Wednesday, December 26, 2018

2019 Reading List {Free Download!}

I had so much fun last week sharing with you all about my favorite reads of 2018. Thanks to all of you who entered to win the book Long Days of Small Things over on Instagram! As you saw from my photos, I log my reading each year in a journal with a simple method of title, author, and 5 star rating. I've found this is easy for me to keep up with year after year.

As the year comes to a close, I always like to make a reading goal for myself in the coming year. For 2019, my goal is to read 35 books across non-fiction and fiction, audio book, e-book, and actual book-in-my-hands. I'll be using my journal and the same method again this year to track my reading.

I thought perhaps some of you might also enjoy tracking your reading along with me! I've created a free PDF printable for you that is similar to my reading journal. The page fits 10 books, so you can create a goal and choose to print as few or as many pages as you need. I hope you'll comment and let me know your reading goal for the year!

Download your free printable 2019 reading list here.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Add to Your Bookshelf: My 2018 Favorites (and an Instagram Giveaway!)

As the year comes to a close, I am looking back over my 2018 reading and sharing my favorites! I keep a reading journal (this one from Modern Mrs Darcy) which I use to track my reading, including books I've read, books I want to read, and favorite quotes. Currently, I'm at 36 books for 2018, although I expect to push in a last few before the year ends! My goal this year was 35 books, up from 30 last year, so I am excited to have met my benchmark with a couple weeks left in the year.

Favorite Fiction Book:

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

Friends, pause whatever you're reading and go read this book. The novel follows a Jewish family in Poland from the beginning of World War II through to the war's end, chronicling each member's journey through those harrowing years. The stories of courage, strength, and bravery are stunning. And bonus: this book is based on the author's actual family history.

Might I suggest a new concept I discovered this year? A book flight. You read three books in a row with similar themes or styles. Together, the books bring more than the sum of their parts. For this selection, I'd pair Lucky Ones with The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult.

Honorable Mention:

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Until a couple weeks ago when I read the book above, I thought Firefly Lane would be my favorite book of 2018. It's a beautiful story of two best friends through the decades. I love the depth and longevity of this book and the theme of deep friendship. Kristin Hannah is a phenomenal author and this novel does not disappoint.

Book Flight: I struggled with this one! Try The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson and Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen although I also thought of Anne of Green Gables/Anne of Avonlea or Little Women.

Favorite Non-Fiction Book:

Long Days of Small Things by Catherine McNeil

I've referenced this book in a couple of posts lately. I absolutely love McNeil's take on motherhood as a spiritual discipline. She weaves her own experiences with Scripture and leaves you with practical tips in each chapter.

Book Flight: Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sally Clarkson and Sarah Mae and Becoming MomStrong by Heidi St. John

Honorable Mention:

The Simplified Life by Emily Ley

This book is beautiful and incredibly practical. Emily goes through areas of your life and home, teaching you specific, applicable ways to simplify. There are even spaces to take notes and journal prompts. I found her tips so helpful and now use her fantastic planner. 

Book Flight: The Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith and The Lifegiving Home by Sally Clarkson

And now, a giveaway! Long Days of Small Things was my favorite non-fiction book this year and I know you all will find as much encouragement within its pages as I have! I want to give away a copy to one of YOU, my lovely readers. To enter, simply head over to my Instagram account. You'll need to follow me, like the giveaway post, and tag two friends. It's that simple! The giveaway will end on December 23 at 11:59pm.

Friday, December 14, 2018

More Precious Than Diamonds

I've been thinking a lot this week about what I wrote in my last post-- about how I've given up my career and my own dreams for motherhood. I'm currently reading a book about motherhood as a spiritual discipline, and it's turning everything I thought about my calling on it's head.

I always saw myself as giving up my own calling from God to become a mother. Pressing pause, if you will, while I raise my children. That Master's degree and dream of writing were just hovering in the background, waiting to jump in again once my kids went to school. I've been realizing, though, that being a mother IS my calling right now. It's not some lesser version of my true purpose, but rather the highest calling I could have. I'm not the martyr sacrificing but rather the disciple following.

For me, this call to motherhood has felt rather like the creation of a diamond. The past seven years have been the most intense pressure I have ever experienced. I'm exhausted just thinking about the late nights, post-partum depression, pregnancies, births, discipline, etc. But under pressure, coal becomes a diamond. (I'm no scientist, so bear with my metaphor here.) As I've looked at my years of motherhood, it's felt rather like holding an uncut diamond. It looks like a rock- nothing important, meaningful or beautiful. It's dirty and seems common from the outside. And yet.

The process of turning that diamond into a jewel worthy of a ring is by cutting away the dirt and the rough edges to reveal the beauty inside. That seems like what God is doing within me right now. He's cutting away my own selfishness one little person's need at a time. He's slicing away giant pieces of myself I thought I really needed. But the result is breathtaking.

So all this to say, the diamond isn't coming through my own accomplishments, but through my daily sacrificial loving of my little people. Jesus has called me (and you!) to small acts of obedience-- daily taking up our cross to follow him. He did not promise fame and good fortune for his followers, but he did promise we would become more like Christ as we follow him.

This lesson is brand new for me, but one that is firmly rooting itself in my heart and mind. As I learn more I'll continue to write about it. And please, tell me how you are learning this too!

Monday, December 10, 2018

Preach To Yourself (and the Significance of Mothering)

I've found myself wrestling these last few weeks with my life's purpose right now. I've been kept awake at night by thoughts of my significance and the dreams I've held in my heart. I know that motherhood matters. That I'm doing the most important work. That raising little souls is truly the greatest task I could have been given by God.

But can I be honest? It doesn't feel like it. Instead, it feels like I live in a quiet, unnoticed corner of the world doing such small things. I wipe noses and bottoms. I give kisses and clean hands. And then there are the chores. Keeping home is exhausting and so repetitive. I struggle to sweep the floor and do the dishes and do all the laundry. There is so. much. laundry. I often feel like I spend whole days with a harsh word on my tongue and a frustrated spirit.

I have been thinking back to my brief time working. You know, using that Master's degree I worked so hard for? I'm struggling with the selfish desire to go back to work. To have extra money for what I want, instead of spending our budget on diapers and groceries. Again.

I miss the recognition, the feeling of being capable. I miss the progress reports, the opportunity for raises or promotions.  The only promotion in motherhood is going from baby to toddler to preschool to school age. The only raise is adding another baby.

I don't mean to sound cynical. I know without a shadow of a doubt that laying down myself for my littles is the most important work I will ever do. It's just that the day to day of it is so incredibly difficult. Motherhood is an ultra-marathon, not a sprint. These long days that pull together into years make something great, but it's something I will not see for a long long time.

As I have talked with other mamas through the years, this seems to be a common struggle. We all want so desperately for our lives to matter, to do something great. I wonder if you, dear reader, resonate with these words today. Know that your mothering matters. And mine does too.

As I've read this author's thoughts on Instagram, she talks often about preaching to yourself. And so that's what I'm doing today. I'm preaching to myself, and to you, that our life work is not forgotten or pointless. Saying no to the "glamor" of recognition in favor of little ones matters in deeply eternal, significant ways.

And now, the baby is up from her nap and all three of my littles need to be fed. It's back to dishes and laundry and hugs. These long days of small things matter greatly. Don't forget, and remind me often.

Friday, November 30, 2018

A Few of my Favorite Things: Gifts Ideas for You (and a Friend!)

As mamas, wives, friends, sisters, and daughters, we usually spend November and December with long lists of gifts to buy for others. I love gift giving and I imagine many of you do too! For a few years while I lived in Colorado, friends and I would get together for a "favorite things party." We would each bring an item that was one of our favorites and then do a gift exchange. I always came home with a gift I loved plus ideas for more! Inspired by our parties, here is a quick list of a few gift ideas for you and your friends at different price points. Send it to your mom, your husband, your best friend, and they'll have some ideas of what to choose for you this year. Or if you get a little Christmas cash, treat yourself!

Under $25

Literary Tote Bags

A new library bag in with your favorite book art from Literary Book Gifts. My personal favorite is Jane Austen. Browse through the over 50 styles to find your favorite (and check out the t-shirts too!). Use code TheDomesticEngineer20 for 20% off your order.

JR Watkins Lemon Hand Cream

This is my favorite hand cream. It smells like cookies and makes my hands so soft. I've linked to Amazon here, but you can grab it at Target as well.

Homebody by Joanna Gaines

How could I not include Joanna's new book? I haven't read it yet but it's on my Christmas list! 

The Secret Keeper

Of course I had to include a fiction book too! Kate Morton is an author I always come back to when I need a good book to read. I've listed the Secret Keeper because I think it's one of her best ones, but you can't go wrong. She also has a brand new book out called The Clockmaker's Daughter.

Write the Word Journal

These journals have become my favorite way to spend time in my Bible. There is space to write out the Scripture for the day, plus a page to journal your own thoughts. Each one also has a theme-- mine is prayer and I'm looking at hope or renewal next.

Under $50

A+D Sweater

I ordered this sweater from Amazon and I'm in love. It's cozy, flattering, and a great price at under $30! I have it in olive, and I'm thinking about ordering the coral as well.

The Simplified Planner

I currently use the weekly version of this planner and absolutely love it. The yearly edition is for sale right now, offering a full 2019 calendar plus room for daily and weekly tasks. I also have my eye on the magnet set this year. Use this link to get $10 off a $50 purchase!

Art by Lindsay Letters

Lindsay Letters has the most stunning artwork.  I have a couple of her hand lettering prints and I love them. Her newly redesigned site offers artwork from around $25 to several hundred dollars. An 11x14 art print is $34, which you could frame yourself.

Reading Journal Kit

I received this kit for Christmas last year and have kept track of my reading in the journal. It also comes with book darts (a new favorite!) and a few fun extras. This is perfect for a wrapped gift (the journal) plus stocking stuffers.

What are your go-to gifts for your friends? And what's on your Christmas list this year?

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Quiet Places

I often find myself thinking about different topics to write about, and then I sit down to my computer and I forget them all. Motherhood feels like someone put my brain into a washing machine on the spin cycle and forgot to turn it off. I can never quite remember everything, or even most things. I spend my days doing everything and nothing. It's exhausting and I often feel like I don't see any benefits.

I've been praying a lot since our move about what God is calling me to do and what I should be pursuing with my time. I would love to have a creative outlet again and maybe made a little cash too. I've come up with a thousand ideas in my head (usually around 2am) but none of them really fit my life right now. I have dreamed of writing a book for a long time, and thought this might be the season to begin. But I don't have any idea what to write about.

God keeps reminding me that my work right now is raising my children. I have three little souls in my care. My days at home are not wasted guiding and loving them. Truthfully, this is really hard for me. I've been losing my temper a lot lately and feeling especially frustrated with one of my kids. It's hard, slow work this motherhood. It's long days and exhausted nights and cold coffee. I think, more than anything, I'm supposed to learn to serve God in the quiet places, pushing aside my selfishness to serve my children.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Purse x Diaper Bag Hack

As a mom, I find myself getting tired of carrying a diaper bag everywhere. I walk through Target with a giant backpack slung over my shoulder full of cheerios, diapers, and toys. Then on the rare chance I get a night off, I'm scrambling to find my wallet, keys, and a place to put them. Or if I drop my kids off at Sunday school or childcare, I'm left carrying my wallet and phone without a bag to put them in. I've tried a different diaper bag with each child, and while I've loved features of each one, nothing has been quite right. And I'm always frustrated when I try to use both a purse and a diaper bag at the same time. After three kids, there must be a better solution!

After doing some online research, I came across these stunning bags a few years ago. Lily Jade offers a beautiful leather bag with a removable diaper bag insert inside. And while I desperately want one, they are far out of my price range. I cannot justify spending $300 on a bag.

And so the search continued, until I realized, why not create the same type of bag myself? I'm always seeing cute tote bags at Target. Could I add a diaper bag insert of some kind? After a quick browse on my trusty Amazon app, the answer is yes! And so, let me let you in on my new way to do both a diaper bag and a purse.

First, grab a favorite tote bag. I found this one at Target. The fantastic part about this bag hack is that you can use ANY large tote you have! That beautiful Coach tote or the cute bag you've been saving can work great for this. The one important point is that the bag cannot have any interior dividers. It needs to be one large, open space inside.

Second, add an insert. This insert will act as your actual diaper bag, so you want something structured with lots of pockets or dividers to hold what you need. I searched "diaper bag insert" on both Amazon and Etsy and found some great options. I ended up ordering this one from Amazon. Two things: Be sure you check the measurements of the insert so that it fits in your tote. And get one with handles! This will allow you to easily pull it in and out of your bag.

Once you have your pieces, you're ready to assemble your new diaper bag purse. Load the insert with everything you need for your baby. Then slip it into your tote. Once that's complete, you can add a small zippered bag for your own items, or just stick them in the side. The tote I chose has a couple zippered pockets that I use for my phone, keys, etc. I also added a name tag to my insert so it's labeled for childcare. (I love TinyMe for bag tags and labels.)

Now, when you drop of your little one, simply slip the insert out of your purse and leave it with the caregiver. You are left with a bag for your own stuff, and baby has everything he/she needs.

Do you think you'll try this? Share your picks for totes and inserts in the comments!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Add to Your Bookshelf: Color Board Books

One of my favorite things to do on Instagram is to talk about books I'm reading, and I realized it was high time I brought it over to the blog! Welcome to "Add to Your Bookshelf." I'll be posting throughout the year some of my favorite books on a particular topic, for kids and grownups. These will be a mix of books I own plus ones I've checked out from the library. I don't believe you have to own a book to enjoy it, but I do buy my kids a whole lot of books!

Today we're talking all things colors! I grew up with a creative, artistic mom, so I love books that foster creativity. A few years ago I realized I didn't have a lot of books specifically on colors, so I've sought to change that. Now my kids (and I!) are learning about tons of new colors. Bonus? It's hilarious when your four year old tells his teacher that cerulean is his favorite color.

First up, Usborne's Big Book of Colors. This book has one page for each of the colors of the rainbow, plus lots of fun extras like a color wheel. It also lists specific colors like "caterpillar green" or "deer brown" and uses an incredibly large variety of hues for each color. This book is very large and very sturdy, making it feel more preschooler than toddler, which Tessa (almost 4) really likes. I've linked to the book on Amazon so you can see it, but the best way to buy Usborne books is through a consultant! Ask around to see if you know one, or ask me and I can put you in touch with the one I buy from.

I bought ABC Color for Tessa last Christmas because it combines her love of the alphabet and colors. I was not disappointed! This book runs through unusual colors that correspond to the ABCs. The illustrations are darling, and it's just the right length for a shorter attention span. Similar to the Usborne book, the pages are sturdy but not quite board-book style.

Pantone Colors is brand new to our bookshelf. I ordered it for Theia for Christmas this year. I have to be honest, this book might actually be more for me! I love Pantone colors, and have always wanted a book or art print with a few. When I found this board book, I couldn't pass it up. Pantone Colors includes one page spread per color-- on the left is a grid of Pantone color swatches, on the right is a picture using multiple shades of the color. This is a visually exciting book that is perfect for little eyes learning to appreciate new colors. There is no story to read, so I like this as a reference book or what we call a "look at it book" more than a story time choice.

Finally, Alice in Wonderland: A Babylit Color Primer. BabyLit has been a long-time favorite of mine. (As you can see from the photos, this book has been well loved!) They take classic books and turn them into board books. We have a number of these that cover everything from counting to emotions to flowers. Alice is their color book, and it's filled with delightful illustrations. It might be especially fun if your children enjoy the Alice in Wonderland movies.

Share your favorite colors book in the comments. I'd love to add it to my library!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Christmas Cards with Basic Invite

The holidays are almost upon us, which means it's time for one of my very favorite things: Christmas cards! Friends, I adore Christmas cards. I spend hours each year choosing the perfect card for our family to send out to our loved ones. When friends and family send me cards, I hang them on a wall throughout the Christmas season and them save them in my holiday scrapbook. I've begun telling friends that the best Christmas gift you can give to me is a holiday photo card.

This year, I've had the privilege of working with Basic Invite to create a beautiful holiday card. Over the years, I have used many different websites to create Christmas cards with photographs. I've had years where I loved my cards and the ordering process, and years where the process and the results were disastrous (don't even ask me about 2014!). Basic Invite made the process of creating and ordering my cards easy, and the results are stunning.

Here are a few of my favorite Basic Invite features:

Almost Unlimited Colors - Basic Invite is one of the few websites that allows customers almost unlimited color options with instant previews online. Once you select a design you can change the color of each element on the card to over 180 different color options so you can make sure the card is exactly how you want it down to the littlest detail.

This year I used a photo from my brother's wedding where all three of my kids are wearing a specific shade of burgundy. In the past, I would have spent hours looking through card styles to be absolutely sure the colors matched. This year, I simply chose my favorite card and then edited the colors to match. It was such a timesaver and my cards look stunning!

Customizable Card Back - Basic Invite offers a number of options for the back of your card including solid colors, patterns, and photo layouts. As you know, my family moved this year. I was hoping to include some information about our move in our card, and Basic Invite did not disappoint! As you can see, my cards have a "new address" graphic with all our moving information for friends and relatives.

Over 40 Different Colors of Envelopes - Basic Invite is just as colorful with their envelopes and envelope liners as with their cards. Customers can choose from over 40 different colors when it comes to their envelopes so that they can make their card stand out even before it is opened. All of the envelopes are peel and seal so the envelopes can be quickly and securely closed without licking a single one because really, who wants to do that?!

Address Capturing Service - Basic Invite offers an address capturing service that allows customers to simply share a link on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other form of social media to request their friends and family’s addresses which will be stored in the customer’s account and can then be selected during the design process. Talk about a time saver! Basic Invite offers recipient address printing at no cost on all Christmas card orders.

Foil - Foil holiday cards are available in gold, silver, and rose gold. Customers can choose flat or raised foil on all of Basic Invite’s foil designs. My holiday card includes raised gold foil. It looks even more stunning than it sounds and is such a lovely way to add some extra flair our cards.

Custom Samples - Basic Invite is one of the few websites that allows customers the ability to order a printed sample of their actual card so they can see exactly how it will print as well as feel the paper quality before they ever have to place their final order.

Not sure what style you like? Basic Invite offers over 500 Christmas card and holiday card designs for you to choose from. They also offer custom holiday cards for businesses and holiday party invitations

I know many of you love to receive and send Christmas cards. Right now Basic Invite is offering 30% off with coupon code: holi30. Run over and start your holiday card now, and don't forget to send me one!

Thank you Basic Invite for partnering on this post.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Alone Time

All day long I dream about being alone. You know, the big dreams. I wish I could use the bathroom alone. I wish I could run an errand alone. I wish I could eat dinner without sharing food off my plate. I wish I could have just a few minutes to myself.

And then the magic happens. Ben comes home, takes the big kids to their Wednesday night Awana club, and I tuck the baby in to bed. All my wishes are coming true!

The funny part, though, is that I don't pick up that book I've been dying to read all day or soak in a hot bath- I get on my phone. I scroll Instagram. I order things off Amazon. I text. All week I crave quality, soul-filling alone time, and when it rolls around all I do is fritter it away.

I've realized that I often use quick fix methods in an attempt to fill my deeper needs. I turn to my phone because I'm too tired to focus on anything. I eat sugar all day instead of preparing a meal or healthy snacks because it's faster. I find this especially comes to light when I get my coveted alone time. All of a sudden, I'm so overwhelmed by the million things I've dreamed of doing that I shut down and just waste my time.

I've been convicted lately that I need to be more intentional in my time management. I need to plan better, think ahead of time about what I'm using my days for. And when I do have alone time, I want to have a way to quickly know what I'm going to do instead of anxiously overthinking all my options.

I have a lot of thoughts about this swirling around in my head that I may write more about later on, but for now, here is my small solution: have options ready. It feels like a lot of work to clean my bathtub to take a hot bath, so I don't do it. If I don't have a book to read, I don't take the time to find one. If I don't have a couple favorite movies around my house, I Google "funny movies on Netflix" for 2 hours.

Last night was different. I finished watching an episode of The Great British Baking Show I'd been meaning to watch, then I read my library book in my recently cleaned bathtub. I had a relaxing evening with surprising little anxiety, all because I had a few things prepared or planned beforehand. I was surprised how much I was able to fit in to my evening and enjoy it, instead of my usual anxious Instagram scroll.

Going forward, my plan is to keep a few simple things ready. I'll clean my bathtub about once a month so I can use it when I need to. I'll keep a few to-be-read books on my shelf. I'll set out my copy of You've Got Mail ( my favorite movie!) so I know where it is if I want something to watch. I might even go buy some chocolate to stash away. Next time my unicorn of alone time shows up? I'll be ready.

What about you? How can you set yourself up for success when it comes to relaxation and rest?

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Me Too, Mama

I was greeted this morning by an expectant face, asking the same question he asked me 500 times yesterday. No... not yet... stop asking!

I opened my Bible, desperate for Jesus to fill my cup, only to find a page covered in scribbles. I wanted to make you happy, Mama. I wrote my name for you. See my amazing drawing?

I'm trying to take just a few minutes to be alone, but hear my name called tearfully through the window. I don't want to go play... I want to be with you.

Today has been one of those unexpectedly rough days where I just don't want to be a stay-at-home mom. All day, I've just wanted to drink coffee uninterrupted, get lost on my phone, and nap. I even had a really sweet hour at the library and our local coffee shop with my kids, and I still felt depressed and discouraged. I wanted to throw my hands up, grab some chocolate, and give up.

Do you ever have days like this? Do you ever feel like your entire life is all for nothing? That you'd give anything to have just one day off from all the needs of little hearts and hands?

When everything seems to be falling apart, here are of few of the ways I pull myself back together (in no particular order). And just know, these are for me! I'm writing this right now because I need it most of all!

First, I try to find a few minutes to look through my frustrations to what is actually going on. I find if my children are occupied with food, playtime, or a movie, I can actually find a second to do this! Today I realized half-way through the day that our heaven-baby's birthday is today. Even when I forget what month it is, my heart somehow remembers deep down that it's a painful day. Of course, I'm off today. Of course I feel sad and want time alone.

Second, I spend time with Jesus. I have been learning a lot lately about preaching the gospel to myself and my children. Today, I've been clinging to the truth that Jesus knows and understands my heart. He also had days he struggled through. He had frustrating disciples who couldn't get basic ideas through their heads. He was followed around constantly too! Christ gave his life as a sacrifice for me. What a privilege, even on my hardest days, to imitate my Savior.

And third, if I can, I ask for help from those around me so I can rest. Tonight my kids have an event at a local church, so I'll be taking the baby to Target. You better believe I'll be spending a good long while in the Joanna Gaines aisle and buying a giant bag of candy corn just for me. On Saturday, I get to go to a local event without the big kids. (Turns out when you have 3, just keeping the baby is a break!)

Mama friend, I am here struggling with you. I know how hard these days are. I hope that you find rest today, and support from your community. Be encouraged that Jesus knows, even if no one else does.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

When God Invites You To A New Season

I love the changing seasons, especially this time of year. I look forward to watching the leaves slowly slip from green to yellow to red. I love waking up to cooler temperatures. I'm excited to take my kids to the pumpkin patch and watch them trick-or-treat. I find I don't miss the hot weather or the pool parties of summer all that much.

I often think about my life in seasons: the college years; early marriage; motherhood with one, then two, then three. Our cross-country move has brought with it another new season. It's a season that echoes the changing leaves outside. I'm letting go of the sunny days of our vibrant Colorado community. My life has become quieter, more dormant, as we start fresh and grow new roots.

I'll be honest, this change has been painful. I'm lonely and I desperately miss what we left behind. I often think in terms of then versus now, comparing our new life to our old one and finding it comes up short on my imaginary measuring stick. If I could be granted a wish right now, it would be to take our new home and neighborhood (which I do in fact love more than any other in the world!), and move it back into our old town in Colorado. I want the best of both summer and fall, all at the same time.

It doesn't work like that, though, does it? To enjoy fall, you have to lose the hot days and green leaves of summer. Moving forward through the year, and our lives, involves letting go of old things to welcome the new. I don't like the letting go part-- I just want to welcome the new while clinging to the old.

As I work through these feelings and struggles with the Lord, He has given me a word for this new season: Nourish. Our last few years have been full to the point that our family is depleted. We were running on empty and pushing ourselves to the breaking point. A major reason for this move was to change that. God is asking me to take time to nourish myself and my family. He's asking me to be quiet and rest. To do less, not more. To sleep and read and write and soak in the beauty of our new surroundings. To spend quality time with each of my children, to strengthen my marriage, to refuel my own heart.

I know this season will not last forever. Soon we will slip into winter, then spring, then summer again. One day I will have the same amazing community that we had in Colorado. One day I won't feel like "the new girl" any longer. My hope in the meantime is that I don't miss what's happening right now, in this season. That I nourish my heart and my family for what is to come.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

When Home Doesn't Feel Like Home

We have lived in North Carolina for a little over a month now. Our moving van arrived with all our possessions, overwhelming us with boxes. We have begun the process of registering ourselves as residents of NC, changing addresses, getting government documents in order. Eli has been at school for a few weeks now, while the girls and I have begun to establish routines.

And still, my days feel difficult, exhausting, and overwhelming. After a particularly rough day on Tuesday, I took a moment alone and realized what was making my day so difficult. I wanted to go home. You probably know the feeling; the ache in the pit of your stomach and the lump in your throat as you think about the comfort of whatever place you call home. Just seconds later, the realization hit me. I WAS home. I was standing in my new house, aching for a house we sold within a community we loved in a state we left. I've never experienced quite that level of displacement before. I suddenly felt unmoored, adrift across the country from everything I know and love.

As I have ruminated on these ideas this week, I realized the hardest part for me is the knowledge that I cannot go back. I cannot undo this move, I cannot catch up on what I have missed in Colorado. The only way through is forward. All I can do now is create a new life here, making new friends and creating new community.

I know that all this will come, just as it has in the many other places I have lived. But it still doesn't make it easier to be right here, right now. I'm reading this book with some dear CO friends about being brave, and the lesson couldn't be more timely. I'm realizing the great value of community, even when it's phone calls and Skype messages. I'm thanking Jesus for technology and for sweet friends who reach out to me throughout the days.

I feel small and afraid, but I know that the only way to stay the course is to stand up and be brave, trusting God each day, each moment. And so I raise my hands and bravely welcome a new life. It's terrifying, but it's also exciting. I know Jesus good things in store and much to teach me.

What about you? How are you being brave in your own life?

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A Few of my Favorite Things: September

Well, friends, it's been an eventful month. I'm honestly quite exhausted and getting over a nasty cold. As we approach my very favorite time of the year, I hope you begin to pull back to home and find the quiet rest that comes with cooler weather. That's my hope for this season for you and for me! Here are a few of my favorites from September:

  1. I ordered this rug for our playroom and I love it! It's not too loud, but still adds pattern and texture to the room. It's also WAY nicer than sitting on hardwood all day!
  2. I haven't had as much of a chance to read this month as I would like, but I did read Rush by Lisa Patton. Anne from Modern Mrs Darcy (my favorite site for book rec's!) recommended it and I really enjoyed it. It's a lighter read, but tackles some legitimate, heavier issues.
  3. Our new home and state is so different from Colorado that it's still taking me some time to feel at home. It's almost as if we are on an extended vacation. What's helped me the most is continuing to do "normal" things. We've found a new library. I wake up, drink coffee, and read. Slowly, slowly, it's starting to feel like home.
  4. The weather here has still been warm, and I've never been one for summer clothes, so I've ordered a few new things lately. Maurice's is one of my favorite places for pretty tops, and they didn't disappoint. I ordered this striped tank plus a few others that are sold out. I love their fall styles too, so check them out as you add to your cool weather wardrobe!
  5. Some friends and I are reading 100 Days to Brave together over the next few months. We've started it and I'm already so challenged to live bravely. And there is something so special about reading books with friends. I may not be in CO anymore, but our text group about the book is keeping me going on my homesick days.
What are you loving this month?

Monday, September 17, 2018

Across the Country

We made it! Our family moved from Colorado to North Carolina over the last month. We left Colorado on August 26, and since then our lives have been in uproar. We purchased a home here, so gratefully we've been able to live in it since we arrived. But our furniture took a lot longer to get here, so it arrives tomorrow! It's been a full month of sleeping on a mattress and eating on the floor. Plus, we weathered Hurricane Florence and Eli started school. So all that to say, things around here have been eventful!

The biggest gift over the last month has been the time our little family has spent together. Without our Colorado friends or relatives near by, we've been together basically 24/7. While that's certainly made us all a little crazy, it has also been very special. We have made memories together and truly feel like a closer family as we embark on our life here in North Carolina.

On the fun side, we are loving our new home's huge yard, being in a smaller town, the beautiful green outdoors, and our new home. On the not so fun side, we miss our Colorado community and I still have no idea where most things are.

At the end of the day, we are still so grateful and so excited for this change. Good things are happening!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

A Few of My Favorite Things: August

August has been a rough month for me. It's been full of prepping and planning to move, goodbyes, and packing. I'm honestly ready to make it to September in our new house in our new city. But we close on our new house tomorrow, and the end is in sight!

Skiphop Lunch Box, Quilt made by me, Kindle Fire

Here are a few things I'm loving this month:

Summer Bible Study

This summer a group of my mama friends and I have done a prayer time/Bible study together. We hired a couple of high school girls to watch all the kids in the basement while we pray, share, and encourage each other. It has quite honestly been the best summer I've had as a mom. Normally my summers are long and lonely. This summer, by contrast, has been filled with encouragement and community. We each grabbed a prayer journal to use, and I chose a Write the Word journal. I have struggled over the last few years to get into God's word, and this journal has made all the difference! I'm hoping to write a whole post on this soon, but wanted to point you all to this fantastic resource. I have the "Cultivate Prayer" journal, but there are several different ones.


Don't laugh! A friend told me that you can measure your well-being by how many showers you take a week. I have found this to be true! When I take a few minutes to take care of myself, I feel so much better about my day and my life.


I'm finding that with so much happening in our lives, I need to be able to take a few minutes for me. Ebooks and audio books have allowed me to do that this month no matter where I am or how much time I have. This month I have listened to Girl Wash Your Face (loved it) and What I Saw and How I Lied (almost finished, okay but not great). I've read The Immortalists (didn't love it) and I'm currently reading (and enjoying!) The Lost for Words Bookshop.
(For more info on where I get my ebooks, check out this post!)

Lily Jade Diaper Bags

You guys, I have been eyeing these bags for years and I want one SO bad! Not only are they absolutely stunning, but they have a super amazing removable insert so you can have a diaper bag and a purse all in one. All their bags are on sale, and the navy ones are on closeout. (My favorite is the Shaylee in Camel or Grey. What's yours?)


Friends, in God's graciousness, Ben's new job is hiring movers for us. *angels sing* Words cannot express how thankful I am for this! I feel like a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I am hopeful that our move will be less stressful than I anticipated.

What about you? What are you loving this month?

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Stress of Moving

In nine days, we leave Colorado for our new home in North Carolina. 

Can I be honest? I am totally, completely, monumentally stressed out. When I imagined our cross-country move, I saw a well-ordered plan. Everything would align perfectly! (I know, I'm laughing too.) Instead, it feels like every single thing has gone awry. Our house has not sold, so rather than packing, I vacuum 500 times a week for showings. Eli's school unexpectedly began in July, so he's missing over a month of first grade. Our moving plan has changed a couple of times, so we do not have a truck ready to ship our stuff yet. YOU GUYS I'M LOSING MY MIND.

The worst part, honestly, is that I am not handling this well. In my mind I am calm, cool, and collected. Instead, I am yelling at my kids to keep our house clean. I've gained weight and constantly have a stomach ache that's making me look 4 months pregnant. I'm not sleeping well, so I drag myself through each day on naps and caffeine. Every time I think about leaving our amazing community here, I want to curl up and cry.

Change is hard. It's hard to uproot your life and start fresh. For some reason, I imagined that if we were making the right choice, everything would be easy. I thought that by following God's leading for our family, the details would fall into place.

The truth is that God IS leading us. We feel so strongly this is the right choice. Ben will be home with our family more. We found a beautiful home with the large yard we've been dreaming of. We are moving to a darling little town. I find I get lost in the stressful details and miss the big picture of all that God is doing.

I'm holding on to 1 Peter 5:7 today, which says "Cast your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." My time with Jesus is grounding me in the midst of our storm. I cannot keep going without Jesus, and I need him so desperately right now. I find it's so easy to forget that. So as you read this today, will you pray for me? Pray I find my strength and calm in Jesus, not in what is going on around me.

And soon, so soon, we will be moved in to our new house, in a new chapter of our lives. It will be beautiful and amazing. We just have to get there first.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Another Monday

My favorite moment on a Monday morning is sitting down with a cup of coffee while my kids play. Sometimes I read, or get through some emails, or just sit and watch them.

When I write it down it sounds so perfect! But really, it's me reminding the big kids 200 times to play nicely, to stop jumping off the furniture, not to hit each other. It's wiping away tears and teaching my kids how to apologize. It's putting the baby down for a nap, then reheating my coffee again.

Isn't it funny the way life can look different depending on the lens you look through? I often imagine other women have a more glamorous life than I do. I think, "How amazing to go to work every day and interact with adults!" or "That mom has a perfect, put-together life with her kids." The reality is that each of us has struggles, challenges, and really beautiful moments in our lives.

As I sit here, I realize that what I struggle with most is my perspective. I imagine my life is somehow worse, or more difficult, or less glamorous than everyone else's. I get trapped in self-doubt and anxiety.

What I'm praying for today is a new perspective-- one rooted in the truth of God's word. He promises that his mercies are new every morning and that his faithfulness is great (Lamentations 3:23). When seen through the vision of Jesus's love for me, my morning becomes a gift to celebrate. I want to see my whole life through a gratefulness that stems from Christ's sacrifice for me. Often, I do not. I get bogged down in my own selfishness and struggles. I know the only way to change this is to be more deeply rooted in God's word and spending time with him in prayer.

And so that is my Monday goal: not to get the house clean again or keep the kids alive (although I'm going to do that too!) but to spend time with Jesus.  Cheers to a real Monday, enjoy your day-- the good parts and all the hard parts too.

Friday, August 3, 2018

An Honest Review of Stitch Fix Kids

Stitch Fix is a subscription service that mails you a curated box of clothes in your size-- it's a fun way to find new styles and try out items you may not find at your local stores. I've used it a couple of times, and last month I got a box I absolutely loved! Recently, Stitch Fix added a kids subscription service for sizes 2T to 12. Both Eli and Tessa needed new clothes for school so it seemed like the perfect time to give it a try!

This review is my honest opinion-- I was not compensated in any way. If you do click my Stitch Fix link, though, you can get $25 off your first fix and I will get a referral credit.

Kids clothes shopping is exhausting. Taking all three kids, plus all their begging (no I won't buy you six Star Wars shirts!!! ) makes me a little crazy. It was so nice to have their clothes delivered to my door. Eli and Tessa both got their own box with 10 items. The way Stitch Fix works, you pay a $20 styling fee that is applied to any items you keep. If you keep the entire box, you receive 25% off the order.

Eli's Box:

Eli is 6 and wears a size 5. I ordered him a size 5/6. (And he hates getting his picture taken! Can you tell?)

Eli's box was a good mix of graphic t-shirts, athletic wear, and a jeans/shoes/shirt combo for school. He was really excited about it all! I didn't love some of the graphic tees (a big complaint I have about boys clothes in general) and about half of it was too big on him. I always forget how little my kids are! His box was also priced a little higher-- it included a pair of jeans for $38 (he's wearing them in the picture above). He ended up keeping a t-shirt and the shoes.

Tessa's Box:

Tessa is 3 and wears a size 3. I ordered size 4 so I could have clothes for her to grow in to.

You know what I forgot when I ordered Tessa's box? How specific her style is. You guys, her box came with some darling pieces: two cute dresses, fun leggings and shorts, adorable shirts. I honestly would have kept the whole box! But my sweet Tessa-girl likes solid colored shirts and leggings. I managed to talk her into two shirts and a set of leggings, but she flatly refused the rest.

What I Loved:

  1. Having the boxes delivered to my door for my kids to try on at home was fantastic. I loved that I had time to go through the clothes, have the kids try them on, think through what each child needed, and then keep items right then. I also love that the boxes come with a pre-paid shipping label to make returns easy.
  2. Another fantastic feature is their exchange option. One of Tessa's shirts was huge on her, so I was able to exchange it for a smaller size at no extra cost to me.
  3. I thought the girls clothes were particularly cute. If Tessa wasn't so picky I probably would have kept the whole box. And with the 25% discount, the box was around $130 which seemed fairly priced for 10 items.
  4. My favorite item from Eli's box were his shoes. They were classy but still casual enough for everyday wear. I never would have found them on my own, and that's what I love about Stitch Fix!
  5. The clothing in both boxes was incredibly soft. I know many kids are picky about how their clothes feel, and I thought Stitch Fix really delivered on soft, comfortable kids clothes.
  6. Both boxes came with stickers, a note written directly to the kids, and pictures inside the box to color. Tessa was especially delighted by this!
 (Eli's shoes are by Sperry and can also be found on Amazon.)

What I Didn't Love:

  1. While Tessa's box of clothes was reasonably priced, I thought Eli's box was expensive. The athletic wear was around $25 per piece and the jeans were $38. As a six year old boy, Eli is super hard on clothes. I am absolutely not going to pay top dollar for him to ruin his clothes the first week of school.
  2. I am incredibly picky about graphic tees. I find I don't care for many that are in fashion now, and that was true in Eli's box. There is an option to check "no graphic tees" but my kids do love them. I think I need to be more specific next time on what I like and don't like.
  3. When you have a kid like Tessa with a very specific sense of style, this type of box may not be the best fit. While I loved the clothes, she was not interested in wearing them.
This is the shirt I'll be exchanging for a smaller size.

My Verdict:

Would I order another Stitch Fix box? Probably yes! My word of caution (to myself and you!) is to be as specific as possible. I also think that while I didn't keep either box in its entirety, the pieces I did keep were worth it. I'd pay the $20 styling fee again, knowing that if I buy 1-2 items it is worth it. For Tessa in particular, I think I will order another one when I'm ready for her to have some nicer clothes for school or church. While she is picky, I do love little girl clothes and hope to help her broaden her style as she grows.

If you try a Stitch Fix kids box, let me know what you think!