What’s Saving My Life

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One of my favorite writers asked this question on her blog the other day: What’s saving your life right now?

The idea comes from Barbara Brown Taylor’s memoir, Leaving Church, which just so happens to be one of my favorite books of all time. In the memoir, she talks about being invited to speak and the host assigning her this topic.

To me, it’s more accurate to ask about those things that are giving us life.  What brings you joy these days? What little moments do you look forward to each day? Why do you want to get up in the morning? What is the bright spot?

There is always plenty to complain about, and it’s easy to focus on the negative. But I love the idea of giving time and space to focus on the positive things in our lives—no matter how small or trivial they may seem to other people. The thing giving you life these days may be as simple as a cup of coffee in the morning. (And let’s be real…that morning of cup of coffee is LITERALLY life-giving.) Here are a few things that are “saving” my life right now….

  1. Books – There is fresh stack of books on my bedside table, and I’m making the time to actually READ them.  Words—writing and reading them—give me life.
  2. Midday Escapes – I’m working on being more intentional about balancing my work life and personal life. If I got to work at 8:30 and know I’ll be there until 9:00 that evening for a meeting, I take an hour in the middle of the day to do something for myself. Sometimes it’s wandering through a book store or going home to have lunch with my husband. Sometimes it’s just walking across the street for a cup of coffee. Either way, it’s fresh air and it’s glorious.
  3. Finley – My sweet girl. I love her so much. I’ve never been a dog person and had no idea I would grow so attached when we got a puppy. But I’m totally smitten. And there’s nothing like coming home to a so-excited-to-see-you-she-can’t-stand-it puppy.
  4. Red Wine – Most of my (adult) life, I’ve been a white wine drinker. Lately, I’ve been having a glass of red wine at night and I’m kind of starting to enjoy it. Sometimes I pair it with popcorn so I can feel like I’m basically Olivia Pope.
  5. Sunshine – This has been the strangest, most wonderful winter ever. We had snow and then a 70 degree day less than a week later. Since then, we’ve had these pockets of gorgeous, sunny days (like today), and they make me so, so happy.
  6. Writing – I’ve said before that writing is the way I talk to God, and I’ve been making the time to do it more and more. Whether it’s here on the blog or just in a prayer journal, I’m enjoying the act of creating.
  7. Girlfriends – I’m a big believer in the idea that relationships–all relationships–take work.  For me, that means making time to see my friends every week even when I’m tired and busy and have too much going on. Our weekly dinners are the highlight of my week, and I’m always, always, always glad I made the time.

 

 

On Celebration

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When was the last time you really celebrated something? Was it a fancy dinner to toast a new job or a promotion? Was it a birthday party where you blew out candles surrounded by people you love and gave thanks for another year? Was it a wedding where you drank champagne and danced until your feet hurt? Was is a baby shower where you cooed over tiny, perfect socks and ate cake with too much frosting? Was it a big game, a graduation, a proposal? Those are the big moments, the headlines, the movie-worthy moments that come along only every so often.

But what about the billions of tiny, ordinary moments that make up our everyday lives? Aren’t those moments worthy of celebration, too?

I’ve been rereading Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist, and it’s making me pay closer attention to the beauty and the magic of the life that I’m living right here and now. I love this passage:

I choose to believe there is nothing more sacred and profound than this day. I choose to believe that there may be a thousand big moments embedded in this day, waiting to be discovered like tiny shards of gold. The big moments are the daily, tiny moments of courage and forgiveness and hope that we grab on to and extend to one another. That’s the drama of life, swirling all around us, and generally I don’t even see it, because I’m too busy waiting to become whatever it is I’m about to become….

I believe if we cultivate a true attention, a deep ability to see what has been there all along, we will find worlds within us and between us, dreams and stories and memories spilling over. The nuances and shades and secrets and intimations of love and friendship and marriage and parenting are action-packed and multicolored, if you know where to look…

This is life in all its glory, swirling and unfolding around us, disguised as pedantic, pedestrian non-events.  But pull off the mask and you will find your life, waiting to be made, chosen, woven, crafted. Your life right now, today, is exploding with energy and power and detail and dimension, better than the best movie you have ever seen. You and your family and your friends and your house and your dinner table and your garage have all the makings of a life of epic proportions, a story for the ages. Because they all are. Every life is.

I don’t know about you, but I want to live my life that way—with a keen awareness and deep gratitude for the little moments that are worthy of celebration. I want to celebrate the gifts, the snapshots, the minutes that add up and make a life. I want to pay closer attention to the warmth of the sun on my face, the smell of coffee brewing in the morning, and the comfort of my husband’s hand holding mine in the car.

Celebration, I think, isn’t something to save for the big moments. It’s a way of living that makes our everyday sweeter and richer. Celebration is also a choice. It’s deciding to give thanks, to be present, to savor what’s happening around you—good or bad, easy or hard.

What does it look like for you to live a life of celebration?

 

*Photo Source 

2016 Inspiration Board

Happy 2016! It is hard to believe that we’re already a few days into 2016. I feel like it was a just days ago that I was thinking about my goals for 2015. But here we are in a new year with new goals, new challenges, and new possibilities. I have loved reading about other people’s goals for the new year, what they’re hoping to achieve, and how they plan to do it. One of the trends I’m really loving this year is the idea of an inspiration board for the year. I’ve never made one of these before, but I like the idea of something visual to focus on as I think about the year ahead.  I have a feeling 2016 is going to be an incredible year—we have some exciting things already in the works and some big changes coming our way (more on that soon!). So here’s to another year—I can’t wait to see what you bring us, 2016!

 

From top left: Eiffel Tower via Huffington Post; Michael Rettano; Puppy Love; Lovely Words via Tumblr; Best Friends; Writing Inspiration; Home Sweet Home; Books and Coffee; Servant’s Heart; Kid’s Ministry

Home Sweet Home {Christmas Edition}

Tis the season for Christmas home tours! I look forward to decorating our home all year. I love pulling decorations out of boxes (probably because I’m not the one that has to get them out of the attic) and thinking about the memories attached to certain items. I also LOVE seeing what other people have done in their homes and how families celebrate the season. Here are a few glimpses of our home all decked out for the holidays…

Merry Christmas, friends!

Kindness Isn’t Hard

Sunday was the perfect day to sit outside with a good book—it was sunny and warm, and I was feeling extra tired after losing a precious hour of sleep that morning. I started reading Interrupted, a book on church and faith by Jen Hatmaker, that I checked out from my local library. Jen Hatmaker is quickly becoming a hero of mine—I discovered her through some of my other favorite writers, and the fact that she is on HGTV just makes me love her even more. Interrupted is one of the few books she’s written that I hadn’t read yet, so I brought it home and started reading. I was about halfway through when I turned a page and found this:

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The money and note was attached to a card that told the story of Owen Thomas Parker:

Random Acts of Kindness

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I was blown away, both by the gesture and by the way Owen’s family is using his story for good—to bring joy and hope, to bring encouragement to the lives of people they’ll probably never meet. What they experienced is heartbreaking, and it could have broken them, too—but instead Owen’s life is changing the world for the better. I had a feeling Jen Hatmaker would love this just as much as I did, and so I shared it with her via twitter. I had no idea whether or not she would read it, but I shared it anyway. And she did read it. She responded with the sweetest message and then shared it on Facebook. The response was pretty amazing. So many people commented with stories about random acts of kindness they had done or acts of kindness that had been done for them. Others who had experienced something similar to the Parkers, shared how this inspired them to honor their loved one in the same way.  Some challenged their friends (and themselves) to do something kind for someone else. Even more commented that this act of kindness restored their faith in people and goodness and gave them hope that a better world was possible.

It’s easy, I think, to assume the worst of people.  It seems like most of what we know and most of what we see on tv and in headlines is that our world is full of hate. There is so much evil and brokenness.  People treat each other with cruelty and mean-spiritedness, instead of kindness and love. We tend towards selfishness instead of generosity.  It often feels like there’s not much hope at all.

But then things like this happen. Things that remind us that there are not only good people, but there are good people who are doing everything they can to spread a little love and light in the world. There are people who are choosing joy and opting to share it with others instead of keeping it for themselves.  There are people who believe the world can be different—better—and are doing their part to make it happen.

Finding this little note in my library book also reminded me that kindness isn’t hard.  The simplest acts can change someone’s day, just like this stranger’s act of kindness did for me. Finding this note inspired me to buy someone’s morning coffee and reading the stories and comments shared by so many strangers have me thinking about what else I can do to spread a little love this week. Kindness isn’t hard, and if we want the world to be different then it’s up to us—to look for good and be the good. Will you pass on some love this week? It won’t take much, but it will make all the difference. Kindness isn’t hard. It’s one of the best gifts we’ve got.

DIY Valentine’s Day Wreath

So I really, really love decorating our home for the holidays—any holiday. Bryan makes fun of me, but I think it’s so fun to change up things around the house and celebrate the seasons. I decided to craft a cute little wreath for Valentine’s Day, and I love how it turned out! photo-11 You will need:

  • Foam Wreath (You can find these at Michaels’s or any craft store)
  • Yarn
  • Glue Gun
  • Scissors
  • Felt Flowers

I started by measuring and marking my wreath so I would know how wide to make the stripes.  The next step is wrapping your wreath. I do about an inch at a time so that the glue doesn’t dry out while I’m wrapping.  This step is pretty easy, but it can definitely be very time consuming. I suggest getting cozy with your glue gun and your favorite tv show. I watched two more episodes of The Good Wife while I made this—that’s what I call a productive afternoon! photo 5 photo 3 Next, use a glue gun to attach your decorative elements. I added felt flowers that I found in the dollar section at Target, but you could really do anything. Felt hearts would also be cute for Valentine’s day or even photographs. Get creative! I made a small hook out of yarn and hung it on our front door. Done and Done.  All in under two hours—that’s my kind of crafting!

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Rush v. Rest

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Rush versus rest. It’s a battle, always. The pressure to hurry, hurry, hurry and the innate longing to just be. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately and attempting to work on the balance of things. Because I do think there can be a balance. There’s a way to give priority to the things that matter the most, while also cultivating space for genuine and necessary rest.

We live in a culture that elevates the rush above the rest, that values busyness and achievement and cheers harder for the people with a little too much of their plates. I certainly don’t think there is anything wrong with achievement, and I’m not sure that there is necessarily anything wrong with being busy.  The problem comes when we allow it to become all rush—when we buy into the lie that the keys to love and happiness are more time, more energy, more responsibility, and more plans.

Lately I’ve felt myself falling deeper and deeper into the trap of doing too much and moving too fast. It has become my default mode, a way of living that I embrace without hesitation. I’ve exchanged rest for multi-tasking and planning and crossing things off my to-do list. And it has thrown me off balance in a big way.

Here’s the thing: I need to let the rest win a little more often. Not just the rest that looks like going to bed earlier or lounging on the couch watching Netflix (although that is good, too). I’m talking about the kind of rest that looks like putting down my phone and eating dinner with my husband, at the table with a bottle of wine instead of on the couch while we ignore each other to answer emails and work on our computers. The kind of rest that comes from coffee dates and meaningful conversations, dance parties in the living room, and long, quiet walks. The kind of rest that comes from living with a spirit of love and attentiveness. The kind of rest that is good for both your body and your soul.

The rush is good sometimes, I think. I believe in hard work and doing your best. I also believe that most of the things that keep me busy have merit and add something of value to my life. But I also know that rest is good and that the rush will cease to be good if I don’t let the rest have some space, too. There’s a balance to be had, and I’m more than certain that it’s worth it.

*Photo Credit

December Reading List

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1. Delancey by Molly Wizenberg. I super enjoyed this book—in fact, I finished it in two days. I love Molly Wizenberg’s voice. It is honest and easy to read, but also articulate, witty, and incredibly rich. Delancey is a memoir about opening a pizzeria in Seattle with her husband, Brandon. It’s about the dream and the heartache of opening your own business, but it’s also about marriage and relationships and change and figuring out how to fit into the life you’ve chosen. Also, Delancey is about food. And I love reading about food. I just love it. I hate cooking (although I’m working on that), but I love to eat really good food and reading about it is almost as good. If you’re into food and novels, Ruth Reichl’s Delicious is another favorite. Just make sure you have a snack when you sit down to read.

2. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith.  I picked up this book because a friend clued me in to the fact that Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, and I will read any and everything that woman ever writes.  I was skeptical about this book after being really disappointed by Rowling’s other adult novel, The Casual Vacancy.  The Cuckoo’s Calling is a mystery thriller that follows private detective’s Cormoran Strike’s investigation into the suicide/murder of a world-famous supermodel.  I actually really enjoyed this book.  It was intriguing, well-written, and I didn’t guess the ending (which is always crucial with mysteries).  The sequel is on my reading list for next month.

3. The Vacationers by Emma Straub. This book would have been a great beach read, but it’s 28 degrees outside. So instead, I enjoyed this novel snuggled up in bed with my Christmas pajamas and a good cup of coffee.  The Vacationers was a fun, easy read about the things that really go on inside a family—the hurts, the laughs, the lies, and loving each other in spite of it all. The story was set in Palma, Mallorca, an island off the coast of Spain that I travelled to when I went to visit my friend Laura in Madrid.  I love reading books set in places I’ve been, and I also love Spain—the sun, the people, the food. Take me back!

Friday Links

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

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This week has been CRAZY, and it’s not looking like the weekend is going to slow down very much.  I’m off to spend the morning with some of my favorite kiddos, and then the rest of my weekend is filled with more Christmas parties, work functions, and family gatherings.  Tis the season, right?! I am super thankful for a wonderful Christmas dinner with the Angels last night, and on the way home we just had to stop and take a picture of this house! No I don’t live here…but whoever does it pretty awesome! 

Happy weekend, friends! XO

For your weekend reading pleasure…

  • I love this house tour from House of Turquoise—the colors, the patterns, the pillows! Make sure you check out the whole week!
  • This wise and insightful interview with Walter Brueggemann made me thankful for our call to action, communication, and justice.  Beginning with the Exodus narrative and the Elijah narrative and the Jesus narrative, they are all stories about public transformation that happened by courage of uncredentialed people. Just wonderful.
  • This post from Sarah Bessey on the importance of female relationships and why we need each other so badly. This lady speaks my love language. So good.
  • That one time all of the most awesome people in the world were in the same place at the same time. If Taylor Swift had been there too, the whole arena might have imploded.
  • The “2014 Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog” might be the best thing I read all week. And it is SO true! Enjoy a little funny for your weekend, friends!