What I Learned in January

I’m linking up with Emily P. Freeman again today to look back on what I experienced in the month of January and what I learned along the way.

| Instagram forces me to find beauty in what is right before my eyes, and I love her for it.

My favorite January example:

 

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“After I learned yesterday that @carly_lifeofplenty and I have semi-twinkie bedrooms, I decided to pay homage with a capture of my own nightstand. I was going to send this picture to her directly, but the morning light on the stack of books whispered welcome words of promise and new mercies that I couldn’t keep between just the two of us.”

 

| I’m raising a very hospitable extrovert.

At breakfast one morning, my son shared his breakfast, water, and “coffee” with his toy truck that he had placed in a dining room chair. Every time he hears a knock on the door, he says, “Come on in!” And he offers his food, straight off of his plate, to our dinner guests.

I would be lying if I said it doesn’t give me all of the heart eyes.

May he live his whole life with open doors and open hands.

 

| For me, art is life-giving {and} it’s okay to make time for it.

I won a fiction writing contest when I was in the fourth grade. I remember it vividly. I remember the fun I had crafting the story. I remember carefully drawing the illustrations with my best colored pencils. I remember the thrill of holding the final copy—laminated and spiral-bound—and the delight I felt when I learned I had won. And I don’t remember ever writing a story again.

I took private art lessons for a couple of years around that same time. More than two decades later, I can remember a few of those lessons as clearly as if I were watching it play out on film. I remember the smell of the graphite, the feel of the paintbrush resting in my hand, the sense of capability, confidence, belonging.

I’ve done some creating over the years: a small painting here, a blog there, and I’ve all but apologized for it. I’ve never taken another lesson, never committed to mastering a medium—never again believed I could.

I suppose there are lots of reasons why I made myself forget about art. Maybe there are too many for it to be worth untangling, like a knot of hair that is so convoluted you just cut it out, but this January I uncovered what I think is the most disturbing.

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On a whim, I attended a free webinar hosted by Emily in which she offered some great advice and information on creating a book proposal. It was in the first five minutes that I collapsed into tears. She spoke about when she realized that God had given her the work of writing and she had work to do.  I suddenly understood that somewhere along the way that sense of thrill and confidence had dissolved into paralyzing fear.

I was secretly and unintentionally believing that I am incapable of creating good art and that I do not matter enough to try.  What Emily helped me to understand is that if God has called me to create, then I am capable because He is capable. I matter, because He says I matter.

So. I am making time for it. I have some plans and some dreams. It’s scary to plan; it’s fun to dream, but it’s life-altering to suddenly believe that I can give myself permission to do either.

| Your turn.

What did January bring your way?  I want to hear all about it.

What Airbnb Taught Me About Humanity

I’m always a little late to the party. Trend-wise, anyway. So, it should come as no surprise that I only recently used Airbnb for the first time…


 

 

It’s been entirely too serious around here lately, so I’m spending some time today over at The Lackadaisical Mom.  See you there.

What I Learned In 2015

Today I’m joining Emily P. Freeman and taking a deep breath as I pause to reflect on what I’ve learned over the last year.

Here’s my list in what ended up as a loose (and definitely not comprehensive) timeline.

Join us?

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February

We sold the first house we ever owned.

When we purchased the house our family consisted of two people.  We knew we were buying more space than we needed, and we bought it fully intending to make it available as an offering for the Lord to use as He saw fit.

We were leaving for the final time on our way to turn over the keys to the new owners, and my heart was filled with memories of all of the life that had happened there.  In that house, I experienced my first (and only) pregnancy and it was where we brought our baby boy home from the hospital.  It held community groups and ladies’ nights and countless meals and games with friends.  It provided warmth and shelter from ice and snow, and it was a haven for our family in some of the most trying times of our life so far.  We fed bellies of family and friends and they graciously fed our souls.

What I learned:  Home is where the heart is open.

“Let’s build a house with turned out doors,

so we can share what love affords.

Pour ourselves out like a wine we’ve been saving.”

Audrey Assad

 

March

I was randomly selected to participate in a launch team for Jen Hatmaker’s book, For the Love:  Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards.

The launch team would receive an advanced copy of the manuscript and was asked (if we so chose) to help spread the word through social media.

It was exciting for so many reasons.  To get emails from and be on a project with one of my favorite authors was a bit surreal.  To be involved on (almost) the ground level of the publishing process was the fulfillment of a dream I’ve had since grade school.

But then I began to read the book.  And I saw the atypically supportive community that was growing flourishing at an exponential rate among the ladies in the launch team.  And it quickly became evident that this was big–bigger than a fun experience, bigger than a book launch, bigger than me.

This book was going to help change hearts and lives.  I was watching it happen in our strange little book-launch, motley community, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I would be watching it happen in broader and broader circles.  And scarcely have I ever been so grateful for a seat on the sidelines.

What I Learned:  It is no less of a gift to be a smiling face in the audience than it is to be in the spotlight.

“A rising tide lifts every boat in the harbor; when one woman rises, we all rise. Let’s open our hands and give it all away—esteem honor, attention, love. What’s good for one is good for all.”

Jen Hatmaker, For the Love

 

June

Montréal, Québec.  Canada.  On vacation with my husband and in line (four hours early) to see U2 in concert.

During the four hour wait, we ended up chatting with the couple in line behind us.  They both grew up in Montréal and speak French with English as a second (actually, third) language.  Coleman and I speak zero French and know next to nothing about French-Canadian culture.

But the husbands bonded over an affinity for fishing, of all things.  Then we learned that they have a daughter the same age as our son, they were (like us) high school sweethearts who started dating at 17, and we drive the exact same car.  The similarities were uncanny and, really, too numerous to list here.

We enjoyed the entire concert together, then went to dinner together afterwards.  On our last night in the city, they invited us to have wine at their house in the suburbs and they treated us to dinner at a local restaurant.  We talked and ate and laughed, and it felt like we had been friends for years.  It was one of the most profound experiences of my life.

What I Learned:  Language and culture prove to be poor barriers where friendship is determined to grow.

“One life with each other: sisters, brothers.
One life, but we’re not the same.
We get to carry each other, carry each other.  One.”

U2

September

I turned 29 years old and began the final year of my twenties.

It feels both momentous and unremarkable.

I joke about the dread of growing old, about the wrinkles that are showing up and the stiffness in my joints, but What I’m Learning:

it’s all glorious evidence of life.

Beautiful, terrifying, abundant, messy, delicate, steel-strong life.

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

Frederick Buechner

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clockwise from top left: bringing home baby to our first home; meeting Jen at the launch team party; mere feet from Bono; snuggles from my son who regards not my fine lines and wrinkles

The Lie (And The Truth) About Aging

You’re probably believing the lie.  I am.  It’s nearly impossible not to, because it’s everywhere.

It’s in the anti-aging creams, the plastic surgery clinics, the countless how-to articles boasting how quickly they can help you get rid of that embarrassing sagging skin and those pesky wrinkles.  It’s in Hollywood’s obsession with youth.  It’s in the mirror when our eyes are clouded with distorted expectations.

We pluck our gray hairs, and we stretch smooth our creased skin, and we forget the truth.

Image and Design by C.J. Weatherford :: Find him on Instagram! @weatherfordcj16
Image and Design by C.J. Weatherford :: On IG @weatherfordcj16

 

The truth is that beauty is not skin-deep.  The truth is that our worth and value as wives, as moms, as humans is in no way related to or dependent upon whether we look old or young for our age.  The truth is that an aging body is not a problem that needs to be fixed.

The truth is hidden deep in laugh lines that tell of a life lived looking straight into the light.

The truth is written between the lines, white and hard-earned, on the now-soft belly that once contained eight pounds of brand new life.

The truth is whispered through faded lips, once taut and vibrant, who spent their lives kissing boo-boos and babies’ foreheads and their husband’s aging counterparts.

The truth is held in weathered hands, strong and calloused from holding tight through the harshest seasons, yet quick to open, eager to give whatever can be spared.

The truth is that the easy, wrinkled hands of age are infinitely more beautiful than strained fists clenching the last remnants of youth.

The truth is that aging gracefully has little to do with skin care and everything to do with a life well-spent.

On Books. And A Giveaway.

Updated:  We have a winner!  Kate Walker is the big winner of For The Love AND Simply Tuesday!!

And SURPRISE! I have three extra copies of For The Love to give away. So, Amber Carsten, Cali Wright, and Sarah Autry, you all get one also!!!!

I wish I had a copy to give to every single one of you who entered. Thank you for reading and sharing and loving on Emily and Jen along with me!


I love books.  (See the What I’m Reading link above for a peek into my book-life.)  I love physical books with pages made of paper.  I love the smell and the pretty covers.  I love them almost as much as I love reading them.

So!  I’m giving some away!

Both of these books release tomorrow.  I read them this summer and absolutely fell in love–with their words, with the hearts behind them, with the community of grace they are helping to build.

Simply Tuesday:  Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World by emily p. freeman

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In her gentle and gracious way, Emily invites you to sit, to rest, to listen to your life right now, where you are, and to hear the beauty in moments both big and small. Learn some every-day ways to practice being a kingdom-dweller instead of a kingdom-builder. Exhale a sigh of relief as she unfolds a tapestry of truth—real, Biblical, Jesus-truth—the kind of truth that empowers you to excuse yourself from the rat race and, instead, grab hands with Christ as he walks with you through the slow, simple minutes of life.

What if, instead of thinking we have to choose between our ordinary life and an extraordinary life, we began to realize they’re the same thing? What if we stopped asking God for big ways to serve him and started walking with our friend Jesus into the next simple moment in front of us?

emily p. freeman

For The Love:  Fighting For Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker

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I turned the final page of For the Love and immediately wanted to share it with every woman I know. Jen has her finger on the pulse of our generation, leading a revolutionary return to the basics:

unity, grace, encouragement, affirmation, love.

Our tribe need not be ruled by scarcity; there is enough for every woman to live beautifully. A rising tide lifts every boat in the harbor; when one woman rises, we all rise. Let’s open our hands and give it all away—esteem honor, attention, love. What’s good for one is good for all.

Jen Hatmaker

Are you hooked yet?

I thought so.


So, how do you win?

For one entry, follow Emily and Jen in at least one way.  Here are the links to their social media pages:

Instagram:  Emily, Jen

Twitter:  Emily, Jen

Facebook:  Emily, Jen

**If you do this, please be sure to comment here or email me to let me know where you followed them!

For two entries, share about one or both of the books on social media.  You can either share this post or share one of the authors’ posts.  I’m not looking for my own publicity here–I just want people to know and love these gals like I do (you know, as a reader.  They have no idea who I am.)

**Again, for this option, be sure to let me know that you shared and how/where!

**Yes, you can do all of the above for a total of three entries.

And that’s it!  You’ll need to follow and/or share before Friday, August 21 at 11:59 CST.  On Saturday, I’ll tally up the entries and draw a name out of a hat.  (Seriously, I will.  No automated, newfangled rafflecopters here.)


I sincerely hope that you will read these books, even if you don’t win a free copy.  They are full of such truth and love.  Today is the last day to pre-order, and there are fun freebies for those who pre-order — for both books!  Click on the title of the book above for more info!

Summer Rain

Sometimes you’re outside on the back porch with your little boy, and you decide to put down your phone and take in the moment.  And for a minute, he’s playing happily and the soft overcast of the sky is bringing a bit of relief from the piercing sun of summer and you think that maybe this is one of those moments that you’ll be really glad you noticed.

And then your son puts the bubble wand in his mouth and you take it away and he cries long and loud.  And you remember that you haven’t had a shower yet today.  And you glance at the furry spider the size of a silver dollar that’s staring at you from the corner and you wonder if maybe this was the wrong moment to take in.

And then you look up, and there’s a storm rolling in.  And you get to sit on your porch with your son in your lap (he clings to you because he’s a little afraid), and you watch heavy clouds move in from the west.  In a matter of minutes, the sky waxes dark blue before it settles into bed with its blanket of gray.

And the rain starts.

 

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Inside.  You turn off the lights and open the windows.

And you weep.

Because you suddenly realize how dry it is, how much the rain is needed, how you hadn’t even noticed.

We forget that it’s dry, because we drink daily from the tap.  We swim leisurely in cool, gleaming pools.  We drench our lawns with sprinklers.  They stay green.  We bask in the sun and we splash around in fluid grace.  We live off of our reservoirs in times of drought, because we believe.

We make it through the dry seasons because somewhere deep we harbor a quiet, steady faith that the rain will come.

A Few of My Favorite Things

Sometimes writing (and reading) this blog feels a little bit like cooking dinner.  I want it to be substantial–meaty, with some vegetables and starch.  But I also want a little relief–something light, maybe acidic to cut through the heartiness.

So, thanks to Lori for the inspiration to lighten it up a bit, I decided to list a few things I’m digging lately.  Maybe you’ll discover a new favorite?  (Hint: go check out number two.)

What I’m into right now:

1.  Baseball.  On TV, in person, major leagues, college leagues – whatever, man.  For me, baseball epitomizes all the goodness that comes with summer.  I will never, ever tire of hearing the crack of the bat or the soft rumble of the crowd.  Also?  Kettle corn.  The end.

2.  Audrey Assad.  Specifically her album Fortunate Fall.  I’ve had it for about a year now, and I loved it immediately (the title track? and I Shall Not want? whoa.), and this week it re-entered my life.  Totally crushing on it all over again.

3.  My son talking.  Listen, I have been madly, wildly in love with my child since the minute I found out he was in my womb, but the honest truth is that I am not a baby person.  I have savored all of the moments of his young life, but hearing him say real words and sentences is a whole new level of parenting joy.  I sneezed and he immediately responded, “besh you!”  I gushed a surprised, “thank you, baby!” and smothered him with so many kisses that I believe I might have frightened him.

Hilarious Bonus:  He sometimes says, “ohhh my gaaash!” and it sounds just like Kristen Wiig in the surprise party skit from SNL.  Can we all take a minute to recognize the comic genius that is Kristen Wiig?

photo credit
photo credit

Thanks.

4.  Book Launch Teams.  I’ve had the unexpected pleasure of being a part of two different teams this summer.  I wrote about Jen Hatmaker’s new book and launch team here, and I’ll write a little more later.

But, I just finished reading the advanced copy of Emily P. Freeman’s Simply Tuesday, and I truly loved it.  You may have seen her hashtag #itssimplytuesday on Instagram or Twitter.  The idea is to take a breath during the average everyday to see the beauty of our small, simple moments.  In the book, she speaks (beautifully) about “Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World,” and the whole thing felt like a big ole hug that I didn’t even know I needed.

One of her small moments from the book:

“The rhythm of sitting on swings does good work, a reminder that we are tethered even as we sway.”

I’m loving that image.

5.  Restoring old homes.  I have become 100% addicted to the show Rehab Addict.  Nicole is a bad ass in the best sense of the word, and I truly believe she and I could be best friends.  Creepy?  Maybe.  True?  Absolutely.

Also, my new friend, Shaina, is living in and restoring an old home with her husband, and she is now one of my favorite people.

6.  Toni & Guy Dry Shampoo.  I use dry shampoo three out of every four days, so I feel qualified to say that this stuff is totally boss.

7.  Looking forward to Autumn.  Please don’t misunderstand me:  I am not advocating a life of always looking ahead to the next thing.  But a unique joy can be found in healthy anticipation.

I love summer sun and green leaves and warm nights, and I also enjoy the occasional daydream about pumpkins and pies and crisp evenings spent watching football.

The only thing more wonderful than the changing of seasons is the knowledge that the seasons will always change.


What are your favorites lately?