Friday Favorites

Friday Favorites

August, you are a bit like swimming with a strong undertow. There I am kicking and splashing about in the waves and suddenly, woosh, I feel like I’m getting sucked under. School is now in full swing, and the calendar feels much fuller. Last week, over spicy shrimp and sweet potato fries (and with a crisp unexpected August breeze) my bestie and I talked for a long time about margin and schedules and calendar and keeping sanity for us and our families. It’s a hard thing, a tension to be managed and not a problem to be solved my pastor would say.  But it’s one I’m praying about a lot–how to protect sacred moments around the dinner table and how to remember the Sabbath. I learned a long time ago that when you feel a strong undertow pulling you under it’s best not to fight and scream and freak out. Relax and hold tight, and it will spit you out into calmer water so you can swim again. Here’s to slow meals and good books and pouring into those around us.

Here are some favorites recently…

For the Love by Jen Hatmaker: The chapter on fashion will make you need Depends, and the chapter on the church will hit you in the gut. Jen Hatmaker writes with hilarity that cannot be matched, but her passion for loving well is what always gets me. (Also, the beef bourguignon recipe is a game changer. I’m making it for the second weekend in a row.)

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: WWII stories are my favorite, and this one is so wonderful I would have finished it in one night if I knew staying up that late wouldn’t make me a complete grouch the next day. If you liked The Book Thief, I think you’ll love this one.

A Memory of Violets by Hazel Gaynor: Heather recommended this one, and she knows what I love. This is a beautiful story of love, loss, and family. Such a great read.

You and Me Forever by Francis & Lisa Chan: I read this one out loud to Matt on the way to Alabama a few weeks ago. Like all of Francis Chan’s books, he hits you hard in a no-fluff-this-is-what-it-means-to-die-to-self kind of way. It’s a different kind of marriage book, the kind that focuses not on two people but elevates the gospel and the mission to make disciples.

The Green Ember by S.D. Smith: This is our first read-aloud book of the year for school. We are only about one quarter of the way through it, but it’s a riveting story of two sibling bunnies Picket and Heather. It’s filled with lots of adventure, the words are gorgeous, and it keeps the attention of kids and adults alike.

The Frugal Paleo Cookbook by Ciarra Hannah: Whether you eat strictly paleo or not, this cookbook has a lot of easy, inexpensive recipes. Our favorite so far–the teriyaki stackers with grilled pineapple!

Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman: A call to enjoy the ordinary moments of life, this book has me thinking. I sent this quote from Simply Tuesday to two of my best friends this week…

To sit on a bench is to keep company with Abraham who, along with Sarah, tried to control the promise God made of an heir. But God told him it wouldn’t happen by Abraham’s effort or planning. Instead, he took him outside and said, ‘Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ And he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ Our part is not making the promise come true. Our part is to count the stars.

Last Minute Christmas Book List

Last Minute Christmas Book List

So, Christmas is one week away. You know that emoji with the big eyeballs–the one like a deer caught in the headlights. Yeah, I’ve been using that one a lot recently. I don’t need an elf on a shelf. I need an elf that runs errands!! Somebody, please tell me I’m not the only one.

I tried to be on my game and get our Christmas shopping done before Georgia was born because I knew it would be crazy afterwards. I got most of it done, but I will have to trek out to Target this weekend which should be enough to send me right over the edge. I did approximately 97.3% of our Christmas shopping via Amazon Prime. I’m convinced it was a mom who came up with the genius that is Amazon Prime. I shop in my jammies and then magically 48 hours later it arrives on my doorstep–yes, please!

Books are my very favorite gift to give or get, so I thought I’d share my all-time favorites from this past year in case you need a last minute gift for anyone.

Surprised by Motherhood by Lisa-Jo Baker- Read it with a box of Kleenex and preferably when you’re not pregnant, post-partum, or hormonal–oh wait, that’s never. This one is excellent and would be a great gift for any mom you know and love.

The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst- I have recommended this book to everyone I know. It is packed with so much wisdom and encouragement and would make a great book to read for the start of a new year.

The Antelope in the Living Room– This one will have you laughing out loud and may cause the sweet lady doing your pedicure to look up at you and wonder. Whether you’ve been married one day or a million, this one will keep you rolling.

Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan- This is the book I was reading at the beach when we decided on Georgia’s name. It’s a wonderful memoir of the relationship between mother and daughter.

The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith- For anyone who loves to make their home an inviting place for family and friends but knows perfection is never possible, this book is for you. It’s filled with gorgeous pictures and pretty enough to stay out on a coffee table.

Savor by Shauna Niequist- This one isn’t actually out yet, but since I love, love, love everything Shauna writes I am super excited about it. Shauna has a thing where you can pre-order the book and receive some recipe cards to gift now and the book to follow in the spring. That’s the gift that keeps on giving, Clark. (Much better than the jelly of the month club!) This one is a book of short devotions combined with recipes. Perfect for anyone who loves to cook (or eat!) or just loves great writing.

It Will be Okay by Lysa TerKeurst- For the little ones, this one is a new favorite. Fear is something every kid faces whether it’s being afraid of the dark or coping with mom and dad’s divorce. The illustrations are beautiful and the story quite meaningful.

Good luck with your last few days of Christmas prep and if you should find yourself a little stressed… remember, Chick-fil-A has peppermint milkshakes right now! (Says the mom whose child ate a candy cane for breakfast this morning. So maybe don’t listen to me. Or at least don’t judge me–wink, wink.) Merry Christmas, friends.

In Italics ~ Wings, Moments and Big Woods

In Italics ~ Wings, Moments and Big Woods

Our amazing and unseasonably cool July weather has given way to typical August temps. While I do love summer, August in the south isn’t really summer. It’s more like an unwanted trip to the surface of the sun. May I suggest making some homemade popsicles, turning the ceiling fan to high, and chilling on the couch with a good book or movie? Here are a few favorites from recent weeks…

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd- One chapter in and I already knew this would be a favorite just like Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees. A tale of two sisters and how their voices changed history, this book is riveting with language so rich and imaginative you will feel like you’ve been transported in time.

Moment Maker by Carlos Whittaker- A funny and motivating read for anyone who wants to make the most of this life they’ve been given. I’m still laughing about the butterfly story.

Home-Making by JR Miller- Written in the 1880s, this one might ruffle a few feathers in our modern day world, but it is packed with timeless truth and some much needed reminders for my generation. Different sections address the husband, wife and children of the family. I especially loved the part about civility in the home.

Little House in the Big Woods– For our Be Brave Weekend, we gave Lydia the first of the Laura Ingalls Wilder series. Our theme for this year is “We can do hard things,” and I thought Laura’s story would be inspirational for Lydia. This series was a favorite of mine when I was younger, and I’m looking forward to sharing the books with my girls.

Gifted Hands– My friend Becca told me I had to watch this movie, and she was right. It is so good. The movie (there is a book too) is based on the true story of Dr. Ben Carson. The movie takes you through his life from a childhood growing up in inner-city Detroit to his role as a neurosurgeon who successfully separated twins conjoined at the head. Warning: you will need Kleenex, but it’s totally worth it.

Million Dollar Arm– Matt and I saw this one at the $3 theater on an afternoon where I was actually wearing a sweater in July–crazy! I have a special place in my heart for the people of India because of an incredible ministry we get to support called Arpana House. This was a fun, endearing movie with a sweet story about the power of dreams.

Stay cool, friends! And maybe bring me a popsicle?

 

 

 

Friday Fun

Friday Fun

IMG_1397I read two blogs this last week that I just loved. This one from Lysa TerKeurst is great to read and reread and reread again as August quickly marches onto our calendars. I’m saving it because I know I’ll need this reminder a lot. I love where Lysa shared, “I’m convinced her struggles in school are actually God’s way to keeping her on the path He’s had for her since she was conceived.” Isn’t it crazy–and freeing–to think that our weaknesses could be a part of His design for us too?

And my friend Kimmie shared this blog with me, and it was definitely something I needed to read. I don’t know what it is about pregnancy that makes every tiny cell of fear start multiplying until we’ve reached viral levels, but recently Facebook has become a launching pad for fear and worry. I felt that punch in my stomach when the author wrote, “We don’t trust God. We want to BE God.” Gulp. Definitely the heart reminder I needed.

On a lighter note, Em introduced me to Bauble Bar a couple years ago, and I love it. It’s a fun jewelry store along the lines of Charming Charlie, but you can order from your home in your pjs while your littles nap. Shipping is always free, and every Monday and Friday they have a Buried Bauble on sale. Right now they are having a giant sale with lots of fun stuff for not much money. I have been wearing the same three maternity shirts over and over again–well, when I’m not wearing my summer uniform of running shorts and a tee–but at least I can add a little excitement with jewelry.

I’m making some of this White Chocolate Peanut Butter Muddy Buddies for a little Saturday excursion with my bestie and her family. I’m hoping I can find red, white and blue M&Ms to make it patriotic. Speaking of red, white and blue, we’ve been cheering on the USA in the World Cup. Matt is a HUGE soccer fan–second only to Bama football in his book–and I must admit I’ve become a fan over the last thirteen years. Last Sunday our small group had a World Cup party to watch the game and Karen, who is amazing in the kitchen, made the most delicious brownies. I asked her if the recipe was proprietary, and she told me it was Ghiradelli brownie mix with a cream cheese frosting on top! She made the cream cheese frosting with a block of cream cheese, a stick of unsalted butter, a little vanilla and two cups of powdered sugar. So easy, and they were super yummy!

I never cease to be amazed at the green space in our city. We have a park just down the road that feels like a page from The Secret Garden. Last week, Charlotte and I wandered around The Dixon taking pictures and looking at all the beautiful flowers and trees. And last night after dinner we all went to the Germantown Greenway for a long walk. I know Memphis is known for music and BBQ–and I certainly love both of those, especially BBQ pizza–but I am always excited to find new green spaces tucked all around our city, and this runner appreciates the large running community we have in the 901. (After all, you gotta burn that BBQ pizza off, right?)

And last, I’ll do a full book review in a few weeks, but over the weekend I read The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd, and it is fabulous! Almost as good as her first book The Secret Life of Bees. I say almost because the bees give the slight edge to the latter. (You know my thing with bees. I love those little guys.) If you liked The Help, I think you’ll love The Invention of Wings. Sue Monk Kidd writes vividly and captures the raw edge of human emotion unlike any other. All three of those are going on the list of books I want my girls to read one day.

It’s been a fun summer full of all my favorite things–wet kids, great reads, late night frozen treats and lots of sun-kissed memories. Have I mentioned I love summer?

In Italics–Antelopes, Monastics & More

In Italics–Antelopes, Monastics & More

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetYou’ve heard me lament this frigid winter we’ve had, but it does create lots of time for burrowing under blankets and reading books. The other night Matt and I had a little extra time on our date night so we swung by the local bookstore. I am the complete opposite of a hoarder in almost every area of my life. When Lydia isn’t looking I throw away most of her drawings. (I’m not heartless. I keep the sweet hand print ones, but we can only have so many color sheets of Cinderella before I start to lose it.) I routinely go through the girls’ toys and our closets and give stuff to Goodwill. And I will probably be in trouble if the IRS audits us one day because I can never remember how many years you’re supposed to keep stuff and so I end up shredding it. (Thank goodness Matt saves the most critical of documents.) But when it comes to books, I can’t get enough. While Matt was looking  through the bookstore Saturday night, I took pictures of a dozen different books so I could come home and add them to my Amazon wish list. Yes, I might have a problem. But fortunately, he does too.

A few favorites from the past month…

The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle– I’m starting with this one because if you are married, you MUST go buy this today. I loved Melanie Shankle’s first book Sparkly Green Earrings, and this one was just as great! It is the type of book that will have you laughing out loud and perhaps your husband will wonder if you put something in your tea. (Side note: I have historically had an aversion to abbreviations in text messages–LOL, TTYL, ROFL–but my bestie loves to use LOL when she texts me so now I’m a bit endeared to that one. This book will definitely warrant a LOL.) And in the middle of all that laughter, there’s real truth for wives. Love, love, love this book. (Also, her blog is hilarious too.)

Seven Sacred Pauses by Macrina Wiederkehr- Switching tone completely, I read this one in early January as I began my journey with my word Behold this year. This book is one monastic’s journey to live mindfully throughout her day. I am pretty sure I highlighted every other sentence on my Kindle. This book is rich with meaning and purpose and an invitation to pause. I am repeatedly going back to this one during my journey to margin and Sabbath and rest this year.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple- This novel is quirky, funny and a touch sarcastic and it’s set in Seattle, one of my favorite cities. This satire has a different writing style, but after a few chapters I found myself really enjoying the style.

Feathers from My Nest by Beth Moore- I started this one the same day I happened to move our wooden high chair, the chair both girls have now used and the same one I used myself as a child, to the garage. Which is to say, I read this one with a wad of toilet paper next to me. This is Beth Moore’s story of their family and the lessons learned and shared as her children were growing up. Moms, especially young moms like me, this one will be a blessing.

For the wee ones… 

Peek-a Who? by Nina Laden- This was a Christmas gift to Charlotte from my dear friend Em, and it quickly became a favorite. This is my current go-to baby book for shower gifts. We read it one billion times a day.

Press Here by Herve Tullet- Lydia’s Christmas present from Em, this book is fun and interactive, great for kids who don’t like to sit still. (Which is what? All kids, right?)

Otis & Sydney by Laura Numeroff- I first came across this book at the library last year, and I just loved it. It’s the perfect birthday gift for a special friend, be it a friend celebrating a first birthday or number 33.

A Home for Bird by Philip C. Stead- We found this one last month while we learned about birds, and Lydia and I quickly labeled it a favorite. It’s the sweet story of Vernon the frog and Bird, who doesn’t say much but will make you smile.

In the ears…

A few people have asked what I listen to when I’m running. I usually listen to podcasts, and my favorites are Louie Giglio, Andy Stanley and the Catalyst podcast. I first listened to Andy Stanley’s Comparison Trap series last year, but he is doing it again this year so it just popped up on my playlist again this morning. Maybe you don’t struggle with this at all, but I struggle with it BIG time. This whole series hit me hard and deep.

That’s what I’ve been reading and listening to. What about you??

In Italics

In Italics

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 presetThe Book Thief– As we finished brunch at Perennial Virant for Matt’s birthday, we couldn’t decide what to do that afternoon. It was snowing outside, little snowflakes, like someone was sprinkling glitter from the rooftops. We had been all over the city and it was too cloudy to go up the Sears Tower like we had originally planned so we found a theater showing The Book Thief and hailed a cab. I had finished the book the day before we left for Chicago, and ten pages in The Book Thief secured its spot as my favorite novel of 2013. The book is haunting and raw, and Markus Zusak’s personification left me spellbound. The movie is also great though, of course, there is some complexity, a few story lines, that didn’t make it in the movie. I am one of those book nerds who always thinks the book is better than the movie, and that remains true in this case. But the movie is excellent and the book is a must-read.

Catching Fire– We finally saw Catching Fire (and thanks to a Malco gift card and $5 Humdingers shrimp on Mondays we had a date night for $15)! I’m a huge Hunger Games fan. I read all three books basking in the sun on the deck of a cruise ship with the turquoise waters of the Caribbean in my periphery so my memories with The Hunger Games are a bit biased… and salty. It’s rare for a movie to capture the imagination of a book as creatively vivid as The Hunger Games, but they did a great job with it. And I always love it when the characters in the movie resemble the ones I’ve fashioned in my head while reading.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott- This one was a Christmas present from Matt that he let me open early. For anyone who loves to write, this book is a  a not-so-gentle nudge to be an honest writer. I’m reading this one slowly, letting it pierce and prick me, disturb and disrupt me. It’s uncomfortable like sand in your swimsuit, but sand and swimsuits usually mean there’s a surf swelling close by.

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott- Also a Christmas present from Matt, I actually waited for this one. Written in 1999, this book captures Lamott’s trademark gut-level honesty. Throughout the book, I found myself gritting my teeth and wondering, “Can she actually say that?” Which I sort of loved. I remember feeling the same way when I first read Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. And it’s why I love Going Public stories at our church, souls bared, truth surfacing, honesty palpable. Vulnerability is a beautiful thing. (Heads up: there are some four-letter words in this one and a few other things that, like I said earlier, made me grit my teeth. But I love how God finds us in the messy. I feel that is Anne Lamott’s life story and mine too.)

All In by Mark Batterson- While the black-eyed peas were simmering, I read this one New Year’s Day. It’s a perfect book to start the new year. When I turned the last page I felt like I do when I take that first step outside to go running and it’s 17 degrees. That cold air greeting makes you feel alive, daring, courageous. This book does the same. (This one is $3.79 for the Kindle edition as I’m typing this.)

Audrey Bunny by Angie Smith- My mom got this book for Lydia for Christmas. It’s a sweet story with beautiful illustrations. It reminds me of The Velveteen Rabbit, the book I always begged my Grammy to read to me during summers when I was little.

Also, I saw on Facebook where Beth Moore has a ton of books available in Kindle edition for FREE until January 10th! To find out more go to cotysloan.com. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the Kindle app for free and read it on your iPhone or iPad. Yay for free books!

I snapped this picture of the Library at the Public Chicago where Matt and I stayed for our trip. The cozy fire, the creamy Carrera marble, the original tin ceilings… we wanted to move in. On a slightly (very) unrelated note, when I go to hotels with fun toiletries I put them away in my bag each day so they will leave more the next morning. Then Matt and I start quoting the Friends episode where Ross and Chandler go to Vermont. Maple candy, anyone?

Good times, great reads, enjoy!

Fall Reads

Fall Reads

charlotte pumpkinHappy Halloween! It’s been raining all day here, the perfect kind of day to snuggle up with my wee goblins and read lots of books. Or Momma reads while one dances around in her Snow White dress and the other pulls all the books off the bookshelf. You know, whatever works.

A few favorites in our stack right now for the girls…

Pumpkin Town by Katie McKy – We got this one for Charlotte’s birthday to have everyone leave her a little birthday message. I searched and searched for good pumpkin books since we were having her party at the pumpkin patch. Finally, I found this one and I just love it. The illustrations by Pablo Bernasconi are whimsical and the story is captivating. A new fall favorite for sure.

Louise, The Adventures of a Chicken by Kate DiCamillo & Harry Bliss – Matt’s sweet aunt manages Square Books in Oxford and she sent us a personalized signed copy of this book for Lydia’s second birthday. Such a special gift and such a great book. We watched the Tale of Despereaux based on another book by Kate one night recently, and it’s incredible as well (It’s on Netflix too!)  I love how Kate writes books kids love while stretching their minds and capturing their imaginations.

Tickle Time by Sandra Boynton – We are huge fans of Sandra Boynton’s fun and happy books. A sweet friend gave Charlotte Tickle Time for her birthday and Charlotte will hand it to me to read over and over and over. We also love Fifteen Animals and Moo, Baa, La La La. These are great gifts for a first birthday or first Christmas.

And a couple I’ve loved reading recently…

The In-Between by Jeff Goins – The tagline reads “Embracing the tension between now and the next big thing.” I have a thing with waiting. I don’t like it. But God keeps bringing this theme into my life, so I know He must have something for me to learn during the wait. This book caused me to reflect on the wait and the journey instead of focusing on the destination.

Packing Light by Allison Vesterfelt – I got this book on my Kindle for my recent trip to Florida. I felt particularly proud when I bought it because I had indeed packed light for my trip. In an effort to not give Delta $50 for my bags I managed to get everything I needed into a carry-on bag. I almost took a picture to send to my dad because I knew how proud he would be of my packing job. In a world that says bigger house, better car, more clothes and newer gadgets, I loved reading Allison’s story of a life-changing trip to all 50 states and learning to live with less baggage.

Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist- I’ve read this book a dozen times, and I’m reading it again. Every time I pick this one up, my eyes are opened to the extraordinary moments of life happening all around me . This was Shauna’s first book and one of my all-time favorites to read over and over again.

Settle in, hopefully with Reese’s pumpkins in one hand and a great book in the other. Here’s to a happy and very rainy Halloween!