A week gone wrong

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My week went all wrong.

Monday morning dawned with the extermination team knocking on my door giving me five whole minutes to grab our stuff and leave again. This time I had to be gone for 6 hours at least.

Well, I grabbed everything I needed for Charlotte and me to spend the day at Scott’s work.

I could work there. It would be an adventure. But not how I expected.

I grabbed the wrong cord for my computer. It’s old and won’t hold a charge.

I forgot a lunch or snacks for either of us.

Charlotte nose dived off a chair and bit her chin and lip. It bled a lot and she was mostly hysterical for the rest of the day.

I was exhausted. Behind on work. And the day felt way too long.

The week finished out with more interruptions, and disappearing Internet.

And the toilet flooded the bathroom. It took every towel in the house to dry it up.

But ultimately that week gone wrong was still filled with good things.

1.Time at the park with Papa for Charlotte.

2. A coworker of Scott who ” just happened” to have the same computer type as me and loaned me her cord.

3. Charlotte’s fall did no permanent damage.

4. Gorgeous fall leaves that I had time to enjoy.

5. And the bathroom floor needed to be mopped anyway.

Sometimes gratitude is all about your perspective.

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Which side of today are you going to try to see?

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Just for rest

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It was one of those days. The kind that start our by lingering in bed late, staying in pajamas all day and sipping “coffee” curled up on the couch together.

We’ve had crazy weeks. Weeks low on sleep, higher on stress and busy. And I’ve been tired. So tired.

But today, we loaded up on resting. We enjoyed doing nothing. We read books ( and more books!). We watched nature videos. Played. Napped. Ate soup.

It wasn’t productive. It might have been a little lazy.

But I’m so glad that at the end of crazy weeks, there is a day just for rest and worship. It’s always exactly what I need.

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Morning turned beautiful

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I woke up to the sound of rain drizzling down. I sighed.

Our landlady and the bug guy decided that early morning was a good time to treat our house. Early enough that the baby would still be asleep.

And then? He showed up even earlier than scheduled. I wasn’t thrilled.

After all, one of THE rules of motherhood is you don’t wake up a sleeping toddler. And today, I had to get her up an hour early. I didn’t have a chance to do anything but grab her shoes and go outside.

But here is where it gets good.

Somewhere between the early morning drizzles and me rushing around trying to pull things away from the walls and then rushing my baby awake, the sun had come out. The last of autumn was glowing in all glory. It was warm. It was beautiful. I felt like I had stepped into something magical.

What I feared would be one of the worst mornings of my crazy week ended up being one of the best.

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Charlotte had a blast. I walked around trying to soak in the joy and the glory and feeling awed at each new glimpse of beauty.

Thank you, Lord for redeeming ordinary and even annoying inconvenient moments and making them beautiful.

 

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what’s on our table

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Art comes in many different forms. For me, making a pretty plate with local food is one of the ways I unwind. When I try something new, and it looks appetizing on the plate, it makes something in my heart feel alive. Here’s what’s been on the table at the Brankshire home this summer. Best part? Most of the vegetables came from a tiny little patch right outside of my door. Can’t beat the flavor of food that was picked 10 seconds before it hit your table.

What’s been cooking for you guys this summer?

The Beauty of Broken—a book review

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“There’s no such thing as a perfect family.” If I’m honest,  I don’t like that sentence even a tiny bit. If I’m still honest, I’ll admit that it is true.

We’re all a little broken. Either by our choices, by our parents’ or grandparents’ choices, or sometimes just because life is broken. It’s ugly. It’s messy.

It can be hard to lift up your face and look the world in the eye and admit that you don’t have it all together. It is for me. 

But, the good thing about being broken? It is the perfect thing for finding The Source of inner strength. It’s the perfect thing for finding what true beauty really is—something that shines out in spite of the less-than-perfect way our live story often goes.

In Beauty of Broken, Elisa Morgan shares her story. And how brokenness shaped her story—and ultimately, how God used it to create a kind of beauty in her life.

I appreciated Elisa’s honesty, and the encouragement she gave to not be ashamed of our stories, even if they are broken. It could be that the brokenness that Satan meant to destroy us is the very thing that God will override and use to be one of our greatest blessings.  And that, I think, is really beautiful.

*I received this book in exchange for my honest review from Book Sneeze. The opinions are mine entirely.*

a tradition is born

It’s been a while since it’s looked like Christmas here.

Last year we were in California. I had only just dragged in the Christmas Boxes when we got our tickets and I had to drag them back out to the shed again. The year before that I had worked a super stressful job and was too exhausted to feel much Christmas energy.

But this year…this year was different. It’s Charlotte’s first Christmas. We don’t celebrate in all the same ways that a lot of people do. But there’s something about lights and sparkling things that make winter much less dreary.  Scott loves Christmastime.  I love creating memories and looking forward to our little traditions. That’s what makes it so special.

We hauled in the Christmas boxes last Sunday and decked our little halls with lights and christmas cheer. It takes a long time to unwind the lights and hang the sparkles on the tree, even if it is small.

When the l ast the last candy cane is hung, and the last bit of garland is wrapped around the tree, THE moment of the evening arrives: we light the tree for the first time and put the gold star at the top to remind us of the Angels who sang at Jesus’ birth.

Charlotte gets to do the topper, Scott says. He took her in his arms and helped her tiny (grabby) fingers hold the gold star for a minute and then they put it on the highest little twig right at the top. She likes the sparkle and babbles in approval.

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Our tree is done. It’s beautiful. And just like that, a tradition is born.

Why Being A Writer Isn’t Easy

One day I looked up from behind and between a myriad of mini piles of papers covered in words and realized that I’ve always been writing. I’ve always made stories in my head, written letters out in my mind when I was suppose to be asleep and composed poetry as I worked. I’ve scribbled ideas, and rhymes in the margins of my homework for as long as I was in school.

I’ve  always written, but I have never been brave enough to claim the title of Writer. I think I should tell you why: Really being a writer isn’t easy.

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there is no pretending.

Not everyone who writes is a writer, plain and simple. I think that most real writers realize that in stepping up and saying “I am a writer”, it strips away any cloaks or any place to hide. You can’t pretend to be good. You either are or you aren’t, and people will judge you by what they expect a writer to be. Honestly, that can be scary.

it gets inside your head.

You can’t get away from words as a writer. You will forever be haunted by the mental pen and paper that composes, takes notes, and writes, always writes no matter where you are or what you are doing. It won’t take consideration for your need to concentrate or for the fact that it will be hours before you have a chance to write. It will just string together words incessantly, and usually it’ll come out pretty good.  None of these compositions, however, you are likely going to be able to recreate quite as well when you actually do have time to write.

writing isn’t always glamorous.

That image of a writer sitting at a well organized desk, cup of tea, and a beautiful view outside the window? That’s perhaps 1% of a Writer’s Reality. Put together or not, organized or not—beautiful words often have unglamorous beginnings that those who read them never see. The writer is forever bogged down with loads of papers and drafts that are the beginnings of stories or are memories that can’t be thrown away. There are sticky notes stuck in odd places, and poetry written on the backs of old envelopes and receipts. There are ink stained fingers and eyes that are too tired from staring at the screen for long periods of time. And that desk? It may or may not exist.Then there is that over-sized purse for holding the essentials: a notebook, several pens (in case one dies, of course) and the latest inspirational read (or two). Hopefully you can find your keys in there and maybe you’ll have room for your wallet if you are lucky.

there is no magic involved.

At least not in the writing. The idea that all beautiful writing flows effortlessly like poetry from a Writer’s fingertips—that’s another myth.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, the magic is in the fact that it actually got written at all. Behind almost every good bit of writing are bits of sleepless nights, frustratingly long blank pages, lots and lots of deleting, some sweat and likely even a good deal of tears. In other words, writing takes work. Except for that one percent of the time when it doesn’t.

perfectionism will attack.

A writer should always strive for greater perfection, but should never allow perfectionism turn to fear or allow it keep them from writing what needs to be written. But because a writer writes things that other people will read, it is easy to forget that the reasons why you write aren’t to be perfect, but to share.

it makes you vulnerable.

A writer can craft a picture of their world through the words they write. To some extent they can control the vision of who you see when you read their words. However, a real writer’s words are often deeply personal. No matter how hard you may try, a little bit of your heart always spills out into your words. To send them out into the public eye is like like opening a door to your heart and to let yourself be vulnerable in a way that those who don’t write may never understand. It be hard to stand behind your words as the author, and not be moved a little bit by praise or by censure.  This is certain: to write is to risk being hurt. It is to open your heart to rejection and criticism (because you can be sure once you are really writing, it’ll happen) and yet not be afraid to keep on writing.

From the middle of those papers that day, I realized what I was afraid of.

I realized that it wasn’t the work, or the vulnerability. I don’t mind my piles of paper (though I do try to keep them neat and tidy!) and I’m only a little sorry that there’s not magic wand for writers.

The reason I’ve never felt brave enough to call myself a writer is because I am afraid of one thing:

Failure.

It is a hundred times easier to be an obscure little scribbler of words than to call yourself writer and make silly typos and write things that don’t always sound beautiful where the world can see your blunders.

It is easier to craft words and hide behind an excuse than to write and maybe be the writer who failed.

But today, I want to say that I am a Writer.

I see this world through a filter of words and sentences and through lines of poetry.

It was infinitely easier to write when I started this blog years ago and no one was watching than it was the day I stumbled across the “followers” page and saw that scary number looking back at me. When I realized that others were watching, I felt like I had to live up to something big and accomplished, instead of just writing because head is always filled with words.

I constantly remind myself that success is not measured by outward things or by the acceptance of the World Wide Web at large. Success for me is writing, just writing because this is what I was meant to do.

I am not a perfect Writer, and I may never write a best seller or have a blog read by thousands. But this isn’t why I write, anyway.

I write to share a story of God’s faithfulness. I write to share my journey, and I want Him to be honored and glorified by this record of my life.

I write because when I do, I feel that I am doing what I was meant to do: to be a writer of words just because.

I am a Writer. And by His grace, I will keep writing, even when it isn’t easy.

6 Things About Thanksgiving

I’ve always loved Thanksgiving. The meaning, the reasons behind it, and the history that surrounds it, the family time, and because I already find so much joy in counting up the little things that bless our lives every day, make it probably my favorite thing about Autumn.

Thanksgiving dinner is a time when we often go “all out” and make it big and bountiful. After all, that’s part of what Thanksgiving is all about. But, sometimes money is tight and breaking the budget, even for Thanksgiving, isn’t an option. Sometimes it is more exhausting than it should be, and we are so busy creating a bounty that we don’t have time to be thankful for these very things.

But Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be exhausting and it doesn’t have to break the budget to be fun and memorable. Here’s a few things to keep in mind as you plan for your Thanksgiving celebrations this year.

Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is a vital part of any celebration or gathering if it is to go smoothly and as easily as possible, but planning ahead when money is tight can be the one thing that saves you the most money and time and allows you to create a celebration that will be special and fun even with out all the extras.

Most people already shop for deals, and even stock up when they can, but while you shop for deals and stock up through out the year, keep Thanksgiving in mind. A couple years ago, after Thanksgiving day had past, Walmart was selling Libby’s Pumpkin for around $.25/can. I bought a couple and they lasted us the entire year and provided a couple delicious pumpkin cheese cakes for the following Thanksgiving. Last year, cranberry sauce went on sale for a deal hard to pass up, and I have two cans sitting in my pantry that will be a part of our meal this Thanksgiving. And I’m so glad I do, because otherwise, we might have to skip out on it and the pumpkin pie this year.

Celery and onions freeze well and make creating bread dressing and other holiday dinner items a lot less time consuming when you can just take them, already chopped, out of the freezer and add them to your recipes.

Of course, not everything can be bought months in advance, but keep your eyes and ears open, and if you have a plan, you are more likely to figure out ways to make it work than if you wait until the last moment to start your planning and your shopping.

Planning ahead isn’t just about the food, though. With a little creative thinking and using the things that you have in your home or yard, you can create beautiful centerpieces and decorations without paying much or anything to get them!

Taking time to plan out the day its self is important because it makes sure, even if things are different this year- away from family, in a new state where it all feels strange and unknown, or when money is too tight to do the usual things, that you keep the tradition of being thankful and remembering what Thanksgiving really is about fresh in mind. Planning ahead gives you a chance to think about this, and intentionally work it in to your Thanksgiving day and hopefully help it to be as stress free as possible.

Keep it Simple

Some of my favorite Thanksgiving memories are centered around the simplicity of our meal. In my family, having an easy, but still special holiday meal is one of our traditions, and while it still takes a bit more work than the ordinary meal might take, it is simple enough that we can invest time in each other and in making the memories that really matter to us.

We pull things out of the freezer that were made in advance. We make short cuts, and have less courses to our meal, and (maybe even make a weekend out of it, instead of just a single meal) while still including the things that we love about Thanksgiving Dinner.  And my parents often use paper plates.

Growing up, the meal was important and special, but the focus was on family time and helping others and being grateful for what we had, even if it wasn’t much.

Sit down and decide what you and your family really enjoy about Thanksgiving and dinner and make sure it is a special one, but don’t feel bad if you can’t do it all. If no one really likes the traditional candied yams or really eats the green bean casserole and apple salads if you just don’t make those dishes.

Use your china , and decorate the table a little bit, but if you have to choose between being rested and happy and enjoying the day and having an elaborate centerpiece, skip the centerpiece and focus on what is really more important than decor that we only use for one meal.

If you don’t have the money to do the meal you usually do, that’s okay. Do your best, and your simple meal with thankful hearts and happy faces will still make Thanksgiving one of the happiest days of the season.

And at the end of the day, everyone washes dishes together. After all, “many hands makes light work”!

Create new Traditions

My siblings and I grew up in Alaska, and flying a family back down to the lower 48 was too expensive, and we didn’t get to spend holidays with our relatives. It was hard at first, but we were young and my parents were amazing at creating new traditions and memories that I treasure and that Scott and I plan to keep alive, even if slightly re-created, in our own homes in the years to come. As we got older, it got harder to keep these traditions in tact, but every chance we got together as a family, we made it a point to keep the traditions created when we were young alive.

Getting married and moving away from what I always knew and joining my husband’s family for holidays did mean things changed, but didn’t mean that the traditions I loved had to die, either. It simply meant that together, we as newly founded team, took the best parts of both of our families and the things we loved and began to forge our own, new traditions, built on the ones our families had created for us. Some things stay the same, and they probably always will. Other things are different, but creating new traditions with my husband has been one of the happiest parts of the holidays as a newlywed.

If you’re just married, or if you find yourself in a place where it feels like everything familiar has been swept away, don’t think of it as a loss as much as a chance to create. Sometimes, new traditions, pieced from the old, are the best things you ever did.

Sharing With “Strangers”

Thanksgiving is all about sharing. Not just with our families, but with others. Even if you don’t have money for something elaborate, and even if it means doing something different than you are use to, it is important to take time out from focusing on our needs to consider others and where they might be coming from.

My family grew up far away from our relatives and my parents made it a point to open our home at Thanksgiving time to many people over the years. Sometimes this meant having huge pots of soup for Thanksgiving dinner, and always meant that our home was crowded, noisy and usually a mess at the end of the day from so many little feet and hands that had been there. Sometimes we didn’t really plan on having a crowd, but it almost always ended up that way.

It was a lot of work sometimes. It was noisy and exhausting and there were times when I didn’t feel up to entertaining a host of people I hardly knew, and finding things to keep little hands busy and out of trouble. But every single time, I found that, even at the cost of my loved traditions on occasion, these were the happiest thanksgivings ever.

Growing up, I think it was important for us to learn to give more than we got, and to love even people who sometimes weren’t very lovable on the outside, and to include them in our family and our home when they had no where to go.

Now, while I might not have a crowd over every Thanksgiving, and I treasure the times with just our (now large and growing!) family, I hope it’ll always be a tradition with us to reach out and invite a “stranger” into our homes at Thanksgiving time. Even if the meal is simple and even if it means more dishes and more messes.

Taking time to Remember

“Our only fear for the future, is that we shall forget how God has led us in the past”.

No matter what kind of meal you make, or what your traditions are, or if you bring people into your home or go out of your home to serve them at some other time during the year, don’t forget to stop and remember on Thanksgiving day.

Remember what He’s done for us as a Nation. Remember where we came from, and what our calling as a people is today.

Read about the people who founded this Nation. Read about why Thanksgiving was instituted as a national holiday in the first place. Take time to be grateful for what you have and think less about what you don’t have, and count your blessings.

Enjoy your meal and your company, and all of the blessings we have right now, but don’t forget to remember.

Savor every blessing

Thanksgiving and the days ahead of it might be times when we automatically think grateful thoughts and think more about our blessings. And it is a good thing to do!

But, I hope that sometime this Thanksgiving you’ll find time to go to a quiet place to think about what you’ve been given, and make plans to be intentional about making gratefulness an every day part of your lives. Teach your heart to be glad, and your lips to be quick to share the great things that our God has done for us. Speak more about the blessings this year than the bad things.

Keep a  journal of thankfulness all year long. Learn to look for the positive and to find the blessing in each situation, and to be thankful, even for the thorns.

There will always be bad things, hard things in life. Sometimes we need to talk about them. But, even when things go wrong and life isn’t easy, savor every blessing. Make it a habit, and next Thanksgiving you’ll have even more reasons to celebrate the way that God takes care of us.

I have a lot to learn about Thanksgiving, keeping it simple and being content with what I have. I definitely am still learning to be thankful for the thorns, just like I love the roses.  But, this Thanksgiving, I’m looking forward to remembering the past, and enjoying the present and what God has given me and my family this year.

Here’s to a Happy Thanksgiving for each one of us!

Jehovah Jireh

In the time of our greatest need, God provides.

Physically, for “He who gave us life, knows well our needs to sustain it.”

Mentally, for “if any of you lack wisdom…. it shall be given him.”

Spiritually, for “He is able to keep us from falling.”

There is nothing too hard for Him. No circumstance. No brokenness. No distance. No question. No confusion.

Nothing that He is not able to provide just the strength and grace we need to face it.

He stands behind His word and His promises. I can’t see right now, but I believe.

Thankful All Year

Years ago, I started keeping a list. It was a running total of my daily search for beauty in ordinary days. It was my way of being intentional about gratitude, and it changed my life’s perspective drastically.

Sometimes these lists are filled with the obvious-fresh air, sunshine, a warm bed at night.

Sometimes its much more random-twinkling fire flies, rain drop splashes caught on my camera.

But all of the thing that make it on my list are the kinds of things that make me happy to be alive, and grateful that this old world has so much beauty still left in it for us to notice.

I call these lists my Ebenezers.

Because, the saying that says there’s a golden side to every cloudits true.

Because the sayings that say that no matter how dark the day, there’s always a glimmerits true.

Because the saying that there is something beautiful about every dayits true, too.

It’s amazing, on the hard days, what  a little time reading or thinking about my blessings in my journal can do for my spirits

Thankfulness isn’t about Thanksgiving Day or any single day of the year. It’s about being intentional to be thankful all year long.

Life perspective  is made up so much of what we look for on the days when we feel the least like being thankful.

For me, it has been a lot of different things. Dewdrops sparkling on the grass. Clouds parting so I could see a lunar eclipse. A random tulip growing up out of what looked like a cinder-pile. A snatch of a song that unexpectedly spoke to my heart in a big way. It has been a smile. A note from someone who said just the right words- though they may never know it. It has been the wind on my face, blowing back my hair, and in my mind, blowing away the cares from my heart.

So if you do anything new this year, I hope it’ll be to start looking for those little things to be thankful for. I hope you start keeping a list somewhere or a journal you can go back to when you feel low.

Make it your goal this year to focus on beauty, on goodness, on blessings, and give your heart every reason- no matter what circumstances may bring- to be truly thankful.

Not just in November, but every single day of the year.