Monday, November 30, 2015

#collaboreads: The Bronte Cabinet

It's the end of November and what way to end a month of thanks than with a FABULOUS conversation about books? There's no way. So, we're here gathering and writing about the nonfiction reads that made our month more interesting (and educational).

If you missed what #Collaboreads is, you can familiarize yourself here.

Short version: Rachel and I pick a random criteria for the book (i.e. Takes Place in Summertime). You pick your book and read it. Then the last Monday of the month we meet up and talk about our choices.

There's a R.E.A.D.S. review format that we've shared for suggestion's sake (shared in this post), but feel free to review however you're comfortable!

My pick for this month is fascinating because it combines #Collaboreads and the Semi-Charmed Winter Book Challenge together into one which brought me to a surprising pick for my read. It was as though serendipity stepped in and said "Amber, this is your book" while I stood reading over all the titles on the Featured shelf in the entrance of our library.

Meet The Bronte Cabinet by Deborah Lutz. It's just as the title suggests: a look into the lives of the Bronte sisters through nine of the things they owned.

I've always had a bizarre fascination with the Bronte sisters. I've only ever read Wuthering Heights, and, if I'm honest, struggled to understand what allured so many people to their novels. Up until now, the words and fancy english have been allowed to confuse me, distract me, and bring me to a paralyzed pace as I try to work through the words.

BUT, now I've read this. And in reading The Bronte Cabinet, I get it. These women, sisters, lived a rich (and not specifically in money) life. They saw opportunity and abundance in every ounce of their surroundings. They were makers, creators, imaginers from the moment they could conceive ideas and that fascinates me.

The book is dry, really dry. It's thick with history and all kinds of information about the time, culture, place in which the sisters lived. At times, I felt like I was dragging through the details, but the narrative was fascinating. Some of the objects (dog collar, walking habits, small handmade books) were interesting and easy to read through while others felt oddly obsessed over... As though only six objects were going to illustrate the three lives of the sisters, but nine was a rounder, better number.

The piece that kept me moving throughout the book was finding the sisters so approachable, so like me, so modern women in their own rite. I recognized myself in the way they turned childhood fantasy into life-fulfilling dreams. I saw how their family and socioeconomic status and happenings influenced their characters and their work. I felt refreshed to know that I'm like them, that the creative process -though always unique- is fundamentally the same.

Here's where the Semi-Charmed Winter Book Challenge comes in: I chose this book because Katherine Reay's The Bronte Plot was released in early November. I wanted to read the book this month (haven't yet) because I adore all of Reay's other work, but wasn't able to squeeze it in to any of the categories. That is, until I ran to the library to pick up a book on hold and found The Bronte Cabinet. There's an obvious connection between the two and their subject matter while one is fiction, the other nonfiction. 

But, I also have to say, the lines and associations between the history of the Bronte sisters and their books are drawn in bold, clear lines. It was fascinating to hear about the influences of their family and friends and circumstances in their writings. Very specific connections were drawn between characters, rooms, events in the books and their lives which gave life to what can feel like antiquated, old literature. 

The cover screams traditional England with it's gold frame and elegant embellishments. It's straight-forward, no nonsense in the same way the book presents the history of the Bronte family. But it's beautiful too, just the way any big picture presentation of life can be beautiful. 


Three point seven five.

I wanted to give it four, but it just didn't move from one detail to the next quite as quickly as I'd have liked. The book was dry and sometimes tedious in the way it ran through parts of the sisters lives... I guess in reflection to the way life can be in its slow, mundane movements.

But, more than that, I was fascinated and even opened up to the richness that is the non-fiction, biography genre. I've always tended to steer away from them because of the matter-of-fact writing within their pages. I've always opted for novel or memoir and tI need to expand my horizons even if not necessarily simple to do.

And now, it's your turn to talk about all the books that filled your month!

Next month, we're linking up on December 28th and we're reading 
A Friend's Favorite
Yes, for December ask a friend what book to read. 
See you in a month!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

this is how i thank you. (plus a shop coupon code)

We have a policy in the Thomas House that no Christmas decorating is allowed to happen prior to Thanksgiving. We believe in the power of thank you and that it's the perfect primer for the Advent season. But, the moment Thanksgiving closes and Noemvember 27th dawns we are Christmas Elves

Literally, we open the Christmas tree lot with smiling faces and take down every pumpkin as we sprint around the house. Sparkles and twinkle lights and all kinds of ornaments bring smiles to our faces and twinkles to our eyes. And why, why is there something so delightedly magical about this time of year? 

What's this got to do with now? Well, it's the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and you're busy planning out ALL THE SHOPPING that you need to do. I get it. But I'm not great with the mad crowds and crazy lines that come with shopping in real life on days like Friday. So I provided a way to get some handmade, heartfelt art for your (or your friend's) home 

Let's not waste time with words and things, but instead get to the good stuff. Good stuff like DISCOUNT CODES

Keep an eye out over the weekend for Small Business Saturday's sale as well as Cyber Monday's final code!

But most importantly, thank you.
Thank you friends for supporting me, 
for believing in me, 
for encouraging me, 
and for coming back to buy from me 
time after time. It makes my soul soar. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

marriage letter: the power of missing

Welcome to you, to you and to your words today. 

The Letter Link-up | Mr. Thomas & Me

This letter is part of the letter link-up. While I am spending my letters documenting moments within our marriage before children for our children because they won't know us without them, but you are allowed to write your letter to anyone, on anything with the prompt being simply a starting point.

This letter is one in a series of letters I write to remember mundane moments of my marriage that would otherwise slip away. I write with a dedication to hold tight to him and to remember how life looks right now at this very moment. The chance for these letters to shed light on our marriage before children for our children because they won't know us as newlyweds is a much loved and added bonus. 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dear Jason, 

I went away for a long weekend last month. It was lovely, refreshing, and full of adventure in a city I didn't know. But I missed you. 

I missed you in the way that a little kid misses -not aware, but then undeniably. It started as being busy with the fun of San Francisco and distraction from your absence. I biked and dined and wined and danced. I giggled and slept in and drank too many coffees. I shopped a bit, talked a lot, and made my first ever 40,000 step day. It was lovely. 

The weekend's fun would subside in small dips of restful quiet and I would miss you like a preteen boy. It was an indignant miss that pretended not to be mushy or quaint, only empowered and strong. It was a secret miss that even I couldn't recognize. But it was there, latent. 

As we ran from Union Square to Chrissy Field, I celebrated the freedom you give me. The freedom to go and do, to be and see, to travel and to miss. And there, in the realized identity of growing up, I missed you in an intense way that only a teenage girl can manage. In a way that dances on the line of dependence and individuality. 

And then we celebrated. We sat in a dark, dusty bar and tried egg white cocktails. We swiped through our roll of photos from the weekend. We talked about the city, the way it's different than our small town. We had dinner, walked some more steps, celebrated our weekend with an ice cream Sunday and wine. Early bed times beckoned because of our predawn flight and I missed you as a wife. 

I missed you and wanted work to let you off early so I could wrap my arms around your neck. I missed you while I did the laundry that smelled of you, while I made the bed that hadn't seen anyone but you, while I bathed the dog who spent the weekend being yours. And in the depth of coming home to an empty house, I knew I was made to spend my life loving you when you're here and missing you when you're gone. 

I will love you and miss you as long as my heart can live, 
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Date for December's Letter: 
Monday, December 21st
When Your Light is Brightest
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
And now, the important part, YOU: 

Friday, November 20, 2015

the balance between dreaming and doing [with a giveaway]

*I received Dream It. Pin It. Live It. from The Fedd Agency in exchange for a review.
All opinions and views are expressly my own.

My word for the year is savor.

Initially I wrote about it in hopes to slow, be more engaged, grow my appreciation for life as it happens. I imagined I would be more joyful, less busy, and in a similar place I was nearly eleven months ago. But life, as we know, never happens in the way we imagine and here I am in a new, blessed place.

The book was set aside. The shop was opened. The home "finished". The running remains. The To Do Lists growing. The husband a glorious gem. The blog continuing and gaining direction. The dreams rampant in my soul.

Savoring is still important, but it's no longer focused on the main dish life has plated for me; it's now about the zest. It's about the nuances and herbs and sweet little details in each proverbial meal that's graciously given to me. It's, as so perfectly said by Terri Savelle Foy in her new novel, Dream It. Pin It. Live It., about a new focus on fulfillment rather than futility:
"The focus is on your zest for living life to the fullest and fulfilling every dream God has put in your heart to do. Plan the highlights of your life. Live on purpose. Remove limitations. Maximize your moments." 
As I'm blessedly drowning in shop work, I became daunted by the idea-making process. I was accidental in creating and fearful about the next custom order request to arrive. Thankfully, Dream It. Pin It. Live It. by Terri Savelle Foy came alongside my creative process and helped me to grow my small hopeful visions into beautiful works of art. While I work to develop and market piece by piece, Foy's words often echo through my mind. Her words were balmy encouragements, spreading a kind light in the darkness of a busy, doubtful mind. Her concepts aren't life-altering, but instead beautiful reminders of your own knowledge.

She's a gentle Mama patting your shoulder and reminding you of the strength in your own soul. Like Mama, she's right and convicting when you're really not interested in hearing her. Like Mama, she is sweet and cheesy. Like Mama, you love her in all her goodness, but you disagree with bits and pieces of her advice too. Like Mama, she keeps talking all the same. Like Mama, she makes you better at what you already do so well.
"Remember, what you achieve isn't nearly as important as who you become while you're working toward the goals..." 
Like I said, cheesy, but convicting. Cliche, but deeply true.

When the year started I was sure I'd be querying agents by the end of the year. I knew I'd need a team of someones to go through my manuscript and letter with me and I was thrilled at the idea. I planned to be a part of #NaNoWriMo once again this year. And then November came. I skipped #NaNoWriMo (after a successful completion of it last year) because the shop needed me. I am thankful for the busy of art making, but I miss my words. I was angry on November 1st when I wasn't feeling the writing burn.

But, for now I'm wearing the artist hat. I'm covered in flecks of acrylic paint and my soul is smiling as it is so. I know there will be a lull in shop business in just a few weeks which will give me time to recuperate from the making season that proceeds Christmas. And in that place, I can only imagine the words. So, in preparation I've started setting priorities for myself. Ones that say rest, relax, reward. And still being sure to include WORDS in bold, bubbly letters.
"We have to remember that there will always be an unlimited list of goals we need to accomplish, 'priorities' are always fighting for our attention; but if we really want to reach our goals, we must learn the skill of saying no." 
And while I've said no and savored the shop, I'm thrilled at the opportunity to say yes in the coming weeks. I'm laying awake at night with ideas and ruminating on the possibilities that bounce around in my wild mind. I'm hoping on all hopes to come back to my 50,000 words. I miss the book and all the thoughts that sit around anticipating the day they walk through the world between two covers. And so, I will begin again.

And as I close, I offer you a copy of Dream It. Pin It. Live It. to help with your own dreams! I will include a surprise item from AmberThomasMakes to keep inspiration on your walls.

Simply drop a little glimmer of your current work 
on your dream in the comments section below 
and you'll be entered into the giveaway!

Extra entry in giveaway for sharing about the giveaway in a tweet or sharing your dream in an Instagram photo (remember to tag me: @mrthomasandme).

A random winner will be selected on Monday, November 23th at 9:00am PST and notified via comment reply and email. Upon notification, winner will be asked to provide current mailing address. Should winner not reply, a second winner will then be selected. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

the importance of saying "you are welcome".

One time an aunt gave me a beautiful tea cup. She said she knew I collected them and that she wanted to offer it to me. I was floored and complimented and flushed with joy. I told her thank you over and over. And she told me it was no longer special to her. She said she was going to give it away but wanted to see if I was interested first. I cupped my hand around the fragile bowl of that tea cup and blushed to the depth of my core.

Now I think about that interaction over the tea cup and realize: it wasn't about her, but about me. 

I was so thankful, so prepared to give that beautiful cup a safe home and those two facts were enough. It didn't need to hold meaning on both ends, it didn't need to be defined as relationship changing for both of us, it just needed to be what it was. But there's days when I see the tea cup holding my bracelets in it's china hull and I wish she'd said, you're welcome. 

Because we love to be welcomed. We love an open door -even if it's metaphorical and in our hearts. We love a quick embrace -even if it's proverbial words wrapped tight around our souls. When times are tough, life is trying, our soul's home is missing, we ache for a warm welcome. And so our blessed friends extend themselves, opening up a safe space in which we lay down, we mourn, we rest. We know the importance of being welcomed. And we admit how deeply we love to be welcomed.

And yet, my spirit isn't welcoming. It wraps it's arms tight, rocks to and fro protecting itself from the bumps and bruises that life promises to hold. It isn't interested in trying, but prefers what's done. It ignores the invitations to gather, to come together, to commune for fear of emptiness. But this place -with its safe promises and careful controlled circumstance- isn't fruitful or vibrant or fun. It's dull and boring and sheltered.

I'm learning to say, you are welcome. I'm starting with Him. It's hard. It's scary. It leaves me feeling raw and humbled. But I will continue to tell Him, He is welcome. Because as I welcome Him, I have the opportunity to welcome you too. As He opens bits and pieces of my sealed-off heart, my life will grow wider, larger, grander. So hear me please: you are welcome.

Welcome speaks love and worth and belonging. Welcome is a gentle flood over our souls, a care-filled overwhelm that refreshes what's dry, a spray of hope when dire darkness abounds. Welcome is a choice, not always easy or fun, but surely rewarding. Here me please: you are welcome. Your mess and chaos, your beauty and strength, your tears and fear, your sureness and doubts; it's all you and it's all welcome.

You are welcome.

Monday, November 16, 2015

coffee date 19

If we were on a coffee date, I'd be drinking something hot, hot, hot. It's finally cold here in California, like really cold (by California girl standards) and so I went from flip flops to boots, from lazy short pajamas to flannels with socks. The fireplace is going each night and it's got me really hankering to decorate for Christmas. We decorate after Thanksgiving (literally, the day after), tell me about when your red and green goes up. 

If we were on a coffee date, I'd share this recipe for a Kale-Gnocchi-Butternut Squash bake. It's simple and easy and takes 30 minutes after work, but yields a delicious beyond compare dinner. I make it without the ham (because I'm lazy) and Jason loves it. This is a big deal because Jason is always repulsed by meals that do not include some form of meat.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd wonder what you're aching for right now. I'd ask you about the good parts of the ache and the bad parts too. I'd encourage you to ache for a while, to let the muscles of want work themselves out because, like being sore after the gym, relief is coming (even if you and I are both completely unaware of what that looks like).

If we were on a coffee date, I'd confess I saw The Martian. It was on a Sunday night date that Jason and I are working intentionally to have each week right now. He really wanted to see the movie and so, I caved. It was good. It really, honestly was good. I still have a preference for the book and the tale of how it came to be published. But I wasn't as angry or disappointed as I thought I'd be. Thank you, Hollywood.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd tell you that I'm hopeful and afraid about Christmas. This is the time of year when the biggest piece of my dad disappeared and with this season comes so much emotional heavy. But I've been playing this Christmas concert (from the beloved church we attended during college) for myself all the livelong days. I sobbed in a packed auditorium of a San Diego high school while this concert played out and these songs, the paper chains, the voice of Juanita rock me all the same. 

If we were on a coffee date, I'd shyly share that I wrote words for the book. Yes, I wrote for the book and I cried a lot, but it felt so good. I sat and sipped coffee and bared the little broken pieces of my Popsicle-missing heart. It made me feel less afraid of what's to come this Advent season and in the months beyond. It made me thankful to be here where we are and not back there where we were so long ago.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd have my Uggs on. I know it's not really that cold in California (except it does drop to below freezing regularly here already), but my feet have been SO COLD when I wake up in the morning and I just can't get them warm. So, I'd have on my Uggs and I'd be shameless about it because the toes might fall off if they get any colder (or at least that's how it feels to me).

If we were on a coffee date, I'd ask for tips on gathering. I'd want to know what makes gathering easier, more fun, deeply engaging for you. I'd want all the details about savoring who's in your presence and how you make such moments full of joy. You'd share all your tips and I'd write them down because 'tis the season to gather for me. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

when the world runs dry

I had a visit with my dad yesterday. It was just me and him among the other residents and staff. It was me and him in a bubble of faux-familiarity while the chaos of memory illness whirls madly around us. This place is uncomfortable, deep and threatening, while safe. It feels like panic in the middle of the ocean though I'm hanging tightly to a night raft. I'm not sure if I should be more terrified of drowning in this disease or what lurks beneath the dark surfaces of the water.

But yesterday it was the moment I saw him for the first time in a few months that brought me here today. 

I walked in to his room and found a thin, run-dry shell of a man. A man I can hardly bear to call my father because of the immense void. I stood still and silent as I stared at his chest rising and falling under a few blankets. I saw the emptiness in his small square room and thought of the desert place in Isaiah. I thought of God's promise to flood dry places with water, bringing pools of refreshment over the barren ground. I stood and I watched and thought of all the parched nooks and crannies within my soul.

I know of His promises, but I feel so desperately afraid they weren't meant for me. 

When the room is so quiet and still, only his breath and mine to be heard, His presence is haunting. He's there, with us, and He's making me edgy. I want to move, to make myself busy, to keep my hands occupied with real things. I don't want Him to touch me, to reach out, to acknowledge me because I fear the answers He has. I'm terrified He will tell us to walk further, swim deeper, trust harder. I want to present Him with the Big Questions, but can't breathe at the idea of the Big Answers. I try to bolster myself with our endurance over the last six years of change, but I as I stand in the door frame of the small, square room fear shakes me.

I know of His promises, but worry they aren't the same as what's grown so deep in my heart. 

If I left him last night and we got the call that he'd passed away, I'd be thrilled for his precious soul to finally be free. But I know with his death will come change. We will transition from going to gone. And with that change comes new life, comes After Dementia. The After portion of our stories looks full with joy, family, faith. It looks wide and broad and tastes of honey. It's warm and comfortable for us to embrace.

I know of His promises, but, more important, He's handling their realization. 

He will bring forth great life -green, joyful, vibrant- from what, today, feels near dead. He will hand my life's dove a branch and drop a rainbow from the clouds to draw me into His presence. He will lift me from the valley in which we're trapped and let us enjoy the view from a grand, holy mountain. He will grow cedar and myrtle and olive trees in the places I've cordoned off as hopeless.

The flood will come, just as He promises, and barren days will be buried in bygone days. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

bullet journaling: an update on my process

Six months ago I posted about my new planning fascination: bullet journaling. I shared about the way I was nervous because bullet journaling is so open-ended, but that I was sure I could wrap my mind around all the blank pages of my Moleskine. And I did. 

In fact, I have used a bullet journal for the last seven months and am now eleven days into my second one. It's so manageable. Actually, it's more than manageable and is perfect for my lifestyle. So, the day is finally here where I share the new and updated ways that I'm using bullet journaling to organize my days! 

I am still using a large Moleskine journal, but instead of the original format of lined pages, I'm using ones that are dotted. They remind me (very loosely) of the boxes game we played at restaurants when I was a kid. I am enjoying the freedom that the dots give me in comparison to the lines (which made me feel like I needed to stay between the lines), but it did take a second for me to get used to them. 

Like last time, I am including a table of contents BUT this time I have allocated three pages to the content cause. This is important because last time I didn't give myself enough space to put down all the things that I included in my journal over the last seven months. I thought it'd be no big deal, but I'm planning on keeping the journals and for the sake of returning to what I wrote, having contents would be easier. This is one part of the bullet journaling process I really need to work on, but for now the three page approach will have to work.

I wrote in my last post that I wasn't a fan of the way the creators of bullet journaling set up their monthly calendar format so I started drawing out my monthly layout in the traditional calendar format. I loved working with it in this way, but because I didn't know how many pages I'd use in a given month I would only draw out one calendar at a time. This meant that I was still carrying a monthly planner in my purse. (Talk about defeating one's purpose.)

I got to thinking I could put together a "planner" style calendar section in my bullet journal as I neared the end of my last one. I realized I can fit about six months worth of content in my journal and so, I drew out monthly calendar pages from November to April. Drawn and dated from now until Spring of 2016, I feel more organized and comfortable.

And what about the important dates that go beyond the six month span (like the dentist)? I left a blank page open for me to be able to add in the things that might fall outside of the six months of calendar space I've created. I actually had this in my first bullet journal (at the very end) and found it so helpful for the lack of monthly planning ability, so I'm confident in it now.

Now that whole journal set-up is covered. I'll let you in on the monthly, more functional, details of my bullet journal. I am continuing to use tabs at the beginning of each month for ease of movement through the journal. There is the ribbon that Moleskines' come with, but I like to have the little tabs as a means of flipping from one month to the next. Plus they're sticky so you can move them and add them however you might wish to do.

There's a newly added monthly goals section (as seen on the top of page 17 in the picture above) that I've added above my lessons list. These are helpful to focus my efforts as the month starts and progresses. As bits and pieces of my days feel chaotic and overwhelming, I can continue to bring myself back to the goals for the month instead of panicking.

The lessons list turns into my What I Learned post that goes up at the end of every month. It's basically a free blog post as the days tick away off the calendar. (Completely unrelated note: At the end of the month I go through these and my Instagram pictures and that's how the What I Learned posts come together.)
I am trying to be more intentional in including everything in a single journal for the next six months. This is challenging for me because I love to break things out into a whole bunch of different journals in the name of organization. What this really, truly does is make me lethargic and frustrated in locating and using said journals. Lethargy and work is not really motivating and creative so bringing it all together for the sake of big creative magic.

Daily task lists and grocery lists remain important and included because, well, life. I have stopped working with a list of specific symbols because I found they -for the most part- confused me. But, I am using a highlighter or two to draw attention to things that I love. So, you'll see the little highlighted $ sign on page 22 above and realize that it's hanging out next to a really lovely Picasso quote. This is meant to be motivational and special to me, but is also a possible inspiration for another piece in the shop!

The keep it all together rule means my bible studies are now being conducted in my bullet journal. This is partly (and for the sake of transparency) because bible study as a daily habit has taken a large hit in my life. I am struggling to sit down and write things out so instead of worrying over the little details and all the note-taking opportunities, I am often just reading. But, when I do want to write down some thoughts or verses or poignant moments with Him, they go here.

In addition to including my bible studies, I've started Weekly Podcast Notes for myself. They're basically small paraphrases of concepts and quotes that were poignant to me while I was listening to my favorite podcasts throughout the week. I'm a huge fan of listening while I walk or paint or work which makes it hard to be writing things down word for word. These often are pieces of podcast that I can't stop thinking about in my day to day (which to me makes them more important to document).

A few things I used to do that I don't anymore:
  • Tracking my "dailies". I'm trying to afford myself a greater sense of spontaneity for my creative process and being rigorous about my dailies doesn't help that. So, I've retired the process of tracking and organizing them so that grace is greater than routine. 
  • Listing every possible thing I can think of doing.
    Now I write down my three most important things (MITs) to do in a single day and then have a couple bonus points to check off if possible. I don't want my planner to be what determines all the ways that I live, instead I want to live with the help of my lists. 
  • Sticking to small print, line-following writing. 
    Without the lines I have the opportunity to make larger shapes and sketches. I can dedicate an entire page to writing out a beautiful quote that just rocks my soul. This is more reflective of my personality and process, so it's a win. 
A few things I want to incorporate but haven't yet:
  • Listing my miles.
    I participated in a running challenge last June that required one to track their miles ran daily. I loved having the mileage add up over the course of the month and I'm still confused why I haven't continued to do it. 
  • Adding a daily writing chunk.
    I write down quotes and words from other people that are special to me. But I never write down sentences that I wrote and love. Somehow I feel ridiculous having spent so many years celebrating the words of others, but not cherishing my own. 
This is a lot of information. As always happens with creative processes and journaling and planning. BUT, you've got yourself an update. And, with an update, comes a coupon code for the custom painted moleskine journals that I sell in my Etsy shop! Yes, you read that right. Use code "ROUNDTWO" for 10% off your custom-painted bullet journal for the rest of this week ONLY.

And now head down to the comments section and 
ask me all the things that I've forgotten. 
I promise to respond and (possibly) to update the post to fill all the holes that I've left! 

Monday, November 9, 2015

why we need humbling

| via |

Last Wednesday I spent six hours hearing about the ways I'd fallen short. I sat and listened as Ken, a trucking inspector from the state, told me the ways he didn't like my personal style or organization, he wasn't impressed with the absence of a few important documents in my files, and he couldn't believe my "mamby pamby" taste in coffee. Ken told me all the ways he was disappointed. 

At first I wanted to cry. I wanted to cry and tell him that my dad is dying and beg him for just an ounce of mercy. I wanted to blame the missing documents on other people, to point fingers and save face. I wanted to shed hot tears of shame and embarrassment in hopes that he'd have a soft spot in his heart. 

But I didn't cry. And I bred some really angry anger in my heart. I told myself about the ways he was unjustified in his expectations, encouraged my own heart by tearing his down, silently berated him in return for his criticisms. I didn't shout or complain or share with him all the hideous internal dialogue I was having. I didn't speak unkind words as deeply as I believed he deserved them. 

I sat and I listened and finally, after sweating through my t-shirt in shame, I told him I was deeply apologetic. I told him I was embarrassed because I like to do well at things. I acknowledged his critiques and said I understood the inspection process now more than ever so I could update my organization. I nodded and took notes and found a book that'll help me with all the expectations his employer has of me. 

And then, after too many long hours of togetherness with Ken, I breathed a sigh of relief as his white van with government plates pulled out of our yard. I breathed a relief and looked over the notes one more time. I looked over the orange paper covered in black pen and saw my heart there on the paper. 

I'd written: Do better next time. 

I pride myself on doing a good job. This isn't the same as doing my best because I don't want to just try hard, I want to succeed. I want people to be impressed with my efforts, encouraging of my process, and kind in their critique. When I fall short of their expectations, I feel like a failure. Feeling like a failure is humbling. It's a deeply humbling feeling. 

We are not a failure simply because of someone's feelings. We are not defined by the way we are seen by others, but we need humble. We need humbling for three simple reasons: 

1. Our pride.
2. Our hearts. 
3. Our peace. 

Without humbling, we forget our place. We become Gods in some pretend-control of our lives. Without humbling our hearts grow hard with perfection, sure of our own righteous souls. Without humbling, He has no place in our lives. And so, we don't cry, we don't speak anger, we take notes and breathe. 

Yes, we thank Him for the reminder, hoping it comes in a kind package, not one that's six hours long and full of sighing disapproval. But regardless the shape and size of our serving, we always eat the humble pie.

Friday, November 6, 2015

speak up: november

It's November. Already, it's November. The holidays are upon us. And with holidays come gathering. Groups and groups of people -familiar and not- coming together in the name of celebration. And so, today, we kick off the season of gathering by Speaking Up about it!

Like every month, I must remind you to go check out Annie's video because girl's got wisdom on point. I mean, did you see her 31 days series? Holy smokes girl is a fount of knowledge.

Now, as always, your turn!

And for December we are going to talk about LIGHT. Yes, like Christmas lights but any light and all the light and be the light.

See you on December 4th!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

what i read in october

September was one of the greatest reading months. And then came October to knock me right off the I LOVE READING train with all it's love-hate relationships. So, here's all my feelings for you: 

Audible recommended this to me as something I might like based on my Amazon choices. And Audible was SPOT ON CORRECT. I found myself deeply invested in the twisted-beyond-twist plot and the characters were so rich I ended up holding deep feelings about each of them. I worried part way through the novel that I'd grow bored with the possibility of mundane details as a day-to-day account of life is given, BUT Kubica switched between perspectives in a way that kept each page fresh and dying to be turned.

This could be dubbed "The Next Gone Girl" and I don't know that I'd blame someone for holding such an opinion; however, I think it's an unexpected upgrade from the insanity that was Amy Dunne. The nuances here are distinguished and haunting, while maintaining a subtly that reminds me much of life's ironic foreshadowing. Yes, this is a must read -especially for thriller fans.

I love Me Before You. I mean, I read it in five hours on a plane ride home from Costa Rica and I sobbed at the close of the novel. Moyes brought forth a beautiful, painful conversation about end-of-life care that resonated through the depths of my soul. Louisa Clark -her main character- captured my heart and soul as she developed over the course the pages of Me Before You. So, I was thrilled when I heard Louisa was making her return.

And then I read After You.

Disappointed might not be a strong enough word for this novel. I was devastated to find all the progress and maturity and goodness that happened in Louisa Clark and had me in tears at the end of the first novel missing from the onset of After You. She was a chaotic mess that lost all the feminine bravery that was her character previously. I wanted her to define herself, to grow and make something of the tragedy that befell her; but instead, she struggled and floundered. The woman who I identified with throughout Me Before You wasn't brought forward for me to cheer on.

The plot lines in this novel were criss-crossing and chaotic, they couldn't hold steady with one another and often felt a bit underdeveloped. I wanted to love this, really Clark and Moyes back in my life was going to be a dream, but I couldn't. I hardly made it to the end and, well, that was a heart-break in its own right.

I didn't understand how this got so many mixed reviews while I listened to the Eat and Pray portions of this novel. I know that many people feel Gilbert behaved as a matyr in the way that she was "suffering" while spending a year abroad exploring the culture and practices of other countries. While I understand that perspective, I adored the way Gilbert chose to do something so entirely out of her wheelhouse in the face of terrible grief. Yes, Gilbert was a part of the problem in her marriage the led to divorce, but in her grief she pursued the opportunity to grow and redefine herself.

And this redefining she really seemed to do. Until Love.

Love happened in Bali and while I enjoyed the first half of the section with her devotion to her guru and a local medicine woman. I was equally (if not more) disenchanted by the extensive conversation about her thriving physical relationship with her new boyfriend. Gilbert seemed to speak as though she was independent and completely fulfilled without him, but I just wish he wasn't there at all. The relationship seems all-consuming and exhausting. So, I skipped the last half hour of the audiobook and reminisced on the beauty that was the first two sections.

**I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.** 

I really, really wanted to love this. It seemed up my alley with the conversation about faith and God and small town life and, maybe that gave me unrealistic expectations. But, I spent so much of the book wanting things to move just a bit -and then a lot- faster. I wanted to know understand some of the characters deeper issues with religion and miracles. I wanted there to be bigger, bolder development in each member of the cast. But this deepness just didn't come.

The plot is interesting enough -though it felt familiar beyond the novel to me-, but I just couldn't be completely drawn in to this book. I don't know if I was distracted by the stutters of one main character, or the jerk-hole nature of her father, or the confusing jump around nature of the perspectives, but just, nope.

I read this for #Collaboreads and, well, we know how that turned out. 

And I'm going to be participating in the Semi-Charmed Life Winter Book Challenge again (because I love this business). Here's my preliminary list... I'll do all future updates on Megan's blog, but for now (and for reference's sake) this is where I will start!

5 points: Read a book that has between 100 and 200 pages.
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (191 pages)

10 points: Read a debut book by any author. 

Whiskey & Charlie by Annabel Smith (336 pages)

10 points: Read a book that does not take place in your current country of residence.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (351 pages)

10 points: Read a book that someone else has already used for the challenge. 

To Be Determined

15 points: Read a book published under a pseudonym. 

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (345 pages) 

15 points: Read a book with “boy,” “girl,” “man” or “woman” in the title.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (323 pages) 

15 points: Read a book with a one-word title.

Herself by Madeleine L'Engle (384 pages)

20 points: Read a book with a person's first and last name in the title.

The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks (400 pages)

20 points: Read a food-themed book. 

All You Can Dream Buffet by Barbara O'Neal (400 pages)

20 points: Read a book with a verb in the title.

Walking on Trampolines by Frances Whiting (334 pages)

30 points: Read two books with the same title (by different authors). 

Small Victories by Jeff Mercer (267 pages) and Anne Lamott (286 pages)

30 points: Read a nonfiction book and a fiction book about the same subject.

Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall (307 pages)
Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres (384 pages)


Columbine by
Hate List by

Monday, November 2, 2015

on remembering how to gather

I grew up in a house that said "the gathering place" above the front door. My dad had it put there, etched into a glass window, because he wanted our home to have an open door policy. And it did. Post-race cross country parties, soccer sleep overs, weekly high school bible study were all hosted in the walls of their home. Many times in a week groups of hormonal teens poured into their home and there was never a question of being welcomed and cherished.

My parents loved knowing their teens had a safe place to gather. I never told them this, but I loved having a safe place to gather too.

I know we talk about this month as a time for thanks. I know we're preparing our hearts for advent with this time of transition from spooky fun to reverent living and so, we give lots of thanks. We sit and we write and we think and we reflect. We say thank you and gracias and even sometimes you're welcome. I'm thankful for the thanks. But this time of year marks the season of gathering.

Now, in adulthood and busy-ness, gathering is a delicate thing for me.

Maybe it's because I'm slightly introverted and have a deep care for my alone time. Maybe it's because it involves so many people and social dynamics and I'm sensitive to those things. Maybe it's because it often involves pick up games of football and volleyball and I'd rather play soccer. Maybe it's because that time is precious and wild and unpredictably joyful.

I can deliver you a list of a thousand maybes, but there's only one sure thing: I struggle with gathering because I'm busy.

Yes, I'm busy in my mind, making lists of To Dos, writing out blog posts, texting friends. I'm busy in another place though my body is gathered here and now. I appear to be sitting on the couch next to Jason watching a movie, but my mind is somewhere else, doing something else, working through all the else-ness of life, work, blog, books.

I don't want to be busy in my mind. I want to gather wholly. I want to gather with more than my body. So, this month isn't about giving all the thanks for me: it's about remembering how to gather.

That means less phone in the evenings, less reading on the long drives from here to there, less scrolling through feeds when there's people in front of me. That means that I'm practicing thanks for what a Great God has given me by being present in all the ways that presence can happen. That means no sitting around a table comparing Pinterest boards and Instagram feeds, but instead talking about days and news and jobs.

I can already feel my social muscles working and growing sore.

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