Celebrating Six Years

The one whose hand I most want to hold.

Six years ago this morning, I awoke in a hotel room in Galway, Ireland, to the ambient sounds of talking and laughing and guitar music drifting through the open window of my room from the grassy square below, soft sounds that had carried through the night, providing a sense of kinship and rootedness in an otherwise unfamiliar place.

I ventured down to the hotel lobby a short time later, several pages of ivory stationery in tow, and sat for about an hour at a small table with a cup of tea, writing a wedding letter to the noble man who had asked me to marry him, the man of deep waters with the most honorable heart I'd ever known, the man with whom I had traveled to this ancient land to marry.

Later that morning, I sat with that man, my Kirk, as he read the letter I'd written and then presented him with my wedding gift, wrapped in a small square of red and yellow plaid cloth: his wedding band, thin and silver, handcrafted in Ireland, with the intricate design of the national Ardagh chalice lacing its circumference.

That morning, our travels to the open-air ruins of the 8th-century monastery where we would say our vows included a bus ride, a ferry ride, a taxi van ride, and a journey by pony-and-trap around the edges of Inis Mor, culminating in a longish hike up a grassy hill in our wedding clothes. At the crest of the hill, Dara, our wedding priest, greeted us with a batch of wildflowers: my handpicked bouquet. 

It was the holiest day of my life, the air so thick with heaven as we joined our lives in the thin place of that holy site. I have never looked back.

Happy anniversary, my love. My heart was always meant to be knit together with yours.

My Little Adventurer

My little adventurer.

It's been a slow, quiet Saturday morning so far.

I've been having issues with my jaw lately, so last night I took a muscle relaxer, hoping it would relax the tension and tightness that keep my teeth and jaw muscles clenched and wound up way more than they should be. 

The result? Waking at 11am from a very deep sleep. Mmmmm.

So, the morning has started slow. Thirty minutes of adjustment to the new day in bed. Then coffee. Catching up on e-mail, then Facebook, then Twitter. Kirk came home from the grocery store with a bouquet of happy yellow flowers. Then Diva followed me to my desk and crawled all over my lap, letting me pull her close and give her kisses on top of her sweet little head. 

Now I've been sitting on the couch with a fresh mug of coffee and Susannah Conway's brave and beautiful new book, and I intend to relish it for a bit right now. It's such a delicious treat to sink into the words and heart journey of one of your favorite bloggers whose journey you have been following for years, you know? As I wrote in a comment on her blog a couple weeks ago, reading this book feels like getting time with her heart, mind, and photographs in all kinds of uninterrupted space. It's like getting 100 blog posts from her instead of having to wait for the next one to be posted -- pretty blissful, if you ask me.

But in the meantime, as I've sat here on the couch with the book, I've noticed Diva moving around the house, from room to room, in somewhat uncharacteristic fashion. At one point, she wandered through the living room and then climbed into one of the bottom nooks of the built-in bookshelves in the front room, only to snake her way along the back side of it and come out the other end. 

Then she wandered over to the little step-box next to the couch and crawled on it, then jumped down and sniffed inside the magazine holder, then jumped on the arm of the couch next to me and began ruffling her nose against the pages of the book. Then, having exhausted that fascination, she jumped down again and wandered over to Solomon, who has been lounging on the couch, asleep, all morning. 

Now she's jumped up beside him and pushed her little paws underneath his, content to sit with him for a while, I guess. 

She was my little adventurer this morning for a bit, though. I like to watch her explore and play.

It's the Little Moments

She's content to sit between us.

She's content to sit between us.

Kirk got home from work not too long ago, and we're both chilling out in the bedroom for a bit, decompressing on our computers and resting as we ease into the weekend. 

Diva, true to form, snuggled herself right between us. She'll sit here contentedly for ages.

She wants to be where the love is. That's just her way.

So, This Happened Today . . .

Sometimes she stares at nothing.

A little Diva cuteness for you. 

Because sometimes she just likes to stare at nothing.

I'm pretty over the moon about something right now!

Something a group of friends and I have been dreaming about for who-knows-how-long just got pushed into yes-this-is-really-happening reality today. 

Terri, Sarah, and Lisa are coming to Florida this August to spend a too-amazing-to-hardly-believe-it week with me and Kirsten. And Kirsten's little girl, Austen. And Sarah's bringing her little boy, Simon. 

Kirsten, Sarah, and I (and another good friend of ours, Christin) shared a similar visit in 2008, but Terri was unable to join us that time around. And since then, we've all gotten to know Lisa.

Not being one to simply dream out loud about something when it can really happen in real life, Terri decided to pull us together in an e-mail convo earlier this week and then jumped on some too-cheap-to-pass-up plane tickets today once it was clear we were all wanting to do this and all had time available in August.

So, it's really happening!

This is going to be incredible. Seven full days with four beautiful soul friends, two happy little ones, and oodles and oodles of hugs, laughter, and what I'm sure will be soulful (not to mention sometimes silly) conversation. 

Is it August yet??!

A Peek Into My World

Mmmm. The light.

Mmmm ... the light.

No big revelations to share today. Just a little peek into my world and what's bringing me joy these days ... 

  • I'm not sure there's any more beautiful light in the day than the sun in its final hour. I just had to capture this photo when I saw the light slanting through like that.
  • See that yellow mini-binder and the white-and-blue one beneath it? Those are my most-prized business assets these days. The yellow mini-binder holds all my ideas and brainstorms for each aspect of work I'm currently doing or presently dreaming up for the future. The white-and-blue folder holds my manifest and notes and exercises for the year-long Tour de Bliss
  • The stack of books in the closest corner of the photo are the ones I read each morning, along with the Scriptures -- my sacred reading for each day that's training me deeper and deeper into my calling. Henri Nouwen and Watchman Nee are my mentors right now in that training process.
  • That blue book in the far left corner of the photo? Simply Jesus by N.T. Wright. A thorough and delightful read on the person of Jesus (my favorite subject!), which is also helping me better hone and shape the future of the Look at Jesus course.
  • See that pair of glasses sitting on the desk? It's one of three pairs I purchased on Zenni Optical for a steal -- I think I got all three pairs for about $30. What?! Yes, I'm totally serious about that. 
  • That little stand-up calendar that you see there is one of two that I made at Christmas for both myself and Kirk. Each month features one of our kitties, all of them among my top favorite pics taken of the kitties last year. 

Just a few glimpses into the space I spend most of my days, doing most of my creative work, doing most of my prayer work, doing most of my reading and writing, doing most of my thinking and dreaming. 

What is your favorite space like?



Living from the Ground of My Being

Pretty as a picture.

Some major shifts happened in our life at home this year.

Kirk and I found ourselves falling in love with and giving our hearts to a new faith community, which completely took us by surprise.

I can't tell you -- still -- how meaningful this discovery has been to me personally. We visit there a couple times per week, and I love that I continue to feel regularly connected to the life of the church and the presence of Christ there continually.

It also helps that the utter cuteness of the church and its proximity to our brick-lined street makes traveling there feel a bit like participating in the life of an English village every time. (And in case you didn't know, Kirk and I entertain dreams of living in an English village someday!)


Another big change this year is that I started channeling my inner Martha Stewart. I never expected this, either, but I discovered cooking and baking as a wholly new love affair in my life. Whereas it used to be such a hassle for me to think about dinner, much less get it prepped and on the table each night, somehow I've found the planning and making of meals seamlessly integrated into our daily life now.

This has been totally surprising and totally awesome. 

We invested some modest time and funds into our home this year -- a couch, some lamps, a rug, and a TV and DVD set -- and we've discovered a shift in where we spend most of our time at home. Our living area is now the central hub of our home life, and we've both loved discovering this development. 

Also, I found myself channeling my inner Martha Stewart in yet another surprising way with the approach of this Christmas season. In the course of some daily blog reading, I became energized and inspired by some handmade gift ideas I found, and I set to work creating them. I've never been one for making handmade gifts before, but I'm super-pumped about these and can't wait to share the details and pictures with you once all the gifts are distributed! (Sneak preview on one of those gifts below.)

Sneak peek at some handmade gifts.

In all, it feels like our home and our kitties and our church life and our life together in general have become a very strong foundation in our life. And while that has always been true for us, something feels very different about it this year. We seem more rooted. Happy. At peace. Content.

It's strange to say this because, again, it's pretty much always been the case that we've been happy and at peace and that our home and kitties and faith life and togetherness have been our central focus.

I don't quite know how to put into words what is different, but I think it has something to do with our life becoming more local. We make and enjoy most of our meals at home, and from the labor of our own hands. We attend a modest church just around the corner from our home. We enjoy time connecting on our couch and playing with the kitties each night before bed. 

Two pretty sacked out kitties.

All of this matters right now as we prepare to leave for California tomorrow to spend the Christmas holiday with my family, and here's how:

I've been noticing that I want to take this feeling of rootedness with us to California.

When I travel home to California (where I'm originally from), it can be so easy to get swept into the activity and accelerated pace of seeing many people and doing many things. Sometimes it can feel like quite a whirlwind experience when I travel there, as it is so easy to get caught up in commitments and a fast pace to meet them all.

I find myself assuming this is how it has to be.

But this year, as I find myself living from the true and deep ground of my being in life with Kirk each day, I want to see what it's like to remain connected to that deep ground of my being when we travel there together -- even as we travel in the thick of a holiday season and to a place that carries such an opportunity for overcommitment on my end.

I can easily lose myself and my sense of centeredness in that kind of scenario. It becomes so easy to try to do and be everything for everybody, isntead of relishing and sinking in deep to what is most important and right in front of me.

And so this year, as we travel, I choose my rootedness with Kirk. I look forward to seeing what a difference that makes as we go.

Favorite Blogs I Discovered in 2011

He's coming for you. (But right now he's in the process of demolishing this box.)

This is one of my favorite pictures of Solomon.

It was taken right before he pretty much demolished that box. 

Hello there!

I've been a busy little bee these days, and I must say that the activity (mostly) agrees with me. A lot of the activity resembles nesting: cooking, baking, decorating, organizing, and doing my usual work from home.

Also, in the midst of this ongoing activity, I had the chance to throw a lovely shower for Kirsten (this was also my very first baby shower, ever!), and now I'm diligently getting ready for our upcoming holiday trip to California. This means, for instance, that I spent a couple hours this evening generating quite a few lists along the lines of which gifts to purchase for who from where and which gifts I'm going to try my hand at hand-making this year. 

I've got a number of thoughts to share on this nesting, homemaking, crafting sort of life I seem to lead more and more these days, which I plan to share with you soon. 

But for now, I thought it would be fun to share some of the wonderful blogs I discovered and fell in love with this year, since I noticed quite a few new ones are among my current favorites.

Are you looking for some new blog inspiration? I heartily recommend these lovelies!

Would love to hear who makes your list of newly discovered + favorite blogs this year!



This Post Brought to You by Christmas


I want to thank you so much for your kind words on my last post.

I've been feeling the sadness of letting go of that particular dream in little hints and snatches the last couple weeks, but it wasn't until this week, when I met with my spiritual director and was able to process it in greater depth, that its connection to all that I've been meditating upon in the John 21 passage of late became so clear. 

So, thank you for reading and for sharing your sweet words with me. 


And now for something I've been looking forward to sharing with you for several days: our house, made over by Christmas! Won't you please accompany me on a photo tour of our home, holiday style?

Soon to be hung on the wall.

Soon to be hung on the wall.

It's beginning to look like Christmas.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Twinkle lights ... so pretty.

Twinkle lights strung around the wide doorframe.

Tree shimmer.

A tree gets added, and the room begins to glow.


Glow x 2. 

Christmas baubles.

Don't forget the red and gold Christmas baubles!


Love that shimmer.

Tree detail.

Cranberry ribbon wound around the tree, then tied with a bow on top.

Come enjoy the tree.

Don't forget to sit and enjoy the tree. 

Just walked in the house, and this is the cozy sight that greeted me. Sigh.

And when you walk in the house, savor the sight that greets you.

How Instagram Teaches Me About Spiritual Direction

Berries, leaves, and light.

I spend a lot of time pondering the question, "What part of the body of Christ am I?" 

Sometimes, the ear wins the day. Other times, the eye does. 

Truthfully, I'm not sure which one -- the ear or the eye -- is more truly a reflection of the person God made me to be and how he made me to serve in the world.

And then sometimes I wonder: can we be more than one part of the body? 

Romance of moss.

When the ear wins the day, it's because listening is like second nature to me. Like a fish in water, it's just what I do. It has always been this way, even from my youngest years.

I first noticed the nudges toward a vocation in the ministry of spiritual direction, for example, when people in my life began asking for time set aside to process something out loud with me. Listening ... noticing ... drawing distinctions ... asking questions: these are what I do best.

I am an ear, someone who listens and helps other people listen.


But sometimes I feel like an eye because I notice what nobody else seems to see.

I notice the woman who walks into the crowded room and looks around uncertainly, a heavy burden of grief tipping her shoulders to the side. I notice the laughter and too-bright smile of the grocery checker who hints at a long day and too-short weekends, how she seems to be barely holding on but is fighting hard to get through the day with a smile. 

I notice. I see. I am an eye.

There is something so utterly sacred about seeing -- really seeing -- another person, isn't there? 

Brick eye.

I think this is why the Instagram app on my iPhone has become one of my most-prized discoveries of 2011. It has given me the ongoing experience of my eyes. It reminds me on a daily basis, by the things I choose to stop and capture with my phone's camera lens, that I see and value seeing.

It reminds me that I find beauty and deep value in doing this. 

Blueness of sky.

Photography has come to feel a bit like tending the holy in my life, and it is so much like spiritual direction in that way. 

In fact, a new friend and I were sharing a conversation recently about this exact parallel. She's a real photographer, you see -- a bona fide and beautiful one -- and she shared with me that she has often thought spiritual directors are the exact sort of people who would get the real heartbeat of an exciting new project she recently unveiled

My response to her was: 

I do think there is a connection that spiritual directors and photographers have. It's all about the seeing -- really seeing. You know? 

So there you have it. I'm an ear, but I'm also an eye, and somehow both of these truths have made me fall in love with Instagram this year. Sure, it's a fake form of photography -- the poor woman's version of the real thing, I guess you could say -- but despite that, I do know this:

Instagram changed my life this year, and I am so much the happier and enriched for it.

Things I've Learned in the Grocery Aisle

Sollie in the lens.

Sollie in the lens. 

As you now know, I'm pretty obsessed with learning more about cooking and bringing more homemade meals into our home. And I've been learning so much!

So I thought it would be fun, from a beginner's perspective, to share what I've been learning in the grocery aisles these last few weeks.

  1. All kinds of spices exist in the world to make food taste so much better. See, for example: turmeric, curry powder, curry paste, fish sauce, ground red pepper, crushed red pepper, cumin, ground ginger, thyme, and even cinnamon. 
  2. There are so many different kinds of vinegar: rice wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, and, of course, balsamic vinegar. 
  3. None of these have anything to do with distilled white vinegar, as far as I can tell.
  4. And then, of course, there's dry sherry and marsala wine. These perform wonder-working miracles on your meals.
  5. Produce used for cooking (such as cilantro, parsley, onions, garlic, etc.) is usually quite reasonably priced. 
  6. Produce used for snacking (such as bananas, apples, strawberries, grapes, and oranges) can get quite pricey, especially when out of season.
  7. You might as well go ahead and purchase a huge box of chicken stock from Costco, rather than ones-and-twos-ing it at the local grocery store, as it's used like crazy for cooking.
  8. Watch out for tricks the local grocery store tries to play on you. For example, take popcorn -- the real kind, not the microwaveable kind. In the snack aisle, there are just two options, both encased in plastic containers -- Orville Redenbacher and Pop Secret -- and both offered for about $4.29. But in the produce and nuts section, hidden on the very bottom shelf of an already somewhat concealed area, you'll discover bags of Jolly Time for $2.99. 
  9. The same goes for other items, like nuts. In the cooking aisle, a small bag of pine nuts costs $6.99. In the produce aisle, you can find a larger bag of pine nuts for $4.99. (Either of these seem exorbitantly priced to me, however.)
  10. Surprisingly, the three-to-a-pack garlic bulbs are of much better size and quality than the individual bulbs sold out in the open on the produce shelf.
  11. In case you are wondering, sundried tomatoes can be found in the produce section. 
  12. Canned mushrooms are found in the canned vegetables section. 
  13. Canned olives are stored near the pickles and condiments. 
  14. Claussen pickles, however, are placed in the cold dairy aisle, near the eggs.
  15. Ricotta cheese can be found next to the sour cream and cottage cheese, rather than the other packaged cheeses.
  16. Apple cider is shelved with the fruit juices.
  17. Frozen pie crusts and refrigerated pie dough are not the same thing. 
  18. Anything packaged (cereal, cookies, chips, etc.) is, without fail, way overpriced and way undersized, not to mention way un-nutritional.
  19. Coffee creamer is expensive. 
  20. Fresh fish is expensive. 

Is there anything you would add to this list?

How to Cure the Funkiness

Please don't ever ask me to get over how cute she is.

Please don't ever ask me to get over how cute she is.

I've been in a funky mood this week, and the worst part is being unable to form written words around it.

The funkiness feels connected to things I need to get done that I'm dreading doing. It feels connected to anxiety that rises up around certain aspects of my life. And it feels connected to ideas and ponderings and experiences I've long wanted to write about here and in another place but seem unable to write. 



The "unable to write" part is possibly the worst part of all. 

So today on Facebook, I mentioned that sometimes creating a to-do list can help cure the funkiness. I've experienced this as true. The to-do's pile up inside my head, and when I'm unable to contain them anymore, I get overwhelmed. Writing them out releases the pressure from carrying them around by myself. 

Shadows and light.

Shadows and light.

But I also said on Facebook that sometimes the funkiness keeps us from writing the list at all. (Ain't that the truth?!)

Yet somehow I was able to get myself to write the list down today. I even checked a few items off of it. But the funkiness remained. 

So inquisitive.

So inquisitive.

After noticing that I kept grabbing for my phone to record particular moments throughout the day and that doing so seemed to bring a spark of life each time I did it, I finally let my photographer's eye wander around my house.

I let myself be present to the moments right in front of me. The light passing across the wall at a certain time of day. My kitty coming to sit with me at my desk. The detail on a favorite corner of curtain that hangs on the window next to me. How much I love our home.

Light crossing underneath a desk.

Light crossing underneath a desk. 

In shadows.

In shadows. 

Curtain detail.

Curtain detail. 

Shadows on wall.

Shadows on wall.



Being present to the moment + being creative with photographs really helps cure the funkiness for me. At least for the moment I'm abandoned to those moments and that creativity.

So, Here's My Meal-Planning Routine

I mentioned in yesterday's post that I've found a new weekly routine for meal planning and cooking that is delighting me to no end, and so I thought I'd tell you more about it. 

Light on greens.

I'll begin by saying I am not the kind of person who subscribes to company newsletters if I can help it -- I only like receiving happy, personal e-mails in my inbox! -- so I knew something big was going on when I not only created a personal profile on the Cooking Light website in order to save the recipes I wanted to try but also promptly signed up for almost every single e-mail newsletter they offered

This means my inbox gets inundated with e-mails from Cooking Light every single day. 

And I'm totally okay with that. 

Purple morning flowers.

So, here's what I do.

I let the Cooking Light e-mail newsletters pile up all week in my inbox, and I give myself permission to ignore them. Then on the weekend, when I'm ready to begin the weekly routine, I sit down at my computer and turn directly to those e-mails. 

The first thing I do is look through every single one of them.

Each e-mail contains several recipes, and whenever something catches my attention, I click through to read the ingredients and directions. If the dish still interests me after that step, I save it to my recipe file. (This is where having a personal account on the website becomes super-handy!)

Green shrub.

After reading through every single e-mail and saving the recipes I'd like to try, I go into my saved recipe file and begin to select the coming week's menu.

I pick 5-7 dishes that I think will make for a great week of meals, trying when I can to overlap similar ingredients, and store those recipes in a special folder I've created for that week's recipes.

Note: This designated folder for the week's meals is super-helpful for creating the shopping list for the week. It also creates such an easy process for cooking dinner each night -- just pull up the week's folder and click on the recipe you want to make -- no hunting and digging through a backlog of archives required!

Pink flowers.

Speaking of shopping lists, Cooking Light makes this process super easy. With the click of just a few buttons from the special folder you created for that week's recipes, they generate a full list of every ingredient required for your week's worth of meals. 

I like to shop the aisles of the grocery store with a very handy + free iPhone app called ShopShop, which allows you to create multiple shopping lists for different stores, keeps in its memory all the items you have listed on your shopping lists previously, and makes crossing off and clearing your shopping list at the grocery store very fun + easy. (I know. I'm a nerd. But I do find that this is the perfect app for the person -- like me -- who really loves that feeling of crossing items off a to-do list!)


So, once the Cooking Light website has drawn up my shopping list for the week's worth of meals, I open up my ShopShop app and transfer to it any items I need to purchase from the Cooking Light list.

This might sound like a laborious extra step, but I've never found it to feel like extra work. In fact, it makes the shopping list process very conscious and deliberate for me, as I can check the pantry and refrigerator when necessary to determine which items I really do need, so that when I go to the store, I know the items on my list are the items I actually need to buy.


So there you have it: my newly discovered and newly favorite routine -- or, at least, the first part of it. In my next post, I'll share some of the other routines and learning edges I've discovered in the grocery store and kitchen through this process of learning how to cook.

Reflections on What Is

She just sits, and is. She teaches me so much.

She just sits, and is. She teaches me so much.

As a writer, one of the worst feelings is being clogged. I've had handfuls of posts stewing on the back burner of my mind for quite some time, and yet each time I sit down to write them, nothing comes out.

I'm not totally clear on what that's about for me right now, but sometimes I turn to my Flickr photostream for inspiration when I'm trying to write, and tonight the first thing I saw when I opened my stream was this photo I took of Diva yesterday.

This little girl teaches me so much, and yesterday she reminded me what it's like to just be present in the moment and present in our own skin. Can you see that reflected in the photo above? To me, it's bleeding all over that photo and out of the edges of the frame. 

So here I am, being present to what is. 

What Is, In My Life Right Now

  1. I am getting more joy out of cooking these days than I ever knew was possible. I have this new routine in my week that I've really come to love, which I'll write about in greater detail on a separate post. But for now I'll just say that planning meals and then making them each night has become a regular, integrated part of my life, and I'm totally floored to have discovered this.
  2. On a related note, last week I did two things I had never done before. I roasted my own red bell peppers in my very own oven, and I peeled and cored a bag of apples by hand with a paring knife. Amazing!
  3. Also related: Right now, a second batch of apple cobbler is baking in my oven because Kirk and I were so taken by the deliciousness of the first batch I made over the weekend that we just had to have more. This could get dangerous. 
  4. I can't believe we just crossed the threshold into week 5 of the pilot version of the Look at Jesus course I'm teaching right now. I've spent the last couple days marveling at having completed the first four weeks in such a flash. We're now finished with our full readthrough of the gospels and are moving into a greater level of personal reflection for the last two weeks of the course. 
  5. Related: I dearly love the students enrolled in the Look at Jesus course, and I'm continuing to really love the experience of teaching. 
  6. Also related: This teaching experience has kept my wheels turning on the courses I'll be teaching in 2012. Can't wait!
  7. I'm about to enter into a season of life that will bring with it a great deal more room for being still, reading, thinking, praying, and writing. Since I've been in supercharge mode for the majority of the last four years, I'm walking into this new season with no small amount of gratitude and glad anticipation. 

Coming Out of Grinchdom

Halloween candy.

Last year on Halloween, I wrote a post about how much Halloween brings out the holiday grinch in me. I've not been a fan of this holiday for quite some time, and usually on this night, Kirk and I will hunker down in our bedroom with a movie and popcorn, the porch light on our front porch decidedly turned off. 

But this year is different in a way neither of us expected.

It began with three pumpkins -- two orange ones and a funny looking dark green one with a huge stump handle bursting out its top -- that Kirk brought home from a pumpkin patch on his way home from running errands around town last weekend. And then last night, he suggested we carve them while giving out candy to the neighborhood kids tonight.

"Could you get some candy when you make the grocery store run tomorrow?" he asked. 

"Sure," I said, surprised.

It wasn't like Kirk to be into the candy and kids thing on Halloween night, but something seemed different in him somehow. More open. Excited, even.

In reflecting on this shift, I've come to think it has a lot to do with having discovered our village in recent months. Something in our life has shifted at a tectonic level, and we seem more open and available to participating in the world around us in a new way. We seem more rooted inside our life and more open to relationships.

I really like it. 

Here's how that looked for us tonight, for example. While making dinner, we opened our front door and let the sounds of children laughing and parents chatting drift through the screen door. We carved a pumpkin and set it out to join the two other faceless ones on our front steps. We roasted pumpkin seeds (even though they promptly burned because I forgot I'd put them in the oven). And we kept a huge bowl of candy well within reach, greeting the young kids in their colorful costumes and trying to guess who they were pretending to be as we gave them each a handful. 

And now, appropriately, we're watching Harry Potter. 

It's been such a fun night, and I really didn't expect that at all.

Little (Big) Things Worth Celebrating

Our cozy little nook. (Just made several additions to this room!)

I just love how this little room has come together.

(And Diva and Sollie really make the room cozy, don't they?) 

Ever since discovering the place where we belong, I've noticed so many things about the life Kirk and I share falling into place in ways that are kind of marvelous, really. And we're just allowing ourselves to bask in the gift of it every single day.

For instance ... 

Transport, Anyone?

The two of us shared just one car for nearly four years. And then in August, a member of Kirk's family gifted us with a second car for the price of $1. That's right. One dollar. We could hardly believe our ears when they shared with us this great gift!

And I'm not kidding you: every single day since we received that car, we still marvel at the gift of not having to find out how our schedules work out for sharing the car or shuttle each other around or pick each other up if it looks like rain (one impractical byproduct we soon discovered about trying life with a Vespa, especially when living in the very tropical-storm-friendly state of Florida). 

And then there's ... 

The Normal, Simple Everyday

Two weekends ago, we finally decided to get a couch. Imagine that: a couch. Revolutionary, isn't it? 

But in all seriousness, it was a big step for us. The loveseat we've owned the last few years, which was generously gifted to us by my mom when she came for a visit one year, has been quite wonderful. But we knew we'd need another couch at some point, as the loveseat only seats two.

So finally, a couple weekends ago, we decided to check out Craigslist and see what we could find. And what we found was an amazing couch -- great quality, great condition, for hardly any cost at all -- and the young guy who sold it even delivered for just an extra $10. Awesomeness.

It's been so cool to notice that almost immediately upon entering our home, that couch became a new home base for us. That very first night, we sat down in that little nook room and didn't leave for hours. (And neither did the kitties!) 

And then the next day, Kirk went out and procured a couple floor lamps and that cozy red rug you see in the photo above. We hung our very favorite wall art above the couch -- a woodcarved plaque of Psalm 139 -- and secured a few more candles. 

And then, guess what? We entered the modern age and bought a TV. And a DVD player. And tomorrow, the cable guys show up. (WHAT?!)

I jest, but that's actually a pretty big step for us, too. We've enjoyed life without a TV for four years, and that was so great for a season. But we're going to have a number of houseguests staying with us soon, and we know it's impractical -- not to mention highly uncomfortable -- to expect our guests to keep crowding around a tiny laptop screen on top of a hard dining room table just to enjoy a movie together. (Thanks, Mom, for your patience with us!)  

I'm so glad to be able to offer our guests in the coming months a much more welcoming, comfortable, cozy experience of our home.

And lastly ... 

Bring Awesomeness into the Kitchen

I've been experimenting with food. And not just any kind of food, but food that you could potentially find on a menu in restaurants. Things like: 

Snapper Tacos with Chipotle Cream

Creamy Fettuccini with Shrimp and Bacon

Herbed Chicken Parmesan

Chicken Marsala

Curried Chicken Penne with Mango Chutney

Chicken and Couscous Salad

And seriously? I must say that I pretty much rocked these meals when I made them. Who knew I was capable of that? Not me!

I've never been much use in the kitchen at all. For some reason, cooking is not a sensibility or hobby that ever took up residence with me. I've been clumsy and clueless for years when it comes to meal-planning and providing any sense of home cooking in my home. That has just never been me.

But I feel the wind of that changing.

For one, the meals I've made so far have turned out amazing! So yummy and tasty and like real food. They seriously taste like something I'd order in a restaurant. And the presentation is so great, too! It really amazes me.

But second, and this is the real kicker, is that I'm really enjoying myself. I've found a rhythm of searching for great new meals to try, then loading up my shopping list for the week, and then camping out in the kitchen to create something new each night with my trusty laptop sitting on the kitchen counter so I can read the menu as I go along.

Let's just say that CookingLight.com is totally rocking my world these days. (And I have Kirsten to thank for the recommendation!)


Such privilege all of this is, isn't it? A second car ... a couch ... some lamps ... a rug ... a television and DVD player ... not to mention real meals making their way onto our table and then into our bellies. It really is rich and amazing to us.

And I think real appreciation for these privileges is so much sweeter when they follow seasons of going without. Don't you agree? 

Just Because

Such beautiful eyes.

I'm posting this just because she is so beautiful and because she is my muse each day. 


PS: Thanks for all your kind comments on yesterday's post about our having finally found the village where we belong. It feels so, so good, and we are so, so thankful to be here.


PPS: If you've ever wanted to spend time getting to know Jesus better, this would be the perfect place for you to do it. We'll begin diving into the Gospels together next week -- and we would love to have you join us!

So, About that Village . . .


A place that makes me very happy

Do you remember my story about the image of the village? 

It happened in mid-February of this year. I'd just discovered that God was inviting me to take a journey with him through an unknown woods. I was humbled by the invitation, but also pained. It meant saying goodbye to life as I'd known it in some ways. It came before I was ready to say yes. 

A few days after the invitation into the woods presented itself, I had a session with my spiritual director, Elaine. I was telling her of my difficulty saying yes to God's invitation, and she posed an interesting question: Do you have any sense of what's on the other side of the woods? 

Well, no. I didn't. 

So she asked, Do you want to ask God what's on the other side? 

I hadn't ever thought to do so, but the idea appealed to me. So I did. I asked him, knowing full well -- and even telling him so -- that he didn't have to show me what was on the other side, that seeing the other side shouldn't be the thing that would make me say yes to entering those unknown woods. But I figured, Why not? If he chooses to show me, awesome. If he doesn't, then I can still work my way through this struggle of saying yes, and I knew eventually I would get to the yes.

And you know what? He chose to show me what was on the other side. That's when he showed me the village

Enter the holy.

All this time, since February, I have wondered about that village. It was so clear in the image that it was a place Kirk and I would enter together, a place and a community that would be a part of both our lives. Jesus and I would travel through the woods together and alone, but on the other side, eventually Kirk would join us and we would encounter the village. 

I had no idea what this "village" would be. But I did know one thing: Kirk and I have prayed for five long years for community. We have wondered at times about starting a house church in our home. At other times, we've prayed about starting a monthly gathering of artists in our home. We have searched and prayed for a place to belong, a group of people with whom we could do life, with whom we could know and be known. 

What we sought was more than friendship. What we sought was a place to belong. 

I had no idea what the village would look like when it emerged in our life, but I can tell you now: we have come upon it and begun to enter in. 


It began in June. 

An episcopal church around the corner from our house, called All Saints, was starting a new contemplative eucharist service on Sunday nights. We'd attended the weekly noonday eucharist service on and off at that church over the last few years, but very intermittently. It was a quiet, sacred service we could attend during the lunch hour now and then, when we had a Wednesday lunch hour free, but our attendance was quite irregular. 

But this contemplative eucharist service, which we also learned would be offered with themes from the Celtic tradition? It sounded like something we would really love. We heard it would be a simple service, offered with long periods of silence, with candles, prayers and quiet music, and with the holy communion, of course.

Sign us up!

We started attending from the beginning and have not missed a single time since it began, I don't think. We love it. It has become a really important part of our weekly routine.

Knock on the door.

We didn't know at the time we began attending the contemplative service in June that All Saints would eventually show itself to be the village from that image God had given me in February. But it has. 

It began with the decision to attend a newcomer's class in late August -- one evening spent getting to know some members of the church and a bit more about what was happening there. We shared during the introduction time that we were just exploring things, that we loved the contemplative service and Father Rob, the rector, but that we weren't episcopalians and had never -- either of us -- belonged to a denomination, and we had no idea what that would even look like or mean. 

That evening, we got to talking with two of the ladies in the group, and one of them mentioned that Father Stephen, one of the assistant rectors at the church, was going to teach a catechumenate class starting in September. A catechumenate class? What in the world was that? We learned it would be a 9-month class teaching an overview of the Scriptures, church history, and the tradition of the episcopal faith. It would culminate, we learned, at Easter with a visit from the bishop and the opportunity to be confirmed in the episcopal church. 

This sounded like a great next step for us. Nine months was a long time to take in the teachings of the church and learn specifically about the episcopal denomination, especially since I couldn't imagine converting to a denomination of Christianity lightly at all. I wanted to understand what that meant. 

Thin space.

So we decided to take Father Stephen's class, and we waited with eager anticipation for the class to begin in September. 

In the meantime, we heard about something called the Rector's Forum. It was a teaching time between services on Sunday morning, led by the rector, Father Rob, whom we have come to truly admire and enjoy. He's a gifted teacher, a holy man, and someone who cares deeply about the process of spiritual formation (as do I!). 

We learned Father Rob would be teaching a series on spiritual direction and sacred rhythms on Sundays for the Rector's Forum starting in September, too, and it was not a difficult decision for us to start attending that too. (Not a difficult decision? We practically ran to the class!)

Stop and rest a while.

And slowly but surely, with each new step we've taken, we have felt drawn further and further in to this church.

Every time we go, people walk up to us and introduce themselves. They're incredibly friendly and warm.

When we attend the Rector's Forum and watch people trickle in, it's clear this is a church of people who have known each other forever -- and truly care for one another. When we attend Father Stephen's class on Wednesday nights, it's clear this is a place of great affection. I can't help but smile when Father Stephen calls on people by name when they raise their hands to ask a question. 

Pew books.

Every once in a while over the last two months, Kirk would ask me, Do you think this is the village? I didn't know. I kept telling him I needed to ask God that question. But for some reason, I kept putting it off. I'm not sure why.

But then something happened.

Kirk started saying some really unusual things. Really beautiful, moving things. Things I had never heard him express about a church or a community of people before. Things that I knew were very intimate admissions of his heart to God and to me. 

It was astounding and marvelous and totally, utterly beautiful. 

Thats when I knew it was time to ask God if this was the village. 

Light of prayer.

When I saw my spiritual director, Elaine, for a session last month, that's one of the questions I brought. I revisited with her the image of the village, and she invited me to bring the question to God.

God, is this the village?

I couldn't help but smile. Each person in that church so unique, each with a different story. Each person offering their own perspective and talents. Old men with wizened beards. Women with difficult struggles not everyone sees but you would see if you really looked at them. Children running and playing, known by all the community. 

These were people I wanted to know. This was a place where I wanted to give as well as receive. This was a place Kirk and I wanted to live together. 

Yes. Yes. Yes. 

This is our village. And we are so thankful to have entered into it. It will change our life, I think, living among these precious people and encountering Christ there among us.

Welcome to the New Lilies!

Purple beauties.

Hello there, friends. 

Whew! It continues to be a busy season over here on the home front. I'm not sure why I thought life would surely slow down once I finished my grad program and training in spiritual direction in June, but things continue to move steadily along.

Don't get me wrong, though -- I seriously love the freedom from assigned readings and papers and other official coursework. Wouldn't you?

But I've continued to find lots of ways to keep myself busy these last few months. I talked a bit about that in my last post. One of the more recent big steps has been the launch of www.christiannesquires.com just over a week ago, which feels truly wonderful. It's such a big and helpful step for me to have one dedicated online space that sums up all the work I do in all the various places I do it.

And then this week, I transitioned my beloved Lilies blog here to its own domain space at www.lilieshavedreams.com. (Goodbye, Blogger! It was fun and you were faithful while it lasted.)

So, how do you like the new digs?

I love it here! My sweet, dear friend Kirsten designed the blog banner -- didn't she do a fantastic job?! I have always been a fan of the color green, and then when I saw the photograph of those gorgeous pink water lilies and lily pads in her photostream several weeks ago, it got the wheels in my mind a-turning concerning this space. 

It seemed about time to show this personal blog of mine a little loving attention and special treatment, as it has been my place to process and grow as a person and a writer and a seeker and a friend over the last 5+ years. 

Thanks for being here. Lots more to come in the days ahead, especially as I continue to move toward launching my first online course



One of Those Kind of Days . . .

Settling in to do some art journalling with watercolors.

Getting out my watercolors to try my hand at 

art journalling for the first time.

Today was one of those days where I didn't get anything done that I'd planned to do but got lots of things done that weren't on the original agenda.

For instance, Kirk and I got to talking about our financial plans. Yesterday I completed my exit interview for my grad school financial aid and learned the total balance of student loans I'll be paying back for a very long time to come. That's what happens when you've been in school for four years straight, I guess!

Anyway, that got us talking and thinking and planning around our financial picture, which led to the creation of a truly geeky budget spreadsheet, complete with color-coding and formulas and easy ways to track where we're going over budget or turning up "found money" in different areas every month.

If you're familiar with the language of Dave Ramsey, I'm ready to go "gazelle intense" on this, baby. :-)

First watercolor art attempt.

My first watercolor, inspired by a revelation last night.

Next, I sat at my desk and stared at my to-do list for the day. On the facing page of my to-do list were three words I'd written last night after standing at my kitchen counter and having a lightbulb moment. Several different thought currents I've been mulling for a while collided at once, and I found God conversing with me about the work he's given me to do, the specific part I play in the body of Christ, and the way I'm to approach and do my work.

None of these realizations were anything new. I've known them about myself and my life path for quite some time. But there was something about these several different strands of thought coming together all at once that made me feel like it was a moment of revelation.

Seen and heard. 

Those three little words mean so much to me. They speak of the way I want people to feel when they're around me. They remind me of my part in Christ's body as his eyes and ears. They reinforce the path I'm taking to do more and more of my life's work online, seeing what people write in these spaces and hearing the heart and perspective behind the words that are shared.

The next thing I knew, I had turned the page of my journal to a clean sheet and began pulling out my brand-new watercolor set. (I was inspired to purchase a few art supplies recently in order to give art journalling a try when revisiting Karen Walrond's words and images about her lovely journalling process.)

The image above was the first result. Seen and heard. I want to remember that.

Watercolor #2: all is suffused with grace.

It reads: Suffused with grace

When I finished the first watercolor painting, I got to thinking about the Gospel immersion experience I'm creating for the Still Forming community this summer. Earlier this week, I met with my spiritual director and talked with her for almost the whole session about my heart toward this online course. One of the things I prayed during our time together was that God would walk step-in-step with me through the creation process and then the execution of this course.

The second watercolor painting, pictured above, started out with the image of a blue spiral. I was thinking about the course and my prayer for God's help in its creation, and then I began to paint simple blue spirals all over the page in different sizes and shapes. After painting several of them all over the page, I noticed they all spiralled around in the same direction: clockwise. The next thing I knew, I was cleaning off my brush and dipping its tip into the red basin so I could paint red spiral after red spiral all over the page, too, in the opposite (counter-clockwise) direction.

I knew from the start that the blue clockwise spirals represented all those who will end up joining the course. They each have a different journey, story, experience that will bring with them into our time together. The red counter-clockwise spirals, conversely, were the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit interjecting and encountering each person there. (God always disrupts and disarms, doesn't he?)

Then I added some green bursts here and there to represent growth and new life springing forth. And then I washed a bright yellow sheen over the whole of it, suffusing the whole process with the light and grace of God.

All of it, all of it, God reminded me, will be suffused with grace. 

What gift.

Uh oh ... the watercolors make an appearance for a third time today.

The watercolors appear . . . yet again.

Later in the evening, after dinner, I sat at my desk once more and began brainstorming and planning for the Gospel immersion course. I turned to a clean sheet in my journal and listed out all the pieces of the process that need to be determined to make it go, such as the pacing of the material, the various media elements to include, the login and registration process, and even the course name. 

I didn't concretely work through any of those items at this time, but that did get me thinking about what all this means to me. I'm moving toward greater and greater opportunities for meaningful work right now, for pouring my whole heart, mind, and self into what I do, for giving God the work of my hands as he then works through my hands to reach into the hearts and lives of others. 

I'm moving toward my life's work now. I can feel it. And it feels so very vibrant and good and invigorating and challenging and engaging.

Reflecting on that started me on yet a whole new painting kick, which led to the creation of two more pieces in my journal. :-)

I'm not an artist by any means, but I am turning more toward the truth these days that I love and need images and beauty. They light me up, and they make up a great part of the way God and I communicate. Words are my greatest home and always will be, but color and image and shape and line speak into even greater depths of me sometimes. They set me free in new ways. 

So that's the story of how my day turned out nothing like I thought it would. I am finding that to be a very good thing.