My 2018 & 2019 Reading Lists

I haven’t always been a super motivated reader. It takes a really good book to keep me interested. Because of my personality, I’m not really captivated by fantastical stories. I want to read about the real stuff. That’s why I’m typically drawn to non-fiction books like faith-based books or memoirs. (I love a captivating true story!)

At the beginning of 2018, I set out to read 20 books in the year. Not because I wanted to accomplish a big number, but because I know that readers are leaders, and I wanted to push myself to grow in this area. I’m happy (but mostly shocked) to say that, as I’m writing this, we are two days away from 2019, and I just finished reading book #26! What!

Some of those were books I read for classes I’m taking, some were books I read with our church staff, and a majority were books I just wanted to read. I won’t list them all here, but if you want to see the complete list, you can check out my Goodreads profile. If you’re a reader (or want to be a reader) and you don’t know about Goodreads, go check it out! It’s a great way to keep tracks of the books you want to read, set reading goals for yourself, and find out what books your friends are enjoying.

One of my favorite things is to share resources I love with my friends. There are so many amazing books at our fingertips, and I can’t help but share a good one when I find one! Enjoy these lists, and let me know what books are on your own list!


2018 Favorite Reads

12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke
This is the first book I read in 2018, and I think I’m about ready to read it again. It may just become a yearly read for me. I know what you’re thinking. It seems a little daunting to submit yourself to such conviction, right? Trust me. You won’t be disappointed in the powerful truths that Tony shares in this book. It might hurt a little, but it will cause you to think more intentionally about your relationship with your phone. If you don’t add this book to your reading list, I recommend listening to his chat on the Journeywomen Podcast.

Unseen by Sara Hagerty
If I’m honest, I’m usually a little disappointed when I feel like I’ve wasted time or like I’ve worked really hard and no one noticed. This book helped change my perspective and understand that there is something beautiful and special about the “unseen” parts of our lives. If you feel like your life is full of mundane, ordinary moments or like you’re not accomplishing much compared to the next girl, let me encourage you to pick up this book and see just how seen you really are.

You are Free by Rebekah Lyons
Y’all. This book made me want to get up and run a marathon! …Okay, nothing would ever make me want to actually do that. But! The message of book was incredibly freeing (no pun intended) and empowering, and even typing about it makes me want to go skim through it again for a refresher!

Still Waiting by Ann Swindell
Wow. This book was nothing that I was expecting it to be, and I mean that in a good way! Oftentimes, we connect “waiting” with women waiting for a baby. But Ann’s story is much different, and the way God is using her story for His glory is just beautiful. If you love a good, personal story and you love to be encouraged, pick up a copy of this book.

Inheritance of Tears by Jessalyn Hutto
I’ve had many women around me walk through the painful experience of miscarriage, and then, in February of 2018, I got to experience that for myself. It might sound incredibly strange for me to call that a “get to,” but the Lord used that season of my life to grow me in ways in which I could never have grown otherwise, and for that, I am forever grateful. I miss my baby that I never even got to meet (which sometimes feels odd to say), but his/her too-short-to-me life taught me so much and pushed me nearer to God. This book was one resource I came across in my grief that I cannot recommend enough. If you or someone you know has walked through miscarriage, pick up a copy of this book to learn how God can use our pain for our good and His glory.

Practicing Greatness by Reggie McNeal
This book is probably the most different of my favorites from the year. It’s one of the books our pastoral team read together this year, and I am so glad we did! I wish I had read it earlier in my life! If you currently lead or plan to lead in capacity — I mean ANY — I highly recommend this book. My nurse practitioner friend even said she learned and applied so much from the book to her professional career!

Preach to Yourself by Hayley Morgan
It’s the last one on the list, and one of the last books I read in 2018, but it just might be my absolute favorite of the whole year. This book is IN-credible. I wish I could afford to give everyone I know a free copy! Preach to Yourself is nothing about standing behind a pulpit and everything about standing firm on truth when the lies start creeping in. It is absolutely a book I will be revisiting yearly and recommending daily (I’ll try not to be annoying about it).


2019 Reading List

My “want to read” list is ever-growing and seems to grow in size much faster than I can keep up! I plan to set a goal to read at least 20 books again this coming year. Here are a few that I’ll definitely be reading:

All That’s Good: Recovering the Lost Art of Discernment by Hannah Anderson
I read Hannah Anderson’s book, Humble Roots, and it is one of my top three favorite books ever (in fact, I plan to read it again this year). When I saw that she released a new book, I knew I had to read it!

In His Image: 10 Ways God Calls us to Reflect His Character by Jen Wilkin
Similar to the one above, I will read anything Jen Wilkin writes! Her books, Women of the Word and None Like Him, both had a huge impact on my spiritual life, and I have no doubt this one will too.

How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge: Leveraging Influence When You Lack Authority by Clay Scroggins
This book cover caught my eye as I was browsing a little shop in the Oklahoma City airport at Thanksgiving. I loved the title, and the reviews are very promising! I am always looking to grow in my leadership abilities!

Even Better Than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything About Your Story by Nancy Guthrie
I have heard nothing but good things about this book, and I admire Nancy Guthrie and the way she teaches God’s Word. I’m looking forward to learning from her!

Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Another book that I’ve heard recommended over and over. I am a sucker for all things community, and I desire to enhance the community I’m in — especially among moms — so this one is on the list!

The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron
I read a different book about the enneagram this last year and really enjoyed learning about it. Personalities are so interesting to me! I’d like to learn more about my enneagram type (and hopefully my husband’s too!) this coming year.


With the fast pace of our culture today, finding time to read can be a challenge. The idea of sitting down and focusing on a book seems fantastical in itself! I’m grateful we have the conveniences of e-books and audio books now! This means you can carry books around on your phone and read or listen to a book while you’re driving, sitting in a waiting room, or waiting in the pick-up line. It’s a great way to redeem all the extra time that is easily wasted by scrolling mindlessly on social media.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a reader, I challenge you to set a goal and read some books this year! It really is true that readers are leaders! With that said, if you feel like you only have time to read one book in 2019…make it the Bible. 🙂 No book could ever renew your mind and transform your heart the way God’s Word can!

Did you read any great books in 2018? What books are on your list to read in the upcoming year? I always want to hear about more great books!

Meaningful Christmas Gift Ideas

To me, the best kind of gift is both meaningful and practical. I’ve never been one to collect knick-knacks or buy things that just sit and look pretty. (This is precisely why my home is definitely not the most beautifully decorated! As much as I appreciate a beautiful space and sometimes wish I was better at decorating, home decor just does not excite me. I’d rather buy a book or a snack! HA!)

I always love when I receive a gift that I can actually USE. And I love giving gifts that I know will be purposeful for someone else. I don’t know about you, but when my family members ask, “What do you want for Christmas?” I have a really hard time thinking of things! (Let’s be honest, it’s because I don’t need anything.) But I like to make note of gifts that would be really meaningful and purposeful to me. If you have a hard time thinking of gift ideas for your own wishlist or for your mom, sisters, girlfriends, etc., I hope this list is helpful!

You’ll notice that all of these gifts are really centered around God’s Word. It’s something I’m passionate about, and I think there are so many great ways we can integrate His word into our daily lives, whether through the Word itself, a scripture-based planner, or a book that points us back to the gospel.

She Reads Truth Bible 

This Bible is not only beautiful, but PACKED full of great resources for reading and understanding God’s Word. From the maps to the devotionals, from the helpful information provided before each book to the easy-to-read font, it really is an excellent Bible for any girl of any age! She Reads Truth has TONS of other incredible tools and resources for Bible study — and not just for the “she,” but also for men and kids!

Give Me Jesus Journal

No doubt about it, this is my most used Bible study tool (aside from the Bible, of course). This is the perfect journal for recording everything you’re learning as you read and study God’s Word. It has just enough structure to keep your thoughts flowing, but plenty of free space to use it in several different ways! (To see some of the ways I’ve used my GMJ Journal, check out the highlight on my Instagram!) I love that I can go back and reread what God has taught in the weeks, months, and years past! Some other favorites from the Well Watered Women shop are their Walk in Grace studies, which are great for anyone looking to learn how to study the Bible verse by verse, as well as their Planted study, which I recommend for new believers or anyone looking to learn more about disciplines of the Christian faith.

Val Marie Paper Prayer Journal

Have a prayer warrior in your life? Want to be more intentional about your prayer life? This prayer journal is place to organize the things you want to be intentionally praying about so that you can keep track of the needs in your life (and lives around you), and you can celebrate answered prayers! I love that it gives you the same several prompts each month as well as some blank space so you can customize it to fit your own prayer needs. If you don’t want to purchase the yearly journal, you can get a 6-month journal for only $15! I also love their Kids Legacy Prayer Journals where you can record prayers for your children and have an incredibly meaningful gift to pass on to them when they’re older.

GraceLaced Planner

Confession: I don’t own this planner. Sadly! All of my calendar planning happens digitally now, but if I used a paper planner, this would be the one! I have seen it in person, and it is AMAZING. It has beautiful art, scripture, space for prayers, and more. If you’re a planner or know a planner, this is a guaranteed HIT!

Lastly, for the girl who loves to read, a book is never a bad idea! Here a few of my favorite books!

I hope this was helpful for you! If you already have one of these items, receive one for Christmas, or decide to buy one for a friend, I’d love to hear about it!

When the Bible is Intimidating

I love my Bible. But let me be more specific… I have FALLEN more in love with my Bible than I’ve ever been before. Y’all, I grew up in the church. I’m a pastor’s kid, I went to a Christian university, and I married a pastor. I’m a Bible-believin’ church girl through and through. But I haven’t always loved my Bible the way I do now.

I’m gonna be really honest. I got a journaling Bible in February of 2015 because I saw it on Instagram. (Yup. You read that right…. Oh, come on. You know you’ve done it before too!) I saw all the cute and fancy things all these crafty girls were doing in their journaling Bibles, and I wanted to imitate it. So I went straight to Amazon and ordered the Bible. I “needed” it. It’s what all the cool Christian girls were doing. When it came in the mail, I opened it up and flipped through the big, blank pages, and it felt SO DAUNTING to me. I instantly felt pressure, I felt inadequate, I felt no creativity, I felt dumb. I starting thinking, “Why did I get this? I can’t be all cute and crafty like them. I can’t write pretty or draw pictures. I don’t have a giant collection of art supplies. I don’t have an hour to sit down and make one page of this giant bible look beautiful.”

And because of that pressure, those feelings of inadequacy, I went through a season when that journaling Bible would mostly just sit. I came to a place where I didn’t feel like simply reading my Bible was enough. I felt like I needed to make it pretty and Instagram-worthy, and I knew I couldn’t do that, so I was honestly too afraid to open it up at all. I would use another Bible if I was going to read, but honestly, even that wasn’t happening very often. Why? Because I was making the time I spent in God’s word about ME. About my appearance. About the way I measured up to other people. My motives were way out of line.


I’m so thankful God walked with me through that confusion and led me to a place where I know sincerely that His Word is for my heart and not my Instagram. Bible journaling is all the craze right now, and I love that because people are in the Word of God, sharing the Word of God, and loving the Word of God! It’s awesome! I love following all the crafty Bible-journalers because their beautiful photos inspire me to open my own Bible. But it doesn’t look the same for all of us, and that’s okay. God cares more about the state of our hearts than the style of our Bible.

I have learned that it’s okay if I can’t hand letter beautiful sayings in the margins of my Bible. It’s okay to write messy notes when God is speaking to me. It’s totally fine if I use a red pen on this page and a purple pen on the next. It is not the end of the world if I misspell a word and have to correct it. It’s okay if my pages aren’t covered in art and paint and washi tape and stamps. My time in the Bible isn’t about how pretty I can make my Bible. God’s word is already as beautiful as it will ever be, even more beautiful than I will ever be able to comprehend. My time in the Bible is about unwrapping that beauty one book, one story, one scripture at a time. It’s about hearing from my Father, and learning more about Him. It should be completely authentic.

Y’all, the Bible is so far from intimidating. It’s inviting. It is literally God’s way of calling you to know Him more. He’s waiting for you to crack it open and just read. Rest in His word. Allow him to speak to your heart. Listen for the way He’ll reveal more of Himself to you. I promise, if you open your Bible with a heart that is bent toward His voice rather than your artistic abilities, He will speak. THEN you will have things you can’t help but jot down in the margins. Scriptures will pop out to you that you can’t help but highlight and underline. Stop making it about you, and start making it about Him.


Because I want you to take something practical away from this post, I’ve come up with a few reflection questions for you to consider as you continue digging into God’s Word. Jot them down in your journal, take a screenshot, or copy and paste them into a note on your phone…I encourage you to somehow really take some time to genuinely reflect on and answer these questions for yourself.

3 QUESTIONS TO HELP YOU CHECK YOUR MOTIVES BEFORE YOU OPEN YOUR BIBLE

  1. Do I feel intimidated when I open my Bible or when I think about opening my Bible? If so, why? Remember God’s word isn’t intimidating, it’s inviting. He’s wants to meet you on those pages and breathe life into your heart.
  2. What are my motives for opening my Bible? Am I opening my Bible to know more about God or to attempt to make it beautiful? We cannot enhance the beauty of God’s word. It’s already more beautiful than we can even comprehend. Focus your intentions on unwrapping that beauty one book, one story, one page at a time.
  3. Why am I hesitant to write in my Bible? Who am I journaling for in my Bible, myself or someone else (i.e. social media)? Write what he speaks to you. Write what sticks out to you. Write what you’re learning or how you can apply it. Who cares if it’s sloppy, slanted, or misspelled? It’s for YOU! I bet you won’t regret it when you have those notes to look back on in a few months or even a few years.

For details on the tools I use and love for studying my Bible, click here.

Favorite Bible Study Tools

I recently shared on my Instagram story about some of my favorite tools and resources for studying the Bible, but I thought it might be fun to have it in a more permanent place. I always like to preface posts like this by saying this: the only tool you actually NEED in order to study your Bible is your Bible. Don’t feel like you can’t begin until you run to Target and spend a bunch of money picking up some cute supplies. As fun as that would be (I mean, I’m always up for a Target run!), that part’s just a bonus. As long as you have a Bible (or a device with access to the Bible) and a heart that’s open to learning more about God, you’re good to go.

Now that we’ve got settled, there are some tools that you might find helpful (or just fun!) to have close by. At least that’s the case for me. So if you’re curious (which I’m guessing you are since you’re reading this post), here are the things I like to have on hand when I’m spending time in the Word:

Bible

There is a wide variety of journaling Bible options out there! They come in a lot of different Bible versions, some are single-column and some are double-column, some even have pretty designs in the margins that you can color. Decide what is important to you and search for it!

ESV Single Column Journaling Bible — this is the journaling Bible I use. It’s a basic, black, hardback Bible with lined, wide margins. I like to do my reading in the ESV because it is translated literally word-for-word from the Greek and Hebrew.

The Message Bible — I really like to have the Message version on hand too. Because let’s face it…there are times when I read something in the Bible and don’t understand what I’m reading! The Message version is translated thought-for-thought, which makes it easier to understand.

CSB She Reads Truth Bible — As I’m writing this, I have this book on pre-order, and I’m [im]patiently awaiting its arrival! I’m excited to get it in my hands and start reading because the Christian Standard Bible is a hybrid of “word-for-word” and “thought-for-thought” translation, which makes it a great combination of literal and readable. I’ll update you on my thoughts on this as I get it and start reading!

Journals

Val Marie Paper Prayer Journal — I love this journal and the way it helps me focus my prayer time. It’s also a great place for me to add prayers as they come up so I don’t forget (#mombrain). This shop also has other more focused journals for marriage, adoption, gratitude, pregnancy, and more.

May Designs Notebooks — I. LOVE. MAY DESIGNS. You basically get to design your dream notebook and then hold it in your hands. Can it get better than this? They have a billion options (okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but that’s what it feels like!) to personalize your notebook. Not only can you personalize the cover, you can also choose what you want on the inside! They have everything from regular lined journal paper to calendars to meal or budget planners to handwriting practice for your littles. The possibilities are endless, people! But for this purpose, I use the lined or dotted pages.

Pens/Highlighters

Zebrite Highlighters — I’ve been using these for several years, and I love them! They are light and don’t bleed. Perfect for thin Bible pages, and…fun colors!

Sharpie Fine Point Pens — These pens are perfect for writing in your Bible. I like the bright colors because they’re bold enough to read, but light enough that they don’t bleed through, and they add a fun pop to your pages.

Micron Pens — These are very similar to the Sharpie pens in that they are thin and don’t bleed. I like these a lot too, but the colors aren’t as bright and fun as the Sharpies I listed above. Can you tell I like color?

Crayola Twistables — I like to use these as “highlighters” because they are bold in color, but they don’t show through the pages AT ALL. Plus…who doesn’t want a reason to color with twistable crayons?!

Paper Mate Flair Pens — Oh, the beloved Flair Pens. I can’t get enough of them. No really. I keep buying more! Help! They’re hands down my favorite pens ever. They come in a BAZILLION colors (the Candy Pop collection is my current favorite). However, I mostly use these to write in my journal. They’re not as thin as the pens listed above, so I prefer those for my Bible, but everyone needs some Flair love in her life.

Other Accessories

Double Duty Caddy from Thirty-One — This is where I keep all of my supplies, including my Bible and journals. I love that I can carry all my stuff together anywhere around the house (and by that I mean anywhere I can find a quiet corner to myself!). Sometimes I do my devotions on my bed, sometimes at the dining room table or on the couch, and I have great plans of doing it OUTSIDE as soon as it warms up! This caddy makes it easy to carry all my stuff wherever I want to go!

Bible Cover from Mama Booclay — Girls…listen up. This is one of those items that is totally not necessary, but it’s totally beautiful! I love that this cover adds a gorgeous touch to my Bible. It’s just pretty!  That’s all! I can’t rave enough about Mama Booclay. Her work is incredible, she hand-makes everything, and she gets you your stuff FAST! She can make a cover for any size Bible or journal, and she even makes matching zipper pouches! It’s all BEAUTIFUL, and you get to design your own cover. Go check out her shop and treat yo’self!

Bible Tabs from Displaying Grace — I ordered some beautiful tabs for my Bible, and I can’t wait to get them in the mail. Don’t worry, people. I’ll be posting photos when they come, I’m sure. This specific Etsy shop has some really beautiful sets. Some are for the books of the Bible, and some are topic/theme-based. She also sells cute clips, bands, etc. for accessorizing your B-I-B-L-E. Because it never hurts to add a little cuteness!

Washi Tape — I got an adorable set of Bible-themed rolls of tape from Michaels! Did you know they have a whole section in their store for Bible journaling?! But you can also find plenty of cute washi tape pretty much anywhere! It’s just a fun way to add some color to your pages, especially if you’re like me and you’re not artsy.

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So those are the tools that I use on a daily basis! Again, they’re not all necessary, but for my process of Bible study, they are the things I like to have. (I plan to talk more about my process either on a new blog post or in an episode on the podcast, so stay tuned if that’s something you’re interested in hearing more about.)

There are a lot of right ways to study the Bible. Don’t worry about studying the same way someone else studies, and don’t feel pressured by all the #biblejournaling photos on Instagram. My journaling Bible is just that…a Bible in which I journal as I read and learn and process. It’s not the prettiest, but it’s the way I’m learning more about God and drawing nearer to Him. God cares more about the way your heart looks than He does about the way your Bible looks. There’s no pressure on you to make your Bible more beautiful. God’s Word, the way He designed it, is already as beautiful as it will ever be.

Use your tools as tools, and use your Bible as the primary way you dig deeper in your relationship with Him. As soon as you feel like your Bible study is becoming more about the “things” you have around you…stop. Take it all way. Get alone with your Bible. And remember the reason you’re there. Because He gave you His word, and He wants to speak to you.

I pray you enjoy your time in God’s Word. I pray you learn more about His character, and in turn, more about who you are as His child.

So what about you? What are your favorite tools to have for your devotional time? Did I leave out something you couldn’t live without! Tell me in the comments below!

Perspective

Perspective.

Sometimes it steps on my toes a little bit, but it’s oh so necessary. To look past myself and see the world around me, the people around me, the suffering around me. When I think my “hard” is the hardest, when I think having to wake up a few times a night with the kids is the worst, when I think my waiting is the most painful… I just need a fresh perspective.

I remember you. The one who has faced loss greater than you could have ever imagined. The one whose heart and womb are aching for baby to call your own.  You would give it all to be up all night with a sleepless baby. You would do anything to hear the cries of your own child. And here I am complaining about the gifts I’ve been given.

It’s all about my perspective.

Today, through tired eyes and with a heart that is sincerely repentant of my selfishness and complaints, I choose to look beyond myself. To you, sweet friend.

I hope you know that you are seen. That even though I don’t understand your pain, there is One who does.
I hope you know that you are known. Even when it feels like you’ve been forgotten, like your prayers are hitting the ceiling, He hears you. He knows your heart better than you know yourself.
I hope you know that you are loved. When it feels like rejection after rejection, you are truly a daughter of the King, and He loves you more than you could ever fathom.
And when the only thing you know to do is run, I hope you know that He is still chasing you. He longs to hold you close, to listen to your cries and your questions, and to remind you moment after moment that He gets you. He really does.

Thank you for teaching me about perspective. For teaching me that I don’t always know what you might be facing or feeling. For showing me that my “worst” is probably not really the worst. For reminding me that gratefulness–for the good and the hard–is the real key to joy.

Let’s Be Real

This is an excerpt from Episode #3 of my podcast. If you’d like to hear the rest, go check it out!

As powerful as it is to share stories of our past, what God brought us through or healed us from, there is amazing power in sharing in those things while they’re actually happening because we share the raw emotions, the vulnerability, and the truths we’re learning. That’s how we grow together.

The truth is that it’s almost guaranteed someone else is walking through the same thing you’re facing, and we’re missing out on a lot of support and prayers and wisdom when we cover it up and save the story for sharing AFTER it’s been redeemed, when we have a happy ending or can finally make sense of it.

Our culture, especially today, celebrates perfection. You see that in the media, on the covers of magazines, on social media. The beautiful people are the ones who seemingly have it all together. This mindset makes it difficult to find freedom in authenticity. We worry about what people might think if they know what we’re really struggling with. We think people might judge us if they know we’re struggling with sin…as if any of us really believes anyone is perfect. The Bible tells as “ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, but for some reason, we almost forbid anyone to prove that to be true. When someone’s sin IS revealed, we all act shocked and betrayed and start judging as if we don’t also have sin in our own lives.

There’s a lot of shame and bondage that come with this mindset. Instead of sharing and becoming free from our sin and struggles, we hide ashamed. And we carry that weight around with us hoping no one will ever know. The problem is Jesus never meant for it to be that way. He DIED for our sins. It is FINISHED. We lay them down at the cross and pick up the grace that he freely gives. There is no shame in Jesus.

It’s time that we recognize that we’re all imperfect and in need of grace. It’s time that we support each other, that we share with each other and walk alongside each other as we push one another closer to Jesus. 

God didn’t just create this idea of community so we can sit around our living rooms and eat delicious food and watch football games. He created us to do LIFE together! And life has problems, life has struggles, life has sin, life has hard days, life has sickness, life has issues! Let’s commit to grabbing our sisters’ and brothers’ hands and saying, I’m in it for the long haul, for the ups and downs, for the struggles and the celebrations. You support me, I support you. You encourage me, I encourage you. You speak life and truth to me, and I’ll do the same for you.

LET’S BE REAL!

COMMUNITY: Why It’s Important + 3 Ways to Thrive in Yours

Community.

Without it, life would be really boring and really hard.

I’m so grateful for mine. I live 3,500 miles away from my family, and let me tell you…that is H A R D. But God has given us the most amazing community. People who are just like family to us. People who love our babies like their own. People who go out of their way to take care of us. People who would do anything for us.

There are a handful of people in our community who I can legitimately say I could not survive without. My day-to-day life would not be possible without the help I receive from others — from people who owe me nothing but serve me and my family out of sincere love and generosity.

Sometimes that can be a hard pill to swallow. Sometimes it makes me feel guilty. Or not good enough. Why can’t I manage my own life by myself? But the truth is, God didn’t design life to be done alone. He designed us for community.

To share our strengths.
To love each other.
To need each other. 

Imagine how selfish and prideful we might become if we could do everything ourselves. 

Community keeps us humble. It keeps us united. It keeps us in sync with who God created us to be.

If you’re trying to do life alone,
on your own little island,
me-myself-and-I style,
or maybe “us four and no more,”
and you’re frustrated because it’s not working…there’s a reason for that. 

Find your community and thrive there.

Not sure how to do that or what that looks like for you? Here are three simple ways you can thrive in your community:

To read the rest of this post, click here.

When Your Season is Messy

When I moved to Alaska in September of 2014, I had never heard of “break-up season.” In fact, the first time I ever heard the phrase, I giggled because I thought it was a joke. Then March rolled around, and I suddenly realized break-up season is a real thing. A very real thing.

Over the course of a Fairbanks winter, we accumulate quite a bit of snow and it stays very, very cold (we’re talking as cold as 40 degrees below zero, people! And I moved here from the beaches of Florida!). I’m from Oklahoma, so I’m used to getting a little bit of snow and then seeing no trace of it within a day or two. But it’s much different here. It stays. And accumulates. And freezes. And you think it will never, ever melt.

But then it starts to get warm. (By “warm,” I mean 30 or 40 degrees.) And the sun starts rising higher in the sky and hanging around for more of the day—a wonderful change from the long, dark winters we get. And you start seeing a few little puddles here and there where the snow has melted during the day (and then refreezes at night). But it gives you a tiny glimmer of hope. The sun is shining! Snow is melting! Spring is coming!

Within a couple weeks of the “warm” temperatures, the scenery looks completely different. As the piles and piles of snow and ice melt, it turns to slush, and the dirt below turns to mud. The next thing you know, your feet are sinking underneath you and you just ruined your brand new shoes. (Hypothetically speaking, of course.) You quickly realize you can’t go anywhere without your rain boots, even if it means carrying a cuter pair of shoes in your bag to change into when you get where you’re going. Your car becomes a moving mass of dried mud, and it’s essentially pointless to waste $15 on a car wash when you just have to drive down your muddy road to get home. Your floorboards are filthy. You find yourself vacuuming your house every other day (or just recognizing that it needs to be done, but not actually doing it. Again…hypothetical.) You want to take your toddler for a walk to enjoy the beautiful weather, but you realize that leaving your driveway means pushing the stroller through nothing but slush and mud. Uh, no thanks.

THIS is break-up season, y’all.

It’s nasty. It’s filthy. It’s ugly. It’s even a little inconvenient. But yesterday I learned to appreciate it.

I got home from work and put Nora down for a nap. I looked out the window to our backyard and saw the sun shining so beautifully on our deck. It was practically calling my name. I quickly gathered a book, my computer, the baby monitor, some water, and a little snack (Reese’s eggs for the win!) and hurried outside. As I sat on the deck, I began to soak it all in. I could hear the water running off the house down the gutters as the snow melted. I could see patches of grass peeking through the snow—some of it was even beginning to turn green! I could hear kids playing outside (but that’s not incredibly abnormal considering our kids go out to recess until its 20 degrees below zero or colder!). The sun was shining. It was almost 50 degrees. It. Was. Beautiful. My heart was getting so excited because I began to see signs of my favorite season, summer.

That’s when I spoke these words: “Thank you, Lord, for this mess because it reminds me something beautiful is coming.”

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To the Woman Who is Waiting

This baby I’m growing inside of me still has 6+ weeks to go, and I feel like he’s running out of room. Every move he’s made today has been painful. And as we started closing in on my toddler’s bedtime, I wondered how many more times my tired body could bend over and pick her up tonight.

I picked her up one last time and carried her to her room where we began our bedtime routine. Every night, I stand next to her crib holding her on the front of my body, her head resting on my shoulder. I sway from side to side, sing Jesus Loves Me, and pray over her. But tonight…I didn’t have it in me. The weight of her ever-growing body was too much for my ever-growing belly to hold. I started to put her down in her crib, and she cried. She knew I was breaking routine. She wasn’t ready yet. What she didn’t know is how much her mama was hurting.

I pulled her back close to me and fought through the pain. To be honest, I didn’t want to hold her anymore. It was killing my stomach to hold her there. But she needed me. But me? I was uncomfortable and exhausted and just wanted to take off my Mama hat for the night.

And that’s when it hit me. Just like it does every single time. Like a ton of bricks being thrown at my gut, my mind is flooded with your faces, your words, and even your silence. There’s something I’ve been wanting to say to you for a long time, and I just haven’t known how to say it. But here is my best attempt at what my heart wants to say to your heart. You.

To the Woman who is waiting,

Every time I catch myself wanting to complain about motherhood, I think of you. I really do. Maybe it’s because you are my sister, and it hits close to home. Maybe it’s because ever since I got married and the idea of motherhood became more real to me, I started seeing you everywhere. Maybe it’s because ever since I had a baby of my own, I can’t imagine how you must feel waiting so eagerly to experience it for yourself. Or maybe it’s because you are some of my closest friends and I can practically hear your pain through your silence.

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Life is a Journey

S I X months pregnant with baby boy and reminiscing. When I was six months pregnant with Nora, we flew from Fort Myers, Florida to Fairbanks, Alaska to interview at the church where we are currently on staff. I remember the feeling I had in my gut when we were flying over the mountains to go home — and it wasn’t morning sickness! We said yes. We committed to moving to Alaska, people. Tears filled my eyes as I thought, “What in the world are we getting ourselves into? Lord, please don’t let go of my hand as we walk this new path.” I was holding on to nothing but my hope in Jesus and His plan as we faced a series of major life changes ahead.

Last week in a meeting, we got to share our story and our journey to Alaska, and someone commented on just how much life change has happened for us in the last 4.5 years. Marriage, college graduations, two big moves, a baby, new jobs, a second pregnancy. I had honestly never even thought of it in that way (which is probably a good thing). Our journey has been such an incredible adventure already in a short amount of time. It makes me really excited to find out what God has planned for our family’s future.

I recently wrote this in my journal:

How much better it is to be in the center of God’s will than to be somewhere else and “have it all.” This is His story, not my own. When I follow His direction, every detail is just as He planned. Sometimes we can be so fearful of having to leave our comfort zone that we risk leaving the center of God’s will. We can either choose to be fearful or willing. Selfish or selfless. Oh, to see the bigger picture that God sees!

Can I just encourage you? You may be looking at a really daunting mountain in your life right now and wanting to run. Maybe you’re really uncomfortable in a certain circumstance of your life. Maybe you’re scared to death to leave your comfort zone.

God isn’t hiding from you. He’s holding His hand out waiting for you to grab on. To follow Him. I can promise you that no matter where He leads you, He won’t leave you alone. And when you choose to follow His Master Plan, you will be so much more fulfilled than you could ever imagine. Will it be easy? Probably not. But you won’t be doing it alone. T R U S T Him. 

In her soon-to-be-released book, Hope Unfolding, Becky Thompson writes this about trusting God:

“You know, sometimes we have to be willing to trust God to lead us down the roads that don’t make any sense if we want to continue to walk in His perfect plan. We have to trust that He doesn’t just have our best interests at heart but the interests of those that we love as well.Whatever you are trusting Him with, whatever steps you are taking or see ahead that you need to take, I want you to look at them as the safest route to your future. Because even when we don’t understand them, we can trust that God is ordering them purposefully forward.”

When we trade fear for faith, we find fulfillment in Christ!


Let me leave you with these promises straight from God’s Word. . .

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you, he will neither fail you not abandon you. | Deuteronomy 31:8

Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote, “God is there, ready to help; I’m fearless no matter what. Who or what can get to me?” | Hebrews 13:5-6