Friday, February 27, 2015

What I Learned in February

The end/beginning of the month is always kind of time consuming for blogging with putting up a new design, doing a What I'm Into post, and then a monthly happenings/goals post. And, for probably the past six months, I've been super behind on the kids' letters and I just force myself to do it at the very end of the month or the very beginning of the next one (I still love writing them, I just struggle to find the time). Anyway, WHAT am I doing adding another thing?

I'm not sure. But I decided this would be fun to give a shot. And interestingly, it took less time than probably seventy five percent of the posts I've written lately. So, it's probably going to become a fixture, if I had to guess.

Emily at Chatting at the Sky does a link up each month where we shared what we've learned. Here's what I learned in February.

1. Seasonal Effective Disorder is real and I've totally questioned if I have it.I cry all the time and I feel like the life is being drained right out of me. If we were staying here long term I'm confident I'd need to figure out some coping mechanisms, take vitamin D supplements, and maybe get one of those funky lamps that pretend to be the sun.  Really I think most humans who move from one sort of extreme climate to another (relatively, I mean Mississippi isn't the equator or and Brooklyn isn't the Arctic Tundra) probably experience these intense feelings.

2. Coldness is relative (and I'm the most cold natured person ever). The other day it was 27 degrees and it felt SO GOOD. This is a temperature I'd moan and groan about having to walk across a parking lot in Mississippi in. I'm not trying to shame anyone. I'm sure I'll be back to complaining about anything below sixty degrees by next Winter.

3. The combined wealth of the 80 richest billionaires is the same as that of the bottom 50% of the Earth's population - 3.5 billion people.

4. Figuring out the things that carry me and the things that bring live and that heal the pain is so important. This month I sat and thought about those things more and I've felt more equipped to deal with circumstances around me and anxieties within me.

5. Peyton's red beans and rice are incomparable to my dad's beans and rice. This is fair because my dad has been weekly working to perfect his recipe for the last thirty years.

6. Giant pandas need to feed up to fifteen hours a day to survive. They consume about forty four pounds of bamboo during this period, which is more than what my eldest child weighs. There are also only about sixteen hundred left in the world.

7. Homeschooling is making me smarter and simultaneously making me feel dumber because of all the stuff I don't know (see above). And is dumber really a word? More dumb. It's an ugly word; I just shouldn't use it.

8. Routines bring peace.

9. When we try to distance ourselves from the material world completely, we are practicing a modern form of Gnosticism. This relates to number three because I am learning more and more than God is perfectly fine with me enjoying the good gifts of a Coke over ice or a Bruce Springsteen album or a funny SNL skit. For the longest time I spent so much time worrying that I wasn't spiritual enough for God. Um, I'm not. I'm never going to be. No one else is, either. Of course we want to focus on Him and draw nearer to Him but it's okay if we enjoy life here, too.

10. Olive oil can be used for anointing people. The olive has to be crushed to make the oil and of course Christ was crushed for our sins. I love a word picture better than almost anything. I love these folks here more.

I'd love to know what you guys learned this month. Share if you're willing!

What I'm Into: February

January! The start of something new! 

On the Nightstand:

I upped my reading game (a bit) this month. 

Reflections for Ragamuffins: Daily Devotions by Brennan Manning 
I've been reading this most mornings and it continues to bless.

Immersion Bible Study: Mathew- J. Ellsworth Kalas
I've been taking it slow becuase I want to really immerse myself in the gospel (pun intended) but I've been doing it more regularly.

Whose Bible Is It?: A Short History of the Scriptures- Jaroslav Pelikan
I meant to finish this book this month. Of course I didn't. I sort of underestimated the depth of it. It's definitely designed for a lay reader, but it's not a quick read. Anyway, I'm enjoying it. I've made it through the half about the Old Testament and I feel like I learned SO much that I didn't know about its formation.

A Family of Readers: The Book Lover's Guide to Children's and Young Adult Literature- Roger Sutton
I'm about halfway through this one, too, and I've loved it so much. It's been really interesting to analyze chlildren's books a bit.

"an alphabet book is only as good as it's weakest link, aka the x page". I'm a huge nerd, clearly.

The Mockingbird Devotional: Good News for Today (and Every Day)- Ethan Richardson, Sean Norris
I added this devotion this month and I've enjoyed it so much. It's not your typical devotion in that it's very honest and reminds you of Grace over and over again. I think starting my day with Brennan and ending it with these guys is really helpful. There's freedom to fail (which I will) and the reminder of the unconditional love of God when I do. [There's a February book sale still going on, so I linked to the website directly instead of to Amazon.]

On Their Nightstand: 

Dinosaurs: The Worlds Most Terrifying Creatures- Veronica Ross

I got this pretty advanced (and really graphic) dino book a long time ago and gave it to them back in October. It's totally fueled their obsession. We finally finished it- Annie wanted to read the whole book and I read three pages a day (so much detail!) for months. Then for awhile she insisted she and Bud pick out their favorites each day to reread. We're slowly stepping back in favor of other things, which is good because I might have made it their Lenten sacrifice. LOL. Anyway, the other day she said she wanted to be a "cold weather dinosaur". I said okay not realizing she was referring to a specific one. When she asked us what it was P and I were like "wooly mammoth??" And she looked at us like "no, fools" and said "um, it's not a creature after the dinosaurs". Well, we found him today. There's snow in the picture, his name is "cryro" something, and he lived in Anartica. This is so intense.

We also hit up the library and got some good finds.

My favorites...
Doo-Wop Pop- Roni Schotter
Well, first of all this book has a beat. Which I love. We've been jumping into poetry some and this is a little different angle. I loved it because it was so fun and creative. The pictures are lovely. And the story is beautiful- it's about a group of shy children who really don't know each other, but then "Doo-Wop Pop", the school custodian, takes them under his wings and helps them spread theirs.  

Yesterday I Had the Blues- Jeron Ashford Frame
Another really creative book. The little boy narrator describes his emotions by linking them to colors. The book flows so well and the imagery is amazing. I love books on feelings that aren't pretentious and overdone. 

Just Us Women- Jeannette Caines 
This is just a sweet story about a little girl and her aunt going on a road trip. I loved the simple details and the realistic illustrations. It just seemed like such a wonderful story about something both sort of mundane and extremely important. 

We took one more dip into the world of poetry this month and this book is a WINNER. I'd get my hands on a copy for the illustrations alone. But I also loved the content. It's a book of short poems, agonized thematically around the seasons. I love the rhythms in life and more and more, I'm learning we were made to be seasonal people. I've always gravitated toward books that orientate themselves around the seasons and I think will go on my list of favorites. 

Sarah, Plain and Tall- Patricia MacLachlan
 I forgot what a tear jerker the first chapter is. Cried in front of my kids, but that's no big deal here. Per usual, graves was concerned and empathetic. Annie told me that "it doesn't really bother her" when characters' mommas die in the books we read. G Train and I are both going to need a Xanax when we get to Bridge to Terabithia. I've loved this one so much, though. It's been my favorite chapter book to reread in quite awhile. It's so simple, yet beautifully written. 

On the Shelf:
One Writer's Beginnings- Eudora Welty
Mal and I both keep pushing it back. But it's HAPPENING. 

At the Theater (or from the couch):
Not much. I did forget to mention a movie we watched back in January...

Kings of Summer
So "coming of age dramas" are totally my jam. It's pretty much my favorite genre, period. Peyton wasn't super impressed, but I really enjoyed it. Boys in the woods, facing their fears and themselves. Tangled up with romantic issues and trying to find their identities and escape the grasp of their parents. LOVED IT. 

We also spent time watching...
The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
I just love that "silly ol' bear". And I love hearing my children say "oh, bother!" There's something to me about Winnie the Pooh that is sweet and innocent and charming and classic in a way almost nothing else is. 

The kids were (re)watching it recently and I heard some whimpering. I went in to check and poor Graves had big tears glistening in his eyes. Because Rabbit had told Tigger he could never bounce again. For a moment I just soaked up his sweet sensitivity and cuddled him. But then I thought about how often our culture tells little boys like my Graves to "Stop!Bouncing!" Being honest, I have a little bit of that control freak Rabbit (and anxiety ridden Piglet and and chronically depressed Eyore) in me- I wish I could just be Kanga. It was a good reminder that stifling his bouncy spirit would be just as bad as stifling his sensitive one. And I needed it- especially during the long, dreary Winter days that bring out the Rabbit, Piglet AND Eyore sides of my temperament.

On the Small Screen:
Peyton took the kids to the museum one day when I had a headache and I watched some of The West Wing. I've realized I'll probably finish it in like three years. And that's probably for the best because I think I'll be really sad when I do. I guess Peyton got bitten by the bug since it's about to end, but we streamed a couple of episodes of Parks and Recreation on Netflix. It's not my favorite show ever or anything, but it is pretty darn funny. Speaking of funny, good grief, this SNL skit literally had me crying:

In My Ears:
I didn't make a playlist this month. Frankly, I was kind of shocked. The month got away from me and honestly, I was still enjoying January's. I was thinking of just going ahead and making March's, but I may skip it, too because I have an old one I cultivated for Lent awhile back and I still love it. When I combine that with January's, which is also really worshipful, I think it will be the perfect soundtrack and I don't really want to mess with it. 

I did however, introduce Graves to a some Bruce videos (he's been listening to The Boss since his infancy). 

He told me that Bruce and Stevie were pirates and then rocked out with his mouseophone. 

Around the House:

February chalk courtesy of Bruce. I hope all three of my sweethearts always know there will never be a time I won't wait if they fall behind. 

surrounding myself with good words is everything

In the Kitchen:

So, I took the plunge and made my own pesto. My friend Carrie has been telling me for YEARS how easy it is. When one of your best friends tells you something's that easy, you should trust her. But it's tough when she's got a bit of a foodie in her and you're, well, whatever the antonym of a foodie is (with the exception of enjoying consuming and appreciating food other people make). Anyway, HOMEMADE! PESTO! Which will be even easier when we get back home to my normal food processor instead of having to use the mini one we brought. Maybe I'll even let Carrie help me take a few more baby steps toward real food. Oh, and also, apparently this is a "Winter pesto" because it uses parsley and walnuts. I found the recipe here and I think it's delicious! 

And, in the area that's decidedly not real food...these are amazing. I always like the holiday ones (pumpkins, eggs, ect.) because they are soft and smooth on the edges instead of having the hard ridges like the cups (which I love and would take an day). Bonus with these is they are nice and thick so extra PB! 

As are frosted animal crackers. Particularly if they are pink and white and coordinate with your elephant mug which encompasses ALL THE WHIMSY. Basically, I'm seven years old. It's the little things, y'all. 

In My Closet:
So, I love mixing patterns...on other people. Or if it's a top from the Anthro where they've already mixed it for me. I get nervous trying to do it myself, though. Well, I'm taking baby steps with that, too. This top (that I wear ALL THE TIME) has the tiniest little print and this scarf is just plain stripes. And the brown/tan color in them  is exactly the same. And they both match this perfect hat Minnie gave me that happens to be a tiny bit fanciful but basically low profile all at the same time. I feel like it came together really well and I'm going to try to be more creative in the future. 

In Their Closets:

For some reason, I think his rain cloud warm ups look so cute tucked in his snow boots. If you had told me two years ago that I'd be taking my little boy in public in sweat pants and a solid long sleeve t-shirt from Urban Outfitter I'd of stroked out. But it's all fair trade and he seems so much more warm and cozy than he did in his paper thin gingham pants last year. Priorities had to be adjusted (notice I did NOT say changed). And plus, he's even more Mick's "Bud" in this get up. (Mickey wears warm up pants in May in Mississippi, y'all. He wears his warm up suit from October to May. It's his uniform.)

I also like snow boots with leggings and dresses. She never even had a pair of boots (except rain boots) until last year. Also: look how proud she is! This is her first real book she's read all by herself!

When the windchill is negative ten, you lay down the bishop and pick up the sweater dress.

Oh and you pair snow boots with a jon jon. (Wish the lighting was better. My mother in law had actually bought this outfit for Graves and gave it to him when we were home in October. Y'all. I'm SO glad she did. Almost all of his Winter church clothes are too short. He wears this basically every other week. 

I shared about my overall love at the beginning of Winter, but I have got to go there again. These corduroy overalls have gotten so much wear up here. She wears them constantly as it's too cold for leggings and we STILL haven't boarded the denim train (I know, I'm absurd). I bought them and a navy pair years ago for $4.99 each at TJ Maxx (I was a buy ahead freak back in the day). They may be my best kid clothes purchase ever. At the time Annie was probably eighteen months old and I thought the granny print was a little dorky, the colors a little drab, and the construction (i.e. legit OskKosh overalls) a little masculine. But i couldn't pass up that steal. I envisioned her wearing them to paint or something. Now I consider them so sweet and girly and decidedly not grown up like so many things on the market for little people her age. They are some of my favorite things ever 

So we learned the hard way that the lady bug slip-ons really aren't the greatest for ice and snow. Shocking, right? However, these SmartWool socks my SIL gave her a few years ago (they seem to grow with her!) are amazing!

See what I mean? This was a different Sunday. Thankfully, he loves his "race car jon jon". 

 Awhile back, I saw him walking up to me from a distance after Sunday school and he looked like such a baby. He also looked super fluffy, I'm sure because of his leggings under this ensemble. It doesn't seem like he's big enough to be FOUR soon. (It was so much more apparent seeing him in motion.) This little squirt is so special and I'll let him take his babyness completely when he's ready, but I'm going to cherish every minute until he does.

In My Mailbox:
Not much at all. I actually ordered a few prints to hang up in our house when we move back home, but I had them sent to my parent's house because it just seemed pointless to have them shipped here and then need to pack them up for the move home in two months. 

In My Cart:

I got this stuff awhile back, but it's was all still in the box. My in laws actually got the dinosaur set and then I ordered the knight costume and the little magnetic "make a face" toy for Annie. They've both been big hits. Poor Graves- we have TONS of girl dress up stuff and while we've never put our foot down about him wearing a tutu, it's been fun to see how much he enjoys having his own little bit of dress up clothes. Of course, the sword is the best part. Annie likes to make different people with her face magnets during Graves's rest time and I like it because it's a simple, creative toy and helps balance the time she spends on the iPad or iPhone. 

Around the City:

Just like pretty much everybody in America, we've been more confined this month than usual. With temperatures in the single digits and windchills that are negative numbers, I just can't make myself get out much. 

So we've been pulling out all the tricks...

We have made it to the Children's Museum several times this month- I think three. That's a record, but it was the last month we had before our membership ran out and the kids LOVE it. It's been nice on these cold days.
We headed over there one Saturday (which we try never to do because it's pretty wild and chaotic on the weekends) for some special Chinese New Year programs. The kids had fun and Annie got to lead the parade at the museum! 

That was actually on Valentine's Day and we "went out to eat" afterwards. You know you're a redneck when you live in New York City and you're eating this on Valentine's Day. #CrownHeightstasteslikeDixie#myValentinedoesntpaymuseumfoodprices

Sir Graves in his new get up

On the Blog:
I wrote a few things that were important to me...
A Frosting in the Northeast- What I sort of intended to be a picture post turned into a big processing post. I'm realizing so much how hard living here has been in some ways and at the same times I'm coming to terms with the fact that leaving sort of breaks my heart.
On Routines: Steps Simplified and Anxieties Eased- There's nothing super deep here. I started out writing about some of our specific routines here, something I've been meaning to do for awhile, mostly for posterity's sake. I ended up sort of sharing and analyzing my overall feelings toward routines and the safety they seem to bring. It's one I know I'll enjoy stumbling back onto in the future. 
The Spirit of Individualism and the Spirit of Community (and How Switching Mindsets Takes Alot of Humility)- This was my favorite from the month. I've had a lot of thoughts rolling around about all this and it took me awhile, but I really wanted to discuss community, especially in regards to my faith, and how it's sometimes a struggle, but really always worth it. 

On My Heart:
- I wrote here last month: "It's been a heavy month. And somehow I wonder if they won't all be until we get home and get settled. It's a tension I know won't leave, even though there are so many joyful moments. Because there are so many joyful moments, really." And boy did that prove true. Last Sunday I experienced a bittersweet milestone. It was the first time a really happy day was much, much harder than a bad one. I had been so ready to get back to Mississippi all week and then Sunday got here and was not. I sobbed on the priest's shoulder. Which apparently what they do then is anoint you with olive oil and pray a really beautiful prayer over you about having your wounds united with Christ's wounds. Which made it better. But also quite a bit worse. 
- I think so often how tired I am. And it's not really a physical tiredness. It's just being emotionally depleted at the end of each day. I think some of it has to do with specific things, but ALOT of it has to do with Winter. People here have been so encouraging that it's totally normal to feel this way. This Winter has been so hard on me and I've kind of beat myself up over it. Like why am I not big enough for this? Why is everyone else functioning normally and I feel like I'm losing my mind. But recently people all over the country experienced some bad weather. And as awful as this sounds, it was sort of helpful for me. I saw so many people talking about their snow days and all they've done to keep their kids entertained and I realized that's been my everyday as far as when Peyton's working. I saw a ton of people say "It took fifteen minutes, twenty minutes, half an hour" to get ready and then their kids lasted five. And I reminded myself of the ordeal it is just to get enough clothes on to walk three blocks to the train (Graves has literally leggings, pants, and snow pants this week because temperatures are painful cold). And I cried a little bit, because hey, I'm doing okay. We're surviving. 
- I feel like I'm so much more impatient with the children because of my intense emotions over leaving and all the down feelings that come with Winter. But they are so sweet and so forgiving and I know that God shows Himself through them to me every day.

In My Prayers:
- I'm trying to pray that I can let go of needing to have all the answers and just rest in God's grace.
- I'm trying to pray for clarity abut what our lives at home will look like.
- I'm (still) trying to pray for patience during these long Winter months.
[I say trying because too often, this is a spiritual discipline that I don't prioritize.]
On the Calendar: 

March is going to be a fun month. Hopefully it will warm up a little. Regardless, my sister and brother in law are coming to visit and we could not be more excited! 

What I'm Into

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Weekly Happenings #308 (February 16-22)-- All the Emotions

My guess is that this could be the title of these posts from here on out. But last week was rough. I think I cried every day. And I know I had a headache every day. Something was up with the weather and I was just pretty down. A lot of things felt overwhelming and one day I felt like the move home couldn't come any sooner and the next I'd feel like I wasn't ready at all. I sure there will be plenty of posts processing that in the days and weeks to come =) For now our week...

Peyton had to work Monday afternoon, but we had a nice morning all together. We woke up at a reasonable time and I got a bath and Peyton fixed breakfast. We played with the kids some and talked a bunch and then had lunch.
We have this whole shelf in a kitchen cabinet of random things from mine and Peyton's moms. I keep saying we'll pull them out for a "rainy day" but we never do. A snowy day seemed just as well! 

I fed the kids lunch and did dishes and then Graves rested. I got  on the computer and did English with Annie. Graves got up and we did math and then I cooked supper. They ate and I bathed them and cleaned up the kitchen. I got them to bed and worked on a post. Peyton got home and we talked and then I got back on the computer and went to bed.
You know, it's been awhile

Peyton worked all day on Tuesday. The kids got up way earlier than they have been and Graves was so cranky and felt bad. I let them watch more TV than usual and then fed the breakfast. They played and I planned school and made a list for the day, got on the computer, read my devotion, did chores, took a bath, and ate breakfast. I played with them some, we did our morning school, and then cleaned up (we had decided not to, but Annie went berserk over a lost toy so I told her the only way I was helping her find it was if we cleaned up). Peyton called and then I fixed the kids lunch. It was getting to be late and I KNEW Graves would fall asleep if I sent him to his room. I ended up letting him stay up and play with AP. I wrote a post and then we did English and math (Graves did okay, actually). I fixed them supper, did dishes, and got them to bed. Graves actually fell asleep while I was reading to them! I got on the computer and then Peyton and I ate when he got home. We talked and watched a show and then I sent an email and went to bed.

Wednesday was a nice day. We got up a little late and I took my bath and ate breakfast and then got ready and headed to the post office to mail something. I rode the bus there and dropped off my package.

It felt SO good outside that I walked home (I never walk if Peyton's not with me if transit is an option). Then I hurried and got the kids ready so we could spend half an hour at the park before Peyton headed in to work. It's hilarious to me because in Jackson, I'd be griping about getting out of my car and walking across a parking lot at this temperature.

We had a nice time at the park and when we got home, I fixed the kids lunch. I read to them and Graves rested. I ate my lunch and got on the computer. I did critical thinking and played some English games with AP and then Graves got up and we did math. I fixed them supper and did dishes and then got them to bed. I got on the computer and then Peyton got home and we watched a show.

Peyton was off on Thursday and Friday. We had a great day on Thursday. Peyton got up and got ready and left to go meet Jake for coffee.

This guy has been joining us at about four every morning. And lately he's been building a mini "nest" (like in his closet) basically in his sleep. He snores just like his Papa and he's the BEST snuggler. And isn't he beautiful? I don't regret saying yes to him for one minute. 

I got up right after he left and got my breakfast and bath before the kids got up. I got them dressed and fed and we were about to head out to meet Peyton in the city for a Chinese New Years celebration, but he called and said it was REALLY cold and we might want to think of an indoor activity. I talked to the kids and we agreed on the Natural History Museum. We left and they did great on the (longer than usual) train ride. Graves befriended a puppy! We met Peyton and he had gone to Trader Joes and picked up some snacks for lunch. We popped into the the reptile area and then we went to an exhibit where you have to sign up to see at a certain time. It was a natural disasters exhibit and the kids really enjoyed it. I thought it was pretty cool, too. After that we found a little area to have lunch and then we did Asian peoples and animals (which we've never done before). We left pretty tired and came straight home. Peyton headed back out to return some library books and Graves took a nap. I got on the computer and then did math with AP. Peyton got back and I whipped up some pesto for supper while Annie read to him and Graves. We all ate and got the kids to bed. I got back on the computer a bit and went to bed myself.

I woke up with such a bad headache on Friday. I took some medicine and went back to sleep for an hour which is usually enough to get rid of one. I woke up still feeling awful and ate breakfast and took a bath (those usually help too) but no relief. Peyton worked on some things he needed to get done- bills and organizing and other stuff and bathed the kids and I just sort of shuffled around the apartment. Peyton ended up taking the kids to the Children's Museum and I stayed home. I got on the computer for a few minutes and ate lunch and watched an episode of The West Wing. They got home and Peyton cooked supper and was super helpful. He got them to bed and I finally got up and started doing a few things. I HAD to do some laundry because we had another open house on Sunday and there was just no place to put it all. I started that and emailed a friend and did a few other things. I ate super and my head felt some better but I still wasn't one hundred percent. I did a few things and went to bed.

The kids got up on Saturday and ate breakfast and I let them watch an extra show. I got on the computer and did a few things while they watched and then they played and I cleaned some. I did my normal chores and also straightened and swept. We had another open house on Sunday and I wanted to get ahead. I took my bath and ate breakfast and then we did our morning school stuff. We don't always do it on Saturday, but we weren't in a big rush. I played with the kids and then fixed them lunch. We read and Graves rested. I got on the computer and ate my lunch and then did math with Annie. Graves got up and we finished math and then cleaned up their room. I fixed them supper and tidied some more and Peyton got home. I got on the computer a bit and did EVERYTHING possible to get ready for the next day- I washed and put up every dish, packed the kids' lunch, and got out our clothes.

Sunday was a great, but hard, day. I got up and took a bath and then got the kids ready and fixed them breakfast. I did a few last minute things to get the apartment neat and then finished getting ready. We headed to church. There was so much slippery ice and it took us forever. We ended up being late and then Annie got so upset about not taking a dinosaur to Sunday school. She settled down and the sermon was wonderful. I stayed for the Forum and it was the first in a series on heresies- Gnosticism was this week. As I was leaving Jake asked me how I was and I started sobbing. It was the first time a really happy day was much, much harder than a bad one. Which apparently what they do then is anoint you with olive oil and pray a really beautiful prayer over you about having your wounds united with Christ's wounds. And I'm just not sure I'm at all ready to leave.

We went up to his office and talked a few minutes and he prayed for me/us and then I got the kids. Which made things sort of better, sort of worse, you know? We stopped by Peyton's store on the way home and then came home. I was pretty tired at that point. And then poor Annie slipped on the ice and fell. It's the second time she's done that in two weeks. Whew. We got home and the kids had a snack and then played together. I talked to my friend Mallory and then let Annie have some iPad time. We got Graves and they cut and colored some and then I fed them supper. Peyton got home and we read to them and got them to bed. We talked a bunch and then I got on the computer.

Today has been alright. It's Peyton's "good" week, so we'll get a lot of time with him. And, I can't believe the end of February is finally here. It's been so rough for me this time around and I'm really looking forward to March and April for a bunch of reasons. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Weekly Smorgasbord

Well, this is a pretty big list. I think I say this every time, but I need to get back in the routine of actually doing these weekly instead of like monthly. Anyway, it's lots of stuff, but lots of GOOD stuff. Enjoy! 
On Faith: 
Posted: 10 Feb 2015 10:08 PM PST
This is so very fascinating to me. Partly because I assumed many (though no all) were specific to our specific Episcopal church that we've fallen in love with. Turns out, I guess not. Sorry in advance for the truly excessive quoting, but this resonated in a huge way. 
- "The way it anchors my faith when no act of will on my part can. I don’t always believe the words of the Nicene Creed. But I say them anyway. Sometimes they’re more a confession of desire than conviction, a statement of what I desperately hope to be true. When I struggle to believe, the rhythms and patterns and prayers of the liturgy are like an anchor. It’s as if the rest of the community—those around me and those who came before me—are saying, “It’s OK. We’ll carry you through this part Faith is no longer dependent on me willing it into being...
- The way it embraces orthodoxy without rigidity.The other day my priest (who takes Scripture and theology about as seriously as anyone I’ve ever heard preach), referred in passing to Adam and Eve as our “mythic forbearers". No one broke out the pitchforks. There were no murmurs or protests. No angry blog posts. No one accused him of “getting the gospel wrong.". For many of us, it’s a refreshing change. As Lindsey Harts wrote after hearing an Episcopal homily on God’s sovereignty in relation to the Big Bang, “It was the first time I hadn’t heard the Big Bang being bashed in a church setting. Anglicanism has long been known as the via media, the “middle way” between two traditions. The Episcopal Church has also helped me navigate the middle way between unbelief and dogmatism...
- The way their worship can be deeply moving without resorting to emotional manipulation.Sometimes I need to worship in the midst of my brokenness and confusion—not in spite of it and certainly not in denial of it..
- How the “shared cup” matters more than “shared dogma.” I have spent a lot of my life trying to get my theology right. I’ve spent years believing all the “right things” in order that I might belong. So it was jarring when a good friend explained to me that the sermon (the meat!) was not the center of Anglican worship. It’s the Eucharist, the common table around which we all gather...
- The way everyone is welcome as a full participant, even children. My 4-year-old is welcome at the table every week. She is able to receive the bread and the cup even before she’s made a profession of faith. This sends a powerful message: God’s grace is for her, too. She is no less a part of the body of Christ just because she doesn’t fully understand yet what that means.One Sunday shortly after our daughter began receiving communion, we were milling about during coffee hour. (If there was a number 12 on this list, it might be coffee hour.) As we were talking with our priest, our daughter began solemnly placing a goldfish cracker into each of our hands. [Graves did this EXACT same thing and I know it's something he never would have done if he wasn't taking communion weekly, with an short explanation every single time courtesy of  our beloved priests, Jake and Ben]...
- How at the altar, we’re all the same. It’s been said the ground is level at the foot of the cross. I don’t think I’ve appreciated that quite as much anywhere as in the Episcopal Church."
Absolutely spot on as far as what we've experienced in the city at Calvary. 

Posted: 13 Feb 2015 07:24 PM PST
"I am convinced that as a species, we experience a lot of frustration. I think frustration is an emotion unique to humans. And the deepest sources of our frustration comes from our desire to control and to plan. We decide that things should go this way, at this time, according to these plans. We desire to control our destinies. We desire to control our surroundings. We desire to control other people. And few of those things ever work. Whether you are a pastor or a parent, you have probably discovered that you cannot control other people. Yes, it's maddening. But I have also become convinced that I have discovered the antidote for my need to control:I have come to believe that all things truly do work for good."

It's funny because I feel like I have discovered/experienced this on a new level lately. With one friend in particular, this has been the ongoing theme of our conversations lately. I'm sure I'll always want to fight to be in control, but the more I believe this, the more it helps.

Posted: 13 Feb 2015 05:49 PM PST
"If we are so afraid of what Fifty Shades represents, then why don't we do something better to get people's attention? Why don't we practice some radical forgiveness? Why don't we lay down our positions of power in a radical way? People will always fantasize, but I wonder if people experienced from us the kind of love that Jesus showed to people, that they wouldn't feel the need so much to dream of another life. I wonder if people would lose interest in all the stuff floating around us every day. The world pretends that love is many things. It's not greeting cards. It's not hugging strangers in exchange for free food (thank you very much, McDonald's). But I wonder if it would be possible to make a world where people didn't bat an eye at something as trivial, as passe, as boring as Fifty Shades of Grey."

On Love:
Posted: 10 Feb 2015 10:38 PM PST
"Love didn't happen to us. We're in love because we each made the choice to be." This is so fascinating. I don't believe in soul mates, but I'm a little skeptical that one could fall in love with "anyone" given the right set up. So, the middle of the road, I guess. I wouldn't say I willed myself into falling in love with Peyton, but it happened very differently than my previous boyfriends. I've shared this before, but I genuinely thought he was a complete goober (and too old) when Minnie spotted him at Briarwood and said "WHO is that handsome boy smacking kids with towels?" But over the years, I realized he was the kindest and most selfless person I had ever been friends with, he was one of smartest and most hard working people I knew, and he would make a REALLY GREAT father. And falling in love with him felt very natural.

On Parenting:
Posted: 10 Feb 2015 10:15 PM PST
I've noticed something about the parents of teens and twenty-somethings who are high functioning and healthy. I'm talking about young adults who you sit and talk to and wonder how they got so wise, self-controlled and winsome. I've noticed they all have parents who have a distinct, unique, and rare quality about them. It's not a quality you'd expect, but I promise it's the common denominator. And here it is: Healthy and high-functioning people often have parents who do not hide their flaws, especially from their own children."

On Marriage:
Posted: 11 Feb 2015 08:41 PM PST
Good tips!

On Words and Writing:
Posted: 11 Feb 2015 08:15 PM PST
"I've been playing with words and thinking about word economy. The word economy is in a bear market, I think. We say so little with so many words. I am a regular offender."
Posted: 11 Feb 2015 07:55 PM PST
Oh my gosh THIS.
Posted: 11 Feb 2015 01:28 PM PST
I've actually done this from time to time- mainly just when I was looking for a word to replace one I didn't love in a sentence. Anyway, I think it's a fun exercise. And it's a good way to potentially expand your vocabulary, too!

On Something Women Need to Hear:
Posted: 13 Feb 2015 01:04 PM PST
To make matters even more stressful, we constantly measure ourselves against each other's progress, which is a truly dreadful habit. My sister, Catherine, told me recently about a conversation she'd had with a sweet neighbor who -- after watching Catherine spend an afternoon organizing a scavenger hunt for all the local kids -- said sadly, "You're such a better mother than I will ever be." At which point, my sister grabbed her friend's hands and said, "Please. Let's not do this to each other, okay?" No, seriously -- please. Let's not. Because it breaks my heart to know that so many amazing women are waking up at 3 o'clock in the morning and abusing themselves for not having gone to art school, or for not having learned to speak French, or for not having organized the neighborhood scavenger hunt. I fear that -- if we continue this mad quest for perfection -- we will all end up as stressed-out and jumpy as those stray cats who live in Dumpsters behind Chinese restaurants, forever scavenging for scraps of survival while pulling out their own hair in hypervigilant anxiety."

On Early Retirement:
Posted: 11 Feb 2015 10:56 PM PST
And all of a sudden you're not fixing you broke ass dishwasher and you're contemplating line drying all your clothes. Good thing the Renaissance Man is going to retire early.

On Hospitality (Sort of a Different Look at It):
Posted: 11 Feb 2015 10:55 PM PST
"She doesn't rush into the pauses, she sits in the hush and lets me collect my pain, ease it out slowly like a prayer. She asks good questions but doesn't expect easy answers. She's gentle and slow, a presence willing to sit in the dark cold night to show she's with me. Still she comes. I didn't see her hospitality in the tea cups or the comfy couches, the home she keeps decorated and spotless. I don't see it in the things she does or the ways she serves, although I know it's there too. I know she does those things with a frenzy of energy and intention. But I've seen lots of people do those things. Maybe for some people it's easier to check off a list, drop off a casserole, set up the good china and make a roast. But it's hard to sit with someone's pain, let it roll off their slumped shoulders and drag it across yours so you can stand together. And that's what I needed most.I see her quiet hospitality in the space she makes, the hollowed and holy quiet. She reminds me of the Gospel when I open the door and slide into the passenger side as wrecked and empty as I am. I see it when she’s willing to sit in the discomfort of being unable to fix me with a meal or an errand or a Bible verse. I see it when she’s willing to keep coming back to love me through the darkest nights. I saw Jesus a little more clearly when we were sitting in her minivan at McDonald’s at 3:00 a.m."

This is a beautiful, and different, picture of hospitality than what I often think of. It really resonated. So often we need someone just to sit with us in our despair and so often that is, I think, one of the hardest things for another human to do.
Posted: 13 Feb 2015 06:00 PM PST
"But we can bring him into our home. We can bake him a cake and buy him shoes. We can show him love, love, love, and maybe his glasses will start to turn all love-tinted and maybe then he'll look out and see truth and he'll begin to listen for the only voice that can tell him anything at all."

On Saying Goodbye:
Posted: 10 Feb 2015 10:11 PM PST
Ugh. Another goodbye I'm not excited about saying. I'm glad we're not caught up on this season of Parenthood with the rest of America (though I fully intend to rewatch/watch the entire -series). I just don't think I'd have the emotional reserves to handle it.

On Social Media and Shaming:
Posted: 13 Feb 2015 07:24 PM PST
"Still, in those early days, the collective fury felt righteous, powerful and effective. It felt as if hierarchies were being dismantled, as if justice were being democratized. As time passed, though, I watched these shame campaigns multiply, to the point that they targeted not just powerful institutions and public figures but really anyone perceived to have done something offensive. I also began to marvel at the disconnect between the severity of the crime and the gleeful savagery of the punishment. It almost felt as if shamings were now happening for their own sake, as if they were following a script."

On Sexual Ethics:
Posted: 10 Feb 2015 10:29 PM PST
Pretty creative. And to go ahead and clarify, I certainly hope Annie and Graves will choose to abstain until they are married. That is absolutely what Peyton and I will share with them is our conviction. But I also don't believe in abstinence only education, especially in settings that aren't distinctively Christian (i.e. public schools).
Posted: 10 Feb 2015 10:27 PM PST
Ugh. Look, I know it's hard when your heroes fall. But this keeps getting worse and worse. Or rather, more and more keeps getting brought into the light. Shine the light in the hard places and don't shame other people when they do.

On Ethical Eating: 
Posted: 10 Feb 2015 10:24 PM PST
"Locally Laid is directly challenging the egg industry status quo. We move fences all spring, summer and fall, and fill waterers and feeders; it's incredibly demanding work to get birds out of doors. And it all costs more...But here's why we risk your umbrage. When our perfect double entendre breaks through the media clutter in which we're all steeped, we leverage it. With that second look from a consumer, we educate about animal welfare, eating local, Real Food and the economics of our broken food system. We all vote with our food dollars every day and we respect your decision if our playful moniker keeps you from buying our eggs. It was just important to me that you understood everything that was going on behind that name." 

This is pretty great.

On Birth and Writing:
Posted: 11 Feb 2015 10:56 PM PST
"But I believe right in my marrow that the voices and experiences of us regular mamas, having babies, are just as valuable, just as real, just as spirit-filled as any other metaphor."

This is a beautiful post by one of my long time favorites and resonated so deeply.

On Workplace Risks:

Posted: 10 Feb 2015 10:30 PM PST
This is interesting and sad and something I didn't even know was a problem.

On An Amazing Story You Have to Check Out:
Posted: 12 Feb 2015 03:11 PM PST
"A couple days back, I posted the portrait of a young man who described an influential principal in his life by the name of Ms. Lopez. Yesterday I was fortunate to meet Ms. Lopez at her school, Mott Hall Bridges Academy...'This is a neighborhood that doesn’t necessarily expect much from our children, so at Mott Hall Bridges Academy we set our expectations very high. We don’t call the children ‘students,’ we call them ‘scholars.’ Our color is purple. Our scholars wear purple and so do our staff. Because purple is the color of royalty. I want my scholars to know that even if they live in a housing project, they are part of a royal lineage going back to great African kings and queens. They belong to a group of individuals who invented astronomy and math. And they belong to a group of individuals who have endured so much history and still overcome. When you tell people you’re from Brownsville, their face cringes up. But there are children here that need to know that they are expected to succeed.'"

Amazing. This principle is such an inspiring woman.
Posted: 12 Feb 2015 03:10 PM PST

"One of the coolest things about this fundraiser is that it originated with a young man on the street, who chose to tell a stranger about the love and appreciation he had for his school principal. His name is Vidal, and I had a chance to reconnect with him during my visit to Mott Hall Bridges Academy. He could not possibly be a more polite or charismatic young man.'I want to own my own restaurant,' he told me. 'When I was little, I used to watch my mom cook. Then I started cooking for myself when I was nine. I’d get the ingredients myself at the corner store and make something for my brothers. I just thought it was a good thing for an older brother to do. I can make curry chicken, jerk chicken, curry goat, fried rice, macaroni and cheese, and all kinds of stuff.' 'What would you say has been your biggest accomplishment?' 'Getting publicity for my school.'” 

This made me cry. I don't care where you live, if HONY doesn't inspire you, your heart is probably made of ice.
Posted: 12 Feb 2015 03:08 PM PST
On January 19th, I met a young man on the street named Vidal, and I asked him to tell me about the person who had influenced him the most in his life. He told me about his principal, Ms. Lopez, and he explained how she had taught him that he mattered. Over the next two weeks, I learned the story of Ms. Lopez and her school, Mott Hall Bridges Academy. By hearing the stories of MHBA students and educators, my eyes were opened to the unique challenges facing a school in an under-served community. Ms. Lopez taught me that before a student is ready for academic training, they must be made to understand that they deserve success. And that can be the hardest battle in education. Ms. Lopez always said that there was no place her students did not belong. Recently we received an invitation that proved just that.

So, so awesome.
Posted: 12 Feb 2015 03:08 PM PST
And then Brandon asks the PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES when he felt the most broken. And he answers honestly and eloquently. And Ms. Lopez knows she's not alone in having wanting to give up on what seems so hard and what seems to not be working. And Vidal now sees two very important people say "This is hard and some days you feel like a total failure. But you could totally influence lives or run the country. Or be featured on HONY and raise a shit ton of money by advocating for yourself and your peers." And it all makes sense.

On Sitting at the Bar:
Posted: 13 Feb 2015 07:17 PM PST
Good tip.

Noteworthy Quotes from the Week:

"I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe. I know what torment this is, but I can only see it, in myself anyway, as the process by which faith is deepened. What people don't realise is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross."
-Flannery O'Connor

"The gospel of grace nullifies our adulation of televangelists, charismatic superstars, and local church heroes. It obliterates the two-class citizenship theoryoperative in many American churches. For grace proclaims the awesome truth that all is gift. All that is good is ours, not by right, but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God. While there is much we may have earned- our degree, our salary, our home and garden, and a good night's sleep- all this is possible only because we have been given so much: life itself, eyes to see and hands to touch, a mind to shape ideas, and a heart to beat with love. We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh. We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt. This and so much more is sheer gift; it is not reward for our faithfulness, our generous disposition, or our heroic life of prayer. Even our fidelity is a gift. 'If we but turn to God,' said St. Augustine, 'that itself is a gift of God.' My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it." 
-Brennan Manning

"All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well." 
-Julian of Norwich. 

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige and even his life for the welfare of others." -Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Lord, please restore to us the comfort of merit and demerit. Show us that there is at least something we can do. Tell us that at the end of the day there will at least be one redeeming card of our very own. Lord, if it is not too much to ask, send us to bed with a few shreds of self-respect upon which we can congratulate ourselves. But whatever you do, do not preach grace. Give us something to do, anything; but spare us the indignity of this indiscriminate acceptance.” 
― Robert Farrar Capon

"Here is a vocation that will bring you more satisfaction than if you became a millionaire ten times over: Develop the extraordinary skill for detecting the burdens of others and devote yourself daily to making them lighter.” 
-John Piper

"I believe in romance. I believe in the love between a man and a woman. I believe that love can be sustained for a lifetime. I believe in falling back in love over and over. I believe in making up. I believe that good marriages are wed of soft hearts and hard heads: a tenderness to love and be loved and a tenacity too bone-headed to quit. I believe that laughter lasts longer than sex. I believe that many people marry people they do not love.I believe that desperation gets confused with affection. I believe that many couples divorce that could have made it. I believe that God can resurrect hearts that are stone-cold dead and create love between a couple ex nihilo. I believe that couples can put in their fifty years like a prison sentence with souls that have been divorced for decades. And that Jesus sees right through it. I believe some fights are worth having. I believe that laziness is the leading narcotic of romance. I believe that neglect is a form of infidelity. I believe in the power of repentance to jump start a dead heart. I believe the most important synonym of the word love in a marriage is forgiveness. I believe in working it through, crying it through, even fighting it through, then I believe in putting it behind you. For keeps. Love resists the inundating urge to bring back up the old with every new offense. I believe that getting godly counseling is an act of courage. I believe in the immeasurable power of mutual respect. I believe that cynicism about romance is as unhealthy as believing in fairy tales. But I do not believe in teaching our little girls that their worth will be measured by the love of a man. Unless that man is Jesus. I do not believe in staying silent in a culture that says girls are as valuable as they are desirable. I do not believe it is helpful that our constant go-to compliment to a little girl is how pretty she is. She is also smart. And strong. And thoughtful. And artistic. And creative. And well able. I do not believe in perpetuating the myth of happily-ever-after in marriage. I believe in teaching our adolescents that we can have love-ever-after, devotion-ever-after, hope-ever-after, and faith-ever-after but only if we don’t faint-ever-after. We prepare soldiers for real war but leave young couples ill-prepared for real marriage. I don’t believe that realism has to remotely equal pessimism. I do not believe in teaching our girls that men are gods or devils. I do not believe in marrying a man who won’t date you. I don’t believe in making love to a man who won’t kiss you. For what any of this is worth. One last thing in case you’re still reading. I believe that great marriages are great but that a good marriage can also be good. Amid the blur of magazine headlines and blog articles about how to have a great romance, a great marriage, great sex, great kids, great families, great jobs, great relationships, and fabulously great futures with great impact, save a little room in your heart to believe that good can also be good. Because life’s just not always great. But, man, it can be good." 
-Beth Moore
"Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, 'Do it again'; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, 'Do it again' to the sun; and every evening, 'Do it again' to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we." 
-G.K. Chesterton
"Obama made a (very understandable) historical mistake that many people made when comparing the the Christian Crusades as being analogous to Isalm Jihadists. But do not let that one mistake distract from the other evils he mentioned that have been done in the name of Christ, such as the brutal murdering and oppression of African Americans under Jim Crow laws by a 'Christian' region. The Gospel calls us sinners who are being transformed in a process, and yet when it comes to history, it seems many people want to act as if the Church has been saints when its flaws come about. Yes, ISIS and terrorism have perpetrated many evils, and the religion of Islam as a whole has historically been a more of a violent and oppressive than the religion of Christianity. That doesn't mean Islam is inherently a violent, terrorist religion. But more important than that, it does not mean affiliation with Christianity makes us immune to sin. But when we fail to acknowledge the sins of our 'tribe' when we wish to point to sins of the other 'tribe,' we act counter to the truth of the Gospel which first calls us out to acknowledge our own sins, not others.So to act as if Obama's comparison is entirely wrong is not the truth, but it is the flesh within us that seeks to justify ourselves rather than accept our status as fellow sinners in continuing need of the transforming grace of God. More than that, it is potentially partisan politics that is more concerned with criticizing a disliked figure and blinding ourselves from and denying our history of injustice, to whatever degree it is true. But the Gospel is full of light and does not hide or deny the truth, but brings it to light, owns up to sins, and calls us to a new way of life."
- Owen Weddle 
Noteworthy Images from the Week: