Saving My Life: Beginning of Fall Edition

As per the phrase by Barbara Brown Taylor, this is a look at the things saving my life as fall begins.

  1. Bath & Body Works Spiced Apple Bourbon hand soap with pumpkin butter

    During my last trip to Bath & Body Works, I discovered they didn’t have the Leaves scent in this year’s fall soaps, which is my all time favorite. I was so disappointed I didn’t take the time to try anything else new this season, but when a dear friend gave us this as a thank-you gift, I was excited to realize it is very reminiscent of Leaves. Washing my hands at the kitchen sink has been an extra special treat, thanks to this year’s new release!

    bbw

  2. Cross stitch

    Since mid-August I’ve been experiencing some consistent joint stiffness and occasional twinges of pain in my left pinkie finger. When you look at the sheer number of items I knit in July, it’s no wonder my joints and hands have needed a break! And while I know it’s in my body’s best interest to give my hands time to rest, it’s been so difficult to not reach for my needles and yarn (or sit down at my piano) during this stressful back-to-school time. But I’ve had to go through seasons of vocal rest in the past and have seen God bring about healing in His time, so I am making a concerted effort to trust His faithfulness once more.

    With this in mind, my patient mother-in-law recently gave me a refresher tutorial on how to cross-stitch. As a young girl I loved printed cross-stitch, but was always intimidated by counted cross-stitch. A few years ago I picked up this beginning kit from Cecilia’s Samplers in Branson, MO, determined to learn, so she showed me a few things, but after our visit I promptly went back to knitting. Now that I’m on the knitting DL, I figured this was the perfect time to devote my creative energies to a new craft, while not putting as much strain on my fingers. It’s been a fun, puzzle-like adventure to see take shape, X by X.

    This is “Simplicity” by Little House Needleworks.

  3. Adult coloring books

    As a child I wasn’t a huge fan of coloring. I loved activity books with word searches and dot-to-dot pictures, but the lack of precision of crayons was always frustrating to my small hands. Fast forward about 30 years and now that adult coloring books and colored pencils have arrived on the scene, this has been another way for me to decompress at the end of a long day. This is Enchanted Forest by Johanna Basford, a past Christmas present from The Optometrist.

  4. Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan on Audible

    While coloring, I have frequently set my phone nearby and listened to this spectacularly performed (not just narrated) middle-grade story that spans continents and time frames, all connected to themes of hope and the power of music.

    It was highly reviewed by Sarah Mackenzie of Read Aloud Revival and it has lived up to her recommendation! Not only so, but it’s one of the best children’s books I’ve ever read and so far my favorite overall book of 2017.

    echo-cover

  5. NCIS 

    And when my brain has needed a vacation, it has often found itself escaping via Netflix to NCIS headquarters to hang out with Gibbs, Ziva, McGee, Abby, and company. The Optometrist and I are currently working our way through Season 10 and I realized the other day, the reason I watch isn’t for the mystery or murders they solve, it’s for the character development between cast members. (I consider them make-believe friends.)NCIS


What things are saving your life as fall finally arrives?

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Learn: Summer 2017

Linking up with Emily P. Freeman and others, sharing the silly and sublime of what I’ve learned throughout this summer.

1. Vacations shouldn’t be divided in order to conquer

The Optometrist and I do a great deal of “dividing and conquering” in life: taking turns fixing meals, tackling different parts of the store as we grocery shop, and handling different household responsibilities and chores. But the decision to travel with each other to his optometry conference in St. Louis and my knitting retreat in Nashville did not ever allow us to feel like we truly took a “vacation” together. While this was just the way it worked out this summer, in the future I think we’ll be more diligent about planning a trip where neither of us is required to be somewhere else for hours each day and then trying to fit in time to explore together.

2. Amazon donation program

Recently one of my dear colleagues and friends shared how you can re-use your Amazon boxes, fill them with items you wish to donate, and mail them away for free! We haven’t tried this yet, but have a couple of Amazon boxes (after cleaning out some cat hair) that could definitely be used to benefit a good will effort.

3. James 4:8 in Practice

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8a – ESV)

Over the summer I continued with my daily Bible reading (current focus is to finish the Old Testament rather than the whole Bible this year) along with Margaret Feinberg‘s Overcomer Bible study of Philippians. Utilizing the color method, I was able to creatively study and analyze names, verbs, repeated phrases, etc. in Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, was guided with application principles of what I learned, and also participated in a weekly Facebook Live video series (free and still open to everyone!).

The more I’ve been in scripture, the more grounded and peaceful I’ve been and the more I’ve been aware of my need to check in with God throughout the day. It’s been a very sweet spiritual practice.

4. Put down your phone and read

Sarah Mackenzie of Read Aloud Revival, posted on Instagram several months ago saying, “I’ve been surprised by how much time I’ve had for reading since I’ve committed to picking up a book (rather than my phone) when I have a few minutes throughout the day.”

I’ve taken her advice to heart (not every time, but making a more concerted effort) to said no to the sleek white baby and yes to the old fashioned monograph awaiting my attention.

5. Have a giant stack of books ready to read

With that in mind, in June and July I read several books from the Modern Mrs. Darcy Summer Reading Guide, all of which I requested either from our public library or my academic library’s InterLibrary Loan service.  As always seems to be the case, they all started arriving about the same time, which created piles of books around the house. (a.k.a. the best problem to have)

My trick for not feeling overwhelmed by all the books at my disposal was to write on my calendar the date it was due to give myself a visual cue on how much time was left before it needed to be returned, then alternated the types of stories I read to shift my mental focus – ex. a murder mystery followed by a light-hearted YA novel.

My final selection I chose from the MMD list, The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson, is one I started today and am loving it already!

6. When needing a reading break, have a solid queue of other media ready

Visual media – I tell you what, The Optometrist buying us a Google Chromecast has changed the way we “watch television” (Internet streaming since we don’t have cable). Our BluRay player had been our portal for streaming YouTube and Netflix, but when it no longer supported YouTube (even when it did work you had to still type out your search, one letter at a time) and was consistently cantankerous in connecting with Netflix, he ordered a Chromecast and voila, we’re now able to use our phones (both his Android and my iPhone) to “talk” to the device, immediately relaying what’s on your phone to the TV.

And our summer streaming pick from Netflix? Broadchurch. 

Audio media – I’ve been a podcast listener for over a decade, but discovering some new ones, or really good episodes of shows I’ve long appreciated, have been great ways to be informed, inspired, or entertained. Using the podcast app on my iPhone I rotate what the I’m listening to (like the order of books I choose to read) and use the “Up Next” feature to create a playlist so after one podcast is through, a different one will immediately follow.

Podcasts saving my life this summer:

Shauna Niequist

Making Oprah

Fresh Air

Up First

And after hearing rave reviews about the Audible version of Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan, I bought it on sale, and am LOVING this middle-grade WWII novel about hope, kindness, and the power of music; all things I love, but in tandem? Perfection.


What things have been saving your life this summer?

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!

Scheduling My Life in Pencil


During college, throughout graduate school, and now working as a professional librarian, I love using a paper planner to organize my life. (I did use a PDA 10+ years ago, provided by the college where I worked at the time.) A print calendar with hourly listings throughout the days of the week is visually helpful, allowing me to look to see how my day will map out – whether it’s the following week or six months down the road.

I’ve used the August to August planner for years, also tried one from Levenger, and currently have a monstrously heavy one from Erin Condren (it’s super cute, but didn’t realize how large and heavy it would be to lug with me to work five days a week).

In organizing individual events, in years past I’ve used different colored pens to signify different responsibilities: work (black), personal (blue), my husband’s schedule (red), and church music responsibilities (green) – just to name a few – thanks to a pack of multi-colored Bic pens.

But last fall, as I began adding events into my 2016-2017 planner, I was a little hesitant to use the same color-coded process once more, so I decided to use pencil for everything instead, just until I decided what I wanted to do. And seven months later, I’m still writing down every event in pencil.

I’ve found using an eraser is far more practical than having to get out the wite-out pen for the rescheduling of meetings, fluctuating numbers of students attending library research sessions, changes in event locations – you understand.

And while this has been my routine for months and months now, the calendar open before me for hours each day on my desk, and just recently did it occur to me that this practice of writing out my life in pencil has deeper connotations.

How I invest my time speaks to my priorities.

I have no control over the passing of time, so make it count.

Don’t miss your moment.

Looking back to various days, I observe my pencil markings that are indicative of inner dialog like:
Oh, good grief, I didn’t get hardly anything accomplished today.
Well, that was good enough for today. It’ll still be waiting for me tomorrow.
I have enough time to look ahead to next week’s task and be proactive in getting that done.
Wow – that was a really great day where everything came together so well!

And as I glance back through events over the past two months or so, there have been moments I have seen parallels to how time = service or how blank spaces = rest.

~ Spending a Sunday evening at the nursing home to sing quartet music for a friend whose heart is struggling to keep beating.

~ Heading home a bit early to prepare food in hosting a friend for dinner.

~ Taking a few minutes to be intentional and send a quick thinking-of-you text, or a few more minutes to hand write a note of encouragement to a friend.

~ The Optometrist and I having an open evening and saying an easy “yes” when friends invited us over to play cards on a school night.

~ When nothing is planned for the evening, we we can cook dinner together, play music together, or simply “nest” in our bedroom with a good book and knitting (me)/playing a new video game (The Optometrist).

While it’s a continual balancing act, my aim is to continue doing my part to plan and be prepared for what’s to come, serve others and take care of myself, all the while looking to the future with optimism and openness.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“I will open my hands, will open my heart
I will open my hands, will open my heart
I am nodding my head an emphatic yes
To all that you have for me.”
Open My Hands ~ Sara Groves

“I will hold loosely to things that are fleeting
And hold on to Jesus, I will hold on to Jesus for life”
Hold on to Jesus ~ Steven Curtis Chapman

“What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” ~ James 4:14 (NIV)

“The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” ~ Isaiah 40:8 (NASB)

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.

selftalksoultalk

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?

What I’ve Learned: Fall 2016

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

  1. A little light makes a big difference!

    I’m a big fan of cozy lighting and The Optometrist has been asking me for a while if I would like a nice piano lamp. I kept hesitating about buying one, but every time I turned on the living room light, I didn’t enjoy the full brightness that surrounded me.

    One recent evening The Optometrist found an unused desk light, which I’ve had since college. He placed it on top of my piano, and voila, cozy light by which to see piano music in the evening! (I’m loving my simple Christmas decorations: stack of favorite Christmas books, Father Christmas, Believe sign, and selection of Christmas sheet music/books.)


    Yes, there are much fancier, more expensive, LED models out there, which I might want to purchase someday, but with just this little helper I find myself sitting down to play a lot more often, and thus, wanting to keep my skills honed.

  2. Progress takes time.

    This semester my load of teaching library research and other classes is significantly lighter than last fall, but I’ve found myself appointed to two library committees, two University-wide committees, plus two more University-wide subcommittees. Several of the committees have been tasked with making new, sweeping, and impactful choices that will directly shape students’ curriculum choices next academic year. The VP who oversees many of these committees wisely selected the members, impressively so. Yet, even with a team of qualified faculty members, I’ve been reminded that big changes with deadlines still need the appropriate amount of time for the right conversations to take place, history to be evaluated, which then leads to the right decision being made with confidence by those invested and involved.

  3. Up front communication is good for the soul.

    I’m convinced that Satan wants nothing more than to plant seeds of doubt and insecurity in the hearts of believers who encounter perceived slights by other believers in the church.

    One such occurrence came my way this fall and my assumptions flew all around my soul. …Have I done something to upset this person?  …Is this because I’ve not been there every time?  …Does this person think I’m not reliable to step up and lead in the future?

    Realizing that a text or phone call wouldn’t come across appropriately, a face-to-face conversation lasting approximately one minute allowed me to ask, “I was wondering, have I done something wrong? Because last time…” quickly assuaged my doubts, soothed my worries, and set me back in place to keep serving with a cheerful spirit. (Take that, Satan.)

  4. There’s room at the table for everyone.

    From the previous lesson learned, I had to swallow a mouthful of pride and let someone else take a turn in the spotlight.
    compare-sn

  5. Alabaster offering

    Journeying through the New Testament Gospels, I had never realized until recently that Mary, the brother of Lazarus, was the same one who anointed Jesus with alabaster oil, wiping his feet with her hair (John 12).

  6. Gryffindor

    I’ve often wondered in which Harry Potter house I would live, so after three random online quizzes, plus the official one from Pottermore, all said the same thing:
    gryffindor
    Oh to live up to the characteristics of being brave, courageous, chivalrous, daring, and bold!

Just another day…well, yes & no

As an academic librarian I have a 12-month contract, so while today is just another Monday reporting to the university, it’s also the first day of the fall semester.

Thinking back on previous first days of school, I’m reminded that today marks my seventh first day of school working in my current library, and if you count the three years I worked at a community college (pre-grad school), this totals a decade of first days of school working in higher education. I’ve got to say, I’m pretty proud of that!

Last year our Provost shared with the incoming freshmen how, regardless of their chosen major and future career aspirations, they would more than likely be working in a profession that served others. These words of wisdom have stuck with me, helping me realize this broader goal of serving others as an extension of my life-service to Christ is what motivates me to keep-on-keepin’-on. Seven years in, I’m thankful I remain excited to partner with faculty and learn alongside them, plus connect with their students as I teach them effective and transferable research skills. Even though I continue to do the same thing year in and year out, new professional and personal opportunities continually arise and keep me feeling vibrant and fresh.

It’s also good for me to remember today marks a milestone in the lives of many freshmen stepping foot on campus. Their first day of college signifies something more than just “it’s what I do after I graduate from high school,” since many come from very rural areas and are first generation college students. The pursuit of a college degree changes not only their lives, but alters the course of history for those generations to follow. How humbling that I get to play a small role in their academic journey and eventual achievement.

Today also marks the first day of school for our nephew who begins 1st grade! Our favorite little strawberry-blond boy is excited about this new year of school and his new teacher. He enters 1st grade reading like a champ (!!!) and we are all excited for the good things in store for him this year.

So regardless of age, here’s to a renewed commitment of serving, growing, and learning!