Monday, December 30

9 Things I Learned in December

Oh, December, you're over? The twinkle, the carols, the wrapping, the cookies, the Savior, the tree... over? Well, all except the Savior part.

Oh, what a Savior. This year, I didn't want to gloss over the remembrance of Christ's coming.  I didn't want it to be an O Holy Night and Joy to the World singing, and yeah, yeah, He did all that, but let's move on sort of year. Sadly, it's been that before. But not this year, or any year hereafter. And that's probably due in part to #8 in the list below.

I know you can't see me, or inside my jumpy brain, but you'll have to excuse me tonight. I'm feeling a bit... well... giddy. Today I've consumed homemade peppermint ice cream, a brownie, a couple pieces of a Symphony candy bar, a peppermint mocha, and a truffle. Oh my goodness. That is a lot of sugar. Leftover Christmas goodies got the best of me today, but it looks like I got the best of them too. And I'm left with a sugar high. I'll be typing much faster tonight, so this should be relatively painless.

To kick of this month's What I Learned post, I'll have you know that I started a running list of things I learned earlier in the month to make writing this post that much easier. Hooray for a place to jot down thoughts before they escape me.

So here goes: 9 Things I Learned in December

1.  This one really grossed me out. Throughout my growing up years, my Dad would occasionally come home from the store with a treat from the deli section. He would buy a pound of braunschweiger, and we'd have it on crackers or in a sandwich until we were sick of it because it's so rich. Then several months later, he'd get some more, and we'd snack until we were sick. All was well and good, and this fond memory was etched into my brain, until three weeks ago when I found out it is made of liver. Pork liver sausage to be exact. Liverwurst! Eww.

2.  I was sick twice over Christmas, which was sad, but not as sad as me missing my three oldest kids' very first guitar recital because of it. I was heartbroken. Months of watching them during their lessons, and listening to them practice had me anticipating the day when we would all sit together and watch their first performances. I'm still sad I missed out on being there, holding hands with Jeremy as we watched, stealing glances at each other that said "how did we get from playing house to this?" But I learned that I was okay, and so were they. And sometimes I make things seem bigger in my head than they are in real life.

3.  A hard lesson learned this month was that I shouldn't wait to make that phone call to the person I'd been thinking an awful lot about. On December 8th, it became too late. Make that call, friends.

4.  The things I learned this month lean toward the sentimental side, as they should. So, following suit, I also learned that I don't miss my sister, who lives a bazillion miles away, any more on Christmas than I do any other normal day of the year. It's the same crazy, huge amount as it is every single day of the year.

5.  I'm rarely at a loss for words among a group of friends, but today, standing in the midst of two people who had both lost their spouses in the past year, I was lost. I smiled, nodded, and wondered if I should say that I was thinking about them especially this time of year. Because I was. I didn't, and wished I would have. You know those moments when you're not sure if you should acknowledge a loss to let them know you care, or let it go this time so you don't make them sad at an inopportune moment in public? Those are the moments I'm wanting to navigate well. And I always have room for growth.

6.  And then there's this one. And it's not sentimental at all. Just forgetful. We discovered a stack of seven church library books that have been blending in with the other books on one of our bookshelves. And they've been there ever since we checked them out TWO summers ago. It's a good thing there aren't any late fees at church, because I rack up my own special kind of fees at the public library on a regular basis.

7.  I learned that if you eat too much sugar in one day, you will not feel the least bit tired at 11:09 pm. And that's no good.

8.  Sitting in the dark by just the light of the Christmas tree each night, devouring the day's reading of The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp, does a heart and soul good.

9.  And finally, I learned that no matter how many past seasons of Downton Abbey (all three) you re-watch in a span of three or four months, you will not be prepared for what might happen in the new season of the show premiering next Sunday. I'm dying of anticipation. But hopefully none of the characters will follow my example. Please, Mr. Julian Fellowes. No dying. Please?

What did you learn in the month of December? Please share with us in the comments!

At the end of each month I'm linked up over at Chatting at the Sky, where a community of lovely women share what we're learning. I so enjoy these days.  

Tuesday, December 24

JOY. The gift and the battle.


Joy. It's everywhere you look at Christmastime.

The songs sing it. The people speak it. Our hearts expect it.
We're joyful at the coming of Christ. Because Christ is Joy. Salvation is joy.

Days of celebration often make it easy to be joyful. There are people to see, gifts to unwrap, goodies to munch, and moments to remember.

But the joy that hovers on the most mundane of days can be harder to grab onto. These types of days aren't exciting. Just normal. Things and people frustrate, cars won't start, and then someone throws up through the night leaving you an exhausted heap by morning.

Joy. It's an every day choice.

I set my alarm for 6:30 on this, the first official day of Christmas vacation because I had great plans to get up, and start my morning routine. The one I've been trying to start since September. Ahem.

I complete the most important part of it every day. Bible reading, prayer, getting dressed... you, know, the key stuff. But there's another part that when added to the routine, makes me come alive in a different sort of way.

But something always stands in the way of me taking this time for myself. Usually that something is me. I stay up too late, or hit snooze 17 times, or feel stiff and cruddy when I first wake up making it hard to get out of bed.

Once I realize I've missed my chance again, I feel behind already when the day hasn't really begun. And I feel a little off. Like there's a battle for joy being fought on the battlefield of my heart.

Because there is.

@holleygerth on Instagram

Today I got out of bed at 7:45, which still left me with 45 minutes of alone time before the kids would arrive in the kitchen. But the baby who normally wakes around 8:30 or 9:00 was already wailing. Because she wakes up like a firecracker. This blue-eyed baby of mine.

I quickly take her a bottle, which will buy me a few minutes to at least get dressed before seeing a little person earlier than I'd planned.

I chose joy in the moment, reveling in the one-on-one time with this little one.

Phew. I made it across one intersection smoothly.
But the next crossroads I would face would tell a different story.


Enter six more kids. And breakfast for many and a mom who has yet to brush her teeth. Or have food or coffee.

Then add in several lies told by the same child, some poop in the bathtub (yes, poop in the bathtub), and a pan full of burnt eggs. And you get a mama who is plopped smack in the middle of a battlefield fighting for joy. I ache for joy, I cry out for joy. But still, even still - I don't always chose it.

It's a fight. A daily battle. If someone tells you they don't have to fight for joy? They're lying to you.

Because heaven is the only place filled with unstoppable joy. Unending joy that fills to overflowing. But on that morning in the manger, all those years ago, Mary gave birth to Unending Joy. Joy came down into the world as a gift for all of us. But only those who would believe would unwrap it. Unending joy would be theirs too. Forever. But first we must live here. Among the mess and the muck; the struggle and the sin. The lives we try so hard to make joyful and pleasant can get bogged down and become joyless, because well, we're still here. But because He lives in us - we are gifted with Him. And He is Joy.

"And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:10-11

Even with all of this Joy that has come to us and lives in us, we will have trouble. We will have to fight for joy in these earthly shells. But His presence is with us.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

Every time you want to pound the floor in despair, curl up in a ball under the covers, bah humbug your circumstances or everyone else's happy, don't forget to forget yourself.

“The really wonderful moments of joy in this world are not the moments of self-satisfaction, but self-forgetfulness. Standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon and contemplating your own greatness is pathological. At such moments we are made for a magnificent joy that comes from outside ourselves.”
―    John Piper, Don't Waste Your Life

Because that joy comes from outside ourselves,

even when life's a mess and there's poop in the bathtub, we can rejoice.

Even if you're forgetful and the pan full of eggs are burnt, we can rejoice.

"Struggling and rejoicing are not two chronological steps, one following the other, but two concurrent movements, one fluid with the other. As the cold can move you deeper toward the fire, struggling can move you deeper toward God, who warms you with joy. Struggling can deepen joy. Even though. Even now."  Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift

Good news from heaven the angels bring,
Glad tidings to the earth they sing:
To us this day a child is given,
To crown us with the joy of heaven.
- Martin Luther

Tuesday, December 17

An Unexpected and Treasured Gift

I received a gift in the unlikeliest of places yesterday.

It was a gift of words I never expected to hear, but have secretly hoped for these three and a half years since Gabrielle came home to us as a tiny nine-week old infant.

Gabrielle's birth-Grandma, who had become a dear friend to us, passed away tragically and unexpectedly last week. We've sat grieved and shocked at her death. And yesterday, the time had come to take our little girl to her Grandma's memorial service.

We prepped her three year old heart for the tears and sadness she would witness, and for the barrage of people that would want to see her. She would see members of her birth family, some of which she knows, some she hasn't seen since she was a baby, and some she's never met. There would be a great mix of emotions, and we didn't want her to feel lost among it all. We wanted her to know for sure that Daddy and Mama would hold her close, and not let her go.

And then there was the reason we came. To publicly say goodbye to this very special woman. The one who was instrumental in Gabrielle's entrance into our family. The one who fought for her granddaughter to come home to us. This beautiful soul of a Grandma.

The details of Gabi's adoption have never been made public outside our dearest of friends, but today I feel compelled to share a gift that was given these years after her adoption.

You see, Grandma was always one to say how much she appreciated us and loved us. All of us. She was thankful Gabrielle could still be in her life. That she was close. That we granted them a place in her life and in our home.

Her words were always positive. Caring. Complementary. Thankful. In turn, we appreciated her deeply.

Then on a cold day in December, she was gone.

But the beautiful part is that she didn't depart without leaving behind a bit of herself. In a moment that came and went in mere seconds, Gabi's birth mom, for the first time, let a string of words pour from her mouth that were an echo of her mother's.

Caring. Complementary. Thankful.

She had been taking notes as her mother spoke of us.

All I could do was mouth the best thank you I could muster because a large lump had formed in my throat and was blocking my ability to be normal and composed. I searched the crowd for Jeremy. Because he missed it.  I couldn't believe he missed it.

I may or may not have hugged Gabi's birth mom more times than was expected yesterday. But in a sense, I was hugging her for being the gift. For not only choosing life for her baby, but for letting us see this piece of our friend, who is now in the presence of our Lord. God truly does work all things together for good; for us His people. We were stunned by how this truth had played out that day.

The words we speak will echo. They will be a pleasant reverberation that soothes or a painful clang that hurts. There is a gift in not only hearing soothing words, but in remembering to pass them along.

Each Tuesday in December I'm linking up with Emily and the gang over at  Chatting at the Sky, as we share our Tuesdays Unwrapped.

Wednesday, December 11


Maybe you're one of the 16.7 million people who have already watched this. But just in case you're not, here you go.

I'm so in love with their rendition of this song, and have watched or listened to it more times than I can count. Wow. Wow. Wow.

They have an entire Christmas album. Isn't that exciting?

I just wouldn't be a good friend if I kept this to myself.

Tuesday, December 10

In Walks the Light

If I showed you a screenshot from a Google search I did earlier, you would know the truth about me. If you didn't know it already, it's about time you did:

I'm a great big dork.

I like charts, graphs, and infographics. I read labels for fun. I remember names, faces, and details of random people or things. Sometimes I'm embarrassed that I remember so much, so I downplay my overdrive memory so I won't seem stalker-ish.

Jeremy calls me Rain Man. Whatever.

"I know I only met you once three years ago, but your kids are named Hugh, Margo, and Muffy, right? Aren't they in... say... the 1st, 4th, and 7th grades by now? And isn't tomorrow your birthday? Happy Birthday."

That's what plays in my head. And now you know why it's embarrassing. And why I downplay.

This from the girl who remembers every bit of the inconsequential, but completely spaces that she's running an event the next day. And people are coming. Yes.

If there was a version of Jeopardy! for people who are not insanely smart, but have loads of useless info in their noggins? I'd be all over it. As a side note, the name Jeopardy! just doesn't fit. It sounds so intriguing and exciting just based on its title, but really it isn't.

I'll take Better Game Show Titles for $500, Alex.

Getting back on topic.

For those of us who dwell closer to the arctic circle than the heartland of America, December 21st is a big deal. After this day the light returns second by second, then minute by minute, until we're basking in light that doesn't seem to end as the sun bounces off the horizon and makes its way back to mid-sky in the glory days of June.

 I looked up this handy little chart, for the third time this month, to see exactly what our sun was doing. Today we'll top out at 5h 39m 22s of daylight.

But light is coming. And so is the Light.

I love that winter solstice is just four days before Christmas. That was well played. Just as the darkest part of the year hovers, in walks the Light. During advent, we, the people of hope and peace wait for light and Light.

The darkness outside seems to be affecting me more this year. Maybe it's because we feel so housebound these days. It's hard to get out with three little ones, and plus there's this thing called school.

But even in the midst of outer darkness, I've realized how much more I'm looking to Jesus, who is the Light. There is a gift to be unwrapped each day even if you don't see a whole lot of actual light out your windows. And I'm actually noticing it. I'm thankful for it. I get it.

Jesus came as a babe to stomp out the overtaking of the inner darkness. The darkness that seeks to squelch hope and put out the fires of delight.

The Light is coming. As the sun sets earlier than we'd hope, let's settle into hope of the Son. It's His gift to you, even on an ordinary Tuesday.

I'm linked up again this week over at Chatting with the Sky, as we share our Tuesdays Unwrapped.

Tuesday, December 3

And Now I See

I don't know exactly what has come over me.
You see, I've lived in Alaska since 1986. There, I said it. I live in Alaska.

My family moved here at the end of my 3rd grade year and I was terrified. Visions of igloos, penguins, and polar bears haunted my sister and I, who were young enough to be na├»ve, but still old enough to know we had reason to be afraid.

Upon arriving in our motorhome in this vast land of mountains and wide open spaces, we quickly found there were no igloos, no penguins (I should have known that), and no polar bears. At least not in this part of Alaska. This part of Alaska was rather normal and familiar. There were people, houses, cars, stores, and schools. I don't know what I'd expected, but what I found was far from it.

And then there's the scenery. Oh, the scenery. I knew back in 1986 that I was living in the middle of something special. Something out of the ordinary and breathtaking.

But you would have never caught me admitting that.

"Oh, Amanda, aren't the mountains so beautiful?" they'd ask.

Every time, I'd answer back, "No. I hate them." I was a stinker. And I knew it, and so did they. But it became this game we'd play. The game of See How Much You Can Annoy Amanda With Beautiful Mountain Talk.

But I grew. I grew, and I grew, and I grew. And today? I'm so crazy about this glorious place I live and its vistas, that I can barely stand it. I've become my parents. And every other person who has ever lived here.

"Oh, kids! Look at that sunrise. Have you ever seen anything like it?"

This fall and so far this winter, I've taken more sunrise and sunset pictures than I think I've ever taken in my entire life. It's like I'm seeing it all for the first time.

They're so everyday and ordinary. But then not.

I've lived in this house for nearly 10 years, and wonder if I ever noticed before. Why was I missing this?

I'm still not sure, exactly. But it's like I'm stepping out of an old, dried-up exoskeleton that needed to be shed for me to see. Life, people, and the world around seems more real, more vibrant.

Or maybe I'm getting old or more mature. Or maybe a little of both.

I just stepped away a second ago to catch a glimpse of the pink and blue sunset that is commencing. See? I can't be stopped.

This picture was taken this morning in all of its unedited glory before we zoomed out the door to Bible Study. The capturing is the remembering. The breath catching in my throat is the thanking.

Every morning brings fresh sunrises and new mercies. Praise God for that.


Every Tuesday in December, I'll be linking up with the gang over at Chatting with the Sky, as we share the gifts of an ordinary day on Tuesdays Unwrapped.

Sunday, December 1

7 Things I Learned in November

Years and years ago, I began to dream about this very month in this very year. I wondered what I'd be like, what my boy would be like, and what we'd be like as a mother and son.

In November of 2013, that far away place, I would become the mother of a teenager.

Now that we're here, I've learned:

I'm a much wiser me, more in love with my Savior and more confident in who He made me to be.

My son is just an inch or so from being taller than me, loves to read, loves God and his family, and I couldn't be prouder. And for whatever reason, he still calls me Mama. It melts my mama heart each time. I hope he never stops. (This may or may not have to do with #3 on the list below.)

As a mother and son, we're just how I'd imagined we'd be. We joke, we hug, and both have an equally intense love for chocolate chip cookies.

Happy Birthday, Drew.

Now it's on to this month's Things I've Learned post. Each month (save October), I've made it a habit to link up at Chatting at the Sky, where Emily and the other bloggers share what we've been learning, be it silly or serious, it's there.

1. I love Instagram. I love the simplicity and beauty of seeing just a snapshot of the lives of the people I follow, which isn't very many since I just made an account a few weeks ago. I follow my real-life friends, some online friends, interesting people, and my favorite authors too. It's fun. You should try it. Then let me know so I can stalk follow you too. You can follow me HERE, if you are so inclined.

2. There's an Apple Cider herbal tea made by Bigelow that is super yummy, and it doesn't have any sugar unless you add it yourself. It's perfect for this time of year.

3. I didn't learn this for the first time in November, but I was reminded once again when I was reading An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott to the family that I love me some good old-fashioned charm. Give me a story with quaint homes, horse-drawn sleighs, and long dresses and wool socks, and you've got a happy girl. That's probably why I love Anne of Green Gables, the Little House books, Little Women, and Caddie Woodlawn too. Swoon.

4. I went out early on Black Friday to meet some girlfriends as I do every year. We start at Target, grab a coffee, casually stroll around, and will maybe hit two more stores after that. We grab some items, but we're super relaxed about it and just enjoy being together while our families are home sleeping. This year's outing started with a bit of hilarity. The temperature was well below zero on Thanksgiving night, so Jeremy (being the thoughtful man that he is) started up the vehicle I was going to be driving the next morning to make sure it would start up for me in the frigid temps. We don't have a garage, so sometimes cars just don't start when it's crazy cold. He planned to leave the car running a bit to warm up the engine, but then he forgot all about it. 8 hours later, at 4:00 a.m., my husband scared the living daylights out of me by jumping out of bed after realizing he'd left the car running. I left the house at 5:30, and to my delight, it was still warm inside the van. I learned it's good to keep your gas tank nearly always full, just in case you accidently leave it running all night. You never know, it could happen. But maybe only to crazy people like us.

5. Watching snow fall is absolutely one of my favorite things. I am so taken each time. You'd think it would get old since I've lived in the Arctic since I was eight years old, but it just doesn't.

6. For the past several months, I'd been lamenting about how I didn't have time to write every day like I'd almost nearly need to if I was contracted to finish the book I'm working on. Then in walked the 31 Days series I wrote in the month of October. The work I put in during those four weeks showed me otherwise. I can write each day. I just need to change how I spend my free hours.

7. I buy cheap makeup. I do. And I buy a different kind each time because I like change and often wonder if there's something better still undiscovered. I'm faithful to my mascara and eyeliner, but that's it. Amazingly, I found one more I'll be adding to my faithful list from now on. It's Cover Girl's Clean Whipped Creme foundation. It glides on amazingly, and is just perfect. It reminds me of the kind I used to buy from The Body Shop years ago. But after they stopped carrying it, I've been lost. Nothing has even come close until this little gem from CG. I wear the lightest color imaginable and can't remember the name, but it very well could be called casperthefriendlyghost or something like that.

What did you learn in November? I'd love to know.

Thursday, November 28

Thankful and Still

Today is Thanksgiving Day. And we're home being still. It's weird to not be having the traditional dinner or be in a house filled with the sights and sounds of Thanksgiving. And loads of loved ones.

But it's wonderful just being quiet today too. Jeremy has been working overtime since September, and I've missed him so much. We've all missed him. Four days together is just glorious, and it's rather wonderful this year to not be having the normal Thanksgiving festivities on Thanksgiving.

We'll be hosting a traditional dinner with all the trimmings tomorrow night with family and friends. And I can't wait. It is pretty much my favorite day of the year. But it's lovely to have this day to pause.

If I could only say one thing today, I'd say I'm thankful.
Of course.

{Story Photographic} by Carly Webber

If I had nothing but Jesus and the hope of heaven, It'd be enough. I pray my heart's stance would stay the same if it ever came to that.

Because it is everything.

“ change comes when we receive life with thanks and ask for nothing to change.”   - Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

After all God has done for us through His son, Jesus, I can't believe He continues to give gifts. Amazingly good gifts.

The Holy Spirit.
Hardships. They help me see my need for a Strong One to lean on.

“The practice of giving thanks...eucharisteo...this is the way we practice the presence of God, stay present to His presence, and it is always a practice of the eyes. We don't have to change what we see. Only the way we see.”  

Church body.
Sickness. It helps me feel small, because I am after all.

“How my eyes see, perspective, is my key to enter into His gates. I can only do so with thanksgiving. If my inner eye has God seeping up through all things, then can't I give thanks for anything? And if I can give thanks for the good things, the hard things, the absolute everything, I can enter the gates to glory. Living in His presence is fullness of joy- and seeing shows the way in.” 

The Word.
Change. This helps me trust.

“We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks. Because how else do we accept His free gift of salvation if not with thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our Yes! to His grace.”

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

Maybe you'll join me as I read through Ann Voskamp's new advent devotional book, The Greatest Gift, this December? We start December 1st.

Friday, November 15

Revell Blog Tour for A MILLION LITTLE WAYS and a Giveaway!

We have a *WINNER*! Congratulations, Nicole Moffat! You've won a copy of A Million Little Ways. Wahoo!!! (I just noticed the first line was cut off these past few days... in case you were looking for the winner of our drawing, here she is!)

     "Do you desperately fear you have nothing to offer the world but secretly hope you're wrong?
You were born to make art. You were made to live art. You might not see yourself as an artist, but you are--in so many unexpected ways. In what you create, whether poetry or pie, sculpture or sand castle, calligraphy or conversation. It's time to uncover the shape of your soul, turn down the voice of the inner critic, and move into the world with the courage to be who you most deeply are.
Creating a life of meaning is not about finding that one great thing you were made to do, it's about knowing the one great God you were made to glorify--in a million little ways."

: : : :

This month, I'm thrilled to be a part of the Revell Blog Tour for a most outstanding book, A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman.

Never before have I dog-eared, pencil marked, and used a highlighter on the pages of a book, as I have this one. Emily's words spoke of things I didn't know existed outside my own thoughts. It felt like I'd been speaking a foreign language in my head these 36 years, and somebody finally wrote a book I can understand--in my language.

A Million Little Ways has helped me understand several things about myself. Due in part to this:

     "There is a real pull between exploring those things that make us come alive while, at the same time, being present to our responsibilities and our life stages. But why do we so often assume that pursuing those things we want to pursue can only be done at the expense of our responsibilities? Why can't we recognize and embrace the connection between the kind of art we long to make and the reality of our truest identity?
     What if you desire to do a particular thing because God created you a particular way, not to tease you or to make you miserable, but to actually mold you into becoming more like him, for his glory and the benefit of others?" pg. 47

The book is laid out in three parts, each unearthing more of who we are and what we have to offer. And most importantly, who we are as image-bearers of God in the world as we glorify Him in a million little ways with the things we do, say, and create.

Part 1: Who is the Artist?
Part 2: Uncover the Art You Were Born to Make
Part 3: Release the Art You Were Made to Live

I consider my first read-through sort of like a rough draft, because I'll definitely need more time with this one. I will most likely turn right around and read it again. Something I've never done before. And that's saying something. Emily P. Freeman's beautiful style, and soul-soothing ways will have you hooked from the very first words.

If you decide to pick up and read A Million Little Ways, you won't be disappointed. I might even consider posting my address so you can send me the thank you note you will soon feel compelled to write!
"What are those things in the deepest part of who you are, the personality and desires and unique blending of history and circumstance and longing--what is most alive in you as you as you are united with Christ that you can now pour out as an offering unto God for the benefit of others?
     No matter how small, how weak, how meager. No matter what skill or training or lack. That's what it means to uncover the art you were born to make and release the art you were made to live." pg. 164

As pleased as I am to write this review, I'm even more delighted to be able to give a copy away to one of you dear readers! I just know you'll love it.

To be entered into the drawing, just leave a comment! I'll announce the winner Monday evening. So be sure to get your comment in by then, and then check back to see who has won!

*I was given a free copy of this book by Revell Books in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, November 13

3 Things: a Car Crash, Preparedness, and an Anniversary

Hello, Wednesday, how do you do?

There are three things on my brain this morning, and they're coming at you in list form. I'll talk about the car crash first, just in case you were worried.

1.  20 years ago this week, I was a brand-new 16 year-old driver with a blue Subaru I purchased for $800 from my mom. It was the beginning of winter, and I was headed to school early that morning as the first person out of the house on roads that were covered in a sheet of black ice. But I had no clue.

It had rained through the night, but the roads looked wet, that's it. A few miles from home, I went around a bend in the road, and my wheels got stuck in a rut at the edge of the pavement where a shoulder would normally be.  Caught, like a train on the tracks, the car careened for the ditch. In my mind, I needed to get back on the road, not go diving into ditches. That would ruin everything. So I jerked the steering wheel to the left, pulling me back onto the road. But instead of placing me happily back into my lane, I was shot perpendicular into the oncoming lane and a flash of lights. A school bus immediately smashed into me, leaving me miraculously alive, but with a car that was cut in half behind the front seats. I won't go into every detail, but I'm thankful I lived past the age of 16. I was transported to the hospital in an ambulance, though the only injury suffered (that was detected at the time) was a scrape on my right hip from my seatbelt holding me firmly in place.

God gripped my heart in that moment sitting off the side of the road in the wreckage of my car.  Maybe He had something ahead for me. For my life. I'd better start paying attention. That was 20 years ago, and there isn't a day I forget as I drive around that corner.

2.  Today, I'm talking about being prepared in the face of homeschooling "disasters" over at The Homeschool Classroom. I'd be pleased to have you join me there!

3.  We're celebrating an anniversary of sorts here at The Scarlet Paisley! Seven years ago, I jumped into blogging, beginning in October 2006 on our family blog, and then over here in January 2012. There have been many, many times I've wondered why I was making the effort to continue. But I'm a message-sharer by nature, and blogging and writing is part of what makes me come alive. So here I am.

Here's what I wrote on that very first blog post, those seven years ago:

"Okay, so lately I've been checking friend's blogs on a daily basis and decided that it's time to get our own up and running. We have a lot going on with us and our kiddos, so I'm sure I can find a few things that are worth posting. I hope you enjoy your stops and I hope you stop by often!""

In honor of this anniversary, how about we do a roll call of sorts?

Even if you've never commented before, or not for a very long time, I'd love to send you a virtual hello! Please comment (feel free to comment Anonymously) and tell me how long you've been reading and what life stage you're in? Single? Married? Kids? Empty nest?

I've love to know who's "out there."

Good day to you... I'm back to the day after mopping up the spill of a half-gallon of milk. No kidding. It's a good way to get me to mop the kitchen floor and detail the table, I tell ya.
 so lately I've been checking friend's blogs on a daily basis and decided that it's time to get our own up and running. We have a lot going on with us and our kiddos, so I'm sure I can To get us started, here is a picture of Jen and I when
we were wee little girls. My Mom sent me this pic the other day, she and I both agree that I look like a certain 2 year old daughter of mine! Thanks, Mom. And thanks for the ride, Sis.

Friday, November 8

7 Ways to Serve as a Family During the Holidays

Good Morning! I'm pleased to be sharing ways to serve as a family during the holidays over at The Homeschool Classroom! Won't you join me there today?

Thursday, November 7

What if we wrote a book for moms? {The Crazy Idea}

Have you ever had a really crazy idea? One that is just so far beyond your reach, you can scarcely imagine breathing a word of it to anyone?

I've had many. Two of those sorts of ideas turned into my adopted three year-olds. Another had me painting our entryway and living room walls red while watching Marley & Me. Not all crazy ideas are crazy. But some do take enormous amounts of courage to act upon.

So with years of built up courage in my bones, I'm going to tell you a story about a crazy idea.

I was standing in my kitchen four years ago on a warm summer day, with a pile of dirty dishes to my left, thinking about moms everywhere. About how we've been tricked into believing a lie about the way good mothering should look. Our culture has pulled a fast one on us. And unfortunately we're buying it.

Something needed to be done. And fast.

Within an instant, I felt the overwhelming urge to make a phone call.

Creative Commons: Daniel Hurst Photography

I dialed my friend Anne-Renee, but no one was home. So I left her a cryptic message, asking her to call me back. She returned my call, and I proceeded to tell her about my ponderings and this crazy idea that wouldn't go away.

"What if we wrote a book for moms?" I eeked out, squeezing my eyes shut and pulling my shoulders up toward my ears, as I waited for an imaginary blow that would come as the words leaked out. She agreed. We should write a book.

And so we began, all those years ago, meeting in coffee shops, praying, talking on the phone, and exchanging emails as we honed the idea and got down to the work of dreaming and writing. There were quiet seasons where we didn't pick up the project at all. Times we wondered what in the world we were doing. Exactly who did we think we were, attempting to write a book? Every other person and their brother says they'd like to write a book. What made us think we had something to offer anyone?

Fast forward to February of 2013.

It was that time of year again. Time to register for the She Speaks speakers and writers conference that is held in Charlotte, North Carolina each July. That conference we'd been dying to attend since this idea of writing a book came into existence three and a half years earlier. With trembling hearts, we asked our husbands what they thought about us attending the conference in July. Because it wasn't exactly cheap, and it wasn't exactly held in our backyard. After some time in prayer and discussion, both husbands agreed. "You should go. This is the year."

And so we set to work on our toughest writing assignment yet: a book proposal and sample chapters.

You see, not only would we be attending our dream conference surrounded by 750 like-minded Christian women speakers and writers, we made the heart pounding decision to check the little box on the registration form that indicated we would like to pitch a book, our book, to the prominent Christian publishers who would be in attendance.

After months of pouring over our laptops, we gave birth at Office Depot on July 19th, to a 72-page, 8.5 x 11 inch baby. 

Oh my word. We were actually going to do this. And so were half the other women attending. In order to be ready for the conference and meetings with publishers, we worked non-stop from the first week of March until July writing a book proposal (no small feat) and preparing three sample chapters from our book.

And then we did it. In late July, we flew across the country with a box of book proposals and two bared souls in tow. We checked into the hotel after 24 hours of travel, and entered into three days of pure amazingness. We could never have dreamed up what would happen there.

In Dallas waiting for our flight into Charlotte!

We met the most amazing women. And had appointments with real life editors. Those hard-nosed dream squashers new writers fear with their lives.  Except they weren't hard-nosed dream squashers at all. They were wonderful. Like, let's be new friends kind of wonderful.

This was taken before our very first publisher appointment on the very first day. Behind the excited smiles and calculated outfits were sweaty palms and quickened pulses.
Our meetings were incredibly fun and encouraging. We had to keep pinching ourselves through the process. Was all of this really happening? Did that crazy idea really turn into this? Indeed it did.
Here we sit in November, three months after presenting our work, without a lot of answers. We are still in process with publishers, still praying, still hoping. But simply being still has been the greatest challenge of all. God is teaching us, stretching us, and asking us to follow Him through this.
And now we invite you to follow along too. Because a story is best when it's told.

Tuesday, November 5

I know you don't want to be changed, but...

This morning she woke with the intensity of a firecracker. There was no adorable baby babble or sweet calls for mama coming from down the hall; she simply screamed and yelled, moving me into her room much earlier than I'd expected. Usually, the moment I enter her room and rescue her, she moves seamlessly from gloom and doom to bright and sunny. As if she forgot she was howling like an animal caught in a trap just seconds before.

But today, she had her angry eyebrows affixed permanently onto her little face. (Thank you, Toy Story.) Upon lifting her out of her crib, I realized the diaper had leaked through and her red footie pajamas were now soaked. Immediately, I laid her down in front of my kneeling form to change her into something fresh and clean. But she resisted, coming completely unglued.

She tried to twist and turn every which way to get out of my grasp. But since I'm a mama who is not about let a child win a battle of the wills, I persisted. Rolling her back over again and again, keeping my heart set on what was best for her. Until finally, I stood her twenty-one pound body up so she was eye to eye with me and said,

"Emmalie, Mama needs to change you. I know you don't want to be changed, but you'll feel so much better when I'm done. I need you to be still for me."

And she did. She kept her brow furrowed, and gave me a bit of a stink eye, but didn't move or make a noise while I cleaned her up.

The words I said to my crabby baby replayed over and over in my mind. Then He spoke into my thoughts. Those words are for you, Amanda.

"I need to change you. I know you don't want to be changed, but you'll feel so much better when I'm done. I need you to be still for me."

Friday, November 1

{Day 31} The Finish and a Prayer - Psalm 19:14

I never thought Day 31 would actually arrive. Already by day two (or was it day one), of this month-long series, I seriously wondered what I'd gotten myself into. I had no idea how this was going to play out, or if anybody would actually read it.

Would I be the first person to jump ship part way through?  I was thinking yes.


Looking back, I don't know how it all got written. Well, actually, I do know. The Spirit of God works mightily among His people! He displayed that to me numerous times in this process.

Some posts were written in the afternoon during naptime, and some days were so full, I didn't sit down to write until 9:00, 10:00, or 11:00 p.m (like now, as I wrap up what was started earlier). There were also days when Jeremy suggested I go to my room and write during dinner. I loved those days.

Hitting publish became a victory won each and every time.

Each new day was met with a blank slate. I didn't have any sort of plan. There was no outline telling me which Bible verses I'd highlight in which day's post, and what story or thought I'd use to illustrate it. There was just me, my laptop, a Bible, and a prayer.

One night, I was so exhausted that bailing out seemed to be way more plausible than thinking of one more thing to write about. I leaned my head back into the couch, and asked God with a sigh,

"What in the world do I write?"

Immediately, the words "fix your eyes" came to mind. This phrase was a direct lifeline from God, there was no denying that. I smiled and set my fingers to clacking, writing THIS post.

Then there was the day my ever-silly 5 year-old told me I should write about a chicken. And I did.

I've listened to sermons, read commentaries and books, and talked to the people in my life to gain ideas. But most of the material came straight out of my life.

I wrote about funky moods, intruders at the breakfast table, and why we need to share our struggles. I also wrote about people in the Bible such as Gideon, Jesus, and Peter. This is something I'd wanted to do more of, but the needed brainpower to do so wasn't always available.

I've enjoyed it. Truly I have. Though I may or may not throw a party tonight, and stay away from my blog for days on end. Or maybe just until November starts.

I hope you've enjoyed reading along as well.
Just so you know, I had you in mind as I was writing.

: : : :
How about I leave you with one final verse to close out the series?
This morning, I flipped open my Bible in the mood to read in the Psalms. Psalm 19:1 was fresh on my heart, and I wanted to remember what the rest of the section was about, so I turned there.
As I got to the end, I came to this familiar verse:

Psalm 19:14

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
I desire that for my life, don't you? This is a wonderful prayer to pray as you begin a new day, after you've screwed up, or anytime you want to get your heart headed in the right direction.
Will you pray this with me in closing?
May the words we speak and things we think on, be what you desire from us, God -- you are our steady place and have purchased our life back from the pit by taking our place on the cross. Thank you. Thank you.

Thursday, October 31

The Art I Make and Live

Today, before I post the very last of this 31 Day series, I'm pausing to remember the ways I make and live art in the different areas of my life.

Emily over at Chatting at the Sky, is hosting a link-up on her blog, where she has invited her readers to share their lives with each other as the conclusion to her 31 Day series. I thought it would be a good exercise for me to be involved in; finding out what the making of art looks like in my world, and the way I actually live out art in not so obvious ways.

 I've written many words this last month, so the remainder of this post will simply be in pictures.

We all make and live art. In fact, I wrote about this and Emily's new book a couple days ago.

This is a sampling of the ways I do this.


Please excuse the following tiny pictures, they're stuck that way!