“Stuff” could easily refer to history, emotions, your hopes and dreams and all of that.

What I’m referring to however is Junk. Excess things, objects and/or bits and pieces.

They don’t mention this side of marriage in pre-marital counseling.

When we got married, we had many laughs about our extra stuff. Brian brought a black coat rack that seemed to house dirty clothes- not coats. That coat rack travelled with us for about 4 years until we finally threw it away. He also brought an avacado colored green foot stool shaped like a mushroom. I didn’t even like looking at that thing. It smelled funny, it looked funny and it didn’t last long. I brought a scale model of a house showing intricate construction methods made entirely out of balsa wood (a project for one of my design classes). I vividly remember the day I decided that we could toss it. Brian picked it up and crushed it so that it would fit into the trash. Just like that, 20+ hours of work flattened as if a tornado had torn it apart, tossed to the curb.

Another item that Brian brought into our marriage has stayed with us for the last 8 years. It’s The Incredibly Annoying and Irritating Ear-Splitting Alarm Clock (here on out referred to as the Alarm Clock).

This thing has been a thorn in my side for almost 3000 mornings.

Recently, Brian decided that he might have an easier time getting up in the morning if he placed my clock radio on his dresser across the room. That way, he’d be forced to jump out of bed and turn it off in the morning. I whole-heartily agreed- this was a good idea.

But, guess what that meant for me- I inherited the Alarm Clock.

Why does this Alarm Clock irritate me so? Well, to begin with, it doesn’t light up. You have to push a button in order to see the time. Nothing is more annoying than having to sit up, fumble around in the dark and push a button to see what time it is. I might as well just dial the time number on the telephone- that would be easier. Also, it only snoozes for 5 minutes. What kind of snooze can you possibly get in 5 minutes? That means that if you want to sleep for say, an extra 20 minutes, you have to push the silly snooze button FOUR TIMES! Finally, the most irritating trait of all: the alarm. It’s not the typical Beep*Beep*Beep you get from most non-radio alarm clocks. It’s a high pitched, whiny chirp that says very quickly, “Cheep-Cheep-Cheep!* Cheep-Cheep-Cheep!* Cheep-Cheep-Cheep!*” It’s the most annoying sound EVER- except possibly for the sound of someone chewing on ice, but that’s an entirely different story.

So, after about 5 mornings waking up to the chirping of The Alarm Clock and saying, “I hate this thing!” about 80 times, I went and bought a new alarm clock. That lights up. That has a radio. That snoozes for 10 minutes which everyone knows is the length of time it takes for a decent snooze.

I plugged my new alarm clock in yesterday, excited that I could wake up to the sound of a Christian radio station instead of the sound of mechanical baby chicks on speed. I already mentioned how my new clock lights up. Well, as we lay down to go to sleep I realized that this clock not only lights up so that I can see the numbers in the middle of the night- it lights up so that I can see the dresser across the room. It lights up so that I can see the clothes in my closet. It lights up so that I can still see the numbers with my eyes closed. So, I started messing with the buttons and switched on the one labeled “dim.” Turns out, the headlight effect was dim. “Bright” meant that I needed to go get my suntan lotion- I might as well get a tan while I sleep, right?

Well, this clock will take a bit of getting used to, but I can tell you one thing- it’s about 10x better than The Incredibly Annoying and Irritating Ear-Splitting Alarm Clock. I can handle the ultraviolet rays. I’m not tempted to pitch it out of the window or hide it under my pillow.

And Brian? He is sleepily oblivious.

Tell me… what kind of stuff did you inherit when you got married?

P.S. Did I seriously just write 744 words about an alarm clock? Yup sure did, but now it’s 752.😛

Last week, the boys and I had a really good day. There was no hitting, arguing, bonking, or provoking between brothers. Obedience consistently happened “all the way, right away, with a happy heart.” It was unique. It was peaceful. It was wonderful.

At the end of the day, I thanked God for the wonderful day He had given us- it was a gift of His grace and I was so very thankful.

And then God brought to mind a quote from The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges, an influential book I have mentioned before on this blog:

Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.

All throughout that wonderful day I had been praising the boys for their good behavior, for the way they were treating one another, for the way they were respecting me. And all throughout that day, I said over and over, “You are doing such a wonderful job today, God is really helping you make wise decisions, isn’t He?”

You see, even on our “good” days, we are still in need of God’s grace. His grace is what carries us through- it is what equips us to make the wise decisions that we need to make minute by minute. He is the one that allows me to respond with a peaceful heart instead of an angry, frustrated heart. He is the one that gives me the boldness that I need to invite a stranger to church or to reach out to someone I don’t know very well. Jerry Bridges also says, “We are not only saved by grace, but we also live by grace every day.” God’s grace is what carries me through- minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.

Well, as you well know, not every day is a “wonderful” day. Eventually, the bonking, provoking and resisting started up again and I found myself yearning for that really “good” day. It’s not as easy to respond with peace and mercy on an ordinary day. Though I sought to be gentle and patient, it took a little more strength, a little more effort.

But, the beauty of God’s grace is that even though everything was “back to normal,” God’s grace, that wonderful grace, was still at work- because every day the gift of His grace is showered upon His people. It’s the same grace that sent Jesus to the cross so that we could be forgiven of our sins. It’s the same grace that allows me to be God’s daughter.

1 John 3:1 says (emphasis mine), “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!”

Behold! We serve a risen Savior, a gracious Father, a mighty King who has chosen to stoop down from heaven in order to consider us.

Behold! Whether “good” days or “bad,” our God is the same now and forever. His grace never changes and never ceases.

Let us live in that grace, embrace it and savor it. Let us remind ourselves of it over and over again.

That’s the gospel.

And it’s something we need to hear Every. Single. Day.

It’s our lifeblood and our strength.

It’s the reason we praise.

It is the reason we live.

Praise be to God for the good days and the bad. I pray that I will always be able to see my need  for God’s grace on the “good” days and remember that I’m never beyond the reach  of God’s grace on the “bad.”

Can I just say that I love reading? There is a definite sense of loss as I finish one book and don’t have another one with which to replace it. Thankfully Pinterest has been a handy tool to help me pick out my next book.

Here are my top picks from this year! As always, there is quite a bit of diversity in what I found myself enjoying.

Trust: A Godly Woman’s Adornment by Lydia Brownback

Throughout the second half of this year, I have read numerous books on fear in preparation for a group I helped lead on fear and anxiety at church. This gem is one of a series of four (others include Joy, Purity and Contentment). It includes short devotionals that are packed full of gospel centered truth. This book is perfect for those who are struggling with anxiety and works for those hurried days when a longer devotional time isn’t possible. Here is one of my favorite quotes:

Rest assured that nothing can touch you apart from your heavenly Father’s permission. Out of his love for you, he is well able to prevent the thing you are so afraid of, and out of that same love he might allow it. Either way, whatever happens, he only allows what is going to work for your eternal happiness and blessing and his glory…. You are safe in God’s keeping every moment of every day.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

What a wonderful book! I don’t always love books composed of letters, but I loved this one. It is witty, funny and smart. Not only that, but it creatively tells the story of the German occupation of Guernsey Island during WWII several years after the end of the war. I love books that include characters that are well-defined and able to be “known” by the reader. This book is full of such characters. They come alive as you journey with them.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

I loved this book! I picked it up and couldn’t put it down. It is superbly written, engaging and funny. Through a series of events, a white girl ends up living with the African-American Boatwater sisters in the midst of the Civil Rights movement. The book explores the lessons they learn together about love, family, and healing. (Note: The book contains some weird feminist theology and themes of self-empowerment which typically turn me off. However, the writing is so good and the story so engaging that I found myself gladly overlooking these things in favor of the story as a whole.)

True Beauty by Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre

“True beauty is to behold and reflect the beauty of God.” This book is a GEM. I have always been a bit perplexed on how to approach the subject of beauty and body image as a Christian. This year, beauty and the self-consciousness that often accompanies the subject hit me square in the face. Even as I was knocked off balance by these things, I was encouraged and refreshed by the authors’ approach. They were balanced and completely God-centered. This book is not legalistic nor does it tell us to neglect our appearance. Pick it up and you will be blessed!

Age of Opportunity: A Biblical guide to Parenting Teens by Paul David Tripp

This year was one in which we were suddenly and abruptly confronted with many of the issues that come with parenting tweens/teens. Paul Tripp does an excellent job of humbly and honestly presenting the calling and blessing that can come from parenting teens. He focuses on how to reach the heart of your teen. I will be honest, this season has made me somewhat apprehensive, but I was encouraged by the vision Tripp cast for parenting during these years.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

What can I say- I just love Pride and Prejudice! I re-read this classic after I discovered a whole new genre of literature: Pride and Prejudice spin-offs. I wanted to refresh my memory and do some fact checking.

Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman. A trilogy by Pamela Aidan

An Assembly Such as This, These Three Remain, and Duty and Desire

This trilogy tells the story of Pride and Prejudice from Darcy’s perspective. In my mind, there were always a few holes in the original story. Like, how did Darcy possibly fall in love with Elizabeth when it seemed so obvious that she hated him? Why would he take her back after she was so unkind? What did he do to get Wickham to agree to spend his life with someone as annoying as Lydia Bennett? I loved hearing the story from his side. I loved seeing what life was like for a gentleman in the 1800s. I loved having all the gaps filled in. I was sad when the series came to an end.

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

Confession: I tried reading Mere Christianity this year and couldn’t finish it. I just didn’t have the bandwidth to concentrate on the heavy philosophy it contained. I mentioned this to a friend and she suggested this title, an allegory. In general, I tend to gravitate toward symbolism, which means that I enjoy allegories- especially those written by brilliant people like C.S. Lewis! Lewis has some wonky ideas about heaven and hell with which I don’t agree. However those differences faded away as he painted a picture of the decision every human faces: Will you give everything up and live for God? -or- Will you continue to live for the shadowy representations of God/morality you have created? There can be no combination of the two.

Favorites from 2014
Favorites from 2013
Favorites from 2012
Favorites from 2011
Favorites from 2010






“This is my favorite hike EVER!”


Because there were huge rocks to explore…

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streams to fjord…

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ladders to climb…

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bridges to cross…

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beautiful colors…

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gorgeous views…

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and wonderful company.

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Turkey Run State Park, you win the award for BEST HIKE EVER!!!

Fall Break officially begins.

“Where are you going on vacation?”

Me: “Oh, we’re going ‘up north’!

<blank stare>

It’s not until I moved to another state that I realized that nobody else really understands where “up north” is. From where I currently sit, “up north” could mean anything from Fort Wayne to somewhere in Canada. But to anyone born and bred in Michigan, the phrase “up north” is clear as day.

Up North is exactly where we got to go this summer. We stayed in my parent’s scenic cottage in the Upper Peninsula, visited the Soo, swam in freezing Lake Huron (okay, so maybe I didn’t do that), and spent a day biking around Mackinac. We boated, used the four wheelers, and ate pasties. We had a fantastic time!

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At the cottage:

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At the beach:

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Hiking the Narnia Trail at Cedar Campus:

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Taking selfies in the woods:

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Jumping off stuff:

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Mackinac Island:

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We had an absolutely fantastic time!

It’s the first week of school at our house! We have loved our fun-filled summer, but it really was time to start up again.

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This year Jonathan is in 7th grade and is attending a “cottage school” where he takes 3 classes (Language Arts, World Studies and Science) at a school 2 days a week and does the rest at home. He enjoyed his first day.

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Thomas is in 5th grade and is as silly as ever.

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Zachary is in 1st grade and ready to hit the books.

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Big brother thought he needed a bit of help with a “silly face.”

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For some reason, helping Zachary with his silly face has been a favorite pastime for Thomas. Flashback to when Zachary was a month old. Big brother was happy to help out then too:

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Off we go! I’m ready to hang on for the ride.

“Spring Break”- those are two beautiful words, don’t you think?

We had the privilege of traveling down to Florida again this year to visit Brian’s dad and step-mom in Venice, which is just south of Sarasota (Siesta Key, Longboat Key, Anna Maria Island, etc.). We had a great time! We decided to skip the theme park scene this year and just enjoyed the beaches, the weather and few outings.

We spent the most time at Manasota Beach. We hunted for shark teeth (which seem to be deposited in mysteriously high quantities on Venice’s shores), built sand castles, swam, sunned, and generally enjoyed being in the sunshine. We also caught a drum circle which is an eccentric sort of event complete with belly dancers and hula hoopers.

This child LOVES the ocean. He loves the sand, the waves, the animals, the atmosphere. He loves everything about it. I have a hunch that he always will.

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Brave grandpa swimming with Thomas and Zachary.

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Jonathan, though he loves to swim, preferred the shore.

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Selfie at sunset.

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Brian and I had the privilege of worshiping at Harvest Tampa Bay where Brian preached and we were able to visit with friends.

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On our way home we decided to try our hand at kayaking.

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Before we had kids, Brian and I took a vacation to Anna Maria Island and visited Mote Aquarium while we were there. We thought we would take the kids back for a visit.

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On the way home we stopped for orange ice cream at Nokomis Orange Grove. Yum. We had it last year and have been talking about it ever since. It didn’t disappoint.

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Thomas, who loves and appreciates food about as much as Zachary loves the beach (and Jonathan loves Legos) found a new favorite restaurant: Pops. All other restaurants will now have to measure up to the standard set by Pops.

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What a blessing it was to get away, enjoy some sunshine and take a break together as a family!


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