One Hundred Fifteen: What worked for me in 2017


Nothing gets me back in “writer mode” faster than an opportunity to reflect, set goals, share lists, etc. So on this first day of a new year, here I am looking back on what worked to make life a bit easier, lovelier, or more inspired.

  • Walmart Grocery Pickup. My sister and closest friends swore by it. They told me it was a life saver/life changer/the greatest thing that’s ever happened to anyone ever. I kept NOT doing it. Then I did it. I went online and put stuff in my grocery cart as I planned out our meals. I told the Walmart store just 7 minutes from our house (that I never frequented because: Walmart) what time I would be there to pick up my stuff. I waited for confirmation that everything was ready. I put my 4 children in the van, drove to the store, chatted with the friendly man or woman who did all the hard work for me, opened up the back of the van and let them put everything in. Life saver. Life Changer. The Greatest thing that’s ever happened to anyone ever.Even when the wait is longer than I want it to be. Even when bread gets squished. Even when the chips are crumbs. Even when they don’t have what I want and it’s substituted or just left off or they forget something or the laundry soap spills (and in those cases their customer service is fantastic and they go above and beyond to make it right)…even then, it’s worth it. I highly recommend it.
  • Goodwill. I’m not sure at what point in the year I started frequenting Goodwill, but very quickly it became a family affair that resulted in my husband and I having “new” clothes for the first time ever. A clothing budget was always something we wanted but never had. If our growing kids needed something, we made it happen or begged grandparents for help. But if we needed or wanted something? We waited for birthday or Christmas money and then felt lame and sorry for ourselves for “having” to spend it that way. After pregnancy, and thanks to nursing, I lost a lot of weight and had nothing to wear. Goodwill allowed me to keep myself clothed without a huge price tag. And those kids who keep growing? I kept them in jeans, shorts, and shoes when they needed them.It’s also true what people say: you can find REALLY GREAT STUFF at Goodwill. Name brands, stuff with tags still attached, barely used, gently used, trendy, “I may as well give it a shot because it’s only $3” good stuff. I feel like I have a style for the first time in my life because I’m willing and able to take a $3 risk. If I’ve received compliments on clothes this year (and I have), 99% of the time I’ve been wearing something from Goodwill.
  • eBay. My Goodwill shopping actually started out with an eye for sellable items. I had friends who were having huge success selling clothes on eBay, and the income they were bringing in was helping their families pay down debt, cover school tuition, and changing their lives. But once I got into Goodwill, I was finding clothes I wanted to keep! Now it’s both: I find things to keep, and I often find things to sell. I haven’t put the time into it that some of my friends have. It’s not a business, by any means, but there have been many months where the money I’ve made on eBay has helped our family when money has been tight.
  • Morning Pages. This is a simple practice that many writers use to shake out the cobwebs in the morning and get themselves ready to write. The basic idea is to write 3 pages of free-flowing thoughts first thing every day. There’s no over thinking or editing, it’s just writing. Almost every morning during their summer break, the kids and I gathered at the dining room table with our special notebooks and pens (bought just for the occasion) and set a timer for 20 minutes. I told them to limit themselves to two pages of their notebooks (because they are all artists who love nothing more than filling up pages with their creations). I encouraged them to write if they wanted to, but tried not to put too many rules and restrictions upon them. We ALL loved it, and they’ve requested Morning Pages many days since. It’s hard to make it happen in the busyness of the school year, but we will definitely do it again this summer.
  • A new Instagram account. At some point early in the summer, I got the idea to start a new account, public this time, all about our family of 6 enjoying Oklahoma City together. It became a fantastic way to explore all that our city has to offer as far as shopping, eating out, and enjoying time as a family. It even led to a side job of writing restaurant reviews! I’ve so enjoyed writing the column, as well as challenging our family to eat and shop local, get to know the names and faces of small business owners in our community, and spread the word about the benefits of this practice.
  • Book Club! I LOVE reading but usually hate book clubs because of the pressure I always feel to say something insightful or intelligent. But I wanted to gather women in my church to read and discuss some great fiction, and we did! We enjoyed 3 books together before school started and made life crazier. We plan to continue this year.
  • One word: OPEN. For the past two years I adopted a word for the year, then lost sight of it somewhere along the way. But at least for a while, the word OPEN was fresh on my mind. It was on my mind when I got a text early in the year from a woman from my church who lives in my neighborhood and was looking for help with childcare. While my first inclination was to say, “Uh. No. 100% no.” I thought about it. I ultimately had to say no, but that conversation led to a friendship with this woman and the motivation to give other things a chance. I was open to and said yes to being a house mom at my kid’s school and to working for my church again.

So there are a few things that worked for me. Here’s to staying open, to finding margin, to boundaries and healthy “yeses” and “nos.” Here’s to another year of growth and change.
Happy New Year!





One Hundred Fourteen- What I Read in 2017

CommonplaceAs another year comes to a close, I’m transferring all of the books I’ve logged since I started the practice, back in 2003, into my shiny new book journal.

I highly recommend keeping track of what you read. Perhaps it’s not for everyone, but for me, as I revisit those lists, I’m reminded of undergraduate classes I loved, newlywed life where all I wanted was to create home and traditions for my husband and I, lovely autumn afternoons spent reading outside, and my first readings of Harry Potter.

My journal is nothing more than the year, month, and titles. I don’t write thoughts or quotes or even reviews. Some books I remember well and some I’ve already forgotten. But they’re all there. Perhaps someday my book-loving (I pray) children will visit my lists and read some of these books for themselves.

Without further ado, my reading list from 2017. Those in bold are books I loved enough to recommend to you…

The Silkworm
Career of Evil
Luck, Love, and Lemon Pie
The Martian

Thrice the Branded Cat Hath Mew’d- The Flavia deLuce Series, that I dearly love
What Alice Forgot
Good as Gone
Loving My Actual Life

Gap Creek
This is How it Always Is

Jesus the King
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Talking as Fast as I Can- if you love Lauren Graham
My Name is Lucy Barton
The Wonder
The Poisonwood Bible

Anne of Green Gables
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Other Einstein

Olive Kitteridge
Peace Like a River
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
Reading People- if you’re a personality quiz lover

The Rosie Effect
Ella Enchanted
The Hundred Dresses

Glass Houses- the Chief Inspector Gamache series that I love love LOVE
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie -first in the Flavia series
The Nature of the Beast- Inspector Gamache

The Long Way Home- Inspector Gamache
When Dimple Met Rishi
The Brutal Telling- Inspector Gamache
Bury Your Dead- Inspector Gamache

How the Light Gets In- Inspector Gamache
The Beautiful Mystery- Inspector Gamache
A Great Reckoning- Inspector Gamache
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Winter Street
Winter Stroll
Winter Storms
The Greatest Gift- I have loved reading this during Advent the past 2 years
The Bronte Plot
Long Way Down
Dear Mr. Knightley
Winter Solstice
A Gentleman in Moscow- I haven’t finished it yet, but it will go down as my favorite book I’ve read this year. 

In 2018, I’ve signed on to participate in Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge, and am going to try and commit to only reading books I own…not even utilizing my library! (I predict failure in this area.) 🙂
Here’s my list in progress for the MMD challenge:

A Classic You’ve Been Meaning to Read
*The Chronicles of Narnia
A Book Recommended by Someone with Great Taste
*The Second Coming/The Road/Trinity
A Book in Translation
*The Elegance of the Hedgehog
A Book Nominated for an Award in 2018
A Book of Poetry, a Play, or An Essay Collection
*Mary Oliver or Wendell Berry or Heal Us, Emmanuel
A Book You Can Read in a Day
*Of Mice and Men/Art and the Bible
A Book Over 500 Pages
*The Lord of the Rings/Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
A Book By a Favorite Author
A Book Recommended by a Librarian or Indie Bookseller
*David Sedaris
A Banned Book
*Huck Finn/Gone with the Wind/Grapes of Wrath
A Memoir, Biography, or Work of Creative Nonfiction
*Ruth Reichl/Bird by Bird
A Book by an Author of a different race, ethnicity, or religion than your own
*maybe something by Toni Morrison

Happy Reading, all.

One Hundred Nine


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?

What I Read in 2016…better late than never

I had a baby in 2016, so while I didn’t post often, I still read. A lot.

So here are the books I read! Those in bold are the ones I most enjoyed/recommend.

Bury Your Dead
Prayer – Tim Keller
A Trick of the Light
The Beautiful Mystery
How the Light Gets In
The Silver Linings Playbook

The Long Way Home
The Nature of the Beast
Prayer and Writing

Jesus Outside the Lines

The Nightingale
State of Wonder

The Kitchen House
The Red Sea Rules
Wild in the Hollow
Cinder– the first in a fun series. I read the others in July.
The Patron Saint of Liars
Beezus and Ramona
Secrets of a Charmed Life

Their Eyes Were Watching God
Eligible- I really disliked this best seller
The Nest- I really disliked this one, as well
The Coincidence of Coconut Cake

Falling Free
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
All the Pretty Things
The One in a Million Boy

Still Life
A Prayer Journal
84, Charing Cross Road

Fatal Grace
The Hobbit
The Cruelest Month
A Rule Against Murder

Cuckoo’s Calling

Ninety-five (My one word for 2016)


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! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.