spot the differences: a year in review.

A friend recently asked me to think of one item that would represent the past year of my life.

One physical object to sum up all that was 2017.

Those who know me well should understand how much an assignment like this thrills me.

A given opportunity to think in metaphors? Yes please.

I went through a few options in my brain, all of which felt a little cliché, so eventually I gave myself permission to table the task.

Then, a few nights ago, Lily and I were working through an activity book she got for Christmas, and she turned to two pages of nearly identical pictures.

The task? Spot the differences.


I started off last year with a headache.

I woke up to a blank canvas that felt shrouded by post-travel chaos and kids who were considerably out of rhythm.

I set one measurable goal (yes, I did read at least one book each month!), but other than that, I didn’t resolve to make any major changes in 2017.

Instead, I made some slow and subtle alterations to my rhythms and priorities. I started paying attention to the words I was consuming, and (most significantly) I changed my approach to the one hour a day I can count on all my kids either sleeping or playing quietly. Simply, I gave myself permission to rest as well. I sat in the same chair every day, studied my bible, prayed intentionally, napped occasionally, and, wouldn’t you know, felt rested.

Now, of course I didn’t do this for 365 days straight, but 2017 brought a shift in my priorities and the way I allot my time each day. It brought small changes to my daily disciplines and a clearer focus when I looked at everything else around me.

It was not a year of great change. It was a year of small, intentional choices each day.


At a quick glance, pages 16 and 17 of Lily’s Christmas Creativity Book look identical. The woodland animals are caroling happily as the snow falls softly around them. (Is this an appropriate place to note that the mouse is weirdly larger than the moles?)

It’s only upon closer inspection that you notice the subtle differences.

Some of the differences don’t alter the picture much. The worm is facing a different direction. The rabbit doesn’t have flowers on her scarf. The badger’s hat is orange instead of green.

But other changes, while still subtle, will, no doubt, have larger implications.

The smaller mole isn’t wearing glasses. The badger isn’t holding a light. The mouse’s lamp is facing in a different direction altogether.

The animals all sing happily with unchanging faces between the pages, but I can’t help but think about how the mole with glasses must see so much more clearly than the mole without or how different things are illuminated based on where the light faces or whether it even exists at all.


The start of 2017 next to the start of 2018 doesn’t feel largely different to me. (Yes, we are *for the most part* sleeping through the night now. No, I didn’t manage to figure out a way to get residency cancelled indefinitely.)

But, when I start to examine the two more closely, the differences are so pronounced that I feel it almost tangibly.

As we step foot into 2018 and look forward to all it has to offer us, I feel remarkably more centered on the things that matter.

You know, like a mole wearing a new pair of glasses or a badger who finally has a light to illuminate the night.

This, of course, has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the fact that God taught me a million things this year and then used those things He taught me to help answer the prayers I was praying. And I guess I can’t help but wonder how much different the picture would look hindsight without that one small change to that one single hour of my day.

Maybe I’ll ask the mouse. He obviously seems like the one in charge, don’t you think?

All this to say, I don’t have any grandiose plans for 2018.

But I do have a sneaking suspicion that, if I continue to prioritize the right things, God will continue to show up in grandiose ways.

And that’s something to look forward to.


that time i said i didn’t like tradition.

Last week, Lily had to make a “Holiday Traditions” poster for preschool. The instructions were simple: Tell the class how you celebrate the season. I helped Lily brainstorm before we got started.

Me: What is something we do every year at Christmastime?

Lily: We drive in the car.

Her answer made me laugh, but given that last year we logged almost 40 hours of driving in two weeks, she’s got a strong point. Traveling is one of our main holiday traditions.


I have, in the past few years, had a precarious relationship with tradition.

When I was pregnant with Lily, I bucked tradition altogether and told Jake I wanted to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas at a random bed and breakfast I had found in the middle of Illinois. It was risky move (one that, fortunately, worked out in our favor).

I wrote about that Christmas a few days later and noted that I wanted our family traditions to be fluid once we had kids. Honestly, I got a little scrooge-y about it all.

Three years later, just after our move to Cleveland and when the girls were 1 and 2 ½ respectively, I remember thinking about traditions again. Everything had been upended, and I was trying to reconcile what our new normal looked like.

Because I tend to make it a habit of quoting myself, this is what I said two years ago:

I suppose the holiday season reminds me of how much I value the creation and preservation of lasting memories for our kids. I’m not the only mom who feels a little paralyzed by this come Christmastime, am I? In a season teemed with tradition, how do you decide which ones to latch on to? There are so many aspects of this time of year that we could subscribe to, and for some reason, it sort of neutralizes me. So, in this strange response of over-analyzation and rebellion, I have realized that my tendency is to stray away from tradition all together and embrace something different each year.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that I’m thinking about holiday traditions again this year.


Lily and I landed on four holiday traditions that we look forward to every year:

  1. Baking cookies.
  2. Decorating the Christmas tree.
  3. Opening envelopes from our Advent calendar.
  4. Driving in the car (obviously).

I do feel conflicted every year around the holidays (I used the word “paralyzed” two years ago which now feels a little melodramatic), but it dawned on me recently that maybe those neutralized feelings have something to do with the fact that in order to make new holiday memories with our kids, I inevitably have to let go of some of the traditions of my own memories. Or at least relocate them to a new physical dwelling.

In other words, I’ve been wondering lately if my rebelliousness toward tradition stems more from feelings of self-preservation and a need to control things that are changing than it comes from actually wanting to do something different every year.

I am, after all, a particularly nostalgic person. A distaste for tradition is counter to most of the hallmarks of my personality.

All this to say that I really do like tradition. 

There, I said it.

I like the fact that our kids are starting to store away fond memories and lasting experiences even though 2012 Molly was all, “I hope our traditions look different every year.”

The more I think about it, the more I like that we’re relocating recurring memories from our past childhoods into our present home even though that means the warm pastry on Christmas morning will come out of my oven instead of my mom’s and that Jake will read the Christmas story instead of his dad.

More importantly, though, I’m realizing that I like tradition because it gives us a platform to focus on the only unchanging part about Christmas: Advent and the thrill of hope that’s found in believing that God has come to live with us. 

Sure, there are things that will change from year-to-year. With small kids and a doctor husband, I’ve learned well enough by now not to get used to any one thing. But I would like to take this opportunity to publicly rescind the official stance I made on traditions in 2012.

Give me the cookies. The Christmas tree. The advent calendar. Give me more hours to log in the minivan, for crying out loud.

I will accept these things with gladness and use them all as another opportunity to teach my kids that this weary world has reason to rejoice. That God has come and is coming again to make all things right.

Hindsight, we really should have put that on Lily’s poster.

At least there’s always next year.

broken crayons and unrealistic expectations.

I am, in this exact moment, sitting in my living room. And, from my place on the couch, I can see five crayons that didn’t make their way back into the bag when the girls scooped them up before preschool.

Three out of five of these said crayons are broken. Only two are fully intact.

I am a person who likes order. Organization. The expected. I like when everything goes according to the way that it has been meticulously planned out in my brain.

These are qualities well-suited for the demands of parenting, obviously.

I like crayons to stay sharp and intact and color-coded inside their box.

The girls have other ideas though. Ideas which include dumping all 96 crayons out of said box and breaking at least three every time they open up their coloring books.

I used to make them put all 96 crayons back in the box each time they were done coloring.


The first thing I do with a brand new box of “poky” crayons (an adjective Lily coined recently which I immediately embraced) is to dump them into a gallon-sized Ziploc bag and trust that at least half of them will be broken or worn down completely by the week’s end.

I let go of my unrealistic expectations.


It feels like a metaphor for the bigger picture of parenting, really. A reminder to hold on to the realistic and important and let the other things slip through my fingers.

I realized recently that my most frustrated moments of parenting usually coincide with the times when I have unrealistic expectations.

You are supposed to nap longer than one hour.

You are not supposed to have meltdowns anymore.

You shouldn’t be yelling at me because you chose to eat your entire dinner in 7 seconds.

(That last one contains no hyperbole. Sawyer is a boy wonder when it comes to food inhalation.)

We are all so much better off around here when I adopt more reasonable expectations.

Really, what this looks like is less of me trying to control the actions of my tiny people and more like me trying to control myself.

I can be thankful for the one hour of rest time I can count on each day.

I can expect the meltdowns and react more calmly because I know they’re coming.

I can bribe with Cheerios because everyone has limits, and I just want to eat my dinner in peace.

I have full control over the ways I choose to react and respond.

And because of this, it is realistic to expect to end each day knowing that there were more good moments than bad. To know that, despite the shortcomings from parents and kids alike, my kids know how deeply I love them. 

But here’s the best part: What I’m finding is that when I let the unrealistic slip through my fingertips, I’m mostly just left with gratitude that this is the work that has been entrusted to me.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there is a pile of crayons (half poky, half broken) in the middle of the floor and a Trolls coloring book calling my name.

Here’s hoping Mauvelous hasn’t been broken in half yet.

cheerio dust.

Every morning I step on a cheerio.

This is not hyperbole. This is just a regular part of my morning routine.

Turn on the news. Crunch a cheerio into the floor.

It’s as predictable as the moment I can expect to see the girls emerge together from their room: 6:58 on the microwave clock.

No exaggeration here, either. The moment their clock gives them the green light (literally), they are out of their beds and in the kitchen to join me and the rest of the Good Morning America anchors.

Sawyer usually wakes up as soon as the cereal hits the first bowl. Two steps toward his door and I crunch another cheerio. With this pause, I am quickly passed by the girls, eager to greet their little brother.  

I could finish the rest of the breakfast dance with my eyes closed.

Egg in the skillet. Toast in the toaster. More milk in the cereal.

Water. Vitamin. Coffee.

Shhhhhh. (Can a girl just listen to what George Stephanopoulos has to say?)

Wash hands. Wash faces. Sweep floor.

Miss a cheerio.


Every morning it’s the same. There are no breaks for weekends or weekday holidays. There is no delayed start for sickness or overall exhaustion.

The rhythms of my mornings just do not change.


And yet, I’ve come to find that I like these predictable beats.

I like the breakfast routine because we all count on it.

It’s expected. It’s together. It’s safe.

It’s one of my favorite times of the day.

Cheerio dust and all.

love and litmus tests

I’ve been letting two things steep together in the deep pools of my mind for the last week.

The first is a litmus test. (You know, because I like to spend my time thinking about particularly exciting things.)

A decisively indicative test.¹

A test in which one single thing is the deciding factor.

It’s not unlike when your kid comes in the kitchen for lunch and sees a plate in front of her with circles on it.

That one single thing is the deciding factor that lunch is, no doubt, ruined.

And then there’s the second thing. The second thing comes from the book of Revelation:

I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.

I know I’ve read this verse before, and I know I’ve passed it by blithely. There are, after all, plenty of people in my life whom I love.

But then this week it hit me: Maybe Jesus isn’t talking about abandoning my love for people. Maybe He’s talking about abandoning my love for Him.

Maybe He’s reminding me that if I don’t first fervently love God, nothing else matters.


If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.²


A.W. Tozer once said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

It’s the litmus test.

The test in which one single thing is the deciding factor.

(Although “test” is, admittedly, one of the worst words I could use to try to explain this train of thought.)

God calls me to love others. To clothe the poor, feed the hungry, and offer a voice for the helpless and vulnerable.

But somewhere along the way, I think I overlooked what He called me to do first: Love Him with every part of my being.

I’ve been thinking about what that looks like this week. I mean, what does it look like to love God first?

I do not, of course, have all the answers (and, of course, never will), but I read two more things this week that provided me some insight.

The first came from Nancy Leigh DeMoss:

It’s the ultimate miracle. Certain death has been replaced by certain life. We who would never have sought after God on our own have been redeemed by One who sought us in His love and mercy. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).

That’s the gospel–the good news! Our guilt has been swallowed up in the gift of God’s grace–the only thing big and powerful enough to forever and fully overcome and remove that guilt.

What follows next, then, should be the logical reaction to this kind of rescue. Snatched from the brink of death, the burden of our sins lifted from our shoulders, you’d think the entire remainder of our earthly life wouldn’t leave us adequate time for all the ways we’d want to say thanks. No longer dependent on our good works and performance, with the destination of our souls secured for all eternity, you’d expect that the energy of sheer gratitude, if nothing else, would propel us to never-ending acts of worship and service. “Whatever you want, Lord. It’s the least I can do after all You’ve done for me.” ³

The second comes from God (you know, because primary sources are always best):

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

Which translated for me this week as, “Stop, and think about what I’ve done for you.”

What comes into my mind when I think about God is the most important thing about me.

It’s the litmus test for everything that follows.

For every thought. For every word. For every action.

An awareness of all that God has done for me shouldn’t leave me adequate time to say thanks. It should propel me to never-ending acts of worship and service.

It should change everything.

And that’s not something I want to look at blithely ever again.

Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent…He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” 


¹ The official definition if you Google search “litmus test.”

² 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

³ Demoss, Nancy Leigh. “Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude.” Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy, Moody Press, 2011, pp. 33–34.


nothing gold can stay.

I am a bit of an Autumnal Purist.

It’s an unpopular position, I know (even though I may have invented this title).

I love fall as much as the next person.

I just love fall once it’s fall.

You will not see any red and gold wreaths, smell any pumpkin candles, or hear me rejoicing over my closed-toe booties until the fall equinox (September 22nd, in case you’re keeping track).

I just can’t do it. As far as I’m concerned, it’s still summer until it’s not, and I will not wish these remaining days of warmth away (even if the temperatures keep trying to trick me into doing otherwise).

The kids and I passed a tree on our walk today that had started shedding its green for hues of yellow and orange and I got all Robert Frost about it.

Nothing gold can stay.



I sent two kids to preschool last week and was all, “It’s cool; no big deal. See you later girls.”

Okay, yes, that’s a lie.

Of course I overanalyzed it with painstaking attention.

(And asked Jake no less than 87 times if we were doing the right thing.)

It isn’t preschool that’s got me reeling a little bit though.

It’s Kindergarten (which, interestingly enough, isn’t even a bridge I have to cross for another couple of years).

I told Jake the other day that I can feel time slipping through my fingertips. That I see the end of these home years — these years in which our kids are with me the vast majority of their days — on the horizon, and I don’t like it.

My people are growing and changing each time I blink, and I feel the end of our long days together looming.

Nothing gold can stay.



I realized today that I take such issue with the leaves’ tendency to don their fall apparel early because of my inability to enjoy the vibrancy of colors until it’s officially fall. The earlier they start to change, the earlier they fall off. And the earlier they fall off, the less time I have to enjoy them with a warm mug of apple cider in my hand.

Jake loves my keen ability to let my anticipation of the future dictate my feelings about the present.

Right, yeah. Caught me again.

It’s one of my worst qualities, really.

If I wanted, I could live entirely in a state of anxious anticipation.

I could spend this entire year agonizing over the time I’m going to lose out on with my kids in the inevitable future school years.

I could. 

Or, I could live more intentionally inside each day I’m given when I’m given it. Choose to do today well and all that jazz (which is obviously the better option).

Living in the future takes me out of the present, and I don’t want to miss a single moment of these home days.

Nothing gold can stay. (My sister-in-law likes to say, “Babies don’t keep.”)

But everything is gold in its time, and today I am resolved to enjoy each day. Each moment. Each stage.

I want to see the good in each day instead of anticipating how quickly it’s going to be gone.

This 80 degree day. My increasingly independent kids. The yellow tint in the tree next door.

The lazy and sometimes boring mornings. The 800th children’s book. The pre-bedtime insanity ritual in which every child in my house pretends they can’t hear me.

I’ll take these moments and live in them because they’re what I’ve been given today.

And today is something to be deeply grateful for.

Now, if anyone is in the area, I think I’m ready for my first Pumpkin Spice Latte.

(Okay, yeah. You’re right. Baby steps. I got ahead of myself there. Opening the windows and being happy about the cool breeze is probably a better place to start.)

nothing can sit empty.

The world feels like an especially ugly place lately.

It seems like every screen I turn to shows me something more terrible than the thing before. Something more horrifying. More gut-wrenching. More mind-boggling.

And, as if it all weren’t bad enough, I also have to deal with the fact that I don’t particularly like my knee-jerk reaction when faced with this ugliness.

Because before I can get to the feelings that lead to the actions that might elicit some kind of positive change, I’ve first got to wade through something else:


It’s a both a familiar and unwelcome feeling–a sort of paralytic fear that rises and falls from my belly to my throat.

I’ve met this fear enough to know that it stems from uncertainty and anticipation and helplessness all rolled up into one.

(You know, the same kinds of feelings The Left Behind for Kids series elicited way back in the late 1900s. Please tell me I wasn’t the only one traumatized by those.)

I have prayed against this fear a lot in my life because I believe I serve a God who promises that I don’t have to be owned by fear. Fear is rooted in lies, after all.

Please take away my fear.

Please give me peace.

Please shift my perspective.

Again and again and again I have prayed these prayers.

And still the thorn remains and digs in deeper every so often.

A friend of mine recently told me a parable from the Book of Matthew that I didn’t remember ever hearing before (or at least understanding). It’s been on my mind a lot these past few weeks:

When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, “I will return to my house from which I came.” And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.

The evil spirit leaves the man. So, the man cleans his house. Empties it, sweeps it, puts it all back in order. But he doesn’t fill it with anything.

The house just sits empty. So, the evil spirit comes back with seven of his more terrible friends and things end up far worse for the man than how they began.

Nothing can sit empty.

So, if I want to eliminate the presence of fear from my life, I have to fill its void with something else.


And this is a daily and vigilant task.

It’s a change from output to input.

It’s leaning into what God actually promises me when it comes to fear and allowing those truths to fill the unoccupied spaces fear leaves behind.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. 

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. ¹

There have been so many times in my life when I’ve felt frustrated in the face of fear. I was asking God to take it away, after all, and yet, it persisted.

Now, I wonder if the problem wasn’t that God wasn’t answering my prayer, but rather that I was expecting Him to empty something from my being without seeking out what I should fill it with instead.

Fear still creeps in (I think it always will), but when I choose to breathe in words like “love” and “power” and “sound mind” in the face of that spirit of fear, I suddenly have a filler for the void fear will leave behind.

Will leave behind.

God promises as much.

The world will continue to be an ugly place. I know this because, again, I know that you can’t expect things like hateful rhetoric or twisted beliefs to be righted unless Truth moves in to fill the empty space. 

So I’m going to keep pushing through the fear. I’m going to keep asking God to fill my house with the things He is: Love. Hope. Grace. Righteousness. Wisdom. 

And then I’m going to ask Him to help me breathe that Truth into all the various empty spaces I can find. I’m going to ask Him to give me opportunities to love the marginalized and oppressed and hurting.

Which I know He will.

He’s the answer to the ugliness if only we will ask Him to fill the voids left in its wake.

And even on the darkest of days, there’s hope in that.

¹ John 14:27, 2 Timothy 1:7, Philippians 4:6-7, Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 94:19, Psalm 55:22

two minutes and forty-three seconds.

My life felt like a scene from a movie tonight for about two minutes and forty-three seconds.

I had just finished a three-kid bath when “Something That I Want” by Grace Potter came through the portable speaker.

I threw a purple hooded towel over Lily’s head and tousled it through her hair. She laughed, and while I pulled her in close to me to kiss her forehead, I caught Sawyer and Norah out of the corner of my eye. They were face-to-face and smiling at the other end of the bathtub.

I sent the girls into their bedroom and carried Sawyer to his with the speaker in hand. I squatted low to get a pair of pajamas out of the bottom drawer of his dresser and promptly lost my balance and fell backward.

Sawyer craned his neck to look at me and laugh and then the girls burst into the room, half-wrapped in towels. They dog-piled us and added to the laughter.

Everyone was happy.

And that made me happy.

This parentsofsmallkids life is something, isn’t it? It moves both slowly and quickly all within the same inhale of a temper tantrum and exhale of extended grace.

It’s filled with juxtapositions and monotonies¹ and failures and victories and stresses and questions and (more frequently than I’d like to admit) months-old spots of dried spit-up.

It bogs me down sometimes.

But then God lets me look in on it from the outside. Tonight, for two minutes and forty three seconds, I saw only my kids’ smiling faces while the scene evolved (thanks to Grace Potter’s peppy number).

It was the scene in the movie meant to remind you that everything is going to be okay. That despite the chaos and conflicts, these kids are loved.

That they’re happy.

I’m no perfect parent (see: too sharp tone tonight when four-year-old decided bedtime might be optional). But I do love my kids, and tonight I was reminded that that deep love goes further than I often realize.

When I looked at my kids tonight, I saw a happy childhood and a reminder to keep doing everything I can (which is certainly not done out of my own strength) to love them well each day.

These are hard years. But they’re good years. And I refuse to wish them away.

I’m thankful for moments like tonight because they remind me to live more fully in my kids’ childhoods with them. To laugh. To smile. To let them smother me even though they aren’t fully clothed.

Oh, and it’s also worth noting that our laughter-filled dog-pile ended when “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” came on next, and in fitting fashion, in the music queue. The girls were promptly sent back to their rooms to get their pajamas on.

This mama doesn’t mess around with bedtime. (Ask the four-year-old.)

¹ sometimes I make up words. this is one of those times.

a lighter, a broomstick, and an anniversary.

A few nights ago, Jake and I climbed into bed only to realize the monitor in Sawyer’s room had gotten flipped off earlier in the day.

Now, this is pretty boring backstory, but it’s worth noting that said monitor is mounted in the back corner of the crib. And, it would be super easy to reach over the top of the crib to push the power button if Sawyer didn’t insist on sleeping, instead, in the pack n’ play which is set up right next to the crib. Really, the only way to get a hand on the monitor (while the baby sleeps) is to climb stealthily into the crib.

Jake: “How am I supposed to turn it back on without waking him up?”
Me: “I don’t know.”

*Three minutes pass*

Jake: I used a lighter and a broomstick.


It’s a little known fact that the summer before Jake and I started dating, we wrote letters to each other while he was in Kansas and I was in Iowa. We exchanged about a letter a week as, really, our only means of communication because Jake didn’t have a cell phone at the time and I wasn’t too keen on calling his home phone where the majority of his brothers (who sound just like him) also lived.

Anyway, as I’ve been thinking about our ninth wedding anniversary, one paragraph from the last letter Jake wrote me that summer (dated 7/29/06) keeps coming to mind:

As the summer draws near its end, I couldn’t help but think of my summer as a whole. I find it interesting that a girl like you and a guy like me have been so faithfully writing each other, and furthermore, enjoying each other’s letters when in reality we don’t seem to have that much in common. I am a guy from the boonies who loves excitement, thrill, and pushing the limit, while (although you may object) I understand you to be a safe, down-to-earth, thrill avoider (note: he underlined “avoider” three times) who would just as soon stay in Des Moines, Iowa for the rest of your life. Is it possible that a mutual faith and similar Biblical values are enough to allow such a relationship between two seemingly opposite people to progress?


So, did anyone want to guess which one of us is the lighter and which one of us is the broomstick in this particular metaphor?

Jake and I are the unlikeliest of pairs.

Yet, together, I’ve seen us accomplish a lot of good and important things (you know, like turning monitors back on and stuff) in the nine years we have been married.

Furthermore, I can’t help but notice that so many of the things we have done together are things that a broomstick would never have accomplished without the initial spark of a lighter.

We’ve still got (and always will have) a lot of growing to do. We don’t have a perfect marriage by any means.

But we do have a mutual faith and similar Biblical values, and, while that’s certainly not all it takes to make a marriage work, I really believe those lenses have tethered us to the things that are lasting and have given us common goals with each passing year of our marriage.

The metaphor, after all, isn’t really about the lighter and the broomstick as individual units. It’s about how, united, they worked together for the good of someone else.

It’s about purpose.

And, in year nine, more than anything, I’m thankful to be married to a man who shares a similar vision as to what exactly our purpose is.

A man who lights a fire under my feet and continually pushes me toward our common goals. Toward the good of other people.

And, on the cusp of a decade, that feels pretty good.

You know what else feels good? I didn’t live in Des Moines, Iowa my entire life, so take that 2006 Jake.


a seat at the table.

I read two books in June.

I know it’s the middle of July and pretty after the fact, but it still felt worth mentioning.

I read Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult first because literally everyone told me to. As soon as I read it, I figured I should probably write about it given all the recommendations, but I couldn’t figure out how to best formulate my thoughts.

So, instead, I picked up another book.

I heard about The Turquoise Table from another writer/bibliophile who had reviewed it on her blog. The premise was simple: Kristin Schell wanted to build community with her neighbors, so, in a quest to be, as she calls it, “Front-Yard People,” she put a big turquoise picnic table in her front yard and started hanging out at it as much as possible.


Needless to say, I’ve been thinking a lot about tables lately.

I’ve also been thinking about this Benjamin Franklin quote which Jodi Picoult so aptly placed before the first chapter of Small Great Things:

Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.

But how can I be affected by what’s going on in another person’s life — their battles, their struggles, their needs — unless I offer them a seat at our table?

Unless I bring them into our life?

A few weekends ago, we drove to Chicago for a long weekend. Four hours into our six-hour drive, we passed a broken down suburban on the side of the road.

Two hours, one new alternator, one attempted battery charge, and one tow-truck later, Jake got back into our air-conditioned-less car (it was hot) and said something important to me: I want our kids to be uncomfortable sometimes. I want them to know that it’s good to do things for other people even if it changes our plans or pushes us out of our comfort zones.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot since too.

I want there to be a seat at our table for people even if it changes our plans or pushes us out of our comfort zones.

I want there to be a seat at our table for people with a wide array of opinions, beliefs, and life experiences.

And, I want the people at our table to teach us to better listen, better communicate, and better love.

(Which, I suppose, is likely inevitable.)

In the two years we’ve lived in Cleveland, especially, I’ve seen how quickly friendships can be formed around a table.

And the best part is this: It doesn’t take much.

I think it’s probably as easy as making sure you have a few extra chairs.


I haven’t given a book away in a few months, but I bought Small Great Things fully intending on passing it along to someone else.

That someone could be you!

If you want my copy, just leave a comment and let me know either straight on this blog post or on the social media thread that led you here!

The only catch is that you have to discuss it with me when you’re finished because I have a lot more thoughts about this one that still need to be fleshed out.

Don’t worry — there’s a seat at my table for you. 😉