Friday, January 1, 2016

Books in 2015.

Dear Reader,

A friend asked for a post of the books I'd read in 2015, and, as we wrapped up the last chapter of 2015 last night, I thought I would go ahead and post my 2015 reading list, assembled, of course, after the fact.

I really enjoyed each of my reading choices this year. A few authors appear more than once (hint: they are my favorite); a few books landed in my hands through recommendations or random interests that popped up over the course of the year. There's a little bit of everything!

In chronological order:

To Live Again
-Catherine Marshall

-Cheryl Strayed

Jesus Feminist
-Sarah Bessey

The Gifts of Imperfection
-Brene Brown

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
-Betty Smith

Help Thanks Wow, The Three Essential Prayers
-Anne Lamott

The Professor's House
-Willa Cather

The Fault in Our Stars
-John Green

And It Was Good
-Madeline L'Engle

5 Love Languages
-Gary Chapman

Grace-Based Parenting
-Dr. Tim Kimmel

Grace (Eventually), Thoughts on Faith
-Anne Lamott

House of Earth
-Woody Guthrie

Yes Please
-Amy Poehler

Go Set a Watchman
-Harper Lee

It's All Good
-Gwyneth Paltrow

The Song of the Lark
-Willa Cather

Bird by Bird
-Anne Lamott

For the Love
-Jen Hatmaker

A Summons to Memphis
-Peter Taylor

Embracing the Body
-Tara M. Owens

[Pre-published, sneak peak read of a beautiful story]
-Mikaela Kate

Mrs. Mike
-Nancy & Benedict Freedman

French Kids Eat Everything
-Karen LeBillon

The War of Art
-Steven Pressfield

Rising Strong
-Brene Brown

Out of Sorts
-Sarah Bessey

Z, A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
-Therese Anne Fowler

Overextended...and loving most of it!
-Lisa Harper

Two Part Invention
-Madeline L'Engle

Saturday, October 24, 2015


Below the fluff of clouds the patchwork pattern begins. This is how I know I'm almost home.

"Home" has meant two places for the past two years---the place I'm flying toward now, a farm outside of Swea City, Iowa and also the one I've just left, a small brick house in an old neighborhood in Memphis, Tennessee.

Home is often first where you're born. Your second home, I think, is the one you make.

My Memphis home is one I've lived in the for the longest amount of time since I left the little sky-blue house in Iowa, and my commitment to be a Memphian, to be at home in my little brick house in the city I love has taught me quite a bit.

We all know it's true, but I'll say it again: Commitment all about choice. It's usually one daring decision, one strike out into the unknown, one turning point with all the bells and whistles. After that, though, commitment is the less-often discussed daily choices: to stay, to be fully present, to decide to love the place and the people all over again. A friend once said, "Commitment doesn't mean being a sprinter; it's more than a marathon. Commitment requires faithful plodders." How unexciting! How true!

I have two years of choice under my belt, and, from this vantage point, commitment to this city and to the dear people I've met here is the hardest, best thing I've ever done. In the process, I've learned what I'm about, the deep-deep down kind, when push comes to shove. I've learned to love more deeply and more terrifyingly than ever before. I've learned to ask for help and to gratefully accept it, to be a student of the ones I love and of the city that shapes us all. Life is challenging, beautiful, and full, Dear Reader. There are heights and depths I never would have known if I hadn't chosen to make my home, time and time again.

Choose yours. Choose your home-place. Choose your people who will help you give your life away. Choose to invest your life in the beauty that is commitment and self-reliance. And whenever you've reached your wits' end (which, by the way, is sure to happen more than once and more often than you'd like), hear the voice of your Jesus saying, "Beloved, I committed first. You go nowhere alone."

Build a home, Friends.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Go Ahead, Struggle. [You'll find Life there.]

Dear Reader,

I was talking to a dear friend yesterday on the phone. She is one of the strongest, most compassionate people I know, soaked from head to toe in the truth and love of Jesus. She sees the struggles of others so very clearly and directs them to the heart of the Father and His goodness.

And you know what? She is smack in the middle of her own season of intense emotional and spiritual struggle. Life is hard for her right now, Dear Reader. Very hard and very real. And it seems to be a trend. I can immediately name at least 10 friends who are journeying, or have recently journeyed through a time like this, myself included. 

It seems that this section of life, in these 10 years known as our 20's, so much of who we are is forged from the real struggle of growing up and engaging in real, honest relationships with our Jesus and with the people we love. These years of growing into the individual hearts we will be are a bit chaotic,  and I think there are a couple of important things to remember. I shared these with my dear friend yesterday, and then, as often happens, I reminded myself of these very same true things later in the evening. :) 

1.) You are absolutely not alone. There are times when you will feel alone, but it won't be true. There are ALWAYS people who love you and who have experienced similar feelings. We're all figuring out, in greater measure, who we are and how that identity will express itself in our lives. We are, at times, hot-messes of life-in-progression, but you know what? The mess is an incredibly beautiful piece of the puzzle of identity and strenth and growth. Which brings me to my second thought: 

2.) You have permission to feel the way you feel. Did you hear me? Permission granted. 

There are times, Dear Reader, where you will feel the heights of joy. Go ahead, feel joyful. Let your joyful feeling draw you into the wonder of who He is and who you are in Him. Reach up to they sky and marvel at its beauty. Be thankful, so thankful that you're a bit annoying. Look deeply and long at all the beauty your eyes can see. Everything is more beautiful to a joyful heart. Revel. 

There are times when you will feel quite confused. Go ahead, feel confused. Let your confusion drive you to ask great, honest questions. Questions are not something to be feared or shamed. Questions, confusion, they teach us where are hearts are resting. They move us from one point of understanding to the next. They are not a gross wasteland to be avoided, they are the very beginnings of walking fully in a new level of understanding. Ask. 

There are times when you will feel angry. Go ahead, feel angry. Sort out why you feel angry. Ask yourself, "What triggered this angry feeling? What circumstance? What interaction? Why?" It's okay to feel angry. Do you need to break something? Go outside. Smash something against the concrete. Go inside, grab a broom, clean up the pieces. Let it out in healthy ways, but my goodness, let it out! 

There are times when you will feel grief, grief that threatens to rip your heart to pieces. Cry, Dear Reader. Feel sorrow. At the pit of that sorrow is a hurt that probably has its root in love. The heights of love are heightened by the depths of grief. We'll feel both, if we're living wholeheartedly. Go ahead, grieve. Give your grieving self some time. Give your greiving self some space. Give yourself permission to be a hurting human in the hands of Jesus. 

There are times when you will feel ambivalent, lethargic, and sluggish, not particularly moved or bent by anything in particular. When you feel this way, Dear Reader, ask yourself, "When did I choose to feel numb?" What circumstance made me decide that checking out of my feelings was safer than engaging?" Figure out what patterns keep you involved in your own life and which ones disengage you. Go ahead, feel a bit numb. Use that emotional distance to figure out why. 

Dear Reader, I can't really stress enough: Feel what you feel. Feel what you feel with the community of people that love you. Feel what you feel with a community of people you trust. Not only will you build relationship, but you'll sharpen those communication skills. You'll learn to be emotionally intelligent, and you'll learn how to give and receive real love, love that asks questions, prods, and sometimes says, "This is what I need from you right now." 

Feel what you feel and live that bold, messy life of yours with your Jesus. You know what? He's not ashamed of your feelings. He's not ashamed of who you are when you're smack in the middle of  a season of struggle. Perhaps you've seen Him in the glory, in the beauty. He's probably taught you quite a bit about how much He loves you in experiences that were so delightful your heart was going to burst with joy. 

You know what, Dear Reader? There is a deeper joy to know, a deeper kind of acceptance and mutual-knowing to be found. You'll discover it when you live your messy moments intentionally in the plain-sight of Jesus. He won't look away, ashamed and unsure of what to do with your tangle of emotion. He'll love you. Not the pitying kind of love. The engulfing pride-filled love He feels when He sees you becoming, being brave and becoming. 

Let your heart come alive, Dear Reader. Let it come alive in the moments and seasons where everything feels quite messy, but you trust yourself to Him and to your people. Go Ahead, Struggle. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Dear Reader: Grow Up.

Dear Reader,

Lately I've been thinking a lot about what it means to grow up in Christ. Various scriptures have come to mind through this little journey. You can read them here and here and here.

Through this  pondering what it means to grow up in Christ, here are a couple of conclusions I've reached:

Growing up in Christ means:
-...taking responsibility, for yourself and for the people around you.
-....saying, "This isn't mine, but I will take care of it. I will own this, even if it's difficult.
-...showing up, being vulnerable and honest and faithful.
-...bringing your whole self to the table to give, because grown people are life-givers, not takers.
-...owning the inheritance that your Father gives you and living in the footsteps of your older brother, Jesus.

And you know what? I've come to realize that growing up is always more about the people and the world around me than about just this self of mine. Yes, this self matters, but mostly, this life is meant to be about the ones the Father loves.

And that changes the way life is lived. It just does.

Imagine, Dear Reader, that the Father was saying to you today, "The world depends on you showing up for your life and growing up in Christ."

You were meant to receive the full inheritance bought for you on the cross, Dear Reader. You were meant, not just for heaven someday, but for bringing heaven to earth right now. You were meant to love in ways that astound you. You were meant to forgive and to breathe life into broken relationships. You were meant to live a life of supernatural proportions, to be supernaturally natural and naturally supernatural. You were meant to take spiritual dominion over places that are currently being inhabited by an enemy who stands defeated. Kick him out by the full power of the Spirit that lives in you, Dear Reader. The world depends on you showing up for your life.

The Father is on a mission to get his family back, and you're invited to join Him. You don't have to; Papa never forces you into your inheritance.  But he does offer it [Him]. If you choose in, life will be more painful and beautiful than you thought possible.

This morning, a friend texted me to tell me that someone she knew had been shot and killed in a break-in at his home. Senseless violence. A 26 year old man's life ended in his own home. The spirit of violence taking the life of one of God's kids.

And you know what?

I believe, ever so strongly, that a part of the reason I'm in this city is because the Father is not okay with this. His heart is to put an end to this destruction.  Before I knew about this young man's death, while I was still waking up this morning, the Spirit was whispering to my sleepy-heart, "I've established a Covenant of Peace on earth to destroy the spirit of violence."

I turned my Bible to some sections that talk about peace this morning, and this is what I read,

"Let me hear what the LORD God will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in the land....steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs up from the ground and righteousness looks down from the sky. Yes, the Lord will give what is good, and the land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before him, and make his footsteps a way." [Psalm 85]

"For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this." [Isaiah 9]

We have a Father who spoke peace to us through the violent death of His son. We have a God who has made a Covenant of Peace with us through his own son's blood. His peace, His kingdom, His glory in all the earth will increase and be upheld continually. How, Dear Reader?

Look in the mirror. That's how. The fullness of Christ in you--the hope of glory dwelling on the earth in the hearts of those who choose to receive and live in their identity as Sons and Daughters of God Himself.

Your choice.

Show up for your life, Christian. The world depends upon it.

You live where you live with whom you live for a time such as this, for a time when His kingdom and His Covenant of Peace are reigning and increasing, carried forth through His Spirit living in you and moving through you powerfully. Your fully-alive self has the power to influence the spiritual environment around you.

Your life has more meaning and more purpose than you thought possible. The inheritance you can choose to receive by growing up in Christ is greater than you ever dreamed. And it means carrying Kingdom into the world around you. It means living with a heart set on seeing heaven invade the dark places--in your own heart and in the neighborhood around you.

Dear Reader: Grow Up. Become Christ with skin on, not just the nice Christian who fills a pew on Sunday, not the righteous argue-er of politics on Facebook (no matter which side of the political spectrum you live in). There's nothing wrong or evil about being that person, but there's so much more life to be had and so much more fullness to live in. Choose in, Dear Reader. Live assured of your identity as a Son or a Daughter and take some ground, take authority, spread the Kingdom you were welcomed into in the first place.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Brown Bread.

Dear Reader,

I don't known about you, but I have a number of childhood memories that are inexplicably tied to food: the smell of it, the texture of it, the taste of it.

I remember getting into the car with my mom and and my baby sister for a trip into town for groceries. We'd stop at the little grocery store in my small hometown, and then we'd go across the street to the bakery.

The bakery was very much like all of the other storefronts in town, older, with linoleum floors and a big glass front door. When we pushed open the door, a wave of conversation and fresh-bread smell would rush past our faces. The bakery was also a little cafe, and in the morning-times, the booths were filled with older folks, sipping their coffee and taking big bites of scrambled eggs and donuts.

We'd walk over to the counter, my sister and I, and gaze at the sugary treats behind the glass. If we were lucky (which happened most every week), Mom would let us pick out a donut. In those days, I usually chose a giant glazed one or one filled with raspberry filling.

The real reason for the weekly trip to the bakery, though, was the brown bread. In hindsight, it was probably called something like "Rye," but to my sister and I, and, by extension, to my parents, those tall, chewy loaves were known as Brown Bread. They were, afterall, much darker than the white bread from the store.

The Brown Bread was always wrapped in a plastic bread bag, twisted up with a twist-tie, and, since we usually bought two loaves at a time, they were placed, side-by-side in a rectangular cardboard flat.

Our little bakery always had fresh, beautiful loaves of bread, and that car ride home was filled with the most wonderful smell in the world: absolutely fresh, possibly-still-warm bread. When we got home, Mom would cut us a slice. My favorite was always the slice at the end of the loaf with mostly crust.

For the last couple of months, I've been making a version of that Brown Bread. It's been a wonderful way to know that the bread I'm eating is something very real, and the process of making it is a bi-weekly, end-of-the-week relaxation technique. A nice, slow process that brings the weekly rush to a grinding halt and gives me a few hours to alternately knead and wait until the loaves finally fill the house with a familiar smell.

Life rhythms like this have become much more important lately. Regular life has been a whirlwind, and I find myself needing these moments of routine and simplicity. Dear Reader, please take a moment to breathe this week. Knead some bread dough, walk around the block (if you're in the warm Mid-South like me), sit down with a book for half and hour, or ask those dear ones you live your life with a meaningful question or two. Take several deep breaths and really notice your life for a little while. The everyday, simple things hold so much beauty and promise.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Faithful & True.

Dear Reader,

Do you have those friends who consistently and wholeheartedly show you the love of the Father?

I've been overwhelmed  by His goodness to me through some very-dear ones lately. Life has hit a rough patch, as it does sometimes, and the Lord has been nearer than ever, frequently, through the kindness of my dear friends.

They're the ones who...

...send packages in the mail just to bring a smile to my face and ask the honest questions and just listen hours out of their way to say hello ten minutes away but send real mail anyway
...fight for me in prayer and wash my soul with scripture me dinner, and ice cream, just because
...take time off to say hello
...say, "Whatever you need, let's do that."
...walk around the neighborhood with me and recall all the strangest adventures we've been on together  :)
...mean it when they say, "Call me, anytime, day or night, okay?"
...remind me of what's true and real and beautiful

Hey, all of you wonderful friends: I am so thankful for you. This little life of mine is better and more full because I get to share it with you.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

(You know who you are.)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Springtime Purpose

It's a season of re-purposing for me. Life has been that way, and usually when the Lord is doing something in my soul, it spills out into my house. (So, as long as you keep your eyes open, and have an insightful heart, you'll probably be able to guess my state-of-soul.)

Last week's project was a really fun one. The neighbors across the street must have been doing some spring-cleaning, and, fortunately for me, their taste differs from mine. They threw this lovely old desk out on the curb to be picked up by the garbage collectors.

Thankfully, I had two strong men around to pick it up for me and carry it across the street under the cover of darkness. Thanks, guys, you're great!

[Big round of applause for these two. ]

Now, I had only seen this desk from afar, so when it was graciously brought indoors, I knew my suspicions of its loveliness had been well-founded. It's minus all the drawers (no idea what happened there), but beautifully made. Old and sturdy. Right away, I set out to clean it up with a mild solution of Mr. Clean and warm water. It was a bit grimy, but that was soon taken care of.

[Really fun numbers scrawled across the back]

The next issue to address was the top of the desk. The veneer was quite scratched, in some places, down to the under-layer of wood, so I knew some sanding would have to be involved.

[Kind of a messy inside project, but that's what vacuums are for!]

After the sanding and a bit of wiping down with a damp paper towel, I decided on a painted surface for the top of the desk. I happened to have some leftover chalkboard paint from a previous crafting project, so that became my paint-of-choice.
[I've always been really happy with the final results whenever I do a project with this stuff.]

After 3 simple coats of chalkboard paint (and a little drying time in between), my desk was ready to become an organizing station for my crafting supplies.

[Blur of a dog named Buddy. He was awfully excited about this restoration process.]

Since the desk was missing all of its drawers, I decided to look for some bins to stand in place of drawers. I found some lovely ones of various sizes on sale at Target.

[Lower Level: Chalk-board front bins for painting supplies and kid crafts
Middle Level: Painted wire bins for ribbons and hot-glue gun crafting bits
Top Level: Drawer openings hold sheet music from Anna Mae Vintage's inventory, while a deep, slender drawer-organizer serves as a catch-all for small bits and pieces in place of the middle drawer.]

After I finished stocking the shelves, I used the top of the desk to store Anna Mae Vintage's supply of vintage book decor, and I even started some ornamental wheat-grass seed on one corner of the desk, courtesy of the desk lamp, of course.

Spring is for growing things, cleaning things up, and starting again, in life, and in the house.

Happy Spring, Everyone!