Word of the Year

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an unusually warm Christmas Day walk 2016

I’m thankful 2016 is near end.

2016 with the chaos of continuing to live while most of our stuff was packed up in boxes for nine months.

Demolitions for days, dumpsters full of molded insulation and pulled up carpet.

I have a tendency to be like an orchid, a flower which is sensitive to conditions and requires things “just so” to thrive. And this year the routines and normal conditions were thrown to wind, and a stretching/growing time began. We uprooted. We moved twice. We remodeled. Jeff may have worked almost every weekend and too many week nights after he came home from his full time job.

My friend, Marian, had a year similar in which she describes with a sense of humor I love as “The Year I Almost Died. Not really. But in retrospect it sort of feels like it.”

“Last year was hard. I’m not gonna lie. Not in the way that cancer or real tragedy or chronic illness is hard. Not even close. It was a trip to Disneyworld compared to those things. Just hard in a very unsettled, very chaotic, so-much-stress-for-so-long sort of way. I never did get my bearings.”- Marian Vischer

At many weary moments I faltered; whether in my attitude or in daily disciplines like eating healthy and exercising. I never did get my bearings either.

Still I was thankful knowing it was miraculous provision that birthed this time of challenge.

Jeff’s house sold. He has dreamed of building a home for as long as I have known him. He has also dreamed of owning rental homes. In just a few short months after his house sold, we acquired two rental homes. Out of the blue one day we received a phone call, and were offered an amazing deal on a home to renovate. This home was in the school district we wanted for Oliver, who will start pre-k next Fall.

Also, in the Spring I was chosen to be mentored by my favorite author for 5-6 weeks. She gave me so much encouragement towards my creative hopes and dreams; like painting and writing. I felt very loved by God.

So yes, it’s been a year of beginning to realize dreams and working towards hopeful things. But I have been frazzled and life felt a little out of control too. I have had to surrender to the process.

I surrendered to moving twice in 9 months. I surrendered to Jeff taking on another HUGE project right when we thought we were done. I surrendered to the feeling of incompetence while learning to share my writing on this blog.

I have surrendered to this season- hoping the rhythms of God’s grace might also lead to rest,renewal, or growth eventually.

My sister-in-law Ashley wrote down this scripture for me as a reminder to keep the end in sight;

“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9

Being honest, I had really hoped we would be in our home for Thanksgiving, or at least Christmas. We actually ended up moving from my parents house to my in-laws the weekend before Christmas, so my parents would have room for my brothers visiting for the holidays.

Yesterday, I went with my mom and we got our nails done. I picked a soft gray color. It seemed soothing. In all of my anxiousness lately, I have craved the calm. I looked at the name of the nail polish; “Go with the Flowy”. I kind of laughed to myself. That may have been the biggest lesson of the year. Learning how to be gentle with myself during times of transition. Learning how to persevere through weariness. Learning how surrender and perseverance intertwine together.

Finding a peace that God offers through it all.

I just finished reading the book Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner. Is it a coincidence that part of the book is about her time living with her in-laws while she remodeled a home? probably not. God has always used books as a timely way to speak to me and encourage me.

So much of this imperfect year taught me that in going with the flow and not giving up, I need a perspective that leads my soul to peace.

In Erin’s book I love two specific analogies that bring me a God kind of peace; one about “patching with gold”-kintsugi.

If you have been reading my blog for a while you know the first mini-series I ever wrote was titled “Gentleness is Golden.”  When I came to Erin’s chapter about Kintsugi, it felt very personal to me. It is such a beautiful example of how gentleness is golden.

“Kintsugi means “to patch with gold; in this technique, the potter mends a bowl in delicate sweeping strokes, taking no care to hide the crack. There are no clear coats, there is no blending, there is no attempt at concealing what has occurred. Instead, the crack is illuminated with gold, with respect, with observance.

And then it is pieced together-not to be made new but to be changed.

The break itself is the beauty.

The crack is worthy of gold.” – Chasing Slow, Erin Loechner

This year did not look how I expected. But I can try to find the beauty of what I learned and memories I have gained. I patch the cracks with gold.

I was telling my friend about Kintsugi, and you know what she got me for Christmas? A Kintsugi key chain for the key to our newly renovated home. I can remember this difficult year as something also beautiful and good.

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Another analogy in the book was one about an olive branch. This felt personal to me because I have a son named Oliver.;

“The name Oliver comes from the English origin. In English The meaning of the name Oliver is: The olive tree. The biblical olive tree symbolizes fruitfulness and beauty and dignity. ‘Extending an olive branch’ signifies an offer of peace.”

In fact my husband’s name Jeff means “God peace” too.  When I named my son Jeffrey Oliver Hirshburg, my younger brother mentioned that it kind of represented a “double portion of peace.” Lord knows I need that.

Anyway,here is an olive branch quote from the book Chasing Slow that I want to remember always;

“I believe that had I stopped searching for a fig leaf, I would have instead found an olive branch. I believe I would have discovered the peace that comes only after you throw up your hands, throw in the towel, and say, “God? Please help”… –Chasing Slow, Erin Loechner

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a painting I did once of an olive branch

Like many other bloggers and friends of mine, I chose a word for my year. Last year my word for the year was “intimacy”. In this case, it was what I was hoping for; I was hoping to grow even closer to God. To hear and know His voice in such an intimate way.

And you know what happened? It was just like what Erin describes in her book; I had to remove the “fig” leaf”.  The leaf that hides my inadequacies or claims independence and competence. And maybe it took the whole year of coming to the end of my rope, being so weary and done with this whole moving and remodeling thing. I finally threw my hands up in the air, and said Lord please help me, this is really hard. It may be easy for others, but God, this has been hard for both Jeff and I. And maybe in that honesty I became closer to God, and found peace hidden in honesty.

Which is why for 2017 my word of the year is peace.

“I can choose the world’s fig leaves to cover my stretch marks, dark circles, battle scars. Or I can choose to accept my less-ness and reach for more; more grace, more gentleness, more peace. I can surrender the fig leaves. I can lay down the cloak. I can remove the mask. And I can choose to look above, naked and trembling, searching the denim sky for an olive branch to grasp and carry and keep.Chasing Slow, Erin Loechner

In 2017 my hope is to remember to lay down the fig leaf and keep searching the denim sky “for an olive branch to grasp and carry and keep.”

In 2017 I want to cherish the peace I have in being hidden in God’s love and understanding, even when I am completely vulnerable and honest before Him.

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Weekend Care Package

Well, we’ve made it to Friday. And though I don’t know what your current circumstances are or what you are facing-overwhelm, grief, joy, anticipation, a mixture of all maybe- I am thinking of you, and offering my simple presence by means of this little blog.

As always, in the weekend care package I will be sharing links I love and some Instagram Inspiration.

Links I Love

The Wrestle and the Recovery by Abi Spencer

“I must say that being ‘saved’ by Him has not been a one time occurrence in my life. I have desperately needed to be rescued from myself time after time. But, I have seen Him, felt Him break into my story and rescue me….save me. I have lived it. He rescues me. And once again, I am taken away at how He has rescued me.” -Abi Spencer

Why Did This Happen God? by Lysa TerKeurst

“I like to call this verse, “Directions on Where to Park My Mind.”

And that’s exactly what Ashley had to do with her dashed gymnastics dreams. Instead of wallowing in why did this happen, I had to help her say:

This is my reality. Now what am I going to do with it?” -Lysa TerKeurst

This is What I Know For Sure by Aliza Latta

“So I focus on the facts I do know: my nephew Noah turning one soon, the Christmas lights keeping me warm, reading books on love and spiritual discipline, painting on ornaments and bread bowls, and remembering that Jesus is coming soon.” -Aliza Latta

You Said You Need More of This Than Anything by Emily Freeman

“Sometimes it comes looking like the shocked face of a tragedy and other times it just looks like low-grade anxiety of a Tuesday. But the disruption of peace always seems to come in one way or another.

And yet, Isaiah 11 says there will come a day when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

While tragedy erupts unwelcome into our lives without warning or invitation, hope for peace leaves hints and signs and evidence along the way.

God gives a hopeful vision for the future before it comes to be.” -Emily Freeman

The Cliff  by Erin Loechner @ designformankind.com

“Last week, after a grueling season of deadlines and demands, of busyness and sleeplessness, of a teething baby and a launching book, Ken and I declare a Time Out.

Picnic? I ask.” – Erin Loechner

Time Travelers by Erin K Etheridge

Erin writes about a sweet moment, that I relate to-drifting through time while looking at or listening to a child or a loved one.

Coffee Date #7 by Erin Salmon

I love coffee dates with friends. And though I don’t know Erin, her questions for this coffee date are great. I might ask them too if I were to sit with down with you today.

Tea Time: Finding Peace in Shared Ritual by Noel Miller @ hello dearest.org

Soothing and with pretty photos.

The Best Books of 2016 by Myquillen Smith @ thenester.com

Book recommendations from a blogger and author I follow and enjoy.

My Favorite Books of 2016  by Kimberly Coyle

And more book recommendations; because it’s fun to share these.

Christmas Tour of Homes and A Call to Action for Cozy Minimalists by Myquillen Smith

Instagram Inspiration

The most wonderful time of the year. ❄️ 📷: @hadleyfuller

A post shared by Letterfolk (@letterfolk) on

Old painting. New pattern

A post shared by Kelly Ventura (@kellyventuradesign) on

Stay warm out there, folks.

A post shared by M A R G O T + C O (@margot.and.co) on

On the Blog

From this week; What to Wear; Clothe Yourself with Gentleness

Weekend Care Package

“Grab your coat and get your hat
Leave your worry on the doorstep
Just direct your feet
To the sunny side of the street”

-song lyrics, the sunny side of the street

Links I Love

Honesty: When the Wrestle Ain’t Over  by Abi Booth

“So, here I sit, the girl in the wrestle. Don’t have the exact language for it yet, looking forward to the other side, but refusing to jump ship because conflict is uncomfortable.” -Abi Spencer

The Most Unwelcome Guest at Christmas by Emily Freeman

A post on being gentle with ourselves.

God of All Comfort by Kara Pyo

Kara writes and captures photos with an artistic gentleness, beauty, and joy that is uniquely her own. I love it!

Accepted by Carolyn Watts

Favorite Christmas House Tours from Around the Internet by Emily Jones

The links are fun, but I really loved this post because I relate to the house renovation struggles! Maybe you are in a season like this too.

“There may have been a mild meltdown last weekend. I might possibly have too lofty expectations. It’s a struggle to live in the midst of chaos and feel constrained by budget and time and surely that struggle is not just felt by me. It is just part of moving and of house renovation and we fully welcomed it all. Now if I could learn to chill out and enjoy the process …”

Instagram Inspiration

@riflepaperco

Little Women is one of those movies I love watching around the holidays. My book is packed away in boxes until we move into the home we are currently remodeling. I may have to reread Little Women come January when we are all moved in. And the knitting seems like a great Winter hobby.

if I'm quiet enough I can hear them whisper secrets of stillness. winter is here and a time for #chasingslow

A post shared by C O R D E L I A (@cordeliaann) on

@cordeliaann

Cordelia is on the Chasing Slow book launch team with me. Don’t you love that name?! I do! I should be getting an advanced copy of Erin Loechner’s book any day now.

Cordelia’s Instagram post reminds me of a book I’m reading about Gentleness. There is a section that discusses how it begins with being still and listening for the whispers of God’s voice.

@karapyo

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For the Littles

Free Personalize Santa Video Messages  I created one for Oliver, and his eye were so wide while watching. He turned to me at the end and said “Mommy, Santa is so nice.”

On the Blog

Top 10 Book List 2016

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Christmas Posts

Seashells for Advent

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All is Calm, All is Bright

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A Swaddle Blanket, A Baby, & Advent; Clothe Yourself with Gentleness

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2016 Top 10 Book List

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Last December I shared a list of my favorite books read in 2015. Now, here’s my list for 2016 including an Amazon description, and the reasons I chose the book.

Roots & Sky by Christy Purifoy

Amazon description: “In lyrical, contemplative prose, Christie slowly unveils the small trials and triumphs of that first year at Maplehurst–from summer’s intense heat and autumn’s glorious canopy through winter’s still whispers and spring’s gentle mercies. Through stories of planting and preserving, of opening the gates wide to neighbors, and of learning to speak the language of a place, Christie invites readers into the joy of small beginnings and the knowledge that the kingdom of God is with us here and now.”

Why I chose this book: It’s been a year of building a home, moving homes and remodeling homes for us. I relate to that part of Christie’s story. It was encouraging with beautiful writing.

Looking for Lovely  by Annie Downs

Amazon description:” In Looking for Lovely, Annie F. Downs shares personal stories, biblical truth, and examples of how others have courageously walked the path God paved for their lives by remembering all God had done, loving what was right in front of them, and seeing God in the everyday—whether that be nature, friends, or the face they see in the mirror.”

Why I chose this book: Both fun and deep- it was just the lift I needed this Summer. A glimpse at some of the chapter names may explain why I liked it too ; Sunrise, The Sound of Music, Monet’s House, Nail Polish, Sushi, and Gardens. Annie writes a lot about persevering in this book, and that is something I want to get better at.

Walking on Water; Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle

Amazon description: “Addressing the subject of “faith and art” head on, this masterful work examines the difference between Christian art and secular art, as well as the relationship between the two. Award-winning artist L’Engle exhorts artists to listen to, remain aware of, and to respond to creation through one’s own art.”

Why I chose this book: It addresses two of my favorite topics- art and faith. I highlighted so much. L’Engle even discusses her love of Lucy Maud’s book Emily of New Moon, which I adore.  Her words inspired me to continue creating, and made me feel not so alone in experiencing certain aspects of creativity and writing.

Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

Amazon description: “Written in Shauna’s warm and vulnerable style, this collection of essays focuses on the most important transformation in her life, and maybe yours too: leaving behind busyness and frantic living and rediscovering the person you were made to be. Present Over Perfect is a hand reaching out, pulling you free from the constant pressure to perform faster, push harder, and produce more, all while maintaining an exhausting image of perfection.”

Why I chose this book: I really soaked up Shauna’s words about gentleness- towards ourself and in our faith. Her storytelling talent is another reason I like this book. She lets us in on the big picture of her journey and yet also gives us glimpses of her everyday life, what a gift.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Amazon description: “From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.”

“Doerr’s ‘stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors’ (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling”.

Why I chose this book: As stated in the description I loved the “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors”! Parts of the story are a little dark for me, but overall I was moved. I liked learning about the time period too.

The Lake House by Kate Morton

Amazon description: “From the New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Keeper comes a “moody, suspenseful page-turner” (People, Best Book Pick) filled with mystery and spellbinding secrets.

Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories.

One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. He is never found, and the family is torn apart, the house abandoned.

Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as a novelist. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old Edevane estate—now crumbling and covered with vines. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone…yet more present than ever.

A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies from a masterful storyteller, The Lake House is an enthralling, thoroughly satisfying read.”

Why I chose this book: I like how one of the characters is a writer, and how the storyline kept me curious throughout the book. Morton has a way with words. Though jumping back and forth in time is a little jolting for me as a reader, I still enjoyed this book, especially for a Summer read.

Spiritual Formation by Henri Nouwen

Amazon description: “Led by the writing of beloved, bestselling author Henri Nouwen (With Open Hands, Reaching Out, The Wounded Healer, Making All Things New), the authors of Spiritual Direction, return with the second work in this popular spirituality series on how to live out the five classical stages of spiritual development.”

Why I chose this book: I like how beautifully Nouwen explains his faith. There is a chapter about transparency and opaqueness and it reminds me of the way I love soft colors and watercolors, and the way God personally speaks to me through that quality. His writing is so poetic. Some of his views in the book I may differ from, but I still found much inspiration, truth, and beauty too. I also loved the incorporation of Van Gogh paintings in the book.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Amazon description: “With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France–a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.”

Why I chose this book: Loved the beautiful writing and engaging story kept me wanting to find out what would happen next, and the relationship dynamic with the characters drew me in too. Again, like in All the Light We Cannot See, I loved learning about the historical time period and different places.

The Quotidian Mysteries by Kathleen Norris

Amazon description: The bestselling author of The Cloister Walk reflects on the sanctifying possibilities of everyday work and how God is present in worship and liturgy as well as in ordinary life. Definitely not “for women only.”

Why I chose this book: I cherish the short book because the author offers a beautiful perspective to approach the dailiness of life that often weighs us down. She is honest about depression too, something I struggle with on and off.

Still Life by Louise Penny

Amazon description: “Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montreal. Jane Neal, a local fixture in the tiny hamlet of Three Pines, just north of the U.S. border, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more, but Gamache smells something foul in these remote woods, and is soon certain that Jane Neal died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.

Still Life introduces not only an engaging series hero in Inspector Gamache, who commands his forces–and this series–with integrity and quiet courage, but also a winning and talented new writer of traditional mysteries in the person of Louise Penny.”

Why I chose this book: Sometimes I like a good mystery book. The characters were unique, the setting was cozy, and there was grace throughout the storyline. The plot revolves around a painting, and I love art! CS Lewis’s book  Surprised by Joy is referenced in the book too- loved that.

Well, there’s my Top 10 Book list for 2016!

Hope you find it helpful. Cheers to new books in 2017.

Also,  click  here for a look at last year’s list.

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At the End of the Day; Clothe Yourself with Gentleness

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It’s a long hard road
With a good, good end
And if I keep on walking on past the crooked bend
I will meet my Maker
I will meet my Friend
It’s a long hard road
With a good, good end

-Waterdeep

It’s late Sunday night, wrapped in my mom’s leopard print snuggie my Grandma bought for her- the blankets with the arm sleeves.

I’m also wearing Jeff’s old Oklahoma cheer shirt. Did you know my husband, a high school quarterback, state champ x4, also cheered in college? He doesn’t love sharing this bit of information with others, but I love that about Jeff – he surprises me.

He tore his ACL Senior year in the playoffs, which altered the course of his college football-playing opportunities. So he opted for cheering in college instead. He could be on the field at all the games, and it helped him stay in shape too. Still, I can’t believe he learned to do a flip!

Anyway, his old cheer shirt is a staple pajama top of mine.

I’m wearing some polka-dot pajama pants too.

Clothe yourself in gentleness, right?

especially after a long day.

Today I hauled leftover drywall down the stairs, out the door, along the sidewalk, and to the dumpster. I planted my feet, swung my arms, and hoisted the pieces over the edge.

Then repeated over and over.

Scratchy fiberglass against my hands, inhaling chalky dust,  hoping not to trip over power cords going down the stairs.

When that was done I swept all the rooms getting covered with a layer of dust. Opening the windows helped some, but not much. After a trip to Home Depot and Lowes, we unloaded 32 more sheets of drywall from the trailer, and finally finished up for the day.

We made it back in time for me to quickly shower before I met my close friends for coffee.

At some point the store closed, so we headed out.

Tired but thankful, I finally came home to rest;

a bath,

pajamas,

an old t-shirt,

a snuggie

and time for unwinding

at the end of a long day. 


When you put on your pajamas to get some rest, during these December nights may you know and remember God’s gentleness- a gentleness that allows us to be honest with our struggles and hardships, that leads us to a hopeful vision, that gives us reason to persevere.


This is the fourth installment in my mini-series Clothe Yourself with Gentleness. It is inspired by Colossians 3:12 as well as advice given to me by an author/writer friend who mentioned I should start paying attention to ways God shows me gentleness.

  1. a Broken Jacket + a Soft Song
  2. Yoga Pants + Gentle Yoga
  3. a Swaddle Blanket, A Baby, & Advent