Bet you can’t not move!

I saw this video linked on A Holy Experience at Easter. Try as might to just listen and move on, I had bought the song on iTunes by the end of the day. I couldn’t listen to it without wanting to sing and dance! Music speaks to my soul in ways few other things do. My kids have fallen in love with it too. We get in the car, and they say, “Mom, can you play that song?”

Take a few minutes to watch this JOY. I bet you can’t do it without moving or wanting to sing out loud!

C.S. Lewis–A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet

I have always been a C.S. Lewis fan. I love his fiction. I love his apologetics. And I am amazed both accounts of genius came from the same mind. So, as a fan, I was really looking forward to reading a biography by such a heavy-weight academic as Alister McGrath.C.S. Lewis--A Life

It did not disappoint.

First, it’s a very academic accounting. It’s exhaustive in detail and explanation. McGrath not only tells you Lewis was born in Ireland, he tells you the implication of being a Protestant in Ireland just before the split of the country. And he explains the implications of being an Irishman not required to fight in the Great War but feeling compelled. This is a biography not only of facts but of academic implications based on extensive research.

There were many aspects of Lewis’ life I had been familiar with before. But I was also introduced to new ideas and conclusions. For instance, for all his great apologetics, it was actually experience that converted Lewis to Christianity. As a young child, he had the sense to recognize the feeling of joy and wonder from where it come. That desire to understand joy ultimately led him through atheism to a belief in biblical Christianity.

As well, it appears his writing of apologetics waned after World War II, in large part to his reasoning being challenged in the setting of an academic social club at Oxford. After that night, it is inferred, he lost his confidence in being an apologetics leader of the era. It was never his goal to write apologetics. He had just kind of gotten sucked into it. So it was also easy for him to leave.

Lewis read veraciously as a child. The affects of which are numerous, but one of which was the creation of Narnia. McGrath goes into great detail regarding Lewis’ relationship with Tolkien and their distancing in later years. One of the most fascinating aspects of the book to me was the comparison and differentiation between the development and writing of The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings.

Know this is an academic book, but if you are a Lewis fan, it is a must-read. McGrath does a really great job. Click on the photo of the book above to be taken to Amazon for your own copy. Buy it. Read it. Share it with someone else.

My Dirty Little Secret

Can I tell you a secret?

At heart, I’m an urbanite.

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I didn’t know this about myself until we moved to Italy. We lived right on the corner of two major streets. I went to sleep every night with the not-so-quiet hum of Italian drivers circling the roundabout in front of our bedroom window. I loved it.

I didn’t realize quite how much I loved it until we moved back to suburbia in Florida. No more walking to get my fruit and veggies. We drive the kids to school now. I can walk around my whole block and not see one person. There is an energy I lived on that is gone now. I’ll be honest, I need it back. I’ll spare you the details, but after doing several personality and strengths-finding type assessments, I’ve learned that I NEED the urban. I was made for it, quite frankly.

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When I first realized this, a whole heck of a lot made sense. I gained energy from those around me, so be surrounded by silence and empty streets sucked energy. But I was also a little bitter. We had just bought a house in the land of suburbia. No plans to change our residence any time soon. . . . so was I destined to have the energy sucked out of me forever?

My sweet husband came up with a practical solution. I need to travel to New York City on a regular basis (at least annually).

This was actually a huge step in moving out of depression. Depression is a sucking of all energy until there is just none left to live productively on. I’ve learned that when a lot is being drained through the sieve of my emotional tank, I have to work hard to make extra big refills. Walking the streets of NYC and coming alive with its energy was a huge refill.

photo (7)I went for the first time last Fall, and stayed at this absolutely delightful brownstone on the West Side, two blocks from Central Park. It is a house specifically for pastors and missionaries traveling through the city. As such, rooms are rock-bottom rates. They aren’t anything fancy, but it’s clean, quiet, comfortable and in a perfect location. Oh, and the perfect price.

I was in the city for two and a half days. I walked and walked and walked. I felt cool air blowing on my cheeks. I sat in Starbucks and watched people. I ate incredible ethnic food. I stopped in countless unique shops and bought nothing. I rode every method of public transportation possible. It was glorious!! I came home full. So very full.

One day, I hope the Lord takes us back to the middle of a city. I’m not even that particular which one. I know it will be a long time until that happens. So I work hard to experience the urban in my surburbia. I shop downtown at a local market where people recognize me. I look people in the eye and wonder about their lives. We made the decision to enroll Hannah in a much more ethnically and social diverse Middle School–not for my benefit but it’s diversity was a definite value in the decision. I am working hard to have my life connect with the lives of as many as possible. And I’m planning my next trip to New York. Hopefully next time Cody will come with me.

There you have it, my dirty little secret. I’m an urbanite living in a suburban world.

Ravioli Salad with Tomatos and Basil

A few of you might have checked out a recipe website I had when we lived in Italy. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, do I have a treat for you! Over the course of time, I hope to post some of my very favorite recipes here at A Crazy Beautiful Life.

Today is the perfect Italian summer salad. As long as you have some good tomatoes, you can not mess this up. Another perk is that it is quick. It is a glorious combination of flavors and textures.

Ravioli Salad with Tomatoes and Basil

1 pound (500g) fresh ravioli (or tortellini)
1 pkg. cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 small jar artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1/2 C. of your favorite olive (which you’ll notice I omitted)
3 T. capers, rinsed
1/4 C. olive oil
lots of basil, torn (a couple of handfuls)
red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Put tomatoes and artichokes into a large bowl. Add the basil, olives, capers and oil. Toss well. Cook the pasta according to package directions and drain. Immediately add to the bowl and toss gently with a spatula. Add salt, pepper and vinegar to taste.

Experiencing “Normal”

Anyone know what normal is? To me, it has seemed illusive for years, and yet, so longed for. . .

This weekend, I think Cody and I glimpsed it. We celebrated his birthday, and it felt so normal, I hardly knew what to do with myself.

As I mentioned last week, we are huge fans of the show Duck Dynasty. About a month ago, I heard that the brothers from the show were going to be in Orlando at a charity event held by golfer Bubba Watson (2012 winner of The Masters). And the best part was that the event was going to be held on Cody’s birthday. How could this not be God’s will for our lives?

So, on Friday, we headed down to Downtown Disney and the House of Blues. The House of Blues! How hip does that sound!?!

This was a great event. Bubba Watson loves Jesus, and he wants to use the platform he has for God’s glory. He started the whole night out by praying. Then about eight musical artists performed. A couple were country but the rest were hip-hop and rap. All were Christian artists. This was the point in the evening when we didn’t feel so hip. . . not the music I would listen to at home. 🙂

After three hours of music we didn’t exactly understand, Bubba and three guys from Duck Dynasty came on stage for a Q&A.  It was awesome!

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These guys were exactly like they are on the show. They don’t take themselves very seriously, and they really don’t care if people agree with them. They love Jesus, and they love hunting. That’s really what life boils down to for them. And about five minutes into their time onstage, Jase said, “I never leave home without three things: my wife, my duck calls and the Scripture.” For the next ten minutes, he gave one of the best gospel presentations I’ve ever heard. How refreshing it was to hear a “celebrity” talk about how Jesus is the most important thing in his life and not sound cheesy.

Bubba Watson’s story was great too. He talked about how he loves golf, but he doesn’t let it dictate his life. His faith and his family are his priority. He admitted he knew he would never win another Masters because he doesn’t live his life that seriously. More than anything else, he just wants to honor God. Part of the money this event was raising money for was a children’s hospital in Africa he and his wife had become connected to through a missionary. The rest of the money is going to help foster kids in the Central Florida area. The Watson’s adopted their son a week before he won The Master’s, and they are passionate about supporting the system.

And if that wasn’t enough, Cody’s cousin took us to see Star Trek on Saturday night. I can’t tell you the last time we went to see a movie on a Saturday night, let alone on opening weekend! It all just felt so normal.

But then, what is normal? I can’t imagine doing this weekend again. . . we were exhausted! It was fun for a couple of nights, but we couldn’t keep up with it. My normal is bed by 9:30, family movie night with homemade pizza and the cheesy Christian radio station playing in the car because it’s “safe for the little ears.” In light of the disaster so many are living through in Oklahoma and Texas, I couldn’t be more thankful for my normal. Normal is the day-to-day. My normal is mine. Your normal is yours. Comparison only leads to discontentment.

Comparison only leads to discontentment.

What a lesson to learn. Today I am practicing. I am practicing the contentment of my normal.


Remember my debate on milk paint versus chalk paint?

I went with the milk paint, solely based on the fact that it was overall cheaper. I am *giddy* with the results! It is exactly what I wanted, and it was so amazingly easy.

Now, regretfully, I don’t have a good “before” picture. I asked my sweet husband if he would help me take the doors off, and he was so quick to get to it that I couldn’t get a picture taken before he had it done. So you’ll have to imagine the pieces put together in all their countryness.

The doors

The doorless cabinet pre-painting

God bless these bronze hardware, but I couldn’t wait to chuck them!

I watched the tutorial on using milk paint on the Miss Mustard Seed website. I’m so glad I did, as milk paint is so very different than latex. Not only do you mix it from powder, but it’s incredibly thin. It goes on like a stain but works more like paint. Watching the tutorial helped me know what was normal. Milk paint is so forgiving. I did absolutely no prep work, it was a little lumpy when I applied it, and I chipped more paint when I applied the wax. The result? Perfection.

The beautiful, perfect, finished project

Isn’t it beautiful?!?!?! I can’t believe I did this and in under 3 hours total. I can’t wait to do it again!

Yes, this hardware is much, much better.

Freshly painted, looking 50 years old. Love it!

Milk paint is awesome in how it antiques itself. Depending on the gloss of the previous finish, it chips as it dries. My cabinet wasn’t very glossy, so I aided the process just a tiny bit with a putty knife. It looks like it’s been sitting in someone’s barn for 50 years, but the finish is smooth and cured.

I’ll admit, I drug my feet in starting this project because I feared the effort that would go into making it look like I had it pictured in my head. It turned out to be so easy, I am eyeing my next project!

Crazy Funny

A funny thing happened about a month ago.

Cody and I were having a “discussion” (you know how those go. . . ), and I was seeking distraction in cable TV, something I rarely do. I stumbled upon this show I had seen my friends commenting about on Facebook. Duck Dynasty. I paused a minute to see what the fuss was about,  and two hours later, I was still laughing.

This show is crazy funny. Crazy. Funny.

The problem is, every time I try to tell someone about it, I end up sounding like the biggest dork.


So, I’m going to let the show describe itself.

The show features a Louisiana bayou family living the American dream as they operate a thriving business while staying true to their family values and lifestyle. Since the show’s premiere, the Robertsons have been busy being America’s favorite big, bearded, camo-clad family. Despite their modest lifestyle and homes in the backwoods, this close-knit family has made a fortune on duck calls by turning a backyard business into a multi-million dollar sporting empire. But for Willie Robertson, the company’s CEO, running a family operation is tough when all your employees live one distraction at a time and find any excuse to leave the warehouse. They may be living the rags-to-riches American dream, but they’re just as busy staying true to their rugged outdoorsman lifestyle and southern roots. Of course, in this household, even the most ordinary family affair is met with a special Robertson twist of downhome practicality and witty sense of humor. Day to day life in the bayou may be mundane for some, but for the Robertsons, every day brings a new adventure. (

I am telling you, I almost passed out from laughing so hard during the episode when Si gets a new hunting dog. I feel like Phil, Miss Kay, Willie and Jace are part of our own family now.

That “discussion” Cody and I were having. . . it all faded into the past when he came downstairs and found he couldn’t pull himself away from the TV either. There is nothing like laughter to heal some surface wounds.

It’s on A&E, and there are marathons every Sunday night. You have to check this show out.

Yours for the love of the Duck Commander. . .


I love words. And thus, I love reading. Always have. My one educational goal for my kiddos is that they develop a love for reading. I’m not sure you can truly “develop” a love for reading in a kiddo, but I’m trying my best. I made it my goal to never say no when my kids ask me to buy a book. As our oldest beauty has begun to devour books, I’ve had to temper my resolve in this, lest we go broke, but it’s a value all our kids know we hold.

I have discovered so much beauty through the power of words. All of us have. So, I wanted to dedicate part of this little blog to the books hitting my nightstand. Or my hubby’s. We share this love for books.

I just finished a hefty biography on Julia Child that I was so sad to finally turn the last page on.

Dearie by Bob Spitz

In addition to words, I also have a thing for cooking. Our years overseas introduced me to the beauty of simplicity on a plate and the sheer pleasure that can be discovered by sharing the experience of an exquisite meal. As my interest in cooking grew, so did my interest in Julia Child’s story. She discovered the joys of food while overseas, as well. I have read several biographical books on Julia before, but all were snapshots of different times in her life. This is an extensive history of her entire life.

Academic at times, my interest in the subject kept me engaged through every one of the 576 pages. I was most fascinated to see how long Julia wandered before she found her passion. She held countless, unfulfilling jobs before having the meal that changed her life in her forties. I was also deeply inspired by the commitment she had and the joy she found in her marriage. Paul Child was a difficult man (quirky?) by all accounts. Yet, she fell in love and nurtured all the quirkiness. When others were completely put out with her husband, she lavished acceptance on him. They went everywhere together. Even into Paul’s 80’s, after a personality-changing stroke, she refused to travel without him.

Julia lived to the ripe old age of 93, and saw the food culture revolutionized in America. I had never thought of food trends in culture before this book, and it was fascinating to see the development.

I wouldn’t recommend this book to everyone. But if you’re a foodie at all, you will love the history. The insights into public television, on-air personality, cooking education and American food culture are fascinating.

Welcome to My Crazy

I’m going to just jump in and let you know about part of the crazy in my life I am slowly learning to embrace. Please be gentle with me.

This pic was taken on our anniversary trip to St. Augustine last Fall. I look so happy. It really was a delightful trip. But that face doesn’t tell the whole story.

For the past 18 months, I have been battling through depression. Even this day had a heaviness on it.

When we found out we were moving back to the States, it was like the rug was pulled out from under me. I knew it was the right decision, but I wanted the ” right” decision to be different. I wanted to stay in the country, the city, the apartment that had brought me so much life. I couldn’t fathom leaving–it was like someone was removing my skin.

When we made the decision to return, we had only ten weeks to pack up our lives. I don’t do well under stress. And I’m a planner. We had not been planning on making an international move at a moment’s notice. It was all just too much for me. The stress was incredible. But it was even harder emotionally.

By the time the day arrived for us to finally fly home, I was a mess. I literally had to force myself to put one foot in front of the other to get on a plane that would take me away from the place my heart was firmly planted. It was hard for our kids too–on the airplane Gavin and I sat next to each other and just cried and cried.

We arrived in Orlando, and I wanted to be anywhere else. Knowing we were in the right place didn’t make the pain and hurt of leaving any less. I found myself unable to do almost anything. I wanted to hide in my bed all day. The kids wanted to go to Disney, I couldn’t fathom ever having the energy to take them. I found joy in nothing I had usually loved. I was overwhelmed with everything. Even deciding what cereal to have in the morning seemed to send me to tears.

The crazy thing about depression is that as much as you need help, the mere energy needed to pursue it seems beyond grasp. I couldn’t even make the phone call to get a doctor’s appointment. All I could do was ask Cody to please help me to get help. He picked up the phone, he drove me to the doctor, he filled my prescription.

Yes, I was a missionary taking an anti-depressant. And I’m not the only one.

I know there are those reading this now that can intimately relate. I know there are those who are experiencing the same overwhelming feeling of not being able to fathom how to make it through the next hour.

I want to share my journey so you know you aren’t alone. You aren’t the only one. Putting my journey into words will be an ongoing topic. My desire is they bring the comfort of understanding.

Thanks for listening today.

Milk or Chalk?

After we had been back in the States for a while, we knew God was calling us to plant in Orlando. We were reluctant to say the least. Orlando? We began house hunting at the very bottom of the housing-bust. We were shocked by how cheap housing prices were, especially knowing what some co-workers had paid three years ago. Seems dreamy, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, we weren’t the only ones looking to buy a house. Because the market was so great, investors were sweeping into the area in droves. We made offers on NINE different homes and were outbid on all of them.

When we found a new home being built and discovered we could simply tell them we wanted the house, instead of going into a bidding war, we took it. In many ways, it is perfect for our family. Lots of room to grow, space in the rooms we value most, a kitchen that feels beyond extravagant. I am incredibly thankful. But there is definitely something missing. The house just doesn’t feel like. . .us. Part of it is the housing style in Florida. We’re just not Floridians. Part of it is that we doubled the square footage we had been living in for the past four years. We have way more space than we have things to fill it with.

As has been the case since we got married, we started inheriting pieces to fill our home. My parents downsizing into their retirement came at a convenient time! We were careful with what we took, but there was one piece we needed more than we loved. My parents had it built to put by the front door to store our book bags and coats from school. We desperately needed the same type of storage. Unfortunately, my mom had been in a huge “country” phase when the piece was built, which is definitely not my style.

I have been itching to refurbish it since it arrived by my front door. On a recent trip to NYC, my friend Sharon told me about the new rage in furniture refurbishment–milk paint and chalk paint. Paints that instantly make furniture look shabby chic.

Milk Paint

Chalk Paint

My friend couldn’t say enough about these paints. Milk paint is VOC free. Chalk paint is virtually so. They require no priming and only look better with wear. My cabinet is calling! But what do I go with? Milk or chalk? And where the heck do I find these magic makeover products?

Apparently, Miss Mustard Seed is the go-to gal for milk paint. Her blog is delightful in every way. She markets her own line of milk paint, and I’m trying to track down a local distributor. Annie Sloan seems to be the chalk paint expert. Chalk paint has been around a little longer, so it’s a little more distributed. None the less, I can’t get it at Home Depot.

Stay tuned for the great refurbishment journey! I am a reluctant DIYer. I know I can do it, but I love closure so much, I can’t seem to get started. Three little ones will definitely make this a multi-day project. 🙂 My desire for change is weighing heavier than my need for closure though. Oh, it’s going to look so cool!