Mind the Gap

What kind of mother did you imagine you’d be?

Most days I find myself thinking: this is not what I expected. I was chatting with a friend recently and she was expressing a similar frustration. Having had so much experience with kids before, she didn’t realize being a mother would be so difficult. She had an idea of how she would be and that’s just not how it’s going.

I knew what we were experiencing can’t be unique to us. I am positive that for a lot of mothers there is a gap between their imagined motherhood and their reality. And when you become a mother it’s staggering how many things you can feel guilty about, these unmet expectations being one of them.

The mother I thought I’d be: I will play with my kids all the time, My kids will always be well behaved, I’ll be crafty and full of fun ideas, I’ll be adventurous, I’ll be thriving when I can stay-at-home, I’ll be patient and soft-spoken…

Saying motherhood is difficult is an understatement and it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. But when it comes to unmet expectations that we had of ourselves, I think many of us could say we are not very gracious and forgiving.

Writer, Jill Churchill, said, "There's no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one." Every single one of us makes mistakes. Every single one of us has a toddler that throws tantrums and has probably hit another kid in Sunday school. Every single one of us has had an accident that ended with bumps and bruises we didn’t intend to give. Every single one of us has been exhausted to the point of insanity. Every single one of us has the “gap” between expectation and reality, but that doesn’t make us bad mothers. I could spend a lot of time tearing myself down for what I am lacking and the kind of mother I am NOT. But I am realizing it’s critical to spend more timing focusing on what I have and the mother I AM. It’s exhausting to feel so disappointed in myself all the time.

The kind of mother I am: I cook my family meals, I make sure their clothes are clean, I create a welcoming and beautiful home, I am dedicated to raising respectful, kind, Jesus-loving children, I dance in the living room, I listen to Disney songs on repeat…I am committed, loving, creative, focused, selfless, serving, compassionate, understanding, strong ….

It look me awhile to come up with this list. I really had to sit and think about what makes me a great mom because I am so conditioned to believing the worst. If that might be you too, you’re not alone. Mind the gap and choose to focus on the ways you are a good mother. Even if it takes you days to come up with a list of why you are amazing, take the time to make it.

Philippians 4:8 is a verse I meditate on a lot to help manage my anxiety, but as I’m thinking about this “gap” I believe it applies here too.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

Fill your minds with the beautiful, not the ugly. Mamas, you are doing a great job. You were created to be the mother of your children. Your children have unique needs that only you can meet, nurture, and guide. You will not be perfect. You will make mistakes. But our children are not looking for perfection, nor do they need it. They need women who will show them what love is and how to become human beings that make a positive difference in this world. And you can do it.


“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!” Ephesians‬ ‭3:20-21‬ ‭MSG‬‬

Another year come and gone. I truly can’t believe it. It seems like yesterday that we were saying goodbye to 2017 at Shaver Lake with some of our favorite friends while our kids created chaos and the guys tirelessly tried to start a friction fire.


I have been trying something new each New Year where I choose a word that I will focus on for the year and Jon and I sit together and pray about what we want to see in the New Year. It’s a lot more intentional than picking a resolution and I have never been known to follow through with one anyway. A few weeks ago I read something that I’ve already forgotten about, but the word that stood out to me was “expectant”. I felt like God was telling me that was my 2019.

2018 was full of the UNEXPECTED. We started the year in Orange County and I was really struggling with loneliness. Not long after I got pregnant and miscarried. I turned 30 and shortly after that got pregnant again and began to deal with some minor prenatal depression. 2018 was truly a year of growth and us learning to trust God in all circumstances. I got word that I’d be loosing a contract with a client (not good news for a freelance writer) and with that more panic set in. The desire began to stir in our hearts to move back to San Diego as we anticipated welcoming another baby into the family, but Jon felt like his job in OC was where God wanted him. So we wouldn’t move without a clear door opening and another one closing. In the blink of an eye a door opened that was more perfect that we could’ve imagined. I mean seriously, we’d love to tell you about it sometime (it’s another blog for another day).

So here we are, back in San Diego and getting ready to become a family of four. I am quite literally, expectant.

I am an enneagram 6 and while I could talk about enneagram types forever, I will try to suppress the nerd and simply say that a “glass half full” mentality is not my natural inclination. Sixes are cautious, anxious, indecisive and suspicious. We are reliable, hard-working, responsible, and trustworthy. Basically, when it comes to being expectant, I usually expect the worst. I am looking ahead all all the possible worst case scenarios so I can try to prepare myself for them. This year, I want to change that. This year, I want to be expectant of God’s abundance and grace. He has never failed us. Never let us down. What if this year I expected him to show up because he always does?

So 2019 will begin with great expectance of another family member. And then I will be expectant for the day I will sleep again. But this year I am making it my goal to remember Ephesians 3 and the fact that God wants to do more than we can ask or imagine as his Spirit works deeply and gently within me.

So what about you? What are you hoping for this year? I hope this year you will find yourself drawing closer to God and growing in new ways. It seems that at the end of every year, people are saying “good riddance” and it seems so ridiculous to me because at the end of every year we have the choice to look back and say “that was the worst” or “there were good days too”. The 6 in me will tell you that this year will probably have trouble too. Let’s just be honest, that’s life. But I also want to say that you can cling to what is good and true this year despite the trouble. Let’s be people who don’t let others determine what kind of year we have. It doesn’t matter who is president, what laws are passed, who is the Queen, what shows are getting cancelled or who wins an Oscar. None of that can determine who WE are and the decisions WE make to be better people and create a better world around us. Let’s expect God to show up this year and ask him to let us be a part of the work he’s doing.

Creating Holiday Margin

I love the holidays. LOVE them. I am a repeat offender of cramming my calendar full of holiday magic. Think I’m exaggerating? Currently on my calendar I have 3 different tree lighting events AND the Rockefeller Center Christmas special so I don’t miss it on TV. That is just tree lighting events people. I have a problem.

Today our moms group was encouraged by a speaker, Amanda, to create space in our lives so we can be more generous with our time by pruning the vines and clearing the underbrush. In a nutshell, pruning looks like getting rid of what is draining and saying no to the things that aren’t right for us. Clearing the underbrush involves those little things that start to pile up in our minds each day (negative thoughts, worries etc…) and giving those things up to the Lord to take care of. It was such a refreshing reminder as a mother to be ok with saying no.

She shared Job 34:4 which says “Let us discern for ourselves what is right; let us learn together what is good.” While we learn together what things are good (holiday parties, Christmas tree lightings, family gatherings etc…) we must decide for ourselves what is right for us.

We are so excited to be back in San Diego and already (in addition to my tree lighting obsession) there are 3 Christmas parties on the calendar. There are just so many festive things to do and never enough time. I will drive my husband (and probably my toddler) insane with a calendar that leaves no room for just spending time together by a fire with a cup of hot chocolate. (Actually, that is on my list too.)

As an 8 months pregnant stay-at-home mom with a toddler, I’m learning that it’s ok to say no and how to be confident that what I am doing is enough. Here are 5 ways that I’m trying to create more margin this holiday season and hopefully it helps you too.

  1. Make a list

I love lists as much as I love Christmas. Grocery lists, packing lists, to do lists, give me all the lists. Making a list really helps me visualize all my hopes and dreams for the Christmas season. Create a list of everything that sounds fun to do and even the things you know might show up on your calendar (work events etc…). Lay it all out there so nothing comes as a surprise.

2. Determine your priorities

Are you a memories family? A traditions family? A try something new family? A gifts family? Decide what matters to you most and reevaluate that list. Remove anything that isn’t essential and doesn’t line up with your values.

3. Say no and choose your best yes

There are currently 2 things I can think of that come up every Christmas that I desperately want to do and just haven’t had the time for: Advent Calendars + Christmas Cards. The holidays, as joyful as they may be, are also full of expectations and therefore, comparison. I see the other moms and the cute advent calendars they are doing with their kids and the thoughtful, stylish cards they are sending out with family updates. In the past, I’ve had to continuously say no because it was too stressful to put energy towards planning, styling, shopping, and photo shooting. This year I threw myself a bone and decided we can do Christmas cards because these will be the last photos with us as a family of 3.

The other thing we’ve learned to say no to is gifts. What? At Christmas? Yes. We have always been very minimal, and honestly it began as a necessity because of small space living and finances. But we’ve come to enjoy it and appreciate it. My husband’s love language is gifts, so we don’t eliminate gifts all together. He and I set a limit on our gifts to each other and typically gift each other 1 thoughtful item. Last year, we implemented a 3 gift rule for Brighton. I read this idea from another mom who decided that since Jesus got 3 gifts, her kids got 3 gifts. We loved that idea and it has saved us so much money and stress.

The things we have to say “no” to sometimes are not usually easy “nos” and are not always the most popular with other people. But they work for us. Maybe it’s not forever, maybe it’s just a no for this year, but what do you need to say “no” to?

4. Stop comparing

Don’t let the instagram photos fool you. That Christmas nook might look cute, but the rest of the house is a disaster. Those Christmas cards may look very put together, but they were fighting the whole way there. The crafts that mom is doing look really fun (and like a great way to kill time), but if you don’t enjoy crafts don’t do them. SO much of the stress of this holiday season is brought on by our own expectations and comparing ourselves against other families. I get it. I want the season to be as magical as possible, and it ALWAYS looks more magical in the Magnolia Magazine Holiday issue and on that one mom’s instagram.

This goes back to that verse in Job. You do what’s right for you and celebrate every second of it.

5. Slow down, soak it in

I love getting out of the house, but sometimes it’s good to just put on those matching holiday PJ’s and snuggle to a Christmas movie. I want to make it a priority to have a fine wine holiday season, not a 2 buck chuck season. You know what I mean? Choose the best moments possible and let each moment age to perfection. Don’t settle for an over scheduled, too busy, stress-filled season.

Well there ya go. 5 ways to create some margin this season and hopefully enjoy every snuggle, every moment, every cookie, and every hot toddy (no seriously, please have one for me) there is to enjoy.

Also, check out Amanda’s blog (5oclock-dock.com) to read more about living a generous life. Her words inspired me, I hope they inspire you.

Never Say Never

Last week, I did the thing I said I’d never do. I went to MOPS.

That’s the funny thing about desperation. You’ll do anything.

For the last few months, I’ve been fighting many aspects of being a mom. I don’t want to be reminded that I’m a mom. I’m reminded everyday my toddler wakes me up at 6:30AM and yells at me when she doesn’t get to eat cookies all day. I had this idea of mom groups that involved cheesy crafts and forced conversations and only having in common the fact that we are all moms. I just want to hang out with women, who also happen to be mothers, and do things we’d normally do. So like, a mom’s group? No like a group that happens to be made up of moms. So, a mom’s group.

This is one of the reasons I felt like I was in a prison in Orange County. A stay-at-home suburban prison where hell looks like one eternal park date and awkward interactions with moms at the park. “How old is she?” “Oh so sweet.” “Is that your first?” “Oh I’m so tired. Mom life, you know?!”

I knew that when we moved back to San Diego, life would look different than it did a year ago. I used to work full-time, but now I would be continuing the stay-at-home gig. Our entire community had done major shifting while we were gone (and so did we). Everyone was at a new church. Many of them had new jobs, new babies. Many had relocated. I had to make a decision to not fall back into how life looked a year ago. I recently received an invitation to the MOPS group that meets at the new church we’re attending and I felt this nudging to check it out. As an introvert, trying new things without a wing woman isn’t my favorite thing to do.

Earlier this year while we were still in OC, I signed up for a membership class that’s required for staff and their spouses to take. I signed up alone because everyone else had taken it and figured it would be easy to sneak in and sneak out while remaining anonymous and avoiding awkward interactions. This church is huge, so there would be a ton of people in this class. I showed up to the home it was taking place in right on time. The entry way was adorned with name tags and binders; the table was filled with a spread of food I was trying to avoid eating; 3 host volunteers and a volunteer photographer were positioned to welcome guests and take photos for promotion; the campus pastor arrived ready to teach his attentive members. And then the truth set in. I was the only. one. coming. EVERYONE else bailed. I got a personal lesson on the history of the church and becoming a member. Had a spread of food to myself and got too much attention. Needless to say, it was an introverts nightmare. I don’t like doing new things alone.

But last week, I went to MOPS and second guessed myself the entire way there. Who will be there? Will I be the only one? Who will I talk to? Do I wait for someone to talk to me? Please let there be someone my age. And guess what? I showed up, and I was blessed. There were women who I could look up to and women I could be friends with. There were women who were tired, and women who could assure us we’d survive. The speaker reminded us that sometimes motherhood makes us feel like we have lost our fire, but we can take the fire and instill it in our kids. I got two hours without a toddler needing my attention. You guys, MOPS is my Friday respite.

I guess what I’m saying is never say never. Some things deserve a chance and God can still work wonders through even the cheesiest of mom groups. Being a mother takes hard work. And let’s be honest, our society isn’t set up to really help moms succeed: so many young moms aren’t living in neighborhoods where families get together and children play in the streets; we aren’t living in actual villages where mothers are cooking together, washing clothes together, watching their children gather sticks in the fields. We are isolated behind our phones, comparing ourselves to each other and women we don’t even know, crammed together in condominiums with nowhere for our kids to run free (and get out of our hair).

Motherhood has always been hard work, but I believe it takes even more effort to step outside of our comfort zones and create our village. And not just create a village, but cultivate the village and create a thriving community where families feel loved, seen, heard, welcome. Never say never, because you never know when and where your village will show up.

Blessed are the mothers

A friend (hey J Penn!) recently shared an honest post about how she is struggling with resentment toward her new son because of the change he has imposed on her marriage. I love when women have the courage to speak truth because you can guarantee someone else is, or has felt, the same way. It reminded me of a concept I’ve been wrestling through over the last few months in regards to mourning and waiting in motherhood and I wanted to share.

I had never thought about it much because I figured it was a terrible thing to do. Of course I love my girls. Of course I love being a mother. But sharing that we miss what life looked like when we had more freedom, that seems just wrong. But it’s real. It doesn’t diminish our love for parenthood, but those years when we could sleep till 9, go to dinner without crayons being thrown everywhere, or hang out with friends spontaneously are gone (for now). But of course there will be a day where the children are out of the house, and we can do all these things again and we will mourn our current season. Life is funny that way.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted - Jesus tells us in Matthew. Mothers, we are blessed. It is possible for us to both love our children, and mourn our days of freedom. In our mourning, Jesus promises that we will be comforted. And I really believe it’s important for moms to be honest and transparent with these struggles because God uses community to encourage and strengthen us.

There are countless verses in the Bible about waiting and patience, which is truly not my strong suit. When I think back on my life before Brighton I wonder what on Earth I did with my time and why I didn’t use it better because now I can think of so many things I would be doing. I have always been someone who has felt passionate about many things, but one thing for certain is reading and writer. I know God has called me to be a writer, even if I may not know how those details will play out. But right now, my first calling is as a mother. And so, I wait. I wait for the appointed time. In just a few years, the girls will be in school and my days will be freed up to write to my hearts desire, but for now I wait and I focus on my current task at hand, which is hopefully giving me a lot of content and wisdom to write about later.

A devotional I read by Sharon Hodde Miller in a study of Joshua put it so perfectly and I wanted to just share the direct quote because I couldn’t have written it better:

“Between school and marriage and parenting, my attention was pulled in a lot of directions, and it wasn’t long before writing got put on the back burner. All the while, I watched as my writing friends achieved their own goals. One by one, they grew their ministries and published books, while I was lucky to steal an hour tow rite. My friends had reached the promised land, while I remained just outside it.

Waiting is always hard, but it is made especially difficult by comparison. When your friends or colleagues attain the thing you want, it’s tough to hold on to contentment. The ache is somehow heightened by the sight of another’s success.

Joshua waited a lot, and I wonder how the story might have been different had he been guided by impatience. I wonder how his leadership might have been compromised had his spirit been discontent. Thankfully, Joshua succumbed to neither. He was man who waited well. Rather than pine for the life he wanted, Joshua made himself available to the will of God. His waiting was both active and fruitful.”

God always comes through. By trusting God’s timing, we accomplish a lot in the waiting.

Like Sharon, I’m lucky if I can find an hour to write. And I mourn the days where I could read at coffee shops and write to my hearts desire. But I know that God isn’t wasting the time I have now. Maybe you are waiting for a date night. Maybe you are waiting for new inspiration and vision. Maybe you are waiting for your toddler to quit being a cussword or for more than 3 hours of sleep again. Don’t waste your waiting and don’t ignore your mourning. Call out to God and be honest with your frustration because He meets us where we are at and reminds us that He is good and He is faithful to fulfill His promises. When He places vision in our hearts, He will guide us to our promised land in the right time and he will comfort us through it all.

Currently Reading....

This year I made it my goal to read more, which seems ridiculous given the fact that I love reading. But with Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime, my brain has been wasting away at the mercy of PBC Masterpiece Classics and Bachelor in Paradise. 

I have crossed off so many books off my list already and I always have the most difficult time choosing where to begin next. I thought I'd share a few of my recent and current reads for those of you who are looking for your next novel escape.

1. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Let me be honest and say I am always very apprehensive to try new authors when it comes to fiction. If I'm not sold within a chapter or two, I have a pretty hard time committing to the rest of the book and I know I tend to like the classics like Steinbeck and Fitzgerald. So every year when the NY Times Bestseller list comes out, I almost never read what's on it because I judge every book by its cover and whether or not I know the author. Terrible I know. But this one finally got me. Some of my personal favorite authors have been raving about it, so I gave it a try and it was indeed, great. 

It chronicles a story of an African-American couple in the south and the husband has been accused of a crime he didn't commit. It really gave me insight into the African-American community and some of the struggles they deal with. I would highly recommend reading this book as a way to expand your horizons. Books are such a fantastic way to put ourselves in other people's shoes and gain perspective that we might not otherwise have had. 

2. Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

I am way late to the Anne of Green Gables game, I know. But I am in love. If I see a show or movie coming out that is based off a book, I love to read the book first when possible. So when Netflix came out with "Anne with an E" I grabbed the books and I'm hooked. While someone might watch the show and be annoyed with Anne's dramatic flair and vernacular, having read the books I have an appreciation for it. These coming of age novels are so endearing to me. So, book two in the Anne series continued to fulfill my expectations of something light, cheerful, whimsical, and youthful (without all the vampire trash).

3. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

I was so excited to start this book because as I mentioned before, I love the old classic novelists and I am fascinated by European History and the Great War. This book has taken me longer to get through and not because I didn't enjoy it but because I was having a hard time following it. It may have been the timing of when I read it, but it has been a great story none the less. If you enjoy classics, this one is always worth adding to your list.

4. Rising Strong by Brené Brown

Read this. Read Brené. Read all of Brené. I was listening to Oprah's Super Soul Sunday podcast and she did an interview with Brené regarding this book and I knew I had to read it. Brené is a social psychologist who specializes in shame and guilt. Her work is extraordinary. It's relatable and practical and I have read this feeling like I know more about myself AND I can make better choices emotionally. I would call that a win. I'm really taking my time through this one because I want to soak in everything she has to say. 

So, in honor of National Book Reading day, I hope these 4 books give you some ideas for your next read! What are you reading right now? 

Next up on my list: 

  • Wrinkle in Time series 
  • Harry Potter (again, round 3)
  • Catcher in the Rye 

5 things saving my life...

Whether you are a mom or not, most of the women I know are busy. Jobs, husbands, school, family events ... the list goes on. As a stay-at-home mom/freelance writer I find myself constantly in between feeling busy and exhausted from monotony. Staying at home with a toddler is exhausting in a way I have never known. Full time work? Piece of cake. School? I wish I could go back. Little child needed constant attention, care, and climbing all over you all day? I need a nap. 

I love hearing from other women what they do to keep their lives a little saner, so I thought I'd share a few things that are "saving" my life right now. Since I'm all about simple living, most of these things are just that: simple. Because I don't have time or money for weekly massages or spa days, I find that creating space for simple joys can make all the difference in a day. 

1. Chocolate covered almonds. 

I told you. Simple. This preggo wants dessert all the time and in the effort of having self- control, I took to my local Sprouts to provide a chocolately treat that feels healthy and can be consumed in small portions to last forever. Let's be real, sometimes fully depriving ourselves of the thing we want isn't always the best solution. Everything in moderation friends. 

2. A night-time routine. 

Now that I'm 30, I figured it was time to get serious about my face. I've been super fortunate to have great skin most of my life, and I'd like to keep it that way. I started investing in products that were all-natural (or making them myself) and committing to making effort each morning and night to take a few minutes for my face. I am never going to be the person that has a 10 step routine. Like I said before, I don't have time or money for that. So I chose just a few things that could make me feel like I'm treating myself and winding down for the day. 

I love UltraViolet's products. She is not cheap, but it's been a splurge for me and I've seen such great results. Marci creates all the products herself and she uses both science + her love for sensitive skin-friendly products to create very natural and gentle masterpieces. I use her cleanser and night masque. I have also heard incredible things about SW Basics which is significantly cheaper than UltraViolet if you are looking for a budget-friendly option. 

I also got a dry brush a few weeks ago. I honestly don't know if I believe anything that it's supposed to do, but at the very least it's a relaxing practice and it sort of starts of my evening "wind down". I never realized how much I would appreciate a steady nighttime routine!

3. My lottas. 

Lotta from Stockholm is one of the great clog brands I know. There are quite a few that make beautiful shoes, but Lotta is (I think) the most affordable considering the quality. These clogs are amazing because they are so comfortable and they make you feel like you put effort into a very casual outfit. But they also go great with something that's more trendy or dressy. All of this is a big plus when you're pregnant, a mother, or just generally a woman who is busy and doesn't always have time to put a perfect outfit together. I have three pairs and they are my go tos. 

4. A physical planner

When I was in school, planners were my favorite thing to buy. I loved choosing my new planner and writing in all the things I had to do from homework to hangout to reminders. My iPhone slowly took over my life and I never wanted to carry around my planner and phone, but over the last few months, I realized my need to actually write things down. There's science behind why writing things help you remember better and Lord knows between having a toddler and being pregnant, I need all the help I can get.

So now I can write down what I need to do for work and I can also attempt to schedule out my week with Brighton so I can have things to look forward to and not lose my mind! My favorite is Moleskine (of course) because it's so simple, small, and has a lot of room for writing notes/lists (oh how I love lists).

5. CloudLibrary 

Do you know about this? It's an app you can download on your phone or iPad and it will connect with your account to your local library. Before I moved, I got my library card for the San Diego Public Library and linked it to my CloudLibrary and now I have access to digital and audio books from their entire database! I will ALWAYS prefer a physical paper book, but since I've had so many books on my reading list this year, CloudLibrary has saved me (and my wallet). 

So there you have it. 5 things saving my life right now. What about you? What are some of the things you are doing that are making your days a little extra special?



First of all, if you tell me there is a cake that is acceptable to eat for breakfast, I will be all about it. Normally I'm not a big cake person. I think it's because I don't love frosting. But Italians just do cakes right. 

Ciambella is an Italian bundt cake that is perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, midnight and any other time you can think of. It also happens to be light, melt in your mouth, and lemony which is great for summer. 

Baking for me will always be a love affair. It reminds me of my Nonna and it's my "go to" therapy when I'm feeling blue or stressed or pregnant. *shoulder shrug* The problem with my love for baking is I really need other people to eat the results because I also have major dessert guilt. So, come on over friends, these treats won't eat themselves. 



  • 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons fine sea or table salt
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Finely grated zest of half an orange
  • 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (325 ml) grapeseed oil 
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (about 185 grams) plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) mascarpone cheese
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon (20 ml) vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups (390 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder


  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • About 3 tablespoons (45 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice

Make cake: Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Coat bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray and coat with granulated sugar. Knock out any excess sugar from pan.

Place sugar and salt in a large bowl and use your fingertips to rub the zest into it to release the most flavor. Whisk in oil, mascarpone, yogurt, and then eggs and vanilla until smooth. Add baking powder and whisk thoroughly into the batter. Add flour and use a rubber spatula to stir just until batter is smooth.

Drop batter equally around your cake mold, then smooth, and drop on the counter a few times to ensure there are no trapped air bubbles. Bake for about 40 minutes checking in at the 30-minute mark to rotate the pan for even coloring. The cake is done when a toothpick or tester comes out batter-free. 

While the cake bakes, make the glaze: Whisk sugar and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice together until smooth, adding the last tablespoon of juice just if needed. This glaze should be thicker than normal. 

When cake is done, let it rest on a cooling rack for 3 to 5 minutes, then remove it from the pan while it's still hot. Brush or drizzle glaze evenly over the top of the cake, and sides if you wish and it will set as it cools.

Enjoy enjoy enjoy. 

Strong and Courageous

One of the verses I’m constantly repeating to myself is Joshua 1:9 - Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. It's one of the few verses I know by memory because my anxiety has caused me to repeat it often. 

I recently started going through a She Reads Truth study of Joshua because I wanted to understand why God kept telling him to not be afraid or discouraged. It feels easy to repeat this verse and remind myself to be strong and courageous and not afraid or discouraged, but why shouldn't I be when the world around me feels like an unreliable, unstable, unknown mess. I figured it was time to understand why this guy Joshua needed this reminder like I do.

This pregnancy has been rough on me emotionally. With Brighton, I felt so balanced, so joyful, so calm and at peace. With this pregnancy, I have been feeling so numb and depressed. It's been a huge battle for me because as a believer it's easy for us to say things like "the joy of the Lord is our strength" and "there's always hope" etc...but I have been struggling to get myself out of this proverbial pit. I have good days, I have bad days. I struggle to fully enjoy my time with Brighton, knowing a little sister is on the way. I struggle to enjoy the time I get alone with Jon, preoccupied with all the "to dos" and "what ifs". 

In Joshua, we are reminded that God is with us WHEREVER we go. The Israelites wandered the desert for years, some of them not able to live to see the day that God fulfilled His promise. When Joshua was appointed to finish what Moses had begun, I can only imagine the fear and uncertainty that overcame him. So much so, that within the first chapter and not even 10 verses into his story, God has to tell him to not be afraid or discouraged, because "I'm here and I'm not going anywhere."

God's instructions were clear, but He never mapped out the entire plan for Joshua and the Israelites. He gave them just the right amount of information they would need to get through the task in front of them. But one thing remained the same, they were to fix their eyes on the arc of the covenant (a symbol of the presence of the Lord). It's a reminder to me too to keep my eyes fixed in the right place, despite the fact that I have no idea what I'm doing, where I'm going, or what lies ahead. Wherever I am now and wherever I am going, God is here and already there. 

God was gracious to the Israelites and continued to be faithful to His promises. He delivers. He delivers on His word and He delivers us from slavery. It's a relief to know that even when I make mistakes or feel like I'm far away from God, that He will still be faithful to His promises to me. He can deliver me too.

Multiple times in Joshua's story, we see God telling him to be strong and courageous. Even this man who was chosen by God to lead the Israelites to their promised land had to be reminded by God Himself, that he was not alone on this journey. The God of the universe was walking Him step by step through conquering some of the most powerful kings and cities to bring the Israelites home. Isn't that amazing?

Right now, as I find myself feeling hopeless and discouraged, weak and unsure, God reminds me through Joshua's story to keep my eyes on Him and be strong and courageous because He is with me even here. 

An old Puritan prayer says this: "Herein is love; when I cannot rise to Him, He draws near on wings of grace to raise me to Himself."

Maybe you're currently feeling like me. Lost, uncertain, unsure, forgotten. Maybe you aren't, but chances are at some point in your life you might experience something that has you feeling anything but strong and courageous. While I don't have this all figured out, I do know this: God wants to draw near to us on those wings of grace and I am so grateful we don't have to have it all together for Him to love us and fulfill His promises. I need that reminder often. Maybe you do too. 

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,   
The stride of my step,   
The curl of my lips.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,   
That’s me.

I was listening to an interview Oprah did with Amy Schumer, and while I'm not usually a fan of her (Amy Schumer, not Oprah. BIG Oprah fan over here), I did gain a lot of respect for her perspective on how we should treat and love ourselves. Ironically, the same evening, I found myself scrutinizing a photo that I took of myself and Brighton at the beach. WRINKLES! All around my eyes! Where did those come from?! One eyebrow sits higher than the other when I smile too big. My mouth is crooked. My teeth, are those discolored? Moles I hate, dark circles under my eyes...

I am constantly criticizing how I look. My friends and I used to call our lower abs "marsie" which was short for "marsupial pouch" because we could never get those flat tummies that "pretty girls" had. And now, post-baby, even if marsie isn't flabby, she's never going to be flat. My chin looks weird in some photos, my butt too big and boobs too small. I'm just saying, we ALL do it. How many times do you have people retake photos because you don't look right? Right?

In her interview, Oprah quoted the poem above by Maya Angelou, and it made me wish I saw myself that way. That more women saw ourselves and each other that way.

How often do we scroll through Instagram and Facebook and find the latest "flat tummy" workout, guaranteed to get you looking like the girl in the photo? I recently saw one of those, and thought, I have got to get real with myself: I will NEVER look like that. My legs will never be that long and my hips have pushed a baby through them. I keep looking at the scale desperate to see the numbers 115 (in that order) again, but I haven't seen those numbers since freshman year. It's just not reality. 

Nobody likes to talk about their insecurities, so that's why I'm talking about it. Because we all deal with it. When you become a mother people say things like "your body is a miracle", "your body created a beautiful human", or while your pregnant they say "you're making a baby, of course you're going to look different, but it's amazing" - but then a stranger will say "woah, you ready to pop?" or "you sure there aren't two in there?" **major eye rolls** But still, every day we look in the mirror and see how we don't fit into our clothes the same way or we can't get our abs to look like they used to. We see the pregnant mommy bloggers who look better than us when we aren't pregnant and then bounce back like they never carried a child for 9 months. 

The body image battle is a silent war I've been raging for a long time. Throughout junior high and high school I danced and always felt like I was in great shape. In college, I studied abroad in Italy (hello pasta + wine) and came home unable to fit in any of my clothes. Today, I seem to have some unrealistic expectation that I should still look like my 8th-grade self. Check out this crazy fact: A 1999 study of Japanese women in their 20s provided a few clues. Subcutaneous (i.e. under-skin) fat disappears slowly from the cheeks, neck, boobs and lower legs, and begins to build up at the waist, the infragluteal region (underneath the butt), and on the abdomen. The researchers, looking at women at the end of their twenties compared to the beginning, found that weight had shifted around in three different patterns that were distinct from the ways that it was distributed around the body in the early 20s. <--- even science says I'll never look like I did in high school! So why are we still trying to?!

If you're like me and you've been critical of how you look, let's make a commitment together that enough is enough. That we should strive for health, not perfection (because can anyone actually define perfect anyway?). Dr. Caroline Leaf, in her book Switch on Your Brain, discusses how our brains can be rewired and how scripture lines up with what science tells us about the brain! She says, “Our choices—the natural consequences of our thoughts and imagination—get 'under the skin' of our DNA and can turn certain genes on and off, changing the structure of the neurons in our brains. So our thoughts, imagination, and choices can change the structure and function of our brains on every level.” In Romans 12:2, when the Bible says, "...be transformed by the renewing of your mind" science actually proves that we CAN do this by practicing different thought patterns. Sorry to get all nerdy on ya for a moment, but I just needed the reminder for myself that it IS possible to quit being so critical and start being grateful. 

What about you? Is this something you struggle with? What are some of the tools you use to kick those negative thoughts to the curb and embrace the body, the face, the wrinkles, the hair, the "you" that you are today?