We live in Nashville now.

Yes, this is a new start for us—a new address, a new job, a new lifestyle, a new church, a new community, a new Trader Joe’s—but like a lot of new starts, it doesn’t have a clean beginning and ending.

The beginning: Almost two years ago now, Brad and I were making dinner in our closet-size kitchen 25 minutes outside of San Francisco. I was wedged into the 1-1/2 square feet of space in front of our stove, stirring something, Brad was shuffling around the 10-inch perimeter around the dishwasher putting clean dishes away. What started as a “How was your day?” conversation turned into a “What do we want our life to look like in 3 years?”

If you’ve never asked yourself or your partner that question, you should. It was incredibly clarifying and fun as we both started dreaming out loud.

“I’d like a house with an extra room where someone could stay for a few months if they were in a rough spot.”

“I’d like kids—“

“—and enough flexibility in our work that we can both be around at least some of the time during the day.”

“I want to see family more than once or twice a year.”

“I want a big garden so we can grow some of our food.”

“I want to simplify our budget, how we spend our time, our work. We need a margin and then we can give that margin of money, time, and energy away. We can say yes to serving.”

“I want a house where our community knows they can stop by every Friday night. Where there’s an open invitation to be with us.”

We went on like this for about 10 minutes and our smiles grew bigger and bigger as we got into it (“we should have fruit trees!” “and a sofa deep enough for us to both lay down on it at once!”). Then we made eye contact and had the same thought. I’m not sure which one of us said it first: We can’t do this here.

That was a big enough conversation for that night. But over the next 18 months, we inched the thought forward over dinner, while watching Jimmy Fallon, in the Costco parking lot, while staring at the ocean.

The ending: We didn’t make a clean break. It took about 12 months of talking and six months of job hunting for both of us before I got a job offer in Nashville. Almost two months after that before we rolled up here with our potted lemon tree in the back seat of the Malibu. Another three weeks before we settled that lemon tree on the front step of a rental house—our house!

Our conversation hasn’t ended there. So much of moving here feels emphatically Right. Some of moving here feels like we have a little work to do still. A little bit of margin-making to figure out. It’s kind of uncomfortable. I love love love feeling settled. I feel most able to be brave when I’m safe and centered. But the off-kilter feeling I get from big changes also pushes me to trust, pushes me to pray, pushes me to depend on and receive from others (that last one is the hardest for me).

Keeping me anchored while I balance my kilter? Seeing family more times in the last six months than in almost the last three years combined. A winter warm enough to go for a walk outside almost every day. Hanging out with these guys IRL. A whole gosh darn house with nobody above or beside us. And the rock solid promises of provision, lovingkindness, and being with us that put this transition in its place: Same God, different geography.

I think we’re going to like it here, y’all.

german chicken soup

I wrote this a couple months ago and didn’t post it because it was one of those times in life where even pressing Publish felt like one task too many. I’m posting it now because this soup really was amazing, and if you happen to be where there’s still a chill in the air (or if you happen to be in need of some comfort yourself), you’ve still got time to make it!

If you looked at our meals last week, you’d get a picture of how I’m feeling lately:

Caramelizing onions for French onion soup helps me pretend my life’s pace is slower that it is. My favorite panzanella helps me feel good about my body, loaded broccoli cheese quinoa soup is unadulterated comfort food, so was the roast chicken. And, ok, so was this chicken soup with dumplings. Looking at it now, it was a culinary cry for help.

I’m ok with that. Let food be thy medicine, right?

All of it helped, but it was this soup that blew me away. This soup, you guys. It’s like a hug. Buttery broth that’s light enough to drink gallons, soft potatoes, chewy dumplings. It is the Meryl Streep of soups. So perfect.

By the way, I grew up with dumplings being pillowy biscuits with wonderfully damp bottoms that steamed on top of soup. These are more like dumpling chunks (wow, that sounds terrible). Is that what makes this German? Are you a chunk dumpling or pillow dumpling person? Regardless, eat this.

german chicken soup with dumplings 
lightly adapted from Food and Wine

I took the time to finely dice everything into even 1/2-inch chunks. It made the final result perfectly balanced–a veggie on every spoon and room for the dumplings, too.

for the dumplings:
1 cup einkorn flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of black pepper
pinch of nutmeg

for the soup:
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 large carrots, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
7 cups chicken stock (I used half homemade stock and half water)
2 bay leaves
1-1/2 lbs. red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup organic heavy cream

Make the dumplings: Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, and nutmeg together in a medium bowl. Add 6 tablespoons of water and mix with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth (about 3 minutes). Transfer the dough to a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the dough into a 1/2-inch-thick rope, then cut them into 1/2-inch pieces. Transfer the dumplings to the prepared pan and cover with a damp kitchen towel.

Make the soup: In a large pot, melt the butter. Add the onion, carrots, and celery, and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and nutmeg and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the stock/water, bay leaves, and potatoes and bring to a boil. Add the dumplings, cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the dumplings are puffed and cooked through, about 3o minutes. (Note: Mine didn’t puff enormously, just a little. And I tasted one to see if it was cooked through enough to a pleasant texture.) Stir in the cream and season with salt and pepper. Discard the bay leaves and serve.

books end of 2015

LATE. I’m so late with this. Please don’t take it out on these books. They deserve more than that. These are the best reads I had from July onward. One of them is OH MY GOSH A CLASSIC FOR A REASON.

5. Single, Carefree, Mellow by Katherine Heiny I confess I like short stories that are clever retellings of what we all feel rather than those that are capital G Good but so unreadable I’d literally rather be parked on the Bay Bridge for two hours because someone tied a chain across all the westbound lanes as a protest (this actually happened) than read them. (Paging Lydia Davis. Sorry.) These stories, happily, are both very good and very readable. If you’re a woman in her 30s who reads the Internet, you’ll see a little bit of yourself in these. Almost all of them are about a woman in a relationship she probably shouldn’t be in. Almost all of them are funny. Many of them sad in that quiet, everyday way. And you guys know I love sad stories.

4. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel There’s a scene in this book that takes place about 18 hours after an apocalyptic flu kills virtually all the world’s population. A few survivors are stranded at an airport. They watch a plane land outside. During this scene, you will either be crying or horrified or both because Emily St. John Mandel knows how to tease meaning out of the most mundane actions. Much of the book follows survivors who have formed a theatrical troupe. I loved thinking about the role art plays in a disaster, about sorting out what’s good and bad in extreme circumstances, and how relationships form and last. But mostly I’ll read this again just to catch the wonder of what’s everyday to us: airplanes, refrigeration, phones, lights, people.

3. Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey Shout-out to book cover designers because I judged this book by its star-speckled midnight black cover and was totally rewarded. This is a spectacular illness memoir. (I promise I do read uplifting, cheerful things. I guess I just don’t like them as much?) The author has an extreme sensitivity to artificial and natural light. When light touches her skin, it feels like a blowtorch is on her. As her illness progresses, she retreats further back into her house and tries different coping mechanisms. As she lays in the dark, she runs the fences of her limitations, chooses to leave the future alone, and thinks and thinks and thinks. It’s riveting. There was so much in this book that expressed my experience with Brad’s illness. The hope of a new treatment, the despair when it fails, the fear of the future, the wonder of what will be asked of you and worse: what you’ll have to ask of other people. As I read, I couldn’t stop nodding yes, yes, yes.

2. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr Everyone is telling you to read this book. Everyone is right. But if you don’t trust everyone, trust me: Read this book. The writing has the kind of sentences I read, read again, then said out loud, then read again, then thought about underlining even though I was reading a library book. I WILL NOT BE TAMED. It’s set during World War II, but totally without the usual cliches. It’s about a girl and a boy, but not the way you think. It humanizes the bad guy and grows compassion for the bully, while never quite excusing them. Also the author lives in Idaho and if he can write this from there, certainly I can blog more than twice a year from here. (That probably wasn’t Mr. Doerr’s intention when putting this book out into the world, but whatever.)

1. East of Eden by John Steinbeck Just a little undiscovered treasure to recommend for you all. But really. The only way to describe how swept up I was in this book, how it carried me and devastated me, is to share a quote from the book itself: But Tom got into a book, crawled and groveled between the covers, tunneled like a mole among the thoughts, and came up with the book all over his face and hands. I was Tom while reading this book. It is everything a classic should be: Bread and wine after only eating Larabars for a week.


Can I briefly throw shade at the worst books I read last year? These are the ones I was sorely tempted to throw at the wall.

The Wall Creeper by Nell Zink. OH MY WORD. Were I not held captive in a Denver hotel room with no other books and were this book longer than 100 some pages, I would not have finished it. It got rave reviews, not a single one of them deserved. Wake me up when something happens, Nell.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. People I love and trust love this book. I thought nothing happened except me snorting at how unbelievable the emotional story was.

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel. Boooooooooring.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler. I like Amy Poehler, but the majority of this book was her whining about how she didn’t have time to write this book. I wish I hadn’t had time to read it.


This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows the Lagoon Nebula, an object with a deceptively tranquil name. The region is filled with intense winds from hot stars, churning funnels of gas, and energetic star formation, all embedded within an intricate haze of gas and pitch-dark dust.

Brad and I watched Interstellar over Christmas break. Every time I watch something about space, be it Gravity, Wall-E, Nova, my heart trembles. There is so much we look at with wonder in this world, but space seems actually magical. There can’t be another explanation for it. Except, as Interstellar tells you, there is. Human brains have somehow worked out the math and physics and theory and faith to know what’s going on in the blackness. To say, with some confidence, that a planet 1,300 light years away from where I sit right now likely has mountains that soar skyward and water pooling in the valleys left in their wake. That it takes 385 days to orbit its star–like our year, only with more breathing room.

It’s breathtaking.

The day after watching the movie, we watched the extras explaining (in the dumbest terms possible, I’m sure), the theory of relativity and how it affects time dilation. I feel smarter just typing that. Except I can’t remember all the details, only the example they gave: Say you’re sitting on a bench on the side of the road and your clone drives by you at 35 mph. To the you on the bench, time is experienced slightly slower than it is by the you in the car.

As soon as I heard that, something clicked. I’m the girl in the car. I want to be the girl on the bench. My job got more stressful. My commute got longer. I changed. Vistas opened, vistas closed. The car is picking up speed and I can’t hold on to the time. So I’ve instinctively pulled back from anything extra. I stopped working out, I canceled weeknight plans (and some weekend ones). I stopped writing here, I journaled in fits and starts. Anything to put some of me back on the bench and get the rest that slow time gives.

I didn’t know that’s what I was doing until I saw Interstellar. It took a principle of how the galaxy spins to help me understand what was happening in my head.


There’s a song we sing at church with the line “you make me brave.” I love this song because I never feel brave. I feel like clamping my eyes shut, swallowing hard, and stepping forward because that’s all I can do. The idea of being brave intoxicates me. Obviously, the “you” here is Jesus (it’s a church song, remember?), and it’s true–nothing makes me more brave than knowing how he loves me (and you, and her, and him). But there’s also the bravery that comes from Brad walking beside me to make me volunteer for something I desperately want to do but am scared of. There’s borrowed courage in my friend Kristin’s note that essentially says, I’m with you and I love you. There is the scent of bravery still on the purple knitted shawl my step grandmother (I hate that term–she’s dear dear family, and young enough to be my mom) sent me with a note about the prayers uttered during its making. There is bravery in my niece’s smile, in my sister’s voice singing forgotten lullabies from Charlotte’s Web, even in celebrating Christmas, as my friend Shanna reminded me.

In 2016, I’m asking to be made brave. Brave enough to stay in the car. Brave enough to find a way onto the bench. Brave enough to trust completely. Brave enough to feel joy. Brave enough to go. Brave enough to stay.

photo courtesy of NASA, taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Full story behind it here.


The trick about writing a pouring out post like my last is that as soon as I write it and hear from all you, I don’t feel that way anymore. You lift my burden with your comments, your emails, your texts, your thoughts. Thank you.

Aside from my emotional state, Brad feels better this month, too. He’s taking a few new supplements for his gut and his cellular metabolism and has more energy lately than I think I’ve ever seen from him in our married life. He’s working out again! The swelling in his knees is going up and down again. We might have the beginnings of health for him and I am so so so relieved.

And with that happy frame of mind, I read Stephen Colbert’s profile in GQ this morning.

I didn’t know this, but his dad and two brothers died in a plane crash when he was 10. He suffered. But this is the astounding thing he says about it now:

I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.

He explains that he feels gratitude for that tragedy. It gave him a worldview. He watched his mom live broken, but not bitter:

He has said this before—that even in those days of unremitting grief, she drew on her faith that the only way to not be swallowed by sorrow, to in fact recognize that our sorrow is inseparable from our joy, is to always understand our suffering, ourselves, in the light of eternity.

I’m standing at my desk reading and nodding because Stephen Colbert gets it. He gets that at the bottom of suffering is so much joy. Joy that you’re carried by people who love you. Joy that you’re held tight forever by the One who saves. Joy that this isn’t all there is. This has never been all there is.

It sounds crazy because it is crazy: I’m happy Brad and I are going through this. These ups and downs will make us and bring us, broken but not bitter, to Paradise. OR TO THE LATE SHOW because obviously Stephen Colbert and I are interchangeable at this point.

photo taken at the Denver Botanic Gardens

ocean beach

I’m not sure which is the harder pain: a doctor out of ideas saying, “Maybe lymphoma?” Searching an ultrasound screen to see if you can tell with your bare eyes if your husband’s kidney is failing. Hooking him up to an IV twice a day for months.

Or what we’re going through now.

“Now” isn’t dramatic speculative diagnoses (that thankfully turned out to be wrong), or scary tests and heavy medicine. Now is the point where another doctor says the words we’ve heard from every doctor before him. “I don’t know why this isn’t working. This always works. I don’t know what’s wrong with you.”

So we sit on our couch in our living room and ask one another what’s next. He says maybe we stop everything and try a new fast. I say let’s do that since we don’t have any momentum to lose anyway. We both think, but what if that doesn’t work either?

And what if it doesn’t? I’m asking because I really don’t know. If it doesn’t work, if everything keeps not working, his elbows and ankles will get bigger and bigger. The pain that comes and goes in his hands and feet will lodge their permanently. The days he can barely get in and out of a chair will become more frequent. The times I need to help him put on his socks will become routine.

And then what?

The scariest thing in the world to me isn’t dying. The scariest thing is watching the world of the man I love shrink from the wide, wide everything to our neighborhood, to our house, to a wheelchair. The scariest thing is looking into our future and seeing pain. My faith tells me there will be grace, and love, and joy to meet that pain. But this morning my vision is foggy and the pain is the most clear.

Here is the string I’m holding onto as we dangle over the edge of this cliff:

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)


Jolly Good Helping of British Feels
All the Austen
All the Lord Peter Wimsey volumes
All the Nigel Slater
All the Harry Potters
The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy
The Unlikely Journey of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Books to Make you Chuckle Out Loud in Public Places
In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
One More Thing by B.J. Novak (shelved also in Might Become a Legend, But Let’s Wait a Few Decades and See How He Turns Out)
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel

Classics that Make You Go Wha–?
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers


Books You Read as a Child But Are Afraid to Read Again In Case They’re Not as Good Now
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
A Voice from the Border by Pamela Smith Hill
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

Past and Future Vehicles for Anne Hathaway
One Day by David Nicholls
The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
A story from Single, Carefree, Mellow by Katherine Heiny

Past and Future Vehicles for Keira Knightley
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Girl in the Dark by Anna Lindsay
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

Just Start Crying Now 
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Falling to Earth by Kate Southwood
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Van Auken

That Book Everyone Tells You You’ll Love But You Don’t Really
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Can’t and Won’t: Stories by Lydia Davis
The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
The Secret History by Donna Tartt





watermelon and tomato salad

Last week I snuck into the test kitchen at work for an afternoon snack and a break from editing the largest google doc spreadsheet I’ve ever made. (Why, in a creative field, should I ever have to deal with a spreadsheet you ask? Excellent question.) Up on the counter was a tray filled with layers of watermelon, tomatoes, and corn. It was a tray of summer, and I ate that summer right up then came home and made another tray of summer to share with Brad.

This is cooking as it’s meant to be, I think. Just awesome food without any dressing up. Actually, this salad is my spirit animal, if you could call fruit and herbs an animal. (You can’t, but I am anyway.) In a summer where I’ve been learning to be fully free, to sit in grace, to not strive for any ideal except a heart constantly tuned to Jesus, I can look at this salad and honestly say I want to be more like it.

This is where I tell you this really isn’t worth making if you can’t get awesome tomatoes. If you grow them, you’re way ahead of me. If you don’t, it’s worth the trip to a farmer’s market to get a couple that were picked that morning and have glorious colors.

watermelon and tomato salad with corn and feta

I used an olive oil infused with roasted garlic to drizzle on top of this and mmmm, good choice. But if you have normal olive oil use it and skip the garlic in any form (I think fresh would be too harsh). 

watermelon (mine was unexpectedly golden yellow instead of red)
heirloom tomatoes (or otherwise fantastically flavorful tomatoes)
fresh corn (I used two ears)
fresh basil
sheep’s milk feta
olive oil

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the shucked corn for 4 minutes. Set it aside to cool while you slice the watermelon into slabs the size of your palm. Slice the tomatoes, then quarter or halve the slices. The goals is to layer these two elements on the tray so you have to cut into them with your fork to get your best bite.

Slice the slightly cooled corn off the cob and sprinkle it over the watermelon and tomatoes. Tear fresh basil over the top, then top with thin slabs of feta. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

2015 books

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: When I share with you what I’ve read and loved in the last six months. As usual, my list is all over the place, and the number one spot goes to a book I read, thought was brilliant, and only gets more brilliant in memory. If anyone wants to buy me a copy I have no specific preference about hardcover or paperback. You’re the best.

Ok, let’s do this:

5. Art of Slow Writing by Louise DeSalvo I swear this book made me breathe easier. It gives permission to be slow and plodding with your creative work and still count that time as productive. I’m on this kick lately where I’m anti-ambition. That sounds horrible, right? Here’s what I mean: We’re always told to strive for the top, and as women, we get an extra dose of “do it for the sisterhood. Blaze the trail, prove them wrong, honor those who came before you.” But who says your top is my top? What if the middle of your ambition scale is actually what fills my gut with that feeling of being alive and content and useful? So many of my large philosophical questions about life boil down to, IS IT OK TO BE DIFFERENT FROM ONE ANOTHER? Obviously, yes, but it’s more complicated than that. So this book. For me, it wasn’t just about taking your time with the process (and giving lots of practical writing advice), it also upended my high-performance striving and whispered, “you do not have to be everything right now.”

4. The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan So essentially, this is fan fic. Really well done fan fic, but fan fic all the same. I would write a huge rant here about how much fan fic bothers me with its derivative characterization and indulgent plotting except my 16-year-old self reminds me I have no stones to throw at that particular glass house. AHEM. The Royal We tells about an American woman who falls in love with the Prince of England and it is hard and public and basically a reimagining of William and Kate. Speaking of. At the peak of my William and Kate fever a few weeks ago–caused by Princess Charlotte’s birth and my reading this book–I watched the BBC/Lifetime William and Kate movie. I even began to live blog it for you guys. But it is unspeakably bad. Let me offer you this bit of real dialogue ripped from the first 90 seconds to prove it:

SCENE: Prince Charles and William walk in front of what’s obviously a university.
Prince Charles:
I can’t believe you’re all grown up. I want you to know I’m very proud of you.
A surprised Prince William: Thanks, Dad.
An overly affected Prince Charles: This is the kind of thing your mother would have wanted for you.
Me, incredulous: What? Like, a college education? 

Then William makes this face:


To recap: movie = bad. This book = really fun. Find yourself a lounge chair in the sun and hop to it.

3. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech A 13-year-old girl’s mother leaves. She’s too young to know exactly the heartache that motivates her mother, but you won’t be. So from the very start, you’ll sympathize with Sal, the girl. You’ll laugh as she tells a story about her friend Phoebe. You’ll get that she’s actually telling more about herself than anyone else. You’ll be thankful for Sal’s grandparents when they take her to Idaho to find her mom. And because you’re older and wiser and know more, when Sal says “I knew” twenty pages from the end of the book, your heart will break.

2. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie I hope I can say someday that this booked changed my life. I wrote about that here.

1. Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill My friend Kristin read this book and wrote a succinct review: Dear god, so depressing. I’m here to tell you she is RIGHT. She usually is. I read this and loved the writing, but thought it was too much of a downer to be a favorite. And then I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And I kept wishing I owned it so I could read a few of the perfect sentences over and over again (“The baby’s eyes were dark, almost black, and when I nursed her in the middle of the night, she’d stare at me with a stunned, shipwrecked look as if my body were the island she’d washed up on.”). It’s the kind of book that’s told in small fragments. On their own, they’re clever. Through the course of the book, the effect gathers steam and the smallest bit of writing can bring tears to your eyes or make you laugh (mostly bring tears to your eyes). I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book where I’ve sunk so deeply into the context of the narrator and felt what I imagine she felt with each thought.

Honorable mentions:

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief You have to read this book about how nutso Scientology is. I read it and was all, Where is the petition I can sign to rid the world of these abusers of humans rights? FOR REAL.

Revolutionary Road Why do I like poignant, depressing books so much?

Lila Because Marilynne Robinson is perfect.

Skin Cleanse I am here to tell you I have had clear skin for three whole weeks because of this book. I’m going to write about it soon because it is to my skin and sanity what a life jacket is to a drowning person. (Maaaaybe overstating things?)

The Forsyte Saga Delicious Brit lit that spans decades, a category that will always be a success with me.

What about you?