What I’m Into (Jan. 2017)

Would you believe I actually typed in 2016 in the heading? Welcome to the New Year, self.

We made a spontaneous trip to Chik-Fil-A last week, the first time me or my kids had been (I know, I know. Our area just got one last year!) Within a few minutes, we were reveling in the warm ambiance and friendly demeanor of the staff. The sweet girl who took our order said she even read my blog for one of her classes last semester!

We had just settled into the corner booth with our chicken when around the corner comes the dressed-up Cow. A fun fact about Brenna is that she is terrified of anything large in costume. She turns around, gets one look at his large bovine face and begins shrieking, terrified. The poor Cow. He turns on his heels in the opposite direction and the whole rest of the meal was spent with Brenna craning her neck to make sure no creatures were getting too close. As we headed out to leave, she was frantically crying out “I don’t want to see the Cow! Don’t go by the Cow!”

So now, the rest of us can’t wait to go back – and Brenna said she will never go in Chik-Fil-A again if the Cow is making rounds. So all in all – a successful experience, yes? #eatmorechikin

It’s been a full month so far, hasn’t it? Here’s a round-up of what’s been going on around these parts in the last few weeks!

FridayFavoritesReading

This month, I finished Falling Free by Shannan Martin, which I absolutely loved. Such poignant reminders about God’s Truth, written in such beautiful prose. New fan of Shannan Martin over here! And I also finished an adorable YA novel called Tell Me Three Things that I really enjoyed.

This past weekend, I completed When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi and feel so transformed by it. I’m still processing it. It definitely jumps to my list of one of my all-time favorite books and I will be recommending it like crazy now. SO good. And I just started the novel Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. Both came highly recommended to me and have been on my to-read list for a few months.

I went a little crazy with the library requests so I have a huge stack to get through – here we go!

FridayFavoritesLinks

“I’m trying to teach my kids this healthy attitude towards failure (and model it for them, which is harder): that screwing up isn’t a great personal failing, but something normal and natural and inevitable in this life.” – I love this post about stumbling from Anne of Modern Mrs. Darcy.

“Tiring yourself out—or scheduling every minute of your day with work—isn’t a reliable indicator of a day well spent.” Being a hard worker means prioritizing doing the right things, not just lots of things – an interesting read from 99U about effort versus focused work.

This post from my friend Ginger is a great reminder to stop trying to document or capture every moment, but live it and interact with our children instead. “I love seeing pictures from my childhood….But I cannot remember a single photo of my play-doh creations. I remember our interactions, not the color of play-doh used to make ornaments on the tree.”

The Joyful Devotion subscription service, a Christian women’s monthly subscription box, is including my book A Different Beautiful in its February box focused on love! You can join the subscription plan or even purchase a one-time box if you are just interested in February’s (and those caramel brownies look AMAZING too!)

FridayFavoritesMoments

We took this big girl to be registered for Kindergarten! She starts in August and is SO excited!


Evan and I enjoyed a little weekend trip (without kids!) to the Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois. Even though it was cold, there were a sprinkling of snow that made all of the forest and rock formations look just beautiful….

Being silly!

Brenna trying out the new scooter she got for Christmas on a recent warm-ish day for January. Pretty pleased with her new ride, I’d say.

We had my friend Ginger’s family over for dinner last week, and it was so fun to sit and chat and catch up while the kids played (destroyed the house). Weekday nights can feel so hectic if we let them, so it’s even better when we can carve out space for a relaxing dinner with friends. (Oh and cooking gluten-free/dairy-free was an interesting challenge for me too. I made this salmon with avocado salsa – SO good!)

I loved seeing my “Best Nine” from Instagram at the end of 2016… so much story and love in these 9 photos that were my “most liked” from Instagram last year. Excited about what this new year has already brought into our lives and what is to come!

My book, A Different Beautiful, is now available for order!
Want to raise kind kids who appreciate differences? You can download a guide to the best children’s books on differences and disabilities when you subscribe to my monthly email newsletter!  Follow me on  Facebook and Instagram.

Move Toward the Mess (and a book giveaway!)

She practically shuddered with a hand over her heart. “You took your baby…to Africa?” she asked my friend Ginger, and we laughed.

“Yeah,” Ginger smiled. “It was fine, and our kids were able to experience so much of the culture. We can’t wait to take them back again.”

I think of that moment every now and then, when I realized that comfort is a very, well, comfortable thing. It’s difficult to step out of that comfort, to walk knowingly into uncertain situations even when we are doing so in order to spread Jesus’ love.

Being uncomfortable is hard. Moving into the mess is difficult. But that is right where God wants us.

I’m finishing up the book Move Toward the Mess by John Hambrick, who is part of the leadership team at Buckhead Church, within North Point Ministries. (Scroll down – I’m giving away a copy today!) What John has found is that too many of us are too comfortable… too isolated… too bored within our faith. But “if you’re bored,” he writes, “don’t waste another minute. If your church service feels like a failed pep rally that never leads to the actual game, then it’s time for you to follow Jesus onto the field where the opposition is real and the stakes are extraordinary.”

I’ve been contemplating this a lot when it comes to my family. I’ve been asking myself not only what am I helping my kids to learn about the Lord, but also what am I showing them about what it means to give of ourselves, to love others the way Jesus loves us? Because doing this, truly doing this, usually means stepping outside of ourselves, outside of the areas that bring us comfort.

When we first got the opportunity to serve at a local winter homeless shelter, we didn’t hesitate to sign Connor up too. He was 5 at the time, and he was assigned the job of handing out little packs of snacks and water after the individuals came through the dinner line. There is a lot of mess among that group. We’ve heard some interesting things, and we’ve seen a fight or two break out. But it’s a real chance to be a part of Jesus’ love, and I feel like I’m looking at the face of God as I hand out bottled waters and say hello and smile.

I’ll be the first to acknowledge that there’s nothing heroic about showing up once a month for a single dinner. But it’s a start, and the first step in moving into a life of less talk and more action does begin with showing up. I know we have a lot more to learn, a lot more to give, and much, much more love to offer. And reading Move Toward the Mess has deepened my resolve and heightened my reflection for how our family can meaningfully live this out.

One of my favorite points in Move Toward the Mess was an analogy John used to describe what is happening in churches across the country. He likened Christianity to a sporting event, with the locker room strategy, followed by the big highlight: the game. But today, he pointed out, we’ve busied ourselves with talking strategy in the locker room so much that we’ve been abandoning the game.

“…What if the team didn’t show up on the field? When we Christians start to confuse the locker room with the game, things get boring…We talk about love and generosity and grace. Those things come alive and get exciting when they’re running loose in the world. But if we only ever talk about those things in church, and never practice them outside the church, things get stale. It might be more comfortable inside the walls of the church, but excitement is found where Jesus is at work – out in the world.”

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When I think about what it means to move toward the mess, I think of my friend Kathy, who played an integral role in getting hundreds of beds built in a Charlotte NC apartment complex for the homeless. I think of my friend Kristin who organized a group of friends to host a fundraiser that collected months’ worth of toilet paper for low-income families in our community.I think of my friend Julie who mentors young, homeless mothers each week. And I think of my friend Ginger who serves with her family in Sierra Leone, working to bring education and the Christian faith to the people there.
I know that it takes not only a willingness, but also specific, passionate action to move into the places where we can make a deep impact – and I hope to continually seek out these places to connect with others in grace and love. Wherever God is calling us – from the international ministry to the local nonprofit to our neighbor’s home – the most beautiful parts of life are found in the mess.
Today, I’m giving away a copy of Move Toward the Mess! Just leave a comment and I’ll select a winner by Friday, January 20 at 5 p.m.!
My book, A Different Beautiful, is now available for order!
Want to raise kind kids who appreciate differences? You can download a guide to the best children’s books on differences and disabilities when you subscribe to my monthly email newsletter!  Follow me on  Facebook and Instagram.