Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Emmanuel - part 2

This time of year is crazy, isn't it? The moments of overwhelming stress squeezed in next to moments of exquisite beauty. 

If there is one thing I'm learning right now, one takeaway from this season, it would be an intense appreciation that Jesus came to be our Emmanuel - God with us.

God with us - in the beautiful moments
God with us - in the pain
God with us - when it is all too much
God with us 
when my heart is bursting 
or breaking
God with us. 

Something about this simple truth helps. It helps me take each moment as it comes. Makes me thankful in the moment when that song comes on the radio and I'm singing along at the top of my lungs. Gives me peace in the moments of pain. Helps me not drag one moment into the next, or one emotion into every moment. 

Now I'm feeling happy - okay then soul - be happy! Thank you God for this joy, thank you that you are with me in my joy thank you for music and twinkle lights and kids laughing together. 

Next moment I'm breaking - okay then, I will not hide, I won't wallow I refuse to be ashamed of my grief. I will simply be in this moment and God with me in it. Thank you Jesus that you are no stranger to pain and heartbreak. 

God with us when the angels sang,
God with us when there was no room at the inn.
God with me in the laughter.
God with me in the tears.
In the stress.
In the overwhelmation.
In the delight.
In the disappointment.
In the despair.
In my mess.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15 ESV)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Read/Watch/Listen 2013

Picture books we're enjoying today: A Sound Like Someone Trying Not to Make a Sound by John Irving (really love the way this written) Monster Day at Work by Sarah Dyer (TOTALLY love this charming, understated piece!! Really inventive, similar to the firstMommy is planning menus & grocery shopping lists. Eli is looking at some of his favorite books. Love this sweet boy!Eli's favorite books from the Library :)I said "do you want me to read another book?" He said "No. All of them" ha!

I was thinking about some of the books, movies (and TV), and music I've enjoyed this year and wanted to blog this. These lists are always so fun to look back on! Also I'm trying to keep a running list of what I've read/want to read so do let me know if you have any suggestions!

Last winter I was reading The Hunger Games Trilogy. I read them to see if they were appropriate for my 5th grader and got completely hooked! Apparently there is still a small part of me that is a giggly teenage girl. The first book was my favorite - the next two got progressively worse and yet I could not put them down!! 

I've started reading again... and it's like I've come alive again. I've got all kinds of books in my reading pile - Kate Morton "The Distant Hours" is shaping up to be my favorite fiction book I've read in awhile. "The Hours" is very interesting - it was
This spring I attempted Virginia Woolf's "Mrs Dalloway" and by attempted I do mean I didn't get all the way through it. I never thought reading a novel could be so difficult! I enjoyed the challenge but it moved so slowly it was like the story moved at half-time. I also attempted reading "The Hours" but didn't get all the way through it. I loved the movie.  Another book-turned movie I enjoyed: "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"


I really enjoyed Kate Morton's novel "The Distant Hours" I had attempted another one of her novels and couldn't really get into it. This one I enjoyed quite thoroughly.


This summer I read "Gift from the Sea" by Anne Morrow Lindburgh I highly recommend you bring this along the next time you go to the beach! Or really anytime you want some light yet thoughtful reading on the subject of life and simplicity. I really need to but this one.

On the road Edited w #pictapgo_app

This year I did two Bible studies by Kelly Minter -  I highly recommend them both: Ruth & No Other Gods were both really good. The thing I love best about them is I felt that there was a lot of room for the Holy Spirit in these studies. I love how these studies prompted me to dig deeper and ask God hard questions about myself and what I believe about Him. My favorite part in these studies is honestly  what I wrote in the margins, and sitting at our last meeting, listening to how these studies impacted my ladies made me deeply appreciate this semester's small group.

I also co-led a One Thousand Gifts small group study. The DVDs were great though I thought the study guide was pretty much useless. I enjoyed using the Devotional edition of the book the most. It's very easy to read and digest, since it's broken into smaller pieces. 

Currently I'm reading "a million little ways" and am loving  it!  Download it now.

Movies - 

I saw Hunger Games: Catching Fire in theaters. Loved it - so intense!! I was glad I'd read the book first.

I took my bigs to see the new Percy Jackson movie. My kids are big fans of Rick Riordan's novels - so they were thrilled. I'm glad my littles didn't see it though since some of the scenes were pretty scar, but my bigs really enjoyed it. 

Despicable Me 2 - we saw this as a family and enjoyed it so much! So cute and funny. My littles said it was the best movie ever. But then don't they say that about every movie?

The Croods - I think Daniel & I might have enjoyed this even more than the kids. It's hilarious. We were laughing the whole way through this. There was one part that was a little extra scary/sad and I nearly cried but it's about equal to Toy Story (didn't you cry at Toy Story 3? I totally did!)

Oblivion  - really enjoyed this movie. Possibly one of the best movies I saw this year. Hmmmm, I think I want to watch it again soon.

Host - was a little bit teenage angsty but I enjoyed it. 

Safe Haven - okay so I didn't love the ending and it's totally predictable but predictably enjoyable! 

The new Star Trek movie "into darkness" - as someone who grew up on this franchise I geek out just a little bit when these movies come out. Loved this one.

Sherlock - the acting is perfect, it's a modernization of the Sherlock Holmes story. Loved every bit of it, especially season one.

Elementary - and Americanized Modernization of the Sherlock story that the Hubs and I have enjoyed watching this year. It's almost nothing like the books but still a really good show.

Downton Abbey - last year I watched bits and pieces of season three but season four has set me into full-on Downton Abbey fan-status. I watched the rest of season two earlier this week. I think it's much easier to watch it as a season all at once than week by week. 

Call the Midwife - so I cry at almost every episode. I love the cast so much! The second season is maybe not quite as good as the first but I loved them. I think it's even better than Downton Abbey. I've seen that there is a book that this television series is based on but I'm afraid to read it. Thumbing through it I could tell that there was some plot consolidation and I'm not sure if I could take it.

The Taste - it's like The Voice for cooking. Love watching it with the Hubs. Just finished watching season 1 on Hulu - we may watch season 2 since it's just started up again. 

This year I finally discovered Meredith Andrews - I especially love this version of her radio hit "Not for a Moment". I am also in love with her song "Strong God" and her Christmas song on the radio with Big Daddy Weave "Ring the Bells"

This year I also discovered Audrey Assad and I'm so loving her music! "Good to Me" was my anthem over the fall - I was playing it constantly.

I've been blogging some of my favorite worship songs one of my favorites is by All Sons & Daughters - I really like their music and especially Great Are You Lord

I also discovered the wonderful thing that is YouTube playlists. I've created a bunch. I also started using Spotify this year.

So that is pretty much my year in movies, music & books. I'd just love to hear about yours!! Have any faovrite books/movies/TV shows to recommend?

Monday, December 16, 2013

This one is for me

This blog post is not the one I had in mind when I poured my coffee this morning but today is getting hectic and a serious blog post looks like it's not going to happen today (however the menu did get written and grocery shopping is done so I'm going to call this day a win).  This blog post is mostly for me - but I thought maybe you'd find it helpful too so I'm publishing it here instead of just saving these in a note to Evernote or something like that. Remember in this blog post when I gushed about the book I'm reading? I finally went over to the (in)courage bloom book club site and found the a million little ways book club with videos from Emily Freeman. I wanted to have all the links to the videos in one place: So this is it.

Meet Emily Freeman
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapters 4 & 5
Chapters 6 & 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Postscript - The Bonus Footage

ALSO - on Emily's blog today I noticed she had a fantastic new post up with some book recommendations which is great because I am in desperate need of some good books to read in 2014!

P.S. you can get a companion book for free here

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Confession

I can't sleep. I have no idea why. I have been laying in bed asking myself why am I still awake?! for at least the last five minutes. No coffee this afternoon, only decaf tea around 2. Cocoa can't keep somebody up, right? Is it the sound of the dryer? I have been mulling over my Christmas list and daydreaming about this one sweet project I'm just dying to start but there's nothing I can do about it right now. So here I sit in my cold dark living room with the quilt my mama made for me wrapped around my shoulders, at the computer doing what people like me do. Writing.

I have had this blog post simmering on the back of the stove of my brain for a couple of days now - might as well let it out now.

The 2007 Christmas Tree

Here is my Christmas confession: I haven't decorated for Christmas. Not one single thing is up. No tree, no wreath, no candles, twinkly lights or bows. Nothing. I have a wreath laid out in the garage I've been meaning to hang since the day after Thanksgiving but I can't find any of my wreath hangers and don't want to waste money on another. I have our sweet little Christmas tree that we have had for all of the last twelve Christmases that Daniel & I have been married but it's still tucked in it's box under Josiah's bed. It seems like most of my friends on Instagram have posted their "we're at the Christmas tree farm" shot or their "look at our beautiful tree" shot - but not me. I haven't done a thing.

Beth's Christmas Portrait 2004
a photo I took of Beth Christmas 2004
I posted the other day about how Christmas can be a difficult time of year for me. I get overwhelmed, I compare myself with other people, or assume that because someone's home looks like such and such on their blog that it looks like that all of the time, even though I know that's not true. I compare what I think I can't do with what I feel I ought to do and get totally lost. I get overwhelmed with shame because I'm barely keeping up with the day to day - throw something special on top of that and I'm really struggling.

I struggle with Christmas decorations. well, honestly I struggle with the whole home decor thing as a whole but Christmas decor especially. During a season that is always financially stressful it seems like a crazy added strain to our already stretched to the max budget to "waste" money on ribbon and lights and extra electricity.

But I also recognize the importance of decorating your home and the way it reflects a woman's heart. I remember the Christmas I realized my mom was struggling with my brother's death more than I had thought when the area in her kitchen that used to be filled with Christmas tins and festive decorations was completely empty. It sunk in then that her heart was still broken and empty - just like her kitchen walls.

My mom & me Christmas 2000
my mom and me on my last Christmas morning before I married making our family's traditional orange rolls
Daniel took the picture - obviously - look at my cheesy grin! 
It reminded me of one of my worst seasons of depression when in one afternoon I took down all the pictures and packed up all my pretty things. That was a really low point and I promised myself that no matter how bad I feel I would never do something like that again and I never have taken things down but lately I haven't put a lot of effort into putting things up either.

We moved into our home in July and the pictures I've unpacked are leaning against the mantle, the rest are still in boxes. Partly because I've been busy with stuff like dishes and laundry and homework and partly because I have a hard time making up my mind and an even harder time hanging things straitly and evenly but mostly because I just haven't had the emotional energy.

That is where I land when I look at my lack of Christmas decorations and I don't like what I see. I don't like the way I have been walking through life lately with this big not enough sign taped to my chest. Not enough time, not enough money, not enough energy. I think we all do this to some degree or another. Not enough space to show hospitality. Not enough wisdom to lead a small group. Not enough strength to carry that burden. Not enough fancy words to offer encouragement. Maybe I only have a little and maybe you do too but we have enough. 

I've been praying lately that God would take away that spirit of lack (not enough) and replace it with a grateful generous spirit that knows I have enough plus enough to share. It's a process - lately that process has mostly been me seeing how badly I need God to move because I am a mess. But then you already knew that.

{ via }
On the topic of homemaking and decorations I was totally inspired by The Nester's latest Christmas decor blog posts. You can see her current home but also look at her pictures for a recent magazine shoot. I love "the Nester" not just because she is Emily Freeman's sister but because, like Emily, she has such a humble transparent attitude about her. The Nesting Place isn't a blog about "look at how perfect my house is and how expensive my latest decor is" but it's a humble yet beautiful place about how she is just like me, not a lot of money but a lot of love for her family and her home and she is honoring God with money and home.

{ via }
These are her Christmas tree decorations - look! finger-knit garland and paper snowflakes!! 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Homemade Tomato Soup

I have been on both sides of the food bank - the giving side and also the receiving side and I'll tell you what, some of those boxes have got some crazy stuff in them but when it's all that is in your pantry it's what you learn to use.  This recipe came out of a food bank box. I had no idea what to do with canned carrots this recipe was the answer and has become one of my staples. You can't taste the white beans but they fortify the soup. The carrots and corn give the soup just the right amount of sweetness. If you want a smoother texture to the soup omit the corn but definitely try it once first. Also try this with black beans instead of white. I love black beans and corn together and while it makes a less traditional tomato soup I really love it. Bush brand seasoned black beans are my favorite and are, in my opinion, totally worth the few extra cents. You can make this from fresh ingredients or canned, I've tried it both ways and I haven't found the taste to be significantly different.

this is what you'll need
One box of chicken broth
1 can of carrots
1 can corn
1 can white beans - I prefer to use cannellini beans
2 big cans of tomato - I prefer peeled crushed tomatoes. Skins in soup are not fun.
optional: some onion or shallot & butter

Start with a nice big soup pot and set it on high/ med-high heat. When I made this soup I started it with 2Tablespoons of butter and 1 large diced shallot. You could also use some sweet onion, about a quarter of a large sweet onion would be good and you could just as easily use olive oil instead of butter if you'd like.  Once your onions/shallots are translucent reduce the heat to medium. Add half of the chicken broth. Drain the beans and add them. Return to simmer, drain the canned carrots & corn and add them. Add the cans of tomato and the rest of the chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Buzz it in batches in a blender or use an immersion blender to blend your soup (one of my favorite kitchen tools!!). If you blend it in your blender you'll more than likely need to put it back into your stock pot to re-heat a bit. I like to serve my tomato soup with grilled cheese sandwiches or quesadillas. You can also add prepared (aka leftover) orzo, rice or quinoa to the soup to add a little texture & substance.

Monday, December 9, 2013

It's that time of year again

I just want to preface this post by saying that I struggle a lot with my depression around the holidays. It is by far one of my most difficult times of year. So if you have you are all "deck the halls!" and jingle bells... maybe you want to skip this post. 

Are you still with me? Okay. 

Christmas is definitely not the "most wonderful time of the year" for a lot of us. This is the time of year when we miss those who are no longer with us, we ache for broken relationships and feel acutely the strain of others. It's an overwhelming time of year for introverts (and procrastinators) like me and I quickly get to the point when I'm asking the Hubs "are you sure we can't just skip the whole thing?" 

I have just a couple encouraging words - for me as much as for anybody else. 

Remember I am not alone. This time of year is hard for a lot of us. It's hard for me to see the other people who are struggling because we are usually either a) avoiding everyone and everything as much as possible or b) pretending that we are fine. But really, chances are, that girl in the check out behind me is wondering how she is going to get through another holiday season and that guy who sat behind me at church is counting the days until it's over and we can all get back to business as usual. 
Someone has just moved to a new town. Someone is trying to get through their first Christmas since a big loss. Someone is wondering how in the world they are going to pay for anything special this year when they can barely pay the bills. Someone is stuck away from home. Someone has lost their home. This time of year it is hard not to get sucked in and stuck there in those difficult emotional/mental places, but this year I am trying to remember that despite how I feel I am not alone with this struggle.

Stop trying to compete. I have this inner ideal self that I often judge against my current mess. Or I compare the way my family celebrates the holidays with how I remember them as a child, or how I see other people celebrating. This year I am going to stop it, or at least try to catch myself when I get trapped in competition. I am not going to let the fear of imperfect or less-than keep me from doing anything at all.

Pick one thing. So maybe I won't get to everything on my list - what is one thing I can do? Okay - I'm going to do that. Maybe it's one tradition I want to start or maintain, or one thing I've been meaning to do for awhile but never seem to get to. Maybe it's one thing today, or one thing this week, or one this this season. Pick one thing. This year I'm going to try to get together with some of my best friends: that is my one thing. 

It's not all about me. That's the biggie for me. At some point I've got to get over myself, pick myself up, dust myself off out in my big girl panties and do what will make someone else happy. It's easy, really deceptively easy, for Christmas to become an entirely selfish time of year. I want to fix that awesome breakfast (for the satisfaction it gives me to pull off that holiday recipe) I want to give that perfect gift (so that friend will like my gift best), I want to decorate just so (because those pictures will look so awesome on Facebook) but if I can get over myself and remember it's not all about me - I've taken a big step away from the gloom that shrouds this season. From filling a shoebox to go far away, to sponsoring a child at your local school, from buying a goat for a child around the world to buying a mocha for a friend who could use some cheering up. Volunteering time, donating to the local food bank. Just stopping to look my kids in the eye, wrap my arms around them and treasure them and get unstuck on myself.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Last night was one of the worst nights we've had in a really really long time. Eli woke up at 3am sick - as in projectile vomit sick. He has done this randomly for a week now but this was the first time we didn't make it in time.

So here we are, Daniel is stripping the bed, I am wiping down the bathroom cupboards and floor, with a crying toddler but we are both disgusting and I'm just trying to do one thing at a time to hopefully get back to sleep as soon as possible. 

In this moment I have this one, beautiful thought - Emmanuel: God with us. He is with me. Not above me, unable to sympathize with the gross parts of my life that I don't want to talk about. Not lording it over me like some prince in a palace far away. With me. In my mess. Literal and figurative, mental, emotional, spiritual - he's seen it all and he dives right into it with me.

Eli didn't settle back down to sleep last night. I spent hour after hour pacing the floor, laying next to him on the floor by his crib hoping to get a few minutes of sleep before it's time to get up with the bigs to get ready for school. It was miserable. I was miserable. I made those around me miserable too. I just about completely lost my voice. Watched as Josiah slumped onto the bus this morning and my heart broke. 

I settled onto the couch for a quick nap after the bus left and before Eli got up, crying out for forgiveness - my mess suddenly felt a lot worse than Eli's. 

Emmanuel - God with us. In my mess. In my stink. In my disgustingness. He is here, right here. Closer than my breath. Amazing.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Do the thing that scares you

A couple weeks ago this was the scene I found myself in. 

I have to say, for me - it doesn't get much better than this. These dear, beautiful women and our cameras and we learned and played for two hours.  

I had been rolling the idea around in my mind for awhile now, the idea of some kind of in-person, hands-on class but honestly I didn't know when or where or how until a couple different friends at different times within a few weeks of each other said "you have just got to help me learn how to use this expensive camera my husband bought for me." A tentative Facebook post emerged a month or two later and then I took that one brave step and opened registration for an in-person photography class.

Driving to that first class, if I'm being one hundred percent honest, I was a mess. I felt like a fraud, feared rejection by other women, afraid I'd disappoint my friends. 

And then there we were. In the middle of this beautiful moment. 

Driving away from this first class I felt FULL. Full of life, energy, joy, clarity. I felt beautiful in the best way, strong, brave and like all was right in my world. It hasn't been all smooth sailing since that moment and I'm sure I've made some mistakes along the way and probably will make more but that's okay because I'm doing what I was made to do.

I knew I had to write here about it. I had to tell you - just go do it! That idea - take a step! That thought - move forward! That plan - start to put it into motion! just do something about it now!

Fast forward a week or two later. I finally have a copy of Emily Freeman's "a million little ways" in my hands and suddenly realize what all they hype was about. 

I hate hype. If a book is the best book ever I really don't care to read it. The only reason why I read One Thousand Gifts (by Ann Voskamp) was because it was at the Library (if you haven't read this yet, you live under a rock!! If you didn't love it, try the devotional. It's a little easier to read). I read Grace for the Good Girl (also by EPF)  finally, because it was the book my friend and I chose for our first ever small group together. 

I have to say that all the gushing about a million little ways doesn't even do it justice. I read Jessi at Naptime Diaries write that this was on her short list of books every Christian simply has to read, right below the Bible, and that cynched it for me. I knew about two pages into it that Jessi was 100% right. 

Here again in this book is this call - do what you were made to do! Be who God made you to be!

So I'm adding my one little voice to this choir of saints - do the thing God is nudging you to do. Take that one little step. 

Now I can just hear that little voice in the back of your head saying but now isn't a great time of year to be starting something. Okay, okay maybe there is some truth to that, but could you start a notebook in Evernote or a secret pin board on Pinterest with random bits of notes? Could you scribble out some ideas in a little fifty cent notebook? Could you finally give yourself permission to have those big conversations and to say out loud what you've been day dreaming and scribbling in journals about for months and years? 

Here is what I want to say most to you right now: it's okay not to know how this all ends up. You don't need to have an end game. You just need to know the first step.

Did you know Beth Moore's first class was teaching dance aerobics?! Don't you think that prepared her for the role God would one day lead her to? Don't you think those weeks of Sunday school teaching and Bible study leading paved a way for God to do something bigger and brighter through her life? You never know where that first step will lead - and that's okay. Just take that first step. 

If you're anything like me you have at least one thing, way back there, or maybe two or three, just waiting to get out. Right now, if nothing else, at least say yes to those things, instead of a perpetual no or maybe one day when... Just say yes to whatever next step God might have for you. Trust that he'll open the doors that need to open and shut the ones that need to shut. The next step might seem small, take it. The next step might feel big and scary, go for it! It's worth it. Come alive.

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