Friday, May 30, 2014

milking stool meetings: john 1 and the point, point, point

It's here dolls. It's here. The first week where we get to go over journaling and His word and be all kinds of linky. Oh how I'm thrilled to share my feelings, convictions with you while overwhelmed about where to start.

First, the vlog for ya'll. 

Journaling comes natural to me. I've always been a note-taker, writing type. I can't seem to commit something to memory until I've written it down. I also found writing notes during college courses helped me stay focused -same goes for podcasts, sermons, any auditory media really. That said, I find it useful. I don't believe that journaling is a wonderful, fruitful experience for everyone, but have found it so refreshing for myself.

Here are my notes for John 1:

I found the application to be the most exciting part to try and work through. John became my focus for the week -though Jesus, the disciples, or even the words used to describe God are completely wonderful themes to focus on.

How'd it go for you girls?

Please be encouraged by the work that He's doing in your heart -even though it looks different than what's happening in mine. And with that, your opportunity to link on up with the Milking Stool Ministry.

In closing, I encourage you to be the bright shiny thing that He's made you to be this week. A bright, shiny thing that's got a message to share, got a joy to shower down, got a beauty to emanate.

"In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 
The light shines in the darkness, 
and the darkness has not overcome it."
 -John 1:4-5 

- - - - - - - HOMEWORK - - - - - - -
This week we're going to tackle John 2 & 3. 

These chapters are filled with some of Christ's first miracles and public displays of power. Take special note of the context or circumstances in which He is doing His thing -those aren't random or unimportant and, in fact, speak to moments that God finds valuable.

And, finally, here's the Facebook group for you. Don't be shy in requesting to join, I just want to be sure it doesn't get spammed.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

what you absolutely need to know before you get that ink

Now that I've got myself a half dozen tattoos, I realize there were questions I had prior to getting my ink that would have been easily answered if I'd been brave enough to ask. That said, on this side of the equation, I'm here with answers to questions you might not even know you have!

In Preparation

1. Educate yourself. 
My tattoos are considered "traditional", but they aren't -technically. Yes, they look like the tattoos that sailors have in old pictures with the thick outlines and bold colors; however, there are five acceptable colors in traditional tattoos, only three of which I have. Turquoise and pink and orange -big no-nos. 

2. Know what you want (and bring pictures).
Don't go in somewhere hoping to find inspiration for your new ink because, well, that's not meaningful to you. And chances are you'll get a tattoo that's more them than you. I handled mine like I do with a hair appointment: printed pictures of my prospective pieces and shared them with the artist. He then tailored everything together so I had a tattoo that is unique to me. 

3. Don't do anything RIGHT NOW. 
This one's got a double meaning: 
[First] I thought on my ink for two years before I went through with getting it. Mostly this was because Jason didn't believe I really wanted it that bad and thought I'd end up looking like an ex-con, but also because I wanted to make sure it was something I wanted forever
[Second] When I went into a shop and they'd take me at that very moment I knew that something was a problem. Our town's small, tattoo parlors are few, and, well, they're busy. There's something to say for a shop that tells you to swing right by and we'll get her done. 

In the Shop, Pre-Appointment

1. Don't let them be rude, asinine, bratty, overpowering, obnoxious, drunk. 
I had appointments at two shops that I cancelled because I just wasn't comfortable with their (a) screaming music, (b) drinking on the job, (c) asshole scheduler, (d) lack of portfolio, and (e) casual vibe. One shop manager told me that I couldn't handle sitting for more than two hours so they'd have to break up my tattoo into sessions, I know my tolerance for pain and my determination, I can sit. So, I'll take my business elsewhere. 

2. Follow your gut.
One artist cancelled on me twice. That was my sign to move on to bigger, better shops. And, well, I'm glad I did. If you run into something that makes you uncomfortable -like the guy who said we'd have a four hour appointment and he'd draw my art during that time- it's for a reason, stand up for yourself and your ink. 

3. Ask what their touch-up policy is. 
Every shop should have one. It'll vary from one free touch-up to lifetime care depending on where you go. It's never been a make or break for me, though I am thankful my arm piece is under a lifetime care sort of policy. 


1. Don't be cheap. 
By no means don't be expensive either, but every shop as a minimum. If you're going to get a small piece expect to pay at least $50 (but closer to $100) to cover your needles, ink, and the artist's time. Bigger pieces (like my arm) should cost between $100-$150 an hour. Usually the longer you sit, the better the rate the artist will give you. I paid about $500 for my arm -I got a rad deal because I sat for so long. 

2. Look to make a deposit. 
Any reputable artist and/or shop will have a portfolio for you to look through and will require a deposit ($30-$50) to hold your appointment. Those bucks will go towards your final bill, but you want them to want to hold you accountable. 

The Day Of

1. Once you have the stencil on your body -wiggle every which way, flex, pull the skin, etc. 
This stuff will move with your body. Seriously. And, sometimes that's not a good look. Like the guy in front of me at Target the other day with the naked chick on his calf. Every time his leg flexed her chin grew. I found it hilarious, but my guess is he didn't mean for that to happen to his pin-up girl. 

2. Don't drink or take anything or put weird shit on your skin. 
I know there's a lot of topical pain reliever. I know alcohol seems like it'll make it hurt less. I know it HURTS. But your body needs to be able to alert, ready for the healing process, and, honestly, you've got to be on your mental game. I sat for five and half hours for my arm piece -it wasn't comfortable, I was ready to be done at four and a half hours, but I also knew it was going to be worth it. 

They want cash because you could walk out and never come back and they'd be screwed. Bring cash. And, tip your artist. Mostly because they're awesome for making random conversation with you while you're whining about the pain, but also because this is art that they've bestowed to you forever. Also, you might need touch-ups and they'll remember if you tipped well or not. 

After Care

1. A&D Ointment ALL. DAY. LONG. 
After hurts. You feel like you've been burned and cut and there's salt ALL OVER IT. Because, well, you have. A&D Ointment will keep it all soft and not scabby (scabs will bring off the color) and not itchy and shiny. I seriously kept the thing covered in it and then wore one of Jason's old shirts to bed at night (because it'll leave little oil spots on the shirt). 

2. It's going to flake and peel. 
This is completely normal. The top skin's so traumatized it dies. NORMAL. In all the flaking and peeling the color will look faded and sort of funky, give your skin a week to figure itself out. Don't freak out and go back to the shop -they'll think you're nuts. 

3. Do NOT pick. 
I was really good about this with the big piece. But the touch-ups not so much and I can see the difference in the consistency of the ink in my skin. You can rub the peeling dead skin off with the palm of your hand and that'll slough away the top layers of skin (totally normal) which keeps things clean.  Don't pick. 

4. Lotion, lotion, lotion. 
Tattoo lovers differ here, but I think using lotion makes it look its best. No shaving or other weird stuff, just lotion -scented, or not, sunscreen, or not. I'm low-maintenance in that way and haven't noticed any weird fading in any of my tattoos. 

Important Facts

1. Artists don't like touching other artist's work. 
I have a spot on my foot where my tattoo has faded (common with foot pieces because of the weird skin) and I've asked two places about getting it touched up. Both shops have asked why I won't go back to the guy who originally did it, well, because he's MIA. It's still sort of faded along the bottom at this very moment. 

2. Don't let an amateur practice on you.
In one of my not-proudest-moments of life, I did this. And, well, I have a story to tell but not a tattoo I'm proud to show. So, don't. Artists in shops go through apprenticeships and such to ensure they know what they're doing -there's a price for that for a damn good reason. 

3. Love it's location and it's meaning
Make sure you love where you're putting it. Yes some tattoos hurt worse than others (hi, feet tats) but when it's done you've got a forever piece. Same goes for your symbol -make it mean something that you love in a BIG and meaningful way, not in a fad, Pinterest, hashtag one. Plus when you're defending yourself for getting it (because you will eventually to some random stranger in Target) you'll have something beautiful to say instead of "But it's cute!" 

Any more questions, email me, tweet me, or leave them in the comments! 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

and this is why we listen to our brothers -insane as they are.

Over the weekend my brother suggested I ride on the handlebars of a bike while he drives. Insane, yes. But that's what brothers are for -insanity. "Come on", he said. "It'll be so fun." As one who takes very little convincing, I said "I love fun. Adore fun. I want to do fun things. I am so much fun." 

Of course this seemed like a perfect photo opportunity, so with Mom at the helm of the iPhone, we embarked on our journey. We pointed the bike uphill (because why make it easy) with the sun at our backs and I scooted myself right up between the plastic handles. The bike teetered and tottered and I threw my legs out to balance things a bit all the while he began to push us -Flintstones-style- until we'd gained enough speed for his feet to start pumping those pedals. I hooted and hollered like I was on a well-engineered roller coaster ride -all the while nerve-sweating profusely.

Mom snapped. And snapped. And snapped. The sun was golden kissing our wobbly selves. The shadows stretched and drama-inducing. The colors muted in gorgeous evening light. This was Pinterest-esque. It was obviously destined for Instagram -all sorts of artsy and emotional and wistful- and let's make it Facebook official too.
We ooooh-ed and ahhhh-ed over the sweetness of the shot after the adrenaline-fueled spin around the block. Then, as all good bloggers, picture-takers, technology-junkies do, we swiped right to see what other gold she'd captured. And just three frames later, another -less perfect, more honest.

It's that one shot where I slipped from the handle bars between his hands heavily onto the metal frame of the bike between his arms restricting his ability to navigate our two person, bike-looking ship. All sorts of awkward and uncomfortable, he dipped the handlebars deeply to the left turning us in a wonderfully executed U-turn (as long as you don't count unintended off-roading an issue) and we were, once again, off. And I felt as in control of my fate as a bee hitting one's windshield.

He pedaled with concentration and balance and, as we gained speed, I did that squish-face, twelve-chinned, terror-grimace pose for iPhone to capture. I said all the bad words one girl could conjur in mere minutes of wild, out-of-my-control fun.

Once we'd come to a halt, his feet flat on the ground, me attempting to lug my suddenly so heavy rear back over the handlebars, we laughed. We saw there were no injuries, no impending emergency room needs, no urgent care visits as a result of the insanity and we laughed. All of us. There in the middle of the street. Because why do we listen to them our insane-idea-producing brothers?
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All this sibling bike riding to say, it takes moments to move from dreamy fun, picturesque glory to panic-stricken, cursing adventure.

All these pictures to show, what's the perfect one without the hilarity of the other? And so is life it seems.

All this talk to say, yes, life's beautiful, but it's also madness, scary, fun, adrenaline rich madness.

All these words and descriptors and fun story-ness to say, do it. Listen to that brother -insane as he is. Because sometimes we need a little bit of out-of-our-control adventure in our lives.
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Oh, and make sure someone takes some pictures. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

bad things. good people. and vice versa. [doubt&devotion]

Welcome to another edition of 
Kate from The Florkens and I are so glad to have you here, sharing your heart, and engaging in conversations about doubt, devotion, and all that's in between. 
Mr. Thomas & Me
You are invited to join us every Sunday for some talk on faith, religion, any and everything that lies heavy on your heart. We'll both post about our current struggles then at the bottom we'll invite you to join in the conversation either with a post of your own or in the comments section.

Oh how we're thrilled to have you. 
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Why do bad things happen to good people? 

Or conversely, why good things to bad people? 
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Dementia. A decidedly bad thing. My Popsicle. A damned good person. The diagnosis. Bad, hard, sad. My family. Good, workers, trying, but good -by all "standards". 

Why did this bad thing happen to us, good people? 

Or conversely, why didn't it happen to someone else, someone bad, someone mean, hurtful, unproductive? 
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I've heard it expertly explained, wonderfully "answered", and poorly addressed many times. Without seminary and any formal education, I write from my own deductions and experiences. I write candidly and randomly about the thoughts that follow, attempt to answer, drive along the same lines as said questions. 

I don't think God "does" things to people. I don't think He sits on His Heavenly throne looking down to see who needs justice, wrath, or a miracle. I don't think He lies in wait to punish us for bad or reward us for good. 

I think He decided to take a step back and give us free will. And while stepping back, He realized we need some parameters. And He gave them. He gave them specifically to Adam and Eve in the form of instructions about a certain tree in the garden long, long ago. Instructions that were broken and, in being so, changed the world as we knew it. That created brokenness -a trait that remains very alive today. 

I do think God sits on His Heavenly throne watching us muck it all up and suffer seriously from the consequences, just as a parent watches their teenager -knowing it's vital to learn every action has a reaction. I do think it breaks God's heart to watch us lose ourselves in the heartache and heart break of our culture. I do think He weeps for His children as we spin our wheels with all we've got to no avail. 

Bad things happen to good and bad people. So do good things. 
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I think it's more apparent to us when someone doesn't get what they deserve -good or bad. You win some, you lose some, and the whole time, God's there. I think that's the point in all this bad-good-happenings conversation: that He's there, sustaining, everlasting, incredible. 
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Dementia is bad, but He's good. 

He's here, sustaining, everlasting, incredible. He's good. 
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Friday, May 23, 2014

milking stool meetings: about bibles and journals and psalm 51

Now that we've got our hearts in the right place, it's time to lay down some of the logistics... Especially if we're going to get started on reading the book of John this next week. (Yes, you read that right, we're going to do a bible study together!)

Let's talk about bibles because you need one. Not simply to do a bible study with the Milking Stool babes, but because they're essential for life in general -or so I believe. Then, I'll let you take a peek at my journal and cover the strategy for this week's time in John 1.

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As you can imagine, there's a bible for every occasion and every person. I actually have four of these bibles on my bookshelf (or in my bedside basket) and have loved them deeply over the years. Right now, I'm adoring the single column NIV and, of course, I've got a picture for you.

For this week, get a bible babes. If your finances are tight and you're not sure how to get one, there are websites (like this one) that'll send you one for free. You should also be able to pick one up at your local church if you'd prefer not to wait. 

Let's Talk About Translations:

NIV - New International Version: This is the most popular use (as far as my church experience goes). It's the bridge between our modern use of English and the formal language of the New King Jame's version.

NRSV - New Revised Standard Version: I had a few friends who loved NRSV because it's a bit more formal (linguistically) than NIV but not quite New Kind James either. It doesn't come in many study bibles which means less space for notes and highlights. 

ESV - English Standard Version: If there was an "up and coming" category in bible translations this would be it. It's still got the formal bible language feel to it but uses diction familiar to all of us. 

MSG - The Message: A friend once said whenever they read The Message translation they felt like they should be rapping. I giggled, but I get it. This is like reading a novel. It's casual and sometimes the lessons feel off or watered down. Regardless it helps break down really difficult parts of passage because the language is accessible. 
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Now for a peek at my journaling for Psalm 51 as well as the homework for next week which is reading John 1. Don't feel pressure to read the entire book in a single sitting because, well, it's rich and awesome. Take your time and allow yourself to interact with the text (maybe by journaling). 

While you're reading jot down structure or emotion themes that strike you (those are numbered 1-4 in my journal for Psalm 51). Under that add a Point A with the verse (or bits of verse) directly from His word. If a paraphrase is more space Then Point B write how it's applicable or important or vital to you -be it encouraging or convicting. 

If you're struggling to understand the context of a passage or just need a little push start, I find Matthew Henry's commentary to be thorough (almost too much sometimes) and motivating while still allowing me to apply it to my life all by myself. Application can be the hardest part because translating the cultural context and language of bible times to America today is, well, difficult. But, we can do it. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


I've said it here before, I love my life. I'm blessed with a dear family, adorable husband, crazy animal sidekick. My job's mellow and fun, my home's comfortable and cared for, my body's healthy. But, lately, there's this burn that it's not enough, that I want more, the next thing, what's to come. It's replaced the contentment I felt with right now.

Maybe it's the oh-so-cute little girl's next door or the empty room we've sanctioned the future nursery or hormones or all the babies popping up on my Instagram feed or the new SUV I'm driving or ALL. THE. THNGS, but these squishy little babies have me yearning for one of my very own.
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I might have beckoned this struggle with the WANT for our next big thing during last month's Happy Hour Hangout in saying it's vital to mow your own lawn. That, yes, it seems as though the grass is greener on the other side (or sometimes just next door) and watering our lawn is important. Focusing on what we've got here, feeding and growing what's rightfully ours while encouraging the fellow gardeners around us.

But what's vital to a well-kept yard: mowing the lawn.

The weeds, the spots that grow long and wild, the bits that flow from their spot in the yard over the patio's edge -while natural are messy, unkempt, and begging for a mow.
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It's something we've discussed at length. It's not yet time. So that new SUV's got to be seen as a safer ride for me and the pup, instead of a reminder of what I want RIGHT. NOW. There's better timing -says the consensus. Timing that allows for more money in the bank, more travel, more settling into the #ThomasHouse.
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Like our yard where grass grows with weeds, flowers, and all that jazz, so do our hopes and dreams and thoughts. Just as our lawn needs mowing, maintaining, cutting back, so do our hopes and dreams and thoughts.

As summer sun and a little extra water grow my lawn, so does life. As winter dawns and lawns fall dormant under the weight of the cold air, so does life. And with the changes in seasons -weather and otherwise- come changes in the way we maintain our lawns and dreams.
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For now, I mow. I trim away the burn for baby. I tend the beautiful flowers that are blooming in our marriage (and our yard) remembering seasons will change, this married without children thing won't last forever. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

if my 15 year old self had a voice today she'd say

With age comes wisdom and identity and goal-realizing. Conversely, youth lends innocence and vulnerability and honesty before that whole jaded thing comes in and messes with such sweetness. Insert lots of thinking here.

We talk bundles about what we'd tell our high school selves and I love doing so. Thinking on the knowledge we've gained of ourselves, our world, our local context. How funny to look back where you were a decade ago and realize how much you didn't have figured out? It makes me wonder what 35-year-old Amber would have to say to decade younger me. I'm sure it'd include enjoying my body pre-babies, to be more kind to myself, and being proud of how I'm doing hard things.

Then I realized, I need to give a voice to that 15-year-old girl and her feelings about the present day me, because feelings were something she had in excess. Without further ado, a 10 things list from 15-year-old Amber.

1. YOU HAVE TATTOOS? I can't believe you have tattoos especially big ones that people can see and judge and love and hate.

2. I can't believe you married a guy that looks like your brother. I can believe you married a genius and an athlete. You did always have a thing for men that are smarter than you.

3. Wait, you write online for ALL THE PEOPLE to see?

4. You don't hate those girls that made fun of you? Wait, you're friends with them? You have a forgiving heart, obviously, and that came in the ten years that makes us different. Thanks for learning that because grace looks good on you even if it's trying at best.

5. The nose ring, again? I'm just glad you didn't get another nasty cold that infected it this time.
6. Thanks for being real about how scary high school youth group was. Young girls need to hear how it isn't all hellfire and brimstone, that sin doesn't stop us from being worthy, and we are more than what the cool kids (at school and church) make us out to be.

7. I like your car (you finally got that SUV you wanted). And your dog (even though she has an old lady name)             .

8. You have a cowhide in your living room? You really didn't get over that whole country music, country livin' thing.

9. How in the world did you end up running again? You swore that stuff off and yet, you do it ALL THE TIME now?

10. You got really brave all of a sudden -sorority life, Vagina Monologues, marriage, home ownership- you do hard things and it makes me realize: you are who I wanted you to be.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

doubt&devotion: living & loving

Welcome to another edition of 
Kate from The Florkens and I are so glad to have you here, sharing your heart, and engaging in conversations about doubt, devotion, and all that's in between. 
Mr. Thomas & Me
You are invited to join us every Sunday for some talk on faith, religion, any and everything that lies heavy on your heart. We'll both post about our current struggles then at the bottom we'll invite you to join in the conversation either with a post of your own or in the comments section.

Our link-up goes live today! 
Oh how we're thrilled to have you. 
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I worry about every little thing. From what shoes look best with my outfit to what the weather's going to be like the eleventh day from now, every little thing. I worry that I drink too much wine and coffee and too little water. I worry that I'm doing things wrong, that God's in Heaven frustrated with wrong I am, how off my intentions and effort seem to be.

The worry about being wrong can be so strong that I'm paralyzed in action or, worse, I avoid doing anything. My frustrations with my frozen-ness left me abrupt and short -surely unbecoming of me and my faith. Then, a truth came crashing down like an anvil from the heavens that changed my perspective.

If we shifted our goal from trying to be as great as Jesus to loving as Jesus did we'd be less stressed about our small choices and circumstances and become more focused on loving others. 

You. Me. Love. Jesus. I've not once seen an act done in love that's unbecoming. Not once. So, this week shall be a week of living in love with those around me and out of the love He has for me.
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Saturday, May 17, 2014

How to Grow Your Instagram: Tips From a Photo-Fanatic

This post was originally post on Hello Neverland as a part of her creativity and happy-chasing guest posts. 
We've all read those trite bits of advice where you're told to use hashtags, connect with other Instagrammers, share your photos on Twitter and Facebook, but you've already heard those tips and applied them and, well, not much has changed. So, do those plus these
I read somewhere once that the best way to change the way you see the world is to change your physical perspective. It seems so obvious, until you're in a bad mood and actually do it. The same goes for your pictures. As you move the placement of the lens different things become obvious or in focus then would be from eye-level. Plus, it makes you look artsy.

Just like readers of your blog have expectations when they come to your space, followers will come to your Instagram looking for themes and some predictability. Don't feel stuck in a niche or routine, but do create some stability amongst your pictures for them to enjoy. For me, this looks like #OOTD and books with perfect coffee foam pictures. Find what you enjoy creating regularly, then go with it. 

I've created three hashtags for the year: #teamthomas2014, #hazeldoes2014, and #thomashouse2014. They allow me to keep this year's pictures in one place for future reference (like when I make our 2014 photo book) while also creating a story line for my IG followers to enjoy perusing. It's a simple habit to get into and it'll create a cohesiveness in your shots.

I encourage you to try these three out for a month and see how things grow. Don't forget to find me on Instagram so we can share in this experiment! And for those who want a little more filter and photo-editing fun, come on over to my spot to learn a little bit about how I use VSCOcam, my new favorite editing app.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Let's Meet at the Milking Stool and Talk About Our Hearts

Welcome back for Week 2 of our bible study series! The response last week was so encouraging and beautiful, so let's start with me saying Thank you dearly. 

Today we're tackling the heart that each of us brings into bible study. A heart that's learning daily who we are in the glory and goodness of Him and what that means for each of our lives. Oh dears, so rich here.

Important Notes: 
#milkingstoolministries - our hashtag to share all the things we're learning, loving, needing

Whoa, that was a whole lot of meat. But what's important to realize is we each bring baggage and burdens to the table where we do our bible studying. We're each fearful of getting it wrong or, scarier yet, getting it right and feeling called to change. We're each nervous about how to pull out the right things and confused about how theoretical becomes practically applicable.

And, like I mentioned, there's some homework this week. Just to think on, pray on, meditate over your sweet heart. 

And the verse for this week: 
"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." -Psalm 51:10 

I encourage you to read all of Psalm 51 this week one time or a few times. Let it soak and marinate and think on the words contained there. Sometimes rich passages take me a few days to take in and Psalm 51 is a perfect example of being truth-heavy. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

an iced latte and the deets

If we were on a coffee date, I'd be drinking an iced latte. It's an acquired taste -at least for me- but now that I've got it, I just can't stop. It would have vanilla in it and I'd drink it nice and slow because that's how they taste best. I might get a scone this time and then share it with you. I'm working on being kinder to myself and scones might be the answer to that. I'd buy your drink -though you'd fight me since I bought last time.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd tell you I'm wrecked by the book I'm reading. I think it's something about the heartbreak or the lies or the falling apart-ness, but it's so sad. The saddest part is it happens in real life, not just in books, and, well, it wrecks me.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd say people are dying. People I know are dying. I know there's always been death, but, now, I'm aware of it and it's finality. People are dying. So is my Popsicle. And, while it makes me sad and miss them, I'm happy for them, for the freedom, for the beauty, for the no-more-suffering.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd share about how I've fallen in love with my closet again. You know those mornings where you stand in the doorway and say, I have so much to wear! I'm having those. Oh, you don't? But you should, it's fun and adventurous and content.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd rave about this bible study series I've started. I'd tell you how I JUST CAN'T STOP THINKING ABOUT IT. And that it's the first time I've felt that way in a long time. Oh, He's good to us. I'd ask how bible study is for you. What works? What doesn't? Do you take notes, too?

If we were on a coffee date, I'd be honest about my writer's block. Or maybe it's writer's fear. I don't know what it is, but I'm refusing to type offline and struggling with a few hard posts here. I sit and try and freeze right up. It's not for lack of inspiration or ideas or words, it's this doubt that screams discouragement louder than all other thoughts. I've read places that all writer's have little devils on their shoulders screaming that it all sucks. But, gosh darn I didn't want one.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd try not to swear. I'm trying not to swear but I don't even know why. DAMN IT. I guess I feel like ladies shouldn't say "bad" words, but I sort of like that rough edge on myself because I feel like there's always so much polish. I'd ask you if you swear and if you hate it or love it or don't give a rip.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd tuck my legs under me and become engrossed because, lately, everything holds lessons and wisdom for me to glean. Friend, I'd want to hear all the things you've got for me and, well, you'd pour something out that would change me for the better. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

dog fights and raised voices

Hazel got in a fight last week. It wasn't a fight per se. More of a jealousy, protective fueled pinning to the ground and growling fit. But fight's shorter.

You see, I was outside talking to a neighbor. His little, fluffy, unassuming dog came over at the same time that Hazel broke free from our front door (bad dog move #1). The neighbor's dog barked at me in the you're in my street way that dogs do. And, Hazel went apeshit (bad dog move #2). Thankfully being the graceful, composed dog owner I am I tackled my heathen mutt to the ground and whacked her snout for acting like an animal -which I've told her many times she is, but with a higher calling to act civilized.

All the dogs involved were fine. Good. Dog-like. And I was embarrassed both about my dog acting like a freakin' animal, my scraped up knees, and the good chance that in the scuffle I showed him my floral undies that I had under my sweet summer dress (thank goodness the dress wasn't ruined).

I was embarrassed and mad and unsure what to do. So I said sorry a lot of times. And he, he showed me such grace. He said, "she was protecting you just like good dogs do." 

I was floored. My seventy-five pound sack of dog instinct just took down your fluffernut and you tell me she's doing what dogs were meant to do? Holy heavens. He wrecked me, right there, mid-street, post dog scuffle, bloody kneed.
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You see, earlier that afternoon, I'd raised my voice at Darryl, the customer service representative assigned to my unsatisfactory technical support survey (again). After hanging up with him, I was still frustrated and, yet, ashamed for yelling at him. I'd justified my behaviors (to myself) because he did it first -raised his voice, that is.

It was the end of his work day -mine too- and he probably was tired -just like me. He wanted to help me, to understand the issues at hand, but I was insolent, over the struggle of constant service loss, impatient at ALL. THE. ISP. THINGS. I didn't like his answers to my questions.

So, I said, you can't tell me because they said so. I got him heated -sort of on purpose. Then reacted with my own white, hot anger. Maybe he was protecting his job just like good workers do. Maybe he was protecting his employer just like good employees do. Maybe he was protecting himself like good men do.

Damn, maybe, he needed grace just as bad as I.
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I gave the neighbors a bag of loaded cookie bars (you should make yourself some). And Hazel gave a bag of dog treats in apology. But Darryl, he got nothing but my guilty heart and a humble grace next time because that's how these lessons work -reappearing until grace abounds and we get it right for once.

Bad answers. Protective dogs. Scuffles and screams. Or grace. Lots of grace.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

doubt & devotion: you know.

Welcome to 
Kate from The Florkens and I are so glad to have you here, sharing your heart, and engaging in conversations about doubt, devotion, and all that's in between. 
Mr. Thomas & Me
You are invited to join us every Sunday for some talk on faith, religion, any and everything that lies heavy on your heart. We'll both post about our current struggles then at the bottom we'll invite you to join in the conversation either with a post of your own or in the comments section.

Our link-up goes live today! 
Oh how we're thrilled to have you. 
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I sat next to an atheist in art class in high school. Then a two week trip to Italy arose and I went to Italy on an art trip with an atheist. I was a God-believing, bible-loving girl. Despite our fundamental differences in belief, he and I gravitated towards one another. Opposites attract -I believe it. I didn't want to date him -which was saying a lot for my hormone-raging, boy-crazy teenage self. But, he just had this thoughtfulness about him that I needed to understand. My guess, he'd have said the same.

In the heart of the Vatican City, we started a conversation that endured many months until summer break slipped in and split up our neighborliness. The conversation about my faith and his disagreement with it.

Once he said, Amber, how do you know? Do you always know? 

Quite honestly, I told him, No. I don't. I don't always knows. I don't hardly know. But I believe. And for me, that's enough. 

He said, Amber, one of us is wrong.

And I said, yes, one of us is wrong. And if it's me, I'm proud to have lived loving and following a faith that's hard and yet rewarding, that's difficult and yet comforting, that's encouraging and yet challenging.

He said, You know. 

I don't think he meant I know all the things I believe -I don't. Or that he agreed with my beliefs -he didn't. But he knew that I was sure of my path -I was, I am. And, for us, that was enough.
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Did ya'll see the announcement and introduction for the new series on Mr. T and Me? Because you, dear readers, are invited not only to join, but to glean wisdom, bare fruit, speak truth with me. 
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Friday, May 9, 2014

let's talk some more about bible study.

You ask. I answer. Or so we pretend the story goes.

#ThomasHouse2014 was growing old and tiresome on me. Guess I'm not cut out to be a DIY blogger. And, truth be told, I'm all good with that fact. But, I enjoyed the discipline of a weekly series. So, after a few emails, some Instagram comments, and lots of thinking about my purpose behind this space, it became clear: bible study.

We're all struggling with it. Wondering how to get better, be more invested, turn truth to application. What better way to work through all this goodness than together? Consider yourself welcomed.

Links and Things

So what does it all mean? It means on Fridays I'll be here, sitting at the dinner table, talking your ear off for five to six minutes. I'll be sharing my heart for God's word, answering your questions, and, quite possibly, leading a study with you pretty little things. How's that sound? 

Thanks for letting me talk ridiculously fast about a WHOLE lot of things. Thanks for having sweetness in your hearts and souls. Thanks for entertaining the idea of growing in Him together. 

And finally, my tools of the trade: 

highlighters || bible || pens || journal || devotional || coffee

Finally, questions babes. 
Share them below. Tweet them to me. Drop one on IG
Or, of course, feel free to email

Thursday, May 8, 2014

two drinks on the bar and a heaping serving of responsibility.


I watched a woman spill two drinks on the Starbucks Pick-Up-Here bar. Then blame it on a barista. No one was mad. Not even the owners of the lost drinks (because she had her paws on someone else's coffee). She couldn't say it was her doing. And it made me wonder, why the denial, blame, fear of ownership? Oh how that wasn't my doing, she claims. Though we all knew different. 
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Responsibility. It means managing money, not drinking too much, being wise with your time. It's weighty and muscle-growing (if not in the tendon, protein-packed way we know). 

Fault. It's ownership. It answers that question: how did this happen? It's that little something where you owning your stuff. 

Fault. Responsibility. Two words with such different connotations, yet such a mingling of meaning. Not always do the two intersect but when they do: it's spending intimate time together in blurry photos necking at the bar, lounging tangled lazily together along a beautiful turquoise ocean kissing the white sand at their toes, holding hands fingers laced and sweaty.  
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As I stood there watching the baristas make up for the spilled drinks double time, while another wiped up the mess with a towel and mop, I wondered why. Why couldn't the spiller take responsibility for what was obviously her fault? 

Did she think she'd have to pay the difference? Would it mean never returning to Starbucks again? Were there invisible Coffee Spill Police outside waiting to detain her? 
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Admitting fault sucks. Oh how it does. But it's our responsibility. It's our commitment to one another in relationships, in love, in life. It's the choice to say: I did that and it wasn't right and, well, as hard as it is to say, I'm sorry. It's the realization that good or bad, happy or sad, we belong to each other and I'm depending on you to do your part while I do mine. 
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Everyone got their coffee. The Spiller swiftly swooped up her Venti Caramel Macchiatto and headed for the door, scone in hand. And, I surprised myself. No snark, no eye roll, no caustic comment to the flustered barista instead a prayer for the Spiller's heart. That she'd learn love lives, that we aren't all waiting around to bite one another's heads off, that she's allowed to mess up despite what might tell her otherwise. 
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Take responsibility, allow those lessons to seep into the deepest parts of your soul. Because you'll learn, my dear, that love lives, grace it gives. We aren't all laying in wait to bite your head off when you mess up because you will. And, lovely one, you're allowed that -messiness. You're allowed to spill, to make mistakes, to whoopsy daisy. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

let's make things just right.

I've read blogs since college. Since I was working my damnedest to look busy and attentive in class. Since I hardly knew what I wanted in myself, my degree, my job, my life. As I've grown and changed and defined myself, so has my taste in my readings -online and off.

But, there's just those Old Favorites (or O.F.s as my mom and I call them). They're like those sweats that you bought pre-yoga pants, all cotton and cozy, faded from all the washings, and yet, favorites. I've got O.F.s of everything -sweats, sandals, sneakers, boots, blankets, books, friends, blogs. 

And, one of those blogs happens to belong to a woman living just an hour from me. A woman with exquisite taste in wine that happens to originate mere miles from the ThomasHouse. We've emailed, commented, enjoyed watching one another online. Then, she did this crazy cool thing and said, let's have a date. And I, quite flattered and flabbergasted, said yeeeeessssssss. 

We dated this weekend. Over wine and burgers and a random wedding in the gardens. 

I was nervous. All jitters and trying on twenty-seven different outfits while cleaning random imaginary messes to soothe my excited soul. Slowly I was creating expectations, imagining conversations, planning how to be just enough, not too much, and witty all the same. Then that knock on the door happened. That knock that said, it is time.

And there she was. At my front door. Like a little bit of celebrity standing on my porch. Quickly we're off and talking and wining and dining and laughing at how well she knew my hometown in light of my lackingness. I've always tailored myself -holding tight to the Goldilocks' Goal that says not to be too much or too little, but instead, just right. 

At dinner our table was small, yet the space was large for us to seek and share in a way that was completely new to me.We acknowledged how we are such opposites -honestly and gently with humor and care- while realizing how much we are the same. There was conversation about the faith we know, the friends we cherish, the family we love along with a realization we are cut from the same cloth and life's dealt us two differing hands.

It felt freeing. Like being locked in a stuffy room with many sweet people which seems good, even great, until blessedly, a window cracks open allowing for a gust of fresh air, flushing new life into the space, creating space more than recycled air (and opinion). Freshness you've been desiring for much time without even realizing it. Air you desperately needed for growth and renewal though you hadn't the slightest idea of it's absence.

All that wondering and worrying about being too much and too little was for naught, because, you silly Goldilocks, authenticity is what makes things just right

Monday, May 5, 2014

i never thought i'd participate in another link-up. but i'm glad i did.

I might have started celebrating Cinco de Mayo early on a date at the wineries with a blogger turned friend (Yes, I'm still shocked that stuff happens in real life). That leaves me with a weekend hangover (not from the wine, I think) and that Monday dose of feeling not-so-creative. Until I remembered how the other, hotter, more important, less desperate Juliette talked about how she's doing things she just never thought possible. 

The Other Juliette

And then I remembered how last week I was busy pushing our lawn mower with all my might (because I happened to forget to pull the throttle on the self-propel helper majigger that moves that gosh darn machine for me) and thinking, gee, I love doing this. But who in their right mind loves to mow their lawn? Maybe my mind isn't quite right (would we be surprised) but love the grass, the workout, the outdoorsy nature of it all. Plus when I'm done I can sit in the backyard with a sweet tea and be so proud of myself. 

That thought of unexpected love for all things lawn mowing got me thinking about all the things I didn't ever expect for myself. Hence the list that follows. 
|| be madly in love with mowing the lawn. Seriously, the obsession is real.
|| own a home at 25. Yes it was a dream, but dreams don't always become reality.
|| go five days without a "traditional" hair wash. #dryshampsforthewin

|| wear red lipstick. In fact, wear lipstick in general.
|| be honest about my dreams to write about all. the. things.
|| sport a half sleeve and nose ring and love every ounce of attention they get -even the negative.

|| own my shit, take the blame, be okay with accepting fault. (It's freeing ya'll)
|| find a best friend in my mom and give grace to those who don't understand on our relationship.
|| marry a man who encourages my fierce need for independence while serving as my sounding board and comfort at the end of long, exhausting days.

||become obsessed with Hazel who's my copilot, shadow, and cuddle buddy.
|| share matching tattoos with two men -Popsicle and Bubba.
|| possess the confidence to take and post #selfie gone #ootd more days than not.

|| be pushed to write by my dad dying. I always thought it'd be his constant encouragement, tough love, and questioning that would do it.
|| grow a successful garden three times over.
|| master the art of perfectly frying an egg.

|| meet new people online. Then love them as dear friends off.
|| go to a book release and cry at the glory of the memories from that night.
|| struggle going to church. But choose to push through and try finding home there again.

I also never thought I'd be linking up, or sharing this useless information, a month later than everyone else, but there's a first time for everything. Slash, Mondays are always the best days to try something for the first time. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

just a smidge of potty talk.

Welcome to the first edition of 
Kate from The Florkens and I are so glad to have you here, sharing your heart, and engaging in conversations about doubt, devotion, and all that's in between. 
The Florkens
You are invited to join us every Sunday for some talk on faith, religion, any and everything that lies heavy on your heart. We'll both post about our current struggles then at the bottom we'll invite you to join in the conversation either with a post of your own or in the comments section.

Our link-up goes live today! 
Oh how we're thrilled to have you. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

One time my high school pastor posed a difficult question: "Would you eat a brownie if you knew the batter had diarrhea in it? Even just two tablespoons?" 

I guess, it wasn't that difficult, no I wouldn't eat it. 

He was explaining how our choices were the same. Even just a little bit of bad spoils all the good. And, at sixteen, I said yes, a little bit of bad is all bad. I thought, wow being good will be so easy now. Just say no to any and all things with even just a hint of bad. 

Then, I thought, if no one told you about the secret diarrhea ingredient, would you know? Would you know there's a little bit of bad in all that chocolate goodness? You might eat three or four and not know. You might say these are the best brownies to pass my lips. You might want the recipe for yourself. 

And Christ, he came to give you that recipe. To shed light on the shitty, secret ingredients. To say, there are better offerings for you my dear child. He came with a new way to make things right. A way that was hard, scary, painful, while being rewarding, love-filled, awesome. 

Jesus didn't come for the all good, no diarrhea souls. He didn't come to make our flesh all good, no bad perfection.  If there wasn't mess -big or small in portion- Jesus would be irrelevant. He came for the messiest, ugliest, saddest, shittiest of us. 

He wouldn't have created that intersection where revelation of our poor ingredients and the opportunity for betterment meet if we were all good, all tasty, all perfect-like. And, though I hate to admit it, I'm thankful I'm allowed to have my shit, to turn it over to Him, to be made tasty and good and anew. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

April taught me that your opinion isn't my truth. May shall say...

Thank the good Lord April is over. Thank the good Lord I lasted through the vulnerability gamut. That vulnerability thing is not for the faint of heart.

I did well, for a drop in the bucket sort of period, and was proud of what it meant to be honest about my feelings -especially those one's that are more unbecoming. I spent the month being introspective about how it feels to be hurt, to feel replaceable, to seem unimportant. They were feelings long in lasting, hard in healing, but freed in speaking (and writing).

I realized I struggle with my own opinion's of myself in the light of what other's think of me. When someone makes me feel stupid, I think is that so? I wonder if they know me, see me, understand me in ways more genuine and right than I see myself. But that's damaging.

Acknowledging and evaluating critique is important for growth, but it's vital to remember -right or wrong- those evaluations don't change what's true about you. Though someone can think I'm stupid and make me feel so, I'm not. And, I'm working hard to remind myself of what's true about me.

As April closes, May begins. And with the start of another beautiful month, I realize it's time to remember what I'm doing that's B.R.A.V.E. Hence,

May: the month of responsibility. 

In thinking of what responsible means, how I can do it better, I thought of money -of course. How we own a home and two cars and I could surely use less of what I want and love more of what I've got. So, I'm shopping less and taking the Amazon app off the first page of my phone screen. But responsibility is more than money. It's owning one's shit (ya'll know how much I love to do that). It's realizing where the time flies, it's watching what I'm consuming -nutritionally,emotionally, spiritually.

I'm a consumer says my bookshelves, my bank account, my fridge. Television has always been a lovely "treat" for my soul, but since we've moved I've been too busy to set up my favorite shows on the DVR (minus the Real Housewives of Orange County) and, to be honest, it hasn't made me sad. It's made me a little more free. And that extra freedom has turned into writing more and reading too. Turns out the more I read, the more inspired I feel.

So, less shopping, more utilizing. Less social media cruising, more reading and writing. Less TV, more time engaging. May is the month where I want to be able to say: I used my time damn well. 
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In an effort to give myself a practical measure for just how responsible I am about to be (or not), I've decided to take on Semi-Charmed Kind of Life's Summer Reading Challenge.

  • Read any book that is at least 200 pages long. (5 points) Bossypants by Tina Fey (288 pages)          
  • Read a book that was written before you were born. (10 points)
    Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (224 pages) 
  • Finish reading a book you couldn't finish the first time around. (10 points)
    Emma by Jane Austen (328 pages)
  • Read a book from the children’s section of the library or bookstore. (10 points)
    The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (208 pages) -the sole reread.
  • Read a book that is on The NYT's Best Sellers List when you begin reading it. (15 points)
    The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (352 pages) 
  • Read a historical fiction book that does not take place in Europe. (15 points)
    The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (336 pages) 
  • Read a book another blogger has already read for the challenge. (15 points)
  • Read a book with “son(s),” “daughter(s)” or “child(ren)” in the title. (20 points)
    The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards (401 pages) 
  • Read a book that was/will be adapted to film in 2014. (20 points)
    Wild by Cheryl Strayed (315 pages) 
  • Read a book written by a blogger. (25 points)
    When We Were on Fire by Addie Zierman (256 pages) 
  • Read a biography, autobiography or memoir. (25 points)
    What Remains by Carole Radziwill -yes, from Real Housewives of NY (264 pages) 
  • Read a pair of books with antonyms in the titles. (30 points)
    Mended by Angie Smith (224 pages) & She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb (480 pages)
*Only one of my books is a reread. Mostly because there's so many on our shelves I haven't yet read.*

Now that I've shared it here, I'm hoping to make my best of efforts towards all that's here... Though I'm nervous because this is more books than I've read in the last year! I've told myself it's not about getting it all done, but knocking out some major reading and taking in awesome inspiration. And, just to further the challenge, I'm only going to read books that we already have in our rainbow bookshelf (because how responsible is that?). 
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How do you responsibly draw social media lines?
-Asking for a friend. 

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