books are comfort.

Hello there friends,

I’m sorry for my lack of posts of late. In truth, my words feel all dried up. I’ve never felt like this before. I sit at the computer and pull up a Word document (where most of my blogging starts out) and stare at the screen and . . . nothing.

Maybe I just downright said everything I could possibly have to say during my October writing challenge.

Or maybe it has something to do with this strange season of life we’re in, this waiting season, which I feel as though I’ve referenced here way too many times. I feel like I’ve become kind of a downer in this space and I’m sorry (or maybe I’m just not writing much because if I did I’d be a downer).

I realize that I’m pretty good at reflecting on a hard season after it’s over. I’m not as good at doing so when I’m in it. I’m not feeling reflective in general at the moment; just trying to chin up and stay busy and get through it.

Whatever the reason, know that I’m still here. I want to be inspired. I want to have ideas rolling around in my head again, trying them on for size, in a great big hurry to race home and get them onto the page. Someday I’ll be really back, I think.

In the meantime, I’m finding refuge where I always do — in books.

I tried finding refuge in TV for awhile. But I grew bored of it. I’m really not a TV person. I’ll find a show I like, follow it enthusiastically for awhile, then just sort of lose interest and trail off, like during season 6 of Gilmore Girls (is it really worth finishing the series?).

What I am, is a book person. Books are where I go to be inspired, to become a better writer, and sometimes just to lose myself.

Books are comfort.

I thought I’d share with you a few of the books I’m finding comfort in right now.

 

Peace Like a River, Leif Enger
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I’ve mentioned this novel in my gratitude lists and it bears repeating, because it’s a hidden gem. I discovered it on Modern Mrs. Darcy, and once I got past the 1980’s-vibe cover and vague title, it took my breath away. Leif Enger has my utmost respect because he achieves what I constantly look for and almost never find in novels: the combination of complex, memorable characters with fantastic plot with beautiful prose. This is one of my favorite books.

 

The Trumpet of the Swan, E.B. White
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Most of us know E.B. White for his classic, Charlotte’s Web, which, quite frankly, I’ve never been enthusiastic about. I found The Trumpet of the Swan on a book list of read alouds for first graders, so decided to give it a try with the kids. After a slow start, Judah and Amie and I became thoroughly engrossed and looked forward to our daily chapter. This is a fun book for adults and kids alike.

 

Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie
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If you know me at all, you know that one of my favorite things is matching books with readers. If someone dislikes a book I recommend, it doesn’t hurt my feelings; I take it as a challenge to try again. There are few things as satisfying as watching someone truly light up over a book. My current challenge is Judah and Amelie. I’m on a mission to help them love reading, just as my own parents did with my brothers and I many years ago.

But I’m being subtle about it. I don’t go on and on about how they should love books; I just read them books. And I play a secret game with myself to scour blogs and book lists and search out ideas of books they’ll light up for. If your kids don’t love chapter books: don’t be discouraged. We’ve tried lots and lots and some are still a flop (like Little House on the Prairie, sadly. We’ll get there someday, I think). But we’re all three enjoying J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.

 

Aarti Paarti, Aarti Sequeira
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I read this cookbook cover to cover. I haven’t watched Aarti Sequeira on the Food Network, but I enjoyed her funny, down-to-earth writing and stories of life in India, Dubai, and the U.S. I’m very inspired to try my hand at a few of her recipes too. Selfishly, I don’t make much Indian food because I can’t imagine it without chapatti (whole wheat flat bread), and my gluten-free self can’t eat chapatti anymore. But some friends recently passed along a gluten-free naan recipe that I’m going to try. I’ll let you know how it goes!

 

Mitford series, Jan Karon
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I read the Mitford series in its entirety every year. You don’t read Mitford for the plot; you read it for the characters, who are as real as if they walked on this earth. A criticism of Jan Karon is that her books are escapism, that all the subplots tie up too neatly with a bow while real life is frayed and messy and often unresolved. I think that’s partially true, but I also think that her characters do wrestle with real-life issues and relationships. Karon has profound insight into human character, and she communicates it in ways that feel fresh each time. Plus, her books never fail to make me laugh out loud.

 

Lizzy and Jane, Katherine Reay
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This book would be a fun vacation read. The writing was not my favorite, but I liked Reay’s theme of family and community, and I enjoyed the literature and food references.

 

What Alice Forgot, Liane Moriarty
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What Alice Forgot has an intriguing premise: 39-year-old Alice gets a concussion and forgets the last ten years. In the story she tries to understand how she got where she is in life. A sweet, powerful reminder that priorities need guarding, good relationships need cultivating, and that little, everyday decisions matter. I thoroughly enjoyed Moriarty’s writing and will definitely be reading this again.

 

Spurgeons Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression
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I’m in the middle of this book, but so far it has been my favorite on the subject of depression. Though it’s mercifully short, I’m taking my time with it. I appreciate the way Zack Eswine interacts with the writings of pastor Charles Spurgeon, whose honesty and transparency about his own struggle with depression was surely radical in his day. A lot of wisdom and grace here.

 

And finally, for comfort I read the Psalms. Every morning. Some days, when the words won’t come, they are the entirety of my prayers. Psalm 13 and 16-20 are some of my favorite.

 



particularization.

“Particularization” is a fancy Presbyterian word for when a church moves from being a mission church to being a fully organized church with elders and deacons. We had a service two weeks ago celebrating CPC’s particularization.

And it was truly a celebration. I was overwhelmed looking out over a sea of faces I love, some old friends and some new, thanking God for how many people worked and prayed and gave to help make this dream a reality.

From day one things have raced along at an incredible speed, and I suppose that’s a good thing in that we haven’t had half a chance to settle down and grow comfortable. And now we’re looking to the future, to the three church planting families we’re sending out: to east Lexington, to Orangeburg, SC, and to Southeast Asia.

Starting a church is not easy, just as pastoring it now is not, but there is nothing like this experience of being on a team which is also a family, working as one toward a common goal that’s so much bigger than us. We’ve seen God do incredible things in the last year and a half, and we fully expect that He’ll do many more. I feel deeply honored to play a small part.

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All photos by Ashley Nicole Photography



wednesday gratitude.

133. Brazilian coffee, good food, and laughter at a friend’s birthday party last night
134. the quiet peace of an afternoon to myself
135. I don’t have to spent it cleaning my house because Sandy is coming to clean next week
136. the sun is shining today even if the wind is biting
137. Amie sings the Gloria Patri all throughout the day, thanks to our church worship album
138. reading the Mitford series. again.
139. our new homeschool co-op which the kids call “nature school”
140. Judah’s reading improves every day, he’s beginning to read to himself for fun
141. friends who help carry burdens
142. Gilmore Girls season 6 is a little disappointing, but still makes me laugh
143. park dates with Charissa and our brood of kiddos
144. CPC is officially an organized church instead of a mission church
145. the bittersweet feeling of no longer being church planters, but looking ahead to helping launch CPC’s first church plant
146. wearing flip flops even though it’s too cold
147. finishing Amie’s baby book. finally.
148. four months waiting means we’re four months closer to meeting our baby

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valentine’s overnight.

David surprised us this week by suggesting a family overnight in the mountains to celebrate Valentine’s day. We packed our things and jumped in the car Friday morning and headed for Flat Rock, NC, which is about two hours away in the mountains (and where we spent our 10th anniversary).

More and more I like to plan our trips around ideas I find through friends and on blogs, so I thought I’d share with you what we did.

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The Flat Rock Village Bakery is one of our very favorite places to eat — breakfast, lunch, or dinner — and we recommend everything on the menu. But their brick-oven pizza is the best (can’t you tell by Amie’s face?), and they have a gluten-free option too!

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After lunch we drove 20 minutes to DuPont State Forest for a hike to Triple Falls. The kids love climbing around the rocks and smashing ice. It was in the low 30’s while we were there, which for this southern girl is too cold, but thankfully winter means that the forest is mostly sunny, and there was no wind so it wasn’t bad at all.

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After hiking, we checked into our hotel which was another 20 minutes away in Brevard, and which we found for a great deal on Priceline. After a nap, we headed into charming downtown Brevard.

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Judah and Amie have been to Brevard’s magical, two-story toy store, O.P. Taylor’s before, but they were too young to fully appreciate it. They loved roaming around and picking out something to buy (I think David and I enjoy the store even more than the kids).

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We love the burgers and hot dogs at Rocky’s Soda Shop in Brevard, but it was closed, so we found the Jordan Street Cafe on Yelp, and the burgers were fantastic, maybe some of the best we’ve ever had.

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We slept in on Saturday and had a leisurely morning thanks to free breakfast at the hotel, before packing up and heading back to DuPont for another hike. We hiked 3 miles this time, which is the longest hike the kids have done (esp with hills), and they were champs. Next time we’ll pack lunch and do 5 miles. Both kids love roaming in the woods, but Judah especially comes alive outside, especially when he has places to poke around and explore.

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We had to drive back through Flat Rock to eat at the Flat Rock Village Bakery one more time (salad and bagels this time), and get cookies and some of their dark roast coffee for the road. Yum.

It was a wonderful trip and David and I are amazed by how restful it is to get out of town even for just one night. I feel like Columbia really is one of the best places to live — it’s a small city with fun places to eat but without much traffic. And we are 2-3 hours away from so many great places: Charleston, Asheville, the mountains, Greenville. As Judah and Amie get older we’re able to take advantage of quick day trips or overnights more and more.

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a little tour of the baby’s room.

Happy February!

I know I’ve posted some photos of the baby’s room here and there, but I thought I’d do a full tour while my house is sparkling clean. But first, a before shot:

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For most of our first year, this was our master bedroom. But as you can see we didn’t do much to make it homey. After we started the adoption process, David and I decided to move into the more spacious third bedroom and turn this into the baby’s room.

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And so that’s what we did! We liked the neutral paint color (which was all throughout the house when we bought it), and my splurge for this room was the black and white wool rug from Ikea. Most everything else is either a hand-me-down or something we already had.

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I put up plain white curtain panels, but when some friends gave us a white crib, I felt like the room needed more color. I remembered these green curtains from our school room in India, which turned out to be perfect. Well, almost perfect — they aren’t long enough, but I’m embracing imperfection by leaving them just the way they are.

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I painted this stack of frames from our attic white and distressed them, and all the prints are from my Taproot magazines. The little basket is from a thrift sale.

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Our futon gives this space the option of being a guest room, and gives me somewhere to crash during middle-of-the-night feedings.

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Some friends gave us this dresser/changing table when Judah was a baby, and we passed it on to Kenny and Shari when we moved overseas. And now they’ve passed it right back to us! I removed a door to give it a more open feel. I contemplated painting the dresser, but even the thought made me feel tired, so I’ve decided I like it as is. The quilt was made by my grandmother.

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I love finally having a place to display my little collection of children’s books, which have been in storage for years.

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This quilt is one of my favorite things I bought in India; it’s handmade, with the artist’s name written on a tag on the back, and it cost about $30.00 U.S. I bought it to hang on the wall of Judah and Amie’s room, and I’m thrilled to be able to use it in their little brother or sister’s bedroom now.

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I had so much fun putting together this space, with the help of David and several others. It feels warm and homey to me, and filled with memories already. It never makes me sad to glance in the doorway and see an empty crib; I’m just so thankful that we’re ready for baby Gentino. And in the meantime, Judah and Amie think this makes a perfect Lego play room.

Once last time. Before:

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And after:

 

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birthday gratitude.

114. God’s given me 33 years on this earth
115. getter older is so much more fun than I expected
116. enthusiastic birthday greetings from my two kiddos and nephews bright and early this morning
117. family breakfast at Crepes and Croissants
118. how fun it is to have my birthday a day after Kenny’s
119. amazing gift from David, who hired someone to deep-clean our house this week
120. a lovely first Book and Tea club this afternoon, and many more to come
121. my mother-in-law made gluten free treats for me
122. finding Starbucks coffee on sale
123. the Mitford books, which never lose their charm
124. Home Goods
125. Saturday afternoon fire pits
126. a growing sense of peace in the waiting
127. The Alone Instrument
128. anticipation of a girls’ trip this weekend
129. there is truly never a dull moment with church planting
130. one week closer to meeting our baby

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sunday.

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Linda’s cousin Donna and her husband Jim visited from Virginia this weekend and joined us at CPC Sunday morning. Jim is an Anglican rector, and David and John thoroughly enjoyed discussing theology around the campfire with him Sunday night.





julie’s homeschool day in the life (with a 7 and 5-year-old).

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This month one of my favorite homeschool blogs, Simple Homeschool, is doing a series of “Homeschool day in the life” posts. These are some of the most helpful posts on the blog for me, so this year I’m writing my own to link up.

I’ve hesitated to post much about our homeschool schedule and curriculum mostly because I myself have struggled a lot with doubt and comparison in the past, and am coming to learn that there’s simply not one right way to homeschool. There’s not a “best” curriculum or homeschool philosophy, not a “best” routine. I haven’t wanted any of you to feel the pressure of needing to do what I do.

However, at the same time, sometimes it’s helpful to learn what someone else is doing and pick out the things that suit your family and situation. I use the series on Simple Homeschool for ideas and help if something needs tweaking (for instance, that’s where I’ll get ideas on how to make this homeschooling thing work with a newborn in the house), and I hope that’s how you’ll view this post.

Specifics of our routine change from time to time, but below I’ll share what we’re doing right now, and I’ve come to it mostly by observing myself and the kids and learning what works best for us (and lots of trial and error).

I include general times but I do not keep an eye the clock during our morning (and I’ve started turning my phone off during homeschool hours too). This helps me focus on the relational aspect of spending the morning with my kids rather than just checking items off a list.

If this blog post feels overwhelming, just remember: We start our homeschooling day around 8:30 and end by 12:00 or 1:00 at the latest, with some breaks scattered in.

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7:00 am
In the warm months I’m an early-morning person, but during the winter I stay under the covers as late as possible. At 7ish I get up, shower or get dressed and start unloading the dishwasher and getting breakfast ready. David is at work by this time.

7:30-8:00
The kids wake up sometime after 7:00, and we eat breakfast between 7:00 and 8:00 (sometimes later if they sleep in or one of them wants to sit and cuddle in my lap for awhile). Typical weekday breakfast is a green smoothie and homemade protein breakfast bar, but cereal if I’m lazy. I always clean up the kitchen before bed the night before because I’ve found that waking to a dirty kitchen and unwashed dishes puts me in a bad mood.

8:00-ish
We stay at the table after breakfast and I drink a cup of coffee while we review our Classical Conversations memory work for that week (which we learned on Monday at CC). This encompasses history, geography, science, English grammar rules, and Latin. We listen to the CD and any extra memory songs from CC Connected, I ask questions from our book, and find locations on the map.

Sometimes I’ll make a review game, and the kids will get Cheerios or a chocolate chip for correct answers. During this stage of CC I’m supposed to focus primarily on having the kids memorize the material, but if they ask a question about their memory work we talk about it (for example, we watched a Youtube video of Niagara Falls yesterday).

Our CC work takes anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour a day, I try to mix it up. If it’s a really busy day, we just listen to our CD in the car.

9:00-ish
Judah and Amie pull out drawing supplies and draw/color pictures while I drink a second cup of (decaf!) coffee and read a chapter or two from our current read-aloud book. We’ve worked through a sweet series of American history books from the library by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire, but right now are finishing up E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan. I let the kids draw whatever they want during this time, but it usually ends up related to what I’m reading (note: drawing is the only way I can get Amie to listen to chapter books which she usually says are “boring”).

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9:30ish
I’ve learned that the morning goes best when I do “kindergarten” with Amie first and let Judah have some time alone to play. Amie does a math lesson, reading, and writing. She entertains herself so much better during Judah’s work if I spend this quality time with her first.

I will pause here to say if it’s been a crazy morning or we were super busy-with-people the day or evening before, I’ll take a break and tell the kids to play together, and then shut myself up in my room with a book for 30 minutes. I used to feel terribly guilty about this, but it’s one of those things I’m learning to accept as an introvert homeschooling mom. And I think it’s really important for my kids to know how to self-entertain, so it’s a win-win.

10:30ish-1:00
Judah begins his workbooks. I let him choose what order he wants to do his subjects, and I’m slowly working on helping him do some of his work independently (I use the time when he’s doing a worksheet by himself to switch laundry or straighten up the house or check email). He does a math lesson, reads aloud to me, phonics workbook pages, handwriting, and I alternate grammar and spelling every other day.

While we’re working Amie either plays in the other room, draws at the table with us, or sometimes asks to do extra worksheets (those fun little kindergarten workbooks at Target are great for this).

Sometimes Judah takes a break in between subjects to play. If we have plans or need to run errands right after lunch though we’ll plug away to finish by noon.

12:00
Lunch: sandwiches and applesauce or fruit for the kids, salad for me (or a rice cake with peanut butter if I’m lazy!). For some odd reason my kids do better with school if I let them stay in pj’s all morning. I used to refuse on principle, but recently decided: Why not? If it’s fun for them and helps our morning go more smoothly, I guess it doesn’t matter what they wear. They definitely have to be dressed by lunch though.

12:00-1:00
I clean up after lunch, then we finish up any school work we haven’t done. Lately we’ve been playing Uno together after we finish.

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1:00-3:00
Since the kids don’t take naps anymore we call this “play time.” On weekdays Judah and Amie can watch one or two shows on Netflix, then play quietly either together or separate until 3:00. They do a ton of drawing and making paper dolls these days and spend a good portion of play time making art work. We’ve always had a mandatory play time and it works really well for us on days that we’re home. It took a long time to train Amie not to bother me every 10 minutes, but when I’m consistent she does great.

This is my time to read my Bible, catch up on blogs, write (this post!), read, and then do some chores. Ideally I do my exercise video here but that’s happened a grand total of one time thus far (sad face).

3:00-5:00
Some days we meet up with friends right after lunch and skip play time. Otherwise we get outside after play time and meet friends at a playground or have people over. Judah and Amie are very social and if I’m good about getting together with other kids and most weekdays they are perfectly content with our homeschool routine.

5:00
Home to start on dinner (I make a weekly meal plan over the weekend and try to plan leftovers or a crock pot meal if we’re hanging out with friends later than 5:00), David gets home

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6:00
Eat together, if David is home he cleans up the kitchen afterward (yep, he’s pretty great)

7:00pm
The kids start getting ready for bed and we cuddle on the couch to read books. I go to the library every week or two and make sure to pile up on good books for the kids. I use book lists from websites I like or ask the librarians for recommendations.

7:30 pm
Bedtime for Judah and Amie (Judah often isn’t ready to fall asleep yet so will take books or a couple toys to play quietly in bed)

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8:00 – 10:00
Whoever is home reads or watches a movie, or if we’re both here we hang out together.

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Bed time!