vigor unabated.

The afternoon began with good intentions. While the girls emptied their lunch boxes at the kitchen counter, I turned on our bluetooth speaker and played some quiet music. “Will you guys sit at the kitchen table and color with me?” I asked the kids. This is one of my favorite ways to spend the post-school, pre-dinner chunk of time, but these good intentions are almost always met with reality: a two-year-old who’s determined to crumple up everyone’s artwork, a four-year-old whose thrill in life is to bother anyone within arm’s reach, and two girls who are exhausted from the stimulation of a long day at school. 

For the next hour and a half, I put out fires. I served up breaks when the screaming escalated, mediated arguments while chopping carrots and onions, and extended comfort when the lion drawing was destroyed at the hands of the—plot twist!—four-year-old. I wish I could say I did all this with patience, but by the time we sat down at the table to eat dinner, I had lost my cool more than once with more than one kid. I was tired of it. The noise was a constant hum of whining and complaining, and that’s when I looked up and saw my brand new letter board staring back at me—one word on its face: DELIGHT.

Jake had hung it for me the day before in between the back door and large window in our kitchen, and all day I thought about what I wanted it to say. What words did I need to see on the daily? As I popped the letters out of their packaging, I thought of a verse from Zechariah 4 that I really only know because of an Alli Rogers song I played on repeat when I was in college: Do not despise the day of small things. Recently convicted to find joy and purpose in even the most mundane aspects of our every day, I knew these words would be a good, consistent reminder as I stood at the center peninsula packing lunches, pouring cereal, or wiping down the surface for the 87th time each day. I fished out all the letters, lined the words up, and stood back to take a look. Too much. The board was too full.

Next I tried the day of small things—knowing the words would serve the same conviction—but it was still too busy. The uppercase, black letters took up too much of the white background. I needed one word, maybe two. How could I encompass this single sentence reminder to enjoy the small things? That’s right: Delight. It seemed both an apt encouragement and admonition.

So, as it caught my eye there in the middle of the dinner chaos, I asked myself a simple question: How many other words can I make with this one? And then, I proceeded to ignore all the noise and movement around me. I checked out for the sake of light, glide, tile, tiled, and 15 other words I landed on by the time dinner was finally over.

The irony is not lost on me, of course—that the very word I put on my letter board to remind myself to stay present and find joy in the mundane moments is the exact word I was using to escape a Wednesday night dinner with my kids. And yet, even when my word search was interrupted by Norah asking me if rice was made out of cheese (Me: No. I’m not sure why Sawyer thinks that), I went right back to it—wondering if “hilt” was really a word or if it just sounded like a word. 

The day felt like a wash. I checked out and had no desire to check back in.


In the middle of Numbers, the Israelites are in the middle of the wilderness. Their entry to the Promised Land has been halted (not to be confused with hilted which is, in fact, a legitimate word) by their own grumbling and disobedience. Still, they haven’t seemed to get the point, and they basically just follow Moses around complaining about how bad their life is. 

Why have you brought the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness? [1]
Why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? [2]
Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food. [3]

I underlined those last five words in my scripture journal the morning after I anagramed “delight” because it reminded me of Sawyer’s nightly dinner commentary (and made me wonder if it would be less agitating if I taught him the word “loathe.”)

In the middle of all this complaining, Moses and Aaron go to the tent of meeting and fall down on their faces before the Lord—a response I understand deeply. God tells Moses to take his staff, gather the people, and tell the rock before them to yield water. They do this, but Moses adds to the instructions. After he angrily rebukes the people, he strikes the rock twice with his staff instead of giving only a verbal command. Water flows, and the people drink, but it’s now Moses who receives a rebuke from God: “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” [4]

Moses—the man who delivered the Israelites out of Egypt, led the people through the parted waters of the Red Sea, and continually interceded on behalf of the sins of the people—would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land. And all because, in his anger, he struck a rock twice. 

My limited, human response is to feel like God is overreacting. Doesn’t all the good Moses did for both God and the people give him a pass here? How was anyone supposed to stay calm under those circumstances? His life was accompanied by a constant hum of whining and complaining. Of course he lost his temper. Who wouldn’t?

Moses, it seems, is held to a higher standard. He was the example for the people of what it meant to live uprightly—his life the model of full trust in God. This is the call of a leader isn’t it? To show those in your charge how to live. To model patience and kindness and train them in the way they should go. 

The thing I keep coming back to about Moses is that he kept doing this—leading his people faithfully and rising to the higher standard—even after the Promised Land was off the table for him. He never checked out or allowed himself to be defined by his worst day. In the next chapter, he was back at it—interceding on behalf of his people when their grumbling got them in trouble yet again. He saw the big picture. He stayed present and continually led well. And the last words written about him before he died?

His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated. [5]

How do you think that would look on my letter board?

[1] Numbers 20:4
[2] Numbers 20:5
[3] Numbers 21:5
[4] Numbers 20:12
[5] Deuteronomy 34:7

do well and let go.

The sun was high above us and the air cool in our wake as our family parade of misfit bicycles set out—leaving the long driveway behind. Jake took the lead on his lime green bike with Norah in tandem on a bright pink fifth wheel. Lily, our oldest and only independent rider on the long trips, took up the middle space. I pulled up the rear with Sawyer and Jude in a trailer that, in all its faded teal glory, was once mistaken for an old paddle boat. Each time we trek out on one of these rides, we elicit smiles and second glances from almost every passerby.

We ventured out on our regular route, turning down a path that led to a big hill and then wove through the woods next to the river. We rode under a highway overpass, and I reminded Lily to be careful on the gravelly stretch that hadn’t yet been redone. Eventually we came to a familiar fork in the road but chose the road less travelled—a stretch of bike trail we had never ridden before. It took us around a pond and back into a wooded area at which point Norah threw back her head, stretched her legs wide beside her, and yelled, “This is the longest bike ride ever!”

And it might have been, given that we don’t normally stray too far from home with the kids in tow. Eventually, the path led us into a residential neighborhood. Instead of staying straight and heading toward home, Jake went left, and as I turned my bicycle to follow him, I realized the road he had chosen was a straight incline for at least a half a mile. I stood on my pedals and pumped—my legs burning with each push. We’d been at this for 6 miles already, after all, and I was pulling 70 pounds of chatty dead weight behind me.

I can do this,” I thought, in an attempt to empower myself. I started to hum that Miley Cyrus song about uphill battles and finding what’s waiting on the other side, and by the middle of the hill, I was in a groove. I was going to make it without stopping, and it felt good.

Then, without warning, Lily slammed on her brakes and stopped in front of me.

“Lily! Don’t. Stop. In front of me!” I punctuated the words sharply, which is to say I yelled them as I rode around her on the grass, angry and unwilling to interrupt my steady momentum.

“I need a break,” she said as I passed—her body splayed forward across her handlebars in exhaustion. I noticed a couple walking their dog on the other side of the street watching us, and their witness to my overreaction deflated me. A new Miley Cyrus song filled my head as I felt the shame of my anger and slowed to a stop. All my kid wanted was for me to wait while she caught her breath, and I came in like a wrecking ball.


Most people know the story of Jonah.

God told him to go to Ninevah—to call the people out for their wickedness—so God could save the people there, but Jonah, instead, turned in the opposite direction. Then there was the storm. The big fish. The three days in the belly. The dry land. The return to Ninevah. The repentance. The Lord’s compassion and forgiveness.

But then the biblical account ends outside of the city with a part of the story I don’t remember many of my childhood story books including: The part where Jonah sat in the hot sun and begged God to let him die. He was angry that good had come to Ninevah. He wanted to die rather than witness God’s mercy and steadfast love heaped upon an entire city. In response, God asked Jonah a simple question: “Do you do well to be angry?”[1]

The obvious answer is no. It didn’t do Jonah well to be angry, especially about a situation that had little to do with him personally. But, he dug in his heels, and said straight to God, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.”[2]

Jonah annoys me. When I read the four chapter account, I hear that old Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers Saturday Night Live bit in my head: Really, Jonah? Really? You couldn’t deal for like one day for the sake of an entire city’s salvation? You watched God’s love in action and then a lack of shade sent you over the edge? Really?

At his core, I think Jonah felt inconvenienced. God upended his life for the sake of another. God sent him to do something bigger than himself and Jonah was flat-out selfish about the whole thing—making sure God knew he didn’t like how this had turned out for him. 

Cue the camera pan. Seth and Amy turn their attention toward me. Really? 

The heart of so much of my anger, as far as my children are concerned, is a feeling of inconvenience. The request for a glass of water as soon as I sit down at the table to eat my lunch. The fight that needs intervention while I’m in the middle of a scroll through Instagram. The footsteps above my head right after I sit down on the couch at the end of another long day. I am constantly inconvenienced by my kids. And, what’s more, I constantly make sure they know it. My days contain so many snapshots of rolled eyes and sound bytes of deep sighs or snippy retorts. Jonah was sent over the edge by his source of shade shriveling up which isn’t unlike a stalled bicycle forcing me to adjust my trajectory. I see Jonah’s selfishness when he tells God he does well to be angry, and I wonder if that couple on the other side of the road—the ones who bore witness to me yelling at my exhausted six-year-old—saw mine.

“Really?” they probably mouthed with a sideways glance to each other.

The Bible doesn’t tell us what happened to Jonah; the account ends with a question from God. There are no details about where Jonah went next or what became of his life. Did he go back home and pick up right where he left off? Did God send him anywhere else? Did he let go of his anger?

That’s what I wonder most about Jonah. Did he carry the inconvenience of his narrative with him or did he let it go?

I like to think he let it go. I like to think that after his conversation with God, he finally realized he wasn’t the main character in his story and then made his life about doing whatever he could to amplify the goodness of God. I like to think he stopped caring so much about inconvenience and changes in plans and roadblocks in the middle of the sidewalk.

It’s possible. God’s grace is big enough. Really.

[1] Jonah 4:4, 9a

[2] Jonah 4:9b

the light always finds its way in.

As soon as the sun begins to sink in the sky, a long strip of light stretches onto our kitchen floor from the corner window behind the sink. It’s an obvious brightness, and as it bathes our kitchen in warmth, I always wish we had more west-facing windows to let in the sunshine.

But I realized something this week as I paid attention to the golden hour. It doesn’t matter where the windows face. The sun reaches through the cracks and stretches as far as it can across multiple rooms. Its glow shifts and dances around our house, never minding the fact that most of the windows look north.

The light always finds its way in.

Someday, my kids will ask me what all this was like, and I’ll tell them in earnest—making sure they know all the ways the sun reached through the cracks, stretched itself into everything, and bathed us with its warmth.

“The light found its way in,” I’ll tell them. “The light always finds its way in.”

This post was written as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series “Go Where the Light Is”.

a few good things.

I’ve been wondering all week what I have to add to the noise and the words and the chaos all around us, and the answer came to me this morning: YouTube clips. 

I needed a break from the news today (you too?), so I went ahead and compiled 20 of my all-time favorite YouTube clips. There are movie scenes, broadway numbers, bits from my favorite television shows, and a few other random things included below. They all share one thing in common: They make me happy every single time I watch them, and I hope they might send a little joy your way today too.

Without further ado (and in no particular order)…

1.) This scene from Pam and Jim’s wedding in The Office which just now made me both laugh out loud and cry.

2.) Also that time Jim dressed up like Dwight and Dwight dressed up like Jim.

3.) One of my very favorite performances from So You Think You Can Dance: Turn to Stone with Melanie and Marko.

4.) One of my favorite songs: Yet Not I But Through Christ in Me by CityAlight.

5.) This sweet production of Boat Song by JJ Heller.

6.) The Jackal, obviously, fellow West Wing fans.

7.) That time Lin-Manuel Miranda surprised his wife with a rendition of To Life from Fiddler on the Roof at their wedding.

8.) Also that time Jimmy Fallon found out he once sort of went on a date with Nicole Kidman but didn’t realize it.

9.) Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig presenting at the 2013 Golden Globes and also Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig presenting at the 2020 Academy Awards.

10.) This scene from John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch featuring Jake Gyllenhaal in which Mr. Music tries to make music out of things that don’t make any sound.

11.) The Broadway edition of Carpool Karaoke.

12.) Also, while we’re on the subject of show tunes: the Hamilton cast singing Yorktown at the 2016 Tony Awards.

13.) This beautiful scene from the movie Wonder.

14.) When Leslie Knope met Joe Biden and couldn’t deal. Also, Bye Bye Li’l Sebastian, duh.

15.) Taylor Swift’s You Belong With Me music video. Don’t @ me.

16.) Kristen Bell describing the time a sloth came to her birthday party. 

17.) Jimmy Fallon’s “songversation” with Justin Timberlake. (How can you choose just one Jimmy/Justin clip? I panicked.)

18.) Also, Jimmy Fallon’s recent at-home editions of The Tonight Show.

19.) Carrie Underwood’s rendition of How Great Thou Art.

20.) Finally, the first 10 minutes of Greta Gerwig’s Little Women.

Happy Friday, everyone. Here’s to taking it one day and one YouTube clip at a time.

valentine’s day isn’t all we have.

Jake and I have now spent 14 Valentine’s Days together, and I remember exactly two of them.

My first memory is of our only Valentine’s Day engaged in which we spent the holiday together at a pot show. We drove thirty minutes and then sat for an hour in a hotel meeting room while a salesman tried to sell us the most expensive and classiest pot around—a full set of greaseless, waterless cookware.

A couple of college kids, we were always on the lookout for free stuff, and this event (using that term loosely given that there were only about 10 people in attendance) promised free food and a chance to win a free vacation which, to Jake and me, sounded like free dinner and a potential free honeymoon. It seemed like a win-win at the time.

Dinner turned out to be a single chicken breast which—amazingly—was cooked without grease or oil. It was then cut up into small pieces and we each got to sample one single bite. When we found out you had to buy something in order to be entered for a chance at the free vacation, we officially called the evening a bust, but as we tried to sneak out the back, the salesman cut us off and offered a final pitch.

“You’ll never have to buy another set of pots and pans for your entire life,” he told us after some small talk that let us know he was truly invested in our lives. “You’ll be starting your marriage with something that will last forever.”

Jake and I didn’t even have $2,000 (I told you—classy pots) combined at that point and certainly wouldn’t have spent the money on cookware even if we did. Jake though, ever the negotiator, couldn’t resist an offer. He picked up the smallest pot. “l’ll buy this one for $40,” he said.

“I can’t just sell you one pot,” the salesman said. “You have to buy the entire set.” He then went on to tell us about the importance of good pots and pans and how much he really believed in this product. “I got into this business to help people,” he said.

Jake, completely unswayed, countered back: “If you want to help people, then why can’t you just sell me this one pot?” he asked.

“I can’t cut you that big a deal,” the salesman said. “And even if I did, you couldn’t fully appreciate it because you didn’t earn it yourself.” With that, we left—empty handed and hungry.

Thirty minutes later, we sat eating burgers and endless french fries at Red Robin, while we talked and laughed about all the unearned things in our lives which we felt as though we really did appreciate.

My second Valentine’s Day memory is one year later and seven months after Jake and I were married.

I had decided to institute a new holiday tradition (note: this lasted two years) in which every Valentine’s Day we would find a new recipe and cook a nice meal together. I pulled out my fanciest cookbook (Thanks, Rachael Ray!), and together we boiled pasta, roasted vegetables, and baked chicken in our small apartment kitchen. I don’t remember many specifics other than this: We burst roasted cherry tomatoes for the sauce and discussed our gratitude for the cheap teflon cookware we had been gifted for our wedding.

At some point during this prep-work, Jake’s best friend called to see what we were up to, so we invited him over. Together, we sat down to eat our homemade dinner and then, because those were the leave-the-house-whenever-you-want-to years, we decided to see a movie.

That’s it. That’s all I remember.

There are 12 more Valentine’s Days of lost memories and forgotten experiences in addition to these two semi-vague recollections. I legitimately cannot even tell you what we did last year on this day. The specifics are gone—purged from my mind forever.

I have so many other memories though.

For instance, ten years ago, in the middle of the week and nowhere near Valentine’s Day, I found a post-it note hidden in the middle of a loaf of bread in our cupboard. Jake had put it there a few days earlier before he traveled overseas for ten days. I found a dozen more post-it notes in various places around our house while he was gone—reminders that he had been thinking about me before he left and missed me each day after.

A little less than seven years ago and right after Lily was born, Jake took a break from studying for his medical school boards to eat dinner with us. As soon as he walked in the door, I burst into tears—the delirious cries of a new mom who had no clue what she was feeling. That night (and a bunch of other nights), Jake neglected his books without pause and stayed with me longer than he should have, so he could hold Lily in his arms and me in his presence.

A few weeks ago, Jake woke up in the afternoon after a night shift and came downstairs to a half-cooked dinner and a kitchen filled with whining children. He took the wooden spoon out of my hand and told me to go eat dinner by myself somewhere “for self-preservation.” A few days ago, I caught him taking a picture of me inside Petco while I looked at a wall of fish tanks with the kids—an unspoken response to me mentioning that I wanted to be in more family pictures. Just yesterday, he opted to stay home instead of leaving to play basketball, so we could sit in our living room next to the fire after the kids went to bed.

I don’t remember much about Valentine’s Day, but I am filled with vivid memories like these—small moments in time which remind me that love requires no pomp, circumstance, or nationally recognized holiday. Generous and sacrificial love is found in the simple and ordinary moments too, and this is the kind of love I am most thankful for every day. It is not loud or flashy, but it’s steady. It’s familiar. And, better yet, it’s given even though I have done nothing to earn it which (and I say this resolutely) makes me appreciate it even more.

I’m tempted to regret those 12 lost memories—to wish I had better documented or kept a more thorough record of all the official holidays we have spent together. But, Valentine’s Day isn’t all we have, and, thankfully, the Mondays and the Thursdays and the Sunday afternoons have all been worth remembering too.

baby steps.

I’m not often far away from the sound of Jude’s feet. I hear them when the crib mattress rocks into the side rail and when they kick against the foot rest of his high chair. They shift softly when I lay him down for his naps and scrape pebbles across our driveway when we play outside. Sometimes his feet are the focus of my attention while other times they create a constant background noise; however, they’re almost always there—bearing witness to every piece of our day.

A year ago, all these feet did were kick off swaddle wraps and flail in the air with abandon. Now, here he is today using them to climb the steps to the top of our deck and sneak himself into the pantry cabinet.

I don’t quite remember the shifts or exactly when it all changed, but I suppose it happened one little step at a time.


This post was written as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series “Everyday Magic.”

on being seen.

It’s past midnight when I finally collapse into bed. As I sink into the air mattress on the floor of our empty bedroom, my mind fills with scenes from the previous two days. The semi-truck parked in front of our home ready to hold all our belongings. One last walk around the neighborhood with the kids. Takeout Thai food in lawn chairs on the front porch. Heaving sobs as the lock turned on our empty house one final time. A 700-mile drive. A different empty house, waiting to be filled with our things.

Jake turns the light off and settles in next to me, his weight popping my side of the air mattress up. I flip over onto my back and center myself on my pillow. As my eyes adjust to the dark room, I notice the lights on the ceiling fan above me. The switch has been turned off, but the lights continue to glow slightly—four dim circles directly overhead.

I wonder why they aren’t completely black. It’s strange; the light is gone but also still here.


Four years before I sank into that lopsided air mattress, our family moved away from home for the first time. Jake had just graduated from medical school and a residency program awaited him in Ohio. In our first weeks there, I spent a lot of time on our front porch during nap time—my feet pressed firmly into the sturdy planks while also feeling as though I had completely lost my footing. One afternoon, as I watched a car drive down our street faster than it should, an unsettling combination of anger and jealousy rose within me. I thought of all the friends I had left behind and realized their lives were flying forward without me. Their daily routines and structures were relatively unchanged by my absence while everything I knew had been turned on its head.

Self-pity washed over me. I felt cut off and convinced myself I was forgotten.

A few days later, I checked my mail. As I sifted through the junk mail and coupon packs, a small postcard with a cityscape on the front caught my eye. I flipped it over. It came from a friend back home. The message was only 30 words long—a quick note to tell me she hoped the move had gone well—but those words overwhelmed me with gratitude. Seven hundred miles away, my friend had thought of me, and then she went one step further: She wrote down those thoughts  and sent them in the mail.

I walked inside and hung the postcard on the refrigerator, where it would stay until we moved four years later.


A few months after I got that postcard in the mail, Norah turned one. Instead of the family-filled party Lily had for her first birthday, we answered FaceTime calls and sat around our table, just the four of us. As we sang “Happy Birthday” that cold night in November and watched Norah eat an entire mini cupcake in one bite, I wondered how many of my friends back home remembered her birthday. Did they realize we were celebrating this milestone alone? The familiar pang of self-pity beat in my chest.

The next day, a package arrived on my doorstep. Inside, I found a board book of animals and a note: Dear Norah, We love you and miss you so much. Happy birthday! The gift came from another one of my friends from back home.

During the four years we lived in Ohio, our kids celebrated a combined 11 more birthdays (including the actual birth day of two additional kids), and this friend remembered to send a package for every single one.

She never forgot.


Toward the end of our residency in Ohio, Jake had to spend two weeks out of town at various conferences and job interviews while I stayed home with our five-year-old, three-year-old, two-year-old, and two-month-old. It was not an ideal situation, but we were all determined to make the best of it.

School schedules kept us busy during the day, but the afternoons and evenings were long and lonely. By the time I needed to cook dinner each night, my patience was thin and my energy for meal prep thinner. Then, just when I was feeling as though the two weeks would never end, a giant box arrived on my front porch.

The kids and I opened it together. We pulled out pasta, macaroni and cheese, Goldfish crackers, coffee, chocolate snacks, and various other pantry essentials.

“Who’s it from?” my oldest asked with a jar of peanut butter in her hands.

I checked the box for a note, but couldn’t find one. I remembered a conversation I had recently with another long-distance friend about how hard it was to have Jake gone for so long, so I picked up my phone and called her.

“Did you send me a giant box filled with food?” I asked her after she answered.

“Yes!” she said. “I thought it might help.”

It did.


Jake rolls over to his back and jostles me on the air mattress again. His movement pulls me into the middle, so I lay my head on his chest and close my eyes, exhausted from all the moving boxes, goodbyes, and general upheaval the previous days had held.

“Look at the lights,” he says; noticing the same dim glow I had moments earlier. “Why do they still look like they’re on?”

I glance up again. It’s not enough light to keep us awake at night, and if we weren’t looking directly at it, we probably wouldn’t even notice it at all. To see it, you have to make an effort.

The moving truck with the rest of our things arrives the next morning. The air mattress is replaced with a real one, and the rooms are filled with boxes of belongings. A few days later, I walk down our long driveway to the mailbox and, to my surprise, find a small package inside. I open it immediately and pull out a wooden ornament in the shape of Ohio and a note from a friend I just left behind: “Miss you already!”

Gravel crunches under my feet as I make my way back to our house, and I think about the various notes and packages I’ve received from long-distance friends throughout the years. As I hold the most recent one in my right hand, I realize the gift itself doesn’t even matter that much.

The real gift is the fact that someone took the time to notice. To see me. Even after my light had faded from view, my friends kept looking at me—seeing my dim glow from a distance and refusing to snuff me out.

Later that night, I lie in our bed and wait for Jake to turn off the lights. As soon as he flicks the switch, I stare intently at the four faint circles of light above me. Jake slides in next to me and grabs my hand.

“You doing okay?” he asks.

“Yeah,” I say, feeling seen once more. “I think I am.”

psssst! Each month, I send out a newsletter containing a few thoughts about all the things I read, write, love, and think about. If you want to get in on the fun, you can sign up HERE

to all the books i’ve loved this year.

I can still remember the first chapter book I really loved. I was a sixth grader when Mr. Smith placed The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill in my hands. Something about it captivated me, and it was the first of many books that has long stayed with me even into my adult years. To Kill a Mockingbird. Harry Potter. The Help. The Fault in Our Stars. The Nightingale.  Even today, I’m moved by the experiences I had looking at life through a different character’s lens.

But, interestingly enough, 2018 wasn’t my year for fiction even though, historically, that’s typically the lane I stay in. I read 20 books last year, and only seven of them were novels.

The other 13 were a mixture of memoir, essay collections, christian living, and general nonfiction, so to sum it up, I spent much of 2018 thinking about the implications of all the things I have have read.

It does seem fitting though that I ended the year with a novel, and there was a line in C.S. Lewis’s Prince Caspian that brought everything I have read this year full circle. It came toward the end as the Penvensie children and Trumpkin the Dwarf are attempting to make it to Prince Caspian and his ragtag army. Aslan the Lion shows up in the middle of the night to help, but it is only Lucy who can see him at first. Upon spotting him, she runs to him, and they have this exchange:

“Welcome child,” he said.
“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”
“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

God became bigger to me this year, but He’s not the one who changed. There are a lot of factors at play, but many of the books I read last year challenged my thinking and revealed to me ways I needed to grow. And, the more I grew, the bigger I found God.

Needless to say, this has been one of my favorite years as far as books go.

I’ve already written about all of these books, so I’ll just include them in list form below. If you’re interested in any of my longer form thoughts, just click on the link attached to each month. For quick scanning purposes, I’ve included a five-star rating behind each book.


  • Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham ⭐️⭐️


  • To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


  • A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng ⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


  • Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Dance, Stand, Run: The God-Inspired Moves of a Woman on Holy Ground by Jess Connolly ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • The Teacher Diaries: Romeo and Juliet by Callie Feyen ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

June + July

  • Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • For the Love of Discipline: When the Gospel Meets Tantrums and Time-Outs by Sara Wallace ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️(I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It completely reframed so much of my parenting for the better.)
  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


  • The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis ⭐️⭐️
  • Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds by Jen Wilken ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️(This is another one that led to an incredible amount of personal growth for me. It challenged me in all the right ways.)


  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

October + November

  • Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are So You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis ⭐️
  • American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures by America Ferrera ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • The Ministry of Ordinary Places: Waking Up to God’s Goodness Around You by Shannan Martin ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


  • Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis ⭐️⭐️

A Few Other Things

I wrote a few things this month too. Over at Mighty Moms, I rounded up 21 of our favorite children’s books and wrote a little something about swaddle blankets. I also wrote a few words on Instagram about my internal struggle with Christmas traditions each year.


Also, as a bonus, I fell in love with a few other things besides just books and words this year, so if you’re in the market for recommendations, here are a few of my other favorite things, compliments of 2018.

  • We discovered some new children’s books this year, and we all (kids and adults) are better for it. I wish you could hear my kids howl with laughter when we read The Book with No Pictures and our newest favorite is The Storm that Stopped (one book in a larger, wonderful collection).
  • barkTHINS snacking chocolate. Special shoutout to my friend, Breanna, for sending me a bag of this for my birthday and Costco for selling it in bulk.
  • These joggers and this tinted lip balm were two of my favorite purchases this year.
  • This recipe for white chicken chili and my friend Cara’s recipe for crusty bread have become well-loved staples in our house this fall/winter.
  • The Great British Baking Show. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Parks and Recreation. (Okay, so that last one is an old love, but every year I go back to it, and I’m never disappointed.)

The Last Thing (an action step!)

These monthly reviews have become one of my most favorite things to write. Not only is it helpful for my own means of processing, but I also just really love to tell people about the things I read and think about.

I’m going to keep reflecting at the end of each month, but (here’s the action step) moving into 2019, I’m going to format these monthly musings as an email rather than a blog post. That means if you’re someone who enjoys reading these posts, you’re going to need to subscribe to my email list. It’s as easy as clicking right here, but if you’re worried I’m going to start spamming you with daily emails, fear not. You’re only signing up for a single email at the end of every month in which I will regale you with tales of books read, summaries of articles written, and lists of things I can’t live without (have I mentioned this chocolate cookie recipe I recently discovered?).

In my quest to keep moving forward as a writer, this is my next right thing (oh! I loved The Next Right Thing podcast this year, too!). I’d be so honored if you’d stay with me. Writers aren’t anything, after all, if there isn’t anyone out there to read what they have to say.

(Here’s the subscription link again. 😉)

No More Things

(I bet you didn’t know how good I am at coming up with heading titles.)

2019 promises almost as much as 2018 threw at us. First, I’m going to kick off the year with a couple of books about the enneagram because I need to understand what this whole thing is about. But, on a more major scale, the Flinkman team is also getting ready to move back to Iowa in just a few months. Will knowing my enneagram number help with all the moving things? Stay tuned.

I can’t predict everything the future has in store, but I do know this: God is bound to seem bigger by this time next year as long as I keep growing myself.





october + november = books + thoughts

There’s a wood wick candle crackling on the other side of the room. It should probably be a Christmasy scent like balsam fir or gingerbread, but, instead, we’ve still got pumpkin butter burning over here. There is not a single Christmas decoration up in our house, and every morning when the kids and I walk to the van for school drop-offs, Lily asks me why our pumpkins are in the pile of snow to the side of the porch.

(I’m actually not sure how they ended up there.)

We’ll get to the Christmas tree here soon enough, but for now, I’m thinking about everything November threw at me. (And October, for that matter, because I skipped last month’s review. Halloween and four kids was a busy way to end the month. )

What I Read

I read three nonfiction books over the past two months which, content-wise, had very little in common. Each one made me think in very different ways, but they all pointed to one similar theme: An encouragement to draw a wider circle around the people I interact with. It’s reminiscent, really, of something I’ve been thinking about since I read Braving the Wilderness back in April.

Shannan Martin summed up this idea well in her book, The Ministry of Ordinary Places:

Simply put, we cannot love what we do not know.
We cannot know what we do not see.
We cannot see anything, really until we devote ourselves to the lost art of paying attention. (pg. 19)

I might not have liked all the books I read this month, but I did appreciate that each author reminded me to lean in to the people around me every chance I can.

Girl, Wash Your Face: Stop Believing the Lies About Who You Are so You Can Become Who You Were Meant to Be by Rachel Hollis

The short answer to how I felt about this book is this: I did not like it. The long answer is probably better explained in person over a cup of coffee or through a wordier email exchange because my feelings feel very nuanced. (Plus, I had different types of problems with it, and I don’t think you’re here for a complete literary analysis.)

American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures by America Ferrera

I recently quit Twitter (one of my better personal decisions, really—that place is stressful), but before I did, I saw Lin-Manuel Miranda make mention of a book of essays he had contributed to, and, after reading the summary, I ordered it on the spot.

Inside this book are thoughtful reflections from 31 different actors, comedians, politicians, artists, writers, and athletes (12-year-old Molly was especially thrilled that this included Michelle Kwan). They all come to the table with very different experiences and perspectives but are united in the fact that they all grew up closely connected to more than one culture.

In today’s political climate, I’m noticing how easy it can be to speak for other groups of people with only the knowledge a distance can provide. This book certainly doesn’t replace the necessity of face-to-face interaction with those of varying cultures or beliefs, but it did provide me with a lot of powerful perspectives which I’m thankful for.

The Ministry of Ordinary Places: Waking Up to God’s Goodness Around You by Shannan Martin

The premise of this book is simple: Pay attention to the hidden corners of your communities. The unnoticed places. The overlooked neighborhoods. The ignored people. Then, invest there. This book is filled with stories of the power that comes from sharing your life with other people.

There are two sections I keep circling back to in my brain:

…as we practice proximity with those we think of as lacking, we will begin to see ourselves aligned, the chasm between us narrowed to the width of the street where we live. Rather than clinging to this easy vernacular of “them” and “us,” let’s keep being broken together, slow to assume that certain people automatically need Jesus. Maybe they already have him. Maybe they just need a true friend. Maybe if we find ourselves compelled toward them it’s because we need to be discipled by them. (from “Let’s Stop Loving on the Least of These” pg. 118)

Mother Teresa famously said, “If you want to bring happiness to the whole world, go home and love your family.” We gobble up her words, plastering them on signs and hand-lettering them onto notecards. We love them because they are beautiful. And profoundly true. But let’s not forget, this is the same Mother Teresa who reminded us to ‘draw a wider circle’ around who we consider family. Seen under the light of that truth, new meaning emerges. If we want our world to be better, we have to go out and love the people around us. We need to invite them in, as family. (from “We All Are Mothers” pg. 142)

What I Wrote

I’m getting back in the swing of writing now that my self-defined maternity leave has ended. Jake has been working a lot of nights this past month, which gives me a lot of quiet evenings to sit in front of my laptop.

In my own space, I wrote about the time we thought our kids had head lice and how it actually served as a means to point me back to the Gospel. Over at Mighty Moms, I wrote an article about how to involve kids in Thanksgiving (a little after the fact now) and a round-up of toy ideas for little kids who love cars (specially dedicated to Sawyer).

I’ve also been writing some micro-essays on my public Instagram page. So often, very small moments throughout my days reveal deeper concepts to me, and Instagram has served as a nice outlet for those thoughts because it forces me to use fewer words (and also gives me a reason to play around with photography).

A few days ago, I wrote this quick reflection after Norah’s lunchtime prayer happened to reroute my entire day:


Onward Christmas Candles!

Every year, when I flip the giant $3 calendar I get from the Target dollar section to December, I think, “Didn’t I just buy this?” Jake asked me the other day if I think time will ever feel slower to which I said simply, “No.”

I’ve got two more books on my “to read list” for this year, but, honestly, I’m mostly just looking forward to looking back at 2018 as a whole. But, in addition to a lot of big things happening in our family, I also can’t ignore the small threads that repeated themselves throughout each month.

But, there I go getting ahead of myself and it’s not even officially December yet.

Tune in next month?

the place where residency and gratitude meet.

Just over three years ago, our family rolled into Cleveland.

Jake came first in a pretty janky hand-built trailer that almost didn’t make the whole trip, and then the girls and I pulled into the driveway the next day. I remember exhaling deeply as I looked at our house in person for the first time with a seven-month-old and two-year-old in tow. I had no idea then what was in store for us or what a life of medical residency would look like.

Three summers have passed. Now, there’s a five-year-old, a three-year-old, and an almost two-year old in tow, and I’m still exhaling deeply. Only this time, it has more to do with the fact that I just chased Sawyer down for the 18th time to keep him from running into the street or inviting himself into our neighbors’ houses.

Now, each summer since that first of complete upheaval, our family has recognized July 1st as an important American holiday, but this time, it feels especially monumental because, as of today, Jake has officially entered his FINAL YEAR OF RESIDENCY (and I can’t stress enough how necessary the caps-lock is here).

Per usual, I’m feeling reflective. After Jake finished his first year, I wrote about how I learned to navigate his long hours which, hindsight, was fitting because that year I’m pretty sure he worked all the hours. Last summer, after year two, I wrote about how I was finding perspective in the fact that I wasn’t the only one wading through a difficult season and how I was looking forward to sharing my experiences with others in similar places. (In fact, not long after I wrote that post and mused about a hypothetical residency friend, I made a real-life one, and we lived a lot of life together during this past year.)

This year, though, I mostly just want to write about how grateful I am to have lived this residency life, which is funny because I would never sugar coat this stage of our lives as particularly easy or wish to live within its confines for any longer than I have to.

Yet, I feel overwhelmingly thankful for this challenging season because it has revealed things to me about God’s faithfulness and His rich promises that I otherwise don’t think I ever would have learned.

I’ve been thinking about a verse in the book of John a lot lately. It’s found right in the middle of a passage where Jesus is laying down a great metaphor about being a Shepherd who knows and leads each of His sheep by name.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy,” He says. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

I love the word choice here. Abundantly: More than is needed. Over sufficient. Plenty.

Christ came so that we could live a life that overflows at the brim, but that’s not even my favorite part. My favorite part is that His words don’t contain any asterisks. There isn’t a list of anyone excluded from experiencing the abundant life. He didn’t say, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly after they finish their medical residency requirements.”

This is how God has shown up for us in the past three years.

Despite the lack of physical support initially, the insanely long working hours, and the various parenting challenges we have waded through, God has shown me that an abundant life is waiting to be lived each day. That I am not, and never will be, excluded from this lavish promise regardless of whatever my circumstances might look like.

Of course life still felt and continues to feel hard sometimes, but that, I think, is just the nature of life and the seasons we go through, isn’t it? “Hard” is relative, after all, as everyone is facing some kind of daily battle (often much more challenging than my own). Unchanging is the fact that Jesus promises a life overflowing. That His redeeming love, eternal hope, and gift of joy are the source that leads to discovering a life of abundance.

Year four is ahead. And, as I stare down this last stretch of residency, I see a lot more change and uncertainty and general upheaval.

But more importantly, I also see the things that will not change.

When it comes down to it, that’s all that really matters. And for that, I am so incredibly grateful.