Posts in Faith
Growing in Heart: What I read in 2017 for Compassion, Self-Care and Wholeheartedness
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2017 was the year I turned 30, and I suppose this book list reflects that.  Looking back, I weathered a tough year with two littles - 3 & 1 and kept my heart growing in the midst.  I completed 26 books and this list isn't exhaustive, rather a highlights reel of the notables.  To see my whole list, click here.  Also, if we're not friends on GoodReads, WE SHOULD BE!  I love seeing what friends are reading and I obviously need to grow in reading some more happy books and some more fiction, so help a sister out.  

I feel like this year was one of developing deep compassion in my soul for the struggles and trials of others and yep - myself.  This girl has gotten into a pattern of rejoice over mourn with and skirting pains through performing and perfecting.  I'm sure you can relate - yes, no?  Then let's pop through this list of likes.  

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown  It's no secret that I'm a Brene fan....isn't the whole world?  While I'm not sure this is her best work I do think it makes short work of standing strong amidst life's difficulty.  It sort of encapsulates all of her teachings and presses you towards belonging to yourself.  Belonging is a strong value I want to instill in my boys - the wholeness, courage and bravery that comes alongside belonging - goals for sure.  

Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair by Anne Lamott  Oh sweet, Annie.  I had the pleasure of listening to her, in person, at a lecture series and it only deepen'd my love for her.  She can take difficult topics and lace them tight with a firm dose of hope and this book is no exception. 

Hallelujah Anyway by Anne Lamott . More Annie.  Seriously, this book woke up my mercy-heart and had me crying sweet, happy tears beachside.  I read it in a (long) sitting, but it was such a dear story of underdogs, kind exchanges between strangers and yep - a whole lot of mercy towards self and others.  If your heart needs a lift, a pep talk and a bit of restored hope in humanity - this book's your girl.  Would also make a lovely gift.  

Everyday Faith by Katie Orr This is NOT my first Katie Orr book and I certainly hope it won't be my last.  She taught me how to study the bible more deeply and fully, amidst my stint at seminary - that's sayin something.  Her FOCUSed study method opened my eyes to a bunch of bible resources and got me going deep into the original languages.  Loved this faith focus - another great gift and a super approachable book for easing back into bible study.  I'm all about some biblical literacy and her books really helped ease me back into studying the word and deeply knowing Christ.  One day I'm gonna meet Katie Orr - she lives just a bit up the road - but through these books my study has radically changed.  So good.  

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown  Love Brene.  Think every woman, mother and human should read this.  In the throws of motherhood, business and just life it's easy to get stuck living our lives for others, in the ways we feel they call us to - and Brene challenges us to let go of all the 'keeping up' - to step into living as wholly ourselves.  Good stuff.  Great stuff for dropping baggage I carry as a Momma so it doesn't rub off on my littles.  They need not carry more than this world will ask of them.  

Coming Clean: A Story of Faith by Seth Haines  Loved Seth's wife's book and loved his nearly as much.  His story is a raw and honest view into his mind and heart as he quit a long love affair with alcohol.  So pure and honest as he takes you on a walk through hiding his addiction amongst friends, to stopping, through therapy and relationships changing.  Good, good stuff.  

A Fierce Love by Shauna Shanks Oh Shauna's book.  Are you stale in your marriage? Disgruntled about little things or stuck in other areas?  Shauna's book is a good perspective reset and shift.  She walks through her husband's infidelity - yes - but what is so much more rich and transformative is her own heart change and approach to what she felt like was an inevitable end to her marriage.  She makes much of Christ and both compels you to Him as well as in your own life.  

You Are Free, Be Who You Already Are by Rebekah Lyons  If you struggle with anxiety or know someone who does this read is for you...so that's you.  Ha!  Rebekah takes you through her life in NYC, lets you in to her battles with anxiety in a season and the ways the Lord cared for and loved her through that.  So much compassion and understanding for those facing anxiety and panic and rich comfort and practical ways to trust the Lord in the midst.  

Soul Keeping by John Ortberg  This book pops up so regularly on my kindle deals email that I decided to give it a go and I am so glad that I did.  It was a good look at soul care through a spiritual disciplines lens.  Lots of good truths like being honest in every single last thing - to others, yes - but to ourselves - no denial etc.  Good stuff - lots of little truths from when we were littles that we so easily forget and don't apply to now.  

Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster LOVED this classic.  I think delving into spiritual disciplines has deeped and widened my faith.  So many practical ways to pray, do solitude, study the bible etc.  It's like a 'doing' of Christianity primer.  

Safe People by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend  I've been working through Dr. Cloud's works over the past year and this has been one of the most transformational for me.  Looking at the people in our lives and sorting through who is safe, who has safe characteristics and who just isn't.  Also so much growth to be had reading this book in search of learning to be a more safe person for others.  Good, good stuff.  Ministry peeps should totes read this . 

All the Pretty Things by Edie Wadsworth OH my starts.  I'm totally an Edie fangirl at this point and this memoir is what kicked it off.  I think it's the best memoir I've ever read.  For real y'all - and I LOVE me some memoirs.  Her story is just plain crazy, I adored the Appalachian ties, the trash to treasure sort of theme that winds its way through.  And dangit if Edie's transparency and honesty doesn't compel us into leading with our own stories, all hung out and honest.  So good.  If you read nothign, read this.  

Healing the Scars of Childhood Abuse by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD  I grabbed this in a random bookstore trip and am much better for the reading.  I think I read it right after Edie's book, above, that walks through a lot of implications of her own childhood.  After reading this, I feel like the standards for abuse are low (or high - not sure how to say that...) - feels like everyone experienced abusive situations if not length abuse patterns by the criteria within.  I am thankful for this info and the ways this book spells out what childhood abuse grows to look like when you're an adult - how people carry the pains, wounds and patterns of their lives before.  So much understanding and compassion can grow here.  And absolutely has made me comb my mothering with a magnifying glass - and has changed how I respond to my friend's mothering quandaries.  I'll warn you - it will also make you want to rescue quite a few little children from their own terribleness.  

Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton  If you're a high-powered, high-capacity lady (hello fellow enneagram 8's) then Ruths' writing is for you.  I loved her deep dive into solitude and silence from the perspective of a working mother.  Really practical and really transformative of my life with God when I'm sitting under this practice regularly.  If nothing else, I think it helps us claim some yesterdays from our culture.  I often wonder what sort of woman I'd be if I was reared in the 30's or 50's...so much more quiet.  

The Soul of Shame by Curt Thompson, MD  Last in the line of serious -this book is a biblical sort of approach on Brene's shame work.  SO great and while much of the information is similar, much of it is different and eye opening.  Curt feels like an old friend, his merging of medicine, science and faith is approachable yet lofty.  

Q&A Kid's Journal - Post-nap grumps to kids party gift
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Last week a sweet little package arrived with a return address for Freely Give Co, a company unfamiliar to me.  After taking a quick naptime peek around their site and looking through their gift box options that give back, my excitement for my own package jumped up quite a bit.  

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A canvas drawstring bag held a sweet 3-year kid's journal.  The striped cover was delicious and textured with just enough embossing pizzaz to delight a kiddo and quite enough class to sit on my shelf of daily study things.  

Thumbing through the pages, I loved the simplicity.  I'm not exactly the best with daily prompts and another thing to keep up with for the boys, but this seems simple enough.  One quick question a day with a short scripture verse and 3 spaces for writing.  I plan to try and use it with both boys as Cal is chatting more, but a simple answer with each's initial and age fits perfectly.  The journal is aimed at a 3-year timeline, but you could easily fit in more or less.  

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What I've loved most are these questions break through even a 3-year-old's grumpy afternoon slump.  We've mostly dropped the nap and on the days he naps, he's crabby after and on the days that he doesn't, he's needy and crabby - enter this journal.  I get our afternoon snack together, tell him it's time for "our special question time" and we head for the sunroom couch.  Some days his replies have been short and another he told me he'll be getting married in June, when he's 10-years-old.  He then asked a few questions about weddings, we recited the bible verse together, ate snack and commenced playing in a much better mood.  It generally opens discussions and questions that wouldn't otherwise happen.  So good for us and certainly for older kids.  I could see this being a sweet bedtime recap, too.  

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We've only been at the journal keeping for a long week and I've already enjoyed looking back on past answers and having a second (or third!) chuckle.  Check out this sweet journal here  and know that while this journal was a gift to our family, these opinions are my own and we're really enjoying it.  I can't imagine how fun it would be with an older child who has more to say!  It's totally going on my birthday party giving list - paired with a cheap digger or car and it's a sweet gift that lasts a little longer than most. 

27 in 2016: What I Read
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Since my life these days is filled with the wild laughter and raucous of a nearly 3-year-old and the equally wild giggles and needs of a 5-month-old, this'll be a quick and easy list.  Most of these I read the old-fashioned way, but I have really loved incorporating audible books into the lineup when I can.  Comes in handy in those fringe hours, where the boys are sleeping and I want to get a zillion house tasks completed before I have two little shadows.  I love their app and it's helped me add a few books to my list that I otherwise wouldn't have had time for.

While I did read 27 books, I can't remember what my goal was, to remember if I met it - will go digging for that this week, just to see.  But if I'd only read one book, I would be pleased with myself, because it's really in the pages that I learn so much, live other people's lives, have my perspective shaped and my compassion grown.  I should also mention that this list doesn't include the tens of cookbooks I've borrowed, bought and studied from friends.  I'm always pushing myself to cook new things, but in a year where birthing a kiddo meant I was often nauseous, not hungry or without time - reading through cookbooks and soaking up technique tidbits and flavor combos was like honey for my heart.  Maybe I'll get to a posting of favorites, for those of you who also enjoy wandering through recipes and gorgeous food photographs.  (For ease, if you click on any of the books it'll take you to the amazon page for reading about them there/amazon priming because lets be honest: amazon prime is my bestie)

The Road Back to You  - Loved this approachable and witty take on finding your enneagram number.  There are quick statements to help you identify and quick takeaways, too.  If I haven't drafted you into personality work and typing junk, consider this your invite.  Read it, then let's have coffee.

Bread and Wine - Oldie, but goodie, that we re-read for book group.  Love everything Shauna has to say, but this book is a sweet invitation back into food for community.  So much happens around the table and this book is a firm hug from a dear friend.

Wild in the Hollow - LOVED this one, so much.  Amber's words are a balm, her honest experience of life in and out of the church is so refreshing.  I've got her husband's memoir about his first 30 days  sober, on my to-read list.  Love hearing from both of these wise souls in the podcast world.

Women of the Word - Read this right after I wrapped up a seminary class, actually and really loved Jen's pushing women right into study.  She covers a variety of topics and some method with depth, yet a perfect approachability.  Super great for diving into deeper study.

Delancey - Loved this second book by famed food writer Molly Wizenberg.  Her first book was sweet and endearing, while this one was interesting and probably played into my business and marriage interests.  She and her husband work together to open a pizza shop that is largely his but equally theres.  I enjoyed.  

Tables in the Wilderness - I wanted to love this one, but I didn't.  It was interesting if you're into spiritual memoir....but I kinda am and I still didn't love it.  Let it be known, that in my mind, if something talks about tables then it better talk about food or hospitality...and this didn't.  My own problems.  But problems, nonetheless.

The Finishing School - Loved it.  Love Val.  Love her approach and the way she writes from doing life alongside you.  This is a great practical book filled with wisdom on a variety of topics.  A good read for the start of a year or to give your fresh start a boost.  While you're at it, go check Val's prayer journals out.  They're my fave - going on year 4's, I think.

For the Love - I am stubborn - surprise!  And didn't read this forever because everyone was reading it and her dang launch group was massive and felt like it was suffocating my social medias....BUT.  I laughed my butt off.  If you wanna laugh: read it.  If you wanna laugh super hard and grew up in any form of the church: read it.  If you want someone to saucily discuss some current day church ish: read it.

Eight Twenty Eight - A beautiful account of Larissa and Ian's walk through a traumatic brain injury.  I knew the story and it was still so beautiful, transforming and challenging.  It IS hard on the heart, but that far outweighs the goodness.

The Dirty Life - I enjoyed this cross between a love story, journalistic experiment, small farm trial and error and just good storytelling.  If you're interested in farming or women farmers or love or food or people working the land with horses (OMG!) you'll love this.

Stir - This sweet book recounts how the author cooked her way through life after an aneurysm.  Part food, part love story, part medical miracle: I enjoyed every minute.  Recipes, too!

When God Makes Lemonade - I read this in a stitch where my heart needed some encouragement and this was a delight.  Think about the chicken soup books of yesteryear.   Along that same vein, this book is a collection of essays with stories that run the gamut of all sorts of people.  Really enjoyable.  Really sweet.  Really a lot of awe and happy tears.

What did you expect? - Great biblical marriage book that challenges and pushes your heart in all the right ways.  It covers quite a vast array of marriage info and all of it from a biblical space.  Much encouragement and many practical ways to show grace, love and share joy with the spouse the Lord gave you.....same spouse that may drive you crazy and vice versa.  Good listen.

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality - Hands down, one of the best reads for me, this year.  So good.  So much heart mining.  I loved it so much, I roped my friends into working through it in book group...

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Course - ...our group used this in conjunction with the videos that you can buy on amazon.  We did the workbook, read the book and watched a video at each session.  Was such good work to wade through with close friends.

Wild and Free - Jess and Haley get it.  They take so many sweet biblical truths, walk them out for women and encourage you by calling you higher - into the calling the Lord has issued over his ladies.  If you're ever a little bit annoyed with traditional church projections for ladies or feel like some things you've heard don't sit well with your heart - well.  Read this.  It's a good'n.

Everyday Hope - Each of Katie Orr's studies have been such a joy for me.  This one came along right after little Cal was born and I needed something that was quick for when I needed to be quick, but could give me depth when I had time all without shaming me into not doing enough.  So perfect.  I also love that Katie and her hubby live just up the road in Harrodsburg.  If bible literacy and study is on your goals list for this year, you may enjoy their podcast.

Tender to the bone - An early classic, as far as food memoirs are concerned.  I really enjoyed it once I got past her statement that starts the book off...where she more or less tells you she embellished parts of her story for your own enjoyment.  And well.  If I'm reading fiction, I'm down with that: duh.  But something about it rubbed me wrong the whole time.  Still a super enjoyable book!

A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet - I so enjoyed this sweet read.  It was equal parts funny, joyful, southern, friendship - just like sitting down for tea on a snowy day with your funny, southern friend.  Quick and funny.

Women are Scary - I honestly thought I'd like this more than I did, because Melanie Dale and I have similar ways of talking and sarcasm and yada yada...  But maybe it's because I've always hung out with 'mom friends' and found a really deep batch of good ones.  The book is funny and was a good middle-of-the-night nursing book.

Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full - Oh my.  I listened to this one and treated it as a morning devotional of sorts during that time that Cal was eating 1 million times in his early days.  It is so beautifully written, deeply convicting and encouraging.  The author comes alongside you in the trenches of motherhood, calls you higher and encourages you right along in the tricky.  So great.  So purposeful.  Is something I still pull up on audible on a busy morning or short car ride.  Loved it.

You Learn by Living - Politics aside, I really enjoyed this quick book by Eleanor Roosevelt.  She tells some interesting tales about coming into her own as a first lady.  It's rich with practical wisdom on a variety of topics and makes me want to read more about the Roosevelts.

Daring Greatly - If you haven't read any of Brene Brown's work, this is a super one.  But also: they're all great.  This pushed on my heart LOTS in regards to relationships where I sit too long, wishing for vulnerability but not pressing into leading it on my own.  Good stuff.  So much good stuff.  But also, I couldn't read it without a deep longing for a gospel narrative to accompany it.  There is much missing in the way we humans were made and how the fall affected us.  Still so great...but definitely check out this book as a follow up or companion if you're of the same mindset.

Life from Scratch - Generally, I don't say you shouldn't read something because I generally think every book has something to offer.  But this one.  Meh.  No thanks.

Present over Perfect - This is my second Shauna Niequest book here (and she's the one who turned me to the enneagram years ago..) and I have to say it is fantastic.  When I had my first son, I went through a phase of forced restructuring where I really learned to sit still are pare back my life to what was necessary and life-giving.  That said, I approached this book release with a bad attitude because I figured it would have little to offer my generally slowed-down self.  WRONG.  In the way that only Shauna tenderly can, she shares much of her own journey across many facets of life and the ways she found herself achieving and running ragged.  But she does it in a way that doesn't condemn you, it invites you in to the freedom of enjoying a rich and intentional and pared back life.  So good.

Uninvited - If you're a woman (or a human) and you're considering a book on this list READ THIS ONE.  I read it in tandem with my bestie and I can tell you we text quotes from at least half of the book.  Lysa is SO WISE and just goes hard after those all too familiar feelings, experiences and reactions that come with rejection of all sorts.  Don't know how else to tell you that this book is rich and wise beside telling you that you WILL want your own physical copy, you'll need a highlighter and a pen and a box of tissues and a journal.  Because there's heart-gold to be mined with this one.  So wonderful.

The Magnolia Story - If you're American, you know these two from their HGTV fame.  I super enjoyed this book Luke picked up for me.  Was fun, encouraging and interesting.  And I think you'll still get a kick out of it if you (somehow) have no clue who they are.

Unashamed - Lecrae.  Hubby and I have been on a hip-hop kick.  We've mostly been on a well-written words and poetry, put to music kick so when I heard about Lecrae's new release, I ordered it up as a gift.  Then I read it and connected so many dots of so much photo work I had done that opened my brain and heart to predominantly black communities.  If you look at this book or hear Lecrae and think "I don't need to read that" or "I don't care about racism/black culture/abuse/hiphop/singing/white priveledge/whatever else you think this man is" - you need to order it, or come grab it from our Little Free Library.  He shares hard things, challenges, you find such joy and hope in his hardworking single-momma.  It's just good.

Loving Lately: Little Fat Baby, Struggling Mommas, Books and Foods
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Getting back to this sweet place that I love as our sweet, second son gets to growing and I get to sleeping more.  Excited to hop back on board and share a backlog of images, miles of words and a bucket load of favorites, which can maybe benefit my reading/lady/mom/human friends.  Before I get caught up and can properly introduce our wonderful Calvin David – just know he is a literal dreamboat of a baby.  He’s squishy, cuddly, sleeps well and is just an easygoing, dependable sweetheart.  The past couple weeks he’s really woken up and is busy smiling and giggling and showing off that fabulous dimple.  Couldn’t ask for a better baby boyfriend.  

2 & 3.  Second love behind Cal?  The Kindle Paperwhite I upgraded to right before he arrived.  I took advantage of Amazon’s program that lets you trade in your old Kindle for a credit.  So worth it!  The Paperwhite cost me under $100 and the THING GLOWS!! I can read at night while I nurse, I can read without the light on, and it’s just a much smoother interface than my ancient Kindle.  Super LOVE it.  Also am LOVING this leather case that my family gifted me when I turned the big ’29’.  Allows me to toss the kindle in my purse, turns the Kindle off as soon as I close the front, which has come in very handy when a certain toddler needs attention ASAP – I can toss the Kindle without losing my page.  Fave part of this little guy?  I’ve charged it twice in 3 months and read up to an hour each day.  Crazytown.

4. My fave kindle accompaniment is Modern Mrs. Darcy’s kindle deals page.  She’s not only opened me up to some great new reads, but she’s helped me catch a few on my ‘to read’ list for $1-2.  SO.  AWESOME.  And you can sign up and have it come right to your inbox.  As I’ve mentioned before, I really love her podcast.  Super interesting for my book friends.

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5.  I’ve blogged about my love for podcasts on a few occasions, but I need to introduce you to the Mom Struggling Well podcast.  Emily is just so great!  She’s a fab interviewer, has the best humor and asks for itunes reviews (standard annoyance in podcast world..) in the funniest of ways.  I love most how she interviews her guests FOR her listeners.  As in, she’s always asking for ways to apply what they’ve learned or wisdom on how to go through the processes they’ve gone through to get where they are.  They’re also consistently shorter episodes (which I’m also sad aren’t longer…ha!) that I know will be waiting for me each Monday morning.  Check her out, enjoy her guests – so much goodness there!

6.  VIVIAN HOWARD!  Whether you’re a foodie or not, Vivian Howard’s show, A Chef’s Life is absolutely worth a binge watch.  They’re currently in the middle of the 4th season, so you can get up to speed and enjoy the rest of the episodes as they come out.  A Chef’s Life is what I imagine FOODTV should be.  Beautifully shot, this documentary covers the life of Vivian and her husband, Ben, as they move home from NYC to a small North Carolina town, to open a restaurant.  Each episode centers around a particular food, takes you to the farms where they grow (Truman loves this part, too!), hops back to restaurant life, is full of tidbits about how Vivian uses the particular food and often follows Vivian through various parts of famous chef life: cookbook writing process, cooking competitions, large catered dinners etc.  This fantastic show is on PBS, so you can enjoy it FO FREE.  Pull it up, show your babies where their food comes from, enjoy the Howard’s family and run to pre-order her cookbook, releasing this fall.  I’m basically the biggest fangirl and hoping for an overnight one day at one of her farmer’s airbnb’s.

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7.  Last, but not least, I’m loving this little corner of the guest room that we turned into my sewing space.  I slowwwwlllyyyy work on a couple quilts, as I have the time and it’s been so sweet to be able to get to do this more.  Having my machine out and ready has allowed me to pop in and piece together a couple panels, then come back to it later.  In this season with tiny dudes, I really do only get windows of time.  Bonus: Cal’s crib is in the guest room and he likes to nap if he hears my machine buzzing along, so we’ve been getting in the afternoon shuteye and pinwheels: teamwork! 

Loving lately: Podcasts
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Aside from realllyyyy loving this space, in its newly remodeled state, I've got a little list of loves for ya that mostly revolves around encouragement through words.  But first, can I just say how it's so nice to finally have an online space that truly feels like me.  It's no longer a back-burner space to toss up family photos just so they are somewhere safe and it's not a place where my work gets clouded up with my thoughts.  Hopefully this will turn into the space that matches the all over the place way I do life.  Recipes here, gardening there, some quilting efforts, lots of words, loads of books and a little place to archive images of our family that we can look at regularly. As usual, I'm LOVING podcasts.  I clean to them, do dishes, cook dinner, ride in the car, take showers listening - perfect encouragement for when I'm home with a toddler while my hubs travels.  I LOVE how the iphone automatically has a podcast app - makes listening so easy.  Here are some highlights of my fave episodes, take a listen to at least one and I know you'll feel encouraged.

God Centered Mom has been a fave for a long while.  I nearly hate that it's called got Mom in the title, because sooo many of the episodes are so rich and not just for Mommas.  My top episode faves of hers are by two older ladies....think 80's.  Surprise?  I think not....I love me some wise women.

First up is a two-part episode featuring 87-year-old Vickie Kraft.  You can find episode one here and episode two here.  I love that Ms. Kraft went to seminary in her 50's, chats about how she's studied the bible in her years and how she's encouraging, leading and mentoring young women in her church. What I most love that she talks about how great it is when friends just stop by instead of calling first.  Love how she brings up so many things that were an integral part of her life, growing up in another time.  Since the podcast was recorded Ms. Kraft has gone to be with the Lord - I love listening to it with a sweet gratefulness for the legacy this woman has surely left behind.

Next up?  80-year-old number two: Doris Howard, lovingly referred to as Grammie.  She covers everything from her fruitful marriage that left her a widow, taking in an adult girl as her own to praying for chairs at her church in Asheville, NC.  She's just as sweetly wise as Vickie, but perhaps a bit more frank: which I super love.  She's such an encouragement - even to Mom's of little children - from which she is far removed, but remembers so well.  "We just need to obey and leave the consequences to God." 

There are so many solid - I mean, excellent - parenting episodes, but I especially love this strong dose of parenting wisdom she served up to celebrate two years of the podcast.  So many wise folks contributed to this episode - it's a must-listen if you're knee deep in loving and guiding littles.

I go back and forth and round and round with Around the Table's Podcast.  I love their Friday lunch break interviews and really enjoy the episodes where Jacey and Maggie chat about food and life around the table, but the filler convos can turn me away from time to time.  That said - give it a listen - it may be your perfect cup of tea!  And definitely roll through some of the Friday interviews - they're neat little windows into others.  Best Friday lunch, hands down, is spunky Rach Kincaid's episode where she covers everything from her transforming encounter with grace to her experiences in caring for hospice patients.  You will cry and your heart will be pulled on in the best way.  Love Rach's perspective and love her character that so clearly shines through.

"Grace was for people who were worse off than me and I couldn't be bothered to ask for any of it.  So I just went after this striving, accomplishment, success thing - this life - which is funny, because I've never been stellar at anything ... And then I got smacked with his grace when I became a mother and was absolutely terrible at it ... And that's when I fell in love with his grace for the first time as a twenty-something.  Ever since then I have wanted to walk this line that is right smack-dab in the tension - in the middle - of grace and works because it is his grace that compels us to do good works  It is his gift that asks us to celebrate what he's given us by striving - I don't want to be scared of that word - but we're striving after his kingdom, not after ours.  And we're pushing and we're moving forward into his calling for us and not into our own goals and dreams."  - Rach Kincaid

If you're a reader, Anne Bogel's podcast, What Should I Read Next will be right up your alley.  It's always a refreshing conversation where she listens to her guests (usually authors, wish there would be more 'normal' folks) share a handful of books they love and books they didn't.  She then comes back with suggestions for them, notices characteristics that link the books that they love.  I'm always hearing about new books, enjoying deeper reviews of books I'm considering and just love this easy listen each week.  Take a listen right here.

I saved my current holy grail of podcasts for last:Jamie Ivey's Happy Hour.  I've binge listened to every last one of these and have been enjoying them since little Tru was born.  Jamie has such a deft hand as an interviewer - she graciously and lovingly gets to the heart of her guests.  She's so respectful, approachable and never talking over her folks or leaving me with questions, unanswered about her guests.  She's the real deal.  Ran into her on a curb at a conference and she's just the same in real life.  Love it.  Listen to them alllllll.

My most favorite episode - and possible blogger/internet personality - is Jami Nato's episode.  Listen to her chat with Jami, go sit a spell on her website and see if the grace in her marriage and family and words don't just cover you like a heavy knit blanket on the coziest of days.  Jami remains one of my most favorite encouragers on the internet.

If you want a sweet couple instagram accounts to follow, look up Stephanie Holden and her husband Nick's accounts.   I so LOVED this episode where she talks about how the Lord redeemed their teenage pregnancy, a host of family 'traditions' that you long to see an end to and just the most wild transformation of her family coming to faith.  So good.  Nick also recently did a line of insta posts about marriage.  Look em up.

Jen Wilkin's episode was another fave, wisdom-rich episode of the happy hour that I just loved.  She wrote a wonderful book that walks us through how to study the bible and she just has soo many lovely and smart things to say.

Now pick one, and pop that phone in a wide-mouth mason jar to make an easy speaker and enjoy the wisdom, fun and encouragement these ladies have to share.

Annoying Sunday School things...

"And he who was seated on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.'Also he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'"  Revelation 21:5

Today has me thinking.

Today is a Monday which means I go to my office to crank out the emails and the edits, which also means my brain works and turns all the while.

More than a handful of times lately I've had deep, hard conversations with dear friends and a few acquaintances about the hard parts of life.  The heartachey parts, not just the rainy days.  About the sting of the circle of life.  Friends losing parents, relationships disintegrating for one reason or another, scary news about little babies who should only have happy news.  And over and over again I think about my heartaches, my bout with depression in pregnancy and the hard times of others I've stood near to.  The people taken too soon, the struggles that sent people too deep into painful places.  Ugh.  This lament could go on for days...

And ya know what comes to mind, loudly.  Singly.  And most true?  Jesus.  That He is good.  He is faithful.  And that He gently and lovingly carries us in those hard times when we really get to see how tender and dependent our souls are, how messed up the world is and how needy we really are.

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And in those times He doesn't feel good or faithful or with us, but He always proves Himself to be all that we need.  He has given us the truth we need to replace our feelings when our souls ache. He is the only comfort we have.  How generous of him.  Really.  

So on this Monday morning when I think about a young fellah who lost his battle against cancer and our community lets out a collective, heavy sigh that screams 'this isn't as it should be.'  It isn't.  It absolutely is not.  But goodness there is joy to come from the lifter of our eyes.  In the restoration of all things fallen, becoming new.  Nearly impossible to cling to that promise, but God has made Keaton new.  Glory.

He is making our hearts turn towards Him and away from our selfish, sad ways that forget He is faithful.  He is good.  He has a plan.  He runs this show.  And He alone knows what we need.  We need Him - our trustworthy Father.

Thanks be to God for being the bit of reason we can safely cling to in our hurt, weeping days.  In our sorrows and in our joys.  That he knows all the feels and can handle all our anger.  Not all those Sunday school things we learned to say about hard things.  Just the living God who comforts and continually reveals to us the things he is making new.

On being in a writing, censorship trap
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This blog was started with two purposes: to document our family and give me a place to write words about living within the family deal and not have them tied to my work - where they could quite define me and maybe even separate me from probable clients, unnecessarily.  That said: it ain't happenin.  The writing, I mean.  I feel, more often than not, little freedom to write here due to it being 'family' or 'truman's picture place' or whatever else.  And so I sit at home, ideas swirling in my head all dang day long and I don't write. Well.  That's over.  'Tis time to reclaim the blog for it's selfish journal-keeping ways, to write the things I don't want to forget and clear my brain of reflections on everything from getting peed on by a certain little boy to what Mother's Day means to a hardworking self-employed lady tossed into the sea of motherhood.  And without much regard for others, really.  Which may be rough at times...but it's important to me to be straightforward and honest.  So many other more-brave-than-I-ladies' writing helped me as I sailed my ship into that motherhood sea and I really, truly think there isn't enough honest writing out there about being in the trenches of getting drooled on, running a small biz with a family and just being a human who does more than instagram the pretties all the day long.

So.  Here we go.  Expect more thoughts on what I'm reading (did you even know I inhale books?), some posts on questions I get asked more than twice (because obviously if two will actually ask the awkward question there's gotta be 50 more of us googling it and coming up short) and still pictures of my little man.

The stranger the better

Reading through the first day of Ann Voskamp's kiddo's advent book and I was struck by both the awesomeness of the book (go, go, go and get one!) but the awesome reminder that we all need by day one: to love those who are less than lovely (hello, ourselves, too!).  To look for the outcast, the downtrodden, the less-popular, the ordinary person that gets passed up because they're ordinary.  On the surface.  And pour into them as you would pour into the person you're enamored with.  Taking a little freedom here with what she was saying and pairing it with my brain. How crappy of us to ever decide that someone is less-than-whatever.  For we know that EVERYONE was made in the image of God.  Of a perfect, loving and holy creator.  Who the heck are we to decide who gets more or less love based on the way we perceive them from one interaction, one glance or a decision on what 'kind of' person they are.  I, a judger (ENTJ to be exact for my Myers-Briggs peeps), felt this scrape across my heart very specifically reminding me to peel back the yuck and get back to the person God made this Elizabeth to be.

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Then this morning I blogged about a session I recently shot that both made my blood pump and my eyes a little teary.  My current fave from that sesh below.  

And I was reminded of the way I love, love, love to nail the genuine moment on the head.  To get the people.  To make the picture that feels like the realest of life for everyone inside the frame.  Because that means I'm loving them well, taking the time to know them and connect.

Then I stumbled across this song.  Just so we're clear, I like quiet when I work.  Very rarely do I click on songs, unless a dear friend has sent it to me.  So I click on this bad boy and I'm all thank you Lord.  Whoever this dude is, I dunno, but I totally hear what he's saying.

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Falling in love with people.  The old, knee-deep in documenting people for school purposes Elizabeth lives here.  You could have literally put me in a room with Dr. Evil in my college days and I would have dug up the connective parts of him that would help us each identify with him and eventually connect.  I miss that.  I miss falling in love with people and loving them well from behind my camera.  Not that I'm perfect at it, and I almost can't do it without a camera to interpret for me, but I so miss it.

Oh Bears.  The sweet, less-than-perfect side of town, elementary-school football league that I fell so in love with.  Those Bears are going to college next year and being big-dog-seniors and I so long for the old days of football, of delivering turkeys to their own needy families with such pride in their little boy eyes.  The caring for ole Mrs. Bonita, who heated her house full of the grandchildren she was raising with her open oven.  Who had been battling cancer with her feeble, teeny body and wiping 2-year-old buns all day long, rarely leaving her house and being confusing in her talking with me.

Goodness I miss finding her, finding the strange perfections in strangers and writing about them and compelling people to connect and love well by giving and seeing the stories behind the people we title as less-than.  Because we're dumb.  And I'm talking about everyone - from the coolest of the cool to the tired to the poor to the rich to the whatever, because we each, in our own way, decide who we do and don't care about.  Because our hearts are bent on loving ourselves the most.  Because of sin.  We think we're the bestest and possibly no one could actually be as great as we are.  No one else's strangeness could possibly so beautiful and compelling unless we deem it so.  Welp.  Too bad and so good, but God made it and made them and saw that is was good.

Lord with every stranger, the stranger the better. - Hozier

Yes.  Just yes.  Just so we're clear, I'm the strangest.  I live with strangers.  I walk past strangeness each day.  I get paid to walk into the homes of strange, feel them out and make images that depict their now.  And I want to get better at that.  My heart feels the thing happening that my creator created me to do when I can do that well.  And when I can't, I stay up at night thinking it over, thinking about what I missed and why I didn't connect.  And I want to love them and love them well, not because I'm supposed to, not because it's cool, not because it'll selfishly serve my need to make great images, not because my crappy brain tells me I'm the best and the worst at the same time, but because the love of Christ, who lived and died for myself and for you and for the strangest person you know and can't stand.  And he died so that God can see us, through Him, in our imperfect little strange intricacies and call it good despite our flaws and sin.  And I want to make images and be the kind of person who sees the strange in someone new everyday and sees it as good.  Magnifying the strange by loving them well or in sharing it with others and compelling us to all take a minute and fall in love with someone new.

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 Thanks Annie Voskamp for your sweet advent kiddos book, my sweet husband for switching up the evening devotional while I nurse T and to that Hozier fellah and his song.  Glad to see the good today because of Christ who compels us to see differently, much of it due to that little chubby baby who rocked our world and shows his own little strangeness each day, new.

Twenty-six, Twenty-seven

Twenty-Six.

It's over; because today my days measure twenty-seven years.

Oh twenty-seven, I have no expectations for you.  Nothing but breathing because I think that is most wise and the best tracks to lay, for the possibility of joy, anyway.

On my twenty-sixth birthday, my tender husband threw a little surprise dinner gathering at a sweet friend's home.  We'd been married just 7 days shy of three months.  Just 9 days later I found out of the absolute blue I'd be expecting a little babe come April.  Or March.  But that's another story.

Our friends came together to share a meal, my most favorite thing to do.  We shared many desserts, which is my most, most favorite thing to do and we headed home that eve talking about all the things that fall held for us.  Talking about the places we wanted to go and Luke's upcoming assignments that made travel likely.

And then we were out of town.  And then we were weeping, out of town, still in our little secret.  Still in the secret we'd keep for many weeks that tore down all the walls of expectation for twenty-six.  All the walls of newlywedness.  All the walls of flourishing business.  All the walls.  All of them.  And they were replaced by mile-high, night-dark walls of depression and despair.  I'm not sure that I wish I'd been able to function joyfully through a pregnancy.  I'm not sure that's what the Lord willed for that year of life.  It was the hardest, but it makes the joys we have now that much more vivid.  It was the hardest to be numb for so long, but God is good and there is Truman.  And God is good and there are memories.  And God is good and joy now, is magnified.  And God is good and twenty-seven has no framework aside from a simpler life, more time together, more feeling and less of everything that doesn't make my blood pump.  Being numb will do that to you.  Make you aware of what makes your blood move and what absolutely coagulates it.

For now, I know that that tender man I lay my head next to makes my blood move.  The sweet babe whose chest rises and falls thanks to the creator who made him does, too.  The little white fluff that laid with me as I completed college, built a business, bought a home, married a dear man, made a family and got her a yard does, too.  Open spaces.  African accents.  Fresh air.  Ponies of all sorts.  Watching seeds grow into food.  Images.  Creating and making.  My prayer for twenty-seven is that I continue to become more alive.  To the things I loved before twenty-six and all the things I have yet to discover.  And that I would be able to discover new next to the tender man and the sweet babe and the white fluff.  To credit all that new and all that joy to the creator who made us.  That's all.

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