Summer Graces

When you live in the middle of a desert, you grow used to the oven that greets you in the middle of the day. But I will never adjust to having temps over 100 once the sun goes down. I do my best to get out of the house so we aren’t cooped up every day, but it’s still a challenge to keep from going just a little bit crazy.

I do well for pockets of time and then something happens to frustrate me: the cup of water dumps over, the website won’t load, the batteries died, the price changed, or the creative juices won’t flow. I am pretty bad with frustrations. But I’ve found that one of the quickest fixes for my mood is music. It’s an instant way to lower my pressure gauge. Sometimes I turn on kid music and dance with my daughter or blast top 40 radio and run laps in the living room. But the best fix this summer?



Morgan Harper Nichols – this album is so, so good. My friend Carey pointed me in this direction a few months ago and I find myself listening to it at least once a day. The truth stops me in my tracks. The music is medicine to my soul. Here’s my current favorite off of the album, although I will probably switch to something else tomorrow.



Cooking through Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around breadthe Table with Recipes has also been aiding my summer sanity. I love me some Shauna Niequist. I feel like we sometimes share the same brain. This book did wonders for challenging my ideas on community and hospitality – as in – a paradigm shift. Some basic observations.

  1. Hospitality is not the same as entertaining.
  2. I want a tribe of people who know which drawer holds my spoons.
  3. There is something sacred that happens around a table if I will simply take the time to notice.

I don’t have the space to give you a full run-down, but know that this has been one of my favorite reads of 2015. I’ve also given away three copies of this book thus far. There’s another sitting in my Amazon shopping cart. The food is good, but I really love rereading my favorite passages and notes as I prepare to cook. I’ve never cooked all the way through any book, so this seemed like a great start. I made salad dressing for the first time. (As a Chopped fanatic, I’m only mildly ashamed to admit this to you.) I purchase almond meal and crafted homemade breadcrumbs. I just purchased new towels to try to make my own bread in the coming weeks. WHO AM I?

Here’s one of my favorite passages from the book:

“I felt within myself the desire to shoo her out, to hide, to keep her from the disorder that is my real, actual life some days. But I took a deep breath, and she sat there listening to me across my dirty coffee table, and we talked about community and family and authenticity. It’s easy to talk about it, and really, really hard sometimes to practice it.

This is why the door stays closed for so many of us, literally and figuratively. One friend promises she’ll start having people over when they finally have money to remodel. Another says she’d be too nervous that people wouldn’t eat the food she made, so she never makes the invitation.

But it isn’t about perfection, and it isn’t about performance. You’ll miss the riches moments in life–the sacred moments when we feel God’s grace and presence through the actual faces and hands of the people we love–if you’re too scared or too ashamed to open the door. I know it’s scary, but throw open the door anyway…” – Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist

I feel like reading this book pushed me to pursue deeper friendships, especially when it comes to the girlfriends in my small group. We’ve committed to eating together once a month in the coming year. We will meet in a home to break bread, ask the “how are you REALLY doing” questions, and study the word. I have no doubt that this tribe will come out of this experience changed. My people, my tribe – I like how that sounds.




And lastly, I feel like I should tell you that yesterday was pretty much a wash. I struggle daily with balancing my various roles. On the days I get good time in the word, play with my kiddo, and maybe exercise, I feel some guilt about not working. And on the days when I try to make calls or send e-mails while my daughter is awake, I feel guilty about screen time or just not spending time with her. Yesterday I tried to cram way too much into her nap time. I wanted to clean the house, record a podcast, send e-mails, read, and exercise. Sounds like I have 6 hours to work with, right? FALSE. I get on average about an hour and forty-five minutes. At the hour and a half mark I began crying. Do you ever feel like you have so many “I HAVE TO DO THIS” that it’s hard to ever get to the “I WANT TO DO THIS”?

I was still living in that frustration around 7:30pm. My daughter was in bed, my husband left for the gym, and I was gearing up to do a workout DVD in my living room. But I was tired. I was sore. And a dear friend text to say, “What if you just don’t?” So I thought, “Lord, can you take care of me tonight?” I filled my water-glass, took a shower, lit a candle, and then wrapped myself up in clean sheets. I had recently checked out a new book at the library and I was finally giving myself the space to read.

small victories

Enter Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott. I love tender, crass, poetic, thoughtful Annie Lamott. She has eyes open to things I often miss. This quote in particular brought a smile to my tired face.

You can change the world with a hot bath, if you sink into it from a place of knowing that you are worth profound care, even when you’re dirty and rattled. Who knew?

The lesson of this summer has been to remember that God loves all of me extravagantly. He cares about my obedience, my service, and the condition of my heart- but He also cares about my body, my soul, and my spirit. He sees my weakness and He promises to match and exceed it with His grace.



Summer On,



Garbage In, Garbage Out

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” That’s Jesus speaking in Luke 6:45. It’s easy to breeze through this verse and not really let the truth penetrate.

A dear friend and spiritual mentor from my summer camp put it this way: “Imagine you come to our house and ask for a cup of hot coffee. We pour it into a mug for you, and maybe you pour in some creamer until liquid fills the cup to the brim. The coffee is on the verge of spilling. You slowly walk to take a seat on the couch when all of a sudden one of our kids runs through the room and bumps your elbow. No matter how good your reflexes are, you are going to spill. So even as you try and shield the cup, liquid is going to pour out over the side of the cup and cover yourself or my kid. And in this moment, that’s going to be hot coffee. If any other liquid were to come out of the cup, it would be a total surprise.”

Every day we interact with others and every day we have the chance of being bumped, so to speak. Whatever you are filling up on is going to spill over and ultimately what is going to cover others. So what’s it going to be?

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Think about the last time you said something you wish you hadn’t. Perhaps it was a mean word to a friend, a passive-aggressive remark to a coworker, or an ungrateful response to a parent. Have you ever said something you regretted and then thought (or said), “Where did that come from?” Jesus makes the source of our words very clear in Matthew 12:34: “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” The answer is inside us. Proverbs 27:19 says, “As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.” Tie both of these ideas together and we get a complete picture. Your words and thoughts come out of your heart and your heart reflects you as a woman. As women, what does this mean for all of us?

Music, movies, conversations, television – everything we put into our hearts ultimately determines what comes out of our mouths and is expressed through our actions. Garbage in, garbage out. If we want pure and good things to flow from our mouths and thoughts we have to fill up with the good stuff. I cannot put hot coffee in my cup and then expect to see cold water spill out. The surest way to change how we respond to the people we resent, dislike, fear, or envy is to speak and think good things over them.

Have you ever trained for a race or increased your level of exercise? At first you don’t want to run or go to the gym, but eventually, you crave exercise and miss it on the days when it doesn’t fit in your schedule. If blessing those who you compare yourself with is hard to swallow, keep at it.

Remember, your thoughts and words reflect your heart and your heart reflects you.

———– a selection from Forget the Corsage, Chapter 3 (Want your own copy? Click here!) ———-


I think about this analogy on a regular basis. It’s a great filter for how I spend my “me” time. You know, that time of day when you say, “I deserve this.” I’ve mentioned it before, but I actually had to completely expel celebrity tv shows and magazines. I found myself getting so wrapped up in their lives that I became envious, jealous, and distracted. What I was digesting wasn’t producing a great heart outflow. But I know tons of people who can pull out a magazine on vacation or catch “Extra” at the gym and have it not affect their heart or thoughts one iota. I put this section in the book so that we can all simply be alert and aware.

When I lived in England for a semester in college I began to notice my language becoming more colorful. (And I don’t mean with an accent.) As someone who never really cussed I found myself picking up the words that were so common even to the kids at the school where I volunteered. I had to actively weed out the things I was hearing, otherwise I would have come home with an entirely different #$%@ vocabulary.

Garbage in. Garbage out.

Question: What’s an area of media intake that’s a struggle for you? Movies? Music? Comparison through social media?



P.S. DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE RAFFLE TO WIN TWO COPIES OF FORGET THE CORSAGE! You have until 12:00am Saturday morning to enter! (Multiple ways to enter each day!)

Friday Finds: On Repeat

Friday Finds Music

This song.

These lyrics.

I awake in the middle of the night and I hear it. I know these words are going to fill my head and heart when I’m fighting through labor. This song was the first one I added to my delivery playlist. First one.

Even if you’ve heard this a million times, I hope you’ll listen once more and be blessed by Lord I Need You once more this week.


Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heartLord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need YouWhere sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in meLord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

Teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
And when I cannot stand I’ll fall on You
Jesus, You’re my hope and stay

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

You’re my one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

Happy Friday, Friends.

Friday Finds: Peaceful Listens


I celebrated a birthday this week and received many thoughtful gifts, notes, and treasures. Two of my treasures just happened to be the music that has been on repeat all week. Of course I had to share them with you.

1. Lauridsen: Lux Aeterna, etc. / Salamunovich, Los Angeles Master Chorale

My dad sent this CD with wishes for peace when life needs calming in the coming year. The music is quiet enough to accompany my writing hours, but also passionate enough to keep me from falling asleep. If you are looking for some new music, I highly recommend this album. If you only spring for one movement or song I recommend “Les Chansons DesRoses.” Listen to my favorite selection below.

2. Oak & Apple by Wilder Adkins

I’ve known Renea since 10th grade. We’ve shared a lot, even a birthday party our senior year. We also share fond memories of Taco Bell, hot gluing homecoming mums, and writing English papers. (She was so good she had to get her Masters in it… and then some.) She knows me well, which is what this album by Wilder Adkins made perfect sense. I’ve never heard of the artist or album prior to this week, but his crooning voice has been my constant companion as I cook, clean, and study. I love the hymn lyrics, the folk instrumentals, and the simple harmonies. I hope you’ll enjoy it too. Check out the fav below.

Happy Friday, Friends.



Friday Finds: Joy for your Weekend

ireland joy
What a week of ups and downs. I wanted to share a video that I saw months ago, but was reminded of just yesterday by my mother-in-law. What joy the music brings. After watching again I couldn’t help but look up the English translation to Beethoven’s masterpiece. Watch. Listen. Read. Have a wonderful weekend full of joy!


O friends, no more these sounds!
Let us sing more cheerful songs,
more full of joy!

Joy, bright spark of divinity,
Daughter of Elysium,
Fire-inspired we tread
Thy sanctuary.

Thy magic power re-unites
All that custom has divided,
All men become brothers
Under the sway of thy gentle wings.

Whoever has created
An abiding friendship,
Or has won
A true and loving wife,
All who can call at least one soul theirs,
Join in our song of praise;
But any who cannot must creep tearfully
Away from our circle.

All creatures drink of joy
At nature’s breast.
Just and unjust
Alike taste of her gift;

She gave us kisses and the fruit of the vine,
A tried friend to the end.
Even the worm can feel contentment,
And the cherub stands before God!

Gladly, like the heavenly bodies
Which He set on their courses
Through the splendor of the firmament;
Thus, brothers, you should run your race,
As a hero going to conquest.

You millions, I embrace you.
This kiss is for all the world!

Brothers, above the starry canopy
There must dwell a loving Father.

Do you fall in worship, you millions?
World, do you know your creator?

Seek him in the heavens;
Above the stars must He dwell.

“Ode to Joy”, by Ludwig Van Beethoven (Translated)


Advent Sounds

advent sounds

I have a vivid memory from my childhood, one that was replayed yearly. The Christmas tree is decorated to the hilt and all of the lights in the house are extinguished. Choral Christmas music is playing through the speakers and we are sitting on the couch just gazing at the lights. No more rushing, no more fighting to hang an ornament, no more talking… just resting.

We are such sensory creatures. I notice how my heart and mind respond when I step outdoors and gaze at the stars, or chat around a fire. There’s something sacred about tiny lights in the dark. I have a list of music to share with you today, but like most art… this music might not speak to you in the same way. My hope is that you explore, listen, find tunes and lyrics that quiet your heart and then take the time to shut off the lights, turn on the tree and just rest. Let every heart prepare Him room!

1. Dona Nobis Pacem performed by Yo-Yo Ma.  I could listen to this delicate rendition with cellos all day long.  It calms my heart and focuses my mind on the simple lyrics: Give us peace… over and over and over.

2.Advent Cantatas by Johann Sebastian Bach.  I find myself aided in times of prayer by the sweeping sounds of Bach’s choral music.

3. Behold the Lamb of God by Andrew Peterson. This is not a traditional Christmas album. This is an album about the who God saw the brokenness of humanity and then resolved to heal. This is the story of the Incarnation.  Listen. Purchase.

4. Breath of Heaven by Amy Grant. These are moving words. Read Mary’s story in Luke 1:16-38 and then push play. I’m immediately taken into the story, into the fears and doubts, and into her resolve: May it be to me as You have said.

5. Christmas Songs by Jars of Clay. This is my favorite Christmas album to play while I’m working. Chill, calm, and tender.

6. Oh Come Let Us Adore Him by Shane and Shane. This whole album is wonderful, but this is the one I put on repeat… and then repeat once more.

7. Handel’s Messiah, The Nutcracker, The Four Seasons- Op. 8 Violin Concierto, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir(talk about beautiful singing!)… the list of classical goes on and on for good reason. If you need a new Pandora station just type in Classical Christmas.


What are the sounds of your Advent?

Following and waiting,



Friday Finds: Musical Rest and a GIVEAWAY

When the world closes in and I need an instant dose of peace, I turn on a rotation of songs that seem to breathe rest over all of my fears and worries. This Friday I wanted to share the gift of rest through some beautiful music. These are just a few of my favorites for inducing some soul rest.


1. Be Still, By Kari Jobe

Listen/Purchase (#9 on the Kari Jobe Album)




2. All I Want, Robbie Seay Band

Listen/Purchase (#1 on the Robbie Seay Album)



3. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, Sufjan Stevens

Listen/Purchase (#15 on the Songs for Christmas Album)




I would love to gift ONE lucky reader with the mp3 of all three songs! Be sure to check out the swankified and simplified entry form below. (Thanks to Jordy Liz for the idea!) There are a few ways to enter, just follow the instructions. Contest is open until 12:01 am on Monday morning! Stay tuned for the winner…

It’s your lucky Friday!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Question #6

I’m buckling up and setting my sights on a goal. Because of that, I won’t have the time to devote writing posts for the blog during the month of June. But rather than just going silent, I’ve decided to try something different. I love hearing from you and thoroughly enjoy the interaction that happens in the comment section.

This month I’m going to ask YOU questions. I will weigh in with my own answers, but I’m mainly interested in just getting to know you. Some of the questions will be fun while others will hopefully take us deeper. After all… June is for questions.


QUESTION #6. What’s the top played album or artist in your music library?


This month it’s hands down Matt Kearney. But I pulled up my iTunes playlist to the most played and the winner over the past four years is: The David Crowder Band.

So who gets the most radio play in your world?



I’m taking a break from running my mouth and hoping that you, dear bloggies, will provide the fodder for our conversation. I so enjoy getting to know you.  Today I’m interested in your ear candy.  (Again with the awkward phrasing.)

DAY 2 Question: What are the five most frequently played songs on your iPod or music player?

I tend to let playlists do my choosing for me, so I’m pretty sure my getting ready in the morning mix has been WAY overplayed. That’s where these songs come into play. (Get it? Into PLAY?)

#5. We are Loved by the David Crowder Band from “Church Music”
#4. Grace Flows Down from the Passion Album “One Day Live”
#3. No Not One by Christy Nockels from “Life Light Up”
#2. Psalm 139 by Justin Barnard from “Welcome to Love”

And the number one played song on my iTunes list is…
#1. Hey, Soul Sister by Train from “Save Me, San Francisco”

What can I say? I’m a creature of habit.

Alright, check your iTunes library and spill! What are your top most-played songs?


Friday Finds: Soundtrack

I’m not here to talk about a movie soundtrack.

It’s the soundtrack to my life. I sat back and thought about which artist/musician has been played most frequently in my car, home, dorm room, ipod, walkman, etc… and decided that award goes to: Shane Barnard.

I first heard about Shane and Caleb when I was in High School. I gobbled up the record, Salvation Still Remains. Shane then took it solo for a while, putting out a few individual albums before teaming up with Shane Everett and forming Shane & Shane.

Why do I love this acoustic music so much? Why did I blow out the speakers of my gold Saturn in college while playing “Breath of God” through my tape adaptor?

Beautiful melodies. Strong rhythms. AND LYRICS STRAIGHT FROM SCRIPTURE.

Want to memorize some of the Bible? Pick up a Shane & Shane album.  (Available on iTunes.)  Listen. Repeat. This music allows me to soak up entire passages of scripture. I’ve been reading through the Psalms this month and I have been amazed how much of this book I CAN SING word for word.

And did I mention that they are crazy talented vocalists?  Oh.  There’s that too.

Love it. Love this music.  Oh and also THEY ARE RECORDING A NEW ALBUM.  Happy Friday, everyone!