my little piece of desert

I've been riding by bike to J-town farmer's market every Saturday morning this summer. A few weeks ago (and never since!), a lady had a small table full of succulents. I brought one home, planted it, and put it on our deck.

After a week of watching it grow, I realized I was going to need more planters--the tiny buds were getting bigger and needed more space. I knew I wanted to make my own (and not spend too much money), so I started doing some research. Design Sponge had some great ideas; but in the end, I decided to transform my kitchen canisters into planters. I was looking for an excuse to get new ones anyway (I have my eye on these), because the ones we were given had rusted and stained the counter. I didn't feel like I could throw them away since they were a gift--so I transformed them! Here's the before and after picture:

My husband helped by drilling holes in the bottom, but other than that, it was really quite simple. I used the outdoor paint I had left over from finishing our corn-hole boards, so this project cost me a total of $0. Since the succulent continues to grow, I plan on turning the old paint cans previous renters have left behind into planters.

I love succulents because they remind me of Arizona. Ever since I left, I have dreamed about moving back (and planting a church in Flagstaff, but that's a post for another day). These succulents are like little pieces of desert life for me, not to mention the fact that they are one of the few plants I am NOT allergic too. The other day, I found a local nursery that had a huge selection of all different kinds of succulents. I took a couple pictures at Thieneman's; but could have taken so many more...I was just overwhelmed by the selection!

The other day, when I was re-planting the succulents in a sand-based soil (it's rained so much this summer, the plants need a drier soil), I was reminded how much I loved to help my mom garden in our back yard. This summer, I've enjoyed rediscovering a love for something I enjoyed as a child.



From our wedding website: the story of Eric & Amy (by my husband)

Our Story

Our story is a tale of adventure, death-defying heroism and romance, of course. It is not for the faint of heart nor the lacking in courage. Come, join me as we hear the legends of Eric the Brave and Lady Amy, if you have the gumption.

How we Met

It just so happened that Eric and Amy began attending a new church on the exact same Sunday. This church was called Sojourn Community Church, in Louisville, Kentucky, the J-town campus. As fate would have it, on the first Sunday they both attended, there was a short meeting after the service for those new to Sojourn, in which they would explain a little more of what the church was about. This piqued the interests of the two, but little did they know their interests would have a new subject before the meeting was over....

As the meeting got under way, Amy could not help but notice the stunningly handsome young man sitting just a few tables in front of her. The sunlight pouring through the windows was shining in his twinkling eyes and enhancing the definition in his muscles. She felt her mouth dry up and her heart start beating faster as she imagined those eyes staring deeply into hers. Then she saw Eric. She thought he was kinda cute too.

Eric was sitting close to the front of the meeting. A keen, sharp-minded man, his thoughts were concentrated on what he was going to have for lunch that day. As he traveled in and out of daydreams, occasionally listening to the speaker, his eyes started to survey the room, as was his custom, to see if there were any hot chicks. While this practice had been fruitless many a time before, this day it would result in him finding a woman whose beauty was beyond anything he could imagine.

Somewhat sadly, the sun would set this day without the pair officially meeting each other. It would be another two weeks before the couple officially met. Two weeks filled with longing and dreaming on the part of both individuals. Two weeks where the sun just didn't seem to shine as bright as it used to. Two weeks where favorite foods seemed bland. Two weeks that seemed to span the time of two decades.

Then, just as all hope seemed lost, the couple was able to meet each other in person. Sparks flew and conversation came easily as the couple was soon separated from the rest of the world, even as people walked by. It would not be long before the couple was dating, and then officially in a relationship. As friends were stunned but happy at the rate things were going, the couple's catchphrase soon became "Hey, when you know, you know!"

The Proposal

Amy's perspective

Amy was sitting alone at home on the couch, floating between consciousness and unconsciousness, when the doorbell ringing broke her out of her doldrums. "Who could that be?" she thought to herself. "Eric isn't supposed to be here for another hour or so." With a peek through her contact paper peephole, a genius creation if she does say so herself, she almost decided not to open the door, as many times this would be some sort of salesman or creepy neighbor. Luckily, against her better judgment, she pulled the door ajar and found some index cards on her front porch. She saw that there was a trail of them leading around the side of her house.The first card read, "Follow these cards for the surprise of a lifetime!"

Excited, Amy started sprinting, displacing many cards with the wind coming off her body. She expected Eric around the corner of the house with flowers or something, but he was not to be found. Finally glancing at the cards, she noticed one of them containing the word "READ." Thinking that Eric had recycled the index cards his roommate used for homework, she picked it up and noticed Eric had written sweet nothings on the back. It finally dawned on her that she might need to be picking up the cards and reading them as she went. Amy traveled back to the origin of the cards, the front porch, and discovered her suspicions to be true when she read the SECOND card left on the ground. "P.S. You might want to pick up these cards as you go."

Amy began her journey through the yard once more, this time picking up the cards as she went and reading the cards that said READ on them. To her delight, she found sweet notes and lines from songs both she and her man like. As she stooped to pick up each card, she self-consciously glanced around, wondering if Eric was watching her. He is kind of a creeper sometimes, after all. However, the trip remained event-less until she rounded the last corner of the house and saw the cards leading back up to her front door. The last card was a continuation of the first: "Follow the cards for the surprise of a lifetime! ....with me!" She opened the door and there was Eric, on one knee, holding out a ring. He said, "Will you marry me?" Amy said yes, and ran to him and hugged and kissed him, and there was much rejoicing.

The Proposal

Eric's Perspective

That Saturday morning, Eric awoke with a clever idea in his head. He thought to himself, “Ok, I know how I am going to propose, why not do it today?” He got up, sat down at his desk, and began to work on the notecards he was going to use to propose. The couple had already decided on the rings they wanted, which were on order, but Eric wanted his bride-to-be to have something to wear in the meantime. So after completing his cards, Eric headed to the jewelry store. It turned out that the ring he picked out was going to have to be sized, which would take a couple of hours. So Eric headed home, ensured that Amy’s roommate wasn’t going to be home, scheduled a dinner date at a time later than he would propose, and waited. He only threw up a little.

After something close to eternity, the time had come to pick up the ring and put the plan in motion. Eric parked a few houses down and started walking along the sidewalk towards the house. Next door to Amy’s, a bratty little kid was playing with a water hose and decided it would be fun to try and spray Eric as he passed. Resisting the urge to make a rude gesture, Eric dodged the water and proceeded to the house. His heart was beating so hard within his chest he was sure the noise was going to give him away.

He ran up to the front porch and started laying the trail around the house. He chuckled to himself at his clever design of the arrows on the cards, made to resemble Amy’s fingers when they are pointing. They are slightly curved so that her “straight” is debatable. Eric was careful to crouch below windows as he quietly set the cards up around the house, suppressing his guilt over the fact that he couldn’t help making fun of someone, even when proposing to them. When he had finished three sides of the house, he ran up to the front porch, rang the doorbell, and ran back to the corner of the house.

Trying not to breathe, Eric waited until he heard a noise. After he had paused a few seconds, he dared a peek around the corner. Sadly, the cards were still laying where he had left them. Unsure whether Amy had come outside, he crept to the other corner to see if she would come around the house. After waiting for what seemed like 3 hours but was probably closer to thirty seconds, Eric went back to the first corner to regroup. He glanced around the corner again, and to his shock, the cards were gone! Suppressing a shriek, Eric started throwing down the remainder of his cards at breakneck speed and slid into the doorway. Panting heavily, but pleased that he had accomplished his mission, Eric assumed the proposition stance (down on one knee), got the ring out, and once again performed the hardest stunt he had been performing all day: he waited. A mood-appropriate song was playing in the background of Gilmore Girls on TV. When Amy entered the door, the song was ending, but it was unlikely that she would have heard it anyway over the life-changing sound of Eric asking, “Will you marry me?” and Amy responding in the affirmative. And there was much rejoicing.

The Proposal

Bratty Kid's Perspective

The bratty kid was playing with the water hose in the driveway. He saw a lanky man with notecards in his hands. He thought to himself, "I'm sure that guy is not doing anything important. It sure would be fun to spray him with this water hose!" So he did. And there was much rejoicing.


confessions of an over-thinker

I have a difficult time distinguishing the line between “thinking” and “overthinking”. I suppose it may be different for everyone, but I cross the line far too often. Most of the time, I wander into it rather blindly, not realizing that I’m overthinking until it has already consumed me.

What follows is never pretty, and can only be described as varying levels of anxiety (and emotion) that I battle until…well, I’m not exactly sure what really happens. Either I finally open my hands and say, “God, take this from me”; or He gets tired of watching me struggle day after day and comes to my rescue. If I wanted to over-spiritualize this struggle, I would tell you about all of the moments I freely “surrendered everything to God.” But the truth is, I think He rips a lot of things out of my clenched fists.

Many nights have been spent lying wide-awake in bed, wishing there was a switch to turn off my overthinking brain. But in the moments where our human solutions to spiritual problems are reduced to robotic coping mechanisms, God speaks to His creation about what it means to depend on Him.

Surrender looks more like a wrestling match than a baton passing, because we are people that are always trying to find security in our humanity. Therefore, the solution to not overthinking is not as simple as a switch in His kingdom. It’s a heart issue, because there are lies in my heart about what overthinking does for me.

On my worst days, I believe that overthinking will:

…make me sound smart. It will give me an identity and allow me to impress others.

…protect me from getting hurt. I can predict my emotions and avoid being too vulnerable.

…compensate for my fear of the unknown. If I can imagine every possible outcome to a conversation or situation, I will be prepared for anything.

…change a situation. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the past, if I replay a scene enough times in my head, I’ll eventually feel good about it.

…keep me from making a mistake. After all, doesn’t thinking lead to wisdom?

That last one is the most convicting, and not just because the Bible says “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” While overthinking may occasionally give you a victory point in making the “right” decision, God does not value a life that is mistake-free. He values the humility that comes from listening to the Spirit.

Our minds are too noisy because our hearts are too selfish.


140-character expansion // priorities

I get a lot of inspiration for what to write about from my twitter account. I don’t know as though I ever intend for that to be my goal when I post a 140-character statement, but it ends up being the case more often than not. I suppose that’s because I use Twitter rather impulsively (or as impulsive as a non-impulsive person can), and most of my thoughts are fairly under-developed at the time of posting.

Yesterday, I posted the following tweet:

            “best question i’ve been asked over the past 6 months: what are your top 3 priorities and how does your time reflect them?”

…and I’d like to expand on this thought a little more than Twitter will allow me. In this case, I’m abandoning my article/essay format, and just sharing some bullet points that I’ve been thinking about when it comes to setting priorities for myself:

1. When setting priorities, don’t be afraid to:

-- categorize: for so long, I had trouble setting priorities because I was merging all my worlds together (professional, academic, relational, etc.). It’s important to ultimately acknowledge how these interact together, but also have an idea of what you are being called to work towards in each one.

--be specific: if you categorize, you’ll give yourself freedom to be more specific. Instead of having a priority list that looks something like this: God, Family, Friends, Work/School

You’ll be able to really focus on tangible and measurable goals. For example, instead of having “friends” be a stand-alone priority, why not choose 1 or 2 people that you’d really like to invest your time into? (And by the way, setting “relational” priorities has been the most important category for me over the past 6 months.)

--be realistic: technology likes to make us think that our capacity is greater than it actually is. While it does help at times, the truth of the matter is this: you are still human, and there are still only 24 hours in a day. Don’t choose quantity over quality.

2. Be careful who you listen to. People like to tell other people what their priorities should be. Make sure that you give yourself the freedom to make those decisions on your own, and not be controlled by everyone’s opinion about where you should be spending your time/energy. (Remember the golden rule of “doing unto others…” Once you have your priorities, share them when appropriate. Don’t broadcast them to make yourself look better, or use them to convince people that their list should look the same.)

3. Be willing to listen. In light of #2, I’d like to add that I’ve needed help setting my priorities. Choosing people I respect and look up to has helped me identify my strengths and strive for goals in the future. After setting your priorities on your own, ask a trusted friend/mentor for input, and be willing to hear what they have to say. This person can also help you maintain consistency on how your time is reflecting your priorities.

4. Setting priorities = freedom. When you have priorities, it’s much easier to make decisions on what to say yes or no to. That doesn’t mean that implementing priorities is always easy, but it is ALWAYS worth it. 



A week before I left for my very first site visit to Kenya, I got together with the 2 guys that would be traveling with me. Since they had been to Africa before, I wanted to get information on what I should pack and any other last minute details, so we met over lunch at a Japanese Steakhouse. I had worked with Ben over the past year, so I knew him fairly well; and I had been introduced to Blake before, but we never really had the chance to talk until then.

That's why I was caught off guard when, as we sat around a hibachi grill that day, he said to me:

"Just don't act like you know everything on this trip. Don't pretend like you already knew something when you didn't. And even if somebody's telling you something you already know, just listen."

I'm pretty sure I reacted compliantly, but inside I was thinking... 

"Why is this guy saying this to me? I'm not arrogant. I'm capable of learning things...and I'll show him that he didn't need to say that to me. After all, I'm a natural learner...all of my strengths tests tell me that. I like to learn things, he just doesn't know that. He probably just says that to everyone."

This conversation happened three years ago. And this is what I've learned since it happened:

1) I am arrogant.

2) I like the IDEA of learning more than embracing the actual process.

3) I am really good at pretending to know something. 

4) I am really bad at letting people teach me things and acknowledging that they are, in fact, teaching me something.

After I got to know Blake better, I asked him if he had seen something in me that caused him to say that. I was hoping that he would say, "No, I just say that to everyone before trips." But he didn't. Apparently my lack of teach-ability is easy to discern when you first meet me.

Since this time, God has asked me, on numerous occasions, if I would let Him be the all-knowing one in our relationship. He's asked me to be silent. He's asked if I would allow Him to soften my heart. I'd like to say that I've said "yes" to every one of those requests...but sometimes it takes a wrestling match before I do.

I share this story with you because I believe that being teachable is important. Having an attitude of humility is one of the most attractive things a person can possess, with God and with others. This isn't to be mistaken with being easily influenced by the world and the opinions of men, as God's Word sheds light on the difference between truth and lies.