A Few of My Favorite Things

I rarely write posts like this.  But.  I am just about 39 weeks pregnant.  And well, there just isn’t much serious, deep, or heavy space in my head and heart.  So.  Just for fun, I thought I share some of my favorite things.  And not one of these brands, stores, artists, writers or organizations have asked me to do this nor am I getting any “kick backs” from any of these products.  These are just things I absolutely love.

Hazelnut Coffee

Every time I grab a mug of hazelnut coffee at Panera, I find myself transported back to a trip my best friend and I took to Texas when I was fifteen.  Her grandma made us hazelnut coffee every morning, and I felt so grown up having a cup of coffee every morning.  Thank you, Panera, for bringing me back to my fifteen year old self every time I drink your hazelnut!

Pretty $2 Composition Books from Pink Light Design

At the speed that I write through a journal, I had to switch to notebooks as journals a long, long time ago.  This past year, I discovered these beautiful composition books that cost about two bucks each and have become my most favorite journal option.  Cheap and beautiful.  Love these.

Anything by Jennie Allen

This is by far my most favorite book that I have read in years.  It came into my hands at a time that I desperately needed not only to re-surrender everything once again to Jesus, but it also came at a time that I was desperate to know that women were writing about more than just being a wife and mom.  This book was the beginning of discovering a whole wave of women who are passionately following Jesus in everything that they are from wife to mom to writer to speaker to artist to friend to counselor to teacher to physician and everything in between.  This book marked a powerful shift in my spiritual life this past year.

Ice Water

Okay.  I know that’s pretty plain.  But seriously.  I cannot seem to get enough ice water this summer.  It is like a momentary vacation every time I drink cold, cold sip of ice water.  This might just be a weird pregnant thing that will quickly pass.  But seriously.  Ice water is amazing!

Phish Food

This has become my other food obsession this summer.  I have been known to run to the gas station down the street at 9 p.m. on multiple occasions to grab a pint of this ice cream.  My love of this item is so extreme that  a good friend got me a gift card to said neighborhood gas station so that I could continue my late night Phish Food runs. 

Ben Howard Pandora Station

You know about Pandora right?  If not, click here.  Okay, now we all know about Pandora.  Do yourself a favor and create a Ben Howard station right now.  So mellow, so melodic, so beautiful.  Some of the most heart-exposing lyrics from the artists who show up on this station.  Just listening to this station puts me in a better mood.

Reef Flip Flops

These are by far the most comfortable flip flops ever.  Every February, I start checking out the flip flop section at Ross, where if I keep my eyes open, I can snag a pair or two for half their cost.  Then I wear them all summer long.  Actually, I wear them as soon as it is reasonably warm enough to wear flip flops and continue to wear them on into the fall.  I love these shoes!

IF: Gathering

I am a total groupie.  I know.  But I seriously love what these ladies are doing.  I have an IF: Table.  I am planning an IF: Pray event.  And am already looking forward to the actually IF: Gathering this coming February.  I know, I know…my obsession with this movement is quite dramatic.  But that’s just it.  This movement is not about being a movement, but about gathering, equipping, and unleashing women to live out their God-given callings right where they are.  Is there anything more amazing than being encouraged to live fully for Jesus right here, right now? 

Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

Could there be anything more helpful to a mom than a show full of helpful ten second songs that equip her preschool-aged kids to process life in a simple way?!?!  Every single one of us in my little family sings these life-coping songs on a regular basis.  Short little tunes like: “Grown-ups come back” and “There’s time for you and baby, too” and “When you feel so mad that you’re gonna roar, take a deep breath and count to four.”  Seriously, thank you creators of Daniel Tiger. 

Okay, your turn.  What are a few of your favorite things?  Please do share.  I can’t wait to read!  You’ll be helping me keep my mind off the fact that I am still waiting for baby! 


Discovering My Highly Sensitive Child

Only just recently, years into parenting a child that could be deemed “highly sensitive,” have I discovered the book that for the first time made me feel understood.  I had thought that my years working with children of all ages, stages and difficulties…plus my degree in education had me set me up for mothering just about any child.  I was wrong.  I quickly learned that the child I was entrusted with was beyond my degree and experience…this was only the beginning of revolutionizing what kind of mom I have become. 

After he was born, I found myself at a loss to figure out all that seemed to be so hard for him.  Sleep.  Eating.  Extreme separation anxiety.  Extreme stranger anxiety.  Noise.  Lights.  Crowds.  Busy-ness.  Changes…even small changes.  All of it seemed more than he could handle.  My other “mom friends” would comment about how they just “knew” what to do for their babies or about how soon their babies slept through the night or feelings of motherhood that were foreign to my experience.   I felt like a failure as a mom. 

Trying to explain what I didn’t even understand to family and friends was nearly impossible.  People kept telling me he’d “grow out of it.”  Other well-meaning people offered input and advice, suggesting how I could “fix” my kid’s struggles and resolve his issues.  New well-meaning people continue to offer input without knowing the whole story…the years of prayer and how I have spent my heart everyday to learn my kid.

Sometimes I just want to tell them…

you.  have.  no.  idea. 

We spent years not sleeping through the night.  Sometimes we still don’t.  For a long time, even the slightest shift in bedtime would throw our little guy’s sleeping off for weeks.  He hasn’t worn jeans in over a year because the material is just not soft enough.  Tags in clothing need to be cut out.  Regular rhythms are vital.  Even common environments can be too overwhelming for him.  And pulling him out of a specific plan he has created in his mind can be like re-routing the Amazon River.  These are just a few of the things I have learned over the years.   Things that I can’t explain to every person we come into contact with. 

Of course, there have been the trusted few who love me and my son and our whole family no matter what struggles we face.  To these I have opened myself up and have asked for help, input, and advice.  My husband and I have a continual conversation going about what we see, what we’re learning, and where to go next in regard to parenting.  There have been moments of consulting even professional sources for input. 

Only when I picked up Dr. Aron’s book The Highly Sensitive Child did I feel fully understood.  I cried through the first couple chapters.  Someone knew.  Someone knew about my kid.  Someone knew about my experience. I cried tears of relief, too, because so much of what she suggested, we have already put into effect in our family…even as unconventional as some of these strategies might be.  It was so affirming. I felt like someone was patting me on the back and telling me that I had been doing a good job “reading” my son and responding to his specific needs.  Dr. Aron suggests that rather than looking at sensitivity primarily as a “struggle,” sensitivity could be seen as a “gift”…a gift that when moderated well can actually benefit others and the world around us. 

As I read, I also discovered that I, too, could be classified as a “highly sensitive” person.  This discovery shed a whole other layer of understanding on my life.  I had a whole new lens through which to see so many of my stories and experiences.  This new understanding gave increased insight as to why I perceive, act, and respond the way I do in life.  It also gave me new tools to process and handle life.

This book has unlocked a newfound sense of understanding and insight in my heart.  About my son.  About being his mom.  About myself.  And where to go from here.

If you even slightly suspect you may have a “sensitive child” or if you feel that you yourself might even be considered a little more sensitive than the norm, I highly recommend going out and grabbing a copy of one of Dr. Aron’s books.  It could be one of the best reads of your life. 

Click here for a link to the book The Highly Sensitive Child.

Click here for a link to the book The Highly Sensitive Person.

As an additional resource, I found the article, “Survival Guide for the Highly Sensitive Parent” helpful for me as I learn how to navigate the world of busy, loud, energetic little boys as a highly sensitive mama (click here to read that article).  


Ice Bucket Challenge: An Alternative Approach

Ice bucket challenge accepted, alternative giving choice pursued.

The same day I was tagged for an ice bucket challenge, I saw this article (click here) on a friend’s newsfeed about concerns with possible embryonic stem cell research being done in the future from donations received.  The ethical issues attached to embryonic stem cell research are outlined in the article.


Because I am not totally comfortable with the possibility of my donation being used in future embryonic stem cell research, but still definitely want to run with spirit of fun and generosity of this challenge, I semi-accept the ice bucket challenge. 

I am all for ice water being dumped on my head, especially since I’m nine months pregnant in August in the Midwest…so, bring on the ice…bring on all the ice.

And I will give to a charity that I not only believe in but also want to promote: IJM.

International Justice Mission (click here) is a dynamic organization working to fight injustice worldwide.  IJM works with local authorities to free, rescue, and restore.  A large part of their work is freeing those in slavery, sex trafficking, and captivity.   I love what they do!

Here it goes:



When It's Time to Quit

One of the most profound conversations of my life happened with my sister at a coffee house on the corner of Kietzke and S. Virigina.  I was twenty-two and was working at a church at that time.  Full-time ministry.  My dream.  The only problem was that I felt like I had lost connection with God…and I really didn’t really love the people I was ministering to.  As I shared all this with my sister, I revealed a question I had barely let myself entertain: should I quit my job?  It seemed contradictory to quit “ministry” so that I could be close to God, yet it felt like my ministry was standing in the way of my knowing God.

My sister said words that I have lived by since that day: nothing matters more than knowing God.  She went on to emphasize that if my job was getting in the way of knowing God (even if it was a “ministry” job) that I needed to quit my job.  She said it with such matter-of-fact confidence.  It was just so clear to her.  And became so clear to me. 

And I have never once regretted the shift my life took after quitting my ministry job.

Now, ten years later, a similar shift is happening all over again.  Val and I are about to step into a very unconventional year.  A year to re-center on Jesus.  To re-order our life's priorities. 

Starting in October, Val will step away from his faculty position at the Christian residency where he has been working and will simply work a part-time hospital position.  We also will be taking a year off from any “official” ministry.  That means no retreats, no leading, no conferences, no speaking for at least the next year.* 

When I describe to my friends our reason for doing this, I explain that both Val and I are exhausted, burnt-out, and fried.  I explain that we are living the professional and ministry life of “fifty year olds,” but are doing so while also living in the young family reality of our thirties.  We just can’t be in both right now.  It is literally sucking the life out of us to try to do both.  We are both also longing for more of God.  To really know Him and be with Him.

There is a necessary re-ordering of our priorities in front of us.  We need to re-organize our outputs.  The last five years since we got married, we’ve just been piling more and more and more onto our life.  Val was already a faculty member at the residency program when we got married.  His job not only included practicing medicine, but also training residents in medicine, discipleship, and ministry.  Nine months after we got married we added our first baby to our family.  We added another baby.  Both of our extended families underwent drastic changes and shifts, which engaged our hearts and emotions in ways we never expected. Val began speaking more.  I published a book.  We started leading more in ministry.  We had a miscarriage.  Retreats started stacking up on our life.  Another pregnancy.  More.  More.  More.

This is where we’ve found ourselves as we’ve come to this major life decision of stepping back from the “more.”  We’ve got to wipe the slate clean and start over.  We’ve got to have Jesus at the center.  From there, we can begin to invest in all the rest of life: marriage, parenting, our little family, our extended family, and whatever else God reveals.  We just cannot keep on running along a proverbial hamster wheel, but must evaluate where and how our energies our being invested. We cannot strive to gain great things while missing our very souls.** 

In a recent blog post, Ann Voskamp described how plucking off the blooms from the first strawberry harvest would lead to much more bountiful strawberry harvests in the future.  So, she sacrificed the entire first harvest for much richer and larger harvests in the future.  More strawberries.  Better strawberries.  Just from pinching off that first round of flowers.  No strawberries at first to have more and better strawberries later.*** 

This is where Val and I find ourselves right now.  A harvest of flowers blossoming up in front of us, yet knowing that for the fullest and best harvests in the future, we’ve got to pinch off the blossoms.  It seems counter-intuitive to cut back what seems like a good harvest; however, we have vision for a better harvest.  A fuller harvest one day.  So.  We stop.  Break off the current blossoms.  And ask God to make His fullest harvest in us in the future, re-centering on Him and allowing him to reorder our priorities. 

I feel that we must throw off anything that we can that is weighing us down during this season so that we can see and run the race He has ultimately marked out for us.****

* Our hands are still open to the possibility that God may lead both of us to a specific, temporary investment of our gifts at some point in this next year.    

** For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?  Matthew 16:26 (ESV)

*** Click here to read her full post.

**** Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us… Hebrews 12:1 (ESV)