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The Liebster Award

Liebster Award! ... So, what is the Liebster Award? | Abroad American

Back in December, Laurel nominated me for the “Liebster Award.” She writes at Laurel Jean. Thank you for the nomination, friend!

Here’s how the award business works, which I understand is a way for you to meet new bloggers and have some fun, too!

  1. First, thank the person who nominated you, include a link to their blog, and add the Liebster Award badge to your blog and/or post.
  2. Answer the eleven questions from the person who nominated you.
  3. Give eleven random facts about yourself.
  4. Nominate 5-11 fellow bloggers.
  5. Notify your nominees that you nominated them for the Liebster Award.
  6. Last, but certainly not least, ask your nominees eleven questions.

11 random facts about me

  1. My favorite story genre is books set in America’s 1900-1960s.
  2. I always appreciate a well-timed quote woven into a conversation.
  3. I have 7 younger siblings that I’m quite proud of.
  4. I’m a bit of a foodie but only recently discovered my love of cooking. I finally realized the kitchen is a place for creativity — for example, I’m enjoying the freedom to not measure exactly or always obey the recipe. This turns a chore into something exciting, though it does come with risks! I’m glad my husband is an easy food reviewer.
  5. I love a good garage sale and feel disappointed when I drive past a sign and can’t stop. You never know when you could find a good deal or a great treasure. However, I tried to host one last summer, and though parts of it were fun, it was kind of a flop.
  6. I hope to find timber this summer (translation: I intend to go to the mountain forests and smell the pine trees).
  7. I am studying the book of James with the ladies in my church. I’m blown away by all I’m learning by emphasizing the book’s context.
  8. I always choose my giraffe mug whenever possible.
  9. Whenever my sisters and I use the Marco Polo app to talk, we often use the squeaky voice filter, and none of our husbands understand the hilarity of it.
  10. One of my favorite things is driving back roads with sunny, window-down weather, perhaps to a coffee shop or friend’s house.
  11. And for my 11th fact, here’s a pic of my cute baby.
He’s two months!

Here are the questions Laurel asked me:

  1. How did you choose the name for your blog? I wanted to weave together a theme for my blog. As I looked at my own writing, I noticed I tend to write about trusting God, with a side of my favorite literature. So I grabbed the theme of courage and plot twists.
  2. If you could work any job for one week, what job would it be, and why? I’m loving my SAHM job! I do like to vicariously explore other careers through book characters.
  3. What is the biggest thing you’ve learned from blogging? You must be filled up to share with others.
  4. What does your ideal weekend look like? It would involve a clean house, hospitality, coffee, a musical, chocolatey dessert, volleyball, a hike, and my favorite people.
  5. Do you set goals for the New Year? Yep! They’re usually a variance of the same things.
  6. What is the best book (aside from the Bible) that you’ve read, and why do you think so? One book I have enjoyed greatly is The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. It shows the beauty of faith in God and courage in the midst of the worst circumstances. I just love the hope in her story. God truly is a Hiding Place.
  7. What was the best thing that happened to you in 2020? In June we found out we were expecting our first!
  8. Which historical figure do you most admire, and why? In school I enjoyed learning about Clara Barton because of her bravery and strength.
  9. Where do you hope to see yourself in 10 years? Teaching my children and discipling others! And, hopefully we’ll have our dream home.
  10. If you knew that today was your last day on earth, how would you spend it? What I hope to be doing every day: sharing Christ and His truth.
  11. What is your favorite Bible verse, and why? I’ve always loved Psalm 16:11, “You will show me the path of life. In Your presence is fullness of joy. At Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”

My Nomiations for the Liebster Award

Shelli Rehmert — My mother-in-law blogs with both wisdom and wit (one of my favorite combos!)

Bethany J. Melton — Bethany has a gift for gracing simple life with lovely words.

Madelyn Canada — Madelyn is similar to me, in that she taps into writing encouragement from both theology and stories, too.

Kristin Couch — Kristin’s stories on “The Palest Ink” are a delight to read. 

And my questions for my nominees:

  1. Where do you source ideas for your blog?
  2. What is a favorite CHAPTER from one of your favorite books?
  3. What’s your ideal weekend?
  4. Favorite recipe right now?
  5. What’s one of your favorite blog posts you’ve written?
  6. What is your favorite book of the Bible that you’ve studied and why?
  7. What is a life hack you have enjoyed recently?
  8. What’s your dream vacation?
  9. How do you choose the books you want to read?
  10. What’s a book recommendation?
  11. Describe a favorite piece of art you own:

Dear readers, would you like to answer any of these questions? Please do so in the comments or message me! Are you also a blogger? I’d love to know! Thank you following me and letting me take up treasured space in your inbox.

Parking Lot Prelude

I’ve been uniquely positioned to see a new angle of behind-the-scenes church since I’ve become a mom. Whether it’s catching most of the sermon from the foyer speakers, inhaling the shared meal before the baby wakes up, or catching conversations over the diaper changing table in the nursery, church looks a bit different in this season. I’ve appreciated the new observations I’ve made. 

Sunday morning I sat in our car, fitting in a baby feeding before the service started. My husband was greeting at the door, but I had a chance to observe the happening parking lot.

There’s something special about seeing car after car turn into this holy slab of cement. The day washed in sunshine, smiles appeared bright.

I noticed a newlywed couple, dressed in Sunday best, but returning a post hole digger to someone else’s vehicle before heading into the building. 

There also was a darling collection of six young siblings tumbling out of the van, waving to their friends as they patiently waited for their parents. Their pink dresses, blue plaids, and grins melted my heart. “Behold, children are a gift from the Lord.” What a testimony their smiles were to the joy of the Lord! 

A few spaces down, my sister and her husband emerged from their car, with laughter and coffees. They whipped out baby and baby stroller in practiced teamwork style, also eager to worship.

As more people filed toward the front doors, I also noted a new haircut, a young believer in the faith, and a proud, new grandma. The high school seniors had arrived early to pass out their grad party invitations.

Each sister and brother in Christ — young and old — spoke some aspect of God’s truth to me. I need them all.

They are individuals carrying unique spiritual gifts into the church foyer. Members of Christ’s body, and if they are suffering, we all are; if they are rejoicing, we all are, and somehow we can visit both places at once in our Oneness with Christ. The Man of Sorrows and yet, the Dayspring from on High.

What a gift to be physically together. The sun and spring blossoms beckoned praise. I reached for my Bible to read a little, and my eyes fell on this passage:

“Oh come, let us worship and bow down;

    let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!

For He is our God,

    and we are the people of His pasture,

    and the sheep of His hand.

Today, if you hear His voice,

 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,

    as on the day at Massah in the wilderness.”

Psalm 95:6-8

Since I was peering through my vehicle’s tinted windows, and not through rose-colored glasses, I knew this was as an imperfect sheep gathering as any. We desperately need God to soften our prone-to-be-hard hearts to worship Him and genuinely care for one another. We also need each other to call one another to worship and bow down.

My heart swelled as I prepared to set up my own little sheep’s stroller and enter the gates with thanksgiving. I determined to encourage anyone I could and also be encouraged.

The behind-the-scenes of the parking lot gave me a small prelude of thankfulness as I prepared to worship with this gift of grace we call the local church.

Low Battery

I love my phone.

It gives me the chance to access audio books while I do housework. I also track several health things, including my nursing schedule for my baby.

A quick click gives me the weather, the time, the date, and the loops I love to be in (aka group chats).

My handheld device connects me with friends and family in instant, unimaginable ways. It makes me feel like a photographer as I capture moments and share them in real time, unless I want to finesse with filters first.

I write down quotes in the digital notes and screenshot tidbits of info for later. I even do all my grocery shopping from an app and the couch.

Lately my phone’s been busy arranging slideshows of highlights from one, two, and three years ago. So sweet and sentimental to have flashbacks without even asking.

A brief text can coordinate hospitality. A tap and I’m sailing my way through the book of Numbers as I tidy up the living room.

Thanks to my phone, I can video call my brother. Store my recipes. Search Bible commentaries. Cash checks. Soak up curated music. Even talk to people occasionally.

I check emails in moments waiting for my dentist appointment … an appointment I wouldn’t have remembered without my calendar app. Or would have found without my map app. Goodness, I’d still be lost somewhere without maps or the ability to call home for directions (thanks, Dad!).

I do not want to know how many hours I’ve spent listening on my phone to people talk about health and current events or home decor advice. It’s all aesthetic and addicting.

NO WONDER I feel uncomfortable when the battery goes in the red zone.

I mean, I’m waiting for a birth announcement from a friend, surgery updates from a dear sister in Christ, and a chance to hear the next chapter in the novel I’m listening to. My phone makes all of this easy and convenient.

Tonight my phone battery stooped dangerously low. I charged it on the counter while I made dinner…or so I thought. Instead of regaining power, it was dying. Marco Polo and Pinterest were fading out of reach thanks to a finicky charger.

My phone who faithfully serves me needed me to serve it.

I jostled the charger and managed to get a few more percentages. We ate supper. My husband left for Bible study.

With just one hand available thanks to my son, I wanted to read articles and view stories.

Then my charger truly broke. Part of it was still in my phone. Now I was minutes away from losing all my — my data, and this bothered me. I formed a plan to order a charger online…or should I make my day busier tomorrow and go somewhere to get one? Shoot an SOS text to my husband to pick one up? All the panic in the name of restoring communication.

But it was a problem for tomorrow.

So I rocked my baby to sleep without anything shiny in hand.

In the solitude of the dim nursery, I prayed aloud for our family. I prayed for my priorities.

And I thought about the verses I had read this morning:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11)

All the wonderful, good ways I use my phone and all the wasteful, useless times I spend on there are all loss and rubbish in comparison to the paramount glory of knowing — just simply knowing — Christ Jesus my LORD.

I can do without the purposes of my digital assistant when I examine them in the light of the Savior’s face.

He is all I need. Lord, spare me from idolizing anything — convenience of online groceries, glamour of Instagram house tours, power of knowing things instantly — above You.

Tonight I’m thankful for a battery that plunged the black hole to remind me of Who matters and Who deserves my first-fruit time and attention.

I love my Savior.

Stories of March

Since I procrastinate like the best when it comes to documenting (both privately and publicly) my life milestones, it’s high time for a personal update. Maybe I delay because certain events feel too sacred to lock onto a page . . . like when you snap a picture but you know your smudgy smart phone can’t capture the justice the landscape deserves.

But, lately, I’ve noticed how much I relish reading a blog post, prayer letter or post with pieces of the author’s heart tangled up in it. When it’s their story, it draws me in as I relate, imagine, rejoice, and empathize.

We love stories.

So I don’t want to withhold my stories from this very special month of March.

March 1st marked three years from when my husband first messaged me and a long-distance romance was birthed. Neither of us knew where a simple message would lead, but with so much in common, our conversation exploded and one thing led to another. After four months of writing and skyping, we met in person, and the rest is history.

March 16th signified our engagement just two years ago. I’ll never forget the roller coaster day that ended with a ring and cheesecake. God is good.

One year ago March makes me think of empty offices, Frozen 2, Greek food, virtual meetings, remote church, and Psalm 34. It reminds me of long springtime strolls, rehearsing the sovereignty and goodness of God.

And now this March is the month where we’re experiencing many sweet firsts with our firstborn son. His name is Judah Charles, and he turned one month today. God answered so many prayers relating to our pregnancy and birth, and we’re smitten with the precious little man! The journey of being a stay-at-home mom has truly been a gift.

It’s stunning how much we love him. While falling in love with a spouse leading up to marriage is gradual (with some uncertainty), love for a child is unconditional and instant. It mirrors how our Heavenly Father loves us even when we are helpless and unreasonable.

Welcome to our family, Judah! We can’t wait to see the story He writes for you.

What are your stories of March?

The Blues of January

“Oh, dear, how hard it does seem to take up our packs and go on,” sighed Meg the morning after the party, for now the holidays were over, the week of merrymaking did not fit her for going on easily with the task she never liked.

“I wish it was Christmas or New Year’s all the time. Wouldn’t it be fun?” answered Jo, yawning dismally.

Little Women, Louisia May Alcott

Here’s to the foggy Mondays after break. In the case of Little Women, Amy searches for her homework, and Meg bemoans her shabby dress but, next, points out the little munchkins she takes care of won’t notice what she wears anyways. Jo must go back to the fearsome Aunt March. Beth has a headache.

Sound familiar?

Longing for luxury, the four sisters wish life could always be parties, bouquets, resting, and reading.

I don’t blame them. I would add coffee and writing, then we’re set.

I remember last January. I carried the plight of my busy schedule, daydreaming about all I would do if only I just had more time at home. It was easy to compare myself with others who had better success with, what I chalked up to be, more flexibility. If I had the same schedule, then surely my creativity could fully unleash. My house would be clean. Scores of books would be ingested, parties could be planned down to details, such as the colors of the straws.

Then, what do you know? I kind of got my wish! For the first time ever, in an event completely unforeseen, I had the chance to set up a home office, with ample time in the spring evenings to do whatsoever I pleased.

It was much like the March sisters’ experiment in chapter eleven. Faced with another vacation, the girls resolved to give into their thirst for a complete break from work of any kind.

Sounds delightful. Wouldn’t not working be the antidote to their January blues described above, plagued by headaches and homework?

As the story goes, Jo read so much she grew fidgety and quarreled with her best friend. Amy found “when her sisters left her to amuse and care for herself, she soon found accomplished and important little self a great burden.” Meg’s sewing projects go awry, and Beth’s bird dies.

They admit their experiment was a failed one, and Marmee replied with her advice, “Have regular hours for work and play, make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well.”

What strikes me about the two scenes (the morning after Christmas vacation and the first few days of complete vacation) is that neither one makes anyone happy. I know the whiplash of this, too. Take my work-from-home experiment for example. While I’m tempted to complain when I have to rush out the door on a Monday morning, I’m just as likely to waste an opportunity for productivity on a free day, longing for the structure I recently loathed.

Contentment is not sourced in our moment’s activity or schedule, is it?

Let’s aim to be like Paul when he penned:

Not that I speak from need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with little, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. 

Philippians 4:11-12

I’m about to shift lifestyles in a big way, leaving the office for stay-at-home mom life. I hope I can soak in all the good and the discipline of my current office life, but also know that all the answers to my wishlist won’t be found in more time at home. I desire to be like Paul, to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself in. Whether it’s headaches like Beth’s, or shabby dresses like Meg’s, in abundance of a sunny afternoon, or suffering from lack of sleep, packed work sessions or too much leisure time, I hope I will do all things through Him who strengthens me.

PC: Kevin Fitzgerald, Bogus Basin, Boise, Idaho