photo from www.awardcircuit.com

Last week I watched the movie Unbroken with my  family.

I suddenly felt selfish for every time I’d ever complained about my little troubles in life.

I’ve never floated on a raft on the Pacific Ocean for 47 days, battling starvation, storms, and sharks.

I’ve never been that close to death or been through the horrors of war.

Louis Zamperini’s story is dark. It’s real. But it’s also beautiful in a heartbreaking way.

It’s the ending that touched me the most (although the movie doesn’t highlight it much).

After all the darkness and nightmares and scars,  Loius Zamperini found God.

He felt the redeeming power of forgiveness and shared it with others.

He visited Japan and forgave his prison guards in the POW camp.

He lived to the bold age of 97 and  died with peace in his heart.

This is the type of story that knocks me off my feet and shoves my selfishness in my face.

Today I don’t want to complain, y’all.

I just want to be thankful for life. For the endless blue sky above. For the birds chirping in the treetops. For the songs my siblings sing together. For the breeze kissing my face.

Today is for living, not complaining.

Today is for thankfulness.

Today is unbroken.

Full song here: This is Just So Beautiful

How about you…What are you thankful for today?

Love is Humble

Passover 2015

Last weekend my family and I celebrated Passover and the Last Supper.

I feel like there are so many things that I could share about what I learned over the weekend, but a lot of it is still spinning in my heart and not ready for words yet. It was truly a blessed time of encouragement and fellowship and memory making.

Last year, I shared a bit about the significance of Passover and how my family celebrates it, but this year I want to share one of the many lessons that Passover teaches me.

It teaches me about love–my Savior’s definition of love.

Love is humble.

Love knelt down before his disciples and washed the dirt  from their feet.  Love spent the last hours of His life on earth as a servant to broken humanity. In the garden, Love felt the deepest anguish of the soul. He knew the torture that awaited Him, and yet He prayed, “Thy will be done.”

Love is sacrificial.

Love pierced His hands and feet to the cross. Love adorned Himself with a crown of thorns. He bled his heart to win mine.

Love is alive.

Love rose again on the third day.  He conquered the grave and quenched the sting of death. Two thousand years later, His love for us hasn’t changed. It never will, because His love is eternal.

It’s steady and true.
It’s righteous and pure and inexplainable with words.

This same love He gives to us, not so we can lock it in our hearts, but so we can give it freely, and lay down our lives for others, as He did for us. Feed the hungry. Heal the hurting. Be the love that this broken world desperately needs.

Love is our calling.

This is My command, that you love one another, as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this: that he should lay down his life for his friends.
–John 15:12 & 13

May we have the courage to say, “Thy will be done.”
May we be His Love.

How about you…Have you ever celebrated Passover? If so, I would love to hear what Passover has taught you.

5 Things that Make Me Smile

Sure there are many things that make me smile, but here are just five things in particular that brighten my winter:

My Snowy Neighborhood

A Snowy Neighborhood–Last week we got our first snow this winter here in Alabama. I love how snow changes the atmosphere, making it so peaceful and bright.

Good Friends—I love, love, love my friends, and I’m bountifully thankful that Yahweh has brought each and every one of them into my life. What a blessing! 

Hot Chocolate–This goes along with the snowy weather. After we played in the snow last week, I made hot chocolate for the fam. Since we rarely have hot chocolate, it’s a treat around our house. I savored the warmth. Winter never tasted so good.

Home by Josh Garrels–I am incredibly excited about this new album due to be released in early April by my all-time favorite artist. His music changes my life.

Today’s Burnt Pumpkin Pie–Because it reminds me that even when I have a super-productive day in the kitchen, I can still make mistakes, and that the best way to deal with it is to chop off the blackened crust and smile. Who needs the crust anyway?

Smiles in the Snow

How about you…What are some things that have brightened your winter? What makes you smile?

In Everything You Do

This morning I was greeted by Jenny & Tyler’s newly released music video, “In Everything You Do.”

The song is written for their little girl, Jane.

It’s simple.
It’s beautiful.
And It’s comforting.

The song reminds me of our heavenly Father’s devotion to His children.

He doesn’t promise happiness.
He doesn’t promise all the answers.
But what He does promise is what is important.

Unconditional love.
Abundant life.

These are what make…

A world so full of wonder
Full of laughter, full of life

Thank you Jenny & Tyler for sharing your song of devotion.

What’s a song that brings you comfort?

An Afternoon Vacation

Cheaha State Park

Last Sunday found my family and me at Mount Cheaha State Park with some friends. Even though we were at the highest point in Alabama–2,413 feet above sea level–it was still a warm day.

It was October the last time I was at Cheaha, so the change in season was even more obvious to me. This time the sun was shining in the clear blue sky and the trees displayed their bright green leaves. Children splashed in the lake. There was no need for jackets anymore. Spring had made its arrival on Mount Cheaha.


We hiked the Blue Trail, a steep one mile trek up Mount Cheaha. I heard the peaceful sound of the gurgling creek running alongside the trail. It blocked the path at one point and we stepped on rocks to cross it. There were many trees down, due to the ice storm of a few months back, but the trail had been cleared well enough.

Hiking the Blue Trail

Despite the canopy of treetops above us, the air was still warm on the trail and everyone was sweaty by the time we reached the top. I kept thinking of my older brother who recently ran a 50K up Mount Cheaha. His race ended with the trail we were hiking. I realized once again how crazy–and amazing!–my big brother is.

View From Top of Cheaha

The view from the top was beautiful, as always. We could see the rolling mountains in the distance, the lake where we had started, and the vast range of treetops that someone said reminded them of broccoli. We saw the small waterfall that the creek descended from. My dad splashed me with a bit of the cold water. A cool breeze finally swept the stagnant air. That felt good. Very good.


After hiking back down, we chilled out while the kids splashed in the lake and built sand castles on the small beach. Three of us gently swayed on a lovely, but partly-broken bench swing and chatted. The boys entertained us with their castle fights, and my little sister entertained us by acting as the mediator: “Guys! Stop fighting and work on your castles!” But evidently making castles wasn’t nearly as fun as destroying them, so the war raged on.

Cheaha Lake

Time slipped by, and as we finally left Cheaha, it seemed as if we had been on a mini vacation. Just for an afternoon.

The Blue Trail

Passover 2014

Passover Matzo

Last night was a special night.

It was Passover.

The festival of Passover is special in many ways. Not only does it commemorate the story of the Israelites leaving Egypt, but it also commemorates Jesus’ death upon the cross.

It’s a solemn night to remember the Messiah’s sacrifice, but it’s also a joyful night to remember that His death is not the end of the story. He rose again, conquering death and condemnation once and for all. It’s a night to celebrate that redemption.

Several families joined us in the celebration. It was a wonderful time of fellowship, so wonderful that we never even stopped to take pictures. Thus you will have to trust me that I’m not making all this up.

We youth (me being the oldest) were annexed to a table by ourselves for the Passover meal and were soon laughing far too much. Between pranks with horseradish sauce and cracking silly jokes about Bible characters, it was a hilarious time. One of the guys said it was one of the funniest meals he had ever had. Maybe it wasn’t the most reverent way to celebrate the Passover meal, but we definitely embraced the celebration side of the festival.

After the meal, we had a time of group worship led by my sister and me. Hearing the voices blend together in praise was beautiful. The first song we sang was “Passover Lamb,” a song my sister and I wrote two years ago, followed by “Lead Me to the Cross,” “Oh the Blood,” and “10,000 Reasons.”

After the praise time, we took turns reading the account of the ten plagues in Egypt. My mom and dad helped bring the account to life by tossing rubber frogs and Ping-Pong ball “hail stones” in the air, swatting people with fly swatters, and turning off the lights when the plague of darkness was read.

My dad then shared his testimony and we watched a few videos on the importance of Passover. By eleven o’clock the party was over, but for many of us the festival had only begun.

We now have the seven days of the Festival of Unleavened Bread to celebrate and the festival of First Fruits next Sunday. With the house free of leaven, I’ll be baking plenty of flat bread this week.

I suppose we’re a bit unconventional in our celebration of the biblical festivals, but what’s important is that we celebrate them the best we can according to the Bible.

It’s not that complicated.

And it’s a lot of fun.

Haunted by Wild Onions

There are many things that I love about spring. And today I realized something else that makes spring special. Its something small. Something that goes mostly unnoticed, but something that has haunted me ever since my sisters discovered it in the back yard.

It’s wild onion plants.

Not only do I smell them and see them, but thanks to my two youngest sisters who have taken such a liking to them, I hear much about these smelly sprouts.

Just last night I was given one as a gift. My sister handed me a tiny box constructed of scrap paper and held together with lots of tape. A smile lined her face as she told me how to open the makeshift package. I peeked inside to find the tip of a wild onion with a wobbly smiley face drawn on it and roots flaring out like it had a bad hair day. Despite the smell of the gift, I was delighted with it.

Then the wild onions came back to haunt me again this morning. I was sitting on the back porch writing when my other sister handed me two precious onion plants with the command to “keep these safe.” After leaving me with the smelly sprouts, she ran off to toss onion stems at a squirrel in an attempt give him a “delicious meal.”

So, yes, wild onions haunt me. They sprout up in my yard, they pester me with their smell, they smile at me with Sharpie marker faces, and they even accompany my writing. And some how, some way, they bring a smile to my face.

Sweet Home Alabama

I’ve lived in Alabama for six years now. Even though I’m not much of a southern belle, I’ve come to connect with my country surroundings. (I even know what okra is now.) And yet, as my mom was driving me through town last night, I saw something I’d never noticed before. I saw rolling hills in the distance beyond our little town. I stared at the view. How could I have missed that every time before?

A favorite shot from last Fall
A favorite shot from last Fall

Sometimes it’s the beauty right before our eyes that can be the hardest to see.This year I’m striving to notice those simple things around me–such as a landscape of rolling hills–that make life so beautiful.

So here are a few blessing from my day:

#1:The Weather

Today was gorgeous. The sun was shining, the wind blowing, and the temperature was a pleasant 65 degrees. My younger brother and I rode our bicycles on a local trail with our home school group. Simply blissful.

#2: Mango and Black Bean Pasta Salad

I came home from being out in the great outdoors today craving this salad. I had already cooked the noodles, so I threw it together and then came outside to sit on the deck and munch on it. Just what I wanted.


 #3: The Clouds

And as I sat on the deck, I glanced up at the bright blue sky and saw this gorgeous array of clouds:

Look at the Clouds

Yep, today was a great day to live in sweet home Alabama.


A photo from a few years back. Some things never change.

While I listened to Restless Ones by Josh Garrels and baked Double Chocolate Muffins in the kitchen today, I pondered what I should post about. It’s been a while since I’ve written about my life, so here’s a bit of what I’ve been up to.

As I shared in my post “10,000 Reasons: A Thankfulness Challenge for 2014” I have been busy discovering the many things that I am thankful for each day. I haven’t missed a day of the challenge yet, although it does seem to be getting harder as the months go by. But all in all, I’m glad to be keeping a thankfulness journal. It helps me capture the special moments of each day and encourages me to look at the world through more observant and grateful eyes.

If I see something beautiful, such as a woodpecker on a tree or wisps of powdery snow falling from the roof, I write it down. Sometimes I have to be creative. And I’ll admit that I’ve even written down “white blood cells.” (My brother gave me a hard time over that one.)

Looking back at the things that I’ve written brings back memories already. I’m also excited to have family members and friends joining me in this challenge. Whether their goal is 1,000 or 10,000, I’m thrilled that they’re doing it too.

Besides writing in my thankfulness journal, I have my usual activities to keep me occupied–Krav Maga, cooking, baking, reading, writing, school, and piano (yes, I still play piano–quite a bit actually–I just haven’t gotten around to recording any songs lately).

And now for a peek into my thankfulness journal.  Here are some things that I’m thankful for right now (the notes after the entries are not in my journal):

#710: Gilbert. Let me introduce you to our family’s pet goldfish named Gil. As of today, Gil has been with us for one month. He spends his days happily wiggling in his watery habitat, moving the marbles at the base of his home, and gulping loudly at the top of the water. We think he’s adorable. I suppose we’re easily amused.

#821: My Guitar. Lately I’ve been spending more time with my guitar. On warmer days, I enjoy taking it outside, sitting down by the large rock in our backyard,  and strumming away.

#1,094: Figure Skating. If figure skating was the only sport at the Sochi Olympics this year, I wouldn’t have complained. Whether it was ice dancing or figure skating, I watched almost all of it!

#1,168: Blessings. The song “Blessings” by Laura Story has been in my heart lately. I enjoy playing it on the piano and singing it. Love that song!

#1,471: The Secret Keeper. I’ve been reading Beverly Lewis’ latest Amish novel “The Secret Keeper.” It’s good to read some fiction for a change.

#1,606: Mexican Casserole. Guess what greeted me when I came home after two classes of Krav Maga last night? Mexican Casserole. It was just what my starving belly was craving. I devoured it. There was nothing left to photograph, but fear not, I’ll be making it again and posting the recipe before long.

So there you have it–a glimpse into my little life!


It’s My Brother’s Fault

Mud. The very word brings back memories of obstacle races, causing a smile to spread across my face. I love obstacle races–a fact that many people find surprising and weird. What’s not to love about crawling through gritty, smelly mud, rolling through shock wires, or swimming through icy water? Okay, so maybe I am crazy, but I’m not the only one to blame. When I investigated the cause behind this fascination of mine, I discovered an underlying culprit–my brother.

Wow…I look rough.

I’ve always had a streak of tomboy in me, which was mostly cultivated by my older brother Grant. Once I was old enough to tag along, I delighted in following Grant and his friends as they played army in the woods surrounding our childhood home in Florida. I wore Grant’s outgrown camouflage shirts, carried a toy shotgun, and got sap stuck in my stringy white hair as I trudged through the woods to various bunkers. By the time I was six, I had already lost a baby tooth in a playful brother-sister wrestling match. (Grant is still apologetic about that incident.) Over the years, my tomboy streak gradually diminished, that is, until this past year when it came back in full force. Once again, it was my brother’s fault. After introducing me to Krav Maga self defense, he soon had me running 5K’s with him, and–yes, you guessed it–encouraged me to participate in my first obstacle race last June. I’ve been an enthusiast ever since.


From army games and wrestling matches to Krav Maga and obstacle races, Grant is the one to blame. However, I prefer the term thank. In fact, I think he deserves an applause..


To my dear adventurous brother: May your days be filled with mud! :)