Kill the Buzzer


A week after we moved here, my downstairs neighbor showed up with an armload of board games. My kids were ecstatic because apparently I’m allergic to board games so we have none. Today when we cracked open Operation for some good old fashioned fun, my four-and-a-very-important-to-include-half-year-old son had an almost crippling meltdown, and I had a revelation.

Let me back up. Two weeks ago, we moved east across the ocean to a small but strong democracy in the Middle East. (Like the last time we moved, I’m not planning to put the name of the country in writing, but you can figure it out pretty easily. My reason for this is that I don’t want to draw attention from bots, trolls or google searchers looking to harass or gather info on people who live here. I might anyway, but I’ll do what I can to prevent it.)

Though moving every few years is part of the job we (my husband really, but we are one) signed up for, it comes with so many mixed emotions. People constantly asked, “Are you excited about moving to I—?” I would stutter something back about feeling a lot of things, with excited being the last (but not least) of them.

In the leaving part of moving, there are the feelings of apprehension, stress, loss and grief. There is the physical and mental work of sorting, purging, packing, and planning/attending goodbye get togethers that is rewarded with feelings of satisfaction in an effective process (or the inverse), appreciation for all the help and value from loved ones who soak up their time with you.

In the arriving part of moving, you can be met with feelings of awe and wonder at the newness of everything, curiosity and frustration as you try to figure out how things work, loneliness and isolation as you work to make new friends and find your place. There’s exhaustion as your body works through jet lag and adrenaline surges to cope with stress. Oh, and there’s also excitement.

With all this talk of emotions, I should mention that I usually score pretty high on the T side of the Feeler-Thinker spectrum. That’s not to say I don’t have feelings or emotions, but I’m most comfortable operating without their overwhelming influence.

So, when these huge transitions come and there are as many emotions to sort through as there are boxes of everythingweown to put away, I have a tendency to get overloaded with it all and just want to shut down. When Judson was ready to throw the Operation game out the window, I knew just how he felt.

His fine motor skill of extracting a small piece of plastic from an odd shaped space with a pair of tweezers had yet to be developed. This was a brand new task for him. The game’s buzzer of failure continually reinforced his feelings of inadequacy and limited his capacity for learning. He was quickly becoming Not-A-Fan of the game.

And then I realized I could kill the buzzer.

He could learn the grip and motions necessary to play the game and if the tweezers touched the side, he wouldn’t be frozen by the fear of failure. After a few rounds like that, we tried it with the buzzer on and he was much more confident in his new ability and still didn’t mind when he messed up.

Since we don’t get practice rounds in most of life, I want so badly to get things right the first time I do something that anything less sounds a giant buzzer in my head. Moving involves a lot of doing things (again) for the first time and a lot of not getting them right. It involves handling a lot of different shaped emotions for myself and my family and learning how to navigate them through all the different spaces. And of course, there’s plenty of touching the sides with the tweezers. Cue the buzzer.

Or not.

Maybe if I kill the buzzer in my head, I can allow myself to learn with more grace. Of course I’m going to mess up, this is my first time doing this. Of course I’m going to drop the ball, there are a lot of things I can’t control. Of course I’m going to get overwhelmed, this is a lot for anyone to handle.

Now, I’m not advocating a life free from the consequences of bad decisions. I’m just realizing more about how I learn by watching my kids. If I can tell them, “You’re doing fine, just keep trying. Don’t get too upset about it, try to have fun. Try it a different way if that’s not working,” then I can definitely say them to myself.

Hours after the near disastrous morning session, my kids ran in from the park asking if they could play Operation, Judson insisting, “It’s my favorite game!” Now that’s the sound I want to hear, not that silly buzzer!


Wait, What Day Is It?

It’s the last Friday in April, suckers, so that means it’s Share Four Somethings Day! haha, gotcha!


If this is your first Share Four Somethings Day with me, it’s a little link-up I do with some blogger and IRL friends, started by Heather, to kick-start our writing and help sum up our months.

The Four Things are: Something Loved, Something Said, Something Learned, Something Read.

Something Loved:

This place.


This weekend I have the luxurious privilege of being at my friend Andrea’s home for a writing retreat. I met her through The launch team and everyone here is also from that team. We live all over the country and have spent about 5 minutes together prior to this weekend, but that doesn’t matter a bit. There is so much love and encouragement here, not to mention plenty of good food, comfy places to read and write and sleep!!

Something Said:

“Are you excited?”

Lots of people are saying this to me about our impending move. Here is the best I can say. Right now I’m knee deep in the reality of packing up a life here and feeling the gravity of what my little family is about to go through, especially my kids. I know our life there* is going to be wonderful and everyone is going to be fine, but I’m not one to sugar coat the real loss in leaving the special community we’ve enjoyed here.

Once the packing and goodbyes are done, the airplane takes off and we’re eastward bound, I’ll dry my tears and think ahead to starting over and replanting tender roots. But for now, I’m futilely pumping the breaks of time to soak in our last few months here.

*I’m not saying the name of the country on this blog due to search engine weirdness, but it’s the land of half my ancestors and if you have a Bible, you probably have a map of it.

Something Learned:

I have Mom-Eyes. Everywhere I go, even when my kids aren’t with me, I’m noticing playgrounds, looking for safety hazards, and scanning menus for items they can eat.

Something Read:


I’m actually pretty proud of this one. I’ve written before about how I’m trying to read more non-fiction. I’ve read part of this before, but didn’t make it all the way through. I started again on Monday and finished it today. I could basically underline the whole book, it’s so good, and though first published in 1954, is absolutely relevant for today. At a mere 122 pages, it’s accessible too!

Does anybody else have Four Somethings to Share? Link up with us or leave me a comment!

Share Four Somethings- March


And now for this month’s installment of Share Four Somethings.

Something Loved
Something Said
Something Learned
Something Read

Something Loved

Our mountains top my list of things I love about Virginia. Just an hour or so outside of Washington, D.C., are the Blue Ridge Mountains, which provide spectacular drives and stunning views of the Shenandoah Valley and River. On my first non-date with John, he took me on a motorcycle ride through Skyline Drive out there and I fell in love—with the mountains first, then the man who took me there. Since we’ve been married, we’ve taken several trips out there for camping, bed and breakfast, luxury inns and more recently to a borrowed cabin. And almost since that first non-date, we’ve dreamed of having our own place out there. That dream came true this month. On a road almost as curvy as the path to the property, we went from finding the listing online to being home-owners in about six weeks.

The Carpenter Shed

There’s a tinge to this, though, because right after our initial offer, my sister-in-love, Jessee, went into the hospital, starting one of the saddest chapters of my life. My heart felt like a yo-yo, and eventually, I had to stuff the excitement about the mountain house, which we’re calling The Shed, into a deep pocket to give room for the grief of losing Jessee.

There’s no way a beautiful view of nature can make up for the incomprehensible loss of a gorgeous friend and all the future that changed with her death, but I know she’d have loved it up there and I know she wouldn’t want me to miss out on the joy of it for missing her. So, I’m slowly accepting this long-awaited yes and looking forward to hosting family and friends here so they can also feel the love.

Something Said

“When can I start?”

Because it makes perfect sense to not only buy a house, but to also start a job three and a half months before moving to a new country, I did. I’m going to be teaching parenting classes for the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center a few times a week. The folks I’ll be teaching are residents of transitional homes, where they’re working to move out of homelessness and addiction.

I wish I could say I was offered the job because someone noticed what an amazing parent I am and said, “We MUST have you teach classes, you are clearly an expert and have such wisdom others need to know!” But no.

I’d seen the ad for this job in my church’s bulletin for the past several years, but seeing as how I either had tiny babies, was a solo parent, or lived in another country, it wasn’t right for me. Then last year, I saw the announcement again and it seemed to line up with my background (seven whole years of parenting, baby, with a few bonus weeks of doing foster care), passion (family preservation) and I actually had the time for it. They didn’t hire me right away but called about a month ago to see if I was still interested. I told them I had four months left in country, but if they were game, I was.

So, I’m doing it!

Something Learned

When my church announced a church-wide 40-Day Fast (in conjunction with Lent, but not because of it), my first thought is that I needed to give up something very near and dear to my heart. Entertainment. I tried to get out of it, think of other options, but that was the thing. I’ve gotten so used to winding down my days with Netflix, staying up too late to watch more than was healthy for me. Entertainment isn’t a bad thing, I love it a lot! I just wondered what I could fill that time with if I gave up entertainment for a short period. I limited my social media time and didn’t watch any TV or movies. I didn’t read fiction books. I spent that time reading non-fiction and spiritual development books. I wrote in my journal or wrote letters. I had more conversations with my husband. And maybe best of all, I just went to bed at a more decent hour! The fast is over now, and I’m excited to catch up with the Pearsons (This Is Us) and some others. This month I learned that saying no to entertainment, meant saying yes to many more good things.

Something “Read”


When three or four friends from different circles talk about the same author or book, I see that as a sign I would probably like it, too. “Tell Me More: Stories About The 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning To Say,” by Kelly Corrigan was one of them. I listened to the audio version, which made for excellent listening on my long drives out west and back in recent weeks. I loved it!

Kelly is such a good writer. I’m not a big non-fiction reader but am trying to get there. I appreciate the depth of Kelly’s writing that comes with a heartfelt humility and a sense of humor that hits the right tones for me, not coming off as fluffy or preachy as some of these personal story/advice books can be.  And, I’ve actually been using some of her “hard conversation” phrases, and by gosh, they are working!

In this book she tenderly, and honestly tells stories of her love, loss and grief of her father and best friend, both lost to cancer. You better believe I had many moments where cathartic tears flowed, only to be interrupted by obnoxious “lols.”

If someday I publish a book and someone compares my writing to Kelly Corrigan’s, I’ll be a happy girl.

There’s my four somethings for the month. What about yours? You can join the link up here at or just comment below with your Something Loved, Something Said, Something Learned, Something Read.

Four Somethings (A link up) (also a sad one)

It’s been a while since I’ve joined a link up and it’s also been a while since I posted anything here, and it’s the last day of February, (dang you short month!) so I decided to jump in.


The Four Somethings Link up is the brainchild of my blogging and IRL friend, Heather, to give us a framework for wrapping up our months. The somethings are: Something Loved, Something Said, Something Learned, Something Read.

February turned out to be a tough, sad, horrible month for me and my family, as most of you who are my Facebook friends know. My brother’s wife, Jessee, died on Feb 25 after a very short but incredibly hard fought battle with septic pneumonia. She was 33.

It’d be a disservice to what we’ve gone through–and my own grieving process–if I tried to put on a rosy filter or wrap it up with a bow. I’m using this Four Somethings framework to help process what has happened. Thanks for bearing with me!

My sister called me Saturday afternoon to let me know that Jessee had been admitted to the ER the night before. They had thought she maybe had a bad cold or even the flu, but she was diagnosed with pneumonia that went septic, and was now in the ICU. She was in an induced coma and about to go into emergency surgery to put her on an ECMO machine (life support). She didn’t have good chances of making it through the night.

Something Loved– My hard-working husband’s airline miles

Within a few hours of that call, we were able to get a ticket with John’s United miles for me to fly to Tulsa early the next morning. We didn’t even have to pay the close-in booking fee due to his points status. United also changed my return flight with no problem when we decided I needed to stay there longer.

Look, none of us love that John has to travel so often and so far away for work. In times like this past month, though, a really terrible event was just a little bit simpler to get through because of it.

Jessee made it through the surgery and her condition stayed critical. We saw small improvements over the next week, and with hope I kissed her forehead on Wednesday, told her I’d see her in a couple of weeks and hopped back on a plane to Virginia. Ultimately, she couldn’t fight off the infection that had ravaged her lungs and left this world on Sunday morning. Even as I type these words, I’m in denial that this young, brilliant, beautiful soul is gone.


Something Said- What can I do to help?

I’ve often said this to others going through hard times or tragedies. This, or it’s cousin, “Let me know if I can do anything.” It’s hard to think of anything else to say, other than the equally heartfelt offer of prayer. Now, it was my turn to hear it, and I appreciated my people more than ever. They followed up and showed up with meals, air mattresses, child care and more. It fills my broken heart up to think of it. Prayer and action are such a lovely gift when packaged together. Speaking of action, if you feel like you also want to do something to help, there’s a YouCaring page set up to raise money for Jessee’s family. Jessee’s painting class business was the source of income for her family. It’s amazing what several hundred small (or big, we’ll take that!) gifts can add up to. We may not be able to physically hold her family while they try to fathom life without her, but we can hold back the domino effect of loss by doing (giving).

Something Learned– ICU nurses are the baddest of bad-asses

The whole medical team on the cardiovascular floor of the Oklahoma Heart Institute’s ICU was amazing, but since I spent the most time with the nurses, they get the gold on this. They cared for our Jessee, not just with expertise and efficiency, but also with actual (dare I say loving) care. Many of them kept their game faces on and were hard to read at times (only in their professional style of communication, not their lack of it), but we all knew Jessee was their girl.

I can’t imagine how hard it is for them to get to know her through the stories we told and the pictures of her we plastered all over the room and then not get the outcome they worked night and day for so they could actually meet her. And they do this for a living. Over and over again. May God bless and keep them all.

Something Read- Psalm 34:18

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (ESV)

I’ve never been bothered by this verse as much as I am right now. God is my loving Father and can handle my questions, so I ask Him, “Shouldn’t Your nearness actually prevent my broken heart and your salvation prevent my crushed spirit?”

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I’m not trying to wrap everything up with a pretty bow. I’m not done questioning and wrestling over this. While I do, though, I cling to this. My broken heart and crushed spirit aren’t the end of the story. His nearness and salvation are.


(Most of the other Share Four Somethings linked here are FAR more upbeat than this one, and eventually mine will be too.)



A Child-Like New Year’s

fullsizeoutput_abfMy kids are newly four and almost seven. Do you know what their New Year’s resolutions are?


Their goals for this coming year are no different from their every day goals. Eat. Learn. Play. Have Fun. Ask. Ask for candy. Grow. Love. Be Loved. And also have a birthday. They are big fans of birthdays.

Now, of course, they wouldn’t call those goals. That’s just life for them. They haven’t really grasped the concept of a year or goals in the sense we grownups steeped in Western cultures make such a to-do over.

Seeing New Year’s Day as a vehicle for new goals and resolutions, making promises to ourselves and others is something we learn.  It can be helpful to some. It’s surely profitable for others, calendar and planner makers, life coaches, self-help authors to name a few.

Where I get heartburn is that it’s also become another day or season to make something that it doesn’t have to be. We have to pick a “one word” and the perfect new planner. We do fasts of all kinds and start diets and join gyms. We make lists and plans and dream of ways we can be more organized. None of these things are bad, I’ve absolutely done all of them and probably will this year too.

But the whole of it, the social media feeds full of it, the advertising, the radio DJs comments, it’s just a lot of build up for one day! There’s an awful lot of hope being pinned on effort and things.

These well-known Scriptures kept bubbling up as I thought about this new year.

“Behold I will do a new thing.” Isaiah 43:19a

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

“Behold, I make all things new.” Revelations 21:5

Though they’re not about New Year’s per se, they are about God doing new things. So the culture I live in says this is the time of year for me to do new things, but the Scriptures I live out say that God has made me new and is the One who does the new things.

My pastor used Philippians 2:13 this week as the reminder to us that it’s God’s work in us that we join (with fear and trembling, no less!), not our own work.

Photo by

This simplifies the day and season for me. There is work to do for sure, but it doesn’t have to be my (or anyone else’s) idea or design. My Father is doing the new thing and I get to join Him. And it’s a continual work that He is faithful to complete. Whew! My hopes for newness aren’t bound to a calendar or human timeline!

With the pressure off, I can approach the new year like a child does- just like every day.  Eat. Learn. Play. Have Fun. Ask. Love. Be Loved.

(And throw a birthday in there, just for fun!)

When Giving Thanks Doesn’t Work

dark flower

My problem started last year on the day I moved into my current house. That’s not true, my problem didn’t actually start then, it’s just when it became very apparent. I had found the house online, and though I’d  been on a virtual walk-through, I wasn’t prepared to move into an empty house that day.

My heart sank as soon as I opened the door. I mean, the house was empty. I knew it would be, I just didn’t know what empty would feel like.

For perspective, most of the places we’re posted abroad come furnished and with at least some sort of welcome kit; dishes, towels and even some basic groceries in the fridge to tide you over until your own things arrive. Travel took us to furnished hotels, AirBnBs, and friends’ home. Not once in five years had I entered a completely empty room and expected to live there.

That first day, I bought the kids happy meals to have a “floor picnic” while we waited for friends to bring us a table and some beds to borrow. Judson spilled his milk and I realized I didn’t even have anything to clean it up with. I felt as helpless as the thin, greasy fast food napkins. I felt stupid for not having stopped at Target for a few necessities first. My heart sunk further and I second-guessed renting this place sight unseen and coming to it empty, rather than stay at a hotel for a few days while I filled it.

I thought, “I should be thankful, that will help these bad feelings go away.” Count your blessings, you know. Name them one by one. Name one thousand of them.

I was thankful for the house. Over the next few months I wrote here and posted plenty about how wonderful this neighborhood is and the kids’ schools and my awesome friends, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera (The King and I, anyone?). These were genuine expressions, to be sure, but I couldn’t get it to work.

I couldn’t get rid of that heart-sunk feeling. Though I couldn’t enunciate at the time, I was struggling with the stress of moving back to the States from overseas and setting up a new life here, grieving the loss of sweet community there, processing the hardships we had just come through, and striving to be a solid base for my kids who were going through all of this too.

But had you asked me then how I was doing, I would have told you how thankful I was. Yes, it’s frustrating to not have all my stuff (or any of it) (our worldly possessions were delivered in three shipments over the course of the first three months we moved in), but this is such a great area and we can go pick up anything we need from the store or, better yet, have it delivered.

If you asked me how our time in the Middle East was, I would have told you how thankful I was for every thing that was a challenge. Yes, it was hard to be a woman there, but I had it so much better as a Western, American woman than any other woman. Yes, it was hard to not be able to drive, but our drivers employed by the Embassy were wonderful and became family to us.

My gratitude was all true, but it wasn’t working for me.

Happiness was easy, but fleeting. I filled my house with furniture and decorated it.  I was thankful, my life was so good, but I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I thought I should be.

In the course of about a week, three different people in different conversations about this struggle told me in almost the exact same words, “You can’t thank away pain.”

Do you need to hear that again? Because apparently I did.

You can’t thank away pain.

You can wait for it to go away. That doesn’t always work, but time does heal some things.

Better yet, you can seek help for it. You have to identify what caused the pain and make necessary changes. Not all of us can do this on our own. I couldn’t.

Help can take many forms; Books, spiritual guidance, prayer, licensed counselors, groups, or even therapy pigs (I wish I was making this up). I used all of these (except the pig!).

Thankfulness wasn’t working because I was confusing identifying pain with complaining. I wanted to be thankful as opposed to complaining. I didn’t want to say anything was wrong with my life because I have so many wonderful people who make it beautiful.

But I wouldn’t walk around with a twisted ankle, refusing to seek medical attention, thankful that all the other parts of my body worked fine. Nobody at a medical facility would think I was just complaining if I came to them with an infected wound. Treating my mental and spiritual health as important as my physical health started me on the path towards true healing. Identifying pain isn’t complaining.

I was being thankful for all the things, and though thankfulness is good for many things, it wasn’t the remedy I needed.

I’m thankful to have learned this. I’m thankful to be learning about other actions that help with pain, like lamenting, grieving, mourning, and releasing, and that these are among the “all things” I can do through Christ who gives me strength. (Phil 4:13)

It takes as much grace to say, “this is hard/painful/unbearable,” as it does to name what is beautiful and precious (because some things are all of these).

The God who pulls us out of our pits does not despise us for our cries for help, and for this, I am thankful.


Love, the Magnet (a guest post)

My goal in having all these guest posts for the month of October was to refocus my own mindset towards this month. I wanted posts that made me smile and shared joy, beauty and celebration, and it worked. It’s the end of the month and I didn’t even hate it!

My friend, Maria Keffler, (I’ve known her long before the oft-mentioned launch team) sent me her submission right away, but I held off sharing it, partly because I’m a procrastinator, but mostly because her words seemed like the perfect way to wrap up the month.

Maria is one of the smartest, funniest, most creative and actually productive women I know. She’s written several books, is an amazing knitter, and I’d go over to her house for dinner anytime (just saying, Maria, eh hem). She is so faithful to let God pour His gifts through her and isn’t afraid to speak out for justice and common sense.

Here she shares about just that: how to let what God put in us come out, which starts with believing what He says. And there is nothing, not even the most beautiful, picturesque fall in all its glory, that compares to knowing the love of God.


Love, the Magnet

By Maria Keffler

My nine-year-old daughter made me cry yesterday.

I was prepping dinner when she came into the kitchen with a stack of cards she’d pulled from the new Apples to Apples game our friends gave us.

“Mom, here are all the adjectives I found that describe you!” she said, and she began to flip through the words:





My eyes couldn’t have swamped more if my dog dropped dead while I was chopping Vidalia onions, reading Where the Red Fern Grows, and listening to Ne Me Quitte Pas.

See, my daughter’s list of descriptors were not ones I tend to associate with myself.

(Except funny. I am way funny. No matter how many blank stares my jokes get.)

The world, other people, and likely the spreading darkness of the kingdom of the Liar have done effective work toward convincing me that I’m anything but beautiful, I’m more insipid than interesting, and I’m about as important as last week’s newspaper lining the hamsters’ cage.

Intellectually and as a follower of Jesus, I know that I’m a creation of God, and therefore I’m beautiful, interesting, important, et. al., in God’s estimation. And I know that God’s opinion is the only one that matters.

I also know I’m not alone in struggling to let my life manifest what God says about me.

A few years ago, a friend told me that she felt God telling her she was a prophet.

She wanted no part of it. “I’m not a prophet,” she argued. “And I don’t want to be a prophet.”

But then someone told her, “You’re already a prophet. You tell people what they already know about God and themselves, but which they’ve either forgotten or are doubting.”

It’s true. My friend faithfully speaks God’s truth into others’ lives. In the same way, my daughter prophesied over me yesterday at the kitchen sink. She reminded me who I am.

Some years ago I noticed that I’d become a people magnet. As a goal-oriented introvert this alarmed me. I’ll never forget the older man at the grocery store who launched into story after story about his life and his travels and his grandchildren, when all I wanted was to get a jar of pasta sauce off the shelf behind him and escort my fidgety toddler out of the store and home for her nap.

Stuff like that happens entirely too much for me when I’m out and about. Strangers just start chatting me up.

One afternoon I muttered to God about it as I unloaded the car. “I’m busy. Why can’t people leave me alone?” I groused. “What is so appealing about yammering at me?”

He answered: The love of God in you.

Uh, beg pardon?

My life’s goal is to emulate Christ and be the person God created me to be. I fail every single day, but I strive to evict sin from my behavior and to cultivate the fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—that Jesus-people should embody.

So, it follows that the closer I get to God the more inviting I become to others. (If I think I’m super close to God but I’m actually repelling others, it might be time to re-examine my words and demeanor.)

There’s a colossal dearth of love in the world. I don’t know of anyone who feels like they get enough, unless they’re truly saturated in the light and life of heaven. How awesome is it that others are drawn to us, not because of anything about ourselves, but because of the presence, or the incense, or the aura of God’s love that resides in us?

mkgraphicWhat a gift. I am to be nothing more (or less) than a vessel for that, a clay jar that carries God with me into the world, wherever I go.

I, too, am to be a prophet to others of God’s love, truth, and mercy.

If a fourth-grader can do it with a stack of Apples to Apples cards, I guess I can too.

Photo on 2-17-14 at 3.49 PMMaria Keffler lives in Arlington, VA, near (but not in) the cemetery, with her STEM-y Hubs and three darling cherubs. She blogs at about living, and parenting, and spousing, and childing, and work, and life, and cats taking Prozac, and lawyers being like tarantulas, and skiing, and running, and drinking coffee, and occasionally saying bad words, and mixing too many of the above things together, sometimes while swilling a glass of wine and popping Hershey’s Kisses with both hands . Maria also likes to novel novel novels, and is working on a simple formula that can predict prime numbers to infinity. Find her at Facebook at and Instagram @mariakeffler.

How to HalloWIN (a guest post)

It’s 10:30pm the night before Halloween and I’ve just finished making my kids’ costumes. Let that sink in a minute. I could be continuing my binge of {insert non-offensive yet culturally relevant Netflix show}, because as I have stated, I don’t like Halloween. But no, I’m burning my fingers with hot glue and we’ve been picking feathers and glitter out of our dinners because I needed to salvage my pride and not go with simple store-bought costumes.

I blame Allison Pickett. She sent me this piece and it really convicted me to say Yes to the Dress Fun. I know at this point you think all my friends are from some imaginary book club, but I promise they’re the real deal. At least Allison is, and I know because I stole her baby for a night and she didn’t even get mad.

One day you will read a book or watch a show she wrote and you’ll remember that you first heard of her through this little blog and my mission in life will be complete.

How to HalloWIN

By Allison Pickett

Our family loves Halloween. My kids love staying up past dark, dressing crazy, and eating SUGAR (which is a rare treat unless the grandparents are around). My husband loves Reese’s pumpkins and wearing whatever ensemble I choose for his humiliation. This year, his costume involves a crop top. He’s over the moon.

I love eating my kids’ candy haul until Thanksgiving, but mainly, I’m happy to be a Yes Mom for the evening. “Yes, you may have that Tootsie Roll.” “Yes, you may stay up late on a sugar high.” “Yes, you may put paint on your face and talk to strangers.” It’s a relief!


By this time of the year, Drill Sergeant Mom is in full swing. We have school mornings, breakfast, folders to sign, field trip reminders, snack days, bath times, sight words, lunches to pack, dinners to make, story time, library books, prayers, bed time, etc. Somewhere in there, I have to find time to be a Cool Mom, Fun Mom, Happy Mom, Forehead Unfurled Mom. It’s hard for a woman who prides herself on being goofy to find the right balance.

But Halloween throws all of that out the window and we get to let loose as a family. It’s magical.

One night, we throw out all the regular rules and we are a band of six children instead of four.

We haven’t always done family costumes, but it’s our goal every year until they go off to college. Even if it makes them weep and gnash their teeth as teenagers. They’ll learn to love this tradition, right?

Here was last year:


And before we had all the children:


And here’s a sneak peek at this year:


I know you’re stumped about what cast of characters we’re imitating. Believe me, it’s original and you certainly won’t see anyone dressed like us on the sidewalks (jk, your eyes will be burning from all the hot pink trolls.)

The idea for family costumes wasn’t something my husband and I sat down and discussed. It bloomed out of my passion for the ridiculous and our desire to do things as a family team. We do Work and Boring together, then we do Silly and Exciting together.

Our kids have enough rules the rest of the time. School rules, playground rules, hallway rules, lunchroom rules, bathroom rules, dinner time rules, bed time rules, rules about messes and rules about cleaning. Let’s give the kids a breather this Halloween. Let our kids dress up, be wild, eat candy, laugh and make a few messes.

How could Halloween possibly be more momentous? If we join the fun with them!

I’m trying to make memories that my kids can take with them into their adulthood and share with their kiddos. I guarantee my kids won’t remember many of the rules, but they will remember Mom and Dad dressing up with them on Halloween. Here’s to hoping they won’t harbor any bitterness when they remember us stealing their candy.

“Our family is fun. My mom and dad are crazy! Like, my dad wore a crop top one Halloween.” – what I hope my kids say to their future spouses and/or therapists.

image1Allison Pickett is a Christ Follower who married a man with a Biblical beard, wishes LOST had never ended, mother of four, and a Lemon Oreo expert. Find her funny, funny words at and follow her on all Social sites @allisonpickett.

Losing (that) October (a guest post)

I’m so grateful for all my guest contributors.  I love that everyone has her own take on the themes I suggested. Where Lindsay learned about changing seasons through her move, and Heather is learning to welcome the Real fall when it comes, Harmony Harkema offers us a taste of what losing a certain kind of October is like. Anyone who has felt lost in a different climate from the one you grew up in will understand this struggle and the gift that might actually come from it.

Harmony is another treasure I’ve found through Jen Hatmaker’s launch team. We have met in person, which isn’t a requirement for our tribe, but definitely a bonus. She lives and breathes the writing world, and the fact that she is sharing her words here gives me almost as much joy as the words themselves.

Oh, you’ll probably get hungry after reading this, so she shares a recipe too! Enjoy!


HHgraphicLosing (that) October

By Harmony Harkema

I grew up in the heart of the Midwest, where October is the showiest month. To this day, when I close my eyes and think of October, I see an empty highway stretching before me and beyond it, a sweep of harvested fields backed by a flaming red, orange, and gold tree line, the colors so vibrant that they rival the best of sunsets.


When I think of October, I can almost feel the crisp afternoon air contrasting with the warmth of the sun under a brilliant blue sky.

When I think of October, I can just about smell the morning-damp scent of fallen leaves, reminiscent of school bus stops and the first days I see my breath leave my lips like a puff of smoke.

When I think of October, I think of Friday night football games under the lights spent bundled up in a hooded sweatshirt with a Styrofoam cup of hot cocoa cupped between my palms.

I cling to these images, this almost-perceptible sense of October. Where I live now, those Octobers seem far away. Yesterday it was ninety-three degrees, and I broke a sweat on my way out to the mailbox.

October in the Mid-South is still hot and rather dismal, at least some of the time. It’s a month that likes to tease, giving me a short string of cooler, blue-skied days and then submitting again to the insistent heat. Leaves begin to turn, but the trees are far less bold—it’s rare to see one wearing a cap of red leaves. Softer oranges and golds line the streets instead, as if autumn is welcomed oh-so-reluctantly. My daughters wear shorts and t-shirts under their Halloween costumes.

Every morning at sunrise in October, I open the front door and step out, cup of coffee in hand, to see what the air feels like. As my hand reaches out to grasp the doorknob, I pray silently for cold, for chill, for that damp smell to fill my nostrils. Most days I’m disappointed.

On hot days we stay indoors, and I ignore the fact that the air conditioning still kicks on every twenty minutes or so. I buy apple cider from Ohio and apples from Michigan at the grocery store, which I turn into apple betty* on a seventy-five-degree day. (*Recipe here and also below)

I’ve learned that if I wait until it’s cool to do these things, I may miss out on them completely. At the same time, I have learned not to let my children carve pumpkins more than a few days before Halloween, or they will be nothing more than lumps of mold on our front porch by the time we go trick-or-treating.

When I read something seasonal—a book of activities to do with your kids year ‘round, for example—it’s always clear to me that the writer thinks of October the way I do, as deep autumn and not the stubborn tail of too-long summers. Sometimes I sigh and nod in understanding, but other times this approach makes me want to scream.

People who live north of the Mason-Dixon Line seem to assume that we all experience the same October. Losing that October has been one of the hardest parts of my transient life.

I’ve wrestled with God over the transplanting of my body and soul to a place where people hibernate in summer to escape the incessant heat and where Christmas is never white. “Send me to Narnia,” I think. “I’d love to see some snow.” But the truth is that these southern Octobers have stretched me into newness, into deeper understanding of the apostle Paul’s exhortation to be contented no matter the circumstances.

What do I really need to feel rooted? Can I turn my mind away from longing for different weather and see instead the richness of what I do have—a cozy home strewn with the mess and laughter of children, a husband who is my best friend, an adventure we are all on together?

I can. Even in this October.


Apple Betty Recipe

Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Peel, core, and slice enough apples to fill a deep pie plate or round casserole (8-10 apples).
Toss with 1/4 cup orange juice or 2 tablespoons lemon juice, whichever you have on hand. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk together 1 cup sugar, 3/4 cup flour, 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg.
Using a pastry blender or two sharp knives, cut one stick (8 tablespoons) of chilled sweet cream butter into the dry mixture until it resembles crumbs. Spoon over the apples, being careful to cover them completely.
Bake 50-60 minutes, until the topping has turned golden brown, the filling is starting to bubble up through it, and the inside is very soft when pierced with a knife.
Remove from the oven and set aside to cool; the top will collapse a bit.
Serve warm with milk, cream, or vanilla ice cream.

portrait_harmony-1Harmony Harkema has loved the written word for as long as she can remember. A former journalist and English teacher turned editor, she has spent the past seven years in the publishing industry. A novelist and blogger in the fringe hours of her working-mom life, Harmony also has a heart for leading and coaching aspiring writers, and The Glorious Table is the culmination of those passions. She has more books than her shelves can hold, drinks more coffee than is probably good for her, and likes to unwind her brain at the end of the day by stirring something on the stove or baking whatever sounds good in the moment. A Michigan native who dreams ceaselessly about the Great Lakes shoreline, Harmony currently lives in Memphis, Tennessee with her husband and two small daughters.

Really, Fall? Really? (a guest post)

There’s so much about my guest writer and her words today to make me smile. You’ll relate to her, too, if you share a slightly less-enthusiastic view of untimely holiday preparation. Namely, how it seems every season and holiday seems to demand full-out celebrations bigger and earlier every year. She shares with us that even if fall isn’t your favorite season, it has its perks.

Heather Gerwing is a good friend, who- surprise, surprise- I met through Jen Hatmaker’s launch team. Even though she lives in Michigan, I’ve been able to hang out with her a few times and cherish every minute to soak up the joy she exudes.

As with my other guests, please go check out more of her writing at!

Really, Fall? Really?

By Heather Gerwing

The Midwest rocks fall better than anywhere else.  The brisk air, the changing leaves, and the plethora of cider mills make fall enjoyable in the Midwest.

However, I find myself becoming annoyed with the onslaught of everything “fall” starting as early as the first day of September. You see, I grew up on the East Coast within an hour from a great beach town and summer is my jam. I don’t ever want summer to end.

Until I do.

Summer is pure fun and excitement: Ice cream and popsicles, outdoor movies and picnics in the park, fairs and carnivals, days at the lake and swimming in the pool are all things that I enjoy in the warm summer months. Summer is filled with fun, and my family of six even makes bucket lists of all the things we want to do. We’re constantly going…moving…doing.

HGgraphicStill, about mid-July, I start to get this yearning for fall to come. It’s not that I want the cooler air or changing leaves, but I crave the steadiness and simplicity that comes with fall. I start to miss the predictability, the routine of everyday life that fall brings back.

Along with all the extra-curricular activities that start back up in fall, I find that my spiritual life takes a reboot as well.

While summer is full of fun, I find that my time with God, although still regular, becomes light and laidback. In the midst of summer, my brain barely slows down to figure out what my next meal will be, let alone what I am expecting God to do in my life.

In Ecclesiastes Chapter 1 the author writes about how there is a season for everything. From living to dying, to crying to laughing, there is a time or a season for that.

This is where my appreciation for true autumn kicks in and overcomes my annoyance at it’s too-early imposter. When fall arrives and our daily pace slows, my soul slows down too. I desire to linger in God’s Word longer over a hot cup of coffee, to dig deeper into my studies, and to be more expectant of what God can do.

The Midwest displays the seasons so well. Each of them is distinct and beautiful in its own way. My soul craves the sun and fun of summer after a sheltered winter, and I also yearn for the beauty and peacefulness of the real fall.

Fall, I owe you an apology. I have shunned you and spoken harsh words about you. I do love you when you are really here, just not the rush to speed the end of summer when you’re still months away. Forgive me?

I am ready for you now -and all things Salted Carmel Mocha! (Because Pumpkin Spice – I just can’t!)

Heather GerwingHeather Gerwing lives in MI with her husband Jeff and their kids. She is passionate about her family and living this life, which God has blessed her with, to the full. You can find her at and