorts, complete with food trucks, a moon bounce, music, and lawn games. But it had been a long day, towards the end of a long week, and none of us had been home, and we were all tired. So on the drive home from school, the kids and I changed the plan. We decided to stay home, make dinner and cookies, and watch a movie.

The baby fell asleep on the drive, so I left her in her car seat in the van and I sat outside while she slept. My other kids scattered into the house, changing clothes, grabbing snacks, turning on the TV. After a few minutes, my son joined me outside and I was surprised when I looked up and saw him standing next to me, dressed like he was headed to church. He had on a nice button-down shirt tucked in to his jeans, with his belt and nice brown school shoes to complete the look. He had even re-fixed his hair.

I told him he looked handsome and then asked him why he was so dressed up. He casually replied, “No reason. I just love this shirt. I look good in it and it’s so comfortable.”

I was struck by this. When I know I’m not headed anywhere farther than my front porch, I immediately remove anything remotely presentable and choose something comfortable. Sweats and a t-shirt, please and thank you. But my son, even though he knew the plan had changed and the only date we had was with Episode VI, still wanted to wear something he loved and that made him feel good.

There’s nothing wrong with putting on my sweats at the end of the day.

There’s also nothing wrong with choosing my very favorite outfit even though “no one” will see me in it. Sometimes I convince myself it’s a waste to wear something I love if no one but my family will see me in it. I think I have to save some things for being seen in and let my family see me in a constant state of shabbiness.

This mindset extends beyond my closet. I have a journal I was given for my birthday last year that I still haven’t written in. Not because I don’t need it or want it, but because it somehow feels too special to “just write” in. Because it has a hardcover and a pretty design and it came from a thoughtful friend, it’s surely too special to mark in. I’ll just use my $.50 composition book, please and thank you.

Surely you do this, too. You have a candle that’s just too special to light. Or a pen that’s just too nice to use. Or a necklace that’s just a bit too fancy to wear on an ordinary day.

Let’s all take a cue from Sam. Let’s wear our favorite shirt, even if we only have it on from 5 p.m. until bedtime. Let’s do more things that bring us joy. Just because. Isn’t life too short to live any other way?

Ninety-five (My one word for 2016)

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As I mentioned already, I’ve been coasting through life with the pause button pushed. Every single area of my life has been affected: relationships, motivation, prayer, exercise…everything.

I’ve never done it before, but one word seems to be popping into my head to serve as a reminder/motivation/goal for the new year.

That word is MOVE.

I’ve been reflecting on all the different meanings of the word and the different areas of life that it touches.

  • Location-
    May this be the year we MOVE to OKC.
    May the Green Door House become our new home.
    May Oklahoma City become our city, our community, our home.
  • Body-
    May this be the year I commit to MOVING every day. Exercise has never been a priority, but I know how important it is. I’ve been thinking about how much my personality and tendency to want to please means I might benefit from a personal trainer.
  • Feelings (be MOVED)-
    May this be the year I attend more theater productions, hear more live music, and surrender more fully during worship.
    May I read more stories and more memoirs and more compelling non-fiction.
  • Relationships (MOVE toward others)-
    May this be the year I practice true hospitality.
    May I initiate conversations and relationships.

May 2016 be a year marked by MOVEMENT.

Happy New Year, friends!

Ninety-three (2015 Book List!)

DSC_0101My 2015 reading includes lots of series/author binges.
I’m somewhat sad to see that I’m 2 books short of my goal for the year. (58 out of 60) Not too shabby, though.

The books in bold are my favorites and top picks for the year, and I’ve included Amazon links to those (if you purchase through these links, you’ll support my church…so thanks!).

I don’t think I’ll put a numerical goal on my 2016 reading, but I do want to read even more non-fiction next year.

Happy reading, friends! 

January-
The Invention of Wings
The Funeral Dress
Grace for the Good Girl- Emily P. Freeman
Midnight in Austenland

February-
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years- Donald Miller
When Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust
The Ragamuffin Gospel- Brennan Manning
Love Does
Mr. Kiss and Tell

March-
Big Love
The Hardest Peace- Kara Tippetts
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (read out loud to my oldest)
Jane Eyre

April-
Hands-free Mama
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Scary Close
The Art of Asking
The Knowledge of the Holy- A.W. Tozer

May-
The Prodigal God- Timothy Keller
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
First Impressions
Wearing God
Honeymoon in Paris

June-
Design Mom
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
The Girl You Left Behind- Jojo Moyes
Still
Lessons from Madame Chic
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Everything I Never Told You- Celeste Ng
Garden Spells- Sarah Addison Allen

July-
Mudhouse Sabbath
Simply Tuesday- Emily P. Freeman
Boy, Snow, Bird
Go Set a Watchman
800 Grapes
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

August- 
Jesus Outside the Lines- Scott Sauls
First Frost
Notes From a Blue Bike
The Girl Who Fell From the Sky
The Sugar Queen
The Peach Keeper
The Girl Who Chased the Moon
Counting by 7’s- Holly Sloan

September-
For the Love
It Was Me All Along
I Capture the Castle- Dodie Smith

October-
Lost Lake
Big Magic- Elizabeth Gilbert
Someday, Someday, Maybe
The Royal We

November-
Still Life- Louise Penny (I am in love with this mystery series)
A Fatal Grace

December-
The Cruelest Month
A Rule Against Murder
The Greatest Gift- Ann Voskamp
Prayer- Timothy Keller

Seventy-five (Numbered Weekends)

IMG_0232Trying my hand at something new today- a round-up of links I’ve enjoyed this week and what I’m reading and/or watching right now.

From Edie @ Life in Grace: I adore Edie. Her posts never fail to inspire and encourage me.
When you take care of her, everything else will be okay.  When you focus on her and when you listen to her and when you make sure she has what she needs, your needs will be met without you even noticing.
I heard this at a talk one time and it burned itself into my brain—and I paraphrase, “There are two types of people – those who walk into a room and say: ‘Here I am!’ and those who walk into a room and say: ‘There you are.’”

From Stephanie Bryant @ the (in)courage blog: I texted this one to my husband because it was such a timely post for us. I’ve all but lost hope that our house is going to sell and we will be able to follow this move to OKC, which we believe God wants for us.
But when you hear clearly from God and you see Him changing your circumstances to create the vision He shared earlier, you stay the course. It may take months or many years to see the change you so fervently pray for — even one small step in the direction of His vision — but you trust Him and the dream He created and planted.”

From Nina @ Shalom Mama: As I’ve been talking (to death) about self-care and passions and life-giving things, it was great to come across this post.
“Function is great and all, but what about beauty? What about the simple pleasures in life that make the difference between a drab, purely functional life and a beautiful one filled with wonder?”

From Emily @ Chatting at the Sky: She and I seem to be exploring some of the same ideas right now.
“What events, circumstances, or activities are life-giving and which ones are life-draining?

I’m “mostly” ditching Facebook for the month of September because it most certainly falls into the “life-draining” category for me. Honestly, I feel a difference already. I’ve also incorporated a new book and the spiritual discipline of writing a reaction to each days’ reading. I usually read very quickly and never really interact with what I read. I want to change that.

What I’m reading and watching now:

For the Love, by Jen Hatmaker– just as everyone is telling you, it’s hilarious and inspiring and encouraging and hilarious. So hilarious.

Rising Strong, by Brene Brown– I read the introduction and know it’s going to be amazing, but I can’t seem to make myself read it. I better start though, because I only have it from the library for another week.

Parenthood, Season 2– I watched this show from day 1 to the very end but have never rewatched it until now. I forgot how amazing it was from the very beginning, and I appreciate it even more because I know how it all ends. And Lauren Graham? So incredible.

Have a great {long!} weekend, friends. For me it will be filled with football watching (or, more likely, reading in a room where football is being watched), iced coffee, and time with my people. Enjoy.

Fifty-eight

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“So, how’s the writing?”
“What have you been writing?”
“Have you been writing?”

My well-intentioned friends have been asking lately and encouraging me in my goal/prayer of writing a book this year. We are officially halfway through the year now and I have officially not been writing for a really long time.

I have let my own doubts and insecurities cripple me. I’ve put pressure on this project, telling myself it has to look a certain way or be a certain thing instead of just doing what I love to do- write.

It hasn’t just been my blog that’s been silent. For the most part, my journals don’t even reflect my own thoughts and words. Instead, I’ve been copying down long passages of scripture that both call God and his people to remembrance. I’ve been writing out lyrics to hymns old and new. I’ve been borrowing the words of others to get me through an unusually hard season. Not hard in the sense that there are physical ailments or a sudden death or really anything huge. Just a lot of little things that seem to be affecting me all at once and have me feeling very out of sorts.

I’ve been doing this walking with Jesus thing for long enough now to know that it’s not a mountain-top experience day in and day out. It seems I’ve been in a valley for a while now. It’s lonely here, and dark, quiet and yet loud and distracting at the same time. This valley season has been especially unusual because I haven’t had my own words to help sort things out. I’ve been empty and quiet. I’ve listened at times, but I’ve mostly distracted myself.
While I’ve struggled to pray, struggled to write, struggled to read the scriptures, struggled to make sense of everything I’m feeling lately, I’ve turned to music to call to mind the truths that I actually do know and believe.
Sandra McCracken’s new album, Psalms, has been on repeat since I heard her in concert a couple of months ago. Knowing a bit about the past year or so of her story, I have been overwhelmed as I listen to her cry out to God using David’s words and then remind herself (and me) of the truth of the Psalms. She mentioned that she didn’t have her own words and couldn’t find her voice for a while, as she went through her own valley.
My car has been my sanctuary as I have listened to her music. Sometimes I just listen. Sometimes I sing along loudly and truly believe what I’m saying. Sometimes I sing and wish I believed.
“All Your works are good.”
“Put your trust in God, I will yet give thanks to Him.”
“Be still and know your Maker. Be satisfied in Him.”
“My soul finds rest in God alone, my salvation comes from Him.”
“We will feast and weep no more.”
“Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart.”

“You hold me in my place–flourishing”

I’m filled with hope. I’m reminded that all of life is seasons and change and highs and lows and valleys and mountains. I’m encouraged and excited about what’s on the horizon for our family. It’s a new chapter in our story, and while part of me wants to wait until its conclusion to share it, I know that it will do more good (for me, and hopefully for you, too) if I share it as it unfolds.
So here’s to the return of my words.
Thanks for reading.

Thirty

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What worked for me in 2014

Following the leads of Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy, and my friend Kat, before too much time gets away and I get focused on the year ahead, I thought I’d look back at what worked well last year.

  • Walk Strong videos with Leslie Sansone
    These were my mom’s videos, and I held onto them after she died. I had good memories of watching my roommate work out in our dorm room (I didn’t join her) with Leslie. I’ve tried the 30-day Shred with Jillian Michaels, and where Jillian is a pit bull, Leslie is a sweet, sweet kitten. If you need a drill sergeant yelling at you to get your fat a$$ in gear, stick with Jillian. If you want to feel encouraged just for putting in a DVD, go with Leslie. I try to do these at least 2-3 times a week. My kids even do these workouts with me, which makes it even more enjoyable.
  • Counseling
    I cannot say enough good things. This entire blog is pretty much an outpouring of things I learn in counseling. As my pastor says (and I’m inclined to agree), “Everyone needs counseling.”
  • which brings me to…Blogging
    I started blogging way back when Xanga was popular, in 2005. Then I moved to Blogger, and chronicled our early married days, our time in Kansas City, and all three kids’ birth stories (in detail…). I stopped writing not long after my mom died. This current writing space has been so enjoyable to write. It feels more honest, less put-together, and pressure-free. Just the way I like it.
    I also find myself picking up my camera again, which I didn’t even realize I had missed so much.
  • French Press
    I was gifted a french press by a friend when my coffee maker died, but I was intimidated by it. In reality, it’s incredibly easy to use and it really does make a difference in the taste of the coffee. And since I’m the only coffee drinker in my house, it’s not a big deal to make it just for me each morning. In fact, I find that I enjoy the ritual.
  • Goodreads, and my library’s Kindle app
    These two things helped me reach and surpass my reading goal last year. Goodreads kept me organized and inspired and my library kept me from breaking the bank. When my friend Leslie walked me through how to work the library app on my Kindle, my life changed forever. I am always impressed with how up to date my library is. Most often, if I’m looking for a title, they have it, and if they don’t, I fill out a request form and they buy it and put it on hold for me. It’s kind of addictive.

 

Twenty-nine

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It’s January 5th, and I’m still thinking about and writing about goals.

The thing about goals is they can be both motivating and soul-crushing at the same time. At least, that’s been my experience. I set my sights on something, and in the back of my head I hear, “You know that’s impossible, right? You’ll fail.” Sometimes the simple act of goal-setting seems futile, because that voice inside is usually spot-on.

“You didn’t go on regular dates with your kids. Life is too busy. Just give up.”

“You only listened to maybe a dozen podcasts in the year. And you still don’t know anything about ‘Serial.'”

“You really got carried away with the crackers…”

I’m just not good at showing myself grace.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard is from my pastor and his wife. It’s short, simple, and profound, and it’s perfect to keep in mind as we set our goals for the new year.

“Never stop starting.”

Those three words are so full of grace. They recognize the inevitability of “failure” and yet give encouragement to keep going. My goals and resolutions don’t have to be just for one year. If I’ve chosen wisely, they can be on-going motivators for the rest of my life! Scratching something off the list shouldn’t be the goal. Becoming a more authentic person should be. Becoming a more grace-filled person should be. Pursuing good, beautiful, truthful things should be.

It’s January 5th, and I’m still thinking about goals, and I might be for quite some time. It’s better than being stagnant and okay with just coasting through my days.

Never stop starting, friends.