Beauty

Nostalgic Smells of Childhood: Lilac

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If only you could scratch-and-sniff this photo. Our white lilac bush in our yard has been blooming, and it’s bowling me over with its scent, taking me straight to the backyard where I grew up, in Madison, NJ. Except our lilac bush was actually lilac and bloomed in May, right around Mother’s Day. Tucked away in old photo albums in my parents’ living room closet are years and years of Mother’s Day photos in front of that tree. I vividly remember one photo from my preteen years with my older brother wearing a white suit, my mother, of course, in a striking dress with fanciful hat and strappy high heels, and me in some kind of flowery getup with a square lacy collar and puffed sleeves (“Life isn’t worth living without puffed sleeves!” ~ Anne of Green Gables).

Now I can’t even smell a lilac without being transported to standing in that cushy grass inside my childhood self.

What are some smells of your childhood that take you back to the best memories? If you have children, what are some of the scents you think they’ll remember?

My Good List - For The Art of Simple

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A few months ago, I got to share My Good List for the first time on the Simple podcast. It was fun to revisit that idea and ponder what’s making my life better right now in this new season. Here are 4 things—an item, a habit, a work of art, and a philosophy—that are currently life-giving to me.

What’s on your Good List right now?

A Day In The Life - For The Art of Simple

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In my latest post for The Art of Simple, I’m sharing a typical day in my life right now as a homeschooling mom, wife of a chef, writer/creative, and organic produce farmer. If you’ve never taken the time to record a typical day in your life, I highly recommend it - it was quite an eye-opening experience!

“Recording my day in the life helped me recognize that slowing down time is important to me, as much as it’s in my control. The more I pay attention in the little moments, the more I’m able to pull back the reins on time. So, after I wrote this, I came up with a new daily motto that I’d like to share with you…”

Continue reading…

A Woman Who Changed My Life

"This is my work, my mission."

The words flowed from her mouth boldly yet humbly. Over the course of 10 days in the village of Ongole, India, I watched Prabhukumari clean her home, cook from scratch for multiple people, mother two young boys, take care of her duties as a pastor's wife, and host a guest from America (me) that spoke a foreign language, all with joy and a peaceful smile.

Today is International Women's Day, and as my Instagram feed fills with photos of women from all over the world, my mind is occupied with memories of this woman who changed me forever, whose strong and gentle hands I can still feel on my back.

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Fourteen years ago in January, I did one of the scariest and bravest things I've ever done - boarded a plane alone, with a back injury from falling down the stairs a few days earlier, and flew 21 hours across the world to Chennai, India. There, I waited to be retrieved by Prabhukumari and her husband Pastor Samson, both of whom I had only ever seen in photos. I had no cell phone or way to reach them. All I had were desperate prayers whispered under my breath, “Please let them be here…please let them be here...”

After I finally spotted Samson in a crowd holding a sign with my name on it, we then traveled another 5 hours by train to the town of Ongole, which was my headquarters for the next 10 days working with the organization Peace Gospel, visiting children in an orphanage, embracing the culture, helping tsunami victims, and basically being stretched in ways I never knew possible.

When I think about that trip now, I can't believe I did it. I barely got on the plane. I remember crying the night before on the phone to Steven (who was my fiancé at the time), declaring that I was too scared to go. But the ticket was bought, and I went. Turns out it was one of those watershed experiences - I was humbled every single day, seeing firsthand just how far-reaching the love of God is.

One day, we traveled further to a tiny, remote Indian village near the coast, where the tsunami had just taken the lives of many of the men who were out fishing the day. We delivered food, Bibles, and clothes to the widows.  Their vibrant smiles, their colorful garments, the way they clung to their babies, their shyness mingled with strength...I couldn't get enough of these stunning women.

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During my last few hours in India, Prabhukumari, Pastor Samson, and I spent several late night hours in a hotel room watching Indian television and resting before it was time for them to take me to the airport. I was wearing my sari, lying face-down on the hotel bed with my head resting sideways on my elbows, drowsily watching TV. 

Then, without a word, Prabhukumari reached out and touched my dirty, frizzy hair, and ran it through her fingers. She placed her hand on my back and ran it up and down over and over gently, sending shivers throughout my body. She must have done this for a solid hour. 

At first it felt strange to be accepting so much physical touch from someone I was supposed to be serving. It felt shocking, even. But my injured back began to feel like it was healing, and tension and tiredness from this scary, wonderful trip began to leave my body. Her touch was absolutely the hand of God to me in that moment, and I didn't want to leave her. At the same time I was tired, homesick and desperate for home. From this point on, a part of my heart would be left among these people in India. And she would always be my sister.

Today as a mother and a wife, I think of Prabhu's words often.  On days (all too often) when I'm anxious and grumbling and overwhelmed by everything that's on my plate, I hear her voice saying, "This is my work, my mission," and I stop in my tracks.  I feel her love and encouragement radiating across the oceans that separate us. If she can do hard things with joy and a smile, certainly so can I. 

We’re all a part of this tribe of women that traverses the globe. Who are some women - where you live or abroad - that have inspired you?

And The Two Shall Become One, Separately - For The Art of Simple

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Here’s my latest post for The Art of Simple - And The Two Shall Become One, Separately. For some reason, this is one of the hardest things I’ve ever written. Maybe because the topic is so important to me, it’s a crazy story to weave together, and our marriage really has been hard-won through a lot of challenges and trials. But I can honestly say today I couldn’t be more thankful to be a on a team with the Steven Bailey and also for the ways we are wired completely differently.

People often ask how we’ve been able to handle working together in addition to the challenges marriage brings. But the practices that help us work together successfully are the same ones that bring freedom to our marriage—we strive to be a team, and we celebrate and respect our separateness within the team.

Keep reading…

I’d love to know your thoughts!

Moments Of Connection - For The Peaceful Press

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“Those things you learn without joy, you will forget easily.” (Finnish proverb)

After seeing this quote recently on Instagram, I decided to rephrase it a little:

“Those things you learn with joy, you will remember.”

Ahhh, there you go. Wrapped up in that sentence is exactly what I deeply desire for our little homeschool, which my two daughters (5 and 8) have decided to name “River Lake Sunshine.” Who wouldn’t want to enroll there, right?

Read the rest in my guest post for The Peaceful Press, who creates beautiful and thoughtful learning resources that our family loves.

Simple With Tsh Oxenreider Podcast Episode 178: Loving Our 40s

This was a super fun chat about Loving Our 40s! Tsh said it well in the podcast intro: “Growing older is a privilege denied to many people; it means we should celebrate the gift it is!” Join both of us 41-year-olds as we talk about how to celebrate birthday milestones (particularly turning 40 since that was most recent for both of us), and hear about Tsh’s new skin and hair routine since turning 40.

What My 40s Are Teaching Me - For The Art of Simple

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My first post is up on The Art of Simple about What My 40s Are Teaching Me, and I’d love to hear what you think! It was so much fun writing this and truly processing how much has changed in the one short year I’ve been in my 40s. If you’re already there, I’d love to hear what your experience has been. If you’re not yet there, you have much to look forward to. Just make sure you grab a change of clothes. You’ll see what I mean when you read it

“I don’t believe 40 is a magic number that divides everything into before and after. But I do believe it can be the start of a second journey instead of the beginning of a downward slope “over the hill.” Entering our 40s can be met with negativity, or it can be met with tenacity and courage—and we get to decide. I’m only one year in, but I thought I’d share some things my 40s are already teaching me…”

You’re Never Too Old To Color

Here’s one from the archives, originally posted on my previous blog in March 2009. I’ll be regularly sharing with my readers some of my favorites from the past that I feel are still a huge part of the overall story. Enjoy!

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On Saturday afternoon, I took one of those naps where you wake up and have no idea what day or time it is anymore, and you've slept on one side for so long that your hair is smushed into a conehead and, more than likely, there is a pool of drool on the pillow. You know that kind? It was so refreshing. And the first thought that occurred to me when my eyes peeked open was, "I am going to color now."

It was a strange thought, considering that up to that point, my Saturday had been filled with a very adult-like and responsible task: hauling compost back and forth, back and forth, between the huge mound in the driveway and each individual tree stump and veggie sprout and plant base in the front and back yard. It felt so "homeowner." It was great functional exercise though {all those squats and bicep curls with the shovel and wheelbarrow}...and I actually liked working with the compost. You might think it's smelly and full of flies, but compost actually feels fresh in an earthy kind of way. The only unfortunate fact is that it’s so powdery that with a light Texas wind, it seeps into any crack and crevice of your skin that is not covered with an article of clothing. I didn’t realize this until I heard Steven singing, “It’s A Hard Knock Life” from Annie, complete with flamboyant hand gestures, as I passed by with the wheel barrow for the umpteenth time.

Uh-oh. I went inside to check myself in the mirror, and it was not a pretty sight. The white tube socks that I had pulled up to my knees and over my workout pants were now black. My hair was frizzed almost to the point of no return, and dirt had caked on my face and formed so many visible lines and smudges that I looked like a coal miner...or perhaps a street sweeper from the movie Oliver...or, admittedly, one of the kids from Annie. Maybe compost-hauling doesn't have to be so adult-like after all.

I took a very welcome hot shower and scrubbed myself from head to toe with my honey-mango shower gel and then collapsed into bed for that perfect, drooly nap. I don’t know what happened in my dreams, but when I woke up, all I wanted to do was color. You're never too old to color, you know. In my craft room, painted “Rain Washed” by Behr, I found my box of Crayola State Collection Crayons and a butterfly coloring book that Steven got me as a surprise at the Mennonite grocery store. I set out for the back yard with my supplies tucked under my arm like a little girl on her way to kindergarten.

Outside, Steven’s phone rang. It was my dad calling from New Jersey. Steven answered it, they exchanged greetings, and then there was a pause on our end of the conversation - my dad must have asked what I was doing.

Steven answered nonchalantly, "Oh, she's coloring."

{"Coloring??" I imagine my dad must have asked in his brash Jersey accent.}

Steven answered again, "Yeah, she's coloring...with crayons."

I looked up at him and smiled. Then I went back to busily coloring my butterflies as the real-life ones hovered above the flourishing lavender bush.

December-ing

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2018 is almost over. How is that possible?

This is the first December we’ve truly celebrated advent, after so many years of wanting to make it a yearly practice. I also finished my Christmas shopping a solid week before Christmas, which is really saying something. We stretched out the holiday season as long as possible, and it was a sweet time. Here are some things I’ve been engaging in this December…what about you?

Reading…

Well, I still haven’t finished many of the books from my November list. Here’s my current reading list…

  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

  • Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott

  • Boundaries With Kids by Henry Cloud & John Townsend

  • Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson

  • The Complete Guide to Fasting by Jason Fung

Watching…

  • Here are some favorite Christmas movies we watched this month - Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas (if you know about this movie, we can be friends), Holiday Inn, White Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life, All I Want for Christmas, Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street (new one), Elf.

  • My life is so complete since they put Bob Ross on Netflix. Both my girls watch it too, enamored. Right after an episode is over, someone inevitably asks, “Oh pleaaaaase can we watch him paint just one more winter landscape?” We’re an artistic family, we can’t help it.

  • Mary Poppins Returns. We had a little family fun night a few days before Christmas and surprised our girls with dinner and a movie. Any Mary Poppins fan was understandably nervous at how the sequel would hold up, but I had a permagrin the entire time. It was delightful. The ending gave me the same wonderful, buoyant feeling as at the end of the original. So many creative parallels & cameos in the story as well. Dying to see it again!

Listening…

  • I loved the Advent playlist from Tsh Oxenreider’s Simple Advent Guide.

  • The Mary Poppins Returns soundtrack. Again, delightful.

  • Andy Gullahorn’s album, Everything As It Should Be. The song “Different Now” could be my own words. I love this whole album.

Cooking…

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Discovering…

  • How much I love power tools. I made the above advent candleholder using some salvaged driftwood and a spade drill bit, and now I want to make holes in everything. I’ve always left the drilling for my husband (translation: begged him to fix things for me) but there’s so much freedom and fun in learning to do it myself.

  • How much I love and need winter. Maybe it’s just a break from bugs and sweat and a chance to have smooth hair for a change. But the more I live by the seasons, the more I realize how much I need them. There’s absolutely a beauty to winter that I don’t want to miss.

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Seeing…

  • My home through different eyes since reading Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith last month. We did a huge purge in my girls’ room, and there’s breathing room now, with much more space for doing the things they actually love: playing dolls and Lego’s and crafting. I’m about to tackle the mud room next, which is currently piled up with coats and dirty farm boots and completelydrivingmeinsane. The biggest thing I took away from that book is that I don’t have to wait for things to be perfect in my home to love my space now. There are plenty of things I can do with limited funds to make each room one we truly love being in.

    What did your December look like? Anything to share? I’d love to hear!