Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A few of my favorite things


One of my oldest blogging friends is Melissa from 320 Sycamore. Melissa is one of the kindest persons on the planet, and when she asked if I'd like to join her for the 10th anniversary edition of her Favorite Things party, I jumped at the chance!


While most of us agree that our favorite things aren't things you can buy, it is helpful (and fun) to know what some of our favorite buyable items are, don't you think? Here are some of mine.

This year has included many exciting events for our family—a college graduation for our youngest son, a graduate school commencement for our middle son, a U.S. Navy winging ceremony for our oldest son, and a wedding! Wow. I have to confess that never before have I cared so much about my appearance. But I'm one of those women with hair that really reacts to humidity. So I was thrilled to find this weatherproof humidity resistant finishing spray. It's kind of expensive, but I purchased a can in June and am still using it. It doesn't hold your hair in place, but it protects your hair from the frizzies better than anything I've ever tried. One note: it's very heavily fragranced. The smell dissipates from your hair quickly (I promise), but it kind of hangs in the air where you spray it. So I spray it and then leave the room quickly.

Here's a photo of me with my middle son at his master's degree commencement. Isn't he the cutest? I'm not a midget; he's a giant (6'8" in his sock feet!). And although the day was hot and humid, my hair isn't frizzy!


Of course, it took some doing to get my hair this smooth in the first place. I have really thick hair, and it's just wavy enough to be irritating, if you know what I mean. Not gloriously curly or even chic beach-style wavy, just—blah. So a flat iron is a must-have tool for me, and I've tried them all. Once I even spent over $200 for a fancy salon iron, only to ruin it when I took it to Europe! This year I discovered this flat iron and I couldn't be more pleased. It's less than $40, heats up quickly, retains heat, and it's 1.75 inches wide, which is great if you have longer hair. Highly recommend!
I've finally found a perfume that I love to wear, but it's expensive. The most economical way to buy it is to purchase a large bottle, but then I can't take it with me when I travel. But recently I found this
travel atomizer that is just wonderful. It's a little glass vial inside an aluminum tube. It holds enough for quite a few days' worth of good smells, the perfume is kept fresh inside the glass vial, and the aluminum tube protects glass from getting broken. AND the whole thing is small enough to slip into my purse or into my quart-size plastic bag for going through airport security. It's sold in a package of six, so it's really affordable. Win-win-win!

I hate to admit this, but I've never been able to use headphones. I've tried airbuds (they won't stay in my ears) and expensive Beats headphones (they hurt my ears so badly I can't stand it!). But this year I had the chance to record an audiobook (the audiobook edition of my own book, Mythical Me: Finding Freedom from Constant Comparison). The headphones I wore for three days in the studio never hurt my ears at all! Can you believe that? And it turns out that they're not nearly so expensive as other headphones I've tried. They're called Sennheiser HD280PRO Headphones and they're very comfortable to wear. I know they're large, and honestly I look a little goofy wearing them, but if you've ever struggled to find comfortable headphones, I know you'll appreciate these!


Here I am pointing to my book on the bookshelf at Barnes and Noble. Talk about a surreal experience! I have to admit that Mythical Me is my favorite book this year. If you struggle with constantly comparing yourself to others, then you'll want to check it out. And if you'd just like to read a little more about the book, click here. Or leave a comment and I can email you the first chapter to read to see if you're interested!


Around the house, I can honestly say my favorite things lately are light fixtures! Does that sound silly? Well, we moved into this house in 2005, and some of our light fixtures had become pretty dated. So we got a new chandelier for the dining room, new lanterns for over the kitchen island, and a new hanging fixture for over the kitchen table. You can see the complete kitchen remodel here, and just look at these gorgeous lanterns! All my new fixtures came from Wayfair, and I can't say enough about their excellent prices and their amazing customer service.


I love kitchen gadgets, of course, and one that we use every single day is this Nespresso milk frother. We also have a Nespresso original line espresso maker, and we love it, but the most important part of making specialty drinks is frothing the milk. We've tried other machines, and nothing has ever come close to the quality of this frother. It's not just for coffee, either—I make myself chai lattes by brewing an extra-strong cup of chai and adding milk prepared in this frother. It's just amazing! While this frother is a bit of a splurge, we use it multiple times every single day and it's still as good as new.


Another gadget I find absolutely essential is at the opposite end of the spectrum—it's inexpensive and not very fancy! My oldest son lived in East Asia for a year, and when he came home he told me flatly that I had to get a rice cooker. As you can see, it's not very fancy, but it cooks rice to perfection with almost no effort. I don't usually keep "unitaskers," as Alton Brown calls them, but this one has become essential for us. Believe it or not, when we get Chinese take-out now, we prefer to cook our own rice in this rice cooker!


One last favorite thing comes from the kitchen of our little place in the mountains. That kitchen has a single-bowl black sink. It's a big, beautiful sink, but honestly I find single-bowl sinks to be not very practical. If you run a sink full of dishwater, where are you supposed to rinse the dishes? The answer, of course, is to use a dishpan, but I didn't want to put an ugly dishpan in my pretty sink. The solution I found is this cool gray dishpan and drainer made by Joseph Joseph.

This dishpan includes a drain hole and a tight-fitting plug and a drying rack that lifts out of the dishpan. Look how nice and neat it looks in my black sink:


Honestly, sometimes the littlest things end up being some of my favorites!

Hope you've enjoyed this little glimpse into my everyday life this year. Now you'll want to hop right back to 320 Sycamore, where Melissa's amazing sister-in-law Christine will be sharing some of her favorites. Or you can see everyone included in this year's line-up here. Thanks so much to Melissa for including me!

Now tell me: what are some of your favorite things?


*This post contains affiliate links.
If you make a purchase after clicking on these links, 
I will earn a small commission. 
Your price will not be affected in any way.
And of course all opinions are my own.*

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Grace at Home No. 357


Hello, friends! Can you believe that we're well into November already? Since I live in the South, November is one of my favorite months of the year. Temperatures have finally fallen so that I can wear sweaters (yay!), Thanksgiving is approaching, and the Christmas frenzy hasn't kicked into full gear yet.

I'm glad you've taken a moment of your busy day to visit the Grace at Home party, where we celebrate all the ways we make our homes places of grace. Here are some links from last week's party I thought you might enjoy.

If you've ever wanted a beautiful cornucopia for your Thanksgiving table, you'll love this handmade creation from Jennifer at The Everyday Farmhouse.


If you have some velvet pumpkins you've been using in your Fall decor, you can use them now to create a beautiful Thanksgiving centerpiece. Julie at My Wee Abode shows you how.


I don't like to start decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving, but it is nice to get a head start on Christmas crafts. I love this plaid plates made by Stephanie from The Style Safari--a simple DIY!


As joyful as the upcoming holidays are, they are also times that add to the burdens of persons suffering with depression. Dr. Michelle Bengtson from Hope Prevails offers practical advice about what NOT to say to someone who is depressed.


Tiffiney from Welcome Home Ministries is doing a series called "Because of Jesus, my home is. . . ." Check out this post: Because of Jesus, my home is welcoming (with an occasional hissy fit).


Thank you to everyone who joined last week's party! Now for this week's link-up. Here at the Grace at Home party, I invite you to link posts about
  • DIY projects
  • decorating
  • recipes
  • hospitality
  • homemaking tips
  • parenting
  • marriage
  • faith
  • self-care
  • soul care
Whatever you do to make your home a place of grace, I'd like to hear about it.  Here's what I ask of you.  Please include the permalink to your post, not your blog's home page.  Please let people know that you've linked up.  No more than three posts per person, please.  Note that if you link a post here, you are giving me permission to share your post, including a photo.  And visit at least one of the other party participants--that's what really makes it a party!
You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter




Monday, November 4, 2019

Time for a change


When I was in college, I used to LOVE the weekend when we changed from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time. Back then, it seemed to me that I was gaining an extra hour of sleep. What could be the downside of that?



Ha. Ha. Ha.

That picture flew out of my head as soon as I adopted a puppy. Try telling a little doggie that he doesn't need to get up because it's actually only 5:00 A.M., not 6:00.

And it got worse when I had children, of course. Kids' internal clocks are very trustworthy, and they don't adjust to time changes very well.

I will admit that I was grateful this morning that I didn't have to get out of bed in the dark. But I'm going to be a little grumpy when the sun sets tonight at 5:17 P.M.

But I'm grateful that the weather here has finally turned fallish, so when we're gathered around this evening at least we can burn a fire in the fireplace. I'm trying to think of these autumnal evenings as cozy.

How do you feel about the time change? Are you glad to "fall back"? Have any tricks for adapting to the time change? I'd love to hear!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Grace at Home No. 356


Happy Halloween!

I can hardly believe that today is the last day of October--or that the World Series is over and the Nationals won! Congratulations if you're a Nationals fan. Isn't it exciting when a team that's never won a championship finally prevails?

I'm so glad you're here for the Grace at Home party, where we celebrate all the ways we make our homes places of grace. Here are some highlights from last week's party.

Thanksgiving is coming soon! Are you hosting Thanksgiving dinner? If you are, you'll be glad to see these ideas for Thanksgiving table settings from Carol at Bluesky at Home.


I know that lots of people are ready to get right into Christmas decorating, but I like to savor Autumn and I especially like to keep things looking fallish through Thanksgiving. So I was glad to see this post from Stacey at Ordinary Days showing how she created beautiful arrangements from silk flowers.


Have you ever wanted to paint a bathroom vanity but were a little unsure about how it would work? Shelley from Calypso in the Country shares lots of tips.


Need a cute centerpiece idea? Check out these tissue paper flowers from Linda at It All Started with Paint. She shares her simple method for creating them.


As we're about to move into this season where we're surrounded by abundant food, some of us like to adopt leaner eating habits in preparation. Do you ever do this? Ani from All That Life Stuff has been following a Weight Watchers plan, and she's discovered a way to make bagels that have only two Weight Watchers points. Sounds like a winner to me!


Last but not least, Michele Morin from Living Our Days offers wonderful advice for breaking free from comparison.

Thank you to everyone who joined last week's party! Now for this week's link-up. Here at the Grace at Home party, I invite you to link posts about
  • DIY projects
  • decorating
  • recipes
  • hospitality
  • homemaking tips
  • parenting
  • marriage
  • faith
  • self-care
  • soul care
Whatever you do to make your home a place of grace, I'd like to hear about it.  Here's what I ask of you.  Please include the permalink to your post, not your blog's home page.  Please let people know that you've linked up.  No more than three posts per person, please.  Note that if you link a post here, you are giving me permission to share your post, including a photo.  And visit at least one of the other party participants--that's what really makes it a party!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Grace at Home at a very special time


Hello, friends! I'm so glad you're here!

People ask me sometimes why I host this party. For awhile, link parties were a big deal for bloggers, but in recent months many of them have faded away. So why would I continue this one?

Here's the reason: this is a place to celebrate not just my own work, but the work of others. Since its beginning many years go, this blog has been about imparting grace to others. I like to share words of grace and the ways I try to make my home a place of grace. But this party is a place to showcase the good work that other people are doing.

If we're all trying, each of us in our own ways, to make our homes and our communities beautiful and grace-filled, we can have a big impact! And that's worth celebrating.

This week I am especially grateful to be here, celebrating with you, because this week my book from InterVarsity Press was released. Mythical Me: Finding Freedom from Constant Comparison is now out in the world. I'd love for you to read more about it and celebrate with me!


Now, here are some highlights from last week's party I thought you'd enjoy.

Want to see what can be accomplished for just a little money? Check out this boys' bathroom remodel from Shelley at Calypso in the Country. You must click over and see the before photo!


Want more bathroom inspiration? Look how Andrea at Living on Cloud Nine used tile to bring some zing to her master bath.


Planning to host a Fall dinner party, or looking forward to Thanksgiving? You'll be so glad to get these free printable place cards from Julie at My Wee Abode. (You can customize the cards with names or print them with inspirational words like this one.)


Need a new pumpkin recipe (of course you do!)? You'll be glad to get this Pumpkin Pie Bar recipe from Erin at Delightful E Made.


If you're married and in need of some inspiration, you should check out this post from Angie at Keeping the Tie that Binds. 


Thank you to everyone who joined last week's party! Now for this week's link-up. Here at the Grace at Home party, I invite you to link posts about
  • DIY projects
  • decorating
  • recipes
  • hospitality
  • homemaking tips
  • parenting
  • marriage
  • faith
  • self-care
  • soul care
Whatever you do to make your home a place of grace, I'd like to hear about it.  Here's what I ask of you.  Please include the permalink to your post, not your blog's home page.  Please let people know that you've linked up.  No more than three posts per person, please.  Note that if you link a post here, you are giving me permission to share your post, including a photo.  And visit at least one of the other party participants--that's what really makes it a party!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Life beyond comparison


Every now and then, life brings you a surreal experience. Know what I mean?

I had one of those last weekend. Take a look at this:

photo from Elizabeth Lauren

You might recognize some of these women. From left to right, they are

Sarah Mae
Niki Hardy
Ruth Chou Simons
Maria Furlough
Hayley Morgan
Emily P. Freeman
Myquillyn Smith
Tsh Oxenreider
Kennesha Poe-Buycks
Jess Connelly
Anne Bogel

And there I am, right in the middle of these beauties. One of the authors at The Nest Fest.

A couple of times this weekend I found myself singing that old song from Sesame Street: "One of these things is not like the others. . . "

But only for a moment.

Because, y'all, here's the thing. I've spent a lifetime comparing myself to other people, always coming up short, and when I consider both the immense talent AND the immense popularity of these women, I could easily get stuck with comparing myself to them. But I've learned a better way to approach moments like these, as well as the run-of-the-mill moments of every day.

Comparison puts you on one side of the scale and another person on the other side of the scale. By its very nature, comparison isolates you from others.

And just look what I would have missed if I've given in to that. I wouldn't be standing in this collection of lovely women, smiling for the camera, glad to be part of this group.

To be clear: I'm not usually part of a group of people quite this famous. Sure, I could give myself a pass if I felt a little intimidated by this much girl power. But what's good and right for the small moments of my life is good and right for the big moments, too.

We were meant to be together. We were created in the image of a God who is relationship in his very being (ever think about that?).

We were created for relationship because we were created by relationship.

Want to know how I got invited to be one of the authors at The Nest Fest this year? Here's why:


Back in 2009, before Myquillyn was the famous author of best-selling books, I connected with her. Her blog, Nesting Place, meant a lot to me, so I reached out to her. We've been friends now for 10 years. And here's the thing: connection trumps comparison.

Finding my way out of the comparison trap took me a long time. In fact, that journey is the subject of a book I've written for InterVarsity Press. Mythical Me: Finding Freedom from Constant Comparison is now available for purchase. I'm excited to share that story with you, and I hope you'll take a look at it.

Here's what I know: You're important. You matter. YOU BELONG. This world would be so much poorer a place without you in it.

Do you know that in your bones? If not, let me say it again, louder this time:

THIS WORLD WOULD BE SO MUCH POORER A PLACE WITHOUT YOU IN IT.

Much love to you today.

Less without you,

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Grace at Home No. 354


As I'm writing this, the temperature here in Durham, North Carolina is in the low 60's. I said last week that Autumn had finally arrived, and now I actually believe it.

I'm so glad you're here for the Grace at Home party, and I hope that you're experiencing beautiful Fall temperatures, too. Grace at Home is a weekly party where we celebrate all the ways we make our homes places of grace.

Here are some links from last week's party I thought you might enjoy.

If you're still on the hunt for some Autumn decor inspiration, check out the gorgeous muted colors at Jamie's house at So Much Better with Age.


If you have small children who are eagerly awaiting trick-or-treating, you'll love this Halloween countdown calendar from Chas at Chas' Crazy Creations.


On a practical note, Salvage Sister and Mister eshow us how to make wool dryer balls. I want to make some of these for myself!
Looking for a yummy new treat? Check out these Praline Brownies from Marieliz at Cocina de Panay in Singapura.


Are you or is someone you love struggling with fear? If so, you'll be grateful for these words from Dr. Michelle Bengtson: Five Truths to Defeat Fear. So good!


As for me, I dig into the journey of finding freedom from comparison. I'd love to know what you think!

Thank you to everyone who joined last week's party! Now for this week's link-up. Here at the Grace at Home party, I invite you to link posts about
  • DIY projects
  • decorating
  • recipes
  • hospitality
  • homemaking tips
  • parenting
  • marriage
  • faith
  • self-care
  • soul care
Whatever you do to make your home a place of grace, I'd like to hear about it.  Here's what I ask of you.  Please include the permalink to your post, not your blog's home page.  Please let people know that you've linked up.  No more than three posts per person, please.  Note that if you link a post here, you are giving me permission to share your post, including a photo.  And visit at least one of the other party participants--that's what really makes it a party!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Looking for Freedom from Comparison


I've lost count of how many years I've struggled with constantly comparing myself with other people. I'm not certain about this—I'd have to do a thorough comparison to be positive—but I'm pretty sure that I've contended with comparison more than any other woman in North America, perhaps the world.

Maybe I could be the winner of a comparison contest. Maybe this is the one way I could win at the comparison game.

Or maybe not.


For quite awhile now, I've known that constantly comparing myself with others is not a good idea. So I've spent a lot of time looking for wisdom about how to overcome the problem. I've found that well-meaning teachers sometimes addressed the topic, but their advice usually ran along these lines:

"You shouldn't compare yourself to others, for you never know the truth about anyone other than yourself."

"You can't compare yourself to anyone else, for you are one of a kind."

"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."

"You are God's creation, and God made you incomparable."

"People are like snowflakes; no two are exactly alike. So you can't compare yourself to anyone else!"

All this advise might be wise and true, I know. Sometimes it encouraged me; other times it just irritated me.

The worst part was that it didn't help.

I wanted to stop comparing myself to others, but I couldn't break free from admiring one person's achievements, someone else's personality, another's skills, yet another's relationships. And don't get me started on how I looked at other people's appearances.

Despite my best efforts, I couldn't heed the advice I heard. I was unable to live up to even one of those catchy slogans. I was haunted by the admirable attributes of other people, certain that I could never measure up. No matter how well-intentioned the teaching or pithy the advice, I found that most of didn't help me change my thoughts, feelings, or actions. I might listen to a speech or read an article and feel inspired, but in no time I'd slip right back into my old habit of constant comparison.


It was as if I was lost in a maze or stuck in a steel trap of comparison. The more I struggled to free myself, the tighter the jaws of the trap clenched.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that, by the grace of God and the help of a lot of His people, I've learned that there is a way to break free.

But it's not an easy way. There's no instant cure, at least not that I've found. No catchy slogan. No quick fix.

But there is a way, I believe, and I've written a book about it. Mythical Me: Finding Freedom from Constant Comparison. It releases on Tuesday, October 22. You can read all about it here.

But you know what? Of all the ways that I've been tempted to compare myself with others, perhaps none is so great as the temptation to compare myself with other writers. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen this photo of me with my friend Gem Fadling, who released a book from the same publisher (InterVarsity Press) just last month.


For instance, if I let myself, I can get completely wrapped up in the fact that Gem's book is a beautiful hardcover edition, while mine is a lowly paperback. And that's just the first of a thousand comparisons I could make.

The irony is not lost on me that I've written a book about finding freedom from comparison and in so doing have gained a new way to compare myself to others. 

Here's something I've learned: the temptation to compare will never be gone. But I don't have to fall into the trap. I can choose to embrace the opportunity for community rather than give into the isolation that comparison brings.

God, who is a relationship in His own being, designed His image-bearers for relationship. We were designed for relationship because we were designed by relationship. 


I believe that no matter what we're doing—writing a book, practicing a profession, keeping a home, rearing our children, whatever—the cure for comparison is community. There is a way out of the comparison trap—and it leads into the loving heart of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Do you ever find yourself stuck in the trap of comparison? I'd love to hear about it!