Sunday, November 05, 2017

Good grief

Last week I stopped into Cub to buy the candle in this picture. I grabbed the 6. And then I hesitated. It's so easy for me to think of Hannah as a baby because that's the only way I knew her. Was I grabbing the right number? Would she really be turning six? That feels so big. She'd be just two years younger than Leah. They'd be such good friends! And two years older than Will. He'd have two big sisters bossing him around!

Alas, it has been six years since Hannah Marie entered this world and our family forever.

Sometimes I can't believe it's been that long. But then sometimes I can hardly remember what life was like before Hannah. Before grief was the new normal.

Grief is fascinating to me. I've never completely lined up with the classic stages of grief--denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance. Sure, all of those surfaced at times in the weeks and months following our losses. But never in the "right" order. Or for the "right" amount of time. And I knew right away that "acceptance" felt like the wrong word for the end of the cycle--as if I could ever accept this burden and move on with my life. 

I read an excerpt from a book recently that resonated so clearly with me regarding grief. Because the truth is, even though I may never "accept" or "move on," my grief has certainly changed. It's not as heavy as it was six years ago. Not as all-consuming. Not as painful. This is a portion of Beth Moore's book Breaking Free:

"Nothing could be more natural than a mother grieving the loss of a child. However, if ten years later the mother is still completely consumed with the loss and bitterness that have eclipsed all comfort and healing, she has wedged a stronghold between appropriate grief and gradual restoration. The enemy will capitalize on normal emotions of love or loss to swell them out of healthy proportion. They can consume our very lives if we're not aware of his schemes. Loving is never sin. However, obsession that flows from putting something in the place of God is sin. Likewise, grief is never sin, but disallowing God to minister comfort and healing to you over the passage of much time is."

It is my job, as a loving mother, to grieve for my daughter. It is also my job, as a daughter dependent on her heavenly Father, to accept the comfort, healing, and love He gives. We are not meant to be burdened by our grief forever. We are meant to be comforted in it. 

The week of Hannah's birthday last year, I heard this song while I was driving that spoke volumes to me of what I experience in grief.

Hannah is a part of our family and will forever be a part of my story. My story would be really boring if it was just the happy parts of my life. Our stories are the good and the bad. The mountaintops and the valleys. Every piece tells our story and tells of God's goodness through it all.

On a Sunday evening I'm looking back
Over all the years and where I've been
Looking at old photographs, I'm remembering
You were right there and you have been ever since
With every page that turns, I see your faithfulness

The mountain where I climbed
The valley where I fell
You were there all along
That's the story I'll tell
You brought the pieces together
Made me this storyteller
Now I know it is well, it is well
That's the story I'll tell

There were some nights that felt like they would last forever
But you kept me breathing, you were with me right then
And all that You have done for me, I could never hold it in
So here's to me telling this story over and over again

You hold the broken
You hear my every cry
My eyes are open
I know that it is well
It is well

Saturday, October 28, 2017


Do you hygge?

You should!

Hygge (pronounced hoo-gah or hue-gah) is a Danish concept for which there is no comparable English word. The closest we get is "coziness," but it really means so much more.

The Danes use the word hygge as a verb ("You and the family should come over and hygge with us tonight"), an adjective ("The fireplace and flannel blanket makes this livingroom so hygge"), or a noun ("You need more hygge in your life").

Dan and I were introduced to the concept of hygge a couple of years ago and have fully embraced it. :) I was re-introduced last year while reading The Year of Living Danishly. In the book, the author is on a quest to discover why Denmark is repeatedly named the happiest nation in the world, despite harsh winters, high taxes, and other adversaries.

Dan surprised me this week with The Little Book of Hygge, and I have devoured in over the last few days. The author explains that hygge can be a year-round practice, but the Danes practice it the most in the winter, which is quite long and dark for them. The idea is having practices in place so that instead of dreading the impending cold, dark season, you have a way to embrace is through coziness and togetherness. (And the book has recipes! So adorable).

There are so many ways to practice hygge, but here are my top hygge essentials:

  • Tea. Hot drinks are one of the top hygge practices in Denmark, and I'm not a coffee drinker, so tea it is :)
  • Our fireplace. Our firewood was delivered last week and all five of us spent about an hour stacking it. We've already had two fires, and it's definitely something that marks the season for us.
  • Candles. This is another top one for the Danes as well.
  • Crocheting. There's something very cozy about creating something warm and comforting.
  • Cooking. Being in my kitchen is so hygge for me, especially if I'm making something like soup. ;)
  • Slippers. Dan and I splurged on nice slippers from L. L. Bean last year, and they've been one of my favorite things to wear.
So check out the book or any of the following articles on hygge and dig in. Especially if you're in a state that experiences long winters. There's no need to white-knuckle it through the cold and snow! Bring it on! :)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Fall Top 5

It's the most wonderful time of the year! FALL! I'm in love with this weather and everything about this season. It's already going too fast and pretty soon there will be snow on the ground. But I will enjoy these crisp sunny days while I can. :)

Here's what else I'm enjoying right now!

1) Books. Lots and lots of books.

Jen Hatmaker's Of Mess and Moxie was just about as enjoyable as she gets. So hilarious and also beautifully thought-provoking. Do yourself a favor and pick this up.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah is an intriguing memoir chronicling Noah's life in post-apartheid South Africa. I loved this book! Such an unbelievable life and he's a great story-teller.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio is a children's lit book that both Jack and I read (and loved) AND the movie is coming out November 17th! Heart-wrenching story about a boy with facial deformities who attends school and makes friends for the first time. I can't wait to see how they portray it all on screen.

Two young adult lit picks that I loved--The Radius of Us by Marie Marquardt and Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon. Both are fascinating and captivating stories and quick reads. Bonus: Everything Everything is ALSO a pretty recent movie. :)

2) Nichole Nordeman's Every Mile Mattered

I have loved Nichole for many years, and her newest album is some of her best. I saw her at the Belong Tour last fall and she's just the real deal. And these songs are straight from her life--the good, the bad, and the ugly. ;) Check it out!

3) WoodWick cinnamon chai candle

This is seriously what fall smells like. It's so perfect. And WoodWick candles are awesome because they crackle while they burn. So cozy!

4) Podcasts

"That Sounds Fun" with Annie F. Downs. I first heard Annie on Jen Hatmaker's podcast, and she was awesome, so I checked out a few of her episodes too. She's fantastic to listen to and has a variety of fascinating guests.

I forget why I started following The Lazy Genius on Instagram, but I did and I love her. I've listened to a couple of her podcast episodes, and they're perfect because they're practical and short. :)

I think Jen Hatmaker is also to credit with my introduction to the lovely Jamie Ivey, and her podcast "The Happy Hour" is so much fun. Jamie is real and funny and so easy to listen to.

5) Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

My family recently stopped eating bananas, for whatever unknown reason. It took me approximately six weeks to catch on to this new development, so I have had lots of over-ripe bananas at the ready for all sorts of banana bread recipes. And this chocolate chocolate chip one is one of my favorites. Enjoy. :) (And this one happens to be gluten-free, but just use all-purpose flour if your intestinal tract is cool with it)

Gluten-free Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (recipe from my sweet friend at Sweet Anna's!)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups mashed bananas (about 5)
1 cup sour cream
2 cups gluten-free flour (plus 1 teaspoon xanthan gum if your flour blend doesn't already have it)
1 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 and grease two loaf pans.
Whisk together the flour (plus xanthan gum), cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Mix together mashed bananas and sour cream. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time and the vanilla.
Add half of dry mixture and mix well. Add half of banana/sour cream mixture and mix well.
Add remaining dry ingredients and mix, and then remaining banana mixture and mix.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Pour into prepared loaf pans. Sprinkle with additional mini chocolate chips if you're feeling fancy.
Bake for about an hour.
I love that this makes two loaves--I stick one in the freezer right away and it's like Christmas when I discover it a couple of weeks later. :)

Happy fall, y'all!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

first day

Next week I'm putting two kids on buses for their first days of school.

The first day is always such a mixed bag--saying goodbye to an amazing summer, welcoming back our school year routine, excitement, nervous energy, elation, anxiety.

There's an extra emotion this year and I'm not yet sure exactly what it is.

Because the truth of the matter is, I should be putting three kids on the bus next week.

I should be packing three lunches. Taking three "first day of school" pictures. Meeting three teachers at back-to-school night. Hearing three kids tell me who they sat with at lunch or played with at recess.

This is just one of those parts of grief that doesn't hit you right away. It's not the intensity of hearing your baby no longer has a heartbeat or the heartbreak of cradling her lifeless little body. It's the stuff that will continue to pop up as we realize just how much we're missing without Hannah here.

So as "first day" photos fill your newsfeed, know that there should be more. More cheesy smiles and huge backpacks. More first day jitters and brand new shoes. More kisses goodbye and fresh-off-the-bus hugs.

Monday, August 07, 2017

These are a few of my favorite things...

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens!

Actually, The Sound of Music itself is definitely one of my favorite things. Adorable Julie Andrews and the VonTrap Family Singers. What's not to love? 


Know what else I love? I love giving gifts. 

And I have an idea that I'm very excited about. :) Once in a while I share some of my favorite things--books, snacks, music, etc. But rather than just share those things on the blog, I'm going to literally share those things with you! 

On the 10th of every month, I am going to have a giveaway for something fun--a book, a giftcard, music, whatever little thing I happen upon that I want to share with someone. :)

SO, stay tuned on Facebook and Instagram this Thursday for your first chance to win! 

Saturday, August 05, 2017


Last week I noticed that the kids and I had a completely open calendar for about seven days in a row. So rather than fill them with beach days and playdates, we decided to keep them empty. And it was exactly what all of us needed.

The summer has been full and crazy and wonderful and tiring. But I think we were all ready for a change of pace.

We stayed in our pajamas way too late. We watched movies and had popcorn for lunch. We read books and played games. It was glorious.

I read a book this week called Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren, and her final chapter was so perfectly timed: "Sleeping: Sabbath, Rest, and the Work of God." Here are a few of Warren's thoughts on Sabbath.

  • Rest is not simply a physical need--it is not only our brains and muscles and eyelids that must learn habits of rest. We need holistic rest--physical, psychological, and spiritual. 
  • We learn to rest by practice, by routine, over time. This is true of our bodies, our minds, and our souls, which are always intertwined.
  • We are finite, weak creatures who are abundantly cared for by our strong and loving Creator. In our workaholic, image-barraged, overcaffeinated, entertainment-addiction, and supercharged culture, submission to our creatureliness is a necessary and often overlooked part of discipleship. 
  • God wants to give us not just lives of holiness and prayer but also of sufficient rest. And perhaps a key step toward a life of prayer and holiness is simply receiving the gift of a good night's sleep. 
So if your schedule allows, I'd highly recommend taking an extended sabbath. No agendas, no plans. Just rest. :)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Summer Top 5

Happy Summer! We're in the thick of it, friends! It's hard to believe we're a little over halfway through my kids' summer break, but I guess time flies when you're having fun. ;)

Other than my sweet kids, here's what else I'm enjoying right now!

1) Books. Holy cow, the books. Too many to pick from, so I'll keep their descriptions short. Just know that I highly recommend all of them!

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. Ove is the quintessential curmudgeon, but you can't help but love him. Super sweet, quirky story.

The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner is a memoir recounting her life growing up in a polygamist family. So fascinating and often heartbreaking.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult tells the stories of a white supremacist and the black nurse who is assigned to take care of his newborn baby. Extremely eye-opening and absolutely riveting.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly are both amazing, captivating stories set in World War II.

What is the Bible? by Rob Bell. I know Rob Bell more from podcasts and his Nooma videos than from his past books, but this was a fantastic read. Christians have a variety of opinions on Bell, but I think he's a fantastic writer and thinker. And he's funny. :)

2) Jeni's ice cream

I met up with some friends in Nashville last month and had my first taste of Jeni's ice cream. If you have an actual Jeni's ice cream shop near you, you know what's up. If you don't, then you need to go splurge on a pint (locally, I think Whole Foods is the best bet for finding it in a store). It's pricey (like $10/pint....) but it's kind of otherworldly. My personal favorites were Brown Butter Almond Brittle (which I was also able to find here in a pint) and Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk. Ridiculous.

3) Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Confession: I haven't actually watched the current season. Just consider this a recommendation to watch the first two seasons if you haven't yet! It's a quirky, hilarious Netflix original, and Ellie Kemper is simply the best!

4) Thai Crunch Salad

This is the perfect summer salad! We've had it recently with grilled chicken, and it's so delicious. Check out the recipe here.

5) Podcasts
Two of my favorite people have new podcasts!

Jen Hatmaker and Shauna Niequist have joined the podcast world and so far they're both pretty amazing. I enjoy them both as authors because they're real and funny and inspiring, and it's all the same in their podcast episodes and interviews. So good.

There you have it. Enjoy the long, warm days, my friends! :)

Thursday, June 08, 2017


Today is the last day of school! It's one of my favorite days of the year. I remember the last day of school as a kid. It was magic! I remember the sweaty classroom and signing yearbooks and surprise ice cream treats.

But obviously the best part of the last day of school is that tomorrow is the first day of summer vacation! Last year at this time I came across a blog post by Amber Salhus where she declared that they were going to embrace that summer as the "Summer of Fun." So we did the same! We embraced the chaos and the mundane, the sunny days and the rainy ones. And it was the best thing we could have done.

Because guess what? Being a mom isn't always an easy ride. I have a toddler who never stops moving, a daughter who never stops talking, and a tween whose increasing independence is giving me indigestion. We have tantrums, extracurricular activities, and chores all around.

***Spoiler alert! Embracing "Summer of Fun" doesn't make any of those things go away.***

But finding the joy in every day makes even the boring, difficult, busy days much easier to stomach. And it also changes everyone's attitude. When you are intentional about being grateful for the simple things, your eyes will be opened to how amazing life really is.

And I don't know about you, but when I signed on for this mom gig, I signed on for the good and the bad. And sometimes I forget that. We obviously live for the highs--the first words, the honor rolls, the choir concerts, the soccer goals. But it's kind of a package deal. We also get sleepless nights, puking kids, picky eaters, defiant toddlers, endless laundry, sibling arguments, and attitude problems.

I could let that stuff get to me. Or I could remember that God chose me for this job--to shepherd these three little (or not-so-little...) lives on this earth. I can either fight it and make it much more difficult than I need to, or I can embrace every part of it and make the most of these days He's gifted us.

Feel free to join us! As I did last year, I'll be posting a photo every day on Instagram and Facebook. Buckle up! It's #SummerOfFun!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Spring Top 5

It's spring. Sure, it's 37 degrees and there may or may not be snow in the forecast, but I promise--according to the calendar anyway, it IS spring.

SO, here's what is happening in my SPRING world right now.

1) Books
I'm still plugging away at my long list of books. Here are some of my faves. :)

Scot McKnight's A Fellowship of Differents was recommended by a couple of friends and it did not disappoint. He writes about church and community and what those things have become and what they're supposed to look like, based on the apostle Paul's teaching.

I don't remember where I recently heard about Richard Rohr's Falling Upward, but something I read had referenced or recommended it, so I requested it from the library. I haven't read anything of his before, but I loved it! From the book jacket: " Rohr offers a new paradigm for understanding one of the most profound of life's mysteries: how our failings can be the foundation for our ongoing spiritual growth....We grow spiritually more by doing it wrong than my doing it right."

A couple weeks ago I got on the library waiting list for Anne Lamott's new book, Hallelujah Anyway. But in the process, I stumbled upon Small Victories which I had somehow totally missed. I've read all of Lamott's nonfiction (and a few of her novels), so I was excited to have a "new" one. :) But I was a little nervous for two reasons. One, I did not love Lamott's two books before this one--Help Thanks Wow and Stitches. They were okay, but they felt a little forced and they were both super short. Second, it's "advertised" as "new and selected pieces." (I feared that this would be like reading Glennon Doyle Melton's Carry On, Warrior, which was literally almost ALL previous blog posts that I'd already read). Anyway, Small Victories is a wonderful collection of essays, most of which were new to me (and the couple of stories that were familiar were fun to read again). I adore Lamott's writing and it's been a while since I read anything by her, so this was a fun few days of hearing her voice again. :)

2) Call the Midwife
I've been reading more than crocheting lately, and therefore watching less TV. But over the last few weeks, I did manage to catch up on season 5 of Call the Midwife on Netflix and have also caught up on the season that's currently airing on PBS on Sunday nights. I started watching this show when it started in 2012 and it's still one of my favorites. It makes me want to live in London in the 1950s and 60s. :)

3) Goodie Girl Mint Slims
Jack and I were SUPER excited to find a gluten-free version of thin mint girl scout cookies! They weren't cheap (a little better deal online if you ordered a case of 6 boxes--which we did and have been slowly rationing). ;) Locally, they're available at HyVee and--rumor has it--Walmart. (The brand has other types of cookies as well). :)

4) Beauty and the Beast
I took Jack and Leah to see this the weekend it came out last month and we ALL loved it. (And I'm tempted to see it again while it's still in theaters!) Seriously, it's so lovely and well done. A beautiful nod to the animated original. The music is sublime. And such a fantastic cast (including all of the voices of the household objects!)

5) Cold remedies
Okay, this is pathetic, but I'm two weeks into a ridiculous head cold/cough and this stuff is quite literally saving my life. Or at least my sanity.

So it started as what I thought was seasonal allergies (and I still think that was at least part of what was going on). So I dutifully alternated Benadryl at night and Claritin in the morning. And it worked until I got the worst sore throat of recent memory. So I added ibuprofen to the mix and took a trip to the Minute Clinic to rule out strep. Then I woke up the next day to find that this head congestion/whatever had set up camp in my lungs. 

This meant that I was coughing up a storm, day and night. Luckily I had some Robitussin with Codeine left from a few months ago, so I added that to the nightly routine. Unfortunately, it didn't do much. So I started researching "dry cough remedies" online and tried lots of fun things like dark chocolate, almonds, tea, gargling, and steam. Nothing helped.

Then a very wise FB friend said "Albuterol?" and I thought, "Why not?!" We have a nebulizer for Will, and Leah was recently prescribed albuterol for a lingering cough, so I knew I had some and decided to give it a try. And lo and behold, it actually helped a little bit. I'm still coughing and congested, but this darling seal does at least bring some relief before bed so I don't curse my lungs as soon as I'm horizontal.

So, happy spring! May your skies be sunny, your windows open, and your seasonal allergies short-lived. :)

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Steven Curtis Chapman | 2013-2016

It's our final day of Steven Curtis Chapman music, and quite possibly my favorite. :)

As I mentioned in my original post, while Chapman's album Beauty Will Rise was very meaningful in our grief, Glorious Unfolding was extremely helpful in our healing. I should really just say go here and listen to the entire album, because every song is incredible. But I did manage to pick out my absolute favorites. ;)

Glorious Unfolding was released on September 30, 2013. I know I haven't shared the actual date on any other release, but I had to this time--it's the day our sweet Will was born! How fortuitous for that new chapter of our lives and our grief journey to be marked with this incredible collection of songs about God's faithfulness and the hope we have in Him.

First up from this album is the title track. I seriously can't hear this song without getting chills or crying. Or both. "God's plan from the start for this world and your heart has been to show His glory and His grace. Forever revealing the depth and the beauty of His unfailing love." So good.

Next is "Love Take Me Over."

And "Something Beautiful."
"God's gonna turn it into something different,
He's gonna turn it into something good.
He's gonna take all the broken pieces
And make something beautiful like only He could."

Next is "Only One and Only You." I can't even quite describe what this song touched in me after losing two babies without getting into another very long blog post. Maybe another day. ;)

Finally is "Together," which is one of the best songs to describe our marriage after losing Hannah and Charlie. "And if it wasn't for God's mercy and His grace, there's no way we would be standing in this place. But because He has been faithful every step along the way, Here we are together." Amen.

And of course, honorable mentions to the entire rest of the album, but especially to "Take Another Step" and "SEE You in a Little While."

Chapman's most recent album is Worship and Believe, and I'm not familiar enough with it yet to have a feel for all of the songs, but I can definitely recommend the single that's been playing on the radio! "More Than Conquerors." :)

Thanks for journeying with me this week! I had fun putting these posts together. Hopefully you were blessed or encouraged by some music along the way. :)

Friday, March 31, 2017

Steven Curtis Chapman | 2007-2011

Happy Friday! Here's Day 5!

Chapman released This Moment in 2007 and it included the very sweet "Cinderella." :)

Honorable mentions go to "Children of God" and "Yours."

Next up was 2009's Beauty Will Rise, which was his first album after the loss of his daughter Maria. So many songs on this album have come to mean so much to me, but I had to go with the title track for sure.

As well as "Spring is Coming."

Honorable mention goes to the very dear "February 20th." So beautiful.

Chapman released another "best of" type album, re-creation, which included some new songs, some old songs, and some remixes of old songs. One of the new songs on the album, "Do Everything," became a bit of an anthem for me as a young mom. Plus, the video is adorable. :)

And the honorable mention for this album is another of the new songs, "Long Way Home."

One day left in our trip! See you tomorrow!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Steven Curtis Chapman | 2001-2004

Happy Day 4!

Chapman's first album of the new millennium was 2001's Declaration. I had to go with two again here--the first is "God is God."

Second up is "See the Glory." Chapman co-wrote this with his son Caleb!

Honorable mentions go to "Live Out Loud" (which is a cute music video) and "Magnificent Obsession." :)

Chapman released All About Love in 2003, which was an album mostly full of songs he'd written for his wife Mary Beth. It was also the first album that included cover songs--"I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" and "I'll Take Care of You." My first pick from this album is "We Will Dance."

And the non-"love" song on the album, "Moment Made for Worshipping."

Honorable mention goes to the title track, "All About Love."

Last album for today is 2004's All Things New. I had to pick "Only Getting Started" because it features (sort of) local boy Jonny Lang (who became a Christian in 2000)!

Honorable mentions go to the title track, "All Things New" as well as "Much of You."

Some of my favorites coming the next two days! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Steven Curtis Chapman | 1996-1999

Day 3!

1996 brought Chapman's Signs of Life. I had a really hard time narrowing down which videos to share, so I picked two. First is "Lord of the Dance."

And second is "Let Us Pray." :)

Honorable mentions could be to the entire rest of the album, but I'll go with "Children of the Burning Heart" and the title track, "Signs of Life." 

Next up was Greatest Hits, which was obviously mostly previously recorded songs, but there were a couple new ones, and "Not Home Yet" has always been a favorite of mine! Plus, it's another actual music video which is cool. ;)

Last for today is 1999's Speechless. This came out the year I graduated from high school and its songs are definitely part of my "late high school/early college" soundtrack. Again, I had to pick two to share. First is "Fingerprints of God," which Chapman wrote for his daughter Emily who was an early teen at the time. Such a sweet message to a girl in that awkward middle school phase of life!

Second is "Be Still and Know." 

And honorable mentions to "Dive" (which KTIS still plays as though it came out just last week!) and the title track, "Speechless."

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Steven Curtis Chapman | 1990-1994

Welcome to Day 2!

Chapman's fourth album was For the Sake of the Call and I had to go with the title track for this pick. It's such a great song! And our youth choir sang it a million years ago, so it's even more special. :)

I have to share a second video. "No Better Place" was a classic "encore" song in a lot of his concerts and I can still picture him running through the crowd on one of the last choruses. :)

Honorable mentions go to "Busy Man" and "You Know Better."

Next up was The Great Adventure! I obviously picked the title track because it was his very first music video. Please just take in the mid-90s goodness! And also count the costume changes. ;)

Honorable mentions go to "Go There With You" and "That's Paradise."

Last for today is Heaven in the Real World. I have to share the title track because I think it's a really cool video.

I also have to share "Remember Your Chains" since, as I shared in Sunday's post, it's the song I can pinpoint as my "come to Jesus" moment. ;)

Honorable mentions go to "King of the Jungle" and "Treasure of You."

Come back tomorrow as we finish out the 90s!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Steven Curtis Chapman | 1987-1989

Welcome to our week of a Steven Curtis Chapman walk down memory lane. :)
I'm going to post a few albums each day and share a song (or two) from each album. It was hard to pick one (or two) for most albums, so I'll have links to a few more. ;)

First up is his debut, First Hand. I picked the song "Weak Days" from this album because it was his first radio single.

Honorable mentions on this album go to "Run Away" and "My Redeemer is Faithful and True."

Next up is Chapman's sophomore album, Real Life Conversations. Please enjoy "My Turn Now" from this album. And really, really enjoy the mullet in that cover photo. :)

Honorable mentions on this album go to "His Strength is Perfect" and "His Eyes."

Chapman's third album was More to This Life and I picked the title track to share with you.

Honorable mentions on this album go to "Love You With My Life" and the iconic wedding song "I Will Be Here." :)

Come back tomorrow for the early 90s, where Chapman lost the mullet and shot his first music video!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Book Review | Between Heaven and the Real World

Last July, a post on Instagram caught my attention. Contemporary Christian recording artist Steven Curtis Chapman was announcing a book coming out in March. I actually remember lying in bed when I saw it on my phone and I immediately went to Amazon and preordered it. I'm not big on buying actual books (Hello, library! Or Kindle!) and I certainly don't usually preorder anything. But this was different. No one else's music and ministry has impacted my faith and my life quite like Chapman's. I knew this was going to be a book I'd want to own.

So when this baby arrived in my mailbox on March 8th, I quickly finished the other book I was reading (I have a really hard being in the middle of more than one book at the same time...) so I could Dive in. (Emphasis and pun intended...). ;)

I seriously read this book so fast that I almost want to go read it again right now! But I lent it to my mom, so I guess I'll have to wait. :) I honestly have only amazing things to say about the book and I can't recommend it enough, so instead of walking you through the book and his life (you should really just read it yourself) I'll give a quick glimpse of how I've been impacted by his story.

I really have my mom to thank for the introduction to Chapman's music. His first album, First Hand, came out when I was seven years old and we owned it, as well as his next two, on vinyl. (I'd love to know where those ended up!) When I hear some of that early stuff, I am transported to a childhood in our house in North Minneapolis. (This was an era of a lot of vinyl--Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Twila Paris. I have amazing memories of Christian music in our house!)

My first Steven Curtis Chapman concert (of many) was in 1992 with his Great Adventure tour. My pre-teen self was in her glory! I was officially hooked on this singer-songwriter who could also put on a pretty cool live show. (In fact, he did a Live Adventure recording and video later that year and I remember watching it--on VHS, obvs--many, many times). :)

In 1994, Chapman released Heaven in the Real World. Of course there was an accompanying tour, and of course we went to the concert when it came to Minneapolis. I vividly remember sitting in the balcony of the Northrup Auditorium and bawling my eyes out when Chapman sang "Remember Your Chains." I grew up in a Christian home and accepted Christ as a young child, but if I had to pinpoint a time when my faith became my own and I really started to understand what Jesus was doing in my life, it was sitting in that dark auditorium wondering why on earth I was crying!

The albums kept coming every year or two, and each one held so much goodness. Through high school and college, although my taste in Christian music had changed over the years and some artists and come and gone, I still made sure to buy the latest Steven Curtis Chapman album when it came out. I remember getting All About Love when Dan and I been married for less than a year and loving all of these songs Chapman had written for his wife Mary Beth.

On May 21, 2008, Chapman's 5-year-old daughter Maria Sue (one of three daughters they had adopted from China) was accidentally hit by her big brother Will Franklin after she ran into the path of his SUV in their driveway. She died later at the hospital. I remember being so heartbroken seeing this on the news that night. The chapters in the book that tell of this event and the weeks and months of grief that followed are so beautiful and powerful. Chapman's next recording, Beauty Will Rise is full of songs that recount the grief, and hope amidst the grief, of losing their precious Maria.

Just a couple years later this album would prove to be extremely poignant and healing as we grieved our own losses. To see that someone could go through that kind of loss and still be able to point to the Lord was huge for me in my pain and grief. I held to the truth in the title song from that album:

Out of these ashes beauty will rise
And we will dance among the ruins
We will see it with our own eyes
Out of these ashes beauty will rise
For we know joy is coming in the morning

Just as Beauty Will Rise had spoken so deeply in our grief, Chapman's Glorious Unfolding spoke just as deeply in our healing. Every single song on that album rings so true to what we experienced and felt from God in the years that followed losing Hannah and Charlie. From the title track:

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed
You've just got to believe the story is so far from over
So hold on to every promise God has made to us
And watch this glorious unfolding

So grateful for a God who holds it all--the grief and pain, the healing and joy. And so grateful that He uses others and their stories and gifts to point us to the truth of who He is.

After finishing Chapman's book, I requested his wife Mary Beth's book from the library. It came a few days later and I devoured it in about a day and a half. I loved reading the same story from a mother's point of view. It was beautiful and hard and it brought so much of my grief to the surface again. So I have to give Mary Beth a shout-out for her beautiful book Choosing to See. Again, so much hope in the middle of the pain.

So there you have it. Go order yourself a copy of Between Heaven and the Real World and enjoy!

And stay tuned to the blog this week. Reading this book made me look back at so much of Chapman's old music (thank you, YouTube!) and it was SUCH a fun trip down memory lane. So each day I'm going to go through a few albums at a time, highlighting a song or two from each. It'll be fun. I promise. ;)
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Winter Top 5

Well, November (and December) (and a good portion of January) got away from me. Welcome back to my tiny corner of the internet. ;)

And happy winter! Except that we're in the middle of some very NON-winter temps, rendering the snow either dirty and gross or completely nonexistent. But it's only January, and this is Minnesota, so we likely have lots more cold and snow in our future.

Anyway, here's what I'm loving right now.

1) Books
I'm not big on New Year's Resolutions, but I did decide to be intentional about not spending too much time on social media. Instead, I've been reading a LOT. A couple noteworthy picks:

Shauna Niequist's Present Over Perfect was beautiful and real and refreshing. I love Shauna's writing style--at the end of the book I felt like I'd just spent an afternoon listening to her pour her heart out. I had a chance to see her at the Belong Tour in October and she's the same on stage as I imagine she is in her kitchen, preparing a meal to share with friends. Highly recommend all of her books!

Steve Wiens' Beginnings was a far-overdue read for me. It was released a year ago and for some reason, the year got away from me and other books were read instead. I really enjoyed this book and it felt appropriate to read it in January--a beginning. Steve combines Biblical and personal stories throughout the book, which chronicles the seven days of creation. It works so beautifully and is completely captivating. Grab this book and while you're on Amazon, go ahead and pre-order Steve's book Whole, due out this August. :)

2) Larabar bites
I'm a big fan of Larabars. They're so simple and delicious. The coconut chocolate chip are a staple in our cupboard. But sometimes I don't want a whole Larabar. Enter Larabar BITES! The perfect tiny treat! I've only tried the cherry chocolate chip, but they also come in chocolate macaroon, double chocolate brownie, and mint chocolate truffle. Check 'em out.

3) The Office
This is not a new show for us, but it might be even better the second time around. We watched this sporadically when it was on TV 10ish years ago, and when we were perusing Netflix a couple months ago looking for a new show to watch together, this one caught our attention. We love the sitcom length, as we can't always commit to an hour-long show once all the kids are finally in bed and we're nearly falling asleep standing up. ;) So many laugh-out-loud moments. If, for some reason, you've never watched this, please do!

4) Zupas

This is a newish place in Maple Grove, although there are locations in about six different states. It's all soup, salads, and sandwiches, and everything we've tried is awesome. Dan is a fan of the Cuban Grilled Pork Sandwich, and I can't get enough of the Garden Chicken Chop Salad. Everything is super fresh, and every entree comes with a chocolate-covered strawberry! The only downside to all of this awesomeness is that it's always pretty busy. But it's worth it. (Also, they're closed on Sundays)

5) Movies
I love movies this time of year! It's award season and the movie selection is amazing. I have so many on my list, but I've loved the couple I've seen so far:

Leah and I saw Moana after Christmas and just loved it. The music is absolutely incredible and Moana is a perfect (non-princess) female lead. :) Leah is still singing "How Far I'll Go" (with mostly the right words) nearly every day. This will definitely be one we own when it comes out!

Dan and I had a rare day date last week and saw La La Land. SO good. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are charming and perfect. Outstanding music, beautiful story. Go see it!

All done. :) Hang in there, friends! Spring will be here before you know it. ;)