Why I Must Buy the Books

“Here it is,” she said. “This is the book I’ve been telling you about! It’s the most amazing book ever! It’s just incredible. I just know you will love it too. It will seriously change your life. I can’t wait for you to read it!!”

Now excited, I replied, “Well thank you for letting me borrow it! Can’t wait to read it! ” 

“Oh, just one thing,” she added, “Make sure you don’t bend the cover or any of the pages or write in it or anything. I NEVER fold the pages or write in my books,” she scoffed. “That’s just crazy.” 


You guys. I have this love/hate relationship with books. 

Well, that’s not exactly true. 

I have a love/hate relationship with buying books. 

Sort of.

You see, the minimalist/debt-free evangelist in me leans toward the end of the spectrum where my mind says things to me like:

-You don’t need to own something to enjoy it. You can just get books at the library.

-What about all that de-cluttering you’ve done over your lifetime? Remember how freeing that was? You don’t really want to fill your space up again with a bunch more stuff, even if that stuff is books, do you? 

If you love books so much, just buy them digitally. They’re a fraction of the price and you can carry a whole library anywhere on your phone! That’s better, isn’t it? 

Every time you spend $7.86 at Amazon on that new release, you could have donated that money to {insert worthy, well-researched organization here} Imagine how much money that would be over a lifetime? 

I know, I know. And all those things are logical and even accurate. 
But y’all… Guess what’s at the other end of that spectrum? 

My heart. And my heart loves books like it’s my flippin’ J. O. B. 

Real books. Real, printed words, on real, amazing-smelling paper. Real, creatively designed covers with carefully chosen images and fonts. Real, actual pages to dog-ear and flip. The very reason bookmarks exist. Exhilarating. 

But my absolute favorite part of the books? (Besides holding them and turning pages and smelling them? Okay. It’s possible I have issues.) 

My favorite part is the margins

The beautiful, blank margins. 

The margins are the place where the books come alive to me. Because that’s where I document the difference they make in my life. The connections they make with me. The ways those words on paper are making me think and question and wrestle with new insights. 

Those margins allow the book to come to life. To come into my life. 

As I add my words and thoughts, the book becomes part of my life. If I read a book that doesn’t make me highlight and scribble in the margins, it’s likely a book I won’t at all enjoy or even remember. 

The margins make that book a living, breathing, changing thing. A story to connect to and journey with. The margins make that book part of my very own journey.  

That book lent to me, so pristine and museum-quality? I should have handed it back to her right away, but I didn’t want to seem rude. So I took it straight home, sat it carefully on the top shelf of my bookcase, and ordered my own copy from Amazon. And she was right. It was an incredible book, and my copy was full of life in the margins. (Her copy was returned to her “unharmed,” of course)

Do you, like me, love the margins, the notes you scribble in them, the ways you connect with real, live books? Then we get each other. 

I’ve been reading (and scribbling/circling/highlighting in) some wonderful books this summer. I’ll be sharing some of them here soon, in hopes you’ll be inspired to go out and get  your own real, actual copies and make them come to life too. 

moments, present and accounted for.

Two years ago today I was waking up in India. Probably at all the wrong time of day, as I was still getting used to that other-side-of-the-world time change. Even while rubbing my eyes, I could still see that moment. That face. That gratitude that seemed to make no sense to me. A frail little man, brown skin all wrinkled, bowing his head to me in thanks, clutching that little fuzzy blanket against his face even though it had teddy bears printed all over it.

ImageA small fleece blanket, purchased in bulk. Various colors, prints, patterns, handed to beautiful human beings who were made in the image of God. Men, women, and children, most whose bodies were in various stages of leprosy. And it was my turn, and it was a flurry of activity. I tried to soak it in, see every face, look in every pair of eyes, whether they were blind or not. But time and nerves and culture don’t always allow everyone’s eyes to meet, and I was feeling as if I’d never really grasp the depth of this moment. Like I was a bit outside of it, not totally present.

Awake the next day, I tried to get my mind back into that moment. I was trying to recall all the faces and colors, the exact moment of that exchange.That moment the man pressed that blanket to his face in pure, complete gratitude. The whole experience floods my mind, even today. Apparently I was there after all.

But I wondered what that moment meant to that man, exactly. Was his demeanor a typical expression of gratitude, or was he, like me, trying desperately to cut through languages and culture and awkward interactions to show just how life-changing that moment was as well? Was he awake somewhere, trying to stay in that moment like I was?

I don’t know and I guess I never will. What I thought I knew for sure was that there’s no way that moment could ever be topped. That was the pinnacle of all New Year’s Eves, from now until eternity. And no other New Year’s Eve moment–or perhaps any moment–would ever be that good.

But now, I’m not so sure I was right about that.

I’m realizing that it’s not the best or biggest moment that really counts. It’s ALL of the moments. We have to make all of our moments count, because every one of them contains heartbeats and breaths and smiles and memories that we will never be able to replicate exactly. Never ever. So we have to make them count, not by trying to balloon all of them into enormous moments, but by being present in every one of them big or small. By noticing things that help us savor them.

Fast forwarding to last night, New Year’s Eve again. This time, I was in my own small-town kitchen. I made pepper jack pasta from scratch and broccoli from the freezer. I laughed with my husband, son, and daughter-in-law. We watched several episodes of Breaking Bad. We said “Happy New Year!” at 12:00 and headed off to bed about an hour later. Hardly momentous or earth-shattering. Hardly that memorable moment in India two years ago, right?

But last night, in my un-exciting New Year’s Eve, I felt really present in all the moments of the evening. I noticed a lot. My husband is such a polite eater. He folds his napkin meticulously after each use. The sauce was incredibly smooth and spicy, just the way we all like it. My daughter-in-law swings her hair to the side a lot like I did when mine was as long as hers. Her nose wrinkles up a little when she laughs at something, which I love. My son gives a heavy sigh when something is bothering him and he wants to talk about it but wants you to ask him what’s wrong. And he’s becoming more polite every day, with lots of thank-yous and pleases, and carefully handing the butter around the table, a lot like his amazing father. I noticed, noticed, noticed, until my senses were full and so was that tank that holds all my joy, wherever that lives.

No fireworks, no watching the ball drop. No noisemakers or parties. No incredible travels or culture shock or big things. Nothing that would make anyone say that an incredible experience had occurred. But I was there for every single moment, and they counted.

And this year, I’ll be noticing and counting.

Cuh-razy cool week!

Wow. This week has been so crazy. So much going on, and even though I am sick today (achy, yucky sick) there’s so much to be thankful for.

Nerves were wracked a little bit after sharing part of my past for 30 Days of Story. Even so, I am thankful I did it. It was very obvious that it’s what God has me doing right now, sharing my story. Even the ugly parts (especially those!?) I’ve had several women tell me what a blessing it was to them to hear my struggle and how God has changed me because of it. It’s what our lives are for, I think…to take our stuff, no matter how crazy or unbelievable or wild it all may sound…and hold it up to the one who can reflect himself in it.

Thank you so much to all of you who were praying for me over the past couple of weeks while I wrote. It was every bit as hard as I thought it might be, but your prayers covered me well. After all of the stuff that happened this week, I finally got the story out and it was posted on Sarah’s blog yesterday. Terrifying and wonderful at the same time. Then, I woke up to this devotional in my email today. My God is the freakin’ coolest thing ever!!

Some other random, cool stuff:

  • My son will be twenty years old this week. He is nearly a year sober. THANK YOU, JESUS.
  • FancyFREE jewelry is goin’ legit… and getting a little makeover. Stay tuned for cool stuff coming up in 2013, when she will be known by her new name, Fancy Freedom Designs. Holla!!
  • Thankful for talented designers who let folks use their super cool fonts for not much moolah!
  • This weekend I get to hang with the fabulous Marla and get a little Christmas shopping out of the way. At the same time I get to support women around the globe who now have sustainable income for their families and communities. Can’t wait to see all the lovely stuff from Noonday Collection! (Strike that previous “Holla!!” and insert it here!!)
  • Saturday I get to sell my own creations at Christmas Shopping for a Cause! And I’ve already paid for my supplies so ALL the money I make that night can be donated directly to doma International!!

Okay, people…so I went a little link-happy. Gimme a break. Love me anyway. Peace & Freedom to you, and I hope you have yourself a cuh-razy cool week!

carrot cake, family and other good things

Yesterday was my 35th birthday. (sigh) Something about the 5’s for me… little mini-life crises. I had one at 25. It was the oh-my-gosh-what-the-heck-how-am-I-25-already-and-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing-with-my-life-yet kind of breakdown. Now I’m in the midst of whoa-how-am-I-35-and-thought-I-knew-what-I-was-doing-but-now-I’m-questioning kind of deal. It’s cool, it will all work out, God’s got me and there’s nothing to worry about. I’ve never been happier. My husband is incredible– full of integrity, generosity, and muscles (hey, gimme a break, I’m only a woman!) My son is healthy and starting life again…slowly, but he’s starting. My family is just amazing. Not so much my blood-family. Unfortunately it has been blown apart and everyone seems to have gone down their own path.

But my family, my peeps, the real people I do life with, those people are incredible. Blood or no blood, they are my family. They are the ones I call when I need something. They are the ones who share my special moments, my tears, and my triumphs. They are the ones who remember the little things that connect my heart to theirs. They are the good in my life. I’m so thankful to have each one of them. Yesterday some of my people conspired to turn a rained-out party into a little birthday gathering for me. We were getting together anyway, there was no doubt. But they went a little extra step and added something special just for me. It was by far the best birthday ever.

Every year on my birthday, I used to call my mom and sing “Happy Birthday” to her. She would always laugh and ask me why the heck I did that when it was my birthday. I always used to tell her it was because she was the one who gave birth! It only seemed right. That was a fun little tradition of ours, and that tradition is gone now, along with my momma. This is the first year I couldn’t call to sing the reverse happy birthday song to her. It hit hard. Another thing she used to do, up until the past few years before she died, when she just didn’t really cook at all or do much of anything, was to make me a special birthday cake.  Something unusual, special, just for me…a homemade carrot cake. It had been years since I’d had the special cake on my birthday. Another little tradition, gone.

But yesterday, my beautiful friend Jessica, one of the most thoughtful people I have ever known, teamed up with my husband to insert something extra-special for me into the party— you guessed it—a carrot cake. Something so simple, packed with such memory, unleashed a few tears. Happy and sad ones. So, celebrating my birthday, a great night with my friend-family, and the end of traditions, I thought about all the good in my 35 years of life, and I couldn’t help but be so very thankful. Looking forward to 35 more years (at least, right Amanda!?)


On second thought…

I was just about to hit the “post” button to share my snarky little comment about having such a looooong day at work, and how I have to work on my assignments for my master’s degree program now instead of relaxing and going to bed early. No rest for the weary, right? [insert long, exhausted sigh here]

Then I pulled into town and saw this amazing sunset sky. This pathetically hasty picture does it no justice whatsoever….baby blue streaked with pink and orange darker pink, giving the old grainery an awesome silhouette for just a moment.

I canceled my snarky little post and closed my eyes. Instead, I would like to just say:

THANK YOU. Thank you for beauty, even in my ungratefulness. Thank you for a second chance and a second look.

JUST thank you.

Week in review

Summary of my week so far, in no particular order…

-met some super cool shop owners in Franklin, TN
-watched Sister Wives for the first time ever on the hotel TV
-remembered the many reasons why we never watch TV
-went to a water park/splashed and frolicked
-avoided a sunburn even though it was 99 degrees outside. Score!
-got blisters on the bottom of both feet from walking around barefooted on said water park’s super hot concrete. Would rather have had the sunburn.
-Had the best vegan meal of my life at a place called The Wild Cow. Irony.
-met Dave Ramsey (WHAAAATT!!?)
-um, yes, that is what I had said.
-was on a national radio show (see Dave Ramsey above)
-cried tears of joy with my husband over accomplishing an enormous goal
-felt the freedom all over again
-fell in love with my husband for the zillionth time
-watched fireworks and felt like they were just for us
-read some amazing books by talented writers
-started my master’s degree program
-wondered why in the world I need a master’s degree
-spent at least 12 hours reading and writing things because someone else decided I have to
-seriously contemplated a career change
-thought about those books I’ve written in my head and how they need to make their way onto paper soon
-had some bad dreams
-didn’t kiss my husband nearly enough
-paid a caterer for amazing food
-ordered 6 dozen mini vegan cupcakes
-made Hippie Loaf
-reworked Hippie Loaf recipe…v2 was better
-spent several hours with my diva-friends, which of course was not nearly enough
-marveled at my friend’s beautiful baby girl and super talkative 2 year old boy.They’ve grown so fast!!
-talked awesome books and life and Jesus with one of my divas on the way home
-was chauffeured : )
-prayed for many folks to receive comfort and peace
-wondered why my life is so utterly blessed and practically painless
-questioned the strength of my faith
-realized that there are more things I’ve written in my mind that need to find their way out
-wrote this list just to take the pressure off
-closed my eyes
-gave thanks



This week has been a lesson on verbs. You remember those things that you learned about in 2nd grade? (at least you would have if you had been in my class.) Verbs are action words… the parts of speech that show motion, action, being, doing. They never just describe other things. They never just sit there and add to something else that’s going on around them. They’re never idle, and they’re not accidental. They are purposeful. They do.  

Seems that I’ve been verbing an awful lot this week. crying. seeking. asking. loving. hating. understanding. reaching. begging. yelling. punching. breaking.  retreating. battling. compromising. convincing. praying. honoring. wondering. worrying. losing. giving. giving up. overcoming. defeating. forgetting. forgiving. reminding. agreeing. resting.

Some of these actions were a lot easier than others. Many were very, very difficult. But no matter what verb I’m putting into practice, I can’t forget that God is constantly being and doing more than I could ever see or imagine on my behalf. The truth is that I don’t understand what the heck is going on around me right now. Injustice is rearing its ugly head around every corner. Fairness and decency have apparently jumped out the window. Cooperation and doing what’s best have become foreign terms these days. Love is being touted as a feeling rather than as an action that is chosen. I wonder when all the drama will be over.

But in all this, I was reminded today that no matter what, God is always doing on my behalf. I listened to the song Sing Over Me by Bethany Dillon  today, which in many ways has become my “go to” song when things are rough. (If you haven’t heard it, do yourself a favor and check it out on iTunes or the link to YouTube) I remember one time, a couple of years back,  sitting in a waiting room after being told that I would need to have a mammogram to double check a strange lump that I’d spoken to my doctor about earlier that week. He’d assured me it was probably nothing but referred me just to be safe. Now the specialists weren’t as sure. So there I was, 32 and sitting in the waiting room of the clinic, wrapped in a hideous robe and singing softly to myself over and over:…Whatever should come against me…teach me to be still…This week has been a little like that waiting room….wondering what would happen, being frustrated at the helplessness I’ve felt, unable to correct a situation that could change everything. My control-freaky-ness was working overtime. But in everything, I remembered where to turn…what to ask for. Sing over me, God, quiet me with Your love. Draw me close so I can rest, teach me to be still no matter what’s happening around me or to me.

The weirdest part? I am calm now. I am resting. It doesn’t even make sense. I should be freaking out and worrying and wondering some more…but now that I’ve remembered where to go and what to ask, I’m actually hearing that song He’s singing over me.  The Lord is my refuge and my strength. Of whom shall I be afraid? He will be with me wherever I go. He is the way, the truth, the life. He knows the plans He has for me. What has been meant for evil, He will turn into good. GOOD. He is mighty…He will save.

I live in the wonder of Your love
You rise like the sun in my heart
Even when the night draws near to me
There You are

I will wade in the water of mercy
I will walk in the light of Your will
Whatever should come against me
Teach me to be still 

As you sing over me
Draw me close to rest in Your peace
Sing over me
Oh, sing

Sing of Your unending faithfulness
That knows no doubt or fear
In the face of all that I don’t know yet
Remind me of who You are

You are mighty
You will save
Rejoice over me with singing
You will quiet
By Your love
Glory over me with singing

Zephaniah 3:17