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 (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!

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 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!

On Citrus and Friendship

On Citrus and Friendship


 “Everybody has a home team: It’s the people you call when you get a flat tire or when something terrible happens. It’s the people who, near or far, know everything that’s wrong with you and love you anyways. These are the ones who tell you their secrets, who get themselves a glass of water without asking when they’re at your house. These are the people who cry when you cry. These are your people, your middle-of-the-night, no-matter-what people.”

Shauna Niequist in Bittersweet

Over the past five years, Jessica & Heather have become a vital part of my home team. We have walked through the darkest of days together, times forged by tears and silent-death-grip hugs. We have celebrated with every dessert imaginable, homemade carrot cake and chocolate fudge pie ranking as two of my favorites. We have shared books and desperate prayers and a million memories.

Saturday, Jess and I boarded a plane destined for the Sunshine State. After hearing all about sunny, idyllic Ocala, I couldn’t wait to finally see this sweet town that is once again home to one of my favorite people. The days flew by, a swirl of catching up and filling in, soaking in the gift of friendship. We read books peering through the glass panes every few minutes to admire the citrus trees just beginning to ripen. We feasted and feasted some more, fresh speckled trout and bacon-wrapped dove with asparagus drizzled with lemon vinaigrette one night.  Shauna Niequist’s Steak au Poivre and mashed potatoes another night thanks to the culinary master, Paul Bruce. After dinner, the three of us would go over to the hot tub at Heather’s parent’s house with the sky sprinkled with stars and the mossy oaks casting their shadows below and talk for hours and hours knowing that this friendship and these memories were something truly special.

Jessica & Heather, near or far, you are my people. xoxo

Keep Circling

Keep Circling

photo (3)Last week at the beach, while I did not manage to read my stack of books I brought I did manage to actually finish one. (During the girls’ nap time, of course. The only moment they are both still. ;)) Mark Batterson’s The Circle Maker. And I absolutely love, love, loved it. You know those people who do the infomercials at 3 AM in the morning and they get you so fired up that all of a sudden you’re ordering a blender or a magic mop? (No, that’s just me?! Oh, okay.) That’s what I felt like after reading The Circle Maker. (Except I’m pretty sure I won’t be disappointed like I would be when I wind up with a blender that cannot, in fact, crush a car bumper.)

Only a few pages in, I realized I had already circled a prayer in my life. The prayer and promise of one day being a mom. I’ve written before about praying Luke 1:45 over and over and over often with tears pouring down and my head buried in my pillow to muffle my sobs. I just kept saying that Scripture back to God and kept believing. I was convicted by how quickly I’ve abandoned or wanted to abandon other prayers though. Prayers for my brother, for our adoption, for our neighborhood, for my dreams.

I have the attention span of a gnat. (Assuming they have extremely short attention spans. I’m not sure about this though. I’ve just heard people say it.) But I digress… (See, it’s short. Really short.) I struggle with continuing to pray and trust God in something if I don’t see progress. Regarding the adoption, a couple months ago I started praying in a big way for Ethiopian adoptions, for the president of ET to have favor towards adoption, for the government red tape that is extending the process to become efficient and for God to somehow miraculously get us a referral in our original time frame of 12-18 months (August marks 12 months of us being DTE.) Big prayers… asking Him to move an entire country’s government to action. And not even a month after starting to pray these big prayers, we start getting word that the PAIR change could mean just one trip, less costs, etc. Not exactly what I was praying for, but still it seemed like the first glimmer of positive news. I was hopeful. And then a few days later we found out that would not be the case. Instead of looking positive, it looked far more negative (I do need to mention that ET is doing this to add another layer of protection and make sure all ET adoptions are completely legit and that there are no possible ET family members who can and want to adopt the child. This is a great thing, and I am grateful for their diligence to protect their children. It’s just hard for the waiting mommas.) I was discouraged and, honestly, I started questioning our adoption. Are we supposed to do this? Is Ethiopia the right country?

All this was swirling in my head when I pulled out The Circle Maker at the pool and started reading. Forty-nine pages in, I posted a pic on Instagram saying how much I loved the book and that it was just what I needed to hear right then. Then, I flipped the page over and read, “Have you ever been there? You know God wants you to take the job that pays less, but it doesn’t add up. You know God wants you to go on the mission trip, but it doesn’t add up. You know God wants you to get married, go to grad school, or adopt, but it doesn’t add up.”

I might have laughed out loud (and then the other people at the pool might have looked at me a little weird.) YES! As a matter of fact, I have been there. I’m there RIGHT now! But wait… the next sentence reads, “A couple years ago, Adam Taylor went on one of our annual mission trips to Ethiopia…” Out of all the countries to mention, it would be that one. Ours. At this point I’m laughing so hard the other people at the pool are starting to wonder if there’s something other than iced tea in my cup. But I didn’t care. It was the push I needed to keep circling. Keep praying. Keep believing.

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