our greatest expression & a first-in-twenty-years garden.

tomato-basilthere’s just something about having my hands in the dirt & watching things grow.

peaceful and grounding.

soothing. intentional. life-giving. healing. hopeful.

when i was 12 years old i had surgery, and when i got home after too many days in the hospital, apparently i walked straight through the house to the backyard to check on my vegetable garden.

for our wedding, we got a lemon tree instead of a unity candle. to commemorate our first anniversary we got a fig tree.

to celebrate the birth of our son and my husband’s sweet grandpa’s life-richly-lived, we got a beautiful Charles White peony.

my mother’s day gift this year was a little stunner of a rose bush. as if the sweetly scented, delicate, creamy-apricot-y blossoms weren’t enough, the name is fantastic: Champagne Wishes.

and this spring, i got to build my first garden at our very own house. to say that it’s been a treat to spend mornings and evenings watching things grow is an understatement. for Christmas and my birthday, i asked for a gift certificate for supplies. i poured over catalogues and websites hoping to find just the right mix of trusted, must-grow and fun, new-to-me flower and vegetable varieties to plant in my first-in-twenty-years garden.

as seed-starting and mother nature would have it, there has been plenty of trial & error, anticipation, shriveled seedlings, and excitement woven throughout these past few learning-laden months. i’ve planted & re-planted seeds. some sprouted the first time. some sprouted the second time. some sprouted when i tossed a handful on a patch of bare dirt a few weeks ago. others i’ll try again next year. we had a big storm in the spring with wind that scattered my fledgling vegetable plants, damaging many of them. and as for the raised garden, i planted it late in the season and for sure planted more than i had space for.

we have to start somewhere, right? and sometimes starting is the most important step, even if the rest looks a little more trial & error and a little less polished & perfected. as it turns out, i’m ok with this year being more about simply enjoying that i finally get to have a garden and a yard to experiment in, learning through experience, and tucking observations & tidbits away for next year. i’m a rookie, i tried some things i knew could be challenging, and i often learn best as i go. or maybe i’m just in la-la land since somehow my dahlias & sweet peas are blooming after having absolutely zero success last year. that alone is a gigantic – and beautiful!- win in my book.

florals

as i’ve spent mornings and evenings watering, weeding, and watching our backyard actually turn into something rather pretty, i’ve thought a lot about what it is about gardening that draws me in. because, truth be told, it’s a lot of work. much more work than i anticipated it being back in march/april when my mind was a swirl of idyllic daydreams. it was a fair amount of work & time to build the raised bed. planting took time to plan, prep, and actually do. since our yard was full of random overgrown bushes, digging everything up & preparing the beds was a task and a half. and now the watering, worrying about 90º+ days, and maintaining everything takes time away from other things i’d like to be doing.

but even with all of that, gardening brings me incredible joy & thankfulness, and i’m realizing two things.

dahlias

first, i want to pass gardening on to charlie in some way. not that he’ll want to be in the garden with me all the time or will be a farmer some day…but just the simple joy of watching something grow. the being-together-ness of it. planting seeds with him this spring was an experience i’ll always treasure, and it’s been so fun to see him still get excited to water the plants (tonight’s entertainment: him running back & forth between his water table & a planted container on the patio, watering the rhubarb).

i love that sometimes as he plays in the backyard, he’s running over to me with a bubble wand, as i prune the tomato plants, so that i can blow bubbles with him or with a toy from his water table, as i snip flowers for a bouquet, for me to come splash with him. i’m thankful that he sees and experiences what’s growing around him and that it’s all part of where he lives, plays, and is learning about the world around him.

gardening buddy

second, and probably the most enduring truth in my life about gardening is that it holds immense hope for me. and when so much these days feels uncertain, hard, or discouraging, getting my hands in the dirt, catching a new blossom opening, and watching our vegetables grow feels…healing. it causes me to take a deep breath. to slow down. it restores something that was missing…something that i can’t quite put into words but am deeply grateful for.

floret_truckthe process of creating our little garden began over the winter as i thought ahead to the promise of warmer days. then in march/april when we were all completely over winter, i was able to tuck seeds into their little piles of dirt with hopeful anticipation…waking up each day to see what had sprouted overnight, watching them stretch and grow. once the days were warmer, i nestled the seedlings that had soldiered on through the long, cold winter into the ground, believing that one day, a little bud just might pop out.

then one did! and another. and another! then things started to grow much bigger than i imagined (hello 6 foot tomato plants?!)…some budded but didn’t blossom…a storm/extreme heat left their marks. i know in my head that it’s just a garden/plant/seed, but when those things happened, i felt guilty for having been over-zealous and planting too much, for not planning better, for not thinking of all the random scenarios so that i could have avoided them. and you know what i’m learning (albeit very slowly and with lots of over-thinking)?

sprouts

it’s ok. the plants figure it out. earlier this spring, after a particularly damaging storm hit their farm, our CSA (and favorite) farmer said, “[the plants] mostly just simply re-grow…sometimes even growing back even bigger and more bountiful than before. what a lovely example of resilience for us all as we weather life.” oh my heart, if that it’s so. dang. true.

veggie babes

and i figure it out, too. i trim the squash back to keep them from trampling the carrots. i found 6 foot polls to stake & secure the tomato plants. i let the shallots go & will plant them in a different spot next year. the peony is in the ground now (so its growth won’t be confused by my planting it too late), and i’m guessing it will be just fine. i’ve learned how to prune a rose bush and lemon tree. i’ll try ranunculus again next year.

garden bouquet

while there are things i’ll do differently next year that may result in a few more wins, there will still be lots of learning. and that’s a really good thing. because it means i’m still trying. still hoping. still getting to have these crazy fun, life-giving, special experiences with my boy.

while i have the wonderful gift of gathering little fistfuls of blooms that i grew. watching tiny cantaloupe buds turn into actual growing melons…streaky red-yellow tomatoes grow, slowly but surely…peppers slowly transition from green to bright red.

both/and. the tension of growth & learning, letting go & transitions, holding hope & trusting.

for a seed to achieve its greatest expression,
it must come completely undone. the shell cracks,
its insides come out, and everything changes.
to someone who doesn’t understand growth,
it would look like complete destruction.

~ cynthia occelli

 

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this everyday life.

this past monday, one of those completely awesome, out of the blue things happened where i crossed paths in the most unusual of places with a sweet friend i haven’t seen in at least two years. we keep in touch sporadically through texts & instagram, but nothing beats a big hug & getting to catch up ever-so-quickly; it was the greatest surprise.

in the maybe five minutes we had for catching up, i love that as we talked about what our families have been up to, we both mentioned that we’ve been enjoying a slower pace. more home time. more down time. more playing in the backyard & going for walks & finding airplanes in the sky and trucks passing by.

this, mind you, is coming from someone who is wired for productivity & multi-tasking. left to my own devices, i can really kick things in to high gear & make things happen.

however, a few years ago, when i met my husband, for the first time i realized – to my surprise – that i didn’t always miss doing all-the-things…because i was able to really be present when i was hanging out with him. i started saying no to after work groups and coffee with friends so that i could be home with him. a few years into marriage and with our sweet boy now, it’s even more important to not be gone more than one night a week. even that is hard for me sometimes!

although i’m aware of my natural tendency towards productivity, sometimes it still takes a second thought for me to not over-fill our time (even with fun things), be picking up toys when we’re playing with something else, or working on a project while we watch a movie.

but every. single. time., it’s worth it. the unplanned days when we get to wander around the farmer’s market – waving to all the puppies, high-fiving farmers & vendors, and dancing to the local musicians…planting flowers and vegetables in our backyard with our boy – watching him waddle around with his watering can, watering every patio paver and some plants sometimes, too, and teaching him in some tiny way about gardening…walking to the bench at the end of the block to watch the trucks – holding hands with my husband and talking about our days.

the everyday things that so often slip right by.

as laura & i sent devo card drafts back & forth to each other one bazillion times, there were a few cards that struck a chord for one reason or another. this one got me first with it’s whimsical font and unexpected pop of color. it just plain made me smile.

then i read the prompt that laura wrote to go along with the verse…and i have come back to this card every day since, considering this question she posed:

“What does it look like to like to live with [God] in everyday ways?”

i don’t know about you, but there are a number of big things i’m asking God for. trusting Him for. but most of all, i need Him in the everyday ways. i need to slow down my thoughts, my worries, my questions, my schedule so that i can see Him at work in my interactions, my family, and, go figure – my thoughts, my worries, my questions, my schedule. a slower, less full, dare i say less check-things-off-my-to-do-list-productive pace creates space for me to be more present and attentive to noticing the little everyday ways that i sense God’s nearness, see Him at work around me, and rest in Him.

when i am present in the little moments – the, “mama, see?” moments where i am more often smiling & laughing at what he’s pointing at as he’s asking me to look at it than i am asking him to show me again because i was doing something else (which also happens; don’t get me wrong – i’m a work in progress) – i am reminded of how deeply important the everyday things of life and the everyday ways of God are.

IMG_2196

2014 in pictures & squash ginger soup.

i’ve never been one to be all that short-winded, so if a picture is worth a thousand words, it’s probably fitting that the pictures below are what i could “cut down” to as a summary of 2014. the majority showed up along the social media path, so they aren’t new, but here, together, in chronological order they remind me of the story of our year. a little year in review is after the recipe, if you’d like.

2014 in pictures

:: squash ginger soup ::

squash ginger soup

per usual, this recipe is highly adaptable. if you don’t have a leek, you can throw in another ¼ cup of diced onion. we didn’t have a full 4 cups of butternut squash, so i used buttercup squash, too. for the ginger & curry, i recommend starting on the lower side of the measurements, unless you have strong feelings about either ingredient. use more or less depending on your preference. for example, we do 3 teaspoons of ginger because we like the kicked-up flavor it offers, and we do about 1 ½ teaspoons of curry. the orange juice may seem to be an unusual addition, but it blends all of the flavors really well.

ingredients

2 thick cut slices of bacon, optional (if not, 1 tablespoon olive oil)
2 cups carrots, sliced
1 medium leek, sliced
½ cup onion, diced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
2-3 teaspoons ginger, peeled & minced
4 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded, & cubed (1 – 1½” is good)
1 medium celeriac, peeled, trimmed, & cubed (1 – 1½” cubes is good; approx 1½ cups)
1 medium apple, cored & diced (you can keep the peel on)
4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves (not powder)
4-6 cups stock (vegetable or chicken) or water
1-2 teaspoons curry powder
½ cup orange juice
½ cup milk, milk alternative, or cream, optional
salt & pepper, to taste

instructions

  1. in a large stock pot over medium heat:
    if you’re using bacon, cook it until crispy. place on a paper towel to drain until cool, then crumble into small pieces. if there is more than a tablespoon of bacon fat, pour it off & discard.
    if you’re not using bacon, heat one tablespoon of olive oil.
  2. add carrots, leek, onion, garlic, & ginger to pan. sauté 2-3 minutes (your kitchen will smell dreamy!).
  3. add squash, celeriac, apple, & thyme to pan; stir to combine.
  4. add stock to cover vegetables, depending on how you want your soup: 4 cups will result in a thicker soup; 6 cups will be less thick. even 6 cups will not result in a runny soup, though.
  5. increase heat to medium high & bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. simmer until squash & celeriac are fork tender – 15-20 minutes.
  6. remove pot from heat & stir in curry powder & orange juice. if you have an immersion blender, you can purée the soup until smooth in the pot. if not, wait until the soup is cool & blend it in batches in a blender or food processor.
  7. serve warm; we love it in any number of ways – plain, with a dollop of plain yogurt, bacon, & croutons, or with a little hunk of crusty bread.

yield: approximately 10 cups (depending on amount of liquid used)

– – – – – – –

2014 was a pretty quiet year. i struggled for the first few weeks of last january to settle on a word to focus on for the year and was actually just fine with not having one. the point of having one was if something came to mind & felt fitting, so there was no need to force one…and then one day it hit me: abide. if it’s even possible, i think my soul sighed in sweet relief – “abide” felt perfect looking ahead to 2014.

i am the vine; you are the branches. if you remain in me and i in you,
you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
john 15:5  

this year has been one of deep, deep thankfulness for my incredible husband &, fittingly, having wonderful things to celebrate him for throughout the year. we’ve tried new things [knitting socks (me), calligraphy (both), homemade bitters (him), a fantastic class at the kitchen window (both), & lots of new recipes (both)], explored our city, traveled well-worn paths at our favorite farmer’s markets, & got outta dodge for a week-long, wonderful road trip to see friends (in chicago) & family (in ann arbor) this summer. the cherry on top of our summer was a visit  from nieces cuter than you could fathom, full of adventures & fun.

i got a few more stamps in my passport, soaked up encouraging words & quotes that resonated truth, and was attuned to growth all around me. part of that was in the patio garden we had – i was mildly obsessed with having my hands in the dirt & watching everything sprout & blossom. the rest seemed to purely be nature’s gift. our house plants grew like crazy, our wedding lemon tree continued to be a rockstar, & even our christmas tree sprouted! have you ever heard of that?! it’s for sure a first for us! they were the simplest, often tiniest little things, but seeing the sprouts & buds kept reminding me in quiet, consistent ways of the new things always waiting just around the corner.

the unrivaled highlight of this year, however, was celebrating our first wedding anniversary. we looked back on our first year full of deep love, true heartache, & the sweetest comfort in knowing that we are richly blessed to do this life together. in the same way, looking back on 2014, we see a year full of those very same things. i cannot imagine going through this past year with anyone other than dustin by my side. this year was filled with more joy & more laughter-until-i-cried thanks to him.

here’s to deep, abiding love, hope, & the new things in store for 2015!

gratitude, day 23.

gratitude_xsgratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for mentors.

wedding_paschallsthe saying we all know and that i wrote about the other day says, “it takes a village to raise a child.” as an adult, however, i would have to say that it takes a village to raise an adult, too. for far too many years, i didn’t really get that. i thought that at a certain point i should know enough to make big decisions, process experiences, & generally navigate life. i imagine i adopted that line of thinking somewhere around 18 (i was officially an adult, after all) or maybe 22 years old (a college graduate should surely have all of her stuff together).

wr_nicaragua_blacksi was so, so mistaken. by way of doing things wrong (sometimes repeatedly), i learned the hard way that i honestly just plain wasn’t equipped to do everything on my own. don’t get me wrong – i am a strong, competent, intelligent woman. it’s just that in a number of ways i put so much unnecessary stress on myself. looking back, my heart aches for the girl that was trying so hard & working so hard to keep everything together.

wedding_lauraanother key thing i learned is that as incredible as family, friends, & teachers are in our lives, God brings mentors & spiritual parents into each of our tribes. people that love us, see from an outside perspective, call life out of us, speak truth, & guide us. i prayed about finding a mentor for months before gathering up the courage to ask about connecting with women who would be interested in mentoring me. i think i’ll save that specific story for another post, but i mention it now only to say that although there truly are countless people who are passionate about mentoring, we need to first take the step to open ourselves up to the process. however, once i did i was & continue to be blessed ten-fold by the women & men who are now knit deeply in my life & our marriage.

me_joan_2011there are very specific conversations, moments, & experiences that i remember vividly – viscerally even – with each of them. one change in perspective…one truth affirmed…one word spoken over me that i know that i know that i know changed the trajectory of my life. it’s those little decisions, little changes of direction that have such a big impact much farther down the road. my cup runneth over…

gratitude, day 1.  ::  gratitude, day 2.  ::  gratitude, day 3.  ::  gratitude, day 4.  ::  gratitude, day 5.
gratitude, day 6.  ::  gratitude, day 7.  ::  gratitude, day 8.  ::  gratitude, day 9.  ::  gratitude, day 10.
gratitude, day 11. :: gratitude, day 12. :: gratitude, day 13. :: gratitude, day 14. :: gratitude, day 15.
gratitude, day 16. :: gratitude, day 17. :: gratitude, day 18. :: gratitude, day 19. :: gratitude, day 20.
gratitude, day 21. :: gratitude, day 22.

gratitude, day 12.

gratitude_xsgratitude is a miraculous, wonderful thing. it really does turn what we have into enough. sometimes – often, even – it reminds us that what we have is even more than we need. although it’s kind of a “thing” for people to list something they are grateful for each day in november, this isn’t really that. it’s sort of my mash-up of a daily writing exercise i see people do every day in october paired with practicing gratitude. it won’t be the same every day. sometimes it will be a short, quick post, and other times it will be a reflection or recipe. but most importantly, every day there will be gratitude.

today, i am grateful for Hope & Love.

sunset sky

i am thankful beyond explanation for the nearness of God and His tenderness. on my worst & best days, He loves me the same and His presence has been constant. i am thankful that we can trust Him in hard, sad seasons because abiding in His Love & Hope is always enough and will always, always see us through. and i am so, so thankful for days when things that have felt far away & nearly impossible start to fall into place.

He is Hope. He is Love.

gratitude, day 1.
gratitude, day 2.
gratitude, day 3.
gratitude, day 4.
gratitude, day 5.
gratitude, day 6.
gratitude, day 7.
gratitude, day 8.
gratitude, day 9.
gratitude, day 10.
gratitude, day 11.

inspiration & gratitude.

brave life

*original link is no longer available. if anyone knows to whom credit belongs, please let me know.

oh, time…you crazy, crazy thing. sometimes i feel you whooshing past me. thank you for the nights & weekends & hours filled to overflowing with adventures & laughter. and thank you for the just-plain-busy days and weeks of the mundane, not-so-glamorous yet necessary, every day life stuff. both are teaching me, and memories & goodness are in it all.

so, where i last left off…creativity. fears. dreams. the gap. perseverance.

inspiration is honestly everywhere. in gathering people at our house, in nature, checking out a new or visiting an old favorite restaurant or cafe, in a conversation, in sunsets and conversations…the list goes on. and, of course, there are copious gems on the inter webs, too. i’m thankful for brave, savvy creatives who have taken risks, shared their passions, and created spaces for beginners like me to look up to. here are some of my inspiration, encouragement, advice, & support go-to creatives.

cooking

  • smitten kitchen: deb’s writing is fun, witty, & approachable.
  • sprouted kitchen: sara’s recipes are fresh, healthy, & delicious.
  • molly yeh: i love molly’s blog for her lightness & silliness, stunning photography, & all-around inspiration. and a girl who did an in-depth study of the best mix-ins for funfetti cake?
  • sara kate gillingham: co-founder of the kitchn, cookbook author, & a potter, too!

life & faith

  • caroline schandel: this woman’s words pierce my heart & refresh my perspective in ways no one else’s ever have.
  • today’s letters: i could gush about this one – a daily go-to. hope-filled, life-giving, creative, encouraging. em writes most, but tim sneaks in sometimes, too. they write about everything from marriage to their backyard chickens, local coffee & good food, getting outside & the beauty of community, gratitude, raising their sweet babe, recipes – it’s a total mixed bag of goodness.
  • jen hatmaker: this post catapults me into laughter-until-i-can’t-speak with tears streaming down my face every. single. time.
  • story people: i love brian’s beautiful, simple-yet-profound work.
  • natalie creates: this woman really spans a number of categories, too: farming, creating, cooking. very down-to-earth, approachable, and fun.
  • momastery: her post earlier this month, the 5 habits every strong woman keeps, was incredible. this part in particular: “I have come to believe that a woman’s character is not just formed by the roles she plays or the job she has or where she’s from or what has happened to her. A woman’s character is most profoundly shaped by the daily habits she keeps. And this is hopeful to me, because it’s never too late to adopt a habit or two from a woman we admire.”
    part 2 jumped out at me instantly: strong women show up before they are ready. this is an area i have been desperately, intentionally seeking to grow in. i am so thankful for glennon’s thoughts on this. i love what she said about us having two roles but for some reason creating a third that we somehow put first. (although the link above works, embedding the video here isn’t working at the moment. i’ll add it as soon as i figure out what’s not right.)

paper & hand lettering

#WriteOnDesign #inspiration #HandLettering #KidPresident

A post shared by write on! design (@jenngietzen) on

makers

  • little bit funky: i follow crystal on instagram more than her blog, but her blog is full of fun tutorials & inspiration, too.
  • amanda rydell: amanda is such a fun, local creative. she started be crafty workshops that she hosts here in minneapolis but she also travels to host them around the country, too! her instagram & blog are full of colorful, beautiful ideas & projects.
  • curly girl design: i am such a sucker for leigh’s cards. her way with words & whimsical images spark something in me.
  • the purl bee by purl soho: i mean, just one peek at their site is candy for a creative girl’s eyes! the patterns, yarns, photography…i could (and sometimes do!) get lost in the awesome tutorials & ideas!
  • fresh lemons quilts: faith’s quilts & other projects on her blog are beautiful! this is the quilt that first caught my eye (on instagram, of course), but i was quickly enamored by all of her work. definitely lots of inspiration here for this quilting-wannabe :o)
  • floret: ooooh my…erin can do things with flowers that make my mind race. she & her family plant and harvest field upon field (upon field) of the most unbelievable flowers. and her arrangements – i can’t even go there. you need to check out their website, blog, & instagram feed to soak up all of the overflowing goodness. i have never seen such stunning sweet peas, ranunculus, peonies, & dahlias. nor did i ever know there could be such a diversity of each type, color, & shade of bloom. the image below, from erin’s instagram feed, is just one example of what i’m talking about…

My view this evening. #farmerflorist #dahlias

A post shared by Erin Benzakein – Floret (@floretflower) on

one thing that i am beyond excited to work with next year is lara casey’s power sheets. i learned about them last year and finally jumped in when she launched the beautiful 2015 sheets. after learning a lot this year (you know, things like being true to myself, naming fears…) and desiring to grow in goal setting & tracking – paired with being & diehard list-maker :o) – i am really, really excited to see how the power sheets will help me grow personally & creatively in making what matters most to me & our family happen.

dear beginners, there is a gap.

there is a gap_ira glass

image from 7Plums on etsy

i first stumbled upon this quote from ira glass a few years ago, and it stopped me in my tracks. [side note: i think it’s one of the first things i ever pinned on Pinterest. although the original pin was a different version, a few years may very well = vintage in Pinterest years.]

to this day, i still come back to it regularly. for encouragement, reassurance…and sometimes for a little push. at my core, i am a creative, full of dreams & hope, but i am also a practical realist. as a result, i can easily get caught between the scales of these traits.

at my best, my hopes & dreams cheer me on, and ira’s words are comforting: keep trying new things. you’re not alone! it’s normal that this part is hard. but at my worst, the potential failure, disappointment, rejection, and unmet expectations can be paralyzing. fears loom large, threatening to cast long, dark shadows on my creativity, passions, dreams – everything. i get caught up in ira’s other words: it’s just not that good. a lot of people never get past this phase. it takes a long time (years).

it’s such a normal struggle. not just for a creative – for all of us, in all of our roles.

what i’m learning helps me tip the scales towards hopes & dreams is to be honest with & true to myself. on tough days, i’m learning to acknowledge the fears & even name them (not an easy task). i’m finding that when i know what i’m up against in my mind (fear & doubt’s favorite playground), i can start to knock them down with truth, and i can ask for help & prayer. i’m learning to not push past this part but to instead honor my real feelings. that has been helpful for me in two ways. first, i’m learning to give my real feelings time & space because denying them doesn’t help me grow. second, i’m learning that when i allow myself to feel my real feelings, often i better understand the root of them. as i’ve begun to try to do this more often, i’ve seen some little wins where a past fear or doubt actually motivated me in a positive way to achieve something i once thought was impossible (hello, starting – and re-starting – the blog! hello, writing a post about fears!).

and then, of course, there are the good days. days when i’m humming along jotting ideas, reading blogs & sites that inspire me, trying new things, and dreaming. even those days can get a little sticky here or there, but my perspective is set further ahead. i remind myself of the bigger picture & realize that little bumps are ok – they’re actually part of the adventure.

most importantly, whether it’s a good day or a tougher one, having people who support, encourage, & believe in me makes all the difference. i’m lucky to have people in my life who see & call out of me the potential that i sometimes lose sight of. they hold me accountable, dream with me, cheer me on, and love me unconditionally. being honest with them about my fears helps call out the truth that combats doubt, and wins & growth are that much sweeter to celebrate together.

i have a few more thoughts on this that i’ll follow up with this week, but in the meantime…

do you have some favorite resources that help as you dream & plan? favorite practices or routines?

who are your go-to creative inspirations?

how has having a community/tribe of friends & family helped shape & grow your dreams?

*my friend laura sent me this sweet vimeo version of ira glass’ interview that captures this quote with a visual of a fun overlay of the words. very creative, and it’s great to both see the words and hear ira speaking them.

community, failure, & chocolate chip cookies.

IMG_5670

when dustin and i got engaged, i remember that one of the first things i felt in some of those initial conversations as i shared our exciting news was feeling like i had just gotten invited to a special club. not because of the ring or anything like that, but because as one of the last people to get married in my group of friends, among lots of fun new connections, being engaged allowed me to (finally) be part of the marriage-y conversations. the good, the challenging, the utterly hilarious.

marriage, like all relationships, requires us to be intentional, present, and honest, and having a community to share with and be accountable to has added a richness to our growth as a couple. we are blessed beyond measure to have a community that stretches near and far including friends and groups we meet and share with individually as well as family and friends that we hang out with together. we are also incredibly grateful to have been welcomed together as a couple into a couples small group. we get together monthly at one of our houses for dinner, a considerable amount of laughter, and conversation about marriage, challenges, joys, faith, encouragement.

this month’s dinner was this past weekend, and we had volunteered to bring dessert. i woke up saturday morning super excited to find a new recipe to try, and it didn’t take me long to do so. my search ended when my heart got set on bon appétit’s caramel budinos with salted caramel sauce (“budino” is Italian for “pudding”). they had me at caramel. topped with salted caramel.

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the story of us: our first anniversary.

our first anniversary_us

our first anniversarythe covenant of marriage is, first & foremost, sacred ground. i have experienced unconditional love throughout my life, however the love my husband – and God through my husband – has introduced me to this year is overwhelming.

when i first learned about covenants seven years ago or so, the term instantly, deeply resonated. a covenant is sort of like a promise, but so, so much more. like agape is sort of like love, but so, so much more. although the Greek word “agape” is often translated as similar to “unconditional love,” it is infinitely more than that. so much so that there aren’t adequate words in the English language to accurately describe all that “agape” truly means & encompasses. the same is true, for me, with “covenant” and “promise.” when you make a promise with someone, it is deeply important and meaningful. a covenant, though, takes everything to another level. entering into a covenant with someone is intrinsically more rich, transformative, and powerful than a promise. covenants require us to give more of ourselves; to truly be honored, we have to commit everything to them.

and then – then, there is the covenant of marriage. what. in. the. world! it is true that the covenant of marriage is sacred, above all. however, the first word that actually comes to mind when i think about the covenant of marriage is audacious. the two words play rather perfectly off of each other. after months of loving the word connection, i finally looked up the definition of “audacious,” and what i found matched strong, encouraging words to what i’d been feeling as the words rolled around in my thoughts. the definition of ‘audacious’ is, “showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks.” synonyms for “audacious” (ack! so incredible!) are: bold, daring, fearless, intrepid, brave, courageous, valiant, heroic, plucky.

this man that i am still baffled & giddy that i get to call my husband & i are such rookies. in every way we are just beginning to figure out marriage & each other & how to love each other well. however, what i think we’ve gotten right so far are these: we laugh a lot. we hold hands. we enjoy time with family & friends and encourage time with the guys/girls…but prefer each other & being together. with very few exceptions, we go to bed at the same time. we share our passions. some we enjoy together, and some we like to learn about & talk to each other about. we pray together. we realize how easy it is to mis-communicate & try hard to learn how to communicate better for & with each other. and, most importantly, we choose audacious love.

i actually think that if we do this marriage thing well, we will be old, gray-haired, & wrinkled, still figuring out marriage & each other & how to love each other well. we’ll just have more years & experience & stories of taking surprisingly bold risks in loving each other well to build from & grown on.

our first anniversary group 1

in my glory.

for many kids – i’d go so far as to even say, probably most – growing up is full of backyard adventures, skinned knees, building forts, dress up, and make believe. although i do have a few pretty ridiculous memories along those lines (like alli & i collecting baby frogs from the pond by our house and putting them in our strawberry shortcake toy bin to “play with later”…accidentally leaving a few in our pockets for our mom to wash & dry.), i was in my glory when i was making something with my hands.

little heather cookingmy mom did a fantastic job of involving us in the cooking & baking she did for us. i bet we can create a pretty legit timeline through our childhood out of just the pictures of my mom with us in the kitchen: from bellying up to the counter by standing on the open dishwasher door or a chair to helping with Thanksgiving & Christmas dinners. i imagine that time spent together in the kitchen planted a seed for my love of all things culinary. i soaked up every opportunity i could to learn, taking cooking classes in elementary summer school, practicing with a kids cookbook i adored, and dreaming up my own concoctions.

little heather sewingof course a girl can’t be in the kitchen all the time, and when i wasn’t unveiling some new recipe, i had no end to the crafts i wanted to learn. instead of playing with dolls or dressing up, i would color for hours on end. i adored my little play sewing machine, making crayon shavings “stained glass windows”  and  friendship bracelets, doing cross stitch, and so much more.

many years later, it’s abundantly clear that creating is more than a fun pastime or hobby for me. creating brings me deep joy. it is a way for me to be refreshed and energized, to unwind, and to connect with others – a passion that the Lord knit deep inside of me. being able to dream up new ideas and being inspired by others is a blessing that i am most often at a loss to find words to explain, so having this little space to share it all in as i continue to grow and learn is such a gift.