What are you longing for?

Okay, so I’ve been a little absent on the blog lately. Friends, I love writing blog posts, but lately I’ve just felt a little too overwhelmed in this little task. And I think that’s okay. Well, I know it’s okay. And I’m working to not feel guilty about it.

So today I have the privilege of taking care of one very sweet little girl named Malena. She’s almost 14 months and is super fun. She’s napping right now, so I’m stealing away some blogging time.

To talk about a book that I am still reading, Abundant Simplicity, by Jan Johnson.

In the third chapter she talks about Intentionality. And as I read this before bed last night, I was hit hard. She asks the question, “what are you longing for?” and challenges her readers to think through what their actions, choices, activities say about this.

And I had to confess that lately I have not been intentional about my time. Some of this is due to a busy season at the church, and I know that and I am choosing not to feel guilty about that.

But at home… I have all too often turned on the T.V. or stayed online WAY too long, simply because it’s habit. I’m not making a conscious choice… I’m not choosing T.V. because it is my favorite thing… I’m just operating on auto pilot. Jan writes,

The opposite of living intentionally as a response to God’s longing is living on autopilot, which means doing whatever occurs to us without pausing to consider what we really want. It seems easier to do what we’ve always done or what everyone else does. Even if you learn to live intentionally, expect that in a time of crisis you’ll switch to old automatic pilot choices. Plan ahead for this to happen and be vigilant.

And I think this is where intentionality becomes hard. It’s a bit easier with conscious choices, but with those ingrained habits we often don’t recognize until we’re an hour into it… that’s where it gets hard. I shared a few weeks ago that I was working hard to limit the role of T.V. in my life and to think less about what I wear each day. These have been increasingly challenging. I’ve been amazed at how easy I slip back into bad habits without even realizing it.

This month I have challenged our kids at Immanuel to memorize Psalm 19:14

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

And these very familiar words have convicted me. Especially during this advent season. Brandon and I have reached a milestone this year… for the first time in our 6 years of marriage, we will be spending our Christmas at home, with one another (and perhaps some friends). We are dissappointed not to be with family, but we’re also so excited to have this special time. And I have found myself lost as to what to do. Advent has suddenly seemed much longer than usual, and since we will no longer be making a 10 day trip, we find ourselves with far less stress.

And I find myself with more time than typical. And that is where intentionality becomes so crucial. I am preparing for the fourth time (in as many years) to celebrate Christmas without our child. And I am feeling tremendous peace about this and, honestly, an anticipation that soon our lives will change.

But I would be lying if I said this peace wasn’t also accompanied by tears.

And so comes back to the “what are you longing for?” question. I have been reading through the book of Hebrews and have been continually challenged that if I’m not careful, I can choose my baby over my Savior.

I can focus all of my energy on anticipating the coming of my child, not the Savior of the world.

So this week I am working to intentionally anticipate the coming of our Savior on Christmas Day. Of course I am praying always for BabyO, for their birthparents and all who are involved.

But ultimately I am anticipating my Savior.

And in closing, here are a few quotes from this third chapter of Jan’s book:

This longing, solidified into intentionality, is actually a beautiful response to God’s longing for us. Before the foundation of the world, God thought of each of us and thought each of us was a good idea (Eph 1:4-6). God longed for us even then.

Intentionality is about responding to the longing of God inviting you into a different kind of life.

If we choose to journey with God carrying unnecessary weights, God will let us do it. God does not force us to lay unnecessary burdens down. But transformation into Christlikeness is much more difficult when we’re encumbered by multiplicity of words, cluttered schedules, decathlon vacations or the cell phone surgically attached to our ear.

Listening to the Spirit

As I mentioned yesterday, I am writing all week long for a devotional site called encouraging.com

It’s been a neat exercise to take some time to write these devotionals. And the one which is posted today especially so. How are you at listening to the Spirit’s voice in your life? If you’re anything like me, that can be very challenging. And I don’t have all the answers, but  I hope that this offers you some encouragement.

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17b-19

Do you ever have trouble hearing the voice of the Spirit? If you’re anything like me, then your answer is a resounding Yes! Recently I have embarked on a project of simplicity. What do I mean? I have been trying to simplify the “extras” in my life. Too often I allow noises to crowd out the voice of God.

So I have begun turning off the T.V. and simplifying my activities. I have been working to discipline myself to only take so much time getting ready in the morning. I am still very much a work in progress, but I’m learning.

And I have been amazed at how these simple steps have allowed me to hear the voice of the Spirit.

Click here to read more from “Listening to the Spirit.”

Exhaling the Unnecessary

Weggis, Switzerland

Recently my parents took a trip to Weggis, Switzerland. Now many of you know that to say my parents travel a lot is most definitely an understatement. With their various ministry responsibilities, they are on the road often. But this trip was different. This trip was a time to get away, to rest and to pray. The picture above was taken on their trip and I just thought it was gorgeous. Simply beautiful.

Which brings me to our topic of the evening… Simplifying. Getting away is necessary. But what are we to do in our regular every day life? Isn’t it hard to get rid of those things that are truly unnecessary in our life? Or is it just me?

In her Abundant Simplicity, Jan Johnson challenges her readers in the first chapter to identify what is unnecessary in their lives, so that they may inhale more of the Savior. Jan writes,

Because we’re trying to breathe in the oxygen of real life with God without breathing out the daily chaos that chokes out such interaction.

So I’m learning how to resist the unnecessary as I prepare to dig deeper in this discipline of simplicity.

How? Some simple steps: watching less T.V. and spending less time getting ready in the morning. These may sound overly simplified, but I’ve found that they uselessly crowd my day. So, instead of turning the T.V. on right when I get home, I’m waiting till there is actually something I want to watch. And instead of changing my clothes 5 times (for no reason whatsoever), I’m sticking with what I put on first, or even picking it out the night before.

These are simple steps, but I’m hoping that open up just a little bit more time in my day that will allow me to spend more time growing closer to the Savior. Already, I have been blessed by increased time with the Savior in the morning and more time to devote to a few writing projects I have going on. It hasn’t been a perfect week, but I’m growing.

We’ll see.

Good night, friends.

Living in the Ordinary

Yesterday I got to work from home.... which means I got good coffee in my favorite mug...one 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!

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!

Paper, Paper, Paper….Hot Spot # 2 – Results

So this week the designated hot spot was our paper pile. Well our lose papers weren’t totally out of control (because we had just gone through some) but we took this opportunity to go through our file boxes and our desk drawers in addition to the ever growing paper pile which lives on our kitchen bar.

So here is the pile we made in the middle of our living room floor.

This was the pile that was on the kitchen bar.

File boxes, random card catcher thing and our key box (which obviously has much more inside it.

Along the way Mo got in the box… because the cat just can’t resist.

Gotta love this cat.

After recycling a full bag of paper and shredding more than we thought we would have to (our shredder overheated three times!) …ultimately this is what our kitchen bar looks like now… do you see how clean that box is?

Notice, we no longer have the "card catcher" thing.

Since our paper pile didn’t take us too long, we tackled a few other projects, too. Namely, the ever growing “donate” pile that we keep conveniently in our guest room. Well I don’t have any pictures to show for it, but we emptied all of these donate items and took them to our church yard sale, dropped clothes in the clothes box and put things in recycling. And now the floor is clear… yay! Just in time for good friends who are coming to visit very, very soon.

As the room becomes more and more complete, I will update you on the way. But for now, I’m stickin’ to my “hot spots” as designated by Simplemom.net. Want to join the fun?

Happy Friday!

A New Year… A New Plan

I have a new plan for this new year and that is to update my blog at least everything other day…

In 2010 I published a total of 18 posts… I thought for sure I had published more. But what I am finding out is that blogging can be hard… because I don’t really feel like I what I have to say is terribly important or life-changing. So, therefore… why would I share it with the world? Well I don’t really know the answer to that question, but I am going to post more regardless…

Starting today.

Our drive up through Northwest Arkansas... definitely one of our favorites.

On December 22 we left for what we knew would be a busy but joyful time with family. After having had members of my family in town for roughly 3 weeks around Thanksgiving, we were hardly refreshed as we began our 10 hour drive to Arkansas. After 11 days, 6 different beds and more than 30 hours in the car we arrived back home on Sunday. We were exhausted, we were sick (Brandon on the upswing, me with the worst of it) and we were hardly refreshed for the New Year. Now don’t get me wrong, we had a WONDERFUL time with family. We spent time with extended family that we rarely get to see and we got especially good time with immediate family members. We even got to see college and high school friends and had a private lunch to celebrate our 5 year anniversary (which, in 5 years we have only officially celebrated once…) AND we got to spend a few days with some of our very best friends who recently moved from Wheaton… all in all it was such a good time. But it was exhausting. Absolutely exhausting.

And towards the end of the trip we vowed to not do this kind of trip again. It was hard for the two of us, it will be even harder when we have our baby.

Our Baby. It has a nice ring to, doesn’t it?

At every stop we made throughout the state of Arkansas and Oklahoma family members and friends asked for an update on our baby. And we gladly told them what we knew… which wasn’t much. You see there is really no adoption update until there is a baby. And that’s hard. And to be honest, celebrating the holidays without our boy or girl was hard. I felt as if a part of me was missing. But friends and family were so encouraging. Before leaving home and at each stop along the way we received baby items of various sorts… clothes, charms, gift cards, bottles, supples… and we were encouraged by the hope of those around us.


I am starting this New Year exhausted, overwhelmed by all that needs to be done, a little sick but ultimately hopeful… joyful. Why? Because I feel confidant that 2011 is going to bring us Baby O’Brien. And I can’t wait to meet him or her.

And in the meantime, I’m going to try and get some rest while I can… in between blog posts, of course.

More food… and an adoption update!

I have had food on the brain lately. Maybe it’s because of the holidays, maybe because I’ve just been extra hungry… for whatever reason I have been finding lots of great new recipes. This is one of the challenges with being gluten-free. You can find LOTS of good recipes, but often they take a little experimentation or testing to make them truly gluten-free and still just as good.

And yes, gluten-free can be just as good. But it takes some doing. Because some of the worst food I’ve ever had (and this comes from a girl who grew up in Asia) have been “gluten-free experiments.”

So, I’m always up to trying things and glad when recipes come my way.

And imagine my joy when a newsletter came to my mailbox this morning with the following title, “Beyond Breadsticks: 15 {Simple} Gluten-free Appetizers.” What was truly surprising is that this is not from a gluten-free website but from simplemom.net, one of my favorite sites to check!

The picture up above is from this website, so you know you want to check it out. For anyone who has gluten-free individuals in their life, these should give you some good ideas. And what’s great about them is they totally leave out bread all together, which means that you don’t have to worry about nasty tasting flours or anything. Appetizers that everyone will enjoy!

That’s all for me.

Except, many of you have been asking for an adoption update. We are in the waiting period right now. We finished paper work, interviews, etc, etc back in August and are now in that time period where we just wait for a phone call. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, click here to see our online profile. Feel free to pass it onto whoever you want! And for more details feel free to read other blog posts… there’s lots to choose from! For a specific update you can click here to read a post from a few months ago! We so appreciate your prayer for us as we are in this time of waiting. I wont lie to you and say it’s easy… there are definitely times of tears but overall we have known a great joy and peace and I can’t help but think it’s because of the many brothers & sisters who are lifting us up in prayer.

Thank you each.

Gluten-free Pie… AMAZING!

I’m always on the lookout for recipes that can be made gluten-free and still be good. This might be because of lazy-ness… I just don’t have time to tweak and tweak and tweak a recipe to make it taste good.

Well this Thanksgiving I hit the gluten-free jackpot! I found a recipe on the Pioneer Woman’s website. As much as my friend’s rave and rave and rave about her… I’d never had much interest.

Well her Nantucket Cranberry Pie (pictured above) is absolutely amazing. I substituted “Better Batter” gluten-free flour and then followed the recipe exactly. It basically uses a bag of cranberries and might be one of the easiest recipes. I loved it so much at Thanksgiving, I made it again today for a Christmas Tea I’m hosting at my house!

Check it out here…. Nantucket Cranberry Pie.

Happy Saturday!