Learn: Spring 2017

Linking up with Emily P. Freeman & others, sharing the silly and sublime of what I’ve learned throughout the past few months of spring.

1. Summer = health

I know it’s not ‘officially’ summer yet, but once finals week and spring commencement are through (and they are!), my schedule slows down drastically and I’m on summer-mode. Once again, I’m reminded that summer me is the best me.

Mental health: Since I have a 12 month academic contract the slower pace enables me to use personal and vacation days without the worry of not being on campus or having to promptly respond to e-mail. I know this is somewhat self-imposed pressure, but I also know I’m not the only one. The lightning of my work load allows me time to run quick errands in the middle of the day, get caught up on back-logged tasks (a lot of academic library reading), and give myself more grace and time to enjoy creative pursuits: home renovations, trying new recipes, casting on lots of new knitting projects, and stocking up on books for pleasure reading.

Physical health: Living in Oklahoma in May is truly the sweet spot; consistent rain keeps everything green, fruits and vegetables are fresh, the humidity is blissfully low so I can enjoy crisp morning walks around the neighborhood, and attending my weekly lunchtime yoga class is a gift to myself for an hour to simply breathe, stretch, and be quiet.

Spiritual health:  Last year I read my first Shauna Niequist book, Cold Tangerines. For Christmas I received her newest offering Present Over Perfect from The Optometrist and waiting until now to read it was such a providential decision. This now sets a summer precedent of cherishing her writing at the best possible time, when my soul is most receptive and uncluttered. On Mother’s Day she spoke at Willow Creek, her home church in Chicago, and her statement of I’m someone who…_____________ helped me rethink the way I give, love, and serve.

2. Faith in practice

Hearing Oklahoma Senator James Lankford give the commencement address during one of our May exercises was a special opportunity. He had several applicable words of wisdom and advice for those departing from our university, one of which was this, “If you have faith, and you live in your faith, walk in your faith.”  This has resounded deeply within me and has served as a good reminder to be proud of who I am as a committed Christian and a person of faith.

 3. I can get by with less.

Recently The Optometrist and I underwent some blood testing, which required a bit of overnight fasting. Leading up to the time of the blood work we were conscious about making diligent menu choices, but even after the blood work was complete and we were cleared to eat again I realized I not only did not want to eat rich/fattening foods, but I wasn’t as immediately hungry as I thought I would be. (This coming from the girl who often gets hangry, is really saying something.) Perhaps my metabolism is thanking me for changing things up a bit?

4. Steadfast love

I recently blogged about my goal of memorizing Psalm 103 this summer and am pleased to report this goal is coming along well! I’ve found the most meaningful and productive moments of memorization come as I am out on my morning walks, carrying around a printed copy of just this Psalm, breathing out this ancient text. “Bless the Lord, O my soul…”

In both versus 4 and 8 David mentions God’s steadfast love and as I continue to read in the book of Psalms, I am now keenly attuned to each instance of this repeated phrase (and it happens a lot!). How thankful I am for God’s abiding, changeless, stubborn, and wholehearted love!

5. Savor, don’t hoard.

I’ve long had a tendency to save something I really enjoy and/or something that doesn’t come around very often: the final cookies in a sleeve of Girl Scout cookies (Samoas, please), and monthly magazines (Magnolia Journal is currently my favorite) are two that namely come to mind.

But my tendency is then to wait too long – the cookies grow stale before I’ve finished them and the new month’s magazine arrives before I’ve sat down to fully read the previous month’s.

So as the summer begins I’m reminded to fully live in the moment, savoring and enjoying the simple things, without guilt of the completion of a task, or worry about what’s to come. It’s been freeing and liberating!

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May Memorization

I’m supremely thankful for the time I invested studying and memorizing scripture from the New Testament books of Hebrews and Matthew (among others) during my teenage years through the Church of the Nazarene Youth Bible Quizzing program.

Since those years I have consistently chosen to keep Bible reading a part of my daily schedule, in some way or form, but haven’t been as diligent about dedicating myself to meditating upon and memorizing specific passages of scripture.

With the start of May, and the spring semester drawing to a close this weekend, it will officially be “summer” in my mind. Last week I, once more, came across Psalm 103 as the passage for the day during my read-the-Bible-in-a-year plan. As I listened to it being narrated through my Bible app, I found myself sighing with peace and thought back to other specific points in time when this same passage also came alive (Hebrews 4:12) to me.

Therefore, I’m endeavoring to memorize the 22 verses of Psalm 103 throughout May, June, and July.  That’s about seven verses a month, where I can read and re-read one a day – totally do-able!

Feel free to share any useful memorization tips & tricks and help hold me accountable, will you?

Psalm 103
English Standard Version (ESV)

Bless the Lord, O My Soul

Of David.

103 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known his ways to Moses,
    his acts to the people of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;[a]
    he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass;
    he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
    and its place knows it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
    and his righteousness to children’s children,
18 to those who keep his covenant
    and remember to do his commandments.
19 The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
    and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his word,
    obeying the voice of his word!
21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,
    his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,
    in all places of his dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Online source: BibleGateway.com

Saving My Life: Spring Edition

As per the phrase by Barbara Brown Taylor, this is a pictorial look at the things saving my life throughout spring.

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Working on my Find Your Fade shawl (now about 85% completed!) at our friends’ during a recent music rehearsal. Their home sits near the Illinois River and is as tranquil as it looks.


A house in our neighborhood usually has their blooming dogwood tree decorated with plastic Easter eggs and this year was no exception. Now that the blooms and Easter have both been celebrated, I still feel myself smiling as I drive past this uplifting tree.


When visiting Seattle a few summers ago, my main souvenir was purchasing this Longchamp purse at the flagship Nordstrom store downtown. The salesman said many ladies in Seattle carry them since they are weather resistant, so loading up my bag with all my earthly possessions I need for the day to carry during the spring rainy season in the Ozarks has been a lifesaver.


After finishing Art of the Pie by Kate McDermott last month, I was inspired to bake a (low sugar) classic apple pie. It had been years since I last baked a pie from scratch, so I was pleased with how well both the crust and filling turned out! And what better time to do so than for Easter Sunday lunch, where we hosted our favorite octogenarian friend for ham, homemade potato casserole, asparagus, and bakery rolls after church.


The line from On the Road Again by Willie Nelson, “The life I love is making music with my friends,” sums up this photo perfectly.  Our church family, namely our praise team family, means the world to The Optometrist and me and it saddens us greatly that one of our dear friends is soon moving away. In light of his forthcoming departure, snapping this photo of our people before a recent Sunday morning late service was a moment I wanted to capture for ever and always.

What are things saving your life this spring?

January Journey

You know, I often think to myself, “Yes! I’ve got it all put together! Watch me go!” and then God gently reminds me, “Wait a minute: you’re not done yet! Remember I’m in control and I want to constantly refine you to make you more like me.”  Oh yeah…

So, January has been quite the month of the Lord refining me, namely working on the way I view myself and the way that I mentally “talk” to myself (come on, we all do it). Having a personality type squarely in the Type A category I am often very task-oriented, detail driven, appreciate competence, and have difficulty giving myself grace when I make a mistake.

As I’m sure I’ve written before, I’m a firm believer that the right book finds you at the right time and right now Self Talk, Soul Talk: What to Say When you You Talk to Yourself by Jennifer Rothschild is the book that has found me. Given to me by my Momma for Christmas (yet picked out when we attended one of Jennifer’s Fresh Grounded Faith conferences in the fall), it’s come at a perfect time to help me replace negative self-talk with positive, truthful self-talk.

Jennifer’s analogy is to picture your internal dialog being organized in a personal “thought closet.” Are these words that are taking up residence kind or self deprecating? She also writes that the hateful words we often call ourselves (stupid, dummy, idiot) are words we would never allow someone else to use to describe or to say about us. That hit home, I tell you.

I feel I work very hard on serving others, but I must remember that if I’m not taking good care of myself mentally, this is eventually going to spill over and impact the well-being of my relationships and my marriage, so taking time to be kind to myself is a healthy investment to myself and others.

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He’s still working on me
To make me what I ought to be.
It took him just a week to make the moon and stars,
The sun and the Earth and Jupiter and Mars.
How loving and patient He must be,
He’s still working on me.
Joel Hemphill

What is the Lord teaching you this first month of the new year?

Becoming a Funeral Food Lady

When you grow up in the church, regardless of congregation size, denomination, or locale, there comes a point when the mantle is placed upon you to be called upon to bring food to the church for a funeral.

Sadly, this week, a dear member of our church choir and a neighbor, was killed in a tragic car accident. Everyone who knew her remains in a state of semi-shock and grief, and yet, in those times, food seems to be the most tangible way of saying “I’m sorry for your loss and we love you.” So this morning, I entered our church kitchen, laden with bags of homemade cookies.

I think back to my grandmother and my mother who have both taken their fair share of covered casserole dishes, fresh garden vegetables, and homemade chewy brownies to the church kitchen, where a grieving family awaits after goodbyes have been said and emptiness remains.

When grieving families are struggling to know how they will find strength to make it through the coming days, having a team of church ladies (and some men) to graciously set out and serve food, wrap up left-overs, take out the trash, wash dirty dishes and return them clean, is such a gift.

With all of my grandparents now worshiping at the feet of Jesus, I know how much it meant for food to be laid out on a table where all we had to do was select a piece of fried chicken, gather a helping of potatoes onto our plate, and sit down with family to share memories of our loved one. It took away the guess-work, the stress, and the pressure of managing such details ourselves.

Dear reader, if you or your loved ones are experiencing a time of loss, I pray Jesus, the Bread of Life, will sustain you in the days ahead, and that you also have a loving group of church ladies to draw alongside you and place before you a comforting meal to nourish your tired body and weary soul.

The God Who Sees Me

The first weekend in November, my momma, my aunt, and I joined a host women as we worshiped and were taught during the Fresh Grounded Faith conference in Springfield, MO. It was a sweet time of encouragement, laughter, and spiritual renewal.

The theme was Unshaken and each of the speakers, Jennifer Rothschild, Margaret Feinberg, and Karen Abercrombie shared insight into their personal struggles, all the while trusting the promise that “Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 62:6). Specifically Jennifer, who is blind, shared that she has made the choice not to fear. She said she just doesn’t do fear.

Never has a theme from God’s Word been more timely, because of all that happened last week…

The election results troubled my soul and made me very anxious.

And then I received word that my dad’s cancer had returned.

During our weekly church choir rehearsal Wednesday night, I shared this diagnosis with our people, many of whom have personally walked or are walking with someone who has cancer, so they know how this news takes the wind out of your sails.

Upon arriving to work on Thursday morning, this note and beautiful leaf were propped against the door to my office. Such a heartfelt, gracious, and intentional gesture from a sweet sister in Jesus who heard the news and took time to reach out to me.

The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him ~ Nahum 1:7 (NIV).

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Then a little while later, we had our library-wide Thanksgiving luncheon and in the time it took me to establish my seat and then return with my plate of food, one of my colleagues jotted a little note on the paper table cloth aimed my direction, “We are thankful for you!” He didn’t know who was sitting there, but chose to just leave a little note of encouragement.

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Tears sprang to my eyes as I felt the Holy Spirit saying to me, “I see your frustration and hurt. I see you.

When Hagar was on the run from Abram and Sarai in Genesis 16, the angel of the Lord spoke to her and “she gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me’” (Genesis 16:13, NIV).

In her despair, I doubt she was expecting to hear a word from the Lord’s messenger, just as I was not expecting to have two back-to-back moments of encouragement. Yet, the overwhelming assurance of peace came over my soul as I realized once more, God sees me.

With so much uncertainty still ahead, I choose not to fear, I cling to unshakable character of God, I continue to thank Him for seeing me, and remember the example of Father Tim in the beloved Mitford series, as I pray the prayer that never fails, Thy will be done.

Ash Wednesday thoughts

It’s difficult for my body and mind to reconcile that today is actually Ash Wednesday. It’s only been 48 days since Christmas and I don’t feel like I’ve had adequate time to nest and fully relish winter since it has been so uncharacteristically warm where I live. We’ve had no snow, the average lows have been just below freezing during the overnight hours, and the days have been warm and windy. I’m a fan of living in the part of the country where I get to experience all four seasons and this year it’s only been closer to three & a half.

Nevertheless, today is a reminder that the seasons do change and spring will come again …even if it’s already gotten a head start. And with the passing of seasons comes the passing of time, which hopefully indicates growth and maturity in my walk with Jesus.

For many years Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter, has been a season in my spiritual life where I’ve sought to draw closer to the Lord through a change in my routine. An abstention of something or a time to make a conscious choice to alter what is normal or passive in my life, all for the sake of remembering Christ’s death and ultimate sacrifice for my sins.

I’ve already seen progress with a few areas of my life where I’ve been deliberate in changing physical or spiritual habits over the past few months or years, which has given me no small sense of victory and fearlessness. So this year for Lent, I’m going to keep it simple – focusing on that which is routinely nourishing to my body and spirit: food and music.

Food – since I’m chief-menu-maker in our home, it’s sometimes easy to say “nah” to leftovers we’ve already fixed and be passive in the decision to just eat out, rather than eat the food we bought that’s awaiting preparation in our fridge, freezer, or cabinets. Therefore, I would like to eat more meals in, rather than out. I hope this purposeful time commitment will allow us to focus on God’s gifts of our home, our marriage, and leave room for the Holy Spirit to descend on us and any guests that join us in placing their feet under our table.

Music – our home is filled with many instruments: a saxophone, a trumpet, a guitar, two mandolins, a mandola, a ukulele, and a piano – all of which are played by The Optometrist and/or myself. He’s currently enrolled in online mandolin lessons, but I don’t have a dedicated teacher or practice routine for any of my areas of musical study. God has given us both musical gifts, which was the catalyst in bringing us together. Therefore, I would like to revisit my musical training to play, practice, or pick up one instrument a few minutes each day and offer this somewhat dormant gift as an act of worship.

There is always something wonderful and surprising around the corner on earth and beyond. That is the sacrificial truth of Lent, the music that builds to the miracle of the Resurrection.” ~ Max Lucado via Guideposts