The Year of Brave: Three Inspiring Books


I chose brave as my one word for 2017 for several reasons. In 2016, I struggled with some unexpected physical challenges that shook me to my core. As I was going through that difficult time, I found books about other people who had overcome different situations inspiring. While their circumstances were far worse than mine, some of their strategies for overcoming could also be applied to my own life.

  1. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand is the story of Louis Zamperini, an American soldier who survives for 47 days in a raft, only to be captured by the Japanese and held in a Prisoners of War camp…for two and a half YEARS. Talk about a challenge! Louis Zamperini was an Olympic athlete before the war, but even he was pushed to the limit by his experiences. In an effort to avoid spoilers, I won’t detail the Christian content in this book. Believe me though, it’s powerful to read about how God worked in Louis Zamperini’s life!

    Favorite Quote: “When he thought of his history, what resonated with him now was not all that he had suffered but the divine love that he believed had intervened to save him.”

  2. Off Script: What to Do When God Rewrites Your Life by Cary Schmidt was recommended to my husband by his brother. When my husband gave me my Kindle for my first Mother’s Day, Off Script was already loaded on it. I truly believe that God orchestrated that! Cary Schmidt wrote this book while he was in the midst of being treated for cancer. His book differs from many other books on the same subject because it was written while he was still undergoing a trial; NOT after the trial had already been endured. His perspective grants a certain authenticity to his words that is powerful.

    Favorite Quote: “As much as God hates murmuring (complaining from a bitter spirit against His heart), He welcomes mourning (bringing our truthful hearts, mournful communications, and our very burden to Him)!”

  3. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe might strike you as an unusual addition to the list, but I found myself inspired by Tom’s commitment to his faith, even when he was surrounded by the atrocities of slavery.

    Favorite Quote: “I make no manner of doubt that you threw a very diamond of truth at me, though you see it hit me so directly in the face that it wasn’t exactly appreciated, at first.”

What inspired your word of the year?

My One Word for 2017

My one word for 2017 is brave.

one word


Because 2016 was terrifying, and some of my experiences this year will be reverberating in my life for years to come.

Perhaps most importantly, my pregnancy and delivery with Tigger was…bad. As in, he’s 8 months old now and I still haven’t completely recovered. After experiencing a complication that somewhere between 1 and 2 percent of women experience, I was wracked with fear. Who cares how small the chance is of something bad happening? It sure didn’t matter last time. 

Being that unfortunate 1% rocks one’s world. Bad things don’t just happen to other people. They happen to YOU. It’s not an abstract concept any more. It’s not a maybe. It’s not far away. It doesn’t matter that you’re 22, or health conscious, or generally healthy. It Does. Not. Matter.

And if it happened once, then it sure seems likely that it’ll happen again. Whether rationally or irrationally, this pattern of thinking becomes a new normal.

But I’m saying NO MORE.

“For God hath not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7 (King James Version)

God does not call me to be afraid. He calls us to have courage:

“Have I not commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage. Be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed, for the Lord thy God is with thee, whithersoever thou goest.” – Joshua 1:9 (King James Version)

As I move forward with my life, I’m making the choice to be brave. One of my favorite hymns is “Come Thou Found.” Part of the lyrics have really resonated with me as I have sought to move on from difficult life experiences.

Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I’ve come

And I hope by Thy good pleasure safely to arrive at home

Ebenezer means “Stone of Help.” In 1 Samuel 7, the Israelites had just been delivered from the Philistines. The prophet Samuel set up a stone and called it Ebenezer, to commemorate how the Lord had helped the Israelites to overcome their tormentors.

Here, as I write, I’m raising my Ebenezer. Hither by Thy help I’ve come, Lord. Help me to remember that you never leave me, and that You call me to have courage.

And help me to be brave.

New Baby, New Traditions

new-baby-new-traditionsThis Christmas was our second Christmas as a married couple, Tigger’s first Christmas, our first Christmas in our new city, and our first time being at our own house on Christmas morning. The year 2016 represented a lot of changes for our family!

In the midst of all this change, we started some new Christmas traditions that we plan to continue in the years to come.

  1. Christmas Ornaments – Both my mother and my husband’s mother had the tradition of buying each child a special Christmas ornament every year. When we had our first Christmas as a married couple, we had a lot of fun telling each other the stories behind each ornament – and we had a full tree! We are continuing this tradition with Tigger. His “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament was displayed in the front of our tree.
  2. Birthday Cake for Jesus – The true meaning of Christmas is celebrating the incarnation of Christ. God humbled Himself by coming to earth. He did not come in pomp and circumstance, but in the most lowly way of all – as a baby in a manger. My family started making and decorating a birthday cake for Jesus several years ago. As Tigger gets older, he’ll be able to do more with this activity.img_2817
  3. Christmas Eve Service – love Christmas Eve services. Our church had a lovely one this year that included a time for fathers to lead their families in prayer and in the taking of the Lord’s Supper. This reminder of the enormity of Christ’s sacrifice for us was timely, and much needed.
  4. Being at Home as a Family – As a child, I woke up at my own house on Christmas morning every year. We spent the first few hours of the day as a nuclear family. Some of my most precious memories are from that time at home.
  5. Reading the Christmas Story – On Christmas morning, we gathered on the couch for my husband to read the Christmas story out of the Bible before we opened presents. The goal of this is to maintain focus on what is most important.He also led us in prayer before we continued with the gift opening segment of the morning.

What does your family do for Christmas? Did you start any new traditions this year?

101 Things in 1001 Days

I first found a reference to the 101 Things in 1001 Days Challenge on Pinterest. Essentially, you make a list of 101 things that you want to accomplish, large or small, and give yourself a deadline for completing them. I’ve never been a big fan of “bucket lists” because of their open-ended nature. I like more specific and short-term goals. The 101 in 1001 challenge takes the best of both perspectives by allowing for some large goals as well as for some smaller projects.

My list is divided into categories: Faith, Family and Friends, Homemaking and Organization, Health, Writing, Cooking, Reading, and Just for Fun. The categories pretty much sum up my interests. 🙂

Without further adieu, here are my 101 things…

101 in 1001


  1. Read the entire Bible in 2017
  2. Read the entire Bible in 2018
  3. Pray for someone I don’t like every day for a month
  4. Find a place to volunteer at church – completed January 7, 2017
  5. Blog about a blessing in my life once a week
  6. Pray for my church every day for one month
  7. Pray for a different missionary every month
  8. Read Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst
  9. Memorize ten Bible verses

Family and Friends

  1. Knit a baby gift for my cousin – completed January 18, 2017
  2. Knit a baby gift for my college friend – completed January 18, 2017
  3. Visit my college best friend
  4. Celebrate our 2nd anniversary
  5. Celebrate our 3rd anniversary
  6. Celebrate our 4th anniversary
  7. Have people over for a meal ten times – (1. January 14th, 2. January 15th, 3. February 2nd, 4. February 25th, 5. February 26th, 6. February 27th, 7. March 5th)
  8. Teach Tigger how to sing Jesus Loves Me
  9. Hand letter some cards for friends and family
  10. Write an encouraging note to someone
  11. Make a birthday cake for Jesus with Tigger – completed December 24, 2016
  12. Leave a note in my husband’s lunch five times
  13. Go to five weddings
  14. Go to my brother’s college graduation
  15. Go to my other brother’s high school graduation
  16. Be a bridesmaid
  17. Throw a birthday party for Tigger
  18. Go to a play with my husband
  19. Take my husband and Tigger to Moses Cone
  20. Write a will
  21. Send letters to each of my squad friends
  22. Join a MOPS group
  23. Take a meal to someone who is hurting
  24. Knit a toddler-sized hat for Tigger
  25. Have another baby

Homemaking and Organization

  1. Come up with 101 things for this list – completed December 15, 2016
  2. Declutter my clothes – completed March 3, 2017
  3. Organize the pantry – completed January 27, 2017
  4. Implement the Daily Tasks from A Slob Comes Clean – completed March 1, 2017
  5. Implement the Weekly Tasks from  A Slob Comes Clean
  6. Send Dana a fan email (bonus points if she writes back)
  7. Hang the pictures! – completed January 8, 2017
  8. Fill out my blog planner – completed March 20, 2017
  9. Update my resume
  10. Figure out what a bullet journal is and how to use one – completed January 1, 2017


  1. Do a kettle bell workout three times a week for three months
  2. Cut all sugar for the month of January 2017 – completed January 31, 2017
  3. Cut all dairy for the month of January 2017 – completed January 31, 2017
  4. Cut all gluten for the month of January 2017 – completed January 31, 2017
  5. Run one mile
  6. Run a 5k
  7. Quit soda – completed February 1, 2017


  1. Write more than one brief for COG
  2. Write two blog posts a week – so far so good! – February 10, 2017
  3. Write a blog post about each number as it is completed
  4. Buy a domain name – completed December 23, 2016
  5. Make a content calendar for 2017 blog posts
  6. Write a guest blog post – completed January 25, 2017
  7. Create a printable – completed March 13, 2017
  8. Write reviews of some of my cookbooks
  9. Choose a word of the year – completed December 30, 2016
  10. Watch the videos in that blogging Facebook group – completed March 16, 2017
  11. Participate in a link party – completed March 20, 2017
  12. Write an ebook
  13. Hit 100 posts on the blog
  14. Delete that Twitter account I never use – changed my mind on this one. 🙂
  15. Write comments on 101 blog posts – lost track, but I’ve commented on a lot of things
  16. Set up a newsletter – completed January 27, 2017
  17. Write a letter to myself to be read at the completion of this challenge


  1. Try one new recipe a month
  2. Have one vegetable with every supper for a month
  3. Cut sugar
  4. Keep the food budget at $75 per week
  5. Make a 30 day meal plan and corresponding grocery lists – completed March 13, 2017
  6. Figure out how to make an avocado taste good
  7. Make homemade Larabars
  8. Drink black coffee
  9. Write about my love of Aldi
  10. Make refried beans from scratch – completed March 15, 2017
  11. Make salsa from scratch
  12. Either make or delete every recipe I have pinned on Pinterest
  13. Feed my family for one week using only ingredients that are available at Aldi


  1. Make a list of my ten favorite quotes
  2. Read twenty books from the Rory Gilmore Challenge
  3. Get a library card at the library in our new city
  4. Read fifty books
  5. Join GoodReads to keep track of all of these books – completed December 15, 2016

Just For Fun

  1. Document the stories of all of our Christmas ornaments
  2. Learn how to do eye shadow
  3. Judge at five debate tournaments – (1. March 11, 2017)
  4. Be on the launch team for a book
  5. Judge the final round at a debate tournament
  6. Learn how to do some hand lettering
  7. Take a halfway decent picture with the fancy camera
  8. Buy something with my monogram on it
  9. Visit a new state
  10. Take a break from Facebook for a week
  11. Watch 10 documentaries
  12. Vote in a primary
  13. Vote in a general election
  14. Go to a museum here in our new city
  15. Make some sort of decoration for my home

I’m looking forward to doing these! My 1001 days began on December 15, 2016, and will end on September 12, 2019. 

A Minimalist’s Three Favorite Baby Items

A Minimalist's Three Favorite Baby Items

In my 21 years on this earth, I’ve lived in 7 different towns in 3 states. I am naturally a messy person and a bit of a pack rat, but that life experience has mostly cured me. If I’m not in love with an item enough to keep packing it, moving it, and unpacking it, then I get rid of it. The older I get, the more ruthless I am about decluttering.

As I’ve been preparing to move again next month, I’ve been reflecting on which baby items I should keep. My son was born 2 months ago, and these are some of the items we have found to be the most useful:

Fisher Price Rock N Play – At first, I was skeptical about this. However, my preliminary research showed that people love it, and now I know why. It’s light weight, which makes it easy for me to transport from room to room. It securely holds the baby so I can do other things. Tigger sleeps in it frequently. I have developed a technique of dragging it along behind me with my foot while also holding Tigger. (I never knew the ninja-like skills that motherhood would require.)

SwaddleMe Swaddle Blankets – I was unconvinced of the usefulness of these before Tigger was born. Back in the dark ages when my little sister was born, we did not have such things and she turned out fine. However, there is a reason why Tigger is nicknamed Tigger on the blog. The child never stops moving. When he needs to go to sleep, he tends to wave his arms and overstimulate himself. Swaddling keeps him still and helps him to be calm enough to go to sleep.

Some people really like the Aden and Anais brand of swaddle blankets, but I just could not bring myself to fork over that type of money. The link I have included is to Amazon, but I bought mine for $3.50 each at my local Once Upon a Child.

Infantino Sash Mei Tai Carrier – Tigger loves to be held. Holding him in the carrier allows me to use my hands to cook, start laundry, tidy the house, etc. We decided to start with this more basic, inexpensive carrier. It works for babies who are as small as 8 lbs. Tigger was nearly 9 lbs. at birth, so we were able to use it from the beginning. I might consider upgrading to an Ergo when he gets older, but this is working well for now.

What are your three favorite pieces of baby gear?



Grief Sneaks Up on You

One year ago today, I was taking my last college final. It was for a 400 level statistics course, the hardest class I’d ever taken. I had to present a research poster with a partner that was worth 30% of my grade.

We got an A. I had my 4.0 GPA for the semester, and I would graduate summa cum laude. Thrilled, I bounced out of the classroom and down the stairs to meet my friend Elizabeth for some sweet tea. She looked oddly serious as I approached her.

Elizabeth told me that my Granddaddy had been moved to hospice. He was dying. My dad would be arriving on campus in 30 minutes to pick me up.

I was too stunned to cry, too stunned to do much of anything. My elation over my A was shattered. Granddaddy had been diagnosed with lymphoma earlier in the school year, but this was a sudden turn for the worse.

I’ve got to get my stuff out of the dorm, I’ve got to clean for white glove, I’ve got to get out of here, I thought. Elizabeth offered to do my white glove cleaning for me. We went to my RA to see if that would be approved. The RA said she would do it herself and not to worry about it. Then I got out of my “must get things done” mode and cried.

My fiance had helped me pack my car the previous weekend. Elizabeth took my remaining belongings to her apartment for safekeeping, and I got in the car with my dad. I called my fiance to let him know what was happening. Then I called my boss and let him know I wouldn’t be back at work the next day.

Granddaddy died a week later, but the next day was the last day he was really able to communicate. He told me he loved me, that he was proud of me, and that he was glad I was getting married. I squeezed his giant hand and told him I loved him too.

A little over a month later, it was the day before my wedding. I was counting the boutonnieres and realized that I had one more than I needed. Puzzled, I counted off the people who would be wearing them. My dad, my fiance’s dad, my pastor, my fiance’s step-grandpa, Granddaddy…not Granddaddy.

Granddaddy wasn’t coming. I had ordered the flowers before he died. I held what should have been his boutonniere in my hand and tried to pull myself together.

Grief sneaks up on you. Grief is an extra boutonniere, a Scrabble game, a crossword puzzle in the newspaper. It’s a letter that I received from him in third grade. It’s not orderly or logical. Grief is a process, and a year later I haven’t forgotten.

How comforting it is to know that death is not the end.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. – Revelation 21:4

When to Declutter

It’s starting to feel like spring here, which means time for spring cleaning. I’m also 38 weeks pregnant, and I’ve been nesting as much as possible. The combination of these two circumstances means I have been in major decluttering mode for the last few weeks.

When should I declutter?

My answer to this is simple: If I feel overwhelmed by the amount of stuff in my home, then I have too much stuff. A home is supposed to be a place of peace, not a place of stress. Having less stuff makes me less stressed. Less stuff means less cleaning and less maintenance.

Due to a variety of circumstances, my husband and I had to choose an apartment in a brand new city in about two hours. We didn’t originally plan to get a 2 bedroom apartment, but that was what was available. We decided that the second bedroom would be our “stuff room.”

For an embarrassingly long amount of time, the so-called “stuff room” was the dumping ground for everything that we didn’t want to declutter. We both had boxes that we’d packed up before we left for college and hadn’t touched since.We started college in 2011 and 2012!

The impending arrival of our little boy got us motivated to clean through our boxes. After a 3 day weekend and multiple trips to Goodwill, the stuff room is now the baby’s room.

I knitted the blue alphabet blanket. We can’t paint in our apartment, but hanging the blanket adds a splash of color.

We also have pictures hanging on the walls now! I always think a home looks more finished once there are pictures on the walls.

When to Declutter

Decluttering has had so many benefits. This morning my grandmother called and asked if it would work for her to visit this evening and tomorrow morning. Since I’ve been decluttering for the last couple of weeks, I was able to have my house in a state where I could have visitors in less than an hour. I love having that freedom!

I also feel ready for my little boy to arrive. I know that even if the house falls apart for a while after he is born, the major projects are done. Even if all we can do is keep up with the kitchen and laundry, we should be in pretty good shape.

Do you find freedom in having less stuff?