daily rhythms

Monday: I roll out of bed exhausted when I hear the big girls tromping down the hall at 9:05. Shoot. They’re up. They hassle me about oatmeal and milk. All I can think about is coffee. But I’m the mom, so I get their breakfasts, then play whack-a-mole with their needs and mine for an hour. I forgot to take meds, so I go back to my bathroom to do that, but while I head back there, a fight breaks out over who gets to use the stool, so I turn back around to take care of that, then get my medicine, make one side of the bed, head back to the kitchen because they’ve gotten noisy, etc… for an hour. Then I realize that the little two are still in bed. It’s ten, and nobody’s yelling, but they’re both chattering. Brian’s yelling, “MAMA! I! WANT! TO! GET! UP!” over and over with the occasional, “I! POOPED! IN! MY! DIAPER!” thrown in for variety. So I get him up. Then Lilly. Diapers are changed. More oatmeal is made, milks poured, fights mediated, crises averted, and mischief managed. It’s fine, but it’s now quarter to eleven, and I realize that my body is on overdrive. I haven’t even looked at my calendar. Was I supposed to do something? Maybe??? Oh! Yeah. I’m meeting a friend in… FIFTEEN MINUTES?!? Fine. Okay. Everyone in the car! NOW! No, Jenna. I don’t know where your other pretty shoe is. Get your boots. It’s fine. We need socks if we’re playing at McDonalds, everyone go get them. No, Katherine. Go get in the car, stop rawring at your brother. You’re making him cry. Please respect his “no.”

On and on. It was fine. Awesome. We figured it out. But contrast this with the following morning:

Tuesday: I wake up at 8. I’m exhausted like yesterday, but at least I’m up. I brush my teeth and get meds and make the bed on my way out of my room. I get breakfast and scribble out my morning pages (it clears my head), my coffee is consumed and I look over my to-dos and my plans for the day. The girls come out quietly at 8:30 and I send them back until their lights turn green. (Side note- this works for us. They’ve been doing it since they were born- they have these clocks that change colors when it’s “get up” time. People freak out when I say that they stay in their rooms until nine, but I promise, it’s fine.) I chat a little with Andrew, put away last night’s dishes, and switch laundry into the dryer. The girls are up at 9, I point them to the oatmeal sitting in bowls on the counter, ready for water and cooking. They’ve gotten good at this. When they’re about done, I hear the babies. I toss their oatmeal in the microwave and go get them out of their beds and change them. One of them needs a quick rinse-off, but that’s no biggie. I set them both at the table. I feed Lilly and get Brian his milk while the big two play in the living room.

These are actual days of last week.

Which would you rather live through?

I used to have mostly the first kind of day, and once in a while, the second kind would happen, but I had no idea how to repeat it. Now the nicer morning is the norm. It’s not without its share of chaos, but I know how to improve the chances of calm:


There’s a lot of big talk in mom circles about daily rhythms and routines and how to move the kids through the day in a way that supports sanity in the family. I’m still figuring it out… I’m always on the hunt for ways to structure my day, but so far all I have is ways to structure my kidless (or sorta kidless) time. If I miss them, my morning has an 80% chance of ending up like Monday. If I do them, there’s 80% chance of the morning looking more like Tuesday. It’s so worth it to me.

Mornings and nights.

The difference between Monday and Tuesday this week was my evening and morning routine.

My kids’ evening routine is pretty simple: We eat dinner as soon as Andrew gets home around 6:30. By 7, we’re having the big two check their beds. (“[water] Bottles? Buddies? Blankets?”) The three oldest quickly put all the toys away (we don’t keep a lot of toys available because we’re mean, so this isn’t typically a big deal) while the baby either finishes eating or throws away trash. (She’s so good at it!) Then it’s teeth and stories (if there’s time) and prayers in a routine that feels chaotic but only takes 30-60 minutes most nights (plus the repeated “go back to bed” after bathroom trips, etc).

Then my work begins.

I’ve honed my PM checklist over the last few years. In The Checklist Manifesto, Gawande talks about ideal length of lists (short) and what kind of things should be on them. Here’s what I’m down to:

  • Kitchen: I do dishes and counters. If I’ve done dishes at least one other time per day, this may only take ten minutes. Imagine what I could do if I had a DISHWASHER!
  • Dining room table: This is a new addition—I feel better if I wipe it down. So I do. Takes very little time.
  • Tidy: Attack whatever is in the living room/dining room area. It rarely takes long.
  • Start laundry: No, it doesn’t sour overnight. I’ve found that one load a day works really well for me. I don’t always get a load all the way through, but it’s easier to fold and put away three clean loads in a day than it is to push three loads through the whole wash/dry cycle and then put them away.
  • Get breakfast ready: My poor children have instant oats with peanut butter six days a week. They’ll probably survive. But for some reason, it only takes me 90 seconds to get oatmeal in bowls at night, and it takes like twelve minutes to do one at a time in the morning and it makes me crazy. I don’t know why this happens, but if I can save myself headache in the morning by doing 90 seconds at night, I’m going to.
  • Get to bed by 10:30. This has become non-negotiable in recent months. Someday, I’ll talk about all the havoc wreaked by adrenal fatigue, but for today, I will simply tell you that I make bedtime happen. It’s at this point that I listen to the readings from my Bible-in-a-Year plan.


Morning routine, which comes second, because it really is just a continuation of the night routine:

  • Get up by 8. Sometimes I hit the gym with Sarah at 7, but I want to at least be up plenty before the kids come out. This makes a huge difference in the rest of my list.
  • Take meds: I don’t really have words for how important this is for the well-being of me and my entire family. Oh wait. Yes, I sort of do.
  • Make the bed: I don’t know when or why this started mattering to me, but it does, so I do.
  • Switch laundry: remember last night’s load? If I switch it first thing, then I only need to think about it ONE MORE TIME. If putting it in and switching it over are tied to my bedtime and morning routines, I don’t waste my minimally available brain space trying to remember to mess with it. All I have to remember is getting it out of the dryer.
  • Eat breakfast: I can get a quality, protein-rich breakfast in pretty easily, provided I get it going before kids are up.
  • Empty the drain rack.


So that’s it. Of course there are various levels of “done” for each list, and subsequent shades of calm starts. But this doesn’t require getting my little people on board with anything, and (if I do it) we’re set up for a better day. (I do want to get good rhythms of school and chores and quiet time in with the kids, but I’m not there yet.) The rest of the day is kind of a crapshoot, but if we begin well, I’m more able to handle that.

I don’t expect your list to look the same as mine (or even close, necessarily), but I’m curious which things are your non-negotiables. What can you do that makes your whole day simpler? Join the conversation here or on Facebook!


daily resilience tool kit

Hey, all! I’m over at Kindred Mom again. Here’s a portion of what you’ll find there:

It’s 10 am. I’ve been parenting for hours now. There have been wet beds and tantrums, defiance and messes. Breakfast happened with more than the average number of spills, and I’ve found spilled oatmeal more than once with my bare feet. My highly sensitive nervous system is twitching and I’m on the verge of shutting down. At least two of the four children are yelling at all times, and I can’t seem to get us all reeled back in.

Today was supposed to be different. I wanted quiet time, breakfast, and coffee before the kids woke, so I could  step into the morning with a calm, glad heart and the hope that my children would follow my example. But a bad night with several kids coming to my side of the bed in the ungodly dark hours followed by a rough morning of bad behavior (not least of all, my own) has set off a cascade of crap. You know how this goes… interrupted sleep is followed by early morning chaos that cruelly precludes coffee. My nerves are frayed and my responses less than gracious. Their behavior escalates along with mine until all five of us are yelling over each other and I basically hate everything.

I’m always surprised by how the little things throw me. I see my expectations dashed over and over, in a million small ways, and I see how I come undone every. single. time.

It’s not the big things that take me down. I can handle the urgent care trips, weeks spent trying to keep a newborn fed while juggling a household and recovering from birth, severe postpartum anxiety, even a heartbreaking miscarriage. I’ve been through all of these, and for whatever reason, coming back from those was straightforward enough. I’ve been able to dig deep and find what I needed to walk forward, in some cases directly to the support of professionals.

However, when life is just the normal chaos, I freeze. My movements and words become slow and deliberate, as if I’m trying to convince myself and the officer that I have not, in fact, had too much to drink. Internally, there’s a storm of shouting and anger: “Why can’t you just handle it? Why can’t they just obey? Of course she spilled her milk. Of course she did. Why are these people so loud??? You’re the one who decided four babies in a handful of years was a good idea!”…

Read the rest of the post hereI promise it goes somewhere hopeful and potentially useful. 

just like that…

I started my first pregnancy roughly eight years ago. Since then, it’s been a steady cycle of pregnancy to breastfeeding to breastfeeding-while-pregnant to just pregnant to breastfeeding again. Zero breaks. I’ve been directly passing my calories to one or two (or, on and off, when a friend had supply issues, three) babies at a time for eight years.

Until now.

Lilly has been down to one feeding for a couple of months, and the last weeks, she’s been less and less interested. Now she appears to have quit altogether. Suddenly, I have my body back to myself. I can take medicine without mentally checking whether it’ll pass to baby or affect supply. This is exciting. My body is tired and way past ready for a rest. It’s also bittersweet for all the normal reasons: my baby is growing up, entering a new phase, all of that. We don’t, as of now, have plans for more babies. We’re open to changes of mind or surprise “bonus blessings,” but so far we haven’t had any surprises, so this may well be the end.

On the one hand, I want to celebrate… this body, for all our fights, has brought life over and over again. Thousands of feedings. Mental math says it’s actually close to ten thousand at this point. That’s friggin’ amazing. My boobs are badass and deserve a trophy. And, while we’re passing them out, my uterus deserves one, as well. Five pregnancies (one short-lived) is impressive, I’d say. Also? I can drink coffee again, hallelujah and amen.

But also, eight years is a long time. It’s long enough, certainly, to start to shape an identity. I realize right now that I’ve been in the baby season for so long that I’m feeling a little unmoored when I think about releasing it. Who am I, even, without a baby attached, either inside or out?

I know it’s kind of a silly thing to get all morose about. Women have been weaning babies almost as long as they’ve been having them, and it seems like it shouldn’t really justify an existential crisis. But it’s me, and my hormones are out of whack, so existential crisis, here we come!

I don’t have a solid end for this. I’ll keep moving forward. I’ll grieve the loss of this season (and the self I leave behind with it) just a smidge, and do my best to enjoy the next, like I’ve been doing all along.

just wait until the honeymoon wears off…

When we were newly married, we couldn’t get enough of each other’s company. We’d been best friends for ages, but now we actually got to live together, and it was fabulous. We wandered about holding hands and smiling, as newlyweds often do.

Often, more seasoned married couples would take one look and say something patronizing like, “Aw, that’s sweet. Newlyweds are adorable. It’s so fun right now, but wait until the honeymoon wears off…”

My 22-year-old rebellious heart was enraged. “WEARS OFF???” I’d fume internally. “How dare you take this love that we’ve grown into and dismiss it as a phase? Why do you have to tell me that it will wear off? I don’t believe it.”

We are now 35 with a bunch of kids interrupting our sleep. If there was a time for the honeymoon to wear off, surely it’s happened by now.

You know what? They were right. I was wrong. The honeymoon doesn’t last forever.

Nothing maintains its novelty indefinitely. But what they didn’t tell me is this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Years in, we are comfortable with each other in ways we weren’t then, despite our long friendship. We can laugh at things that would have been mortifying back then. I know him and can anticipate what will be helpful. I know which spot on his back always itches and I’ve gotten better at knowing when to move closer and when to give space.

But they were also wrong.

It’s true that novelty (by definition) has to wear off, but the happiness of the honeymoon isn’t really just about novelty. It’s about discovering and enjoying each other and this gift of marriage. And this is ongoing. Andrew and I aren’t the same people we were then. We get to keep discovering and enjoying each other. The marriage is also drastically different than it was… I’m more stable as a human (big sigh of relief) and it’s morphed and grown around our family and our selves.

It isn’t all perfect, but the struggles give depth to the joys. It’s a good gift, this marriage. If I had a chance to talk to newlywed me, I’d tell her:

Just wait. It’s even better than you think.


Today is a writing day. Up to now, 2018 has been largely devoid of words. I looked back a bit at 2017, wrote a few pieces for a community I love, but otherwise, I haven’t had any Deep Thoughts, at least not any ready for public consumption.

But today, for some reason, I have ALL the words. I have a neat little stack of posts lined up for publishing or for writing in my “Drafts” folder.

But first, I want to talk to you a tiny bit about light.

I had thought, going into the year, that “connect” would be the word I focused on. I’ve come to realize that it’s both my highest value and my highest need. But, sitting down on the first of the year, going through my Powersheets and a variety of other goal-setting/journaling materials from around the interwebs, something else materialized.


Similar to Present and Wonder, the word is resonating on a few levels.

Light: Unencumbered.

“…let us throw off everything that hinders…” I am TIRED.

2017 left me weary and burdened. It’s time to let that go.

Oddly, one of the primary ways that’s working itself out is in the physical realm. I’ve written many times and many places about how weight loss is never again going to be a goal for its own sake. Currently, weight loss is for *my* own sake, rather than *its* own. Most nights, I haul wood from the garage, up the stairs, and to the hearth. We happen to burn wood pellet logs as our primary source of heat, and they come in packs of five 4-lb logs. We burn (usually) either three or four 20-lb packs a day. So I heft either 60 or 80 pounds of wood up the stairs every night after the kids go to bed. (Do you think I take more than one trip? No. Obviously not. Do you even know me???) When I get to the top of the stairs and set that business down, I feel MUCH BETTER than I did hauling it up the stairs. I want to feel better, and 60 to 80 lbs is what I need to lose. (That doesn’t even get me in “normal” BMI range, but, as I’ve mentioned before, BMI is a load of crap.) When I’m pregnant and breastfeeding, I’ve learned my body doesn’t release any extra weight regardless of my efforts, and I’ve been in one state, the other, or both for EIGHT YEARS without break. I’m just about at the end of that season, and it’s time to set down the weight. I actually started a side blog to log the daily progress and struggles. (That’s actually probably part of the lack of “real words” here. My 100-word posts there are taking some of my writing energy.) Anyway, if you’re curious about it, you can read more at Going to Health in a Handbasket. My approach is small, incremental lifestyle changes. No weird products. No psychotic workouts. Just tweaking my life for slow and steady health improvement.

Light: Brilliant. Luminous.

I want to bear light to others and see it in people around me. Most of all, I want to focus on the One who called himself the Light.

So I’m back on a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan. I’ve been subsisting for the last year or few on a verse or two a day in my devotional plus the odd gospel or epistle binge. That’s not enough for me to make it through, let alone grow in knowledge and love of Christ. In order to focus on the Light, I need to be immersed in His word. My hope is that like Moses whose face shined after spending time with God, and like Peter and Paul who were unschooled and ordinary (raises hand and waves it wildly), I will bear light both in my actions and words as I spend time listening and talking to Him.

I want to notice light in others. We’re all created in the image of God, and I need to look for that in the people around me. Yes, we’re fallen. Yes, we’re all bent by nature and action toward sin. No one is righteous. But neither is anyone exempt from the Image. In my life, this means looking for it in my children, which means making time for one-on-one time, rather than constantly trying to manage them as a horde. I’m a hard-core introvert, so one-on-one is always better, but most of all, it’s better when it comes to a loud and fighting pile-o-children. (Yes, I had a bunch of kids in a handful of years, and that was all on purpose and perhaps not planned out very well. Whatever. I love them and wouldn’t trade them, so I work with what I have.) I do much better even remembering to look for the fingerprints of God on my kids faces and hearts when we’re interacting as individuals, so I’m making a point of doing that more regularly.

Also, I want to allow my husband to shine light on my life. That’s part of how marriage works and I love it, but also I’m a BIG FAT CHICKEN. So sometimes I hide. For instance, I started the aforementioned daily blog in mid-December and didn’t tell him about it for more than a month because I was scurred. I didn’t know how to talk about it with him without it becoming a discussion on calories (our thoughts on weight loss methods are vastly different) and I was mostly afraid I’d fail, and then he’d know about it. So I hid. And I wrote kind of furtively every night, tilting my screen ever-so-slightly out of his view, and it was stupid. It became a thing. I don’t want to hide from him. He’s a good man and he loves me, and I’m making a point of telling him things. The more nervous I am about it, the more I need to say something. I can’t think of any time in recent years where that’s gone wrong. (The blog was the same—he was as loving and kind as I know him to be, though baffled at my hesitance.)

So… Light. In all the ways, with all the people.

I know we’re like a sixth of the way through 2018, but did you pick a word? What is it?

Tending a Marriage- Kindred Mom post

I was all kinds of agitated. It was one of those “I hate everything” mornings that I couldn’t shake. My husband helpfully suggested a fix: “Why don’t you head outside with the kids?” Ordinarily, time outside, being present with my kids would be the perfect solution. Today, the idea only served to increase frustration.

“NO. I can’t go outside with the kids. It’s well below zero and I don’t OWN snow pants. Do you know why? Because I outgrew them. I’M TOO FAT TO GO PLAY WITH MY CHILDREN.” I burst into tears.

He responded, both baffled and amused, “…do you want snow pants?”

“NO!” I rage-blubbered. “I don’t want to! Because not only am I too fat to go outside with my kids, I’m not a good enough mother to WANT to! I have crap to DO!”

At that, I ugly-cried into his shoulder as he hugged me and chuckled softly. Eventually, I took a nap (regardless of my “crap to DO!”) and the day sort of reset.

Because sometimes, that’s what marriage is about—being honest about my crazy and letting him love me through it, even when he’s not hiding that he knows it’s crazy.

It hasn’t always been this way. Not very long ago, that morning would have gone very differently…. [read more]

what we learned in 2017

Hey! It must be either January or September, because tons of people are taking stock and making plans. I totally hate resolutions because inside I really rebel against arbitrary rules becoming the boss of me. So in order to participate, I am forced to reframe it as “being intentional” so I don’t totally hate myself.

Anyway, the first part of moving forward is paying attention to what the past taught me. I find that if I don’t pay attention to the lessons I learned, God will make sure I figure it out by teaching me again, and BELIEVE ME, I don’t wan’t to relearn a lot of these.

Here’s a look back at what 2017 taught me.

the pros and cons of empathy

I’m an empath. My dad told me when I was in high school that I would be a really good therapist, but it would also probably substantially shorten my life. He’s right. I’m super great at feeling the feels with people, whether I’m trying or not, but I can’t turn it off. It’s both my greatest asset and greatest liability. Early in the year, I learned the outer limits of both, as I used the gift for good, and then kept going way past when it became unhealthy for me.

the limits of my pro-marriage stance

My support of marriage has always been enthusiastic and robust and generally unwavering. There have always been theoretical exceptions (the typical “infidelity and abuse!” escape clauses), but I had never really been close enough to exploding marriages for that to be more than theory. I have friends who talk to me when they’re on the outs with their husbands because I will fight on the side of the marriage, which almost always means helping them find some perspective to see why the husband might have behaved in this way or that. I only just learned to do that for myself very recently, but I have been helping my friends see the ways that their husbands might have kinder intentions than it seems for basically my entire adulthood.

And this is still a big deal to me. But I’ve mentioned that this year has been hard for marriages, and I’ve seen a few come down this year and I’ve learned some from friends who have come out the other side of divorce. I’m seeing more nuance to the “infidelity and abuse” clauses than I have before. Sometimes God restores his child, but allows the marriage to die. Sometimes after the death, by God’s grace, the marriage undergoes rebirth, too. We always hope for that.

I like public speaking

This was a surprise. I did it one time for a women’s event at my church. A single 20-minute talk, just my testimony. No biggie. The entire time I was looking ahead to it and preparing, I kept repeating to myself, “This was a bad plan. I don’t know why they asked me. I suck at this. I hate it. I’m never doing it again. Big fat sack of NOPE.” 

But then I did it. And, while it was exhausting, it was also strangely energizing. Chalk this one up to “you never know until you try.”

traveling with babies got easier

In May, I flew several thousand miles with a 10-month-old and a 2-year-old to visit my baby brother and his family. I made approximately the same length trip with the big two when they were similar ages, and it was the most stressful thing EVER. Trying to keep squirmy little kids from making all the other people crazy was stressful. Trying to navigate airports with them and all the things we’d need was stressful. Having to handle a 3-hour time change and no naps (exactly zero of my children have been airplane sleepers) about killed me.

This time? No biggie. They’ll sleep eventually. I’ll feed them snacks. It’s fine. Just like everything else about having two babies in diapers, this was far easier the second time around. I have honestly never been so calm while traveling with kids. (Notable differences: the toddler was Brian, who is generally more compliant than the big two, and I learned a few years ago—slightly after the aforementioned solo trip with the girls—that, no matter how bulky and annoying car seats are, it’s 100% worth bringing one on the plane to keep the toddler immobile.)

hiring childcare so I can have margin is money well spent

This year, over and over, I’ve heard, “must be nice…” from other mamas. Must be nice that my husband’s job is somewhat flexible. (It is. He works hard and a lot of hours, but the fact that he can do some of that from home is awesome.) Must be nice that I can fly a bestie up when he leaves for a couple of weeks. (Yep. Three cheers for air miles.)

There are a lot of things about my life that are nice. But I misinterpreted the comments as “your life is pretty cushy. There’s no reason you should be tired” and then I internalized the message as “I don’t need or deserve rest.” This is crazy and probably would be a reasonable topic for therapy, but the bottom line is… it’s a lie. My life is as hard as it is. If I’m tired, there’s probably a reason, and shaming myself isn’t really helping.

So we finally did what my husband has been on board with since at least the beginning of 2016 and hired HELP. For three hours a week, I spend cash money for a couple of girls to come watch my kids. My kids adore the twins, and I adore the quiet and I’m a better mom when I have that rest. (Side note- this month, they’re unavailable, and it makes a huge difference. My poor children.) I have space to read or do chores that are hard to do with the little ones. I’m grateful we made it a priority this year.

I can do hard things

I mean, this is obvious, right? I gave birth a whole lotta times. I raise a whole lotta babies. Life is challenging. But this year, I had some new challenges. There was the sudden and traumatic loss of my very first dog… while my husband was away for a couple of weeks. There were hard conversations with all kinds of people that required I follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in a very moment-by-moment way and show up vulnerable and wholehearted and compassionate, regardless of how I was treated in return. I learned (again) that mortality is a THING and my family is not immune. (Still.)

“I trust you to give me what I need.”

This is actually a whole ‘nother post, but this prayer is saving my life right now.

the value of new friends

I’ve lived in the same place for a loooooong time. I’ve gone to the same church for almost two decades. I have friends. I could just kind of hole up in my comfortable introvert space where I have the friends I need and don’t have to talk to anybody else. I have.

This year (by God’s grace alone, because I’m LAZY) was not like that. I’ve connected with women in several different phases of life and with various belief systems, and it’s been beautiful.

Wholeheartedness changed my life.

This was my “word” going into the year, and it felt huge and scary. It WAS huge and scary. And I hope I never go back. I didn’t write about it a whole ton, but it was underneath a lot of my daily decisions (as those words ought to be). It made me do a bunch of awkward things (like initiating hang-outs with people I didn’t know, some of whom became the aforementioned friends, and saying doofus things like “I like you” or “I’m glad you were there tonight, just seeing you calmed be down” to people outside my inner circle).

Bottom line: 2017 was a good year. And it was hard. I’m glad it’s over.

What’d you learn last year?

Growing Compassion for my Body

Today, I get to be over at Kindred Mom, sharing about self-care! Here’s a little taste…

“FINE,” I said, with malice stored up for years, “I guess I don’t completely hate you. Today.”

I kicked the scale back to its place. It remains unclear whether the words were to the scale or my body. The numbers had shown a pound or two lower than I’d seen in a long while. I hit and passed this number on the way up as I was cooking the littlest baby. She’s now a toddler, so it seems I’d be glad to finally see this progress.

It wasn’t enough.

I’ve fought with my body for my entire life. I’ve hated it for most of that. In the last few years, I thought we’d come to an understanding, my body and I. I would no longer punish her with exercise and restrictive eating- they’ve never been effective for me anyway. Instead, I’d be kind. I’d move her in ways that felt good, feed her nourishing food. She would keep schlepping me around, and I’d stop glaring at her.

I had hoped this kindness (or what passed for it, anyway) was something I could hold onto, that I could cross this line away from the self-hatred and abuse and never step backwards over it. Sure, some days I’d be unhappy with my shape- I’d love to feel good in my skin and my clothing, but surely I would never go back to the misery of hating this body and punishing it for my insecurities.

Yet here I was, in my underwear in the bathroom, kicking the scale and cursing my body after (what should be) a victory… (read more)

If you want to read the rest of the article, click here. Thanks for stopping by! If you check out Kindred Mom, poke around a bit. If it resonates with you (like it resonates with me), you might consider joining the facebook community.

ten best reads of 2017

This year has been a huge reading year. Mostly, I had a baby who required HOURS of “putting to bed” for the first several months, and it created a habit (after I realized how many hours a day were spent on my phone). Because there were so many, I looked back over the list to jog my memory, and there were several worth sharing. Enjoy!

(Summaries were swiftly snagged from Amazon and are the property of the respective publishers. Links are also Amazon. I’m not an affiliate, I just want you to be able to easily find them.)



pride and prejudicePride and Prejudice, Jane Austen.  “When Elizabeth Bennet first meets eligible bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcy, she thinks him arrogant and conceited; he is indifferent to her good looks and lively mind. When she later discovers that Darcy has involved himself in the troubled relationship between his friend Bingley and her beloved sister Jane, she is determined to dislike him more than ever. In the sparkling comedy of manners that follows, Jane Austen shows us the folly of judging by first impressions and superbly evokes the friendships, gossip and snobberies of provincial middle-class life. “

Okay, yes, I’m slightly embarrassed that this is the first Austen I’ve ever read and I’m 35. I don’t know how I got through four years of honors English without it, but… there it is. And it was SO GOOD, you guys. I made a goal to read more books by dead people this year. (Well, by people who were alive at the time of writing but have since died. In case you were worried.) Historically, I’ve had a bit of an aversion to it, because I judged classics as inaccessible and hard to read.

You know what? Maybe classics are classics because THEY’RE AWESOME.

small greatSmall Great Things, Jodi Picoult“Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

“Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.”

I’ve read most of Jodi Picoult’s body of work. The stories are always engaging, and the endings are… most frequently hard to take. But worth it for the story. This one was different. It took on issues of race and justice in a riveting and authentic way. It ended differently than I expected, based on her other books.

Warning: this one may eat your life. Pick it up when you can let other nonessentials (housework, sleep, food) go by the wayside.

YA fiction (I’m not ashamed.)

wingfeather-saga-square-500x500The Wingfeather Saga, Andrew Peterson.Janner Igiby, his brother Tink, their crippled sister Leeli are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice and pursue the Igibys who hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera.”

Technically, this is four books. (The blurb and link above are just for the first: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.) This was the most fun reading I did all year, hands down. Andrew Peterson is my favorite songwriter, so when I learned he wrote some fiction, I tried it out of loyalty, though I didn’t necessarily expect much. I mean, songs and 300 page fantasyish fiction are hardly the same, right? Well, turns out his songs are my favorite because he tells DARN GOOD STORIES. The books sucked me in, and each book (and the series) ended by quite satisfyingly tying up loose ends I didn’t even realize existed. There’s some light allegory (less than Narnia, but enough to be comparable). I cried through the last chapter of the series (in the best ways)… I don’t really know when that last happened. I’m not a crying kind of reader.

It’s a little above my kids’ heads still—he builds a world with unfamiliar plants and animals and games, and I can’t bring myself to try to field constant “what does that mean???” questions just yet. We’d never get through the first chapter. (If you’re reading it and come across unfamiliar things and it puts you off, like it did one of my friends, just know that it’s fine to let it slide off. You’ll pick up the things that are important before long.) I’m thinking by the time my bigs are 8 and 9, I’ll introduce them, and I CANNOT WAIT.

wrinkleA Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L’Engle“Meg Murray, her little brother Charles Wallace, and their mother are having a midnight snack on a dark and stormy night when an unearthly stranger appears at their door. He claims to have been blown off course, and goes on to tell them that there is such a thing as a “tesseract,” which, if you didn’t know, is a wrinkle in time. Meg’s father had been experimenting with time-travel when he suddenly disappeared. Will Meg, Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin outwit the forces of evil as they search through space for their father?”

I read it when I was nine, and remember loving it, but couldn’t remember much else. This is another that I’m excited to introduce in a year or two. It was fantastically told story with beautiful little bits of truth hidden inside.


betweentheworldandmeBetween the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates“In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a fathe


r for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race”, a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men – bodies exploited through slavery and segregation and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?

“Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’ attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son – and listeners – the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.”

I do love me some memoirs, and I read a bunch of them this year. I picked this, not because it was necessarily my favorite to read, but because it struck me as incredibly important in our world. I’m with Toni Morrison. This is “required reading” for humans.

grace for the good girlGrace for the Good Girl, Emily P Freeman. You’re strong. You’re responsible. You’re good. But…as day fades to dusk, you begin to feel the familiar fog of anxiety, the weight and pressure of holding it together and of longing left unmet. Good girls sometimes feel the Christian life means doing hard work with a sweet disposition. We tend to focus only on the things we can handle, our disciplined lives, and our unshakable good moods. But what would happen if we let grace pour out boundless acceptance into our worn-out hearts and undo us? If we dared to talk about the ways we hide, our longing to be known, and the fear in the knowing? In Grace for the Good Girl, Emily Freeman invites you to release your tight hold on that familiar, try-hard life and lean your weight heavy into the love of Jesus. With an open hand, a whimsical style, and a heart bent brave toward adventure, Emily encourages you to move from your own impossible expectations toward the God who has graciously, miraculously, and lovingly found you.”

This one hit me right where I’ve always lived, at a time when I was ready to find my way out. The first half or so was descriptive of my entire life, so very few surprises. The second half was GOLD… she helped me figure out how to move forward. I already want to re-read it.

road back to youThe Road Back to You, Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile “Ignorance is bliss – except in self-awareness. What you don’t know about yourself can hurt you and your relationships – and maybe even how you make your way in the world. It can also keep you in the shallows with God. Do you want help figuring out who you are and why you’re stuck in the same ruts?

“The Enneagram is an ancient personality type system with an uncanny accuracy in describing how human beings are wired, both positively and negatively. In The Road Back to You, Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile forge a unique approach – a practical, comprehensive way of accessing Enneagram wisdom and exploring its connections with Christian spirituality for a deeper knowledge of God and of ourselves.

“Funny and filled with stories, this book allows you to understand more about each of the Enneagram types, keeping you from pausing long after you have heard the chapter about yourself. Beginning with changes you can start making today, the wisdom of the Enneagram can help you get on the road that will take you further along into who you really are – leading you into places of spiritual discovery you would never have found on your own, and paving the way to the wiser, more compassionate person you want to become.”

There’s been a lot of buzz about the Enneagram in various circles for the last couple of years, and, to be honest, it confused me. This book made it understandable and super interesting. I love that the Enneagram focuses on ways I can grow. (I don’t love my number—2—or didn’t at first. But apparently that’s common for most of the numbers.)

meaning of marriageThe Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller“Few subjects are as compelling—or as endlessly variable—as love and marriage. The Bible is filled with references to husbands and wives, from the story of Adam and Eve to advice in the New Testament, each open to interpretation.

“In The Meaning of Marriage, Timothy Keller, pastor of New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church and bestselling author of The Reason for God, uses the scriptures as his guide to show readers what God’s call to marriage is, and why this is such a powerful call. He talks in frank terms about the difficulties that couples have and how they can best work them out while keeping their faith in God intact.

“The Meaning of Marriage showcases Keller’s vast understanding of the Bible and how it can not only be relevant to relationships today but also form the foundation of a modern, healthy, loving, and long- lasting marriage.”

This is the best book I have ever read on marriage by a long shot, and I’ve read many dozen. We bought a second copy because Andrew and I marked ours up so badly we couldn’t loan it out. Whether you’re married, want to be, or have friends who are, this one is worthwhile.

What_If_xkcdWhat If? Randal Munroe. “Millions of people visit xkcd.com each week to read Randall Munroe’s iconic webcomic. His stick-figure drawings about science, technology, language, and love have a large and passionate following. Fans of xkcd ask Munroe a lot of strange questions. What if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent of the speed of light? How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live? If there were a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last?

“In pursuit of answers, Munroe runs computer simulations, pores over stacks of declassified military research memos, solves differential equations, and consults with nuclear reactor operators. His responses are masterpieces of clarity and hilarity, complemented by signature xkcd comics. They often predict the complete annihilation of humankind, or at least a really big explosion.”

This book has a lot of truly interesting answers to questions you never asked, but that’s not why I’m recommending it. Randal Munroe has the best written comedic timing I have ever seen. I laughed out loud several times per page. If math and sciencey stuff is even remotely interesting to you, this book will make you howl. (Side note: it’s available as an audio book. I don’t know why. Read it with your eyes- the illustrations are half the fun.)

bravingBraving the Wilderness, Brené Brown“True belonging doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are.” Social scientist Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW, has sparked a global conversation about the experiences that bring meaning to our lives—experiences of courage, vulnerability, love, belonging, shame, and empathy. In Braving the Wilderness, Brown redefines what it means to truly belong in an age of increased polarization. With her trademark mix of research, storytelling, and honesty, Brown will again change the cultural conversation while mapping a clear path to true belonging.

“Brown argues that we’re experiencing a spiritual crisis of disconnection, and introduces four practices of true belonging that challenge everything we believe about ourselves and each other. She writes, “True belonging requires us to believe in and belong to ourselves so fully that we can find sacredness both in being a part of something and in standing alone when necessary. But in a culture that’s rife with perfectionism and pleasing, and with the erosion of civility, it’s easy to stay quiet, hide in our ideological bunkers, or fit in rather than show up as our true selves and brave the wilderness of uncertainty and criticism. But true belonging is not something we negotiate or accomplish with others; it’s a daily practice that demands integrity and authenticity. It’s a personal commitment that we carry in our hearts.” Brown offers us the clarity and courage we need to find our way back to ourselves and to each other. And that path cuts right through the wilderness. Brown writes, “The wilderness is an untamed, unpredictable place of solitude and searching. It is a place as dangerous as it is breathtaking, a place as sought after as it is feared. But it turns out to be the place of true belonging, and it’s the bravest and most sacred place you will ever stand.” 

I have very little to add to this. It’s Brené Brown, y’all. Go buy it.

Welp, there it is. Possibly my longest post ever.

What were your favorite reads this year?


the prayer that’s changing my life right now

It was about four in the morning a few weeks ago. Somebody else was up. I don’t remember whom—some nights are an endless round of bad dreams and can’t sleep and lost buddies and maybe the odd wet bed. This was one of those.

Typically at this point in a bad night, I start to do the math, calculating when I went to bed, who woke when and how long it took me to get to sleep afterward, how long I have until I absolutely have to get up, and how abysmal tomorrow might be if I do get to sleep the rest of the night. I try to have a good attitude for the kid currently wanting the mama, but I start to get a little stressed and grouchy about it all.

But this night, something else happened. I can only imagine it was the Holy Spirit having mercy on this tired mother, because the words popped into my heart from seemingly nowhere. (They certainly didn’t flow from any virtuous thoughts I was having, up again for the fifth time.)

I trust You to give me what I need.

It’s that simple. It’s basically a rephrasing of the first verse of Psalm 23, but in the dark that morning, it changed my heart. Where there was stress and anger, there was simple acceptance. I’m trying to come up with an adequate picture do describe what happened in me, and the closest I can come is a baby, starting to freak out, who settles as soon as her mama picks her up. My rest was quick and complete, and I went back to sleep, not for the last time that night.

In the weeks since, the phrase keeps coming to me in weird moments. When the kids are all making awful noises and I am pretty sure I’m about to lose my mind, I trust You to give me what I need.

When a delayed flight meant we missed a connection and we had only a couple hours to sleep before catching the flight that would get us there only an hour or two to spare before my father-in-law’s memorial service, I trust you to give me what I need.

When we don’t know what our housing situation is going to look like over the next several months… I trust you to give me what I need.

There’s no denying we need things. When Psalm 23 talks about sheep and a Shepherd, it assumes we understand that sheep are about as helpless as creatures come. There are NEEDS. But the shepherd knows what those needs are (far better than the sheep do) and is equipped to meet them (again, far better than the sheep). The comparison isn’t especially flattering to us, but it’s not inaccurate.

I’m grateful for the Shepherd.