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: 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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1.) Literally taking time to stop and smell the roses.

2.) Neighborhood honeysuckle fragrantly in bloom.

3.) A cool morning walk.

4.) The privilege of having both my parents alive, still married, and them singing Happy Birthday to me over the phone.

5.) New summer reading lists.

6.) My soul awakening with the Psalms.

7.) Shiny silver hoop earrings.

8.) Re-watching a favorite, classic Disney movie on Netflix.

9.) Casting on a new hat.

10.) Baths with relaxing bath salts.

11.) Caring for the health of my fingernails.

12.) Eating the best hummus in town.

13.) Sharing a healthy smoothie with my husband.

14.) Running into dear friends downtown.

15.) Having our University president tell me “Happy birthday! How does it feel to be 24?”

16.) An inspiring podcast.

17.) The availability of taking a personal day from work.

18.) Restorative afternoon naps with Sylvester curled up by my legs.

19.) Sweet texts from dear friends out of state.

20.) Thoughtful cards from family and friends across the miles.

21.) Sherlock mysteries.

22.) Homemade birthday sushi made for me by my husband.

23.) La La Land piano score with hints of Debussy.

24.) Fancy, Signature Needles engraved with my name.

25.) An unexpected children’s book about knitting.

26.) Anticipating a care package from my BFF.

27.) New-to-me poetry.

28.) Adventuring through Middle Earth for the first time.

29.) Keeping score at a minor league baseball game, a.k.a. the most fun I’ve gotten out of $1.00 in a long time.

30.) Joyful, colorful, loud fireworks.

31.) Walking through well manicured gardens reminiscent of Narnia.

32.) Thoughtful and loving in-laws.

33.) A playful cat before nighttime snuggles.

34.) Clean drinking water that flows out of the faucet.

35.) Being good to my body & my body being good to me in return.

36.) The quietude of home and the peacefulness of bedtime.

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?

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.

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“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)

Things that are saving my life right now

Linking up with Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy and others to share things that are saving my life right now, with today being the official half-way point of winter.

  1. A Soft Murmur

    The lodge where we stayed on our honeymoon 4 1/2 years ago included a noise machine that I loved. We looked into buying one, but boy are they expensive! Therefore, when The Optometrist found this website (and there are very similar apps for mobile devices), I remembered how much I loved the soothing sounds of rain/white noise. This site is bookmarked on my library computer where I often run this app for hours each day to calm myself and mute noise from outside my office.

  2. Waking up with intention

    Through a knitting podcast and a conversation in Sunday School a few weeks ago I’ve become more diligent about awaking, establishing routine (checking weather, blogs, news, e-mail), reading my Bible, and determining my focus for the day. This has allowed me to feel like the day begins with purpose and to be aware of how my attitude impacts the day’s trajectory.

  3. Consistent, hassle-free breakfasts

    When poking around Pinterest early one morning searching for low-sugar breakfast options, I discovered two recipes I’ve come to rely on almost daily:
    Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Breakfast Shake
    I cut the recipe in half and still have enough to share with The Optometrist.
    Using coconut extract is also a yummy alternative to vanilla extract.

    Skinny Peanut Butter, Chocolate, and Banana Muffins
    I double the recipe, sometimes use dates instead of brown sugar, and always use Hershey’s sugar free chocolate chips.

    We’ve found this combination of food sticks with both of us until lunch time really well. But needless to say we go through a lot of peanut butter and bananas in our house fairly rapidly…

  4. Water Rower

    Our Christmas present to ourselves this year was a water rower, which has been a fairly consistent way of exercising indoors during the winter. I still love a good walk around the neighborhood, but with darker morning and afternoon hours, this helps fill in the winter exercise gaps.

  5. Bath time

    During a recent trip to Walmart I discovered Tree Hut coconut and lime Epsom salts (also available on Amazon). On cold winter mornings a warm bath and the smells of the tropics (or at least warmer temperatures) is a relaxing and optimistic way to begin my day!

Looking back to my 2016 list of things that were saving my life, this year’s list is much more specific, but no less meaningful to my journey at this point in time.

 

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?