Wednesday, December 31, 2014


I've recently been practicing the art of eucharisteo living — a Greek word taken from Luke 22:19 that basically means giving God thanks for all the blessings in your life (especially the small, often overlooked ones). It's a practice that requires being fully weighed down and present in every moment. And, trust me, it does take practice. This way of life is explored thoroughly in Ann Voskamp's, "1000 Gifts: A Dare to Life Fully Right Where you Are."

Quite simply, her book changed the way I live and view God. I've started my own journal chronicling these blessings. Here are a few from my life these last few months of 2014:

1. misty mountain mornings
2. warm waking coffee
3. Nora waking like song bird
4. tree all ablaze; annual parting gift
5. rays of sun on twinkling water
6. boss praying for broken
7. hands smelling of Frazier Fir
8. teaching daughter to eat ice cream cone
9. fancy butter trees
10. cousins holding hands

This practice of thanksgiving literally changes the way you see and experience the world. Very soon you realize that, for the Christian, everything is a gift from God. I could count my blessings forever — and I plan to!

This NYE Jonathan called and asked me to throw some wardrobe possibilities into the wash for him.

Very simply, he asked for my help.

When I got off the phone, I was struck momentarily with the Biblical notion that I am indeed his "helper." I smiled. Rather than my usual grumblings of feeling like "helper" became "do-it-all-er" along the way, I appreciated the fact that my husband trusts that he can ask for my help because we are a team — a God-ordained pair that will walk through this fallen world together. Our relationship is a blessing! It's a daily dying to self and daily commitment to honor this imperfect relationship. And the days we walk with God and choose to obey are days that produce abundant blessings.

I hope this year you'll choose to live life gratefully. With arms and hearts and eyes wide open. Happy New Year's!



Thursday, November 20, 2014

A letter to my daughter on her 2nd birthday


There will be times in life that you feel tempted to surrender to the chaos around you. Everywhere you look you will see evil and suffering.

As your mother, I must tell you that there is good in this world, and it is enough. Look for it and savor it when you find it.

Just wait until you:

taste a fresh, ripe peach straight off the tree

kiss the man you love in the rain

watch a rushing river boast in its majesty

meet your future child for the very first time

see the world's patchwork landscape from a bird's eye view

realize the depth of God's love for you

summit that mountain after a grueling hike

feel the wind in your face from a jet ski

savor the first bite of a perfect meal as it melts away on your tongue

slip into a hot tub on a frigid day with aching muscles

laugh hysterically over something stupid with your best friend

come home to family after an extended time away

do good for someone without acknowledgement

be spontaneous for spontaneity's sake

hear your favorite band in a hole-in-the-wall venue

and, last but not least,

curl up in your mama's lap even when you're 40 because, as the book says, "as long as I'm living, my baby you'll be."

Love Always,

Your Mama

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Pallete Wine Rack

A few months ago I salvaged some old palettes from the school where I work. They had a lot of character and charm and so I decided to release my inner Pinterest and make two wine racks.

Once I sawed them in half and constructed the basic wine racks (I'm too impatient to explain all that—see Pinterest!), I decided to stain one and finish it with polyurethane and put a couple of coats of polyurethane on the other to see which one I liked best. I'm only keeping one. I'm selling the other.

Here's what the wood looked like before I began:

Lookie, here I am using my new electric sander that my father-in-law, Rick, got me! :-) (Action photo compliments hubby.)

On the first wine rack, I used Sherwin Williams' Wood Classics Bistro Walnut. I went with the Wood Classics series, which isn't straight up paint, since I was working with a rougher wood. Here's what it looked like after two coats of the stain:

It was clearly dry looking so I needed to apply poly as a wood sealant. Here's how that turned out after two coats:

Glossy, glossy!

On the second palette, I simply applied two coats of polyurethane to accentuate the natural imperfections of the wood to give it texture and character. See:

Check that out up close:

Here's a close-up comparison:

At the end of the day (actually more like weeks!), we decided to keep the wine rack with only poly. I will be selling the stained wine rack locally. Message me for more information!

Now I've got to find a way to mount this on the wall because it is HEAVY. I might even add the wood attachment to the bottom that would allow me to hang wine glasses underneath. 


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Breakfast IS the Most Important!

After all my seriousness lately — not to mention all the gloom in the world — I felt like it was time for some levity!

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Am I right??? That's why you've got to make it count. Having a great breakfast and avoiding general morning chaos sets the tone for my day. The last few mornings I haven't had a breakfast plan and I've been McCrankypants Moodybritches.

I've recently developed a mild obsession with oatmeal (is it because I'm in my 30s??). But I don't like ordinary oatmeal. What could be tastier than overnight steel cut oats in the crockpot? Thank you Dad for introducing me to this! First, steel cut oats is heartier and sticks to your ribs. Then, if you top your oatmeal off with green apples, pecans, and a touch of maple syrup, you might even want to skip lunch!

You can find a great recipe for this oatmeal here — except I didn't add barley or ginger and I prefer maple syrup to milk and honey. Don't be afraid to tailor the recipe to your likes.

My other go-to oatmeal recipe came from my sweet friend, Liz. If you've never tried baked blueberry oatmeal, you ought to! Like the first oatmeal recipe, this one is a super cheap, comforty food that can feed a crew.

If you're planning to host family or friends during these upcoming holidays, then I highly recommend trying these recipes. They're quite the crowd pleasers. And now's the time to freeze some of those fresh picked blueberries so you can have them for baking all winter long!

Serve with mimosas to die happy.

If you have any awesome breakfast recipes, please share them with me! Gotta keep it fresh, folks.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Die to Self

I recently shared on FB one of my favorite sermons of all time. It was one of the clearest articulations of the gospel I'd heard. Maybe it was also sweet because I was thirsty for God's grace.

Our church's interim pastor, Cameron Barham, has blessed me during this season of transition at Four Corners in innumerable ways — the main being reigniting my love of scripture.

If you haven't had a chance to check out his sermon, you can take a listen to the podcast here! His sermon from today (8/17) was amazing, too, and will be posted on the church's website in the coming days.

These recent sermons have led to powerful revelations in my own life. If we're being completely honest with ourselves, we've all been in a place where we've taken our blessings for granted.

That has always been a struggle of mine, to lose sight of what I have — what God has given me — and to seek new ways to satiate my discontentment or restlessness.

Especially when satan whispers low. And you better believe he does.

It is a despondent place to be, indeed, when you allow yourself to say, I have everything that was supposed to make me happy, and it isn't enough.

But when we believe that, we are believing a lie as old as time, just as Eve believed the serpent when he whispered that God was holding out. King Solomon said it best — There is nothing new under the sun.

But, Jesus is the Bread of Life, the true Passover Lamb. He is enough. We are broken cisterns and He is the fountain of living water. He is the Word made flesh. His work is finished; therefore my joy is complete.

Sometimes the tension between God's spirit in me and my fallen flesh is palpable. I pray to die to self as I struggle between the now and not yet.

Father, help me to know only Christ and Him crucified. Help me to boast in Christ alone. Help me to seek first the kingdom and His righteousness.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Feast Your Eyes

So....enough about Black Raven Hollow (except to say thank you all for your support and a successful launch Friday!)...

Know what I did to celebrate my first Friday of having freelance work rather than a mandatory 8 hours???

It's silly — I know — but I had my heart set on cooking a ham (I never have before) and some country sides. I ended up making corn soufflĂ© and green bean casserole. Maybe when I have more energy I'll share the recipes. For now, feast your eyes on this meal:

Several of you have enjoyed my recipes in the past, so I'm hopefully going to be sharing a few new ones on the blog during the coming weeks! School starts back this week, so wish me luck in my new position!!!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Black Raven Hollow

I've long known I am married to a man of many talents.

I've only just recently learned about what it is that makes his world go 'round:

It's Halloween.

Yup. Taken out of context of knowing my husband, that might sound strange. You might even be tempted to judge him. Don't. With Jonathan, themed holidays — Halloween in particular — are just extensions of his warm and loving heart. It ultimately boils down to family and community for him. And the process of bringing others enjoyment during these special times of the year brings him inexplicable joy.

Also, he's sort of an expert on Halloween. He is first and foremost a Halloween consumer — and when he couldn't find enough of the things out there that he likes, he decided to take matters into his own hands. And now he's going to share those things with you.

But wait, let me back up for a moment.

For those of you who don't have the privilege of knowing Jonathan, he is an IT director at a newspaper (yup, the very same one where I used to be a reporter). He also operates a freelance web development business (JonathanMelvilleDesign). His most recent project ( turned out amazing. It also tested the limits of his knowledge and patience. We are both so grateful for his side work and I'm thankful for his talents and his willingness to work hard for his family. But, after this last project wrapped, we had one of those "life is short" conversations where you have to ask yourself what it is in life that brings you joy. And that is how I came to learn what Halloween has always meant to my husband.

And then he made me watch a documentary (American Scream) and I'm starting to understand a little more. And be a little more scared.

This is all strange and new to me. It's not every day you learn something new about the person you've been married to for nearly four years. And so I'm trying to be supportive of this hobby. More than that, I've become his business partner. Yay, Halloween!

That is why I am the most proud of him I've ever been that in the few short weeks since that fateful revelation, he's already putting his talents to work with his passion to bring you his new Halloween Etsy shop:

Black Raven Hollow

The first three people to share a link to my blogpost on their Facebook page will receive a free vintage book print of your choosing.

It's a little crazy to be talking about Halloween when it's still a couple of months away, I know. But, I'm dying to see what my husband comes up with next. Like a Salem witch, he's on fiya.

Happy Haunting. XO

Thursday, July 31, 2014


My church is in a period of transition — at times painful — and so is my community group (again!). In general, I don't have to look far to find evil, suffering and death.

But, for the Christian, even when we suffer we suffer with hope. We know that even as the squishy parts of us get gouged out by this world, He will fill us up with Himself. And, over time, we become more Him than us and can bear all things. To God be the glory.

God is constant and unchanging. His mercies are new each morning. Philippians 2 has been my constant source of encouragement:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Monday, July 28, 2014

More Time

For a time now I've been hearing the call on my heart to spend more time being a parent to Nora, serving my family and building relationships within my community.

I made a decision recently that is clearly right for my family at the right time, but that will require me to lean on God.

At my 4-day a week job at a private school in Peachtree City I have stepped into the role of financial administrator. Before this change in responsibilities, I worked there Monday through Thursday and worked from home on Fridays for a pro-life organization, Life Training Institute.

I had always said out loud that one day I wanted to work 4 days a week, thinking that it wouldn't ever be an actual possibility. Then this work change came out of the blue and I had to decide if now was the time I had been waiting for to take this leap.

As I mentioned before, I have felt convicted for a time about my need to build more relationships within my church and community. In my present situation, I don't have the time or energy for that.

That said, I have decided to freelance as needed on Fridays and devote my time to one job.

Now, on Fridays I hope to write for the local magazine, woodwork, continue to freelance for LTI, blog, and, most importantly, spend time with NORA. I want this to be a day where I can build relationships and work on friendships. I want to have time to take a meal to the family with a new little one or meet my stay-at-home mom friends at the park with their children.

Oh, yeah, and my husband will be launching a Halloween Etsy store — BlackRavenHollow — in the coming days. I know you want more details on this randomness. Rest assured, they are coming :-)

The financials have worked out, too. At first this was sure to be a pay cut for our family, but we have already made up for the shortfall by budgeting and cutting expenses. God is so good!

Change is scary for me. This at its root, is me being obedient to God's call and stepping out in faith. It has always been my heart's desire to work as much as possible and earn the most money possible. I've searched my heart and realized that I'm a people pleaser and I like the prestige of doing "important work." I've finally realized that being Mom, Wife and Friend is important work!

But, I also need to say this out loud: What I don't want to end up doing with that time is more laundry, more grocery shopping, more OCD things that will always be there and can ultimately wait. I can't look at this as a house manager promotion, although I'm sure there will be times that I will need to get groceries on a Friday so we don't all starve.

This new schedule will begin this Friday, Aug. 1. For a bit, I will be putting in a decent number of freelance hours for LTI as I wrap up a marketing project that I've been knee deep in this summer. But as that dwindles, I can't wait to enjoy the fall with my family and friends.

Please pray for me as I obey God's call and step outside my comfort zone — and please hold me accountable. I'm not as brave as I pretend to be sometimes — please make plans with me so I will follow through and not squander the extra time that has been afforded me in my week.

God Bless!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Give them Grace

Our recent Florida vacation afforded me time to start reading the first of those Christian parenting books you all recommended. I just finished Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus, by Elyse Fitzpatrick, and I highly recommend it to Christians with kids or who want kids — heck, there was so much Gospel in this book that I recommend it to those people who don't even know Jesus.

This book was all about the irresistible love of Christ and His inexplicable grace for us. Staring hard into the plan of redemption and salvation will change your heart — certainly the way you parent. The book had encouraging quotes like, "Believe that God is strong enough to save your children, no matter how you fail."

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2Corinthians2:9

The authors talk about two kinds of children: The rule follower and rule breaker and how each equally need Jesus. I am the oddball who identifies with both of these. I grew up trying to please my parents by following all the rules. I worked so hard at attaining my own salvation that, when that plan failed, I opted for rebellion. So, quotes from this book like, "She needs to hear that her desire to prove her own worthiness is one of the greatest hindrances to faith that she'll ever face," really speaks to the ache that remains in my heart from trying so hard to be God.

"Jesus Christ loves both rule breakers and rule keepers. And because of his Son's perfect obedience, both of them can be called 'beloved sons.' When the believing rule breaker sins he can look up and say, 'Jesus is my righteousness.' And when the believing rule keeper realizes her self-righteousness, she too can look up and say, 'Jesus is my righteousness.'"

I loved that the book examined what scripture says about parenting and discipline. What the book didn't do was give us legalists another list of rules to abide by to make our children perfect (darn it!). Law doesn't breed obedience and love. Which is where that grace thing comes in.

I feel guilty when I spend my five minutes of down time a day reading something other than the Bible. I didn't feel guilty reading this book because it was rich with God's word. My only complaint about the book is that some of the conversations given as examples of what parents could say to their disobedient children to point them to the gospel are a little unreasonable (even if the things they said were true). In the author's defense, she does basically point that out herself, though.

Hopefully without giving away too much, their advice for Christian parenting boils down to this:

"I would love them, discipline them, and tell them about Jesus."

Also, we'd do well to remember that we are "partners in grace" with our "dearly loved sinners."

As this week draws to a close I can't help but think how different a place I am finishing this book than when I was reading it from my beach cottage. If only life could keep that pace. I loved spending the extra time with my family. I must learn to prioritize them. And, on that note, there are some changes coming for my family, but I'm going to make you wait for my next blog post!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Nora is her mother's daughter

I wanted to share another Christian parenting lesson that I was recently smacked upside the head with:

Nora is smart for her age. She's also—shall we say—strong-willed or spirited. These are things that will serve her well in life, so I wouldn't trade them (I keep telling myself this), but put that combination together and she's a challenge to parent *cue my parents screaming 'I told you so.'* Nora already requires an explanation and reasoning when she's not getting her way.

In the midst of one of these trying situations recently, I defended her and her need for reasoning to Jonathan. After all, she's just like me — I, too, prefer a rational explanation/full understanding before I can obey. Then I realized that with God, we're called to obey. No ands, buts or ifs. I must obey God, even when I don't understand.

And, sometimes 'no' is love. Ok, so a lot of times the answer no in my life has been dripping with God love.

Trying to manipulate God hasn't been working out for me — and, let's be honest, nobody wants a God that would cave to my demands. That's a god made in my image. That's no god at all.

In the same way, Nora must learn to obey me and Jonathan.

Sometimes in life we will understand why. A lot of times we won't get that privilege.

Nora is her mother's daughter.

Here's yet another area of my life that needs to fall under prayer. I need to learn Christ-like submission to authority in general and to God specifically. And, then, I certainly need to understand how best to impart that lesson to my strong-willed child.

Proverbs 3:5
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding."

I'm going to have to marinate on this one for a while!

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Rainbow Room

The Rainbow Room is a Rainbow Room no more. Praise be to God.

It was a sad room in desperate need of uniform color.

We finally settled on a color. Now, we call it The Beach Room. I present you, Fleeting Green by Sherwin Williams.

Our cute ceiling light that Jonathan installed a few months back:

At one point, we had four paint samples up on the walls:

Can I just brag on myself and say that I did this? Every grueling moment. The prepping, the taping, the first coat and second. The only reason it got done was because my parents were in town to preoccupy Nora so Mommy could have a productive weekend. It was time to give that room some overdue TLC.

We're so glad it's done! We've lived in this house for almost four years and it's the first room we've really made our own (not counting paying a crew to help redo Nora's room to our liking). The Beach Room is just lacking some artwork and a beachy side table and lamp.

One room down....(my aching muscles don't want to even know how many rooms are left).

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Seaside Again

Just got back from Seaside (aka Heaven on earth). I am so relaxed. Like, ridiculously. 

It's time to get back to life. We're going to be super busy for the next couple of weeks with long lost friends coming to visit Monday, my family coming in town for the Fourth and my job responsibilities changing (more on that later). 

Rather than making this a lengthy post, I'll just let my pictures do the talking!!! 

Oh, and a special THANK YOU to "Bella" Rita and "Daddy Rick." They let Jonathan and I enjoy a lot of dates sans Nora while they spent time with their granddaughter. 

Luckily, we're also glad to be back home!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Christian parenting

Nearly 19 months into sweet Nora's life, I still struggle sometimes in my role as mom.

I have been reading my Bible, praying and seeking wise counsel from Christian friends. I've begun reading a plethora of noteworthy Christian parenting books. I decided to share what's on my heart in hopes that if any of you out there are struggling too, this might be encouraging.

Motherhood has been a huge blessing to me — and a huge challenge. I grew up telling folks I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. But then I became a mom and went running back to work at the end of maternity leave (just to be clear here: I love Nora with my entire heart and soul). Not everything about this role comes naturally to me, and I foolishly thought it would.

I still grapple with why this role is such a challenge for me: Am I just too selfish? Is Nora just a really challenging child? Is this how all first-time parents feel? What if I had more patience? Maybe I just don't like the baby phase??......

And then God delivered a powerful message to me through my sweet friend JoAnna. She warned me not to believe the lies I was telling myself — namely, that I was ill-equipped to be Nora's mommy. God uniquely paired us. He put our entire family together because He is sovereign and good. I can stand on that when everything else is sinking sand.

Her message stuck in my head and interrupted the thought process I'd been indulging. The next time Nora was having a category 10 meltdown from teething, I actually thanked God for His goodness — that He loves us both so much that he refuses to give us everything we want in life. He has something for me far greater than my own desires — especially my desire for control.

The parenting books are helping me see that I don't have to have it "together." The most important thing I can do is point Nora to Christ in everything. Especially my failures. That doesn't mean if I "do it right" she will come to know Christ. Christ will secure her salvation, not me. He works in, through and in spite of me. He will boast in my weakness. And that's a freeing thought.

And in these new freedoms, I'm finding simple joys being Nora's mommy. Just last week I was teaching her how to use a flashlight. She was shining it around a bright room and getting frustrated that she couldn't see the light. I helped her shine it under our desk and said, "See, we shine our light in dark places where it will be brightest." What a profound statement for a Christian. We are to be light in dark places. I am to be God's light to Nora.

Parenthood has a way of pointing us back to Christ by using simple truths we may have forgotten — or that I mistakenly think I've graduated away from. These gentle reminders are already one of the greatest blessings for this mommy.

Will you pray for me and Jonathan in our role as parents? Jonathan and I are working to restructure our lives to be the best parents we can be. I need Christ. Every day I will fail. Every day I can look to a Savior who lived the life I never can.