Thankful for Real Things.


Yesterday was Thanksgiving. And I didn’t even pause to consider in what I was thankful for. I simply reveled in the day as a form of thankfulness.

But thinking about it today I realized I am most thankful for real things. And I want to be most thankful for real things.

I’m not just thankful for family. I’m thankful for family who will play with and entertain my crazy munchkins so we can have a quiet afternoon. In the same house, but oh so much more at rest.

I am not just thankful for sisters. I am thankful for the honesty and love we share and being able to just throw out all the words every once in a while. Sisters who know you in honest and building each other up ways.

I am not just thankful for my kids. I want to be thankful for how they are growing me into a better person even on the days when I feel I’m at my worst. I want to be thankful for the rough moments and bookend them with love. I want to rest in the hope that family is built over years and our little ones will have the built in honest sister/brother friends that I do someday. Because we all used to fight, too.

I am thankful for my husband. But not just on the light and fluffy days. In a deeper way on the days where he is just as stubborn as I am and we work it out in spite of ourselves. Because learning when to give and when to take is an art that marriage teaches me in sometimes painful ways that become beautiful as time goes on.

I am thankful for the strong loud voice of my daughter even when it exhausts me and hurts my ears. She is determined to be heard and do the things she was made to do. Even when it feels like all she does now is fall of the couch and run into things, her headlong manner will bless her someday because that is part of how she is made. And you know, eventually two year olds get more careful, too.

I am thankful for running and doing with three kids. It is teaching me to use my people and work together more instead of alone. I’ve practiced 25 years of independence and sometimes it is good to relearn how to need.

I am thankful for interrupted reading time because I am forced to actually absorb the words and stories and meaning instead of simply consuming.

I am thankful for the writing community that is wholemama. And the growing slowly community that has been a building of friendships along the way.

I am thankful for friends who just show up and who don’t blink too hard when time is long between our visits or life is real when we do.

I am thankful for these real things because that is my life right now and though I will put up some shiny sparkly for Christmas sometimes it’s good to take account of the real things first.

Because life is real, not fairytale land, even after the Christmas decorations come out of the box.


What real things are you thankful for?


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Meg Ylva – 2 Months

Such sweet munchkins :) <3


Meg is working hard on her double chin. I’m not sure how much she weighs right now, but something around 13 lbs probably.

She is such a sweetheart, smiles easily, coos when you talk to her and is fairly easy going all around. I feel like she’s on the brink of laughing but we’ll see.

I was excited for the addition of a swing a couple weeks ago since she does like to be held most times. The swing is good enough for her sometimes and often she will nap in it. Or take an early morning shift if she has a hard time going back to sleep nursing.


It is fun to watch all of them together. They are very sweet.


I could just eat them.


Have a happy thanksgiving, all!


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Contentment {#wholemama}

I want to justify contentment and write a pretty little piece with a bow on it.  But I want to justify discontent because that is what I am.

I know I want to be content, but often discontent drives me.

It’s daily choices of contentment that catch me as most difficult. The willingness to sit and play a game with my preschoolers. The ability to accept the hard and avoided things with the easy welcomed things. Just living here and in this moment.
My discontentment is often future oriented. I want to do the big and great things but I have to balance of what could be with what is. I’m constantly weighing my options in hopes of making good decisions.
“Jesus does not call us to get comfortable in holes.” Heather Caliri writes in her most recent post in her series on the easy yoke. She says:
“Our resurrection is nothing unless we have actually been in a tomb. Our rejoicing is sweetest when we know how to mourn. Jesus did not preach can-do optimism.
We must not call everything wholeness.
We are called to discern, and then ask for help choosing joy, hope, and love. This takes incredible bravery and courage. It’s why we have to pray like mad (help, help help) to get us there.”
I want one option to be right and the other wrong. I want an easy answer. I’m tempted to assume that contentment would lead to wholeness, but then discontent chases me down daily, compelling me to change for the better. Each seems to lead to me to wholeness and Jesus in a different way.
Paul wrote about how he learned to be content in all things:
11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13
Maybe discontent is good for something. And maybe contentment is worthwhile, too.

I have more questions than answers.

Such is life, maybe.




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For the Love by Jen Hatmaker {book review}


“Thank you, Daylight Savings Time, […] I enjoy my kids standing at my bedside at 4:30 a.m like creepy, wide-awake Children of the Corn. Nap times are also jacked, so there’s that. With all du respect-ish, A Tired Mom.” p.51

(my very favorite thank you note)

Jen Hatmaker is over the top funny and wise in her latest book: For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards

In For the Love, Jen tackles issues like leggings vs tights, twitter in the 80’s, church problems, people problems, kid problems, thank you notes to anything and everything, and everything else, as you may have guessed. Her solution? More grace, and lots of humor. It’s easy to be overly offended, overly judgmental of others and ourselves, overly anything. It’s harder to let go of our own little notions about how the world should work and instead find the ways Jesus works in our little world.

“We need to quit trying to be awesome and instead be wise.” p.7

I have been looking forward to this book since Jen announced it. It seemed to deal with exactly what I was thinking at the time.  I enjoyed it and inhaled it quickly. Entertaining but then also poignant, it read easily. It wasn’t everything I expected, but what is?

Many of her essays were just plain funny. Can I just point you to the chapter where she recreated her young adulthood as it would have been on twitter if it had existed then? Hilarious.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“We aren’t good gods, but we can be good humans.” p.xv

On parenting:

“Jesus is the only thing that will endure. He trumps parenting techniques, church culture, tight boundaries, and best-laid plans. Jesus can lead our children long after they’ve left our homes. He will lead them when our work is through.” p.94

On the gospel:

“We tend to formalize the mysterious, opting for a more manageable gospel than the wild, unpredictable one we have. We’d like one with clearer edges and better boundaries, because who can fathom a Savior born in a barn who washed the feet of His followers before dying for people who hate Him?” p.194


For just a taste of For the Love and Jen Hatmaker here are a few of my favorite blog posts from her. Two of these are also in the book. Enjoy!

In the book: Run Your Race and Hope for Spicy Families

Also: The Thing About Being More Awesome and On Becoming a Writer,


Have you read this book? What did you think? How are you inviting more grace into your life?

((I received a free copy of this book from in exchange for my honest opinion.))


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The Coffee Days

There are days I would just like to drink coffee all day.

The spreading warmth.

The pleasant awake feeling.

The rich flavor.

The delectable smell.

The ability to make a day feel a little lighter and happier because I am lighter and happier. Because caffeine, you know?

And then, of course, the chance to spike it with a sugary seasonal creamer.


I love coffee too much maybe.

But when the days are gray and the children aren’t listening and I woke up with a terrible crank in my head, sometimes it is best to indulge a little and have a least a cup. Of the real stuff sometimes, because sometimes decaf (though best for most days to allow the baby to sleep regularly) just doesn’t cut it and a boost improves the day for everyone.

But I wonder what I’m actually numbing when the call for coffee or chocolate grabs at the and pulls me into the kitchen. Am I dodging something or simply enjoying a pleasure. Today’s cup of coffee felt like a little of each, but often the chocolate I snag at the corners of the afternoon (and let’s face it sometimes morning) feels like running away and looking for enjoyment outside of where I am (usually in the midst of screaming short people).

It’s an escape.


a better escape… :)

Which is fine and good.

But what if I’m always escaping and never living?

Is there a way to try to engage and escape into my little life instead of out of it? Maybe instead of escaping for my own little bit of pleasure I could share a piece with my munchkins and make a funky tradition of it.

A chocolate chip when we all revert to screaming, maybe. Would it be too soft to soften the edges of discomfort for all of us?

A tea time, right before or after naps to calm and soothe and share fun? Maybe even with the pretty dishes and peanut butter crackers?

A walk outside when muscles feel cooped up.

A story for everyone when I feel like I need to escape into a fiction tale with a resolved and happy ending.

Maybe sharing these moments of escape would be fun for my kids. They might need escape too and filling those moments in might mean less need on all our parts.

So maybe, the next time I feel like burying my head in an all day cup of coffee trying to drown out the discomfort of living with preschoolers and escaping on my own, we can escape together.

Maybe I can pull them into the simple pleasure of a lovely book, a chocolate chip, a cup of tea, a quick walk.

Or I can allow myself to be pulled into the escapes that preschooler’s create: a game of pretend or chase, building or drawing new, or simply being wild.

Of course the solitary escape is sometimes necessary, but why not share sometimes?

Refugees aren’t Safe. Neither is Jesus. {Ashley Hales for #wholemama: Home}



By Ashley Hales

“Welcome home, gather round

all ye refugees, come in.

Oh refugee, I did not cast you out

In death and broken ground, Salvation springs

My body and my blood, the healing that you need

Come and receive”

Sandra McCracken, “All Ye Refugees”


I’m sitting quite comfortably in this warm home of mine. It’s newish to me. The pangs of moving 1000 miles away from the longest place we’d ever lived since we became a family still, always, linger. And yet here I am, doing all those routine things: walking my children to school, going grocery shopping, shouting too much at my boys’ soccer games. In the throes of transition, I feel like I’m living in two universes, where home is both here and somewhere else. Home feels a bit like putting down my phone or glasses and being unable to find them. I don’t know quite where I belong without either. I wander around trying to find something I have no definite memory of letting go.

I’m watching the United States map change colors: each state colored to oppose or welcome the new plan for the US to help resettle refugees. Twenty-six governors vow to tighten their borders like cinching in their belt. It’s too dangerous, they say. It’s not our place. It’s a Trojan horse, letting them in like that.


I realize of course that immigrant policies, national politics and international crises are things much more complex than I am making them here. But I do know this: problems only magnify when we start to see us as somehow wholly different from them.

And must we surround our nation, our homes, with watertight walls? Are we so very scared that we cannot let them in because they might hurt us? But, we must ask, who are they?

They are the poor, the needy, the fatherless and the widow. They are at the very heart of the gospel. Jesus gathered a rag-tag group of fishermen, he did not run from women of disrepute, he did not turn in disgust from our disease, or dishonor or shame. He saw the widow, the child, the orphan and the leper. And he had compassion. His heart saw that we were like sheep without a shepherd. We are the homeless, the refugee. It is Jesus who comes from a far-off country and made his home with us.

It’s a fact that’s at the heart of the Bible. Giles Frazer writes for The Guardian that “For the moral imagination of the Hebrew scriptures was determined by a battered refugee people, fleeing political oppression in north Africa, and seeking a new life for themselves safe from violence and poverty. Time and again, the books of the Hebrew scriptures remind its readers not to forget that they too were once in this situation and their ethics must be structured around practical help driven by fellow-feeling.”

The Bible is clear: our homes cannot be castles. Our homes – whether our nation, our physical dwelling place, our economic policies or any other number place of belonging – cannot be simply about us.

For our homes were never meant to serve ourselves. We count square footage and upgrades to garner our worth in the same way we count our kids’ soccer goals and progress reports. We invite others in to our homes to “entertain” rather than show true hospitality. We make our homes all about us.

It’s important for our spaces to reflect us and it’s not a bad thing necessarily to upgrade your kitchen. But when our homes stop being a place to welcome the wanderer, I wonder where we think we’ll find home exactly, where we’ll find belonging. Or if we’re just burying ourselves in the trappings of home but never quite belonging.

When we wall up our homes and hearts and build castle walls of impenetrable self-centeredness, what use is Jesus exactly when he says he goes and prepares a place for us? That home that Jesus says he’s making for us feels a whole lot less valuable than the granite countertops in front of us. What use is a Jesus who we wall out with economic belt-cinching and say that he (like the refugees) isn’t quite safe to let in and really change our categories?

For yes (like Lewis says), Jesus isn’t safe, but he is good. Will our homes be safe? Because as Jesus makes his home in us, he uproots cobwebs of shame and doubt and all the ways we wall others out. He turns over tables and plants a seed of his upside-down kingdom right in our hearts.

And you better believe that Jesus making a home is more than a pretty little image, an abstraction that makes us feel good.

Because Jesus never does a background check to see if we check out first before building us a home. Because no one measures up. We’re all homeless wanderers, set adrift on the hem of someone else’s mercy. We’re all refugees, wandering around since Eden, trying to make and find our true home.


And Jesus sees us; his eyes warm with empathy, in our squalid, homeless state. He sees us, as devastated internally as the refugees sleeping on concrete are externally. We have no roof over our head either. There is nowhere we quite fit. We, too, are longing for home. This Jesus runs to meet us. He says “My son has come home!” He places rings on our fingers and the clothes of the family and throws a feast.

But sometimes that Jesus just feels a bit too unsafe to have under our roof.

So home escapes us, like my lost glasses, and we keep searching for the missing thing that promises to make things okay, to feel like we have things ordered, so we can really see.

The refugee crisis is complex. Yes, it’s a risk to welcome people, from refugees in a far-off country to even welcoming your neighbor truly into your life. But both are necessary. How could we do anything less?

How can we stay walled up and impervious to our own refugee status? How can we ignore that Jesus built his tent right in the midst of our finitude? How can we forget that his body and blood house us, that our experience of the Eucharist welcomes and clothes us, gives us sustenance?

How can we turn our backs on those that cry out for home? How can we not do something?

Refugees aren’t safe and neither is Jesus. Both are messy and turn our world upside-down. But isn’t that right where we find home, in the mess right in the middle?




Ashley Hales holds a PhD in English from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. But she spends most of her time chasing around her four children and helping her husband plant a church. She writes at Circling the Story and The Mudroom and loves to make friends on Twitter.



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Like a whiff of warm cookies – Wild in the Hollow by Amber C Haines {book review}

Wild in the Hollow: On Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way Home by Amber C. Haines

I loved this book. I simultaneously wanted to linger and inhale every phrase.

Wild in the Hollow is about coming to terms with life as it is. It’s about chasing and hoping and crashing into a world where God is and we are at the same time. It’s about challenging the conventional ways of thinking while still living within the conventions. It’s about life, love, self, hope, dread, disappointment, want, enough, past, present, and God.

I read each chapter with the warmth of familiarity and the bated breath of new revelations and hope.

Amber’s words, rhythms, and theology draw us in a smooth and easing sort of way through her life and the steps she took to get to where she is. Anyone who enjoys Ann Voskamp’s poetical-but-not-quite-poetry writing and ideas or Sarah Bessey’s courageous and beautiful essays on controversial topics would enjoy this lovely book by Amber C. Haines. A breath of fresh air with a whiff of warm cookies (because sometimes those familiar moments are the winning points of books). It’s home and wild woven and twirled together.

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes:

On the fruit of God’s word:

“What is Scripture if it doesn’t pour in, transform, and then flow out from the depths, especially as love, not only as love for others but also as love for the self? After all, the second commandment after love is that we love others as ourselves.” p. 56

Translating the actions of others through knowledge of Jesus:

“Keeping my eyes on him in my everyday life has come to mean that I recognize the fruit of the Spirit in others while simultaneously acknowledging him as my hope up ahead, the one sitting at the right hand of the Father. I see through to the other side of the visible, through to the unseen, the kingdom of God and how we fit into this kingdom. I recognize Jesus because I know him, and keeping my eyes on him means to see through this world to him, how holy potential hides in us all.” p.160

On strength:

“What makes us strong? Strength always comes from hope.” p.186

Also quoted in these posts: Hope is Prophetic and The Want in Desire, both for #wholemama.


Have you read this book? What did you think? What was a favorite quote/line/idea?

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The Want in Desire {#Wholemama}

imageWe got our first Christmas catalog in the mail the other day.

I watched both my kids sit down and look at it closely, turning the pages slowly as they examined pictures of wooden trains, baby dolls, building sets, books, games, and the plethora of normal that is the American child’s dream. They’re little still and only just beginning this Christmas thing. We didn’t talk about it but it made me wonder about how we might later handle the Christmas season with all its wants and needs; coming face to face with our desires and teaching our kids what it means to live in and around those wants.
Because wants are always around. And they’re not always bad, but they’re not always good.
“The depravity of man is only the realization of the hollow, the need. Depravity should only imply that we can be filled with God. I wish I had known.”

– Amber C. Haines, Wild in the Hollow, p.57.

The heavy places of desire make this word difficult for me to tackle. Laden with nuance and then burdened with cultural implications deeper than the word itself; in Christian circles, we struggle with, but mostly against, desires.  We build pens around them hoping enough rules will keep us from going an admittedly subjective “too far”. We fight desire and are left off-balance, tripping along to our own foolishness as we try to work our way to being holy.

We are told the dangers of what lies within us so often and so forcefully it’s easy to lose touch with what might be good. We shove our desires and then our feelings, and then our wants, and sometimes even our needs deeper and deeper until they’re lost to us. A casualty of too much trying to be holy. We lose ourselves.
This asceticism of some christianity feels dangerous. We can’t become so detached from our own humanity and expect to live well in this embodied world. But desire feels just as dangerous as often it leads us to painful ends.
But God created us with these bodies that want, minds that dream, hearts that hope, and souls with a touch of eternity. Who are we to abandon this creation of His, whether it feels full and holy to us or not it is who we are and who He made us to be.

“There is hardly healing of the self outside the church because the Spirit always moves us forward into living as our whole selves, as friends who love what he loves, and he loves us. He makes us whole as individuals, and then we propelled forward with desire to be healing agents of his kingdom. It is about the whole of us, global.”

Amber C. Haines, Wild in the Hollow, p.183

We long to be whole. We chase what we want because we long to be whole. We chase but are still left incomplete. We know that beauty doesn’t fill. Popularity doesn’t satiate. Relationships don’t complete. Experiences don’t last. Family isn’t perfect or forever. And perfection in anything only runs further away the harder you pursue it. These things by themselves break us into more pieces when we long for healing. Our emptiness is only intensified.

Maybe these empty places are showing us more about who God is and what he desires for us than we might think.

So why not reach toward the place we can be filled, the One who can fill us.

“It may take exposing the hollowness of our own desire to know the satisfaction of the wild love of God.”

Amber C. Haines, Wild in the Hollow, p.168


This is where the contemplation of desire takes me. I’m not sure what it means for me or how I mother, but I know a little better how encountering my own humanity and the humanity of those around me head on can help to find more of who HE is.
Two books I gladly recommend on the theme of desire and embodiedness:

imageWould you join us as we write on desire or want this week? You can link up with us or read more #wholemama posts by clicking the linkup below.

We also have our #wholemama facebook group where you can access the prompts a few weeks in advance and meet us all informally. We would love to meet you there!

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What I’m Into – 31days recommendations, Fall Squealing, and Books | October 2015

Fall! Spring is my favorite but fall is a close second. Fall is shorter in Idaho. Tends to go from hot, to a milf monthlong fall, to snow without much lingering. The cold, light wind and the crackling leaves always revive my humor. Not to mention the promise of pumpkin pie. Oh, and Fall running is always the best. :)

We took the kids to the pumpkin patch for some pretty fall fun. We picked ones smaller than the ones in the pictures. I’m not sure what we’ll do with them since we missed the chance to carve them. But I’m sure we’ll think of something. My little backyard garden actually managed to grow a few pumpkins as well so we have those on our table and counter as decoration with one large one gracing the front porch.

Other items of note: Meg got baptized. We sold my red car. Israel got a new job. And my parents are buying a new house 15 or 20 minutes closer to us!!!!

I participated in 31 days again this year and was really surprised at how much I enjoyed just writing a little bit everyday. Each post took maybe 20 minutes, but was just enough for me to gain some perspective on my thoughts and life. And mayhap encouraged some of you. You can find the whole series here: Soul Calm.

A few other 31 days series I really enjoyed were Micah J. Murray’s Becoming Human (this one on wholeness and cooking good food), Faith Raider’s 31 Days of Brave (Especially this one on neediness), Liz Von Ehrenkrook’s 31 days of Confessions (one on not always liking your kids), Abby Norman’s 31 Days Fighting Scarcity, and Novice Mommy’s A 31 Day Journey Through My Unplanned Pregnancy. All challenging, wise, honest, and brave.

I’m also enjoying Andrew Peterson’s latest album: The Burning Edge of Dawn. Just beautiful. And also slightly reminiscent of when I was 10-ish years old and attached to a cassette of one of his earlier albums: Carried Along.

This story, How to Tell Whole-hearted Stories on Instagram was interesting and challenging.

I only read a few books this month. Something to do with having a brand new baby, I suppose. :)

  • Embracing the Body by Tara M. Owens – So wow. I’ll have to process and write and share more later.
  • Stil Alice by Lisa Genova – Loved this insightful glimpse into the minds behind Early Onset Alzheimer’s. Written by a woman with a PhD in Neuroscience.
  • All That Followed by Gabriel Urza – picked this up on a whim from the library. Basque culture, revolution, and challenging relational drama made for an interesting read.
  • Making it Home by Emily T. Weirenga – Beautiful and wise. And I found myself here. Relatable. I’ll write a review soon.

Currently or soon:


Cracking me up:


In November I am looking forward to Katie’s #FindJoyInNovember Instagram challenge, starting to run again after 4.5 months off, more library trips and park days, more #wholemama posts, hopefully planting bulbs, and all the fun that goes with fall, thanksgiving, and cold weather. I’d also like to take more pictures of my kids, because somehow I’ve fallen out of that habit even though they are still cute!

How was your October and what are you looking forward to in November?
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Meg Ylva – 6 weeks

I really have not taken that many pictures of meg these last two weeks. Most of them are on instagram though and I’m sure that many more will follow eventually.

She has figured out how to talk and coo. She likes the ooo sound the best and will talk back and forth with me quite adorably. She smiles easily for me and is often entertained by her siblings gracing them with big toothless grins. I need to get more pictures of that, but I’ve just been busy basking in the cuteness. :)

She weighed 12lbs 3oz at her 6 week appointment and is pretty much out of the newborn size clothes. Her sleep is beginning to gather a little more. She had one 5 hour stretch (not expecting that to be normal anytime soon), but consistently is more of an every 3 hour waker. She naps for longs spells as well. 2-3 hours, often. She likes being held best, but will sit and watch things for a few minutes at a time.

Ranger and Ali are being so good to their baby and have fun making faces or making her make faces. One morning Ranger was talking about Meg and said, “She moves her arms like this!” And then moved his clenched hands in exactly the stilted way babies wave their arms when they’re little. Ali figured out how to make the exact ooo sound that meg does and their mouths look the same when she does. Super cute watching them figure out their baby. :)

Anyway. Enough baby. :)

Update again in a couple weeks.

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