Treat Yourself / Weekend Links: October Edition


October may just be my favorite month of the year. In our neck of the woods, it’s a changing leaves / Friday night lights / college football homecoming / let’s eat soup kind of weekend.

So settle in and enjoy these treats for your weekend.




Edie’s Best Ever Beef Stew

I made this last weekend and ohmygosh, it was worth every bit of time in the kitchen and, like most soup, was even yummier the next day. Edie is the soup whisperer and I’ll try any soup she suggests.

Richella’s Pumpkin Bread

I’ve been making this pumpkin bread {which seriously takes only 5 minutes to mix and prepare} for probably 3 or 4 years now and it’s my family’s favorite. Once you see the recipe you’ll realize this is really just pumpkin cake pretending to be pumpkin bread, but that’s why it’s so good! Worth every calorie and so, so easy.



Both of these have already come and gone in theaters and now they’re on Netflix. Giddy up.

Last weekend my girl and I watched The Imitation Game.


image source

Unbelievable film. Unbelievable story. I see now why it won so many awards. Also, Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightly are two of my favorite Brits so that’s fun. If you’re a Downton Abbey fan, you’ll also recognize “Tom Branson” and “Henry Talbot.” Bonus.

This weekend I’ve already watched Spotlight.

I’m still trying to find the words but I was riveted to every single second of this film. I would watch it again right this second if I didn’t have to be a semi-responsible grown-up. Also, it made me want to move to a big city and become an investigative journalist. One hundred percent my dream job.

I’m tempted to list all sorts of disclaimers here but we all have different movie sensitivities. What I can handle may not be for you and vice versa. So just do your research before you tune in.



Because if we can’t find something to laugh about in this horrific political climate, we’re doomed as a nation. My husband and I both watched this “musically reimagined” video of the most recent debate and laughed till we cried.



All The Pretty Things: The Story of a Southern Girl Who Went through Fire to Find Her Way Home by Edie Wadsworth

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I read this entire book on a Sunday a couple of weeks ago and y’all, it’s such a beautiful story. I couldn’t put it down. If you liked The Glass Castle {one of my favorite books ever}, you’ll love Edie’s memoir.

Falling Free: Rescued from the Life I Always Wanted by Shannan Martin

I wrote about this book and my abiding love for Shannan in this post. Now scoot on over to amazon and get your copy.

The Broken Way: A Daring Path Into the Abundant Life by Ann Voskamp

I’ve only read the first chapter of this book, which Ann provided free for blog subscribers, and it moved me so deeply. I wrestle with the brokenness of my own life and this world every single day. I can’t wait to read the rest as I know this is such a timely message for me, and maybe for you too.


In case you missed it:

On the blog from the last month. These three posts have felt uniquely personal and special. I loved writing each of them.


The Ministry of Netflix

How the Broken + Beautiful Lives of Others Help Us Live a More Compassionate Story

How a 92-Year-Old Woman Taught Me the Real Value of My Right-Now Work


That’s a wrap. The loveliest of October weekends to you all!!!



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The Ministry of Netflix


I’m not sure when the panic set in that our time together was running out but it was probably sometime last year.

My daughter is a sophomore in high school.

I know it sounds cliché but I don’t know where the time has gone.

Those two+ years that she never slept through the night.

The sixteen months of breastfeeding.

The strong-willed tantrums — hers and mine — that prevailed through the preschool years.

The five years of homeschooling her.

Each stage felt like it would last forever and now I’m looking back and wondering if a thief snuck into our life and robbed us of a few years when we weren’t looking.

When the panic showed up, I became overwhelmed with all I still wanted to teach her and show her and share with her. I felt like I hadn’t been a good steward of my time with her for so many years.

And now?

She’s fifteen. And her life is full. And there’s not much time.

When last school-year began to wind down and I started envisioning some loose hopes for our break, I had just one summer goal for the two of us:


mi and breezy

Just be with her. No agenda. No plan to sneak in a Bible lesson after I’d buttered her up with a grande milkshake masquerading as a coffee drink from Starbucks.

That may sound obvious and simple to you. Why would I try and make our time together more complicated than it needed to be?

Because overcomplicating simple things is totally my specialty. And it’s often fueled by fear, the illusion of control, and regret.

As a Christian mom, I haven’t “discipled” her like I’ve wanted to. We never got through all of the catechism and memory work because, honestly, it made us fight. And it stressed us out. I only have so many battles in me per day. As a family, we’ve been hit or miss with lots of the stuff Christian families are “supposed” to do, like regular family devotions and meaningful discussion around the dinner table every night.

It’s not that I don’t think these disciplines are important and useful. We’re still trying to figure out ways to ground our family with our faith in a way that works for us and it has looked different in each season. But for all sorts of reasons — some valid and some not — we haven’t been super systematic and consistent over the years. #guilt

Instead, we’ve simply tried to love them with the love of Jesus and use the opportunities that everyday life presents as a springboard to talk about truth.

Still, I had this low-grade panic and Christian parent guilt following me around and I felt like I had to DO SOMETHING. You might think I employed some amped-up plan to squeeze in All The Things I could over the summer. {In the past, I’ve been known to turn my panic into indoctrination, steamrolling my children with righteous intentionality.}

It’s summer and you’re 15 and we’re running out of time! Let’s read through the Bible in 3 months, memorize a verse together each week, and discuss a coming-of-age topic every Friday through a Biblical World and Life View.”

We did none of the above.

Had I tried to descend on my teenage daughter with all of that, she would have done the same thing I would have done at that age — “Um, no thanks. And have you seen my phone charger?” #eyerollemojifordays

Teenage Marian had this inner resistance to anything that felt forced, contrived, preachy or self-righteous. Grown-up Marian is pretty much the same way.

So why on earth have I resorted to these tactics with my own kids?!?

Again, I’m gonna go with fear. And probably comparison. Plus a hefty dose of so many “shoulds” that have lodged themselves into my mind over the years.


I can hear the critics now. And by critics, I also include my own naive mom-voice even 5 years ago: “You have to be the parent, Marian. Kids don’t always want what’s good for them, like having to eat their veggies, but this is part of training them up in the way they should go.”

And while that is true, I’m no longer dealing with a toddler. I’m dealing with a child who is 2 1/2 years away from legal adulthood. There are things I still want to teach her, but I began to realize that all the knowledge and training in the world will fall on deaf ears without relationship.

Enter Netflix.

As Summer embraced us with her lazy ways and long days, I had one supreme goal:

Spend as much time with this girl as possible, doing things that we both love. No hidden motives. No forced conversations. 

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Teenagers can sniff out an agenda a mile away. This is frustrating but weirdly freeing! Because it means you can just relax and enjoy the show.

And that’s literally what we did.

We burned through four seasons of LOST, two seasons of Friday Night Lights, and jumped back into Gilmore Girls.

We went shopping.

We ate dinner together on the sofa.

We yelled at characters when they made stupid decisions and cried together when they died.

We laughed our faces off at Sawyer’s nicknames for people and rolled our eyes at Lyla Garrity because hashtag sheisoannoying.

It was one of the best summers I’ve ever had.


As we began to settle in to our summer routine of Netflix, followed by more Netflix, a funny thing happened. She began to talk. About real stuff. The kind of stuff that’s deep and honest. And I wasn’t the one who started the conversations.

This is still happening. And it feels like magic.


Spending time with her in seemingly superficial ways opened up the door to meaningful, substantial dialogue. That part wasn’t even the goal, but it’s been the sweetest gift ever. All these months later, we’re still watching our shows and hanging out on the sofa. And because our relational roots have grown deeper, I’ve earned the privilege of being able to speak into her life and even teach her in ways that she’ll actually receive.

At one point over the summer, she mentioned that she wasn’t as excited about going to a sleepover because it would mean we couldn’t watch our shows together. What?!?

Why didn’t anyone ever tell me I was making it too hard?


There is this one thing about relationship that I should probably tell you though.

It costs something.

It will cost you time, energy, and productivity. Relationship can never be measured with or grounded in efficiency. It might cost you money, advancement, and being a person of influence in your community or larger world.

For me, it means that my summer wasn’t super productive from a writing or home improvement standpoint.

It means that I don’t read as much as I want to.

It means that I probably spend too much money on Frappuccinos, cute t-shirts, and scented candles.

It means that I stay up later to watch something or talk, even though I’m tired and want to go to bed at 9:00.

It means that I sometimes feel inexplicably sad when she’s off with her friends, even though this too is as it should be.

It means that for now, I say no to most invitations for good things like leading a Bible study or doing ministry that others can see because I have to protect my availability and relational energy.

It means that I’ve said no to pursuing my own work in the exact way that I’d hoped to because I have this quickly passing season and I don’t want to miss it.

I won’t lie. Sometimes these costs are hard to swallow. I’m independent, creative, aspirational and also an introvert. I like productivity, efficiency, influence, and being my myself.

One-on-one relationship feels the opposite of all those things. But I can already tell you that it’s totally worth it.


I’m not sure when parenting became a fear-driven list of shoulds instead of loving relationship. But let’s start over, shall we? Let’s do this with grace, freedom, and common sense.


Maybe for you it’s not the Ministry of Netflix. Maybe it’s the Ministry of Legos or the Ministry of Read-Aloud time. Perhaps it’s The Ministry of Golf {my husband’s and boys’ personal favorite}, The Ministry of Playstation, The Ministry of Manicures, or The Ministry of Baking Together.

You get to choose.

If you’re a parent of littles or bigs, I hope this post encourages you to embrace the possibility of a simpler way.

While training and systems and passing on one’s faith and traditions all matter, I’m learning that relationship is the fertile soil in which those good seeds can grow.

For so long, I was trying to plant seeds in hard, resistant soil that hadn’t been cultivated.

While I wish I’d understood this truth sooner, I don’t believe it’s ever too late to stop, say I’m sorry, and begin again.



The winner of Falling Free is….


Tamara Gonzalez

Yay Tamara! I’ll email you and get your address.

And if you don’t know what this is all about, read this post to get the scoop and to learn how the broken + beautiful lives of others help us live a more compassionate story. Thanks to all who entered the giveaway and if you didn’t win, go grab a copy for yourself and let me know what you think!

New here? I’m all about helping you recapture the possibility of your right-now life.

If that sounds like something you need, sign up in the box below to receive fresh hope and possibility delivered to your inbox no more than a couple of times a week.

And I have a gift for subscribers:

If you’re overwhelmed by the many educational options for your kids, if you’re curious about the most important questions to ask, I have a FREE resource created just for you!

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How the Broken + Beautiful Lives of Others Help Us Live a More Compassionate Story {A Book and a Giveaway}


I don’t remember the first time I visited the online home of “Flower Patch Farmgirl” but it was at least five or six years ago. She was a wife and mom of three little ones and they lived the most beautiful, idyllic life in a white Indiana farmhouse.

I bonded with her immediately, weird as that sounds because it was over the internet. But you know what I’m talking about. She simply felt like a kindred soul with her weakness for thrift stores, abiding love for salsa, honest dish about faith, and thrown-together recipes.

Over time, I fell ever more in love with her writing, her humor, her quirk, her foodie ways, her perfectly mismatched style that swirled with gingham and vintage florals and chippy paint. But I especially loved the way she could spin a tale like nobody’s business from the raw material of the everyday.

Like many others, I followed her blog as the months tumbled into years. I noticed as she began to write more about the gritty things and not just the pretty things. I paid attention as interesting characters began to show up in her story and she did the unsafe and unthinkable thing of letting them in — jailbirds, needy teenagers, babies.

I followed her story in real time —

As her husband lost his well-paying job and they had no choice but to stick a for sale sign in the yard of that swoony farm house. {So long American Dream.}

As she endured many months in a “Betty Draper” rental that boasted a carpeted kitchen. {So long perfect house.}

As they built a modest home on the wrong side of the tracks. {So long safe neighborhood.}

As her husband became a jail chaplain. {So long well-paying job.}

As they enrolled their kids in a failing school and did the good work of rolling up their shirtsleeves and loving it as their own. {So long coveted school district.}

As she stayed true to her quirky, swoony style and made a less fancy house a true home. {Hello awesome, welcoming house in the ‘hood.}

As they opened that home and shared their lives with the vulnerable community around them. {Hello friends who are now family.}

In case you haven’t picked up by now, Shannan has a story.  And while it might sound like a story of disappointment and loss, it’s ultimately a story about finding more in less, about the way that God sometimes rescues us from what we’ve always wanted.


Though Shannan and I are separated by states and circumstances, I feel honored to have watched this narrative unfold over the years, to turn the page of her story with each new blog post or Instagram photo. So many of her questions have been my questions and she’s given voice to them in a way that makes me feel a little less weird and alone.

I’m so grateful that she’s written that story into a real book, one that’s for all of us. It’s called Falling Free: Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted. 

Real talk. When we hear about a story like this, it’s easy to fixate on the details and feel like we’re not measuring up, like we’re not sacrificing enough, like we’re not compassionate enough or missional enough.

And by “we,” I mean “I.”

The truth is, I don’t life smack in the middle of a vulnerable community — not in the sense of economic poverty and chronic stress of the most dire nature. My neighbors have heat and air conditioning and enough food.

But here’s the thing. I’ve watched God work his redemption in Shannan’s life over time. Regardless of the details, her story gives me hope that my own story can become one of greater compassion and less self-absorption, that these gifts will flow through the unique channel of my family’s own place and people and story.

Mostly, it gives me hope that the broken things in my own life can be redeemed.


Shannan and me at the Allume Conference last year when we finally got to meet in person! #happyday


While the details of our two lives look different, I’ve been increasingly drawn to the “margins” as I’ve gotten older, especially in recent years. Not because I’m so upstanding and noble but because I’m not. I’ve lived through some unsavory chapters of my own life. Things are still messy in ways I wish they weren’t.

Maybe a pull toward mercy and justice is simply what happens as you see your own brokenness with more clarity. I’m an utter mess apart from grace.

In the words of Tim Keller,

If a person has grasped the meaning of God’s grace in his heart, he will do justice. If he doesn’t live justly, then he may say with his lips that he is grateful for God’s grace, but in his heart he is far from him. If he doesn’t care about the poor, it reveals that at best he doesn’t understand the grace he has experienced, and at worst he has not really encountered the saving mercy of God. Grace should make you just.     

~ A Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes You Just by Timothy Keller

Is it just me or does this truth makes us a bit squirrelly? Yet we can all attest to a measure of this. We’re more compassionate when we’ve been on the receiving end of compassion.



Jesus himself left the riches and abundance of Heaven and perfect intimacy He shared with the Father to do something about this broken world. I don’t ponder the ridiculous love and sacrifice of that — not enough anyway. The brokenness of this world broke his own heart. And He said, “I’m going to do something about that. I’m going to be the light that shines into the dark corners and seedy places and deceived hearts. I’m going to rescue them.”

His ongoing work of redemption doesn’t require our help. But how unthinkably kind that He brings us into the beauty of his work. As we assist in the rescue of others — from their lack, their pain, their despair — we too are rescued.

That’s Shannan’s story. She reminds us that Christ himself invites his children to be life and light, to walk into the dark places just like He did. As we do, He goes with us.

My heart breaks easily and often. Despite books and counseling and self-talk, my emotional boundaries are terrible. Even so, I know that my heart is not always broken enough — that often I’m prone to show more compassion to someone I barely know than to the ones who live in my own house.

Everywhere I look, there are neighbors to love — my husband, my kids, my church, the Section 8 apartment complex around the corner that I’ve become attached to.


I want a memo from God and a checklist telling me exactly how I’m supposed to live compassionately in my specific life and community. But that’s not the Gospel.

The Gospel does what instruction can never do. 

Instead of a checklist, He sends me Jesus.

Jesus through the stories of others, like Shannan.

Jesus providing small opportunities that He orchestrates.

Jesus reminding me that small is okay, even good. After all, He came small and mostly unnoticed too.

For two years I’ve simply prayed and tried to pay attention. This is slow work.

And ultimately, this is God’s work. It’s his story. And stories happen over time. From Genesis to Revelation, we see one long, slow, unfolding narrative of redemption.

God’s brand of redemption has little to do with us getting it all right and everything to do with simply showing up.

Showing up with what we have — our sin and baggage and brokenness, yes. But also showing up with our real, one-of-a-kind selves — with our gifts that may need a good dusting off, with our hearts that break for a specific kind of brokenness, with our stories we wish we could rewrite, with our unique way of moving in the world in the way that only we can.

More and more I am beginning to see that in my work and in my life, I am just showing up to the table that Jesus has set for me that day.


Falling Free is a story of real people doing this simple but not-at-all-easy work. The work of showing up and pouring out, fears and questions and all.

It’s an invitation to a beautiful, messy, mismatched, compassionate table.

Shannan’s honesty compels me and always has. She doesn’t have it all figured out, even now that she’s written a book. And maybe that’s what I’ve always loved most. She invites you in — into the hard questions, into the awkward relationships, into the ongoing struggle and the unfolding beauty, into the work Jesus is doing in her little corner of the world through regular people.

And that’s what I see in her continuing story — a girl who keeps showing up at the table Jesus has set for her and inviting the broken people around her to join the feast.

Let this book move you, challenge you, and make you squirm. I cried and laughed. I wrote question marks in the margins because I’m just not sure about some things. I scribbled Amen at the end and had a good cry. I had a big ol’ conversation with this book. I still am. And I hope you will too.

My counselor once told me that are stories aren’t just for us to keep under lock and key. We’re to steward them, to tell them in the way only we can. Not just for us but for all who will be buoyed by the hope we toss out into the world.

I’m so grateful for Shannan’s story and for her willingness to release it into the world. May it inspire each of us toward greater compassion in our little corners of the world.

{Now scoot off to amazon and get your copy.}


Oh yeah! If you’d like a chance to win a copy of your own, just leave a comment. Anything you like. That’s it!

New here? I’m all about helping you recapture the possibility of your right-now life.

If that sounds like something you need, sign up in the box below to receive fresh hope and possibility delivered to your inbox no more than a couple of times a week.

Overwhelmed by the many educational options for your kids? Curious about the most important questions to ask? I have a FREE resource created just for you.

school made simple freebie header

* amazon links are affiliates