Thursday, February 28, 2013


Yesterday I wrote about trouble, and today I am writing about sin.  What a delightful place this blog is this week.  Some weeks these are the things weighing on my mind, and it is nice to have a place to write them all out.  Thanks for coming along.

In the winter time, next to my bed, resides a pile of socks.  It builds up and collects over a week's time.


You see, my feet are cold in the evenings, and I wear socks right up until I hop into bed, where I cannot stand wearing socks.  They must come off.  Socked feet in bed make me feel quite suffocated.  But, until the bedtime moment, the socks stay on.

Then, I get my bare feet into bed, and they are still so cold.  I put them on John's legs to warm them up, and because he is extremely gracious, he allows and even invites this.  He likes for me to have warm appendices.  He loves me.

Back to the sock pile.


I obviously can't put the socks into the dirty clothes in that moment, because it would require a trek across the cold, tiled bathroom to get to the laundry basket.  So, there they lay.  In a heap.

In the morning, I hop out of bed, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and make my bed right away.  Okay, only part of that statement is true.  Usually I am much more bleary-eyed, but I do always make my bed. I like having a tangible accomplishment immediately in the day, and it makes my room feel picked up.  To complete the making of the bed, I go over to John's side, and just like that, I have abandoned the sock pile.  Not be be thought of again until the next night, when I add socks to it once more.

John laughs at this most nights.  He is such a clean freak that something like a personal sock pile would drive him crazy.  In fact, my sock pile would drive him crazy if it were anywhere that he saw it regularly.  But it isn't.  We rarely go over to that side of the room during the day.  Last night he was saying, "Have you blogged about the sock pile?  You need to blog about the sock pile.  I am sure there is a metaphor buried not too deeply under the surface.  You could call it all kinds of things.  Like 'Heap of Sin.'"

Well, thanks, honey.  Comparing my ever-growing, never-addressed sock pile to a heap of sin in my life is extremely helpful.  However, there are so many similarities.  Funny how that works.

I've been reading Leviticus lately.  (I know you hear that all the time.)  Leviticus goes into great detail over sacrifices for sin, burnt offerings, and being clean or unclean.  Leviticus is all about the law.  And since I serve the same, never-changing God that is speaking in Leviticus, I have to ask myself - "Though I know the law has been abolished, what can I learn about God's heart and character through this book?"

Several things have stood out.  God cares about the little details.  He outlines various behaviors that are quite specific and entail things that it would be easy to think he doesn't care about.  But he does care about the details of our lives, and more importantly, he cares about how our hearts are in engaged in those details.  Also, God is serious about sin.  It is a big deal to him, and he requires atonement and repentance to make things right.

As I read through the directions for sin offerings, I kept seeing the statement "He shall lay his hand on the head of the bull and slay the bull before the Lord" (Leviticus 4:4b).  Then, there is a lot of blood splashing around the altar.  What a gory and gruesome image.  How would I think about my sin differently if to atone for it, I had to take an animal and lay my hands on its head while it was slaughtered?

Because Jesus paid the ultimate price of atonement for us, I get to repent in my heart and ask for forgiveness.  The perfect lamb was slain on my behalf over 2000 years ago.  It was gory and gruesome.  But, I often gloss over it.  I don't think about the bloodshed and the sin of all mankind resting on the shoulders of the perfect man who was God incarnate.  My sin.

And so I ask God to help me realize my own depravity a little more and my need for him a lot more.  I don't want to walk by the heap of sin in my heart like I do the pile of socks next to my bed.  I also don't want to wait to the last minute to repent - I want a clean slate with the Lord.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


You know those times when life is a little gloomy?  When every phone call and email are the bearers of bad news?  When the "to-do" list is miles long and you are trying to figure out what even needs to be done?


Things aren't as bad as that, but there are certain areas of messiness right now.  And the reality is, there always are.  I had someone tell me recently that there are always two tracks in life that are running parallel to one another.  There is the good track and the bad track.  Things are always happening on both of them, but sometimes you spend more time riding one or the other.


Growing up, I thought it was possible to only ever hop onto the good train and ride it forever.  Mistakenly, I imagined going through life unscathed by hardship.  I crave fun and actively look for ways to create it, and I thought I may be able to wriggle through life the fun way, on the party train.  I am not sure how I overlooked or failed to consider that Jesus actually tells us "In this world, you will have trouble."  (John 16:33)

There is no "if" in that statement.

There is no "possibly."

There is no "some people."

Nope, Jesus makes it pretty clear that living in this world will come with Trouble.  (With a capital "T" that rhymes with "P" that stands for pool.  Raise your hand if you performed the Music Man in high school.  If only the trouble I was talking about was just a pool hall coming to town.)


One of the hard things about being right smack dab in the middle of trouble is that I don't know how situations will turn out.  As John put it last night, "We are not in a movie where this is the hard part, but we know that things will turn out well in the end.  There may be no happy ending."  Because in this world, we will have trouble.  People make poor choices that ruin things in their lives, possibly forever.  Watching this is heart-breaking.  Being stuck in the middle is even harder.


So, while all this trouble-business can still come as a surprise to me, there is good news for us all.  Jesus didn't stop with just talking about trouble.  He says, "But take heart!  I have overcome the world."  (John 16:33)  Makes me tear up just reading it all over again.  There is hope!  I may not know the ending here on earth, but I know how it all ends.  Jesus overcomes the world.  He overcomes the sin and the mess and the hardship.  He redeems it all.


Just like I need fresh flowers at the end of dreary February to remind me that winter will not last forever  and that spring really will come, I need to listen to Jesus telling me to "Take Heart!"  To find my peace in him instead of little worldly pleasures that leave me wanting.

Take heart, dear friends.  This world is not all there is.  Thank the good Lord.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013



Last week we headed to Siloam Springs for JBU Leadership Day.  John had been invited to be on a panel with a few other alumni to talk business, give feedback and provide guidance to JBU students.  I am so thankful he had this opportunity, because he loves being able to give back in this way and finds it invigorating.

I went along and hung out with the girls all day, like usual.  We spent time with Ellen and True, and I showed Ellen how to ice a cake.  There was a little movie time, there was nap time, there was whine time, there was feeding time . . . it was a pretty normal day, just in a different place - a change I am usually up for.

I draw a comparison between our days, because it occurred to me while driving back on Thursday night that this day typifies our life right now.  I have chosen to stay at home with our girls.  John has chosen to spend time working and providing for our family.  We both fell into these roles pretty naturally, because we both grew up in homes where our mothers stayed at home with us.  We did talk about this in early marriage and picture it being this way.  Though I had not always aspired to be a "stay-at-home-mom," when the time came, I seized the chance.

I am so thankful to have the opportunity to be a SAHM.  It affords me a front-row seat to my girls' lives day in and day out.  I get to be a primary influence in their little worlds.  It allows me a measure of freedom in our schedule.  Most of the time, I really love it, and I am well-suited to it.

However, it does not come without its challenges.  And, in the past 6 months, I have spent more time and energy outside of our home coordinating fundraisers and serving on the board of a non-profit.  This has been good and hard.  I really enjoy working with other adults and using some of my giftings in ways that serve a greater purpose.  The feedback and affirmation of things done well feels good.  It has reopened my eyes to the world outside of our home and even outside of CFA.  If I had chosen a different path, I could have a career and do stuff and feel accomplished.  Maybe I would be the one at Leadership Day.

Very rarely, I find myself envious of John and the opportunities he gets.  When my main job falls within our home, the two people that could give me feedback most often don't always speak in full sentences.  I measure success by how much laundry I did or didn't get done.  And usually, I didn't get it done.

I say all of this to bring it back around - I am glad that for right now, I get to stay home.  It is not for everyone, and certainly God calls each of us to different things at different times, but I am happy to say that all things considered, I am content.  I do have opportunities to serve outside of our home right now, and I am taking them for this time, especially since I know that once we have two more children, I will be more limited.  I want to be submitted to God, and I can see that being John's wife and Lily and Bella's mom is where most of my energy should go at this phase in our lives.  It fits our family well.

That may change as time goes on, and in some ways, I might welcome that.  For now, I will rejoice in the simplicity of having one working parent in our house and me running the show here.  I pray that I am able to be sensitive to what God has for us in each season.

Monday, February 25, 2013


This weekend the guys from our community group all went camping together, and we women held down the fort.  We planned lots of time together so that it would help the weekend go faster, and it really worked, though we were still glad to get John home yesterday afternoon.  Since it was supposed to be really cold, the guys ended up sleeping in a friend's cabin.


They had a great time for the 4th year running.  We got together with 14 of the 17 kiddos for pizza on Friday night, which was crazy, as usual.  Also - there was the dreaded text from one friend that came at 11:30 that night saying her son had started throwing up.  I immediately was paranoid that all of us were going to start spewing vomit.  It would forever go down as "That Awful Camping Weekend."  Fortunately, no one else did throw up, and her son was better the next day.

I watched Pitch Perfect by myself that night.  Then, I watched more YouTube videos of other awesome acapella groups.  Because I am awesome.  Also, I have no vocal ability, so I am wildly jealous of what they can do.  I have long believed that God gave me no singing talent, because I would not be able to handle the fame that would inevitably come.  It would go to my head.  So, I can't sing.  God knows best.

Saturday night, we had the brilliant idea of getting sitters for all the kiddos and going on a girls night out.  We chose Local Lime, which is truly delicious.  But the company was even better.


These are the sweet girls that I am privileged to do life with most often.  I am forever grateful for the gift they are.  Being in the trenches with other people is a blessing that I do not take for granted.  After dinner we came to my house and did gel manicures.


I love being able to do gel nails at home, and it was fun to treat the ladies.  I will not name names, but I had to pry one of my friend's hands out from under her leg to paint it.  She never does her nails.  We were also going to do hair curling but ran out of time.  I am not kidding.  I love girls night.

Once John was home, we napped and lounged a bit.  Then we visited one of our amazing team members, Ms. Frances.  She is 85 and works in our dining room most days.  She also makes cookies to be distributed to the homeless in Little Rock.  If only I am half as spritely and service minded at that age!


Gearing up for a busy week ahead!

Friday, February 22, 2013


I think it is safe to say that February has taken us by storm. That is not all bad- clearly, it has included a great vacation. Which was definitely needed.  This week has included so much activity, that I know God timed our vacation so we could rest up for weeks like this one.  Most of it was fun stuff, but even doing too much fun stuff can be overwhelming.  (Oh, my first world life.)

Here are the highs and lows.

High:  Being back with the ladies.  And leopard print.


Low:  Everyone readjusting back to real life in our house.  This was kicked off by a really bad lunch at Cracker Barrel.  The food was fine; the attitudes around the table were not.  So much whining, most of it from people 4 and under.  But not all of it.


Low:  Having to use our shop vac on 3 separate occasions in about 24 hours.  John managed to shatter a glass.  Lily managed to break a bowl, and I used the shop vac on John's bare chest to get some of the peeling skin off so he wouldn't leave flakes of sunburned skin lying around.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I'll spare you the picture of that.


High:  Little girl giggles.  The girls play together exceptionally well.  I have only ever had them, so I can't compare it, but they get along so well so much of the time.  I am so thankful.


Low:  Being so busy that getting to projects like organizing this shelf in my closet seem like only a pipe dream.  Why does it look so crazy?  And why did I think I would have time to do anything about it anytime soon?


Low:  Driving through the snow/sleet/wintry-mix storm to get to NW Arkansas.  We were driving across the blue and purple line from this radar shot.


High:  Getting to hang with Ellen and True most of the day on Thursday.  Love them.


High:  Getting Lily's 4 Year pictures taken by Uncle Luke at Main Street Studios.  She was ready for her close-up.


I'm not sure why everyone was looking at me, but they were.


Low:  Bella wanting to photo-bomb Lily's shoot.  She would try to get right behind Lily while Luke was taking her picture.  Thankfully, it yielded some really funny shots that I am looking forward to seeing.  We were able to pacify Bella in the studio by showing her pictures of baby Bella.  She was entranced and a bit possessive.


Low:  Thinking I might have scabies.  Rhymes with rabies.  As my beautiful friend who was diagnosed with it on Monday said, "It's a long A."  I was a bit itchy last night, and my thoughts immediately went to having mites under my skin.  Also, wash all your clothes after you buy them and before you wear them.  That is where scabies come from.

High: Teaching the girls to play Candy Land.  They loved it!  Hopefully we can build a family of gamers from the ground up.


Happy Friday, friends!  May God grant you rest and love this weekend.  He is so good.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


While we were off doing lots of fun things last week, the girls were home doing lots of fun things with John's parents, aka, Grandpa and Grandma.  They love on our girls so well, and I trust them entirely to take care of them, which was such a blessing.

Here's their week in pics.


Lots of playing, park going, horse riding, picnicking, rolling on the floor and hugging.  So much fun!

Not having family that lives in town is a bummer, but when ours come, they really are fabulous.  Thanks, Lenny and Sharon for loving our girls well!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


How's that for a creative blog post title?  Sometimes inspiration just strikes you.  Or it doesn't, and you are left with "Playing Outside."  If you have got something more witty, please send it my way.

Arkansas is a pretty awesome place to live.  I mean that sincerely.  I really love it here.  It helps that I have spent all but 5 years of my life living in this state, so it is home.  One thing I heart about this home state of mine is the fact that even in the heart of winter, you will get some days warm enough to play outside.  And now that the girls are old enough to actually enjoy it, we do just that.  Hence the title.

I could have also called this post "Wordless Wednesday" and just posted pictures, but I can never seem to do a post where I don't yack about whatever is in my brain.  However, the rest of this post will be mostly pictures of my beautiful children playing outside with no captions.

But I will say that I love my girls.  I love seeing them enjoy being outside.  I love dressing them alike and derive much more joy from it than I probably should.  I love that when we play outside there is no mess inside.  I really like taking pictures outside in natural light.  I love that they whine slightly less outdoors than indoors.  All in all, playing outside is the bomb.

So, here are the pictures that I have now droned on about.  Hope they are worth the build up.  At least I know they are for me, since they are my babies.  (What?  I don't have babies?  Only a toddler and a little girl?  How did that happen?  Where does the time go?)

(Francie tried to come enjoy the sun, and since she is an indoor cat, Lily had to take her back inside.  Poor kitty.  Also, I apparently lied about the lack of captions.)
(The chevron heart shirt/dress things were made by my friend Nicole, and I am in love with them.)

That wraps up this edition of almost Wordless Wednesday.  Thanks, February, for giving us more than we deserve in the winter time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


As almost anyone who reads my blog or follows me on Instagram will know, I love making and decorating sugar cookies.  I really do.  I have realized that most of the time, I have more important stuff that I should be doing, so I am not turning sugar cookies into any kind of career.  (Nor will this become a cookie blog.)  I already have a career in food.  Sort of.  By proxy.  Anyway. . .


I have started to get a lot of questions about what I do for sugar cookies.  There are a million different ways to do sugar cookies - like most things in the world.  I have found the one that works for me.

I use this basic recipe from All Recipes for the cookie.  It is good.  The only thing I do differently is add a teaspoon of almond extract, along with the vanilla.  I figured out about a year ago that I can only use real butter in these cookies to get them to turn out consistently.  Then I found out that lab rats won't eat margarine, because it is practically not a food substance.  Since then, I have only used the real deal butter when I make sugar cookies.  And almost everything else.

Basic tips for making and rolling out the cookies -
- Roll them out on parchment paper - then you do not have to move them at all, and they stay in their shape better.
- Get to the right consistency of dough.  It should not be sticky.  Add more flour if you need to.  This makes a huge difference in how much you like your life while making cookies.
- Practice really does help a lot.  The more you make cookies, the easier it becomes to get the results you want.

Moving on to icing.  What you probably don't realize, because you probably have not done extensive research on sugar cookie frosting techniques as I have (which makes me sound crazy), is that people have strong opinions about what frosting is used on sugar cookies.  Royal Icing is used most commonly, and it yields the perfect looking sugar cookies that you most likely find on Pinterest.

However, many people, including me, are not in love with how hard it dries and the taste of it.  I prefer Glaze on my sugar cookies.  The taste is better, it stays much softer, and but it still dries hard enough to be stackable.  However, you cannot get the fine details with glaze - it tends to be more goopy.

So - I finally decided that to make sugar cookies that look the way I want and taste the way I want, I need to use both kinds of frosting.  It is slightly more work, but it gets the results that I want, so it is worth it for me.  Also, both kinds of frosting keep in the fridge for long periods of time, since everything in them is shelf stable.  Usually I make large batches of both, and then I just color them and re-whip as needed.

For Royal Icing I use this recipe from Sugar Kissed.  It is supposed to be a softer royal icing and uses glycerin to keep it that way.  I have used this exclusively for some cookies, and I was pretty pleased with how they tasted.  I still like glaze better, but this recipe does taste good all over the cookies.

For the glaze, I use this recipe from All Recipes.  As a general rule, I "flood" all of my cookies with glaze.  So, I outline with Royal Icing and then fill them up with the glaze.  Then, I do the details with Royal Icing, because it is much more precise and holds it shape.

Basic tips for frosting -
- Consistency is key!  If I were the kind of person that used a lot of punctuation, I would have done a line of exclamation points on that.  Piping frosting needs to be stiff, but not so stiff that it will crack as it is coming out.  Flooding icing needs to be thin enough to spread easily and run all together, but not so thin that it runs off your cookie.  You determine how much control you have by the consistency of the frosting.
- I use gel colors.  Especially with the glaze, it is important to add white food coloring to it right off the bat.  Even though it is white.  This will make the white glaze more opaque and will allow it to take other colors better.

Well, that is about as basic as I can keep it without running on and on.  Other people do this much better than I do.  As I have mentioned before, Sweet Sugarbelle is one of my favorite cookie bloggers.  Her site is excellent and easy to navigate and includes detailed tutorials and in-depth explanations of stuff like icing consistency.  If you are really interested in cookies, I would check her out.

Please feel free to ask questions - I clearly enjoy this little hobby and like talking about it.  Also - I think it is easier than it looks to achieve results that you would be pleased with.  It just takes a little knowledge and practice.

Also, you can order beautiful sugar cookies on Etsy or at your local bakery if making them seems like too much work.  Always a good option.

Monday, February 18, 2013


Since Seminar is a built in time to get away sans kiddos, we usually try to take at least one extra night and maximize having grandparents keeping the girls.  Since we disembarked the ship on Thursday morning, which also happened to be Valentine's Day, we decided to make this trip our present to each other.

Best. Decision. Ever.

It has been one of John's dreams to rent a convertible in a beautiful place, and since this was a short time and a beautiful place, we finally pulled the trigger on it.  So Thursday around noon found us just like this.


We headed here.


It felt like normal, cold February had never existed.  After a nap, which is virtually non-existent in our real life, we headed to go sea-kayaking.  Since we live in a firmly land-locked state, this was a great choice of activities.  (And, I got a Lifeproof case for my phone so that I could take pictures while sea-kayaking.  I love it.)


Next, we went for a bicycle ride around the property and a bit around town.  It was gorgeous.


We did go out for dinner on Valentine's Day, which is sort of against our rule to never do that.  We ended up at a very random place on the beach with live music.  We were seated outdoors, until it started raining.  Then we were seated in the bar with Very Loud Men who were also smoking.  It was super romantic.  At least we looked cute.  We did have fun, and it was perfectly fine doing something low-key since we had been having white-table-cloth meals all week.


And we were driving the cool car, who I am sure played a supporting role in Transformers.


After sleeping in way late on Friday morning, we spent more time driving the Keys.


We got a pizza lunch and picnicked by the Seven Mile Bridge.  We brought our champagne that we never got to from the night before and made mimosas, cause we got class.  Plus, we love the environment, which should be obvious from our use of styrofoam.


Our picnic partners included this pelican.


And these fisherman, who kept lamenting the fact that every time they threw a fish back into the water, the pelican would manage to swipe it from the air.


We gave them the rest of our champagne as we headed for the airport.  It started raining just as we pulled away from lunch.  Perfect timing.


Peace out, Keys - you were good to us!  Thanks to John for being the best travel buddy of all time and my favorite person ever.  Thanks to God for giving us far more than we ever deserve.