The Best Lessons

Today is my dad’s birthday. Whenever I think of my very best teachers, I can’t help but think of my dad. Some of the best lessons I’ve ever learned, I learned from him. Here are a few things that my dad taught me: 

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My dad is a talker. He’s also a preacher, so I guess the talking part is kind of a job requirement. His lectures, at times, often reached an excruciating length. During my oh-so-pleasant teenage years I would sit there and think, “He has to be almost done. He’s literally said the same thing 20 TIMES now!” But with all that chatter came lessons. He loved to tell us stories, give us advice, and impart wisdom.  He was always telling us things, teaching us things. And they are some of the best lessons I’ve ever learned.

One of my dad’s favorite sayings is “and them some.” His advice to us was always to exceed expectations, to worker harder and do more than just what we were required to do. When someone asked something of us, the best thing we could do was do that thing well and then a little bit more. It was about doing our best, yes, but it was also about building an ethic and a habit of considering other people, of treating others the way we hoped to be treated.

He also liked to tell us about his glory days on the baseball field or the basketball court. He tried (unsuccessfully) to teach me how to swing a tennis racket and hit a baseball.  He taught me a little more successfully how to ride a bike. He taught me about passion—how to win and how to lose (although I may still be working on the “gracefully” part). When you see me screaming at the TV during a Carolina game, unable to sit still because my emotions are running wild—I learned that from my dad.

He taught me the value of money, how to save and how to live within my means. He taught me the importance of helping others when I can and the value of giving when I have much to give and when I have little. My dad taught me how to be selfless, how to serve.

Of course, most of what I learned from dad, I learned from watching—from the way he lives his life. He taught me that mashed potatoes should never come from a box and the best days are the ones you spend with a really good book. He showed me how to be there for others, how to love them well, but when to step back and let other people use their gifts, too. My dad taught me how to work hard and the importance of doing my best. He taught me how to pray and how to extend grace. He taught me that the best, most important things in life—like God, family, and Carolina basketball—should be loved deeply and passionately and with everything you are.

He taught me the very best lessons.

Happy Birthday, Dad! Thank you for teaching me—even when I didn’t want to learn. 

May Reading List

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1. The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant. I’ve been in a fiction mood recently, and Anita Diamant’s The Boston Girl was the perfect choice. Addie Baum, an eighty-year-old Jewish woman, tells her granddaughter the story of her life growing up in Boston—the ups, the downs, the struggles, and the successes. If you’re looking for something fast-paced and dramatic, this probably isn’t it. It doesn’t aim to thrill, but it is rich and engaging in a completely different way. As Addie tells her story and recounts the way she found her own voice (and ultimately her own life), you can’t help but love her. You’ll find yourself rooting for her throughout the entire book, hoping that she finds the happiness you know she deserves.

2. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. This book has been described as the new Gone Girl, but since I never read Gone Girl I can’t really say (I saw the movie).  However, The Girl on the Train was really good in all the ways that a murder mystery and psychological thriller should be—it was dark, twisted, and I didn’t want to put it down . The story is told from the perspectives of three different women—Rachel, Megan, and Anna—whose lives are interconnected in ways they don’t even realize. My only real complaint is that I guessed the ending about 3/4 of the way through, but that didn’t ruin the book for me. If this kind of genre is your thing, I would definitely recommend this book.

3. The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn. I love a good food memoir, and this one was no exception.  Kathleen Flinn tells about her experience at one of the most famous and prestigious cooking schools in the world, Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. Along the way she shares recipes, love stories, and her unwavering passion for cooking (and food). I loved it.

Friday Links {Mother’s Day Edition}

Friday Links are a round-up of my favorite posts/videos/projects/photos from around the web.

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Hello friends! Friday is here, and we have a busy weekend ahead, including celebrating my awesome mama on Sunday. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, too! XO

For your weekend reading pleasure…

  • This story from Dean Nelson on the power of real friendship and the gift of having someone who can see beauty and hope in your life (especially when you can’t).
  • A Mother’s Day thought for those who are still waiting.
  • This super cool DIY project that might be just a tad too complicated for me—but I still need to try it!
  • 100-year-old BFFs discuss pop culture. This is just hilarious. Enjoy!

Kenya

A few years ago I travelled with a group from church to Kenya. We spent the first few days of our trip in Nairobi and visited a school situated right in the middle of the slums of the city. As we drove through crowded streets to get to the school, several words came to mind—broken, hopeless, desolate, despair. And yet as soon as we walked in the school there was only joy. The school had children as young as five months and as old as twelve years, many of whom had special needs. Every single child was absolutely thrilled to have visitors, especially visitors who were willing to take their pictures and then show them the images on the screens of our digital cameras. 18601_10100990179693778_1109330903_n 314105_10100990176709758_476418411_n-2 We spent the day with those kids, playing on the playground and doling out high fives. We visited one two-year-old class where they sang us a song about butterflies, and to this day it’s the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard. I taught a few of the kids how to play peek-a-boo (a game they found completely hysterical), and one sweet little boy gave me a kiss on the cheek. 546853_10100990179753658_2033733486_n 602335_10100990177682808_1066495181_n-2 As we walked around, I heard the teachers saying over and over again, “You can be anything.” It felt like the biggest blessing in that moment to know that those children were not only in a place where they had food to eat and could learn and play, but a place where they were loved—a place where they were valued and treated as children of God. 314233_10100990180197768_2046763450_n-2 293818_10100990183331488_824755045_n We spent the latter part of the week in one of the more rural villages, building a bridge for the Pokot community.  Their village was basically divided in half by a deep, fast-moving river that was extremely dangerous to cross. As we pulled the final pieces together, along with members of the community who had come to work and build with us, people stood on either side of the bridge waiting to cross it for the first time. 21487_10100990183690768_184021002_n 66565_10100990181714728_433299290_n 22816_10100990184149848_2059222007_n-2

Kenya has been on my heart lately—partly because there’s been an ache in my soul to go back there and partly because I’m watching our nation be torn apart by injustice and racial division. As I went back and read journal entries that I wrote during my trip over two years ago, I was reminded that there is something within us that transcends culture and ethnicity and socioeconomic status.  It is the thing found in music and laughter and the sound of children playing.  It is our shared humanity, and it is a precious and beautiful gift—if we’re willing to acknowledge it. 559399_10100990186325488_656099012_n-2 394036_10100990187822488_937097828_n

Today I’m praying for a different kind of world. I’m praying for a world where children know they are loved and valued, where people have access to the most basic things they need, where we fight for justice and love and opportunity for all people—because they are people and people matter. And I’m praying for Kenya—for the Pokot community and the teachers and the boy who kissed me on the cheek.

Currently {May}

largenjkh Watching: Bryan and I just started Veep on HBO, and it is hilarious! We both love it. I always enjoy comedies about the Washington political scene, and this one has some really good characters. I would also recommend The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the Netflix original created by Tina Fey and starring Ellie Kemper (aka Erin from The Office).  Super funny, too. I finished the first season in about two days!

ReadingThe Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn. You guys know I love a good food memoir, and so far this one does not disappoint. Flinn writes about her experience moving to Paris to fulfill her dream of studying at Le Cordon Bleu. It has romance, cooking stories, and my favorite—recipes! I’m only a few chapters in, so I’ll share more about it in my May Reading List post.

Listening: Christy Nockels/Let It Be Jesus. This is my writing/working soundtrack right now, and it just does good things for my soul.

Anticipating: Our two-year anniversary. This month we’ll celebrate two year of marriage, which feels like nothing and like we’ve together forever all at the same time. We won’t be together on the actual day of our anniversary, but I’m looking forward to celebrating with a fancy dinner and making Bryan watch our wedding video over and over—because it’s just so darn sweet!

Loving: Spring (for real this time)! This might be the very best time of the year—the pollen is gone and the weather is pretty much perfect. We’ve got plans to go to our first baseball game of the season this week, and I can’t wait!

*Photo Source

Friday Links

Friday Links are a round-up of my favorite posts/videos/projects/photos from around the web.

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Happy Friday! This week was a little crazy trying to catch up from being away for a week, but the weekend is here! Plus, I learned how to use a power saw this week when our church staff worked on a habitat build, so I really can’t complain. I truly can’t believe that May is here already, and we have an absolutely packed month ahead of us (including lots of time with family and celebrating two years of marriage!). Since we have so much coming up, this weekend we’ll be sleeping in, relaxing, and probably watching  lots of HGTV. Hope you all have a fantastic weekend, too! XO

For your weekend reading pleasure…

  • This post from Amy Butler about savoring the present. Amy presented these words at the children’s ministry conference I attended last week (more on that soon), and her words are still weighing on my heart. Sit in the reality of what is now. Witness the young lives around you in all the wonder that they are in this moment. See your own life through the lens of God’s creative genius. And give thanks. For what a gift we’ve been given, these lives of ours. Be here now. 
  • I’ve been struggling with how to think and pray about what happened in Baltimore this week, how to wrap my head around all the sides and perspectives and stories. This post from Sarah Bessey gave me words—she speaks with honesty and grace, offering freedom to envision a different kind of world.
  • 10 Habits of People with Organized Houses from The Inspired Room. I love this because organization is kind of my jam. I do a lot of the things on this list, but not #4. I want to change that. I think it would make all the difference, but mornings are just so, so hard!