What's Saving My Life Right Now


I've never paricularly loved the month of January, but it feels pretentious to complain about it when I live in the land of t-shirts and sandals. It didn't snow last month, nor was it gray. There are still some leaves on our trees. It wasn't even cold. (I KNOW.

That said, January in our little beach town was rough this year. Santa Barbara and Goleta received only a few hours of rainfall in the last nine months but all of it fell in the course of a short period of time, triggering massive debris flow just south of us in Montecito. After a December dominated by the Thomas Fire, January's devastation felt extra shocking. While our family wasn't directly impacted, we've certainly felt somber and slightly more anxious than usual. I am reminded this month that our plans are not our own, much as we convince ourselves otherwise. 

This year I'm attempting to pursue a slower lifestyle. More stillness. More solitude. More listening. (And with all of that, less controlling behavior I hope.) I've stepped back from regular writing commitments and Instagram, podcasting and our little small business. I'm trying to pay attention to God's voice in my life which is quiet but steady. So far, in just a few short weeks, I'm already seeing the fruit of this decision to pull back, sit firm, and be present to what's right in front of me. 

And, as much as it doesn't really make sense to blog when I'm trying to pursue the disciplines of stillness and quiet, I also feel a renewed sense to return to the blogging of old--the kind that I did all those years ago before Facebook and Instagram and algorithms and platform building. Blogging for the sake of blogging, even if no one reads it. 

It's February, one of my favorite months of the year, so I'm sharing some of the little things that made January feel more bearable.

1. My Val Marie Paper Prayer Journal (thank you, Holly!) and Face to Face by Kenneth Boa (thank you, April!) are changing my prayer life. I usually have a hard time with any form of sustained prayer or meditation but these two little books are teaching my how to pray, and showing me all the ways God is working in my life and those around me. 

2. Bike rides with Luke are a new favorite pastime now that I don't have regular childcare for him on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I plop him in the back of my beach cruiser and head out for a 20-30 minute ride to the beach. We check out the surf and send a full report to Daddy before cruising through Isla Vista where Luke flirts with all the college girls. 

3. The Capri Citron candle from Bath & Body Works smells exactly like the Capri Anthropologie candle that we all know and love. (And really, if you don't know and love the candle I'm talking about, please trust my recommendation and get yourself one.) The Anthro version can get pricey so wait for a Bath & Body Works sale and then stock up. This is another Holly discovery that I'm glad I found. (It's so popular it's sold out right now!)

4. Sabbath Soaks. In an attempt to create more rest and rhythms, I've made Sunday evening baths a new pastime. Splurge on a fancy bath oil, light that Capri candle, bust out a good book, and start the week right y'all! 

5. These pink Target pajamas are perhaps the best thing I've added to my wardrobe in a long time. My sister-in-law Sarah is the one who helped me discover that mens' inspired pajamas can be adorable so long as you find a pair that's slim fitting. She bought this pair for herself and let me try them on which is how I realized that I've been buying ugly pajamas for way too long. Since receiving them for Christmas I've worn them through TWO stomach viruses. TMI? Maybe. But you know what? If you're going to be stuck in bed with the stomach flu you might as well feel comfy and look cute. Feel free to write that advice down in your journal. 

6. Winter Dream Tea Lattes are another indulgence that's been part of my routine for the last year so I can't NOT mention them here. When made properly they are full of sugar and basically terrible for your body. But that's why you make them once a week, preferably on Friday mornings, as a little "almost the weekend!" treat. Californians: you can buy the tea right now at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf but it's seasonal so stock up soon. For others: it's also on Amazon. Don't forget their Vanilla powder too. 

7. United Pursuit is on repeat guys. Over and over and over and over. Especially the songs Looking for a Savior, Not in a Hurry and Speak to the Silence. 

8. Stove top popcorn. It took me until almost 36 years old to realize that I don't need a Whirly Pop or Microwave to easily make popcorn on the stove. It's so simple. And it's so good! WHHYYYYY did it take me so long to discover this? Why am I even admitting such a think so publicly? 

9. My Quip is the very best thing ever and I don't even care if you're snickering about my love for a gold toothbrush because the joke is on you for not having one. It's small. It's light weight. It's affordable. It's so pretty. AND, they send you a new head and battery every three months in the mail. My dentist is going to be swooning over my gum health the next time I visit. (Or at least this is what I'm telling myself.) You should get one

10. This book, this article, and this podcast episode were all thought provoking over the last month. Enjoy! 

What's changing your life? You should tell me, and read other ideas by visiting Modern Mrs. Darcy's post here.  

The Best of 2017


It's the sunset of another year, and I'm feeling all the feels that I usually do this time of year. Grateful. Panicked. Reflective. 

At the end of last year, I picked RESTORATION as my word for 2017. And I wrote this:

"I think God is calling me to be repaired, fixed and mended. I need an overhaul on what rest and quiet and stillness look like. There are too many voices speaking into my life and I’m not hearing enough from GOD. I need to spend time in scripture and plant myself next to the water so I can be restored; then prosper and grow. In order to soak up the living water, I need to ask God to weed out the many unimportant things clambering for my time and attention."

God has been so faithful to my desires and prayers for quiet and growth. Going into 2018, I am still seeking stillness...but I sure feel a lot closer to it than I ever have before. I would appreciate your prayers for whatever God has in store for me in the new year. 

Until then, may I share some 2017 favorites with you? 

Best Books of 2017: The Hate U Give, This is How it Always Is, and The Mothers are three fiction books that helped me understand other viewpoints. I also loved Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, Free of Me, The Road Back To You and Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. My GoodReads booklist is here

Best Movie of 2017: Lion, La La Land (I don't care what you think, Oscars), The Founder, Murder on the Orient Express, The Big Sick, do I even watch movies anymore?! I think I say that every year. 

Best Music of 2017: I do not claim to be a music extraordinaire--have you heard by singing voice?--but I loved discovering Leon Bridges, Out of the Dust, Ellie Holcomb and United Pursuit.

Best TV of 2017: This is Us, Hasan Minhaj's Homecoming King, Big Little Lies. We also finally finished the Newsroom and I mourned the ending. It's so good. 

Best Podcasts of 2017: Emily P. Freeman's new podcast The Next Right Thing has been life changing (I also love her audio devotionals) / Sorta Awesome's The Truth About Anxiety episode/ Annie F. Down's interview with Beth McCord about the Enneagram / Journey Woman's episode with Jennie Allen / Telling the Truth's two part series on Martha & Busyness and, as always, Modern Love. Best new, weird, and addictive series was Dirty John. (I may not watch a lot of TV but I am a podcast junkie!)

Best Blog Posts / Articles of 2017: Who's in Charge of the Christian Blogosphere? + the entire CT series on women and discipleship / The Invisible Workload That Drags Women DownA Story and a Prayer About Cake / Lessons in Stillness from One of the Quietest Places on Earth 

Best New-to-Me Recipes of 2017: Forest Feast's Rosemary shortbread / One Pan Farro / Tom Kha Gai  (I like this easier version but it needs a few tablespoons of sugar to make it perfect.)

What Worked For Me in 2017:  My Write the Word Journal and this beautiful journaling Bible / this exercise by Liz Ditty called Learning to Listen to Your Life / Using the YMCA childcare to read that journaling Bible a little more regularly. 

Best Moments of 2017: Fishing in Alaska as a family, the SBCC women's retreat, seeing The Magic of Motherhood get published, meeting all the C+C writers at the book launch party, growing the Coffee + Crumbs podcast beyond our wildest of expectations, practically touching Bono at the Rose Bowl, time as a family in Catalina, realizing I'm a Type 1 on the Enneagram (and being totally transformed by that information!), learning to slow down, listen better and say NO (this book was helpful), watching Luke learn to walk, my day-long spiritual retreat. Weirdest moment of the year goes to ALL of December which will forever be remembered by the Grinch Fire, evacuations, sickness, ash masks, cookie making and snuggle time.

Looking forward to 2017: my sister moving to Santa Barbara, more beach sunsets, and whatever surprises God has in store. 

Adieu, 2017. God, you were so good to us!

Photo by O.C. Gonzalez on Unsplash

What I learned this summer


Our summer weather arrived this week (hello, heat wave!) but the kids are all back to school. Whomp whomp. Summer is officially but not officially over. We had an amazing few months together, playing hard at the beach and pool, traveling to Alaska, the Sequoia area and Irvine, and enjoying the freedom that comes with no homework, no strict routines, and plenty of time to snuggle in our pajamas. 

Here's a little bit of what I learned this summer: 

Three is easier than two.  I realized something surprising over the last ten weeks. In our current season of life, having all three kids home is actually easier than Anna being at school. Not only did we not have to be out the door by 7:45am each day, but Anna bosses Owen around so well that I felt like I did less entertaining than I do when it’s just Owen and Luke at home. I know that someday my kids may fight like animals, so I truly soaked up their giggles and games. 

Raccoon is the appropriate description for a 10-18 month old. Earlier this summer I posted a photo of Luke rummaging through our kitchen drawers—a daily, sometimes hourly, occurrence. A friend commented that he and his wife call this “The Raccoon Stage.” Ever since that comment I’ve actually looked at Luke’s curiosity with a little more humor and grace. For me, the early toddler stage is one of the hardest to manage and enjoy. Even though I knew what to expect this time, and I have a little more patience than I did for Anna and Owen, it’s still exhausting. (And, he’s not even walking yet! Ay yi yi!)

I’m more of the Wild + Free type than I thought. Our time in Alaska made me realize just how much kids push into their creativity and independence when parents aren’t hovering. The friends we stayed with have a huge property with one of those yards that doesn’t have a defined front and back. Every morning the kids let themselves outside in their pajamas and they proceeded to run around barefoot and wild for hours. They fed the chickens, drove their battery operator Jeeps, rode bikes, shot BB guns, swung, wrestled and laughed. They didn’t wear helmets (no cars around, no need!) which meant they didn’t need our help. Without rules, they seemed happier and more independent than I’ve ever seen them. Since then I’ve been giving Anna and Owen more freedom to roam our culdesac and nearby park, checking in every few minutes or hollering out our back gate to see if they’re within reach. They love it, and I do too. 

Summer is the best time to train for a race. While I hadn’t abandoned running completely since having babies, it’s been SEVEN years since I finished the LA Ragnar Relay and then got pregnant soon after. Training for a long distance race requires a lot of time and I haven’t been ready to set aside other responsibilities and passions to pursue a disciplined running routine. Until now. This summer my half marathon itch couldn’t go unscratched any longer, and between more daylight hours and a less stringent morning routine, I knew I had seize the window of opportunity. The race is this Sunday in Ventura. I’m terrified I’ll get injured before then, so please pray for me if you think of it. I would LOVE to put a big DONE checkmark next to this goal, and be able to prove to myself that I can still run races after pregnancy and babies. 

Summer is also the best time to read fiction. With many of our favorite TV shows off the air, and fewer evening commitments, I made a goal to read more fiction books this summer. What’s funny is that I read one in June, didn’t pick up another book until August, and have zoomed my way through four in the last few weeks. I’m convinced that reading begets reading, like so many other things. What fun it is to binge on fun books, to get lost in thrilling stories, and to stay up until 2:00am for the purpose of finishing the last chapter. (The Hate U Give lived up to the hype, in my opinion!) My GoodReads list here. 

I still struggle with people pleasing. I've always been one to consider every feeling and every opinion but I thought that I'd matured in this area. I'm learning that even though I've come a long way in fighting my pleasing tendencies, I still have a long way to go. The apostle Paul says in Galatians that if I am still trying to please men, I am not a servant of Christ. Ouch. Those are hard hitting words. Something I've been thinking about is how the Gospel is offensive. And while I don't want to be offensive in how I talk about Jesus, I have to be okay with some people not understanding or agreeing with my faith. That's a lot to think about! 

Sometimes you just need to wait. Despite our best efforts over the last few years, our middle son hated the water. While we made Anna take swim lessons starting at age three, I knew Owen would be a nightmare in the water for any instructor. So, I took a friend’s advice and gave Owen time to mature. This friend actually taught swim lessons for many years but her own son took a long time to warm up to the pool. I remember her saying, “You know, he’ll learn to swim eventually and I just decided that I didn’t want to fight him about this.” Even though learning to swim is a really high priority value of mine, I decided to set my self imposed rules aside and let Owen be Owen. This summer, once he turned four, we enrolled him in two weeks of private lessons. And, in just a few weeks time, he went from refusing to get into the water to jumping off the side of the pool. I am thrilled for him (and for us!)  

What did you learn this summer? Read more great posts on this subject over at Emily P. Freeman’s blog

The real kind of strong

Writing about exercise is tricky, and you all know my thoughts about skinny talk. When it comes to women and working out, I tread lightly. I know that when other women discuss when they work out, and how they work out, I start to think that I'm not doing enough. 

She goes to yoga three times a week? 

Wait, you joined Crossfit?

A half marathon? And you're only three months postpartum? Gosh, I'm feeling lazy. 

Here's what I know about myself: I'm a go-getter. Disciplined, at times, when it comes to something I want. A list maker. A goal setter. So when other women accomplish athletic feats, it's easy for me to wonder why I'm not. 

Back in the day before children woke me up at 6am, I used to run 4-5 times per week. Not to compete, not to achieve, but because I enjoyed the sport. These days, with a husband who leaves the house early and children who want waffles at sunrise, it's not as easy to make fitness goals happen. I'm finding that regularly exercising requires careful planning with my calendar..and...wait for it...a YMCA membership.

While I'd much prefer a sunrise beach run, the YMCA treadmill and a (mostly) senior yoga class are pretty good runner ups. And you know what's interesting? The more time I spend at the YMCA, the more I love going. Because every time I'm there I'm reminded that strength and beauty are not exclusive to perfectly toned Lululemon bodies. At the YMCA there are people from all walks of life--young and old, strong and disabled.

The 70 year old ladies in my pilates class aren't baring washboard abs, but they radiant confidence.

The teenager with Down Syndrome might not be using the stair climber correctly but she's got incredible grit.

The man swimming with only one arm isn't quite ready for a triathlon but he's much stronger than I am.

I still occasionally attend yoga classes at fancy studios, they're a great workout after all, and I'd  love to check that post-babies half marathon off my list. But I'm so glad for reminders that exercise and fitness aren't about big achievements or perfectly toned arms. Exercise is simply showing up. Moving our bodies. Setting small goals that work for us. 

Thanks, N'tima, for sharing this commercial with me!