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?

Favorite Stories of 2014


Behold the Dawn

1. Behold the Dawn by K.M. Weiland–An epic tale of justice and mercy set during the Third Crusades.

Long Fatal Love Chase


2. A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott–A tragic suspense romance.

 Me & Georgette

3. Me & Georgette by D.B. Schaefer–A fun and unusual romance combining time travel, Judaism, and Regency England.

Biography & Memoir

Kisses From Katie

1. Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis–A story of relentless love and complete devotion.


2. Ten P’s in a Pod by Arnold Pent III–The hilarious and inspiring story of one of America’s first modern homeschool families.

Strawberry Point

3. Strawberry Point by Florence Roe Wiggins—A delightful collection of memoir vignettes celebrating old-fashioned America.

What are some of your favorite stories of 2014?

Eclipsed by Sunshine

JSU Houston Cole Library (courtesy of www.stripes.com)
Houston Cole Library (courtesy of www.stripes.com)

I’m sitting on the seventh floor of the university library in town. All is quiet as students are studying for final exams. The sun is setting against the mountains, causing the windows on the west side of the library to burn bright orange.

A young lady stands in the landing in front of the elevators. She looks similar to how I imagine the protagonist in my novel to look. She has pretty features with long black hair and light tan skin. As she stands there gripping her stack of books, the sun shines through the windows at just the right angle to eclipse her in golden sunshine. It outlines her black hair and causes me to stare longer than I probably should. After a few seconds, she enters the elevator and leaves without a clue that she had ever been eclipsed by sunshine.

How many times in life do we go about our daily routines without realizing that we’re eclipsed by majesty? How many times do we ignore the simple wonders around us–the bright orange sun setting against the hills, the steam rises from the neighbors’ roofs in the morning, the stars turning black skies into dreamy seas of glitter.

Life is beautiful y’all. And sometimes we forget that.

What’s a simple wonder that you’ve seen lately?

Through & Through

Photo by Jay Williams (dview.us)

You know that feeling when you truly understand someone and they truly understand you? You don’t feel lonely or weird, but accepted–understood. It’s as if they can see your whole heart–all the ugly and the good–and they still love you.

That’s what I felt the other day while reading a powerful bit of writing from a dear friend of mine. It filled me with such joy. She understands. I understand. We are kindred spirits.

And then I realized something. I realized that as encouraging as it is to find a kindred spirit–as joyful as it is to relate to someone–what’s even more astounding is that God understands me.

He sees me–every hidden sin, every lingering doubt, every ugly scar, and every beautiful part of my existence. He sees me. He knows me. And still He loves me.

He understands me far better than any other human being, and far better than I’d ever want to. He understands me enough to send His Son to suffer far more than I ever have. He became human. He cried. He served. He was beaten and flogged and died the death of the accursed. And then he rose again so that I could have life too, so that the whole world could have abundant life.

This is what it means to be understood.

This is the greatest love. The love that can only come from a God who sees us, and knows us, and still loves us through and through.

Can I hear an amen?


Photos by Jay Williams (dview.us)

Earlier this month I spent a week and a half at Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee, camping with friends and family. Each night as the cold blanketed our campsites, we gathered around the campfire.

I’ve always liked campfires, but this past camping trip gave me a new appreciation for them.


The campfire was for comfort. It not only warmed us, it warmed the atmosphere too, creating a peaceful setting.

The campfire was for memories. Between cracking jokes, telling stories, and singing praise, the campfire was a place of fellowship–a place for new life to glow like the flames.

The campfire was for relaxing. Staring into that fire helped me slow down and think. Think about life. Think about faith. Think about what had brought me to that moment.

But as amazing as the campfire was, it wasn’t truly the campfire that brought us together. Faith is what brought us together. As we celebrated the Festival of Booths that week, sitting around the campfire under the starlit sky, we were family–brothers and sisters in Messiah. Our voices rose in praise as the sparks flitted from the fire and our prayers billowed like the smoke.

Campfires are for family.

What does a campfire mean to you?

Clear the Stage


There are certain songs that settle in your heart and stay there for a while, convicting and encouraging you. Jimmy Needham’s song “Clear the Stage” is one of them.

The chorus holds the premise–worship is more than singing. It’s a lifestyle, and it requires complete devotion:

You can sing all you want to
And still get it wrong;
worship is more than a song

The second verse comes along and draws me in even more:

Take a break from all the plans that you have made
And sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper
Beg Him please to open up His mouth and speak
And pray for real upon your knees until they blister
Shine the light on every corner of your life
Until the pride and lust and lies are in the open
Then read the Word and put to test the things you’ve heard
Until your heart and soul are stirred and rocked and broken

Then comes the bridge of the song when Needham sings about a subject I don’t hear often in Christian music:

Any thing I put before my God is an idol
Any thing I want with all my heart is an idol
Any thing I can’t stop thinking of is an idol
Any thing that I give all my love is an idol

We might mock the idolatry of ancient days–how men carved the images they worshiped. But idols aren’t just tangible things. Most of the time they’re not so blatant.

An idol can be anything. Even a good thing that we cherish too much.

We must not worship something that’s not even worth it
Clear the stage, make some space for the One who deserves it

Hard words, Jimmy. But I need them. We all do.

What’s a worship song that’s spoken to you lately?

In the Future…


The quote startled me at first. I read it again.

 “In the future, everyone will be word-famous for fifteen minutes.”

Andy Warhol made this statement in 1968. Perhaps it’s already becoming true.

We live in an age where people become world-famous so quickly and then disappear just as fast. Attention spans are shrinking. We want everything fast and we want it now. The culture around us rushes, pushes, and then screams at us to go faster. Grow up. Experience love sooner. Move out now.

But what if we slow down the tempo a bit? What if we enjoy being young? What if we wait for love? What if we stay where we belong? What if we embrace life instead of rushing it?

What if we sit under a tree and gaze at the big blue sky just because it’s a beautiful day? What if we write a letter to a friend because it means more than a text message? What if we say “hello” to our neighbors because they’re just as important as famous people?

In the future…

What if we forget world-famous and spend fifteen minutes enjoying the real world around us–this broken yet beautiful world?

What if we spend more than fifteen minutes? What if we spend a lifetime savoring this thing called life? Real life. Abundant life.

Free of fame.

How about you…What do you think about that quote?

Homeschool Jokes

Homeschool Joke
The most awesome school uniforms ever

After referencing homeschool jokes in a draft I was writing, I did some “necessary research” on the subject. A quick Google search led me to this hilarious list of homeschool jokes. Here are some of my favorites from the list:

You must be homeschooled if…

You are unaware of the current fads, fashions, and slang terms. (Yup. Pretty much.)

Someone asks what grade you’re in and you’re not sure. (You mean I can only pick one? Gasp!)

Your school bus is a nine-passenger van. (Don’t forget the Bible verse on the back window!)

Your favorite place to study is outside, under a tree. (Where else?)

Of course these are just stereotyped jokes, but they still crack me up. What’s funny is how many of the jokes I actually relate to. I’m not even afraid to admit that. Ah! I love being homeschooled.

But the “Best Homeschool Joke Award” must go to Blimey Cow and their videos “You Might Be a Homeschooler If..”

As if the first video wasn’t enough, they made a second video. And then a third. (They’re overachieving homeschoolers after all.)

So there you have it–a little homeschool humor to brighten your day or just make you shake your head.

Have you ever cracked a homeschool joke?

Two Weeks that Changed Me

Summit Student Conferences

The summer of 2013 held a special opportunity for me. I attended the Summit Worldview Conference in Tennessee. Even though I’ve written about it before, I want to write about it again.

It’s been a full year since I attended Summit, but it still comes to mind so often. It’s influenced my life more than I think I’ll ever know. This past year I probably wouldn’t have applied myself to studying as much as I did. I wouldn’t have enjoyed the friendships I made with fellow students and my inspiring group leader (who blogs over here).  And I most definitely would not be as confident in my faith.

I believe that Summit has changed the course of my life. It’s hard to talk about something so dynamic, but the other day I tried to capture a bit of the Summit experience in this short bit of prose:


We go to bed early. We get up too soon. We crowd into breakout sessions and sit through two weeks of lectures. Why? Because we are young. Because we are searching. Because we want answers.

We fill our workbooks with notes and doodles. We form friendships. We pray together. Why? Because we love God. Because we love people. Because we love ideas.

We want to reach life’s summit. We want to face the tough questions. We want to change the world. Why? Because we’ve found a glimpse of truth. Because we’ve caught a spark of hope.

Summit isn’t a memory to us. It’s a monument. We will never forget it.

I know there are many that share my sentiments for Summit. The sheer joy of knowing that each summer hundreds of young people attend these conferences makes me feel hope for the future.

Thank you, Summit, for changing my life.

Books, Books, & More Books

Elizabeth Bennet
Elizabeth Bennet from Pride & Prejudice

It’s hard to believe that there was a time when I didn’t read much.

As a child, I always enjoyed reading, but during my early teen years I lost interest. Children’s books were behind me, young adult books didn’t interest me, and adult books were too mature for me, so I just didn’t read.

And then I discovered the venerable Jane Austen. After watching the five hour long movie rendition of Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” I read the classic. It was my first large novel, and I was captivated.

I also discovered the Love Comes Softly Series by Janette Oke . She became one of my favorite authors as I delved into the genres of historical and Christian fiction.

Since attending Summit last year, I’ve also started reading many non-fiction books. Now my “to read” list  is overflowing. I generally add at least one new title a week. For someone who’s not a fast reader, that means I’ve got plenty of happy page-turning hours ahead of me.

Here are some of my favorite books this year, along with short reviews:

Tactics, Gregory Koukl–An excellent handbook to logical thinking and apologetic tactics for defending biblical convictions.

Strawberry Point, Florence Roe Wiggins–A delightfully quaint collection of memoir vignettes celebrating old-fashioned America. Loved it.

Me & Georgette, D.B. Schaefer–A fun, unusual romance combining time travel, Judaism, and Regency England. It’s similar to Jane Austen, so yes, I liked it.

Structuring Your Novel, K.M. Weiland–Informative and easy to read, this book has been a great resource while writing my novel.

What are some books that you’ve enjoyed lately?