Wednesday, June 29, 2016

June and Me || 2016

CURRENTLY 

loving. Sunflowers taller than our house with faces bigger than my head. 
needing. All the international flight tips and tricks -help!
wanting. Summer dresses. All the summer dresses. 
writing. Emails. Left and write I'm writing emails and, goodness, I enjoy my people.  
reading. All the books. Allll the books. I drew a summer reading stack in my journal and love. 
watching. The Real Housewives of Orange County. Welcome back my beauties! 
listening. To Johannesburg by Mumford and Sons. SWOON.  
wishing. On fallen pennies and shooting stars -two things I can't stop noticing. 
feeling. Hopeful and overwhelmed and thankful. Lots of feelings really. 
craving. Some cool days (or hours) that aren't sponsored by air conditioning. 
eating. Nachos all the livelong day. Carbs, cheese, ALL THE SPICY toppings. 
drinking. Water. Lots and lots of water. Because it's good for your energy, skin, brain. 
smelling. Soap and Glory lotion. Be gone dry hands and feet!
working on. A renewed obsession with bible study. 
contemplating. What to read next. This happens weekly. 



IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

June was a doozy in the best possible way. We did a million and one fun things launching summer into an already amazing reality. Blogging was wonderful. The shop was good. And life, well, I adore mine. 

I ran a marathon. Then wrote about it in regards to the creative process

June, finally, held bible study consistency for me. It isn't perfect or always joyful, but it's now getting done and that in itself is a blessed, blessed thing.

And the shop, it's one year old now! Some new interesting, fun pieces are headed over your way in the next few weeks. Keep your eyes out! 

WHAT I'VE READ




A MUST READ:
Glory Over Everything by Kathleen Grissom


Goodness. Goodness. Oh my goodness. There aren't enough positive words to talk about the many ways I truly, deeply adored this book. 

First, this is the sequel to Grissom's The Kitchen House. I am always a guarded reader of sequels because the first is ALWAYS the best. However, Grissom has blown The Kitchen House out of the water with her ability to maintain the plot and premise of the original book WHILE simultaneously bringing out an entirely new and lovely story line in book two. The way we all grew to love and adore all of the characters in The Kitchen House is matched (and exceeded) in Glory over Everything.

Grissom's ability to switch between characters' perspectives while weaving an overarching story line is unmatched. Where she ended in The Kitchen House, she started in Glory Over Everything yet the plot points were anything but expected. Grissom is able to tap into the pain and injustice of the early 1800s so poignantly you're there among her cast. 

This is a must read. An absolute, definite MUST READ.

Other mentions for the month of February:

The Poisonwood Bible (review) || ★★★★
Code Name Verity (review) || ★★★
Vinegar Girl || ★★★★
The Midwife's Confession (review) || ★★★



Three Nifty Things You Need to Know

1. Did you know there's thirsty coasters you can buy? Yep, beautiful sandstone coasters that drink up all the water that sweats off of your water bottle. They've saved my drippy desk life at work.

2. It's worth spending the extra three dollars for the nice spaghetti sauce. I randomly bought a jar that was on sale and spent $6 instead of $3. Survey of Jason and I says: never going back. 

3. Summer months are here and hot and you know who doesn't like heat? Hazel. BUT, I made her pupsicles. They're simple and she LOVES. Just put some broth in a plastic cup, drop half a carrot in as the stick, and freeze. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

On Healing the Hurt with Intentional Words [An Announcement]


[Part 1] 

June was a hard month for all the people. There was mourning and heartache for those lost in Orlando, for the heaviness that results from political campaigns, for those without fathers and those aching to be fathers. There was pain in our hearts, a feeling of smallness in our souls, a hopeless, helpless break in our hearts.

We slowed down and sat still. We were distracted and tearful. We grieved and rested and June held all it's blues. June was hard.

And now, July is here. July is here to remind us of the way that time passes, the healing happens, even if just a small bit at a time. A piece, a piece, a piece and it all comes together without our realizing. It all comes together until it's complete and we're here, in July.

Today, today is a new month for us to grasp and savor. Welcome friend. Welcome warmly to July.

[Part 2] 

When my dad died, when we found out kids weren't in our cards, when PMS hits especially hard, I look. I look hard and desperate for a band-aid. I feel the wound gaping and holey in my heart, all the emotions pouring forth, and I know I need some shreds of hope to stuff into the void.

Inspiration is that for me. Words like Hannah's, like Alexandra's, like Allison's. Prayers like Emily's. Songs like Bethel's. Oh goodness, I seek as hard as Hazel digging for a bone in the backyard. I need that thing, that one thing that's going to fit just right over the hole in my heart. It's inspiration, blessed and divine, that always does the trick.

[Part 1 + Part 2 = Part 3] 

So, I'm providing a small salve in my own small way this July. It's a daily application, little by little kind of healing that's an attempt at doing my part. It's my way of putting out good in the places I can. And, where better to be dedicated than online.

Every day in July there's going to be a pep talk on my Instagram.

Some short, some long, always aiming to inspire you. The goal: find light and be it.

July days are long and full of light. They're warm and serve as a cozy hug from a kind mama in the midst of our year. They're slower and more savory, willing to have you bask in their warmth.

Friends, we deserve a good, inspired July.
We deserve the healing and promise July holds for us.
We deserve small things done with great, exploding love (as Mama Teresa instructs us).
Be part of it here.

Friday, June 24, 2016

On Gift-Giving Problems -and Solutions- with Uncommon Goods (Also, A Giveaway)

I want to be the friend with the coolest gift. I want to give the unique gift, the off-the-wall unexpected present that garners at least a few oohs and aahs. Wedding gifts and baby showers are easy and fun. But gift-giving has become more challenging when it comes to Jason. He's a man that's not in want of anything but more workout shirts and a new fishing pole -all good, but not that much fun for my creative soul.

Jason's birthday and our anniversary are only a week apart which leads me to struggle with multiple ideas.When we got married it seemed so smart, but now -five years in- I find myself starting to stress come August 15th. I know what's coming up and, while I'm so excited to celebrate him and us, I become obsessed with finding the perfect, out-of-the-box gifts.

Enter the solution to my problem: Uncommon Goods.

Uncommon Goods works with artists -life goal to be a part of selling on their space- and small manufacturers throughout the world (I find myself buying products based on their backstory which is often featured in the listings) to make unique gifts available to us -the creative gift givers. I ended up with a cart full of ideas and some buyer's overwhelm... Though it seems important to admit that some of the products were more for me than Jason. 

Wine and beer ended up being the two unique themes running through my basket so I decided to honor them with a beer cap U.S. map (which has now become an arguing point because where do we hang it?) and a personalized Venn Diagram cutting board for our newest culinary obsession - the charcuterie. Uncommon Goods has an astonishing (literally, amazing) selection of products that can be personalized to your taste or name. Check them out here. Seriously, check them out.  

Now our biggest decision of the day is wine or beer? 

PICTURE WITH BOTH PIECES 

Also, bonus points: I did jump on this ridiculously adorable can of sprinkles because LOOK. They're like a unicorn and rainbow and magical tortoise got together and made sprinkles that are perfect for any and every day use. I'm almost so overwhelmed by how cute they are (check out that tiny scoop) that I am afraid to use them. But, sprinkles are made of sugar and sugar is what makes people happy so used they will be. 


And in case you couldn't come up with all the amazing daily uses for sprinkles yourself... The label gives you suggestions on how to incorporate them into your diet. (French fries with sprinkles certainly grabs my interest.) 


You made it. You made it all the way to the end which deserves a unique gift of it's own. And, lucky for you, I'm such a fan of Uncommon Goods I wanted to share their Goody-Goodness with you in the form of a $25.00 gift certificate to spoil yourself (although, spending just $25 is nearly impossible.)

How do you enter? 

Simple check out Uncommon Goods unique gift guide and let me know what you'd get for a special him in your life (dad, boyfriend, husband, brother) and what you'd get for her (you, mom, sister, best friend). You'll get one entry for each answer.

This giveaway will be closed on Monday, June 27th at 11:59 PM. The winner will be randomly selected through a number generator and subsequently notified via email on Tuesday, June 28th.


- - - - - - - -
This post was sponsored by Uncommon Goods. All opinions and reviews are my own. 
Seriously, their products (and customer service) are amazing. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The World is Ours [A Marriage Letter]

Dear Jason,

Every morning I pull out of our driveway, press the button to close our garage door, and I wonder how this all happened to me. I look at the house that is yours and mine and I can't believe the good of my life. That red front door, the white-trimmed windows, the rose bushes aplenty belong to us. And my heart flutters that I get to love you inside the walls of that home.

Oh Thomas, I love you at home. I love you while you sit on the right side of the couch and me on the left. I love you as you let out soft snores in the depths of the night and I lay awake in bed. I love you in the comfort of our home, the smell of your soap on the air after you get out of the shower, the laundry routine we fall into on weekend afternoons. I love you at home.

But this month, as we rafted and camped and jumped from rocks, I grew to love you more. I laid next to you on a sleeping deck under the glittering night sky and I wondered how this all happened to me. I looked at the man that's snoozing, listened to the night animals' conversations, and I couldn't believe the good of my life. Your blonde hair, your blue eyes, your hunger for all that's good in life belongs to me. And my heart flutters that I get to love you in all the places this wold has to offer.

I fall in love with you when we are away. I fall in love as I watch you adore new places and spaces. I fall in love as you wander and stare and stop to make sure you've taken in each inch. I fell in love on the banks of the creeks in Bishop, on the beaches of Cancun, in the harbor of Cabo, over the brews of Colorado, on the currents of the Snake River, and -once again- under the stars of a Kernville sky.

I love you at home but oh how being away makes me more deeply yours.

The world is ours because your heart is mine. Italy, Africa, Sydney, Iceland. They are ours because you belong to me and I to you. Brazil, Alaska, Tahiti, Paris. They are not simply destination, but promises that bring our vows and love to life.

Thankful to share this world, this life, with your kind, handsome soul,
Am
- - - - - - - - - - -

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.

Monday, June 20, 2016

On living through the first six.


Six months. It's been six months since we sat at his bedside as he was in final hours. Six months of heart break, joy, tears. Six months of wishing he was here, thanks for his restful place, wonder at how He works inside of tragedy. It took me six months to return to his grave. It took me six months to walk the many steps from the parking lot to his place on the small hill in the cemetery. It took me six months, but it was perfectly timed with Father's Day.

I've spent the last twenty-four hours thinking about his last day. I've run through the words I spoke to him, the prayers we said over him, the affections poured out on us and I end up in tears. I'm indefinitely and completely thankful for the happy ending that came with our hard, ugly journey. I said I loved him. I asked him to handpick his grand kids for us. I promised to watch over my Mama. I ran my hands over his salt-and-pepper hair and marveled over the ways we'd all changed. 

Dying is hard, blessed work. 

Dying is work that brings bolder color and grander shape to life. It emboldens your spirit, breaks your heart, and reveals all the strength you didn't know you possessed. Dying is work that tests your endurance and proves your grit. As you're drowning in loss, His people come alongside you in unexpected, glorious ways. Trays of bagels with cream cheese, caffeinated sodas at midnight, good morning cups of coffee all make holding space a dream. 

Living is full, grateful worship. 

Living is worship when you know what dying can do. It is a testament to those who came before you, to the track that was laid in order for your to drive your course, the opportunity to honor a legacy within which you were born. Living is worship over the way hearts grow, break, mend. I thought I'd cry or kneel down or rub my fingers over the engravings in his stone. I thought I'd pour out the heartbreak of infertility or the joy of white water rafting or renew the promises I made when he was passing. But I stood -still and scanning the emerald grasses of the town cemetery. I stood and felt a deep, earnest thanks for the last six months. Thanksgiving for the opportunity to walk beside a dying man, for the wagons that have drawn around our family by His grace, for the way I've learned how to weather a storm. 

Dying is hard, blessed work. And living is full, grateful worship. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Five Ways I'm Simplifying Bible Study

In the last month my hunger for time with Him has finally returned. It's been years since I've been willing to bring myself to the table and listen to Him in this deep, consistent way. I've tried over and over again to find our groove -His and mine. I've worked hard to make space, small bits and pieces that I was sure would come together into a cohesive bible study. Alas, no.

I threw up my hands and tried to hold tight to grace. Grace that was true and good, but not able to fill the hole of missing in my chest. Grace that sang love, but didn't solve the way I wanted so deeply to be Father and child again. I waited. With pent up energy and more failed attempts than I have fingers and toes, I waited for us to find a relational flow.

It's back and I'm thankful. But the thing about faith and relationship is: there's no special trick to bible study, no way to bullet proof your faith from all the holes and aches that happen in life. There's no way to make it easy when it's hard or deep when shallow is all your soul can swim through. But when you're trying to make your way back, find your groove again there are ways to make it easier on your weary soul. Here's a few of my newest tips and bible study tools:

1. Do your journaling in your planner/bullet journal/daily tracking place.

I usually have a separate journal for my bible study. But the last month I've been doing it in my bullet journal so that the words and reflections are caught among my daily business. At first, the mish mash annoyed me, but lately it's been a reminder that faith is a daily -small f choice- more often than a Big F Faith challenge. And, well, I feel encouraged to see some truth of His among my To Do lists.

2. Use multiple translations.

My (favorite) bible is ASV and I adore the way there are emphasis among the verses. The binding makes my heart sing and the size of the bible is perfect for travel, church going, and being tossed in my purse. However, NIV was what I grew up on and The Message made my heart sing in high school. So, I use two bibles -one has NIV and The Message side by side in it- when I'm studying at home. This allows me the flexibility and opportunity to move between translations when a verse (or series of verses) is unclear in one translation.

3. Read small, palatable chunks instead of chapters.

I can't explain why I feel like it's important for me to read an entire chapter every time I sit down for my bible study. But, I do. Sometimes I get hung up on one verse but won't spend time mulling it over because I need to get through the rest of the chapter. This is doing my time with Him a disservice.

Since taking on Jane Johnson's Quiet Time Challenge, I've realize that clean breaks on chapters aren't nearly as important as I expected. In fact, reading an entire chapter is too much content to begin to metabolize it. I've started to think of the bible as a rich bar of chocolate -better consumed in small, enjoyed pieces than in a large binge.

4. Find a bible study that is (sort of) structured.

This is what I enjoyed about Jane Johnson's Quiet Time Challenge as well as the studies found in Studying the Scripture (heard about it from Jane). In the last few years I've come to find devotions distracting, instead of inspiring. Often I wander down a rabbit hole of thought while going over the text written by another Christian, when I should be engaging with the text of the Bible. So, I've dropped the devotions and leaned toward loose studies with wider questions.

5. Color code your interactions with His words.

I've started using different pens to mean different things in my bible instead of trying to keep it uniformly black. This was partly inspired by Jane Johnson and also by the art journaling movement with influence from my desire to mark, notate, and highlight. I track three things in my bible:

  • Emotional reactions in magenta/purple/pink. 
  • Recurring phrases, theme, and cross references in green. 
  • Notes from pastors, books, devotions, and the link in blue. 
  • Highlights for verses that are beautiful and convicting. 
There are more thorough systems and suggestions out there for what to track, but I prefer not to have to work through a color code in order to study.

Basically, I'm suggesting to simplify. 

The best way to tune yourself out of your own bible study is to make it work, work, work, work, work (didn't expect a Rhianna reference in here, did you?). Keep your system simple. Keep your system fun. Keep your system centered around conversing with Him instead of focusing on all the logistical details of study.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

On Mirages and Mama-Hood


We drive through a desert to get to the mountains where we ski every year. We've done this for as long as I can remember. And every year, I stare out the window shocked over the way there appears to be ponds of water in faraway, desert places. Those mirages fascinated me when I was a child. They fascinate me still.

And in March, as we drove the drive we always take, I watch the mirages move, evade, always one mile ahead of our progress. At the time, I was hoping we'd bring home more than sore muscles and goggle tans. I was hoping the mirage of motherhood would finally be a real thing growing inside of me as I've dreamed for years.

Alas, the motherhood mirage moved. Again farther out into the distance. Again evasive.

March marked a year of trying, a year of timing and temping and tension between hope and sadness. I did the requisite things: Doctors. Appointments. Blood draws. Results. And we got the bad news: we're broken. Each of us in our own hidden, but huge ways. Ways that make babies with his almond eyes and my dimpled chin impossible. Ways that bring us clinging to one another in the wake of life-changing news.

News like this -as it is with death and illness and loss- comes crashing through the ceiling of your safe place. It falls at such a speed that you fear you'll be crushed, never to come loose, always stuck beneath the weight of bad news. Wash away the powdery pain with tears. Throw off the burdens with honesty. Lift yourself from the rubble and preserve -with a glass of wine (or two), long evening walks under the setting sun, and spa days. Because, time will pass and your aching soul will heal.

It is not my goal to minimize the disappointment that comes with the heavy burden that is brokenness and waiting -I'm sick of stillness in the name of circumstance. The words used to name the news -barren, infertile, unable- are nearly unbearable for me. They are labels I refuse to carry as their weight is just too much for my soul to bear. Words I refuse to entertain for the sake of my faith. So, I am calling myself brave, ready, Mama. I am singing an anthem of love in the depths of my soul because nothing is as powerful as the Mama desire He put inside of me.

 In all this I can say, there remains hope. Shredded, thin, gauzy hope. Hope that is worn cotton -faded and soft as a result of years of wear and tear. I don't deny Her richness. I don't deny miracles and fighting odds and unexpected surprises. But, I believe part of faith is facts. Facts that are made up of statistics and science. Facts that say, my children will be born of my heart and not of my flesh. Facts that point us in a new, blessed direction of growing to the Thomas Three.

And so, we wait. We wait on the last numbers, statistics, conversations. We wait on the next steps, the process, His plan. Because while we're slowly moving, the mirage isn't yet ours to behold. We will run into the depths of the desert after the refreshing springs of faith. A faith springing wildly from the way He promises glory over all things -our family included. I know the mirage will materialize and the pool we'll approach will refresh, restore, renew. I know He will dip us below the surface of the waters and declare us Mama and Dad to some beautiful, blessed soul.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Comments are disabled today. I covet your prayers, your kindest of thoughts, and your sweetest of vibes (if you're the vibe-sending type). 

Monday, June 13, 2016

coffee date || 25 (and a link-up)


If we were on a coffee date, I'd be drinking caffeine on ice because southern California is a warm thing as of late. I'd have two little cocktail umbrellas in my pocket and I'd slip them in our drinks because tropical coffee tastes like heaven. I'd ask to sit outside and bask in the kisses of sweet sunshine on our cheeks. I'd probably have on shorts and sandals and I'd secretly hope I get a smidge of a tan out of our time together.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd want to show you my Bachelorette bracket. Because we are those people who can't just watch the show and laugh at the absurdness, so we place bets and make guesses at how this national TV train wreck is going to turn out. I'd suggest to you the Here to Make Friends podcast as well as Taylor's recaps because GOLD. Pure, trashy TV gold.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd tell you that we have a new door sign at work and I want to stare at it all the livelong day. It's on the outside of the door so that's impossible. But, the thing is, I'm so proud to see that name -my Popsicle's name- right there looking legitimate. I guess this isn't about the door sign at all, but is about legacy and pride. Goodness, what are we leaving behind to love?

If we were on a coffee date, I'd share about my bible-journaling change. I can't bring myself to invest in a journaling bible or find myself completely comfortable with writing over His words (I'm a hoarder of words), but I'm aching for a change up in my faith. So, I've really pushed myself to bring more color into my study and more simplicity into my process. I'm honoring the rhythms that make up my life (thanks Rachel and Leah for this internal conversation).

If we were on a coffee date, I'd ask you if you use Spotify and their new playlist folders. I stopped using Spotify because I was addicted to podcasts but have made my way back. Oh they're good to me. And the extra-organizational features make my heart sing because efficiency and clean interfaces are good, good things.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd mention the healing power of sweat. There is nothing -NOTHING- like conquering a hard workout to make one feel like you can take on the world. A few long runs and some heavy days at the gym have me remembering that strong is a word that covers more than one or two pieces of me and so, sweat on.

If we were on a coffee date, I'd confess that I've started tracking my water intake. I read somewhere (probably on Instagram) that so often our daytime fatigue comes from a need for hydration. So, I'm trying to be really intentional about water and it's made me obsessed with hitting my daily goal. (Also, I ALWAYS add lemons. Always.)

If we were on a coffee date, I'd say "you aren't alone". That's it. I wouldn't tell you how your time is going to come or that God won't give you more than you can handle or that you just need a vacation to feel better. I'd just tell you that we're all in these trenches of wondering when God will grant all our wishes together -regardless of what you're wishing for, dear friend.

- - - - - - - - - -

This month coffee dating looks a little bit different because of my dear friend, Erin. She said "let's meet together every month" and I said "YES" and now we're here, opening up and asking for your links, your updates, your coffee conversation because community is a real thing.

If this month isn't what fits in with your time or content (the form will stay open for two weeks), you can join the second Monday of every month from now until Kingdom come.

Join us friends. Join us here.

Friday, June 10, 2016

On Going the Distance

Over the weekend my mom and I ran a marathon. For four hours we ran and ran and ran and covered an entire 26.2 miles all over the city of San Diego. If a marathon is only one thing more than a race that transcends thousands of years, it is the Queen Diva of Metaphors. Three of the four hours I spent thinking of the way all this work, the research and miles ran, the new running visors and well-worn running shoes, was here and now. I thought of the pieces that are brought together for a grand showing.

Take away the Nike shoes and we're talking about creativity.

Making, like a marathon, feels so daunting at the beginning. You're all there in the corrals together, awaiting the start, when you realize others have more gear, stronger bodies, better clothes. But there's the others, who have on cotton shirts, no race fuel, old shoes. And there you are, a small person in the midst of a large, rambunctious crowd. This is where doubt creeps in.

You need to start moving. Move in any direction for your creative self's sake.

The first half of the race is fun, easy enough, until the shorter distance runners turn away. Now you have more room to enjoy as the course bobs and weaves, but you're going twice their distance which feels insane. It's crazy, my friend, pure crazy. But, you can do it. You can do it because we're not all headed the same direction for the same distance.

Don't let another person's goals bring you to abandon your own.

At mile fifteen, we learned that some of us are stronger than others and those who become weak need aid. A woman collapsed next to my mom and I (and, blessedly, an off-duty firefighter). We stopped running, they rendered aid, I ran (an extra mile) to get help from a police officer. Ten minutes of time -a mile plus some- gone from our race time. But that woman needed help and so will others along your creative course. Stop, render aid.

You are capable, kind, and necessary to your fellow racers. Just as they are to you.

Sometimes the best way to race onward is to stop. Stop for refreshment, for refueling, for encouragement from fans. Stop and embrace the fans you know (like the barista from your local Starbucks who is cheering on her son AND you or the aunt and uncle who make time to be there at mile 20). Stop, catch your breath, reassess, and then go.

Stop so that you can continue to go.

It is mile 22 to 24 that feel like the forever kind of long. Your muscles are tired, starting to ache, and now there's a hill to run. But, friend, you're spirit is strong, bold and brave; it's far bigger than any hill circumstance can throw your way. There are easy miles and there are hard ones. They're the same length, even though they feel so hellishly long. So, head down, focus up, determination all over the place.

The finish line will look so very sweet.

So work. Work friend.
Work with color and shape and composition.
Work with determination and bravery and kindness.
Work with the hard times and the sweet encouragements.
Work with a care for your craft and your people.
Work until the task is done.


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Five Pieces of Required Reading for Adults


The internet is my favorite place for a lot of reasons; one of the reasons being book recommendations and the other being the way social issues can be covered, discussed, and brought to life all at the touch of our keys. The recent coverage of the Stanford rape, the killing of Harambe, and the election have had me all kinds of engaged in higher level thinking (something I can't always boast).

So the other night, while I was finishing up Glory Over Everything, I realized books are equal parts about escape and critical engagement. And, with all the summer reading lists that are floating around the internet, I felt like my two (opinionated) cents deserve to be thrown into the ring. This brings us here to five pieces of required reading for your summer, adulting self:

1. The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom 

(And it's sequel: Glory Over Everything
Required Reading Match-Up: To Kill a Mockingbird
Important Themes: Race, prejudice, community.

No other book has provided me with all the feels in the way that The Kitchen House (and Glory Over Everything) did. Grissom's ability to weave characters, plots, and themes together is seamless, undeniably gorgeous, and brave. She tackles huge, heavy times in America's history in a way that feels as delicate as a lace dress.

2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Required Reading Match-Up: Slaughterhouse Five
Important Themes: Power of words, death, freedom.

I struggled -truly and deeply- through the first sixty pages of The Book Thief. The darkness is heavy, hard to bear, and yet, the plot powerfully pulled me through this nearly six hundred piece of intense storyline that comes from a most unexpected narrator.

3. Gold by Chris Cleave

Required Reading Match-Up: The Great Gatsby
Important Themes: Competition, ambition, and consequences.

While I thoroughly believe this is an unexpected match-up, I also maintain the way these two books walk hand in hand. The subtle compare-contrast between characters and their circumstance is an element that runs strong throughout both novels -regardless of the initial (obvious) differences.

4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins 

Required Reading Match-Up: Lord of the Flies
Important Themes: Survival, sacrifice, identity.

Of the five matches, this one felt the most obvious to me. Microcosm and microcosm, story dependent on the survival of the fittest, and political dynamics that are constantly shifting, changing, and transforming with the introduction of circumstance plays centerstage throughout the course of the novel.

5. Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

Required Reading Match-Up: The Scarlet Letter
Important Themes: Sexuality, double standards, societal pressure.

The balance of the outright judgment and subtle nuances of self doubt contained within both of these novels draws you in. Draws you in really intensely and drags you through the mud alongside the main -female- characters.

Go ahead and drop into Goodreads because you NEED, you need these rich, brave, perspective changing reads on your Summer To Read list.

Monday, June 6, 2016

When Whispers Become Your Anthem




God's been whispering this one thing over and over to me. He was initially whispering it. Then it started to be a shout. Then a scream. Now, I've accepted it as a sad, but real song. He has said -over and over again- one thing to me for many years. And yet, here I am struggling with Him.

He says, "Amber, it doesn't matter what it looks like."
I ignore. He says, "Amber, it doesn't matter."

Because sometimes what looks perfect and flawless is broken, shattered and aching. Because sometimes sloppy and messy is healthy and wonderful. Because sometimes running water is deep and pure under the still surface that we see. Because achy and sore is indicative of hard, dedicated work. Because sometimes falling apart is life coming together.

This life doesn't look how it's supposed to, right?

You're thirty and unmarried, no suitors in the periphery. You're a mama soul that's barren. You're a career woman with no prospects and an empty resume. You're a wife left on the door step of the divorce attorney's office. You're an athlete injured and unable to move. You're comprised of mess, a whole lot of mess.

This doesn't look right. 

It's ugly and torn and makes you hurt inside. It's a battlefield of maintaining smiles and avoiding public tears. It's a balance of what's true and false comforts. It's breaking and mending, hurting and healing all your livelong days. And you can't hide the bruises to your ego, to your heart, to your flesh. You can't hide them any longer.

But that doesn't matter. 

Because your feelings and circumstance don't change the Truth of Life. Because your temper and tantrums don't distract a Good, Good Father from loving you. Because your bravery and boldness can be whispers and whimpers from under the covers of your bed. Because He's not asking for any kind of looking good from you. In fact, He's asking you to admit that the way it looks doesn't matter.

The truth is: it doesn't matter because you do. 

And while life feels big and bad, you're bigger. You're His big deal. You're His child who He'll protect from the gorilla and the sword and the grace. He's aching for you, jealous for you, thrilled to call you His. He's crazy about your cowlicks, your dimpled cheeks, your insecurities and your strengths. He doesn't care how many things you've screwed up or done right. He's not asking for a resume or excuses. In fact, all He wants is for you to listen.

He's so thrilled to tell you how much you matter to Him. 

So, you're a mess. You're confused. You don't know how to explain away the suffering and the pain. You want to speak the pretty words and draw the ideal metaphors. And you don't have it in you. That doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what it looks like. Or sounds like. Or how it smells.

You matter. That's it.
You. Today and always.
You matter. 

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This post was inspired by this Bethel music song.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Public Service Reminders v. 2.0




Last month I posted three small Public Service Reminders and they were met with great response. So, the PSA system will become a new series to kick off each month on the blog. It'll allow us three small lessons to learn from and live through. It'll be a triad of perspective makers for the thirty day period ahead.

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My mom and I are training for a marathon (we run this weekend). A few weeks ago we ran our last long run -twenty-one miles. We packed up our gel pouches and joked about some magic running jelly beans that were going to make all the difference for our run. 

I cannot believe I'm saying this, but that twenty-one mile run was the most enjoyable distance I've ever covered. 

And that's all in thanks to the magic running beans. Because, it turns out, your legs and your body crave sugar and caffeine and salt when you're sweating and exerting for miles and miles. We finished our run with a wild high-fives and some pictures for Instagram proof. But I haven't stopped thinking about the magic running beans and how confident they make me about the impending 26.2. 

This is a public service reminder: Fuel is vital. 

So read your bible or listen to a TEDTalk or sing along to all of Adele's albums. But don't -I repeat don't- pretend like the fluff and fun of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter contain everything your soul needs. 

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I left the doctor in tears a few weeks ago. Jason and I went expecting a hint of bad news and a lot of conversation about options; instead, we left with a big, bold, black storm cloud. It wasn't so much the news as the way the doctor shared it with us. 

It came with a shrug and a nod and the handing over of a business card. Go somewhere else, she said after changing the course of our lives as we know it. She quickly rose and whisked her white lab coat out of the room. I didn't have time to ask for my lab results before her assistant came in to show us to the exit.

This is a public service reminder: Bedside manner is important in all parts of life. 

Just because you aren't donning a white coast, doesn't mean you aren't rendering aid to someone who's hurting. Your words, your hug, your email or text can make someone's day easier or harder. So, handle each other with care and kindness even when it's so hard to do. 

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Confession: I was terribly upset with an accounts receivable girl at one of our big vendors just a few months ago. She'd let old invoices -two years old to be exact - sit and accumulate without calling me. Then she put our account on hold. 

When I called to clear the situation up -the invoices were missing entirely from our system- she asked me why I don't review statements. Because I don't receive them OBVIOUSLY was my less than gracious response. They were sent over, the bills paid, and I felt embarrassed. 

Well, I talked to her again this week with a single question about a recent missing invoice and she told me good-bye. She's going home to be with her babies and she's thrilled. She said, It's been a pleasure to work together and thank you for being so kind. I was floored. My mean tone had haunted me for all this time. 

This is a public service reminder: Forgiveness is a blessed thing.

Don't hold on to that grudge. Just don't, please. Because you're doing a disservice to yourself and to the kind people around you. You may have caught someone on a terribly bratty, rude day. And, your forgiveness will impress them -as it did me. 

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