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what i’ve been reading + learning {Sara’s bookshelf}.


a week ago, i posted the following on Instagram:

At first, summer vacation for me meant catching up on sleep and Netflix and house projects and yes, finally enjoying play time with my kiddos during the day. But now, just 2.5 weeks in, summer has become a time for me to chase after what matters {reconnecting with my love, playing with my littles, reading books I’ve been meaning to read, making our home work hard for us, sending up prayers I’ve been meaning to say, letting go of tears I’ve needed to shed, offering apologies that are long overdue}, not what doesn’t {Netflix – or any television, for that matter – as well as spending time unintentionally on social media}. I am devouring book after book on my list – I’m on no. 4 since summer began for me – and I’m finding so much joy and life in the words of others. I will share more about what I’ve been reading on the blog soon, but for now, a taste of #Margin by Richard A. Swenson, a book that is full of jewels of wisdom and truth: “[God’s] love validates our worth and, as a matter of fact, provides the only basis for it” (268). How freeing it is for me to know that I {and you!} are worthy to the only One who matters! I’m so thankful for this today, and I hope this truth warms your heart, too. xoxo

and today, i’m here to share what i’ve been reading + what i’ve learned.

in the few weeks since my summer began, i’ve read Design Mom: How to Live with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide by Gabrielle Blair, Margin by Richard A. Swenson, Make It Happen: Surrender Your Fear. Take the Leap. Live on Purpose by Lara Casey, Happy Handmade Home: Painting, Crafting and Decorating a Cheerful, More Inspiring Space by Elsie + Emma, the beauties behind A Beautiful Mess, and Let’s All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs. all of these books have awoken something within my heart + i can’t wait to share these nuggets with you!

from Gabrielle Blair’s Design Mom: How to Live with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide:

Bedrooms, to us, are meant for sleeping. Our only requirements are enough space for a bed and a place to put clothes, with a bedside table and a lamp for late-night reading. Our kids’ bedrooms house a few toys and a few books, but the majority of these things are stored in the family room and the living room . . . We like it when the kids come out of their rooms and spend time with the family, and that’s more likely to happen when all of the “stuff” they’re interested in isn’t located only in their bedroom. My advice? Dedicate your bedroom to all things bed, from sleeping to napping to daydreaming. The less there is to do in the bedroom, the easier it is to lure the young ones out, which creates more opportunities for positive family interaction in the shared living space.

the bedrooms in our home {click here to see a current glimpse into our home} are all quite small, and our boys’ shared bedroom is even more so, since there are two littles living in there. thus, we’ve taken this philosophy to heart in an effort to keep the bedrooms in our home tidy + to encourage family interaction in rooms that allow more space for us to congregate – namely, our kitchen, our living room + our family room. my husband and i both had televisions and/or computers in our bedrooms at some point during our growing up days, so i wonder how we’ll handle the idea of a bedroom being reserved for “all things bed” when our kids are older?

from Richard A. Swenson’s Margin:

Even when I feel inferior, even when I have been victimized, even when the pace and pressures of life bring me to the point of collapse, Christ brings me to His rest. When my surrender is completed and His yoke is accepted, then my soul will find rest. And it is imperative, in such an age as ours, that we rest spiritually.

Swenson goes on to distinguish Sabbath rest {rest that occurs one day per week, on Sundays} from spiritual rest, which he terms “surrendered rest”:

The Sabbath rest is a rest He calls us to, but the surrendered rest He offers to us. The Sabbath rest we enter out of obedience, the surrendered rest we enter out of our need. The Sabbath rest arises from the good and perfect law of God; the surrendered rest arises from the good and perfect grace of God. The Sabbath rest is remembrance [see Deuteronomy 5:15]; the surrendered rest is meakness. Both provide soothing, God-ordained healing.

Swenson makes this differentiation to show the importance of creating margin, or space, for rest in our lives. for me, rest has always been something that i’ve felt guilty for taking; in particular, i’m a person who needs a generous amount of sleep per night, so i’ve been known to bow out of social functions or quiet time with Jord in favor of sleep. but, Swenson’s thoughts about rest and its importance helped me to feel inspired to shed this guilt and to embrace my need for rest, primarily because rest is something that Jesus provides for us: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NIV). thank God for this!

from Lara Casey’s Make It Happen: Surrender Your Fear. Take the Leap. Live on Purpose:

Following Him frees us from chasing perfect. Following Him frees us from a life going nowhere. Following Him gives us a clear life-giving purpose — to love Him and serve others so they know that love, too.

Casey continues by laying out God’s purpose for our lives:

God’s purpose for us is painted in every letter of the Bible, and it can be summed up in this: love God and serve people. He has given us all different gifts, talents, and resources to use for carrying out this purpose. God’s purpose for us is the big-picture vision; goals are our action plans to carry out that vision, using all He has given us.

you may know that i’m a huge fan of all things Lara Casey, particularly because she’s so gracious in sharing her heart and in helping dreamers like me to make things happen with her Powersheets goal-setting program. because i’ve steeped myself in all that Lara has to share on her blog, i didn’t expect to be so moved by her book, but goodness, i was. her book has helped me to think of goal-setting, something that my to-do-list-loving self has focused on for many years before my first set of Powersheets landed in my hands, as something that can be divinely inspired, something that can bring God glory. each day that i awaken, i want to, as Lara says, “keep reminding myself to set goals that fuel His purpose, not my own gain or what someone else says is a worthy pursuit.”

from Elsie + Emma’s Happy Handmade Home: Painting, Crafting and Decorating a Cheerful, More Inspiring Space:

Reorganizing cabinets and making new space for hard-to-store items is such a rewarding way to spend an afternoon.

these girls speak my language! my favorite of their ideas for kitchen organization: using locker baskets {like this one} to corral seldom-used items in the kitchen {vases + liquor, i’m looking at you}.

from Annie F. Downs’ Let’s All Be Brave:

Seeing other people be brave makes you want to be brave, too. That’s why you’ll see rational adults going down a loopty-loop waterslide even if they don’t want to, because they want to show the kids it isn’t scary. It’s a domino effect. That’s why we have to start. It’s why we have to go first. It’s why we have to be brave — so that others will be inspired to be brave as well.

oh, this spoke to me. as i reflected long ago, i was one of those rational adults who put on a brave face while going down a slide, simply because i knew that my biggest boy was watching me. but the thing is this: i didn’t take it to the next level. stay with me here; Downs continues:

Because you are making a way for them, saving them some pain that your bloodied arms prove is real, and honoring their footsteps by providing a clear path. Never forget as you step forward with your life that you are a trailblazer. Someone is watching. It’s the walking in front of. It’s the standing beside. It’s the trudging behind. We do this because we aren’t alone in it. Even if you don’t see others watching or standing or following, they are there . . . Seeing you be brave may be all they need to be brave. That may be all it takes.

sure, i was brave in that one moment for Lionel, but am i brave in other moments – as much as i can be – for him, for Quincy? am i brave for Jord? am i brave for Jesus? as i’ve learned from Lara Casey above, setting goals that honor God and serve others is worth striving for – and it takes bravery to do that, i’m convinced.

if you’ve made it this far through this post, thanks for reading. it’s been a joy to share with you what i’ve been reading + thinking about these first few weeks of summer! i’d love to hear what words you’ve been mulling over lately – care to share in the comments?

one more thing: i want to share what’s up next on my reading list!

next, i’ll be diving into L. Elizabeth Krueger’s Raising Godly Tomatoes: Loving Parenting with Only Occasional Trips to the Woodshed {a recommendation from Lara Casey + a gift from Jord for Mother’s Day!}. i’m also dusting off a devotional that I purchased long ago called The Message SOLO: An Uncommon Devotional.

{image above from Lara Casey}

capsule wardrobe {what i’m trying out this summer}.


if my closet could talk, it would probably say this: why are you keeping all of this clothing jammed in here, when you only actually wear one-quarter of what’s inside of me? also, i need better lighting in here – how can you even see anything?

would your closet utter something similar? if so, read on to find out how i’m taking back my closet…

* *

enter: the capsule wardrobe.

what’s a capsule wardrobe? so glad you asked! i long ago came across posts from Caroline of UnFancy on her capsule wardrobe, and i was FASCINATED by the idea of culling my clothing down to 37 pieces {not counting workout clothes – HA, i don’t own those – jewelry, accessories, underthings, swimsuits, jammies or loungewear}.

so, a capsule wardrobe involves cleaning out your closet + dresser + then eliminating {and STORING – this is important!} what’s not in your 37-piece capsule wardrobe. you then wear ONLY these 37 pieces {including tops, bottoms, dresses, jackets or outerwear and shoes} for a season {i.e. three months or winter/spring/summer/fall}. here’s a really helpful post from UnFancy on building a capsule wardrobe.

another key piece is this: you don’t go shopping for clothes during a capsule season. not. at. all! this will be SO difficult for me {Target, how i’ll miss thee}, but that’s all the more reason why i know that i need to do this.

why 37 items? Caroline of UnFancy suggested this number as a result of her own trial-and-error efforts in her capsule wardrobe project. i’m following her lead on this one.

this is crazy. why would anyone do this? isn’t the point of fashion to try out new trends and amass a hearty and robust wardrobe full of much-loved items? sure, that’s a great goal. but for me, i’m a busy wife, Mama, educator, blogger, writer and Netflix-watcher, and i don’t want to waste any more time staring into the dark recesses of my closet, waiting for some long-forgotten clothing item to jump out and announce itself as that day’s fashion item of choice.

as regular readers know, i’m also on a simplifying kick, so the capsule wardrobe is part of my desire to minimize extras and focus on what matters. i also don’t want to spend time or money collecting items that will eventually just take up space in my closet. instead, i’d rather save my time – and my pennies – to purchase well-made clothing items that i actually LOVE and WANT to wear.

why are you starting a capsule wardrobe in the summer? it makes the most sense for me, as an educator who has the summer off {yay!}, to launch my capsule wardrobe project when i’m not having to dress up and ready myself for work each day. in short, starting this wardrobe revolution in the summer will be a much easier time to experiment with such a radical reduction of my wardrobe, since instead of wrangling students and correcting grammatical errors, i’ll be spending my summer days blowing bubbles and playing in the pool with my littles. i’m hopeful that this summer will motivate me to tackle what it means to have a capsule wardrobe as a full-time working Mama when school ramps up again this fall.

how long is your summer capsule? May 15 – August 10. i’ll be starting up my summer capsule {i.e. putting away + storing all clothes that are NOT in my capsule} after my last day of work for the school year, which is May 15. i don’t go back to school until August 10, so that’s when i’ll launch my fall capsule.

can you shop between seasons? YES, thank goodness. Caroline suggests planning and shopping for the upcoming capsule during the last weeks of the previous capsule season. so, in other words, i’ll be shopping for my fall capsule {colored skinny jeans, i’m coming for you!} in the final few weeks of my summer vacation.

what’s in your summer capsule? i’ll be back next week to share the 37 items that are in my summer capsule, so stay tuned!

how do i follow along with your capsule wardrobe? check back here next week, as i reveal what’s in my summer capsule. i’ll also be sharing the highs and lows of this experience on Instagram this summer, so be sure to follow me there. and, if you’re interesting in following others who are trying out a capsule wardrobe, add Caroline of UnFancy and Carli of Raising Mayhem to your list of blogs to read!

April #Powersheets: Sharing My Goals.


as i mentioned last week, March was a rather rough month for me goals-wise; despite the fact that i feel that i allowed myself a lot of grace as i returned to work last month, i’m still saying “tsk-tsk” to myself for not accomplishing more or spending my time on more fulfilling activities, like getting into God’s Word or writing {darn you, Netflix!}. but, as Lara Casey’s #powersheets help me to remember each and every month, it’s about progress, not perfection. Amen to that!

so, with that in mind, here’s what i have on my list of action items for mid-April to mid-May:

get a haircut and a pedicure. it’s so, so fascinating to me that i had to actually write these items down on my Tending List {see a glimpse of this sheet here}, but i’ve literally been trying to carve out some time in the past two months for some self-care, and it’s finally time that i get it done. i even have a gift card for a pedicure – from my birthday back in November!! – that i’m anxious to use for some solo time.

celebrate Q’s baptism. i’m so excited to spend the morning praising God for giving us our sweet Quincy-Bug and celebrating his baptism with friends and family!

DIY raised garden beds and shelving for the third bedroom. read more about these projects here, but in short – i. CANNOT. WAIT.

#socialmediafreeweekends. as i shared last week, taking a break from social media {Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest} on weekends has worked so, so well for me in the last month, so i’m eager to continue!

prioritize spending solo time with each of my boys {including my husband!}. i want to savor both of my sons at their respective ages, so i’m going to work hard to dedicate time each week to spend one-on-one with both L and Q. plus, the busyness of life has me eager to reconnect with my husband, so i want to devote time each week for some solid couple time sans kids.

read the Bible {via the YouVersion app on my iPhone} each morning BEFORE opening up email, social media, etc. honesty time: this will be so, so difficult for me to do. it’s become quite the unbreakable habit to check my phone for emails and social media updates immediately upon waking up each day, but i know, in my heart, that these activities aren’t serving me well, and they certainly aren’t serving my family OR my God. so, it’s time to put God where he belongs – at the forefront of my thoughts, at the beginning of my days. spending five minutes in God’s Word each morning will help me to ground my days in Him, and i’m praying hard that this change helps me to pursue what really matters – relationships with my kids, my husband, and my God, instead of a relationship with my phone.

what are you tackling this month? are you a #powersheets user like i am? please share in the comments what you’re working on this month – i’d love to cheer you on!

{image from here; go download one for your iPhone or computer desktop to keep you focused on the good stuff in life!} :)

march #powersheets update {spoiler: FAIL}.


so, it’s been a good long while since i’ve touched base with y’all about my goal-setting efforts via Lara Casey‘s #powersheets {snag a set for yourself here!}. i wish that my lack of updates on what i’ve been aiming to accomplish means much progress was made, but alas, that’s sadly not the case…

here’s what i hoped to accomplish in March, and what i didn’t quite do {spoiler alert: a LOT of my list…}:

try not to drink pop for one month. NOPE. in an effort to jumpstart my body and help me to lose the lingering 2-3 pounds of baby weight that i had left, i set out to eliminate pop {namely my one obsession, ORANGE SODA} from my diet. yet, when my grandmother took a fall in early March, i reached for my orange-flavored crutch to help me cope with the time that she spent in the hospital following her elbow surgery. thankfully, my dear grandma rebounded quite quickly, but my orange soda addiction is still rearing its {ugly…but delicious} head.

#socialmediafreeweekends. CHECK. this has been the one area in which i’ve had success this month, and the solitary goal that i want to keep up for many weeks and months to come. in the spirit of Lara Casey and others, including Nancy Ray, i’ve decided to prioritize my time with my family on the weekends by eliminating social media {specifically Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest} from my weekends. i still allow myself to check in with my favorite blogs on Feedly, especially since i have less and less time to do so during the work week, but in general, my phone remains far, far away from me on the weekends. i cannot tell you how refreshed this helps me feel, and how liberating it is to unplug; since becoming a mama {and then becoming a mama of two}, i’ve learned so much about drawing close to loved ones {namely, my husband and our boys} and about making boundaries that help me to lift up what matters {family} and let go what doesn’t {as much as i try not to, social media for me has become so much about comparison, which is so unfulfilling!}. #socialmediafreeweekends help me to make sure that my focus is on what fills me up, not on what empties me. i encourage you to try it out, if you’re feeling frustrated and unfulfilled by social media, too!

schedule Q’s baptism. CHECK!

go on one date with Jord. well, we didn’t go on a date, but we did have a date night this past weekend at home sans kids…it was such a treat! Jord made one of my favorite meals {this one}, we shared one of our favorite bottles of red wine {anything by Bogle is a win in my book}, and we reconnected as a couple. what a luxury it is to get to talk about “grown-up” things for an evening! thank you to our parents for taking our kiddos off of our hands for a few hours :)

set up automatic monthly withdrawals for church offering. CHECK!

lower level upgrades: paint treatment on wall; DIY mirror; DIY touches on kiddo reading bench. NADA. didn’t do ANY of these tasks. uffda!

attend Ladies’ Night at church with my Mom. CHECK! we had a great time, and the featured speaker, Annie Downs, totally lit my heart afire for living bravely! check out her latest book here; i can’t wait to dig into it this summer!

give myself grace as i return to work. as i mentioned last week, i’m so thankful that the transition back to work has gone quite well. however, {of course} there were days on which my patience in myself and in my littles wore thin, and i wasn’t the mama, the wife, or the worker-bee that i want to be. i’m always struck by this: why is it so hard to give ourselves grace, in comparison to the grace that we show to others? i vow to work on figuring this out in April.

read Naptime Diaries‘ Lenten devotional. i TOTALLY dropped the ball on this one. after-Lent devotional, anyone? :/

finish reading Lara Casey’s Making Things Happenalso still on my desk, waiting to be devoured…needless to say, it was a cruddy month for taking “me” time. {i still need a haircut…}

begin my mornings in the Word. oh, how i wish that i could say that progress was made on this goal. instead, i’m finding myself clicking Twitter or Instagram first thing in the morning, instead of diving into God’s guidebook for life. but here’s the real question: what has the potential to fill me up more – social media or God? i know the answer, but will i do anything to change, to right this ship? i’m surely going to try this month!

i’ll be back next week to share my April intentions, but in the meantime – what are you working on this month?

{image from here; go download your own!} :)

{#simplify2014} November goal-setting.

hi all! as promised, i’m back with my list of intentions for the month of November. here goes:

#lovehard #simplify2014

  • finish the boys’ shared bedroom. all we are waiting on is the crib bedding and Lionel’s repainted rocking chair, and then we can do one last round of cleaning before photos – woo!
  • finish the baby’s haven in the master bedroom. i ordered a super-cool geometric wooden shelf from Etsy a few weeks ago, and it should be here soon. once it arrives, i’ll hang it up {along with the artwork i’ve added – can’t wait to show these pieces to you!}, add some Lionel art for baby {gotta find time this weekend to have an arts ‘n’ crafts session with our busy two-year-old boy!}, and call the haven space officially DONE. also, the bedding for the Moses basket is all done, washed and ready for baby’s arrival, and it looks so adorable – double woo!!
  • continue on my journey to reconnect with far-away friends and beloved relatives.
  • buy a “big-boy stool” for Lionel to use during meals. our little guy is telling us {through his actions!} that he’s totally “over” his booster-seat, so we’re on the hunt for a stool for him to call his very own.
  • take a date night with Jordan. i CANNOT. WAIT. to see the Hunger Games movie that’s coming out in a few weeks – baby boy no. 2 better stay put until we’ve had our date night, because i am so anxious to see the movie and have a good excuse to hold my husband’s hand in the dark!
  • decorate for Christmas. CHECK – we completed this last weekend on my birthday {woo 28!}, and our home {well, the upstairs at least} looks so Christmas cheery!
  • celebrate my birthday. again, CHECK – we celebrated the start of my 28th year on Sunday with donuts in the morning, spaghetti in the evening, and a {small} glass of my favorite fall red wine before bed. :)
  • celebrate Thanksgiving. because we have no idea if baby boy no. 2 will attempt to join us early {especially after this scare}, we are sticking around town this year for Thanksgiving and will be heading to our parents’ homes to partake in food, family and merriment – provided that i don’t feel like a humongous, uncomfortable beached whale by then…

in terms of ongoing goals, here’s what i’m continuing to prioritize:

  • reading for enjoyment. i’m thinking of diving into a new book this month, but haven’t settled on one yet – any recommendations?
  • blogging. hi there! :)
  • taking Mama dates with Lionel. ever since i started my big girl job, Lionel and i periodically take Mama-Lionel dates to Barnes & Noble to see the choo-choos, or to the local mall to have a pretzel or a cookie and ride the fire truck ride. i love, love, LOVE our special time together, and i want to continue to prioritize these times before baby brother joins us!
  • self-care and prayer. two things that are always hard, but so, so important for me – taking time for myself, and taking time for God. i’m working on it!