Treat Yourself / Weekend Links: October Edition

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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.

 

Make:

beef-stew

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.

 

Watch:

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.

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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.

 

Laugh:

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.

 

Read:

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

lightbulb

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.

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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.}

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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.

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* amazon links are affiliates

What I Learned This Summer

what I learned this summer

When I can, I love to dish about what I’ve learned at the end of each month. The Let’s Share What We Learned posts are hosted by Emily Freeman as a “monthly community link-up to share the fascinating, ridiculous, sacred, or small.” I haven’t done this since way back in October and I’ve missed it.

This month we’re invited to share what we learned over the whole Summer. Don’t worry, mine isn’t an exhaustive list. That’s because the heat of the southern summer and having all my people in the house 24/ 7 makes me dumb and I can barely remember what I’ve learned. To be honest, I am barely coherent by August 15th, but the kids go back to school tomorrow hashtag praise hands.

If you’d like to join in, just head over to Emily’s and link up.

In no particular order, here are 6 things I’ve learned this summer.

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1. A change of scenery is good for the soul.

midwest

We didn’t do any fancy vacations, just our typical treks to the beach with my family and to my husband’s home-place in Michigan. We did, however, drive a different route through the midwest to Iowa, where we attended a my husband’s grandmother’s funeral and spent a couple of days with family we rarely see.

I couldn’t stop staring out the window and snapping photos of corn fields. Though we logged 2,300 miles in 8 days, getting out of my little town and inhaling a different part of the country was like a reset button for my soul. I forget how much this homebody craves a change of place.

 

2. The space bar on my computer works as a pause button when I’m watching Netflix.

My 15 year old showed me this, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. {More on the “Ministry of Netflix” in a later post.}

 

3. I DO have a “book type.”

I didn’t do tons of reading this summer like I’d hoped. But I’ve done lots of thinking about books and wrote this post on my 5 favorite literary novels of all time.

5 fave lit novels

Writing about my favorite literary novels showed me a pattern I’d never seen before and now I’m curious to know if my other favorite categories of books will have a pattern too.

 

4. We didn’t all have spectacular, enviable summers. Even though social media seems to convince us otherwise.

Way back in June I wrote about how to receive your own summer life. That’s because summer can sure mess with my inner peace. Even though our family’s summer is coming to an end, it’s easy to look back and see all of the things we didn’t do, all of the good intentions that gathered dust on a shelf, all of the awesomeness other families enjoyed while my kids partook of too much screen time.

Even at summer’s end, I’m still wrestling a little bit. And judging from the comments and e-mails from that post, I learned that I’m not the only one who struggles.

Here’s what I’m still learning the hard way. You can spend your seconds turned minutes turned years wishing for a life that isn’t yours, making yourself and everyone else miserable in the process. Or you can choose to receive the beauty, provision, and even heartache of your actual life. I have a million things to be grateful for. I simply forget. And so do you.

 

5. What happens in August, stays in August.

walking away

Yesterday I sent all of my kids to eat lunch on the porch because, even though I love them with all my heart, I just couldn’t handle the noise of them being people. And this was after I had already been to church and my heart was full of Jesus.

I texted with a friend last week and she confessed that she’d made her kids eat cereal on the deck that morning because she couldn’t deal with the noise of their spoons scraping against the bowls. She also visited the grocery store bakery three days in a row and ate cookie sandwiches in the parking lot just to get some peace and alone time.

This was the first summer in a long time that I wasn’t ready for school to start. I enjoyed my kids and our lazy schedules more than any summer ever. And then August showed up. August turns easy, laid-back, summer-loving Marian into Crazy-Person Marian. All of a sudden, I am smothered by the humans who live in my home and dreaming of ways to escape. I become the worst version of myself.

So if you too find yourself banishing your offspring because their breathing is too loud, I won’t tell. It’s just August coming around again and turning us into lunatics. Repeat this mantra, “What happens in August, stays in August.” Your self-esteem, sanity, and goodwill toward men will return in October.

 

6. Y’all are stressed about how to educate your kids.

I recently unveiled this little gift I’d been working on for a while.

school made simple freebie header

I got some of the sweetest e-mails from parents who are overwhelmed by the decision, parents who are switching from homeschool to public school, parents who know that their particular decision is for the best right now but it’s not what they’d planned or hoped for. So many of you are struggling with a low-grade grief or overwhelm over this issue of school.

Maybe this describes you. For years it definitely described me.

If you need a pep talk so that you can walk with more freedom and peace along whatever educational path your family has chosen {either by design or default}, this little resource is for you.

Click here to get yours! 


 

I’m curious, what did you learn this summer?

You can find me in the comments section, on the blog’s Facebook page, or on Twitter. We can also hang out on Instagram!

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