Posts in Good Reads
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. 

What I'm looking at to read in 2017!
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After a few solid pushes from you readers, I'm whipping up this too-large list of what I'm looking to read in 2017.  The list is alllll over the place: some recommendations, places I need to learn to walk in other's shoes, very little fiction because I'm a bore (kidding....sorta), an assignment or two, a couple author bunny trains, a heap of kitchen memoir and a few advance reader copies coming my way.  Most of all I'm super excited and have already wrapped one book up!  If you want to keep up or see more, I'm pretty good at tidying my GoodReads account, so hop over there and lets be friends! My goal for the year is to read 25, but I'm pretty sure I'll surpass that as I started the year deep in the middle of 8 or so books. So. We shall see what I stumble upon, which of my library holds comes in first and what I found out in our Little Free Library. Happy ideas to ya!

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: Books, Jammies, FitBit & Audible
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This year I wanted to use my last months with just little Truman to grow my brain and my heart.  In working through my powersheets (love!) I determined that I wanted to be more intentional about reading, moving my prego bod, spending time in my gardens with my boys, spend less time scrolling and establishing more tools to study the bible in my tiny windows of time.  So.  This post is (mostly) about that.  Now that I read back over it, that seems like a lot, but for the past 5 months, having these ideas loosly in my mind has helped to guide my time A LOT.

I've completed 9 books, planted a veggie garden, redone two areas of lame landscaping and a host of other things.  I have to say I'm currently in one of those phases where I'm reading about 10 things...but hey...nbd.  Determining and keeping these goals in mind has definitely helped change my patterns and use of time.

1. First lifesaver?  Audible.  I was on the fence (and off of it, really) when it came to audible for soooo long because I LOVE to actually hold and read the book, BUT with a Truman and a full workload squished into a couple days a week this has been such a blessing to my brain.  I'm working through Brene Brown's Rising Strong, enjoyed Jim Gaffigan's Dad is Fat on a carride with Luke and just finished up Paul David Tripp's What Did You Expect? and loved it.  It's a lengthy listen at 11 hours, but I enjoyed having it on my phone, ready for a listen on a short car ride or for an hour here and there in the office.  Another secret?...the ole bra.  Since I was a little and we rode horses on the farm, often alone, I've been living with my phone tucked into my bra and if you turn on the podcast and tuck it in you can get a lot of yard work done while listening to podcasts and books.  Bonus?  It makes the work go by faster.  There's your quadruple plus, love in one.

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2. Everyday Hope by Katie Orr is simplifying my bible study time, that is running short on many days.  She follows a FOCUS method that meditates on a passage for 5 days at a time in 5 different ways.  She's also got Everyday Faith: Drawing Near to His Presence and Everyday Love: Bearing Witness to His Purpose - will probably give her method a try on my own until baby arrives then roll through Faith and Love when I'm shorter on time and self-direction.

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3. Reading lately?  Nearly finished with this spiritual memoir of sorts by Preston Yancey.  It hasn't been my most fave, but I certainly have enjoyed reading from a different sort of author than I'm drawn to.  I'll tell you that the cover photo was really what drew me in and the talk of his time at Baylor and Waco kept me going.  If you're a spiritual memoir fan or someone searching through faith, asking questions about denominations and traditions, safe to say you'd enjoy his perspective and experiences in Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again.

4. Wild and Free: A Hope-Filled Anthem for the Woman Who Feels She is Both Too Much and Never Enough This gem of a book has me searching my heart with each chapter and loving all the visuals that Haley and Jess have thrown in.  The tagline for this book is superb, because is so succinctly addresses who God made us to be and that our tendency to believe that we're either too much (yes!) or never going to be enough (that, too!) isn't part of how He made us.  Totally a perfect start to summer freedom.  Grab it, read it with some friends and soak it in.

5. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: It's Impossible to Be Spiritually Mature, While Remaining Emotionally Immature This book is definately something I'd expect to pick up for class, but was a quarterly read in the #nancyraybookclub that I am so glad I ordered.  I saw a few other ladies I mega-respect reading through it and have thoroughly enjoyed Scazzero's exploration of emotional health and maturity and how that factors hand-in-hand with our spiritual health.  He briefly touches on some denominational traditions, grabs your hand and goes mining through family traditions and experiences, expectations, church life and a plethora of other hot-button issues and experiences so many of us see our faith through.  The latter half uses a Stages of Faith model that theologians from Augustine to John Wesley have used to explore the Christian life.  It's a heavy, heart-opening, behavior-challenging read that will most likely take you a long while to weed through, but it's been the most expository book I've read in a while.  You can also pull up Nancy Ray's book club details here and watch old periscopes, on past books, too.  There are still 9 books to go on her list and I've really enjoyed her perspectives (as usual) and the community of folks following along.

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6.  The Fitbit Flex.  Yep.  I've become one of those people.  But before you get crazy and try to challenge me to a step-off (I pretty much have no idea about the fitbit community..obviously) know that I am not an addict yet, am not a super competitive person and I'm not even close to using it's full potential and I LOVE it.  Above you'll see my fitbit disassembled how I like to use it.  I'm not an armband or things-on-my-arms person, so when I saw this fitbit magnetic clip, I grabbed it up.  All I do is remove the flex chip from the armband, pop it in this magnetic clip and attached it to - you'll love this - MY BRA!  (I hope I have enlightened you to make full use of these dumb things we ladies have to use.  I wear mine right against my heart, between the girls with the larger side out and it works like a dream.  I've got it linked to my phone and have found myself being much more aware of my activity.  This pregnancy hasn't been the easiest to keep strenuous workouts going (but also....how often do I really participate in strenuous), so walking and being mindful or moving my body more has been the answer.  I rarely hit 10,000 steps, but I really love keeping tabs on what I think is a busy day.  I also make use of the water tracker, because with crazy Truman around, the usual tally I kept in my mind doesn't exactly keep as accurately these days.  Keeps me from feeling junky and has really changed my attitude about another trip up the stairs, running Truman's toys back to their various places and similar activities.  SO that's it.  Grab ya a fitbit flex and that $7 magnetic do-dad and you'll be walking and rolling.

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7. Truman's fluffy hair...cause duh.  He's a sweet little dreamboat right now who needs a haircut, but the crazy, fluffy hair, I find, makes grace a little easier for me to extend when he's being a wild and crazy toddler.

8. Many of you Mommas have asked where we found Truman's popcorn pajamas and it's my old standby: The Gap!  He loves to wear them and come upstairs for a little movie on Friday nights with Momma and Dad.  I also grabbed these super American Flag jammies, too.  I've always been a fan of patriotic and the Gap just delivers time and time again on the ole red, white and blue.

So there ya go - my random list of loves that's a little book heavy (surprise!) and ends on a Truman note.  A quick sidenote from last week's Loving Lately, too - Grove Collaborative is offering a free full-sized hand sanitizer and $10 in credit to anyone who feels like signing up for their sweet service.  I unloaded a box of newborn diapers yesterday and was reminded that they are one of my most favorite parts of simplifying life these days.  A gentle reminder that the book links on this post are Amazon affiliate links and help me keep this little spot of enjoyment running.

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.

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.

[embed]http://youtu.be/94kiYQ5StXI[/embed]

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.