Processed with VSCO with a6 presetI saw this painting by one of my favorite artists, Clare Elsaesser, and my sweet husband gifted it to me for my birthday. Last week, I was reading Sara Hagerty’s new book Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to Be Noticed. I remembered the painting that was in a box in our bedroom waiting for my birthday. Written in tiny font at the bottom of the painting is its title, Hidden. It seems this is a message God keeps whispering to me.

Even in these days where I feel buried beneath laundry and crushed Goldfish crackers, therapy evaluations and helping children learn how to self-regulate, He sees me. He hears my desperate prayers. He knows my every weakness. In Unseen Sara writes, “We haven’t been hidden by God to suffer or to be punished; we’ve been wooed into hiding to meet with the God who turns vulnerability into communion.”

These days aren’t the ones that win awards or earn promotions. These are the hidden days. The ones where my best work is done on my knees. I sent a friend a page from Unseen with this quote, “Nate and I found that the first, best tending to the hearts of our children was done in secret with God. So we prayed.” This morning, Matt gave me the best gift you can give a mom with a house full of littles. He took the kids to Panera for breakfast while I got to sip my coffee, read my Bible and pray in a quiet house. What a gift. I carried my mug from room to room praying over these spaces and these lives God has entrusted me with and thanking Him for this gift of life.

Friday Favorites ~ Thanksgiving Edition

Friday Favorites ~ Thanksgiving Edition

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A favorite Thanksgiving memory from two years ago. The firecracker wore her swimsuit inside out and backwards the entire day. 

My little kitchen has been a flurry today whipping sweet potatoes, chopping pecans, and making Matt’s grandmother’s broccoli cheese casserole. I took a moment in all the cooking frenzy to write that recipe in Lydia’s box earlier today. Matt’s late grandmother Kitty made it for me the first Thanksgiving I went to her house. Matt and I had only been dating a couple months, and I was nervous about the first holiday with his family. I really wanted his grandmother (and grandfather) to like me because I really liked their grandson. 😉 So when she passed me a dish and said it was broccoli casserole, I put a big spoonful on my plate even though I was very doubtful about how this would go down. But like everything Kitty made, it was delicious. I ate three servings that first Thanksgiving, and she loved to make it anytime she knew I was coming. We miss her so much, but I love making her recipes and telling my girls stories about her.

In case you have some reading time over this holiday, may I suggest…

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp: I read this the week of the election, and it was the perfect quiet place for my brain and my heart that week.

A story about one of my most favorite homes ever. Mrs. Becky is the mom to one of my most favorite people, and her home is just about the coziest spot imaginable. (Jess and I call it the Hagood Bed & Breakfast.) I loved reading how she made this home their own. In a culture that says everything needs to be Pinterest-perfect in microwave speed, Mrs. Becky whispers a different story–a home that grows and changes as the people within it live out their God-given story.

There Is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene: I bought this one because it was (and still is) $1.99 for the Kindle version and I saw that it was about Ethiopia. It was an eye-opening and emotional read for me. The book weaves together the author’s personal story of international adoption with the AIDS crisis that contributed greatly to Africa’s orphan crisis.

Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg: Feinberg invites us to “awaken to the nearness of God” which on the cusp of Advent seems perfectly fitting. I loved this one, and the Kindle edition is $3.

And if you’d rather watch something…

Make sure you have Kleenex before you watch this video about a Sudanese man being reunited with his family. Amazing.

The Crown on Netflix: Matt and I are a few episodes in, and we love it. All about the beginning of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, it’s fascinating stuff and I really like the actor who plays the queen. Perfect for turkey coma time.

And with that the girls are in bed (not asleep, but in bed), the food is all prepped for tomrorow, and Matt and I are going to watch more of The Crown. Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

And if Thanksgiving finds you brokenhearted or missing someone, that’s okay. I texted a friend earlier saying we can be both grateful and brokenhearted. Or grateful and sad. Or grateful and longing. Or grateful and waiting. Our God sees us. He knows what our hearts are feeling. Holidays don’t have to be all “happy” or all “merry.” Our God made us with wonderfully emotional souls, and I bet if we were honest each of us is a mix of emotions with every holiday we celebrate. One of the things I’m most grateful for are friends who are a safe place where I can share my real emotions even if they don’t match the sugar-coated expectations of a certain day on the calendar. Maybe we could each be that for someone else this week. A safe spot for another broken soul.


Outside the Gate

Outside the Gate

The world right now feels a bit like an eggshell, like that thin film that coats the inside of the broken egg is all that’s holding people together. I don’t know what the big answers are. I don’t even know what the right words to say are.

Last week in the middle of all the election cacophony when my head thrummed with a thousand questions about what all this would mean for our daughter, for the visa she will need to enter the U.S., for the harsh rhetoric surrounding immigrants, I was reading Ann Voskamp’s The Broken Way. Ann shared a story about Gordon, a man without a home that Ann’s brother brings to her house asking her if this man can stay with Ann and her family for a little while.

You are where you are for such a time as this. Not to gain anything, but to risk everything. Gordon doesn’t need me to beckon more than once and he’s in the cool of the house, yanking off those boots. I’m in the kitchen finding a cup. My brother’s standing in the doorway, waiting to see whatever’s coming. The water streams from the faucet like it can’t wait to give itself away and I hold out all our cups for the filling.

I turn, hand Gordon his, one to my brother, and I swallow my own right down. We’re all more than a bit parched.

We could all be the ones outside the gate. We all could have been Gordon, fallen on hard times into hard ways; we could have been the ones fighting the Lord’s Resistance Army slitting our child’s throat in the middle of the night; we could be the one born into a slum, violently raped and left for dead, the one born into AIDS, into starvation, into lives of Christless desperation. The reason you are inside the gate for such a time as this–is to risk your life for those outside the gate. 

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp, emphasis mine

For such a time as this . . . I don’t have answers or even decent words right now. But I have this life–this one life I can risk for those outside the gate.

Friday Favorites

Friday Favorites

Processed with VSCO with hb1 presetHi! It’s been a while since I did a FF. Let’s just say very few “routine” things happened from June through August. Oh, summer, you were a wild one. But here we are in September. My velvet pumpkins are on the mantel. I baked pumpkin bread last weekend, and football has started back. (RTR.) Now, if only the forecast could get the hint.

A few favorites for the beginning of fall…

Tortellini soup- This recipe comes from my friend Amber’s mom. I remembered her making it for a pumpkin carving party years ago, so I texted her for the recipe last weekend. I substituted one pound of ground Italian sausage for the chicken. (Brown and drain the sausage before adding.) So yummy for last week’s date night. (And tonight’s!)img_6960

This coffee table- So, this was a pre-referral purchase because now all our pennies are being saved for plane tickets, but we ordered this coffee table when it was on sale with free shipping for Memorial Day. I had found a similar one at West Elm that I loved, but I did not love the price. Then, I found this nearly identical one at World Market for so much less. Sold. Our favorite part is that the top lifts up, so it’s perfect for couch dates. And we can store our games underneath the top.

Uno- Speaking of games, we’ve played Uno every single night since summer started. It’s fast and easy for young kids to play. Plus, Lottie is learning her numbers! Lydia keeps track of the scoreboard and somehow has way more points than the rest of us.

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist– Oh, Shauna. You outdid yourself. I loved, loved, loved this one. Several years ago Lindsay Letters made a print from a blog post Shauna wrote with the same title, and I have it hanging in my dining room most of the year. Right now, though, it’s hanging above the mantel. (With my velvet pumpkins.)

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From Depths We Rise by Sarah Rodriguez– This one releases October 1st, but you can pre-order now. I got to read an advanced copy, and I read it in one sitting. (When my girls asked two hours into rest time if it was time to come out, I might have lied and said no so I could finish the last few pages.) Sarah’s story is captivating with an outcome that’s still hard to believe.

Falling Free by Shannan Martin– This one is still pre-order too, but it releases September 20th so not long to wait. This one smashed my toes a bit (and by a bit I mean a lot) and left me really exploring some areas of my life. This past week I read a quote that reminds me of the theme of this book, “When you have more than you need, build a bigger table-not a higher fence.” I’ll be thinking about (and acting on) this one for a long time.
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Tonight I’m baking the Maple Buttermilk Custard Pie in The Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book because I’m missing Quebec and all things maple flavored. (Most of all the boozy salted maple caramel milkshakes from Le Chic Shack.)

Happy weekend!

Friday Favorites

Friday Favorites

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 presetFriends, it’s the dog days of summer. That’s all I have to say about that. Here are a few favorites to read/listen to while you position yourself under the a/c vent and ask your daughters to fan you with color sheets. (Maybe that’s just me.)

Hope Heals by Katherine and Jay Wolf: Oh, I loved every word of this story. Katherine and Jay’s story is one of resilience, hope, and belief in a faithful God. Katherine and Jay don’t sugar-coat the hard days, but they don’t wallow in them either. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and was reminded why it’s so important to tell our story. Our story of healing helps others heal too.

The Shoemaker’s Wife  by Adriana Trigiani: Based on the story of her grandparents, this fiction book tells of love, loyalty and perseverance. A sweet, sweet story.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson: This was maybe the hardest book I’ve ever read. I can’t even come up with words to describe it, but the Amazon review says this, “A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice—from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time.” It will be required reading for my girls one day. My eyes kept getting wider and wider as I turned each page, my stomach turning, until I remembered the old adage, “Once you know, you can’t go back.” That’s how I feel after this book. As a white person who is mom to a black girl in the year 2016, I cannot bury my head in the sand, pretend everything’s okay with racism in our country, or act like I’m not here for such a time as this. I must show a different way. I must be willing to learn and listen. I must ask the Holy Spirit to show me every prejudice in my heart so that I can bring those to the light and allow God to show me truth and light and love. And then I must put what I’ve heard and learned into action. I must use this one life I get to prove that love works. I could go on, but I’ll stop there. Please read this book.

Grace for President- In our quest to add more books to our home library that feature people of various skin colors, I found this one. It’s such a fun one that teaches kids about the electoral college and how it works while cheering on Grace as she runs for president. (I know with the RNC and DNC going on recently, it would be easy to read something political into this, but this is just a book recommendation of a new book we got that we have enjoyed. I’m still praying through how I’ll vote come November.)

The Happy Hour Podcast with Jamie Ivey– My friend Katye recommended this podcast (over a particularly delicious quiche at Porcellino’s, I might add) and I’ve been loving it! It’s funny and light-hearted, but they also cover important topics and ministries and opportunities. I turn it on when I’m cooking dinner (or preparing another pupu platter) and it’s a fun end to my “work” day.



Friday Favorites–Brrr… Edition

Friday Favorites–Brrr… Edition

I know a lot of people get bummed out when they take down their Christmas decorations, but as much as I love getting them all out right after Thanksgiving I also kind of love putting them up. Everything feels clean and fresh, which seems just right after a month of Advent and celebrating the arrival of the One who would wash us white as snow.

January is a hard month for me because I like being outside and I like green things that grow. This past weekend I bought a fern and plopped it on my kitchen table and a big bowl of succulents and stuck it on my mantel. We’ll see how long they live, but right now the little verdant bursts are making me smile.

A few recent favorites. . .

Prodigal God by Timothy Keller: I have been on a big Tim Keller podcast kick when I run. Matt and I always give each other a book for Christmas, and since the prodigal son story is his favorite I got him this book. After he read it, I did too, and we both loved, loved, loved it. A must read.

My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl: Matt gave me this book for Christmas, and even though it’s a recipe book I read it cover to cover. Reichl is a gifted cook but also an exceptional writer. I thought of my dear friend Heather all the way through it. I’m a firm believer that the closest of friends have their own special language, a unique way they talk to each other. For Heather and me, it’s food. We have a thousand memories together and almost all of them have an accompanying taste–bright Florida citrus, earthy potato leek soup, and, of course, the infamous duck.

Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear: I read the first nine of this series on our anniversary trip and the final two when I got home. It’s a series of British mystery novels set in the time period between WWI and WWII. I love historical fiction and a good mystery, so this was a winning combo for me.

ESV Study Bible: For our anniversary Matt got me this study Bible, and I love it! The ESV is my favorite version. (For many reasons, but at the top of the list–it includes all the beholds–my word of the year for 2014.) This one has great study notes at the bottom of each page and a ton of maps and diagrams to help visual people connect the dots.

Iggy Peck, Architect & Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts: My mom got these for Lottie for Christmas, and they are so fun! We’ve read them about a billion times already. The illustrations are a welcome relief to a mom who needs a break from Disney princesses.

Rain for Roots: My friend Jess and I went to Ellie Holcomb’s Christmas concert. We are both huge Ellie fans, and at the concert she sang “Do Not Worry” from The Kingdom of Heaven is Like This CD.  I got home and ordered several of these Rain for Roots CDs for my girls, my nieces, and birthday gifts for some wee friends.

The Giving Keys: Matt got my word for 2016 on a key necklace for me. I wear it often, and I love the story behind The Giving Keys.

Live FashionABLE Mamuye tote: In case you have Christmas money, may I recommend this incredible tote? It is beautiful, and the story behind the women who make it is even more beautiful. Also, it’s made in Ethiopia. {Love.} I used to be a cheap clothes/wearables kind of girl until I realized that if a shirt costs $3 someone wasn’t paid fairly to make it. My clothing budget hasn’t increased so this means buying waaaaaaay less stuff, but when I do it’s quality and I try to support companies that are engaging in responsible and fair business practice. All that to say, this company is awesome. When my birthday came around in September, I put all my gift money together to get this bag. I love the size {because, hello, we can’t go anywhere without 246 snacks} and supporting the women of Ethiopia.

Krochet Kids beanie: My husband loves beanies, and I found this cool company helping women in Uganda and Peru be able to earn a fair wage with a hook and yarn. I got him The Reed, and he wears it all the time. Even in the house. {Because we keep it like an ice box in here in the winter.}

Stay warm, friends! It’s gray and cold here today, but my trusty fern is doing her job to add a little green in front of me.

Friday Favorites (on Saturday)

Friday Favorites (on Saturday)

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Because it’s been that kind of week! After a crazy few weeks of travel and late nights and being off our rhythm, we are taking it slooooow this weekend. The only thing on our to-do list is a salted caramel apple pie that Lulu and I have wanted to make for months now. We’ve been waiting for a day where the weather has a crisp bite to it just like the apples we are excited to spin around the apple slicer. We’ve been eating bushels of honeycrisp apples and piles of sharp cheddar which Matt likes to cut into triangle slivers. I think it makes the cheese taste even better. And it’s perfect weather for curling up with a pile of books. Here are some favorites recently…

Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers: This three book series is an old one, but I finally listened to Heather and read it. (I think the covers of the books threw me off a little. I know, I know. Don’t judge a book by its cover.) I hate that I waited so long, but these are great historical fiction. The first one was my favorite, but I really loved them all.

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner: I had this one on hold from the library for a while. It was finally my turn to check it out right before we went out of town last weekend. I stayed up late and skipped a nap because I couldn’t put this one down. Another great WWII novel, and we already know those are my jam.

Fervent by Priscilla Shirer: A great companion to the movie War Room, this book is loaded with Scriptures to add to your prayer journal. I was highlighting and writing post-its all over the place.

Secret Pizza Party by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri: Our Lottie Dot turned three on Monday. Big crowds aren’t her thing, so we had just a few of her friends over to eat pizza and Muddy’s Prozac cake last week. Her one request was a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. That Prozac cake was so delicious, and I hear it’s even better for breakfast. I wouldn’t know first-hand, of course. That’s just what I hear. I found this silly book at Costco about a pizza-stealing raccoon, and Lottie loves it. We’ve read it at least 872 times since Monday.

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen: This beautiful story would make a great Christmas gift for any child. I love the storyline, and the illustrations are simple and gorgeous. Also, it makes me want to knit.

The Dot by Peter Reynolds: Another birthday gift for our Lottie Dot, this one is fun and creative and inspires the artist within each child. This would make a great Christmas gift, and you could pair it with a set of watercolors and a pad of paper.

In the Meantime series by Andy Stanley: During my runs, I’ve been listening to this series. It is SO good! You can watch online or get the podcast. It’s all about keeping hope when our circumstances seem impossible.

Twistables crayons: I know these are made for kids, but they work great to highlight your Bible. They are nice and thick, leave a great mark, don’t bleed, and they come in all kinds of colors. And they don’t cost a lot! I keep one in my Chronological Bible, so that it’s always handy.

It’s time to go slice some apples and roll some dough. I hope this pie tastes as yummy as I’m imagining! Happy Saturday!