Fridays are for Favorites (even if written on Sunday)

I began a blog post on Thursday because I knew that Friday would be a very busy day. But I didn’t get to it. So now here I am at 10:30 on a Sunday and what’s on my mind?

Well I’m thanking God for the man I married. Yes, in an incredibly cheesy move, Brandon O’Brien is my favorite for today (and arguably every day!).

Brandon’s the type of man who loves me no matter what my hair looks like, patiently waits for me to take pictures of food (even if that means he must wait to eat), hugs me even when I’m in a bad mood, will drop whatever he’s doing to listen to my thoughts….

He loves his friends and family deeply, he is as loyal a friend as you can fine, he’s an honest and sincere spiritual leader in our home…

He is patient, kind, wise, silly, creative, fiercely intelligent, compassionate…

and he’s all mine. 😉

Living in the Ordinary

Yesterday I got to work from home.... which means I got good coffee in my favorite of my favorite "ordinary" things.

My routine has resumed.

What do I mean? I shared before that I was feeling knocked out, incapable of doing life. Well, lately, I have begun to find my footing. I have begun to find life much more doable.

And ordinary tasks have helped. Now I have had to be patient with myself. Anytime one struggles through a time of depression or hardship, often energy is the first thing to suffer. And I have had to train myself to feel better about doing less.

And maybe I should do less to begin with. I’m trying to sort out what is necessary in my life and what is unnecessary. But that’s a discussion for another time!

So today I’m running errands. I had breakfast with some women that I am so blessed by. Then I got to do some fun birthday shopping for my darling husband. Now I’m back home working on freelance assignments (and blogging along the way)…

And I find myself encouraged.

And I find myself feeling at peace with the state of our lives. I wouldn’t say I’ve bounced back (because I think that’s not a helpful metaphor)… but I’m living. I’m accomplishing things by the power of the Holy Spirit that three weeks ago I did not feel I had the energy to do.

And it’s not by own strength, but by Christ who strengthens me.

And I think that’s all I have to say.

And I hope you’re okay with that. 🙂

Thanks for reading, friends.

Love, love, love these precious girls!

P.S. Just for grins I thought I’d post a picture with some of my favorite girls who I used to nanny for. I miss getting to spend time with them every week.

Simplicity in Abundance anyone?

Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider

As Brandon and I struggle to maintain 6 jobs between the two of us, prepare for our child and try to keep the romance alive… simplicity is something that we crave. In fact, lately I have found myself picking up every book I can that talks about this topic. Now, I realize the irony of adding a new thing to do in order to simplify more… but I’m just craving insight in cutting out the unnecessary and living life more intentionally.

One of my favorite books is Organized Simplicity. If you have time, or even if your time is significantly limited, you should definitely pick it up. It’s an easy read and gives practical advice for simplifying everything in your life. I read it in 10 minute spurts while nannying and LOVED it!

But that’s not why I’m writing today. One of the benefits of having a husband in publishing is that he often gets free books. By often I mean 3-5 a week at times! He reviews those he thinks the magazine would like and then passes on the rest to friends in ministry… or me!

So, as I try to blog more often I’m realizing that I need some prompts. So I thought Mondays would be a great day to blog about books that I’m reading. A cyber book Club of sorts.

Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace


And what’s my choice for this first series? Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace by Jan Johnson.

Simplicity. I’m longing for simplicity and I can’t wait to see what Jan has to say! Join me!

Fridays are for Favorites: Chicken Edition

I love chicken. I mean, I absolutely love chicken. And I come by it honestly. You see in the Packer family when chicken is served nobody opts first for the white meat… No, we’re dark meat all the way. We. love. meat. Especially wings.

And fortunately for me, guess what’s on the agenda tonight…Chicken wings and baseball. It’s true that Brandon and I are on opposite sides of the fence in this particular game (He’s Cards all the way)… but we both agree on chicken wings. And what’s our wing of choice? Rosatis… they’re awesome. Try them.

And so concludes this second edition of “Fridays are for Favorites.” If you ever want to make this girl happy, just buy her some hot wings. Seriously. She’ll be your best friend.

Happy Weekend.

Fridays are for favorites…

… at least that’s what I’m planning on.

I’m not a very “gimmicky” person, but I thought it would be fun to begin posting about some of my favorite / favourite things on Fridays. Why Fridays? Well because Favorite and Friday both start with F, silly!

So what’s it today? Well lately I’ve discovered a few beauty tricks that I love, love, love and recipes that I might love even more (it’s probably a toss-up)…

Favorite # 1.  A few months ago a friend pointed me to a blog talking about oil cleansing. “Oil?” you may ask. Yes, oil. And for your face, no less. So I took a look here. And then I went out and bought some castor oil (at Whole Foods or any health food store… or online…very, very, very affordable).  And I watched with amazement that night at how the oil took off my make-up, gave me a healthy glow and was just. plan. awesome. The next day I just splashed my face with cold water and was good to go. Now, I was admittedly nervous about putting make-up on the next day, but it went SO WELL under my make-up, just like a high quality moisturizer. And I like the way my face looks so much, I’ve started wearing no make-up more often, and less make-up all the rest of the time! Try, try, try.

Favorite # 2.  I love to bake. And one of my favorite times of the year happens when cranberries appear back on the shelves. And when I buy said cranberries I have to make a Nantucket Cranberry Pie. Check it out here. It’s easy, it’s awesome, it works really well gluten-free… and you need to have it! Seriously, go buy cranberries and make it tonight! Seriously…

That’s all for me today. But before I sign off I would like for everyone to stop and cheer. Why? After a fairly long sabbatical, I have now posted 3 times (that’s right 3 times) in one week!

Yay, Me!!

“You are very special. But don’t get cocky.”

These are the words of encouragement I recently received from my dear daddy. And I’m serious about the encouraging part. One of the things I deeply appreciate about my parents is that they were very encouraging and proud of me. But they weren’t enamored. They showed by their words and their actions that they truly thought I could do great things, but that didn’t mean I could do anything and everything.

Take for example volleyball. This is a somewhat notorious example in my family of Amy’s limitations. In the ninth grade I decided to try out. And I made the JV team. Some would think this was a sign of my great skill. It wasn’t. I made the team only because I wasn’t the worst person who decided to try out (don’t underestimate the power of needing a 12th player)… and I had a fairly consistent serve (even if it was underhanded). Following in the steps of my brothers who were athletically dispositioned, I think everyone expected at least moderate success.

But after an incredibly embarrassing season (which resulted in my getting hit in the head with the ball, during a game on more than one occassion), it was clear to everyone that volleyball was not my sport. After one especially painful game (volleyballs hurt), my father very gently said “Amy, you don’t have to play sports if you don’t want to.” These were the words I needed to hear. And I didn’t feel belittled. In fact, the only cruelty I could accuse my parents of is that they made me finish the season… embarrassing games and all. Packers are honest, but we’re not quitters.

Now I am completely confidant that had I decided to continue with volleyball my parents would have supported me in said endeavour. But fortunately for all of us, I decided to quit. It’s a good thing, too. This girl was simply not made for that particular sport.

So then came singing. Anyone who knows me knows that I have always loved to sing. There are stories of me as a young girl standing on top of a table serenading family and friends. I sang in church on multiple occassions and I was always in choirs, even making it onto my high school’s top madrigal and show choir. This is where my talents were best used.

But I wasn’t perfect. Anyone who has heard me sing (or has sung with me) will tell you that my voice is far from perfect. I frequently miss notes and have the hardest time singing harmony. This meant that while singing was my favorite activity, I had to work hard at it.

And my parents, once again, supported that hard work. They encouraged me with my singing, but they also encouraged me to take lessons to enhance my talent. I took voice lessons throughout high school and benefitted from it greatly.

You see my parents could have told the world about their daughter’s awesome talent. I could have thought as highly about myself to audition for shows like American Idol or such… but I knew that my talent, while special, was not unique. I knew that my voice was pleasant and I knew that with hard work I could be very, very good. But I also knew that very, very good did not mean perfection. And I also knew that I could enjoy something and even succeed at something without being the best at it.

And this has helped me significantly in life. Failure doesn’t phase me because I know that I’m not perfect. I expect to fail at some things and it’s okay. I don’t feel like I am an unimportant person or the victim of an unfair world who doesn’t recognize my talent. No, my parents taught me that potential failure is no reason not to try something and it’s certainly no reason not to work hard at it. I may be special, but I’m just not perfect.

As a child of the One True God, I am special. Scripture is pretty clear on that. But I am special because the Father first loved me… because Jesus Christ has accepted me as His own… because the Holy Spirit is working in me to transform me into the image of Christ.

And, thank goodness, that this has absolutely nothing to do with my great talent or ability. I’d definitely be in trouble.

I am special, but I have absolutely no reason to be cocky.

The end.

Hot Spot #5 Revealed: Pick your poison!

Well this is Week 5 of Project Simplify and this week they are letting us choose what we would like to do according to the needs in our homes…

Well, there is one particular area in our house that I am embarrassed to let anyone else look into… and it hasn’t been on the list yet. So this week I will be cleaning out our bathroom cabinets… IT’s going to be rather humbling to post the “before” picture… but hopefully very rewarding to show you the “after.”

And my life will feel so much more organized!

And then following this final week of Project simplify, I look forward to starting “Project Baby Room.” In an effort to prepare for BabyO without going over the top, Brandon adn I will be tackling one area of the current guest room / office each week… and then hopefully by week 5 we will be ready to go… there wont be a baby bed or decorations necessarily, those will come after baby. But everything else that needs to be done will hopefully be completed!

So, I’m thinking a May baby might work! 🙂

Thanks for reading.

Home Visitors and a New hot spot revealed!

Well last week was filled with a visit from the very best friends. So, needless to say, I didn’t bother blogging or tackling a hot spot!

Who would bother blogging or cleaning with these two beauties here?! Love me some Henry & Peter Harrell!

Henry and Uncle Brandon had a great time together.

Their parents came, too… but we didn’t get any pictures of them! 🙂


… but I’m back to cleaning for this week! And, it should be a good one!


The hot spot is….

The Refrigerator and pantry!

Click here to get some tips and guidance on this project. And stay tuned for my pictures on Friday. In the meantime, I look forward to resuming my Celebration of Discipline posts on Wednesday!


Happy Tuesday!

Falling in love with a letter writer…

Many of you may not know, but I married a very, very romantic man. There are lots of girls who dream of romance… I was not one of them. In high school I begged my prom dates to take me to McDonalds, or to the food court! I just wanted to eat.

So no one was more surprised than I when I met and very soon fell in love with a romantic man. And what was his preferred method of “winning” my heart? Letters… and lots of them.

These were all written before we even got married. And he took this letter writing to new levels. After only 3 dates I was surprised by a 4 series poem (given to me by different people throughout the day), written by Brandon. I was so impressed by the poetry, i was certain Brandon didn’t write it, so I showed it to one of my English professors (thanks, Dr. Wink) and we struggled together to find it… But it was not to be found because it was a Brandon O’Brien original.

After we had been dating for only a few months, Brandon went to Ireland with a friend. When he returned I received this. He wrote me little letters throughout his two weeks away… 13 total.

There was also a dried flower in the mix!

Brandon was very creative in his letter writing. Throughout our dating, I received these….

Yes, he did paint the one in the front...

And ultimately on the night he proposed, I received this…

The card says "31 Things I Love About You"

Being the “ruiner-of-moments” (that was was one of the 31 things) that I am, I asked him why there was only 31… he patiently explained it was for each day of the month, but of course he could have written more. 🙂

I am amazed by the man I get to live life with, and it all started with letters… lots and lots of letters.

Confessions of a Rule Follower…

As I mentioned on Monday, I have a goal for Lent this year and that is to read Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. I’ve read it several times and am always amazed by new insights. Brandon had the opportunity to interview Foster recently which got me thinking about the book. In fact, we both came up with the idea to read it independently of one another, so now we’re doing it together and dialoging along the way. Good thing we have two copies, we don’t share books all that well. 🙂

So I have begun. I’ve been sick this week, so I didn’t make it as far as I wanted… in fact I only made it through the Introduction and 1st chapter, but that’s something, right?!

So I thought I would write today about the whole idea of disciplines in the Christian life. I am a rule follower. Just ask anyone in my family! I would blame it on Singapore… but it started long before them. What can I say? I love to follow rules.

Ah, Singapore... where else can you be fined for feeding a monkey a banana?

And one of my dangerous habits is that I like to make up rules as well. For example, when I was in second grade I became very frightened of the movie Child’s Play and especially it’s devilish little doll Chuckie. Nevermind that I had never seen the movie, I was petrified.

And how did I choose to deal with this fear? I formed a “Do you believe in Chuckie?” club with my friends, of course. We would meet together and discuss the things that scared us. We had rules to follow so that he wouldn’t get us.

And as we met together each day, we scared ourselves even more and made our parent’s lives a little bit more difficult.

During that same time I made up rules about showering (so the scary man outside my window wouldn’t get me…duh!), rules about which side of the bed to sleep on, how the covers should be tucked around me so that nothing got my feet….

And this habit didn’t stop with childhood. Just ask Brandon. One of his favorites is my obsessive rule about getting 8 hours of sleep. If I’m waking up at 6:10 a.m. and I want to get a full night’s sleep, then I must be in asleep by 10… or else I have failed, and will not rest enough…. I can’t remember the last time I got this 8 hours… but I feel the pressure of the rule regardless…

Rules. I love me some rules.

So, why would I decide to embark on a project of disciplines? Isn’t that only going to increase my problem with using rules as coping methods?

Foster begins his book by reminding us that by our own efforts we can do nothing about our sin. Did you hear that? There is nothing we can do about our own sin, at least not anything all by ourselves.

Our ordinary method of dealing with ingrained sin is to launch a frontal attach…we determine never to do it again; we pray against it, fight against it, set our will against it. But the struggle is all in vain, and we find ourselves once again morally bankrupt, or worse yet, so proud of our external righteousness that “whitened sepulchers” is a mild description of our condition.

When there is a persistent sin present in my life, I tend to want to “rule-it-out.” If I can just put a structure in place so that it doesn’t bother me, then it will all be okay.

I love what Foster says. We simply can’t do it on our own.

But that doesn’t mean we “let go and let God.” While a catchy phrase, it’s not exactly what Foster is talking about here. You see once we discover this freedom, it is tempting to believe there’s absolutely nothing we can do. Over the past few years I have been learning to let the rules go and have felt myself slip at times in the other direction. Righteousness is a gift from God, right? Should we just wait around for God to heal us? Why intentionally have a quiet time, God will speak to me when He wants, right?

Foster writes,

The analysis is correct — human striving is insufficient and righteousness is a gift from God–but the conclusion is faulty. Happily there is something we can do. We do not need to be hung on the horns of the dilemma of either human works or idleness. God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving his grace. The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in his Cost of Discipleship, grace is free but not cheap. We are saved purely by the grace of God, not by anything we’ve done. But, we are required to do stuff.

Further down Foster  writes

We must always remember that the path does not produce the change it only places us where the change can occur. This the path of disciplined grace.

And so this path begins. I’m looking forward to the journey. To rediscovering again the inward disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting and study; the outward disciplines of simplicity (we’re already on that path!), solitude, submission and service; and the corporate disciplines of confession, worship ,guidance and celebration.

I think this is the perfect Lenten project… and the perfect “mom-to-be” preparation!

Happy Wednesday!

Oh and stay tuned on Friday for my special blog update on our latest cleaning project. We had a great time sorting through our papers today… and are pretty pleased with the results!