Category Archives: holidays

Book Review: The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley

Y’all know I love a good book. I love it even more when I just can’t put it down. I love it EVEN MORE when I simultaneously can’t wait to see how it ends but don’t really want it to be over, because I’m attached to it. This book was all of that for me. I read it in a little over 24 hours – a testament to how good it was, and also that it happened to be that time of limbo between Christmas and New Year’s. The perfect time for a splendid read.

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Image found on Amazon.com

It was an awesome combination of romance, a little history, some art, and surprises. Lucy Foley did an amazing job hopping back and forth from the past (mostly the 20s, but some parts up through WWII) and “present” (which happened to be the 80s). That often tends to confuse and/or frustrate me, but it was done clearly and purposefully, which I totally appreciated.

We follow Kate, who has recently lost the only family she knows, through a journey to find where she came from. Her mother, a prima ballerina, was adopted, and Kate needs to know who her family would have been if she hadn’t been given up. It’s an incredible journey through the past, and Kate’s feelings during the present, to find the truth, and from there, decide where she should go. There are wonderful, true feelings on every page, and a couple of love stories told, wanted, missed, and achieved. There are intricate characters to love, and ones to hate, just like every great book should have.

I can best describe the book with a great quote from near the end: You want a love story.  But you see, I’ve given you a love story. It just doesn’t all work out the way one might have written it.

A Year of Being Thankful

Last night, on New Year’s Eve, just before my children woke up from their naps, I sat down with my journal and silent but bubbling glass of prosecco. I had seen a few people on Instagram talk about how they made lists of things they were thankful for and ways that God had shown up over the past year. Naturally, I latched onto that idea immediately; how better to be in a positive mindset and a thankful posture to begin a new year?!

So I sat, pen in hand, and wrote down twenty ways God had blessed me, our family, and worked things out for His glory and my good. I hadn’t predetermined twenty as the number, but it just worked out that way. The things are quite varied: some about our family, some about me personally, some about the kids individually. There were big things (my eldest starting – and loving – kindergarten) and small things (learning about the Enneagram). There were specific things (successfully transitioning our youngest to a “big boy bed”) and more general things (how often we were able to host our beloved friends and family in our home last year).

But what it did, even more than just posture my heart toward thankfulness, was make me SO. DARN. EXCITED. for what He could do in our lives in 2018. Lots of people are saying that 2017 was a dumpster fire, and in some ways it was. But I’d be willing to bet that at the end of every year, if you sat down and listed the crummy things that had happened, and the things that went wrong, that only thing you’d accomplish is a horrible mood at the end of it. But when I sat down to think of things that were successes, heartwarming memories, and things I was joyful about, I got a glimpse into God’s heart towards my family, His love for us, His protection over us, and His desire to build us up, not tear us down.

In this same vein, I just saw (again) a post by a fellow writer friend (check out the original here!) about how to daily shift the perspective from one of worry or stress to one of thankfulness. Cliff notes: each morning, she and her kids think of a thing or two – however small – that they’re looking forward to that day, and then she asks how she can be praying for them while they’re at school. Just a little shift to positive thinking, and a covering by mom of prayer over things they might not be as excited about. I love this idea so much, and I think that you can take that idea on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis, and totally run with it. God blesses us with so much; we can bless Him with our gratitude and prayers! When we do those things first, before asking for stuff or airing our concerns and “needs”, our hearts begin to change, ever so slightly each time, to become more like Jesus’s.

God Loves Celebrations

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

I’ve been privileged to take part in a great many celebrations. From weddings and anniversaries, baptisms and birthday parties, to dedications of babies and even memorial services, I have been a part of countless celebrations. Honoring relationships, accomplishments, and simply life itself, it is a beautiful thing to celebrate our blessings, the people we love, and just being together. I believe that God gave us the gift of celebration on purpose, that He is pleased when we join together in fellowship and celebration. It is part of the life abundant that He came to give us!

Perhaps the piece of scripture that’s most obviously a celebration is Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. We know the whole story well, but here’s the best part: “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. Bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” (Luke 15:22-24)

We aren’t always celebrating the return of a beloved person back into our lives, and we aren’t always killing fatted calves to do so. But if this parable, a picture of God’s love for His wandering children, is full of uninhibited celebration and holding nothing back from the son who was lost and then found, then it is fitting we should celebrate, pull out the stops, and show our love by sharing joy in this way!

Along with the countless other feasts, convocation days, and dedications mentioned throughout Scripture, the most incredible example of God-honoring celebration is found, as you might expect, at the birth of Jesus. There were no invitations sent, or caterers booked. There wasn’t a cake or 10-piece band. There was, however, a gorgeous star put up in the sky for just such an occasion, as well as a singing multitude of the heavenly host, and the proudest parents there have ever been.

This picture of the first-ever Jesus-worshipers is still my favorite image. Surprised, unkempt shepherds, used to hanging out in the fields with their sheep. New parents, knowing they had just experienced something special, but not really knowing the full extent. Angels (Full stop. Can you imagine angels at your next baby dedication?) coming out in hordes to announce the birth of Jesus, singing the first songs of praise, and filling the skies with the glory of the Lord. If that doesn’t seem like a picture of a father celebrating his son, you might need to look again. Jesus had been sent by a Father who was celebrating not only him, but the rest of His sons and daughters who would be saved by this Son of Righteousness. A truly happy Father, who was seeing His redemptive plan begin.

Currently: Christmas Time!

Y’ALL. I started this post in plenty of time to get it ready for posting last Wednesday, but then I FORGOT. SO! Here’s my Currently post for December, a little later than it should be. Oops.

December is here! Advent is here! And I am literally the happiest person. It’s my favorite time of year. Everything is extra beautiful, covered in greenery and frost, anticipation runs through our veins, and gift-giving abounds. It really is the most wonderful time of the year. So, since it’s the first Wednesday of the month, I’m linking up with Anne in Residence and Catherine of A Short Blonde for December’s Currently party.

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Lighting || both of our Christmas trees, and our front porch columns! If I had my way, I’d probably cover everything in lights because I love them so much. But Hubby thankfully anchors me down a little bit. Here are our trees and front porch!

Spending || a little less than usual on Christmas presents, I think. I’ve just slowed down a little on how much I’m doing. I know my kids will get plenty from their grandparents, too, and Hubby and I aren’t getting anything else for each other because we just splurged on a Vitamix and a couple of pieces of furniture. I don’t want Christmas to feel “small” for anyone, presents-wise, but I doubt that will be a problem!

Choosing || which of our family photos we’re turning into canvases for our own home, and which we’re giving to our parents! (Did I just ruin their surprise?) It’s the biggest decision to choose a favorite photo from our recent session with Urban Bloom Photography when they were ALL.SO.GOOD. Here’s a little preview…

Sending || Christmas cards! I just finished addressing them and put them in the mail yesterday! It’s one of my favorite things to do at Christmas, and I absolutely LOVE getting them in the mail! I ordered a few less than last year because I always have ten or so left over and now I’m afraid I’m going to have to order a few more! YIKES.

Singing || ALL of the Christmas music. I love Christmas music, specifically Christmas hymns and songs about Jesus (because I’m a worship leader, duh) and also just regular songs about snow and Santa and the whole deal. This year, EK is remembering lyrics and learning Christmas songs at school so it’s extra fun to sing with her!

Leave a comment and tell me what you’re up to Currently!

‘Tis the Season – of Indulging Your Taste Buds!

During the month of November, I’m participating in NaBloPoMo, where I try to write and publish each day.

I don’t know what it is about this time of year that makes me abandon any sort of diet or food regulations I might normally have going for me. Perhaps it begins with Halloween and the amount of candy that enters the house. Or it might have to do with being inside more often… which typically leads me to baking a lot. Or maybe it’s just that the holidays are full of sugary treats and fatty, sharable sides. Who knows. But what I DO know is that I LOVE food that tastes good.

Now, for me, saying “food that tastes good” covers a multitude of sins. I love fancy meals. I love farm-fresh eggs and meats. I love organic fruits and veggies. I love cuisine from all over the world (here’s looking specifically at you, Italy and Thailand). BUT! I also love a good slamburger (the term coined by my husband for a greasy burger from a no-name burger joint). I love a late-night hotdog from a street cart. Coldstone ice cream creations can cheer me up any day. My kids don’t have to beg to get me to eat at Chick-fil-A. To me, they taste good. And that’s what matters.

But this time of year, I lean in to those home-baked cookies, the cinnamon-sprinkled drinks, and the heavily-buttered breads or potatoes. I want large cuts of fatty meats (hey there, prime rib!) and richly-flavored, creamy soups (butternut squash soup, anyone?). And who can blame me?! It’s getting dark at 5:00pm and I’d like to have some compensation for the stealing of my daylight.

So today, I celebrate the pumpkin muffins with maple-pecan drizzle, the eggnog spiked with bourbon, and ramen from the Bahtmobile (our local Asian food truck). I celebrate shortbread cookies, King’s Hawaiian rolls (why are they so good?!) and 18-pound hunks of prime rib – if you’re having Thanksgiving lunch at our house, anyway. I celebrate good ol’ GBC (if you’re from around here, you should know that’s green bean casserole) and mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and Honeybaked Ham. It’s going to be a good couple of months, y’all, in the world of flavors. Indulge. ‘Tis the season!

Currently – November Is Here!

Happy November, y’all! I am loving the weather, the pumpkins on everyone’s front porches, the warm drinks, and the gorgeous colors around here these days. I’m linking up today with Anne in Residence and Julie of A Hopeful Hood. Join us and let us know what’s happening in your world currently!img_0358

Realizing || that I had been pushing myself too hard. I love running, working out, and being healthy, but I wasn’t getting enough rest/sleep to support my rigorous habits. So I’m trying to take more days off (or at least take it easier) and give myself a little grace when my schedule and lifestyle just can’t fit in that long run on my training itinerary. My second half marathon will just wait until spring.

Stirring || up the first cups of hot chocolate for the children, and spiced cider for myself! If I don’t feel like making the kiddos hot chocolate from scratch, Swiss Miss usually does the job for them… and my favorite store-bought cider is from Trader Joe’s! Less additives, more flavor – and spiked with some bourbon? Yes, please!

I wanted to capture the steam coming off the top of this cup, but I didn’t quite manage it.
Appreciating || the extra time I’ve spent reading recently. I’ve been watching a little less TV, listening to more podcasts (eating them UP actually – post coming soon) and reading every chance I get. “The chance” in my life right now looks like after the kids are in bed, while they’re napping, or real talk: on the toilet. But I’m reading through several at once (usually just one novel at a time, and several non-fiction of some sort) and enjoying spending more time in the quiet with some hot tea in my hand.

Here’s what I’m working with right now: top two I’m currently reading (or finishing finally), and the bottom two are next up. Not pictured: The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin. It’s on my Kindle, which just doesn’t photograph very well.

Investigating || the Enneagram, and therefore learning things about myself I didn’t know before… or, at least, I didn’t have words to describe it. I’ve just learned about the Enneagram (check here for a synopsis of what it is if you’re new to it, too) and finding out my type, and learning about it within a Christian perspective (with resources like this). It’s been so fun to find out my number, and read up on it! I’m a 4w3, categorized by most as The Individualist or The Romantic. The other exciting thing is that our community group is going to walk through the Enneagram journey together as well!

Following || Jess Connolly and Emily P. Freeman on Instagram! They’re my new follows of the month, and they post encouraging things almost every day. I’m also listening to Emily’s podcast, The Next Right Thing. And obviously I’m about to start Jess’s brand new book!

And here are the only Halloween photos I got yesterday. We had a great time with our neighborhood tribe, especially since we had to make up for being sick on Halloween last year!

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EK wanted to be “Blackbird”. As in the song by the Beatles. So obviously she won Halloween.

A Good Friday Prayer

Tonight, I helped lead worship at my church’s Good Friday service, as I’ve done for the past few years. It’s a truly beautiful service, somber, quiet, slow… but not without hope. Our pastors do an incredible job of planning this evening full of dramatic lighting, powerful songs, and the last words of Jesus as he prepared to give his life, and as he hung on the cross. It’s haunting.

When I got home, I was still in the mood the service had left me in. I was lost in thought, as I had been on and off all day. Good Friday has always been a sobering day for me. But as I put my youngest son to bed, I started to sing him one of the songs we had sung in the service. It’s appropriately called “Passion Song”, written by some friends of our worship pastor. (Click that link. It will bless your soul to hear it.) It’s based on John’s view of how Jesus’s last week went down. The pastor who spoke just before the song presented it perfectly, emphasizing how Jesus was John’s very best friend, the only person who had ever known him so completely. Here are the words, so you can see the powerful emotion packed in them…

I was with Him when He rode into town
And the crowds gathered round Him like a King
Their smiling faces joined a sea of branches waving
Though they were masquerading in the end

And my heart rose in my throat
When I heard them sing
Hosanna in the highest
Oooh oooooh oh

We went upstairs broke the bread and drank the wine
From the only living vine that we would taste
And I watch them take Him up the mountainside
Where He was crucified though innocent
And they mocked Him and cursed Him with their mouths
And told Him to come down if He was God

And my heart broke in my chest
When I heard Him say
Forgive them it is finished
Oooh oooooh oh

I remember in the garden
When He sweat like drops of blood
And how He begged the Father
Just to let Him pass the cup
I can still feel the anguish
When they pierced Him in the side
And how the ground beneath us shook
Upon the very moment that He died
Oooh ooh oh oh oh

Three days later we found an empty grave
And the stone was rolled away where He had been

Tears of joy streamed down my face
When the angel said
Oh fear not He is risen
Oh fear not He is risen
Oooh ooh ooh oooh oh oh oooh

You can see how this song would be lingering in my psyche, right? So I’m singing it to my son, as I’m settling him in for bed. And when I finally wipe the (my) tears away, and get to his goodnight prayer, I began to pray like always, and for some reason, I was led to utter the words, “…and thank You for giving Your Son. I could never give my son.”

And I cried some more.

You see, the sacrifice is beyond what any one of us could do. In the Old Testament, Abraham was told to sacrifice his son. Whether he would’ve (or could’ve) actually gone through with it we’ll never know. There was a ram in the thicket, and God was preparing, even then, to give His very own son to save the world. Jesus willingly gave his life to pave the way for us to enter into fellowship with his Father. One of our pastors this evening titled it “a beautiful exchange”. His life for ours. What else could possibly be a better exchange for us?