Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Favorite books of 2020.

  I love reading and talking about favorite books and and finding new favorites and hanging out at library. I'm fully aware of how un-cool that makes meπŸ˜‚. But it's true! And I'm trying to find ways to let the light in this year, right? Reading is definitely a bright spot. I keep a running list on my phone of all the books I read so I can dole out recommendations to people whenever they ask (truly, I LOVE giving out book suggestions!).  I've been in a bit of a reading rut since the New Year, so I'm on the hunt for any and all recommendations (except non-fiction. No thank you!). Let me know if you have any favorites! 

  But anyways. While I'm not currently reading anything good, I read a ton of great books last year. I was texting my bff a list of my favorites the other day and I wanted to leave them here, too. I geek out about giving people book recommendations! So in case you happen to need a good book to read, here are my 12 favorite reads from last year (In no particular order)...

The Only Woman In the Room: I found this book off our local library's book club list and had zero expectations before reading it. So good! It is based on a true story and just a fascinating read about a women who had a huge impact on history!

The Tattooist of Auschwitz: A friend told me about this and I am so glad I picked it up! Based on a true story and a book a couldn't put down.

The Last Mrs. Parrish: This caught my eye at Target before we went on vacation last winter and it was a quick read with a fun twist. 

Class Mom: Another quick, easy read. Just a funny take on the 'class mom' stage of life! And I just realized it is the first book in a series. Adding the other two to my 'hold' list at the library asap!

The Shark Club: I love the ocean and living in a beach town, and this book just made me want to move even further South to the Keys!  I loved the main character's fascination with sharks and the overall story that unfolds. Easy read!

The Giver of Stars: Another book from our library's book club list! I literally took a picture of the book club flyer and immediately put every book on the list on hold. Some turned out to be duds, but this one was really, really good. Another historical fiction (not my usual go-to!) based on true events. I had no idea about the Packhorse Librarians!  Another un-put-downable book!

America Royals: I listened to this on Audible (super out of the ordinary for me!) and surprisingly loved it. The narrator was great and the story is SO fun. It's a creative take on what would have happened if, instead of becoming the first U.S. President, George Washington instead became America's king- and focuses on the current day royal Washington family. A fun, fun read!

American Royals II: Majesty: I couldn't rent this sequel (on Audible again) quick enough! Just as good as the first book and I'm dyinggggg for the third to come out. If you need a lighthearted, fun series- this one is it. 

The Heir Affair: (sequel to The Royal We, another GREAT read!) Another audible book, simply because I couldn't get it from our library! But I wasn't upset about it. While not at good as the first book in the series, I still loved it!

Tweet Cute: A friend recommended this YA books to me and it's really cute! 

The Guest List: This psychological thriller had me guessing until the very last chapter. Really well written!

Salt to the Sea: This was a book club pick, and we all agreed it was great. I know WWII books are really popular, but it isn't my favorite genre. So I was surprised by how much I loved this! It focuses on a few different characters throughout and I loved how it ended. 

...and if here are lots of 'what I'm reading' lists from the past few years. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Light. (a word for 2021)

having little weight not heavy
designed to carry a comparatively small load
not dark, intense
something that makes vision possible
a particular illumination

  Who knew the world light had so many definitions? It is my word for 2021 (see more about words from past years here! 2019, 2017, 2016, 2015) and when Justin asked me which definition I was intending, I literally said 'all of the above!" I've chosen words like committed, steady, quiet, rooted, faithful, hallelujah and abide. And its pretty cool so see the impact those words had (and still have!) like having read through the Bible a few times, taken up new prayer routines, learning to be intentional with community and community building, picking up the regular practice of thankfulness, and learning about a long obedience in the same direction. But this year felt different for a thousand reasons. For one, I didn't even care to chose a word. But let me back up.
  Somewhere along the past three-ish years, the feeling of lightness, of being carefree, has not come easily to me. I feel bristly most of the time, hardly ever laugh, and everything seems serious and heavy. Melodramatic much? Ugh, I know. But it's as if I've just put on some sort of weighted coat and can't shake it off. 

  I have always been a more serious person, and that has slowly intensified these past few years. It isn't a huge surprise and when I consider what life has looked like lately, I can draw some correlations. In a matter of three years, I lost my naivetΓ© as a parent when we experienced medical trauma, uprooted our lives near family and friends and really healthy community and moved 5 states away, have spun my wheels so much to try to establish new, deep connections in our new home (without success), endured a global pandemic that made life in a new place feel even more lonely, and grieved the loss of my dad far away from family and friends. Sort of like gut punch after gut punch, you know? I think what has made each of those seem extra heavy to me is that they all happened when I was being obedient to things I knew God was calling me to. It is impossible to not feel bristly when you are open handed with all aspects of life (especially when it doesn't always make logical sense, but you're trusting God to work out the details.). And then time goes by, but those 'details' just feel hard and heavy and not at all anything like what you left behind. It becomes really easy to 

BUT. But, isn't that part of Satan's cleverness? To help us forget in the dark what was so clear in the light? When things get heavy or hard or we find ourselves not in a season of fullness, it is pretty clever of him to gently, slightly shift our focus to the weight of things until eventually it is all we can feel or see or hold onto. One of my favorite songs this past year from NeedToBreathe has this line that keeps rolling around in my head

 "hang on to the light in your eyes and the feeling, hang on to your love-drunk original reason, all these things I've learned, it's never a straight line, cause all these things take time, these things, they take time."  

  You guys, I've done exactly that. Slowly over the past few years (and then a bit quicker since the pandemic started and the gut punches really rolled in), I've forgotten that light, the love-drunk original reason for why I so happily opened my hands and asked God to show me his faithfulness in big ways and jumped to move across the country and have tired so hard to keep building community in our new home (can I keep saying that though we've been here for two years??). Probably even a year ago, light didn't feel as foreign as it does to me now. It seems the past year (global pandemic, anyone?) has just put a big 'ole exclamation point on anything that felt hard or heavy over the past few years. 

So here we are, with a fresh determination to shake that off. I can literally feel my need to find the light and shoe off heaviness. So, light it is. My word for 2021! I still actually have zero idea what God is up to and, if I'm honest, I feel a bit more hesitant about staying open-handed. Obedience seems a bit tender to me these days and not I don't feel quite so eager to pray bold things right now. But light- I can start looking for that. I wrote this in a blog post from last Spring and the words hit home today for me... 

"In the meantime, I’m a firm believer that he gives us things like sunshine and snail mail and innocent kids with their fart jokes and the occasional glass of wine and pizza and FaceTime and the ability to go for a run to help us move through the days until we’re on the other side of whatever feels heavy." 

Preach to myself much?! So, here's to 2021 being a year where (even if I still don't feel clued into what God is up to) I shake off some heaviness. Laugh a bit more. Give less thought to how awkward I am. Sit with the good lists longer than I give thought to the hard stuff. Let the light in, let the light in. That's my motto for 2021 😌✨

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Happy birthday, Dad.


  Today is my dad's 68th birthday and the first one without him here for me to call and say I love you. Honestly, my dad wasn't a huge on celebrating his birthday and never made a big fuss of it (maybe the byproduct of living with 4 girls?). Add to that the fact that I live 5 states away, and today really is just a normal day. I wouldn't be doing much more than sending a card and calling my dad to chat for a few minutes today if he were here. But it's these exact normal days and moments that make catch me off guard with grief more than anything else. This morning, I pulled two little frozen Snickers bars from the freezer (my dad's guilty pleasure) and sat at the kitchen table with my boys while they ate breakfast. They talked about the read aloud challenge coupons they earned today, Justin and I made a plan to call the pediatrician to check on what we think is an ear infection for our 5 year old and we gave a dozen reminders to the wiggliest one to stay in his seat and eat. And I thought about my dad the entire time. How many meals did he sit at with me over the years? How many times did he chat with my mom about doctor's appointments, listen to what I'm learning in school, remind me over and over to sit in my seat or be kind or finish my meal? Lately, it has just been stopping me in my tracks to think of the thousands of small, unseen moments my dad loved my in simple ways throughout his life. Grief is different for everyone, and for me right now it looks most like tearing up quietly at the breakfast table, parenting my kids and thinking of how my dad did the same for me. 

  But anyways, the best way I know how to celebrate and miss my dad simultaneously today is to sit with the weight of it all and write about the best parts of him (and eat a few more frozen Snickers). He's been gone 9 months, and today seems like the perfect time to recount the words I shared at his celebration of life this past summer. Miss you, dad. πŸ’•

  Growing up, my dad seemed like the strongest person in the world. To me, it seemed that he could fix anything, knew how everything worked, and could figure just about anything out. I never remember our family hiring repairmen or letting problems go on for long without fixing them- he truly always did it himself. And he did it, for the most part, with no big to-do. He never seemed to see things as a big deal, instead just parts of life to be taken on steadily. And because of that, steady is one of the characteristics of my dad that sticks out the most to me. 

If you knew him, you likely depended on him. You experienced his steady, quiet, no fuss work ethic that persisted his entire life. 

He was such a good sport about being surrounded by 4 girls in our house and taught us things like if you never fart you’ll blow up, was the one who taught me to climb trees and catch frogs and the difference between sprint car and stock car racing and the art of a grilled peanut butter sandwich. Those were the obvious, silly things. But he also showed me what hard work looks like (he had the same job for 43 years, sometimes working 7 days a week, doing shift work, working on holidays, waking up at 5am and still finding energy to let us wrestle with him or argue over who sat next to him on the couch when he got home), always making sure we had a safe home and our cars were running and the driveway was plowed in the middle of winter. Those things were how he showed loved to those around him. 

It is because of those things that these last few years were the hardest for him. Dad was always so busy and active and doing, that it made it so hard for him to lose his strength and ability to keep doing what he had always done. As he became more sick, My dad was concerned that he would be forgotten. That we might not remember him. But that can’t happen, it won’t happen. My boys love catching frogs and critters- something they learned from me, and I learned from my dad. My sisters and I all inherently value hard work and being dependable- the very traits our dad passed onto us. Our entire family has learned to pay attention to the quiet ones, those who don’t speak often but when they do, you know you better listen- because my dad was like that. 

Honestly, I could go on for a long time about the things we will forever remember about my dad, especially his quiet, hardworking, and sometimes smart Alec character. We all probably have the best stories about him, how he helped you out or the trouble you got into together when you were younger. Share those with each other. And keep remembering the good ole days. My dad loved to talk about them, and I think it would make him smile so big to know he was now part of those good ole day stories πŸ’•

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

God keeps his promises.

God keeps his promises.

It’s true though, isn’t it? I’ve been thinking a lot about how this crazy global pandemic feels eerily familiar in some ways.

Two years ago around this same time, our family was smack dab in the middle of what I only hope is our hardest season ever. It was one of those seasons where you wake up every morning and keep your eyes closed extra long just hoping it’s all been a bad dream. But then you wake up and do all the things you need to do, because that is how life works. I’m guessing you’ve been there, too?

In that season, we dealt with hearing doctors say things a parent never wants to hear about their child (who ever wants to be the impossible statistic or uncharted medical case?!), prayed for miracles, passed each other in the night as we took shifts in the ICU, trudged through health crisis after health crisis (or at least it felt so at the time), cried and mourned the long term loss of some things for our child and then slowly made a new normal when it started to calm down.

When I type it up, it all seems so concise and neatly packaged. Isn’t that how it always is when we’re able to look back? In reality, it was anything but. Lots of crying. We were ‘fired’ from one doctor for missing too many appointments because we prioritized others (thus feeling like failing parents...). One of our kids spent more time with his aunt and uncle than us for weeks. I gained 10lbs. Our other son spiraled into extreme separation anxiety for months and had other lingering effects from medical trauma.

But now, it’s two years later. We absolutely have not forgotten most of it, but it’s not nearly as heavy today as it was in the middle of it. We’re on the other side. We still deal with the big lingering health things (which is why we take social distancing super seriously! We’ve experienced the unfortunate side of a medical statistic), but also it feels normal now.

Looking back is ALWAYS so helpful for me to process what’s in front of me. What have I already learned that is also true now?

Basically, all of this is a long winded way to say two things. One, stay home. My kiddo has lifelong effects from a germ that is literally on every surface everywhere- and we had no indication beforehand that he would be so effected. We had no one warning us or telling us how to stay healthy- and how I would give both my arms to have had warning like we all do now! Take this seriously. Don’t risk it, for yourself or anyone around you.

Second (and most of all!), God keeps his promises. I have experienced that firsthand, haven’t you? I spent so many nights, for months on end, just praying that God would get us through to the other side and all the days in between. And now here we are, two years later and through it! We’ll get through this, too. Even if it looks messy and frustrating and maybe even heartbreaking for some of us, he’ll carry us through it. He always does.

I’m bracing myself for some messy days (literally, because I have preschool boys and our backyard currently could be mistaken for the neighborhood dump and it seems I’ve just given up even trying to pretend I care about my laundry room), short fuses, and pity parties. Maybe my kids will learn some stuff from my modified homeschool set up. Maybe not. I might get a house project done and run lots of miles and read my Bible every morning. Maybe not. I’m not sure there is any real way to do uncharted things like this well, outside of holding onto the promise that Jesus will carry us through. And remember that he always does (even if it looks different than we want/hope/prefer/would plan ourselves).

In the meantime, I’m a firm believer that he gives us things like sunshine and snail mail and innocent kids with their fart jokes and the occasional glass of wine and pizza and FaceTime and the ability to go for a run to help us move through the days until we’re on the other side of whatever feels heavy.

Here’s to God keeping his promises and fart jokes to keep us laughing while we wait 🀣

Friday, March 20, 2020

Oh hey!

These are weird times, and I have extra minutes on my hands. So why not jump back into this little blog? Except for the small problem of not having a computer anymore (RIP ten year old MacBook) and hating to type long-form on my phone, this should go well, right?!

It seems as if EVERYONE has ideas for how to stay busy, reasons we should stop complaining, and resources for how to keep ourselves and kiddos busy (and thriving, really). I sort of fluctuate somewhere between HERE FOR ALL THE THINGS and PLEASE STOP TOUCHING ME, which is all balanced pretty well so far by a few things. Nightly walks and Voxers with my bff, the occasional glass of wine, some semblance of structure for my kiddos, and finding things to laugh about.

So maybe I’ll start my ease back into blogging with some advice I heard Shauna Niequist share on a (COVID-19 unrelated) podcast this week: Add goodness, connect, keep going. I mean, that’s good advice for just about everything, right?! It always feels right to add goodness- whether it’s good food, words, activities, or good things to look at. And honestly, when we’re literally isolated in our own homes, it feels essential to find ways to connect with others. Lastly, what other real choice do we have but to keep going, even if we sort of want to pull our hair out or cry sometimes? Here’s a little list of ways to do those very things (because any not add to the growing suggestions being shoved at you right now?! Lol)

Make some good food. Maybe include kiddos if you have them! Our go-to easy recipe to make with ingredients we always have on hand are these granola bars. Just make sure to let them cool before cutting- it’s worth the wait!

Drop something off to a neighbor or friend. Maybe those granola bars you just made? A Starbucks drink you just picked up from the drive thru? Or, super classy like we did early this week- a ziplock bag of bird seeds πŸ˜‚ To be fair, we made pinecone bird feeders this week and Caleb insisted some of friends would want to do the same, so we dropped off that little activity for some friends to try!

If you need a good laugh, go watch Jen Hatmaker’s videos on Instagram of her laundry saga this week. It is irrelevant to all important things and just a hilarious 15 minute break for your brain and heart!

Send some 🐌 mail. I have no idea how long we will still have mail around, so I’m furiously writing all the letters and mailing fun stuff while I still can. Most exciting is the Sticker Club invitation we got from a friend for my kids- you send a pack of sticker (hi, amazonπŸ‘‹πŸ½) to one friend and then invite others to join in so you can all collect some. What other fun stuff could you send off ? (If you have littles and want to join our sticker club, let me know!)

Oh! And on the ‘keep going’ part of her advice, just keep doing your thing. Working, online school for kiddos, endless crafts, scooping your dogs’ poop, house projects, whatever. Maybe make it fun by documenting it? We’re doing more crafts than usual and while I love my kids’ artwork, I don’t necessarily love having it alllll over my house. So I’m thinking of using up some Chatbooks credit I have to make a book of all their recent art. Or maybe finally make our wedding album! We’re sort of obsessed with Chatbooks and of you haven’t tried them, here’s a $10 off promo code for you πŸ‘ŒπŸΌ KATIENRUSH-KYY9

What are you doing to add goodness, connect, and keep going? I’m 99% sure no one comments on (or even reads) blog anymore. But if you’re up for proving me wrong, leave me a comment and let me know how you’re staying sane in this craziness!

Here’s to the weekend! Aka two days that will look a lot like the past 5, but maybe with the reinforcements of your spouse if they’re still going into the office (like mine!)

Saturday, January 5, 2019


  I'm fully on the 'word of the year' bandwagon. I'm less of a lofty-goals-hustle-more girl, so picking a word to sort of focus on is more up my alley. Quiet and simple, steady, faith- those sum up the last few years for me. This time, I'm holding tight to Hallelujah. And, as usual, I have ideas in my how how that looks or why that its important for me to focus on. I'm also confident that, just as it always goes, those ideas will be turned upside down and I'll be surprised what God actually ends up teaching me from my word for the year.

  I could go on for a long time about how this word stuck for me (just sit and read the book of Psalms for a few months and it will probably stick with you too!). But it really all comes down to wanting to get better at looking up more and spend less time looking down and around myself. Practicing praise always, not dependent of what life looks like or how the world tells me it should. And being really, really intentional about the whole thing.

  What about you? Do you pick a word? Resolution? Goals? Nothing at all? I'm all for doing (or not doing!) what works and makes sense for you. Wherever you fall on this whole New Year's thing, here are few of my favorite things for a fresh start or to kick off some fun things for the new year.

Podcasts:: this interview with Lysa Terkeurst will give you a swift kick in the pants on how to view disapointment, this one is good for reconsidering what contentment means (especially good for empty nesters!), and Aaron gives some amazing insight here on growing your faith here.

Decluttering:: I hear Emily Ley has a really good (and pretty!) book all about this and I love this book for its tips on decluttering more than just your home (It's technically about parenting, but I would recommended it for anyone!).

Goal setting:: Lara Casey is the pro on all things goal-setting! Other than that, the counselor in me wants you to know that whatever goals you set- make sure they are measurable, attainable, positive (ie. instead of lose weight, make it feel stronger!), and specific!

Songs:: Marching On, Counting Every Blessing, I'm Walking, Put It On the Altar

Fun habits to try on:: One Second Everyday (I will forever talk about how fun this app is!), pick a monthly memory verse (if you need a cute motivator these are cute!), send more snail mail to friends, start something (like a book or cooking club or monthly neighborhood hangout or a new workout class or a new hobby), sign up for chat books (make a series so it automatically prints and ships to you once the book is full! I can give you a code to get your first book for free!), read through the Bible this year (I'm loving this REALLY brief daily podcast to go along with this habit)

Friday, January 4, 2019


  Does anyone else breathe the biggest sigh of relief when the holidays are done? I love all the busyness and fun of the season, but even more I love sliding back into routines and decluttering and just taking off lots of the pressures or expectations that come with holidays (and we added a move in the middle of it all this year!). Packing up the Christmas tree and having a clean state for the new year is the BEST feeling to me!
  Justin's birthday is this weekend, so I think we might do a few touristy things (like visit Savannah again!). We both need to shop a bit for our mini vacation coming up and carry the last few unopened boxes up to our attic. But other than that, I'm excited for a quiet weekend. With a crazy last 5 weeks (/months), it is nice to see our calendar full of nothing but free weekends!

  None of that has anything to do with this post, except that I haven't done a sort of life lately snapshot for awhile and that randomness sort of captures it right now. I love these little lists because they're such a good summary of my days!

Listening to the Wake Up Happy playlist on Spotify. So good!
Loving early morning workouts. I've been going to our neighborhood gym with a neighbor for the past two weeks and, even though I don't love rolling out of bed, it feels amazing to be back into a grove of exercising after year of not taking great care of myself.
Reading Mary Kay Andrews latest book (and then The Alchemist for book club!) And I need to start reading this book lent to me by a friend
Thinking about permanently having the boys share a bedroom. We bunked them together while we had visitors last week and are keeping them together for a bit longer since my mom is coming to town soon. They both love it so much, maybe we'll just leave them together and make Tyler's room a guest room/office? Give me all your tips for successfully having preschool boys share a room!
Making a grocery list to start making green smoothies every morning again. WHY DID I GET OUT OF THIS HABIT?! 
Dreaming up a dozen projects for our new house. A cute patio space, shared boys room, guest room/office, garage storage...now if only my budget grew as fast as my project list!
Missing a good coffee date with good friends. The hardest part of moving was saying goodbye to best friends and our early morning starbucks dates or cooking clubs. I'm a verbal processor and value quality time, so I'm learning that no amount of texts/facetime/voxer can fill that quite the same.
Trying to really practice being impatient and intentional with parenting. Lots of teaching the same lessons over and over these days! 
Working on writing more. Not necessarily for any purpose other than it feels like a good season to write. And hoping to make some of that include our adjustment to a new house and community!
Looking forward to our trip to Jamaica (without kids) in a week! My mom is coming to be with the boys while we're gone and then staying a few days once we get back, so I'm looking forward to her visit!