Winter

Today as I drove home from town, I watched fog roll down the mountain behind our house.  The trees were barren and lifeless, the fields empty and brown.  I shivered as I hurried my two little ones into the house and plunked the three of us in front of the fire to warm our chilled bodies.

Winter in Arkansas is often grey and cold.  The damp air makes the cold seemingly settle right into your bones, and many times into your soul as well.  For the girl who spent most of her life in sunny Arizona, it can be incredibly depressing.  I was used to cold winters, but not to the wet cold or the endless days of grey.  Each winter here, I find myself struggling with Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Extra Vitamin D helps, but never completely.

Today, though, I actually saw beauty in those barren trees and in that cold fog.  Today, as I warmed myself by the fire, I was reminded of another fire that once warmed my bones, but this one an ocean away.  It’s been almost seven years since my friend Caris and I went on our grand adventure to England in the dead of winter.  Seven years since we sloshed through sheep fields in the rain and climbed up hills to abandoned castles together.

It was grey there, too.  It was cold, dark, and oh-so-wet.  Yet, I don’t remember anything but joy from it.  Looking back, I see a girl on the cusp of adulthood, full of fear and hope, still trying to find myself.  I realize now how crucial those two weeks were to my journey and my path.

I remember fondly the time spent by warm fires.  I remember wearing cozy sweaters and drinking gobs of tea and hot chocolate.  No thought was given to walking through soggy fields or traipsing down wet streets in the rain.  We adventured anyway.  I remember laughing and singing and dancing, and snuggling in under cozy blankets, reading books quietly.  I remember making new friends and eating pasties and flapjacks; watching movies and letting the rain soak my hair; taking a hot bath and sleeping in late; reveling in the smell of old books in a bookshop; feeling God speaking to me so very strongly, altering my course from there on out…and all in the middle of grey, dreary winter.

That shy little not-quite-woman could never have imagined where she’d be seven years later.  It’s ironic, really, that the grey winter days that changed my life and brought so much joy now eat at my happiness.  Yet, I know that they don’t have to.

Winter, whether actual or a season of our life, can be hard and isolating.  Like the leafless trees behind my house, it can leave us barren, raw, and exposed.  Some days you may feel like you just can’t get warm.  Yet, it shouldn’t stop us from pressing on.  It shouldn’t stop us from doing God’s will, adventuring, and finding joy.  Sometimes it is those quiet, dark winter moments that are exactly what we need to hear Him speaking.  The question is, will we stop to listen?      

This winter I’ve determined to choose joy and embrace each cold, grey day.  I’ve even started a Pinterest board dedicated to it.  Will you commit with me to not let Satan steal the beauty of this season from us?

How’s Your February?

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As I’ve mentioned before, last winter was a bleak one for me.  Not that my life was bleak…I was just severely missing the sun.  Before I knew it, I found myself in a depressive state.  Last February, I was right in the thick of it.  I remember one day in particular when I was waiting for my husband to finish work (where I’d been all day too, cramped in a windowless office that I hated).  The blacksmiths had long since gone home for the day, and I found myself running up and down the plant aisles, frustrated, tired, and with a splitting headache…just trying to feel better.


Thankfully, Spring came and I learned to combat my depression better.  All the same, I dreaded this winter…dreading the same thing happening.  I took precautionary measures, but I still feared slipping into that pit once again.

Now, here I am, with February almost over.  Yes, life is very different for me this year.  I’m no longer stuck in that windowless office all day, we have a house to call our own, and a sweet life grows within me.  To me, this winter has even seemed milder…with more sunny days.  But still, the grey days come.  The gloom makes me teeter on the edge of that precipice…dangerously close to falling in. 

One day last week I was feeling like that.  It had been grey and wet for several days.  That day, in fact, it had been pouring cold rain.  Mid-morning, however, the rain slacked and I took the opportunity to take Sam out for a walk…knowing I needed that time. 

At first, it didn’t seem to help.  I took them camera with me, hoping that capturing some of the beauty of the day would cast aside the gloom.  Instead, I became frustrated.  There were beautiful clouds rolling by, but somehow I couldn’t capture it.  I looked out at the hills, barren, grey, empty, and they became bleaker and bleaker in my eyes.  Lord, I prayed, show me the beauty.  And He did.


To my surprise, it wasn’t in the sky or on a far away hill.  Instead, it was right under my own nose.  You see, as my walking path descends into a valley, large rocks line the sides…rocks I rarely notice.  But today I did.  And on these rocks were beautiful mosses, in all different shades.  Water dripped from them slowly, deliberately, peacefully.

On my way back, I found a little rock with some moss on it.  I picked it up and took it home, guarding it carefully each step.  It now sits in a glass vase in my windowsill.  And each time I see it, I’m reminded of what He showed me: that the beauty in winter, the beauty of February, is found in the little things.  All too often, we miss them altogether

So, how’s my February?  Good, I’d say.  I’m delighting in the little things, like a hot bowl of chili, a good book, and a soft, cozy blanket.  I’m trying not to miss out on any of the antics of my pets, any time spent with my husband, or any excellent blog posts.  On those precious, sunny days, I set everything aside and go outside.  Spring is spreading her first warm fingers, but this year I don’t reach for her as my only hope.  I can’t wait for her to arrive, yes, but right now I’m delighting in the season I’m in.  I’m cherishing the moss on my rock…a gift from the Balm of Gilead.

How’s your February going?  Are the winter blues getting you down?

Making Lemonade

Last week sure was a “lemon” of a week.  It seemed like everything was going wrong, we were tired, and ever busy.  Most of my meal plans went out the window, we found ourselves having to eat out a lot, and Thursday night we even went to good ol’ KFC for dinner.  Yeah, we were that tired. 

Thankfully, we had the end of the week to look forward to and a blissful weekend away from it all in Little Rock.  Only problem was, it seemed like it would never come.  But it did come and Friday night we finally rolled into Little Rock, tired and ready for the cookie waiting for us at the hotel. 🙂

Andy found a great deal at the Doubletree on the waterfront in Little Rock.  Our room overlooked the river!

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Saturday was kind of a grey, dreary day, but we made the most of it.  We started off with a breakfast that we definitely couldn’t get at home…gourmet versions of Eggs Benedict at The Delicious Temptation.  Andy got one with avocado and tomatoes, and mine was with crab and artichoke hearts.  Unfortunately, they were so good that I didn’t get a picture of them.  And so, you are left with a picture of my thoroughly delightful hot chocolate. 🙂

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Then we headed out to the Pulaski County Two Rivers Bridge.  This is such a neat island-turned-park in the middle of the city.  There are miles of paved walking and biking trails.  It was gorgeous!  Can’t wait to bring our baby back here…

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This day really was the epitome of winter in Arkansas…grey and lifeless.  I’m learning to like it, although my heart still sings every time the sun peaks through!

Then it was off to Conway to meet some friends for lunch and frozen yogurt.  Sorry, didn’t take any pictures.  We ended up having the frozen yogurt with my in-laws too, who were in town for my BIL’s basketball tournament.  Some “weekend away”, right?  Really, though it was fun.  Afterwards we went with our friends to Target to check out baby stuff.  It was fun and slightly overwhelming.  I also got my first real maternity outfit…a cute summer dress that will be great for this spring/summer.  Pictures to come!

Finally, we headed back to Little Rock.  We planned on going out to a nice dinner and seeing “The Vow”.  Apparently everyone else had the same idea, though, because the restaurant waits were crazy.  We ended up deciding to wait-it-out at Olive Garden and see the movie in the morning or another time.  Boy was that worth the wait!  Have I mentioned how lacking our dining options are up in the hills?

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I’m really starting to look (and feel!) preggo:

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The next morning we had an unexpected wake up call at 5 am…the fire alarm!  After an hour down in the lobby with rumors circulating, and laughs abounding at how certain people choose to “evacuate”, we finally got to go back to our rooms.  Some kids had pulled the firm alarm on the 7th floor.  Yes, I know, wonderful. 

Later that morning we awoke to a perfectly beautiful, sunny day.  We decided to head back home, since everything was closed and Andy was rearing to work on his jeep some.  It was gorgeous though!

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And so, that’s how we took all the lemons from last week and made lemonade.  And boy was it sweet!

Check out Rock This House today…there’s a bunch of new updates!

Passion 2012

I know, it’s been almost a month, but I’m finally getting around to writing about Passion 2012 in Atlanta.  Not that it wasn’t amazing or exciting…I’ve just been busy!

A little over a year ago, my husband and I felt led to start working with the college ministry at our church.  Most of the college students in the class were kids that had grown up here and either stayed here to go to college, or left but came back for breaks.  Since neither of us grew up around here, we didn’t know the majority of them.  The big trip to Passion 2011, an amazing college conference in Atlanta, was coming up and we thought that it would be a great opportunity to get on board.  One of my sisters from Arizona was also signed up to go with us (no one she knew was going).

A couple of days before we left, however, Andy decided that, with work and all, he really couldn’t go.  So, I went with out him and took my sister.  It was an amazing four days, and learned a ton, but something was missing…Andy.  Not only was I lonely without him, it was just plain hard to take back what I had learned and share it with him in a way that would have had the same meaning had he gone himself!

A wonderful year passed, in which the college ministry was growing and we were loving working with the kids.  Passion 2012 came up and, this time, Andy got to go!  So, at the beginning of January we loaded up three vans and headed east. 

There are so many things I could share with you about our trip.  If you’re not familiar with Passion, it doesn’t have an equal.  It’s chock full of inspiring speakers, music, and encouragement to step up and make a difference in this world…despite only being a college student.  Not that adults can’t get anything out of it too…it’s just geared for 18-25 year olds.

The overarching theme this year was “Do Something Now”…an aspect they’ve always had but that took center stage this year.  Did you know that there are over 27 million slaves in the world today?  Yes, 27 million!  And guess what, before you dog on college students, they were able to raise almost 3 million dollars at Passion this year to free these slaves.  3 million dollars!!!


What hit me the most about Passion was not that, yeah, it’s awesome that all these college students got together to give money and praise Jesus, but the thought of what am I supposed to do about what I’m learning

Most Christians in America live in a bubble.  Somehow we think that if we’re going to church twice a week, paying tithe, and leading a Sunday school class that we’re somehow serving the Lord…somehow living how Jesus wants us to live.  But is that what it’s all about?

Sure, it’s great to serve in the church and, yes, many of us work hard for our “easy” lives full of nice houses and clothes.  But people are dying each moment and going to hell, and there are 27 million slaves in this world needing the hope of Jesus.  So what are we going to do about it?

For Andy and I, we left Passion examining our lives and our goals.  We felt like much of our own lives and what they about is a waste.  We have so many opportunities around us to reach out and spread Christ’s name.  And yet, do we?  And, compared to so many in the world, we have been incredibly financially blessed.  But do we covet things and call them “needs”, or do we use the money God has blessed us with for His kingdom?

Before Passion, I had been really wanting some new brown riding boots.  I’d been looking everywhere for a good pair, and I’d been saving up my money.  At Passion, it seemed like every girl around me was wearing brown riding boots.  And yet, here I was, without them.  But as Passion progressed, I suddenly realized how foolish my coveting of those boots was.  I started thinking about how much the money I would spend on those boots could benefit someone in need…could help free someone from slavery…could help bring somebody to Christ.  All of a sudden, those boots seemed very insignificant

There’s nothing wrong with looking nice and getting new things.  I, myself, am a firm believer in representing Christ by dressing nicely and with thought.  But how many things do we really need?  How much could we actually go without?


One of the speakers, Francis Chan, spoke about taking the Bible literally.  One day he was reading the Word and stumbled upon the parable of the feast.  He realized that that’s what God wants us to do…and so he did.  He and his wife found poor, destitute people and invited them to an incredible feast.  His wife took them shopping and bought them new clothes, and they were thoroughly pampered for the occasion.  Everything was planned to a “t”…a dinner party nicer than many of us have come to.  And what an incredible witness?  Isn’t this how God wants us to live?


Dare we live boldly for Christ and reexamine our very lives and what they revolve around?  All the answers are not found in the traditions of the church.  They’re found solely in God’s Word. 

Just a little food for thought.   

Wet Toes

It’s 5:30 on Friday night.  Andy is later getting home than he usually is, trying to wrap up everything for the weekend. 

He ate a very late lunch at a work meeting, so I’m not starting dinner yet.  There’s no telling when he’ll be hungry.  Instead, I sit at my kitchen table, sipping a cup of hot chocolate and gazing out the window.  Gazing at the mist.

It’s been foggy all day.  When I woke up this morning, I looked out our bathroom window to the field beyond and watched a cloud of mystery descend from the mountain.  We never had days like this in Arizona.  No rain, no snow…just cold.  And everything is wet.  It’s the kind of day that could seep to your bones, making your eyes droop and body sag.  Winter in Arkansas.


Three times today I went out in our yard, training our dog with the new wireless fence.  Part of me wanted to just stay inside, but I knew the training was crucial.  So I pulled on my hat, my scarf, and my gloves, and trudged out to get Sam.  Since moving to Arkansas, I’ve acquired thick rain boots.  They would have been perfect for a day like this.  But, not wanting to take any extra time, I left on my brown cloth ones that I wore to work and ventured out.  I found myself involuntarily looking down, letting the grey day direct my emotions.  But something caused me to stop.  The toes of my boots were wet.


Instantly I was transported to a different time and place.  Can it really be four years ago now?  Can it be that long ago that my friend and I went to England in the dead of winter, traipsing all over the countryside in our cloth boots?  My toes had been wet then too.


But somehow, back then, it didn’t matter.  It was thrilling to experience the newness of grey days and mist, of walking in the rain.  The locals thought we were crazy roaming around in it…without any “wellies” even.  But we loved it.  It was so new, so different.

And with my wet toes came a turning point in my life.  A time when, sitting beneath a giant tree in sheep field, I decided to stop trying to live my life by my strength and instead let Christ live in me.  I decided to let me die and He live.  My life has never been the same.


In one instance, everything was brought into perspective.  The meaning of my day-to-day doings, even the trivial task of training little Sam in the fog, meant everything.  They meant letting Him live in me, giving up all that I am, was, and ever hope to be for the sake of His will, His path, and His leading.  Nothing He sets before us is trivial in His eyes.  It’s all a part of His plan to bring glory to His name.  Each little task, even cooking dinner or training a dog, when done at His leading, becomes a puzzle piece to His grand design.  Oh, how much I miss out on each day.  How I needed that reminder!

And to think, it was all because of some wet toes.

One Thousand Gifts: Peace in Winter

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The time of year I have struggled with most since moving to Arkansas has always been Winter.  I guess it’s because I’ve always connected my emotions so closely with the changing seasons, with the sky and the green tree.  When I go outside, I am revived.  Not because I feel a connection with “Mother Earth”, but because I never feel closer to God than in His glorious creation. 

It’s so easy to see Him in Spring, Summer, and Fall, when all is green or colorful.  New life comes, lives, then starts to rest.  And there’s so much to look forward to.  Each new bud, each magical firefly, and each falling leave are wonders to me.  And then there’s all that comes with them.  Spring, when being outside once again becomes fun, and when we celebrate Easter together.  Then comes Summer, days at the creek, no school, and Fourth of July.  And then in comes Fall with all it’s wonder, bringing with it apple cider, pumpkin pies, and Thanksgiving, and with it the expectation of the Christmas season.

But then the leaves fall and Christmas passes.  Suddenly I start to notice that the trees are all bare, and that the ground is brown, not like the evergreens where I come from.  The skies here are grey and colorless, and a purple haze hovers above everything.  In Flagstaff, the skies were always bright blue and clear, even in winter.  And then there’s the cold, wet days…the chill sinking to your bones…without much snow to brighten them.  In Flagstaff it was even colder, but not the wet cold we experience here.  And there was almost always snow…lots of it. 

And suddenly I feel my emotions becoming flat, like the grey sky.  What beauty is there to rejoice in at such a time?

My sister wrote this post the other day, about where God was leading her next.  In it, she talked about the seasons.  But she didn’t describe winter as dull and flat.  She described it as a peaceful time…a time for rest and reflection.  A time to let life slow down a bit.

Reading her blog, I was struck by the beauty I miss in winter.  Yes, there is that mysterious purple haze hovering above the Ozarks, a beauty I’ve always seen, but there’s also so much more!  Why can’t I delight in the peace of this time?  Why can’t I embrace the quiet and the solitude that this season brings.  Winter is about so much more than waiting for Spring.  It’s about renewal, rest, and silence.  Just like the trees outside, my soul needs a rest toAnd that’s where Winter comes in.

191. Peaceful winter days to read, pray, and reflect.
192. Letting life slow down just a tad.
193. Cardinals that still bring their beautiful red to my bird feeder…even in winter.
194. Unexpected sunny days that remind me of where I come from.
195. The blessing of seeing our precious baby on the ultrasound.
196. Learning to trust God with the actions and hearts of others.
197. A husband who is also a good man.
198. Game night with other couples
199. A weekend spent with family.
200. Starting to notice the beginnings of a baby bump. 🙂