On August: Smiles, Messes, and One Really Big Shark

changing leaves final

Somehow the calendar page turned today and I found myself staring at the month of September.

September is one of my favorite months. It’s that strange one that flips between summer and the promise of sweater weather, the one when the pool is still up and used even if there are acorn shells and crunchy leaves covering the ground. (It’s also the only time of year that I feel like I can reasonably pull off wearing shorts with long sleeves. That’s just weird and probably not very trendy, but I’m not sure I care too much.) πŸ˜‰

I could lament forever that I can’t believe August is over, but now that we’re staring at this month…I guess I’m good with it. We survived transition, we made it through some hard days–the kind when we cry while we remember, and now life is falling into a bit of a routine. A bit…we’re still finding normal somewhat, but it feels more settled.

I haven’t been very good at keeping track of my favorites the last few months…but I still felt the bloggy urge to write about August somehow. So here we go.

Random, to be sure…but here’s the good, the bad, and what just was. Is. I love my life and the blessings God has given us.

I’ve been working my way slowly through Wild in the Hollow. Everyone I know who’s read it has devoured it in mere hours. I’ve been wanting to devour it, but Amber’s words hit so close to home that there are times I need to close the pages and find a quiet corner for soul processing. It’s such a unique read, unlike anything I’ve ever opened. I recommend it so much. (And actually, one of you is going to get a copy of it if you make it to the end of my ramblings.) πŸ˜‰

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I think my daughter is completely adorable in her school uniform. Who knew that khaki, blue, white, and red (and the shades that fall into those categories) could create such cuteness? She’s just growing up and stealing my heart a little more each day. She also started soccer last week, had her cheerleading debut with some of her BFF’s on Friday night, AND there’s a LOOSE TOOTH in there, too. Hold me. T’was a full week and such a turning point in her life. I feel like she’s really a growing-up girl now…full of wonder and change. It’s fun watching her become.

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We saw War Room on Sunday night. I have to be honest and tell you that the weekend in our house was not full of peace and oozing with kindness. Hubby and I…well, we just had a few of those days. We didn’t so much like each other those days, and I know Satan was just dancing all over our hearts. It was horrible. How ironic that we’d made plans to see the movie with friends…and even up until the moment we walked into the theater, I could feel my marriage being attacked.

But we stayed and we watched (and I cried–more than once) and the movie was SO. GOOD. And I’m praying the truths from it will seep into our beings as we walk this road. Marriage…it’s no fairy tale. But it’s still beautiful, and I love him and I love my Father. We belong together forever, even on the messy, ugly days.

It’s been almost a year since we lost our sweet Andre. Sometimes I feel out of place and wrong for still grieving a dog. He was my sweet boy, and we still miss him so much. If you think of us on the 19th, will you whisper up a prayer? I think we’ll probably need to go away that day because I’m not entirely sure I’ll be able to handle being in the house where he spent his last hours. Golly, I miss my boy.

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I’m a mess. It’s just been a messy month. Do you ever have those? I’ve had ugly cries in the church balcony, angry words with my Father, and too many moments of bitterness. I’ve beaten myself up over it all…but then I come back to the promise that He can turn this mess into something beautiful. I’m waiting for the beauty He’s promised.

Oh, and I got a tattoo. Yeah, you read that right. I’ve actually had it for a month, but it wasn’t something that I knew how to write about, so I just didn’t. Instead, I just kind of let it be seen sometimes and if people wanted to ask I told them the short version: I wanted a tangible reminder that my Father makes everything beautiful. Someday I’ll tell you more of the story. :)

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I signed up to run a 15k. I have exactly 68 days to train for it, which is only slightly scary. My current distance sits at about a whopping 3 1/2 miles. Oh, boy…good thing I just bought a new pair of running shoes. πŸ˜‰

For about a month I have been telling my husband I need the beach. I just love it…I miss my surfing days and the sand between my toes and the sound of the crashing waves and the soul peace that comes from breathing deep and feeling small in the vast. We’ve been teetering back and forth on possibly taking a long weekend this fall and going, but we honestly haven’t been able to make a decision. So, wishing for the beach…I am. Completely. Not sure it will happen this year, but a girl can dream, right?

And you would think that a video like this might change my mind. Alas, no. I still heart the saltwater sea. I swear it calls my name. (Though I can’t get enough of the following 42 seconds. Seriously…cracking up.) πŸ˜€ AND potentially praying that I don’t get eaten by one of those ever…

And that…well, that’s life for us now. It’s good and full of blessings…and writing like this reminds me of just how blessed I am.

And I feel like giving away a copy of Wild in the Hollow because it’s just so beautiful. (And it’s going to find a spot on my bookshelf forever, I think.) To enter, leave me a comment…either here or on facebook…and share a blessing. That’s it. :) I’ll pick a winner on Friday and shoot you an email/Facebook message to let you know you’ve won.

Happy Tuesday, friends. Make it a beautiful one. :)

Sig

To My Daughter on Her First Day of Kindergarten

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To my sweet, five year-old, Maelie girl…the one who’s off to Kindergarten this morning,

This letter…it’s a hard one to write.

Whenever anyone has asked me how I feel about you going to kindergarten, my answer is always the same.

I can’t believe we’re here.

I stayed up late last night, staring at my computer screen, well aware that in ten hours I’d be walking you into your classroom for your first day. And there are a few things I know will happen…

I know I’ll cry. (I know you’ll tell me to stop, too.) πŸ˜‰

I know you’ll completely melt me in your stinkin’ cute little uniform.

I know you’ll hug me goodbye.

And I also know that today will mark a change of seasons for us.

There have been so many times in our five years together when I’ve wanted to freeze time, or at least slow it down to a crawl.

Yet, this morning, I want that more than ever.

Kindergarten…it feels so huge. It’s EVERY. DAY. It’s the last year before all day. It’s new milestones that range from words and reading to crossing the street to the big school. It’s uniforms and learning to tie shoes, it’s new teachers and new adventures.

It’s a little bit of letting go. And that little…well, it will continue to lead to more and more.

There are many many days when it takes my breath away, this letting-go-of-you thing. I’m not ready. I don’t suppose I ever really will be.

But as I pound out these words and you are still off in dreamland…I just want you to know a few things.

I have loved the last five years. LOVED them. Being a stay-at-home-mama wasn’t something I always wanted to be, but I’m so grateful that God changed my heart. The opportunity to be with you, every day, has been the greatest, most wonderful gift, better than anything I could have imagined. I have loved spending our days together.

I love who you are…and who you are becoming. You captured my heart before I held you in my arms. I knew I would completely love you, but I had no idea what that looked like. And from the first moments of holding you to this very morning, I have continued to fall in love with the girl you have grown to be. You are absolutely incredible and so, so beautiful.

You have so much to look forward to. New friends, new teachers, new games, new stories, SO many new things to learn. Embrace it all and HAVE FUN!

It won’t always be easy. And when it isn’t, remember that you are surrounded by people who love you. And God loves you most of all.

No matter what, I hope you will always run to Him. Maelie girl, He loves you so much and He has such amazing plans for you.

This morning I’m letting you go a little more. I’ll leave you in your classroom, and you’ll begin a new journey, one that will lead you to places more wonderful than you can even imagine.

Yes, I’ll cry a little…but I’ll also be cheering for you. :)

There’s so much out there waiting for you. Don’t be afraid to dream BIG.

Go find your wings and fly, my girl.

I love you to the moon and back. (Plus infinity.) πŸ˜‰

Love, Mommy

Sig

The Random of July…

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I really have no clue how today is August. Did this catch anyone else by surprise?

I knew time would fly this summer, but I didn’t expect it to go quite so quickly. But we’re coming to the end, and goodbye, July. :(

I usually close out each month with a list of favorite things. And when I started to make that list, I sort of started to feel guilty.

I haven’t read much of anything this month. (Though I have Wild in the Hollow sitting on the table next to me. Now I just need two or three, blissfully uninterrupted hours and a cup of coffee. I’m very much looking forward to it.) πŸ˜‰

I haven’t watched much, either. (Except season 7 of Little House on the Prairie. I’m watching them in order. It’s not my favorite one so far, but it’s good.)

Of course I have favorite things I wear because I’m a girl and I like clothes. And hubby bought me the uber cutest, most funky dress (it has POCKETS!) from my new favorite store as a late birthday surprise, and it will be making an appearance sometime over the weekend…either at church or on our anniversary on Monday. But, really, who wants to read about another dress?

Ok, ok, so maybe you do. I’ll share someday. πŸ˜‰

But I sort of feel like I fell off the favorite things bandwagon just a tad. So I’m going to sum up the month of July with the random of life. That’s good too, right? In this case, the random are also favorites. :)

Every July my sweet friend comes to visit from Texas for the month. Her parents live in our neighborhood, and so she brings her son with her, and they hang out here, visiting family while escaping the oppressive, summer-Texas heat. (I’m just guessing it’s oppressive…I’ve never actually experienced it.) πŸ˜‰ She and I have shared many coffees and long chats in the last weeks, our two kiddos have had a blast together, and we’ve so loved having them here. They’re leaving tomorrow to go home…and we’re really going to miss them. Like, the kind of missing where if I think about it too long, I’ll cry. Love you, sweet friend.

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I decided I needed a summer project so I built a picnic table. (Yes, you read that right.) πŸ˜‰ Other than minimal help from my hubby, this gorgeous, yellow-and-turquoise, work of art is mine. I love it…and I look forward to many, many coffees and talks happening here. It’s technically supposed to find a home in the side yard where anyone can sit down and enjoy it, but it’s been in our backyard since I finished it. It’s also become my sanctuary and my early morning happy place. And at least for now, I need it to be that way, and it’s right. (And, also, I pretty much finger painted that flower, and I think I love it.) πŸ˜‰

picnic table final

I tacked on another year this past month, and I confessed to my husband that 37 feels so much older than 36. I know it’s really all mental, but wow. I’m three years away from 40. And also three years away from a celebration of epic proportions. Let the planning commence. πŸ˜‰

My sweet girlie heads to Kindergarten in exactly 18 days. I don’t know what to do with this, but I know the sight of her adorable little uniforms hanging in her closet about makes the dam burst. Good grief, how are we HERE? And she’s so excited so I’m cheering her on with all I have, but some days it’s not much. I just can’t believe it’s gone so fast.

And speaking of milestones, Tobin and I are celebrating 13 years on Monday. I know that in the grand scheme of life, 13 isn’t huge, but to me…to us…it feels like a place we weren’t always sure we’d see. This marriage thing is hard, and I’m pretty sure we’ve had more challenging days than easy ones. But I’m glad we stuck it out…and I’m truly looking forward to many more years with him. He’s smart, funny, an awesome daddy, takes care of us so well, and will do just about anything…however completely embarrassing and ridiculous…to make me smile. Blessed, we are. I think we’re kind of adorable, too. πŸ˜‰

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So here’s to celebrations and finding ways to squeeze out the last bits of summer. It’s been a good one…and I hope that for you, too. :)

Thanks for hanging around my space and for being here. Love and happy August all around!

Sig

June Favorites (But Not on a Friday) :)

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So I’m not exactly sure where June went.

But here we are.

My daughter is five…she’s been five for TWO. WHOLE. WEEKS. and a day. And we’ve also had possibly the craziest June ever which was topped off with two performances of The Lion King, where my girl was the uber cutest lion cub ever. And we all say, awwwww! Plus we celebrated my hubby yesterday and tonight there’s gonna be cheesecake with friends because…well, because birthdays. And friends. And cheesecake. They’re all really, really good and we like them in our house.

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But, sticking to the theme…and the fact that I LOVE writing this post, I bring you some of the faves for the month. :)

June faves final

Read

I didn’t read quite as much in June as I did last month. That could be because of the crazy of VBS and other things that occupied our time…and the fact that it’s now warm enough to swim and play outside every day. (Well, when it’s not raining. We’ve had PLENTY of that, too, this month.)

Row For Freedom: Crossing an Ocean in Search of Hope (Julia Immonen) This book was handed to me at Allume last fall by a publisher, and like just about every book does, it landed on my bookshelf for a few months. (If you’ve been to this conference, you understand the tons-of books-problem. It’s almost overwhelming to even know where to start.)

But a few months ago, I picked it up, read the back, and added it to my I-need-to-read-this, stack. I’m so glad I did. SO. Seriously…not only is the message behind this book powerful, it also made me want to go find four of my closest friends and convince them to row the Atlantic with me…really, any ocean will do. Or a large sea? (Some of you are looking for a place to hide right now, aren’t you?!) πŸ˜‰

And while it’s not a book, this list of ENFP struggles is so worth the read. I mean, it’s worth the read if you ever want to begin to understand your good friend, Mel. πŸ˜‰ It’s almost frightening how accurate most of the list is.

Watch

Well, I’ve been oh-so-patiently (not really) waiting each week for the new episode of When Calls The Heart. Still a favorite.

And, somehow, the first ten Love Comes Softly movies are available, on DVD, from Amazon for 13.99. I don’t know how, but I don’t ask questions. I watched the first three in a week and decided I’d cried enough, but when I have more emotional strength, I will venture to the next one, which I’ve already seen and just about wrecks me completely. (Who comes up with these plot lines? Seriously.)

And, yet, I still watch. Over and over because I’m me and because I apparently own stock in Kleenex.

Wear

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Hmmm. Well, my hubby gave me (let me buy?) an early birthday present in the form of a cute dress. (That you can see here because…well, I took this picture so late that I had to do a selfie.) πŸ˜‰ It’s my favorite, at least for this week. I wore it a week ago on Sunday morning for praise team, and then I liked it so much that I wore it the rest of the day, too, even when we played three games of bags and frisbee that included running around. πŸ˜‰ My sweet daughter asked me why I didn’t change clothes, and I just smiled at her. Because Mommy likes cute dresses.

And, also, my Fair Trade Friday Earrings of the Month about took my breath away. Seriously, these are GORGEOUS and my new favorite. I sometimes give my earrings of the month as gifts (because even I don’t need that many earrings) πŸ˜‰ but these are mine. I wore them on Sunday with my cute dress.

It was just a cute day. πŸ˜‰

And if you’d like to learn more about the Earring of the Month club, you can check it out here. I highly recommend it. It’s an awesome way to make a difference in the lives of women around the world AND to have a tangible reminder to pray for them. (Plus, cute earrings? Yes, please.) I think it’s the best $12 I spend every month. (The ones from this month are available here, too.)

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Listen

Last week I took my guitar to my voice lesson just to change things up a little. I’d been strumming through a few of my favorite songs, and my teacher and I ended up on Stronger.

I’ve loved the song for awhile now, but it took on a new meaning that morning. I told a friend later that sometimes I struggle with believing the words that I sing, and her response was something I needed to hear. Sometimes we sing them TO make ourselves believe them.

There are hard weeks, there are struggles, there are days when we fight to trust our Father…and I’m certainly no exception to any of these. I need the daily reminder that He is Lord of all. That He always has everything. Because He’s stronger than all of it.

So I hope you’ll have a listen to this one by Hillsong. It’s incredible and it’s meant a lot to me in the last weeks. (And if you’re anywhere near my back porch this summer, you’ll probably hear me belting it out at least once. Sorry about that.) πŸ˜‰

And…I think that’s it, at least for this month. What are some of your current favorites? Anything I’m missing? (I’m sure there’s a lot!)

Hope you had a wonderful weekend, my friends.

Sig

Trusting God When You Can’t See

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Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Β Hebrews 11:1

He showed me a picture of it, late one night as we sat awake in the hotel room, taking care of our new little girl.

A month into parenthood, we were also house hunting, having just left the mission field after five years in a country about as far away as we could have been.

We’d loved it, but it was time to be back β€œhome”…and we were struggling to find what that might look like.

We found ourselves in a brand new state, thanks to his new job, and we desperately needed a place for our family to live. We were watching the days tick down into single digits, looking at house after house after house.

But none of them felt like they could be home.

And then he pulled up the picture of the blue, two-story, and I told him no because it didn’t have a fence. This new, very-tired-and-over-the-top-emotional mama, who also happened to have two crazy golden retrievers, Needed. A. Fence.

Mostly for her sanity.

But he insisted we look at it, and so we did.

Today I’m over at Circles of Faith, sharing a story of just one of the many ways God took care of us when we left the mission field. Will you join me here?

Sig

Five Years Old!

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My Maelie,

I sat down to write this letter last night, and I couldn’t help but feel a little sad that it was your last night of being four. I gave you one more kiss on your forehead as you drifted to sleep, and I felt that pinch in my heart.

It’s going so, so fast and I guess I just wish I could hold you a little longer.Β 

Oh, you’ve been counting down to the big five years old for months, and I know you’re so excited. More than anything, we want to celebrate your big day with you.

Because YOU’RE FIVE!!! πŸ˜€

I see more glimpses each day of you growing up, becoming more independent and a little less needy for your mommy, but you still melt my heart when you climb into my lap for a cuddle and tell me you love me. I hope those moments never end.

I love you so much. So, so much. And I tell you that often and multiple times a day because I want you to know that it’s true. Every single day, more each day than the one before.

We’ve had a year. It’s hard to say it was a good year, but I don’t want to say it was a bad year, either.

It was still a precious year because I got to spend it with you, my beautiful daughter.

Our family has walked some hard days and weeks and months…and you walked it right along with us. You saw the tears and you cried some of your own, too. Your little heart and mind took time to process losing your little sister and knowing you would have to wait for heaven to play with her. The tears flowed the day you hugged Andre goodbye and we came home without him.

You’ve seen some hard days, and I wish those hadn’t been part of your four year-old life. They’re so much for a little one to handle, but you showed us just how strong you could be.

Your daddy and I…we found strength in the joy you brought to us. And we found lots of reasons to smile and laugh, too.

There were adventures and car trips and new places to explore. You loved riding the train and subway in New York and a visit to, possibly, the most famous toy store in the world. :) (Mommy liked that trip, too!)

We made new friends and played new games, and you flew through your second and final year of Preschool.

And…you came out a READER!

Goodness, my girl, you blow me away with how far you’ve come…and we’re just beginning the journey.

You’ve kept us laughing (and still do!) with your witty, intelligent, hilarious take on life. You never miss an opportunity to tell a good story which makes us think you might just be a writer someday like your mama. Or, who knows? You’re a lot like your daddy, too. It will be fun to see what God does and continues to do with you. Remember to always keep your heart open to Him…you are His child, and He has great plans for you!

It’s true that sometimes you and I, we have hard days.

But I also know that this has been the best five years of my life, these years of being your mommy. I wouldn’t trade a single moment of it for anything.

You are loved, you are beautiful, and the world is waiting for five year-old YOU!

Get out there and change it.

But, first, eat some cake and CELEBRATE! πŸ˜‰

I love you more than you will ever know…and God loves you EVEN MORE.

Happy 5th Birthday, my Maelie girl!

Love you forever,
Mommy

Sig

May Friday Favorites (+ a Giveaway!)

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Oh, goodness…is it really that time?

I mean, I love writing this post, but I’m also feeling slightly guilty that I’ve barely written anything in the last two months. Tell me to quit feeling all the guilt, k? And also, I’m sure I’ll make up for it with the word count.

πŸ˜‰

So we’re getting into summer around here, and it’s good. Parks, playing outside, ice cream, friends, making a summer bucket list. I love spending my days with this girl…the one who said tonight,Β Mommy, let’s take a selfie and make our glamorous faces! (At least one of us has it…) πŸ˜‰

I love her so much. Pinch me because I don’t know how I’m blessed enough to be her mama. But I am…and it’s a gift.

And with that little, cute tangent…here are the faves. A bit random this month and not quite as exciting, but keep reading. I feel like giving away one of my favorites today, so make sure you enter!

But read first. πŸ˜‰ So, let’s get to it.

Read

Well, I made up for my lack of reading in the past few months with this month.

I *think* I read five books and am reading two more right now, which might be a record for me. (As in, five GROWN-UP books. I may or may not read a lot of children’s books too.) πŸ˜‰

A few favorites:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Though it’s a classic, I’d read mixed reviews on it. There’s no real plot twist, and in a book of that length, that can start to feel mundane. I found myself caught up in Francie’s story, though, and the more I read, the more I wanted the story to just keep going. And when it ended, I was sad.

Miracle on Voodoo Mountain. I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy at Allume last fall, and I sat down to read it this week. Friends, I burned through this book in less than a day. I couldn’t believe how gripping Megan’s story (and, really, God’s story) is…and once I opened it, I couldn’t put it down. I recommend this one. It reminded me a lot of Kisses From Katie, which is another of my all-time favorites.

Northanger Abbey. I decided to work on my brain power and read some Jane Austen. πŸ˜‰ It’s been a Long. Time. since I’ve read anything like it…and I feel like this story took a bit to get going, but I’m liking it. Enough that I might actually read another of her books in the near future. :) (If you’re a Jane fan, please leave me your recommendations in the comments?)

Watch

Hands down, When Calls the Heart has been the winner this month. Jessica Turner recommended it on her blog one day about a month ago, and she didn’t have to twist my arm too much. I love dramas that take place in that time period, and as usual, this one sucked me in immediately. I’m slightly embarrassed at just how quickly I managed to get through the first season. (Psst…it’s available on Netflix streaming. For some of you, I think this might be the best news of your day.) πŸ˜‰ Golly, I love this show.

And that’s about it in the watching department, at least this month. Obviously, when I read more, I watch less.

Novel idea, huh? (Pun totally intended.) πŸ˜‰

Wear

Well, I finally jumped on the Fitbit bandwagon. I’m not necessarily the girl who wants the latest and greatest with everything, and I thought it over for a good, long, four months before ordering this one. I like that it makes me intentional about things like Getting. Off. My. Bum. and walking around more. It’s also very motivating for me to get up early, go for a run, and see my step total skyrocket.Β What can I say? I’m a slight dork.

Also, I tend to drink more water when I get the satisfaction of logging it. I don’t so much enjoy admitting to my dashboard that I ate too much cake when I have to log those calories, too, but hey. Baby steps, right? πŸ˜‰

Also, I’m pretty much addicted to all-things-maxi-dresses-and-skirts. I found this one, super-clearanced, at Maurices, and it’s one of my new favorites. I wore it on Mother’s Day, and aaahhh…it just makes me happy. :)

Also, still loving the earrings, but no new pairs to share that I can think of. I’m just having fun wearing the same ones over and over. Though I did let hubby know that I’m in love with these, and if he wants to buy them for my birthday, I’ll totally let him. πŸ˜‰

Listen

This whole album. Seriously. I’ve had it downloaded for several months and have even listened to it here and there, but just recently, it’s found its way to repeat on my playlist.

YouMakeMeBraveAlbum

Especially the song, You Make Me Brave. I could listen to it and sing it all day long. (Ahem. Sometimes I do?)

Anyway, I’m giving away a free download of the album.Β :)

To enter, just leave me a comment. Share some sunshine from your week or a current favorite. Or, really, just say hello. I’m not picky. :) (I’ll choose a winner on Monday morning and send an email with the details.)

And while you wait to see if you’ve won, have a listen. Love this song. :)

Happy weekend, friends!

(And I’m borrowing this idea from my sweet friend, Crystal. Make sure you hop over to her space to catch up on her favorites, too. She always has such a great list!) :)

Sig

Just Life on a Friday

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I know myself well enough to realize that when the blog has been quiet for too long, I just need to write.

Something.

Anything.

Well, not exactly anything…but at least sentences that tell a story or two.

The truth is that the last few weeks have been full of writing for myself…but not for anyone else. I think I intended to share more than I actually did (which would be No.Thing.) but life just got in the way, I guess.

But words felt necessary today…and so here are some. They’re random, but it’s been a random week, so I’m just gonna roll with it.

πŸ˜‰

My girl finished PK this week, and I honestly have no idea what to even do with it all.

I cried because who doesn’t cry when their sweet kiddo reaches a milestone? Plus, Kindergarten? How is she old enough for this???

And then the two of us went out for frappuccino minis, which really translated to I-needed-to-go-to-Target-for-shampoo; how-convenient-that-Starbucks-is-here-too. That kind of thing, you know?

And we smiled and laughed as we walked through the store, and I thought about how awesome it is to have such an amazing little girl to share my days with. (I just wish those days didn’t fly by quite so quickly.)

A few days ago, it was a gorgeous, sunny day. It was also 46 degrees, according to my iPhone. I didn’t really believe my phone because Mae and I were both outside in tank tops and we weren’t cold AT ALL. And also, my shoulders turned a shade of red that I don’t usually see until that day mid-July when I forget to reapply the sunblock.

Yeah, I got fried in May. IN. MAY.

And also I’m pretty sure the weather app was broken because No. One. Burns. In. 46. Degree. Weather. (Just let me be right here, ok?) πŸ˜‰

I am more than ready for warm weather to make an appearance for longer than a few days at a time.

And if that randomness doesn’t scare you off… πŸ˜‰

I spent three days eating red meat for every meal this week. (As in, to the point that it was becoming gross.) Before you start thinking that I have weird eating habits, let’s just say I wanted, in the worst way, to get my iron levels up so I could donate blood. Because, yeah, they stink, no matter how much steak I eat. You know it’s bad when I walk into the room and tell them to do the finger prick part before I sit through all the paperwork.

And also, I failed again. (My husband asked me if I was ready to give up yet. Never.)

And after my last few end-of-the-month blog posts…you know, the ones when I share all my favorites? Yeah, I decided I needed to read more books. So I’ve been reading a lot.

I laughed my way through Sophie Hudson’s A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet. I cracked open A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for the second time…I didn’t finish it the first, and I’m actually almost done with it. And then a few days ago, I finally opened Eight Twenty Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up, and an hour later I looked up, and I was almost on page 100.

So I think it’s safe to say I’m doing just fine in the reading books department. And also, yay for expanding my reading horizons. I feel proud of myself. :)

And I’m also really looking forward to summer with my girl.Β 

We’ve got a whole summer, friends! It’s been fun to hear her talk about the things she wants to do. Parks, picnics, play dates, swimming, froyo, birthday celebrations…she’s an easy (and fun!) kid to please.

She’s not asking for the moon, though if she did, I’d probably try to find a way. πŸ˜‰

So I’m praying that God will give us an extra wonderful few months together…and also that He’ll redeem last summer.

It feels like we’ve lived a lifetime since last July. And, maybe in some ways, we have.

We’ve seen loss and walked grief. We’ve found joy on the other side of it…and days that still hurt and pinch in painful ways.

I suppose it might be how this life looks from here on out.

We’ve found ways to surrender dreams and keep walking with Him. And Trust.

That’s been the hardest part of it.

But in the midst, there’s been so much good. And He has been good.

The other day my girl was picking “all the pretty yellow flowers” in our yard, giving them to me one by one. And I thought about how God has been so good about giving us those pieces of tangible beauty despite the pain of the journey…a verse, a text, a prayer, a flower, a surprise coffee from a friend, sweet time with my hubby and girl, friends who have loved us so well.

We’re really blessed…even if there are days when it’s hard to see purpose.

And I hope this Friday morning finds you counting your blessings, too. Thanks for being here, even when I take huge, bloggy vacations. πŸ˜‰

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April Friday Favorites {+ a GIVEAWAY!)

NYC family final
Well, given that I’ve barely written a single word this month, I figured I’d better get my word quota finished in one post.

Sorry about that…this one’s pushing has long passed 1,500. (But I think it’s worth reading, just for the giveaway at the end!) πŸ˜‰

Some months are like that…and, honestly, there’s been a lot of processing going on…just not a lot of sharing the words. I’m finally good with that, I think.

But I really love this end-of-the-month post…the chance to update and just share my faves with y’all. And there were a ton this month because, between Easter (helllooooooo, cute dresses!) and a crazy-busy, FUN week of vacation for the three of us, there are just lots of stories to share.

So let’s get to it?

OH. And I’m throwing in another category…EAT. Because…NYC and Philly. πŸ˜‰

I’ve also got a few fun things to share and a giveaway and the end of this post. Because one cannot travel and discover so many awesome things and NOT share them with the rest of the world, or at least her ten readers, ya know?

I know! (And also, I just love presents.) :)

I bring you the April faves…there are some goodies!!!

Read

So I finished The Hardest Peace. There were a lot of tissues involved…it was one of those books. Heart-wrenching, painful mixed with absolutely beautiful. I recommend it. Read it.

This, too…a friend shared it with me last week, and it’s spot on. Plus, I had a conversation with another friend before she even sent it to me that was basically the same thing. Will you pray for me, friends?

Right now…I’m a mama. And I want to love it completely without wishing for more. My more will come someday.

Also…I’m dying to read the latest Shopaholic book. Just because I haven’t read it yet, and she is stinkin’ FUN. NY.

Watch

My hubby and I have been sorta-kinda-addicted to Flip or Flop on HGTV. Seriously…I have no idea why watching a couple buy houses in absolutely disgusting shape and transform them into stunning beauties is so enthralling, but it is. (Psst…Netflix has the first season available for streaming.) I mostly-seriously said to my husband earlier this week,Β I think you should quit your job and we could flip houses! Wouldn’t it be fun?!

He didn’t go for it.

Ahem.

Also, with the loss of my childhood TV crush last week, Jonathan Crombie (aka: Gilbert Blythe), Anne of Green Gables has been on my TV a lot this week while I’ve drowned my sorrows in red currant wine. (Ok, not really. But someone tweeted that, and I thought it was insanely clever.) πŸ˜‰ I totally bought the DVD trilogy back when…I don’t even know. When it first came out on DVD. Gotta admit that I’m a little devastated. I loved him. I think we all did. :( Rest in peace, Gil.

jonathancrombiephoto credit: IMDB

Wear

I’m still rockin’ the earrings. (At least I think I’m rockin’ em.) Golly, where have I BEEN? Now my ears feel naked without them. I’m loving this pair from Work of Worth, an awesome fair trade company. They’re huge, and these Might. Actually. Take. Over. My. Head.

But I don’t care because they’re so cute. (And I also realized that you can’t see them too well here, but it’s late and I’m lazy. But I did manage to take this in my kitchen. Really, Mel?! OY.) :)

another earring selfie final
And, this dress. So, funny story. I ordered it from Maurices a week before Easter, which is a lot in the ordering-online-from-Maurices, world. (They are usually up there with Amazon Prime in terms of shipping. Yep.) But it didn’t even ship by Thursday night, even though I’d ordered it Sunday. And so I dashed…dashed…out of the Maundy Thursday service and sped (just a little) my bum over to the closest Maurices, skidding in the door ten minutes before they closed.

Aaaahhhh…breathe. They had it in stock. In my size. And, I LOVE it. It’s my new favorite dress. Maybe forever. :) Also, if you want one, you should buy it pretty fast because it’s selling out quick. I’m a 6ish, sometimes size 8, and I bought a medium. It was perfect.

Here we are on Easter. We’re cute, I know. And also, these two are my favorite favorites. :)

Easter2015 final
Eat

Ok. I’m a world traveler, and I love…LOVE…seeing new places. But my husband and I have confessed, many times, that while we’ve seen the world, we haven’t exactly seen our own country.

And so we added a couple new places two weeks ago…and the whole vacation deserves its own post, which it’s going to get…but I couldn’t not mention how much I now love the East Coast. Philly was fun, the bit of it we saw, and the friends we saw it with were even better. My introduction to the city happened at Reading Terminal Market in the form of this donut.

And, really, there’s a REASON there’s already a bite out of it. Warm, gooey, cream filled, salted caramel-ly…it was beyond delicious.

donut&coffee final 2
Go ahead. I’ll wait while you clean the drool off of your keyboard.
πŸ˜‰

That was the best donut ever. I’m still thinking about it. Often. (The coffee there was pretty awesome, too.)

And when we decided to do NYC for a day, I knew I couldn’t go there without getting a bagel with lox. Dude, I’ve read about these forever, and I had to try one. Had To.

And so when we stopped in a little deli for lunch, I figured it was the perfect opportunity. $3 for a bagel and cream cheese…and I added some smoked salmon. Never even LOOKED at the price.

I figured I’d get a slice or two of salmon, eat my bagel like a real New Yorker, say yum, and call it good. Bucket list, check.

Nope. Tobin comes over to the table with our food. Um, Mel? I’m not even going to tell you how much that bagel cost.

Huh? It’s a bagel with cream cheese AND. SOME. FISH.

the bagel final
Nope. Apparently, adding TEN INCHES OF SALMON to my bagel shot the price up FOURTEEN DOLLARS! Dude, we’re not poor, but really?! And so, the saga of Mel’s $17 bagel began. (And ended rather quickly because there’s no way I could eat all of that. Or even half.)

It was good. Not the best thing ever, but it was good. And if it happens again, I will specify…how about $2 worth of salmon instead of $14? πŸ˜‰

But there was plenty about New York food to love, and the roasted cashews at Battery Park were a favorite, too. But I’ll get to that all next week. Aaahhh, New York, you now hold a piece of my heart forever. And, also, I need to come back for your pizza. I ran out of stomach space for that one.

But I’ll be back in October, and I can’t wait!!! (More on that one later.) :) :) :)

Listen

God gave me a gift while we were in Pennsylvania…the chance to attend Winsome, a retreat that is the God-sized Dream of a dear sister, Kim. It was a God-thing that the timing and location worked out, and being there was such an amazing gift. I got to reconnect with dear friends, share heart chats and LOTS of coffee, go deeper with friends I didn’t know as well, worship with my hands raised, listen to Truth from women who are doing such incredible work for God…

Winsomefriends final
The tears are running down my face right now because I just want to go back and do it all again.

One of the moments that weekend that meant so much was when a friend just asked,Β How ARE you?Β And she listened while I went on and on. πŸ˜‰ And she had no idea how much I needed that. And now I miss her like crazy, too.

I also need to write more about the weekend.

So clearly, I have a lot of writing to do. Someone please make me do it? πŸ˜‰

And how ’bout a giveaway? Golly, I love to give presents. :)

bagearringsgc giveaway final
Last week, I was exploring a little town in Iowa when Mae and I made a quick visit there to see some family, and I wandered into a little store, The Silver Spider. I fell in love with pretty much everything there, and it’s a miracle that I walked out without more treats. But I did discover Blue Q bags, and am now carrying a messenger one that I adore. (I also have the bicycle print one on my please-buy-me-this-for-my-birthday, list. Just fyi in case that’s important information for any of you.) πŸ˜‰

But because I loved the bags so much, I bought this zipper pouch for one of you to win! Because, hello. Bicycles = SO. CUTE. and this pouch is awesome. It would work for makeup or a Kindle or your chocolate stash. (An iPad mini fits in there, too, if that gives you an idea of the size.)

And I’m completely on an earring kick lately, in case you haven’t noticed. πŸ˜‰ These are from ViBella, one of my favorite fair trade organizations, and I think they’re adorable…as is pretty much ever piece of jewelry on their site. I hope you’ll give their facebook page a like and then hop over to the site to do a little shopping! Seriously…there are some gorgeous pieces there, and your money is going to provide jobs and education for people in need. Win-win. :)

And because it’s spring (YAY!!!!!!!) and that really deserved more exclamation points, but I’m trying to show some restraint, and because Dunkin’ has their any-size, 99 cent iced coffee between 3-6 pm back…a $5 gift card, which will cover your caffeine fix for a week. (Grammar people, please don’t pick apart that last sentence.) πŸ˜‰

I’m throwing caution to the wind and using Rafflecopter for this one. (Rafflecopter and I have a love/hate relationship.) Click the link below and follow the instructions to enter. Good luck! And I’ll choose a winner on Monday morning.

I’ve missed you all. A lot. Thanks for being here. :)

The happiest of weekends to you. May you find some sunshine and a quiet spot to enjoy it all. :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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March Friday Favorites

Mae&MelBali final
I’m really loving writing this post each month. I love that Crystal decided to make it a link up. :) It’s fun to write about my favorite things, but it’s also a ton of fun to read about what everyone else is loving, too. Make sure you check out the link up over at her blog.

And I’m feeling pretty proud of myself this month, too…read on to hear about at least what I consider a major victory in my fashion life. Which may seem a little self centered, but hey…some days we have to celebrate the small things.

πŸ˜‰

Ok, that was goofy, but that tends to be me most days. In fact, I was just telling a friend that on that personality quiz, Which Friend Are You?…I am always, ALWAYS Phoebe. It must be my running. Or the random songs I sing…yeah, most likely that. πŸ˜‰

Well, I can keep getting more random or I can tell you a little about some of the things that are topping my favorites list right now. Let’s do that before I confess that I had a handful of jellybeans for breakfast…

March books final
Read

I must be stuck in a huge rut, but I haven’t been doing a ton of reading this month, though I’m trying to be more consistent with Bible reading. My journaling Bible has helped a lot…and though the giveaway is over, you can read more about that journey here. It’s not a perfect one at all…but I’m thankful.

Also, I did finally start reading The Hardest Peace…the same weekend sweet Kara went to be with Jesus. It’s a hard read, and I’m taking it slowly because blubbering-Mel isn’t really a very functional Mel. This book is completely undoing me…and I’m also aching so much for her sweet family right now. Will you join me in prayer for them?

Also, a dear friend wrote the book, 31 Days to Coming Alive…and it’s so, SO good that I had to read it again. She’s just funny, insightful, and a breath of fresh air…you can nab the Kindle version for a steal, or you can get it in paperback, too. Seriously. Just buy it. (Also, I can’t wait to meet her in real life someday…I might have also invited myself to go to Nepal with her the next time she goes.) πŸ˜‰

I’m determined to give myself some grace for the months when I feel restless and don’t read many words. But the ones I’ve read this month have been good.

Watch

Well, I’m not sure exactly what I’ve been doing with my time because watching anything hasn’t really happened, either.

Lately, hubby and I have spent a few nights each week watching an episode or two of Friends. (Thank you, Netflix.) We just laugh together, and it’s time well spent. I need it.

I also really want to see the new Cinderella, but I’m not sure that my very active four year-old would actually sit through a movie that is an hour and 53 minutes long. So I might be begging a grown up friend to go with me instead. :) Have you seen it? Is it as amazing as I’m hoping it is?

And I started watching God’s Not Dead the other night, and it’s awesome, but I also fell asleep halfway through because it was after 1 a.m. when I started it. (I just couldn’t sleep, and after an hour of praying for everything and everyone I could think of, I decided to watch a movie. Cue sleep.) πŸ˜‰ I’m looking forward to finishing it this weekend. (And if you stream Netflix, it’s available there.) :)

Wear

Ok, Y’ALL.

LOOK.

earring selfie final
I. WORE. EARRINGS.

And now I’ll stop with the capital letters. πŸ˜‰ I’m just really stinkin’ proud of myself for finally wearing them. I’m sorta lovin’ them, too.

And so, of course, I took a selfie. The big, dangly ones seem to be winning out right now, and these are definitely my favorite. My hubby bought them for me the weekend we went away to Galena, and I adore them, and I actually don’t think they take over my head.

So if they do, don’t tell me. πŸ˜‰

I seem to be in love with dresses right now, too. I have no idea…NONE…what has happened to this girl with a twinge of rebel in her, this girl who scoffed at dresses for over a decade following Bible college. Apparently they got cute…and maybe I grew up a little, too. πŸ˜‰ (And Target has a buy one, get one 50% off sale this week. That’s not really doing me any favors…)

Listen

This is always a hard one for me. So I’ll tell you a story instead. :)

Our due date was the 14th, and I knew it would be a really tough day. Because as much as we mamas know that a due date is really only a ballpark number, it was etched on my heart for months. I didn’t want to be all boo-hoo over it, but it was a really emotional week…one when I didn’t know what I needed but I’m thankful God did.

And then a friend just asked, Hey, what are you doing on Saturday?

And it meant the world that she just wanted to spend some time together. We ended up grabbing a coffee and wandering Goodwill (which is one of our favorite things to do) and mostly just talking…

and it was so, SO good for my heart.

It was also a reminder that sometimes we just need to take the time to listen and love and be. She’s in such a busy season of life, and she still took that time for a friend.

I’m so grateful for friendship and for a Father Who meets us where we are. Even when we feel lost.

And while that may not have been quite what the word Listen is intended for, it’s where I went with it today. Plus, time with a dear friend is always my favorite and it should make the list somehow. :)

I’m also missing the sound of the ocean, and that kind of fits under listening, too, doesn’t it? πŸ˜‰ That’s why I chose the photo I did…I love looking at me and Mae in Bali…sigh. The beach.Β The tropics. Honestly, I’ve been pretty homesick for Indonesia lately. I’m a restless girl with nomadic tendencies who has chosen to put roots down…and that makes things tough some days. Loving two places…always missing one.

It’s the life He’s given us, though, and I’m grateful even when I’m homesick.

Anyway…there you go, at least for the month. :)

Lots of favorites…lots more I didn’t share, too.

What are you loving today?

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