Moving on...

I created this blog in September 2005 in Dallas, TX at a time when I needed to find my voice. I remember typing the first words as a young woman in the twinkle-lit loft of my condo. At first, it was simply an outlet to stay connected to friends near and far and share the tidbits of my newly-married life. Soon, it became so much more...a place for me to share my photography and art, regularly practice gratefulness, and process the way my life was moving to a simpler one day by day.

When we uprooted our lives from Dallas to Nashville in the fall of 2015, I had captured 10 years of our lives in words, photos, memories, details. This blog is a treasure, a time capsule of a very important decade of my life where we were young and married, owned our own businesses, and had two children. 

Now, after a long hiatus, I know it's time to close the door on Dreams of Simple Life and start fresh on my new website.

Here's a list of my favorite things I've written here over the years. Enjoy!

New Jersey spring...

My dad sent these photos of the first day of spring in my New Jersey hometown.  Wow!  Not very springy.  They've gotten pummeled with snow this winter, and mom says they were just seeing the grass for the first time before this storm hit.   Look at the snow on those gorgeous evergreen trees.  Still, I'd choose our Texas spring over this, for sure!

Jersey summer: here we go again...

On Friday morning, we head to New Jersey for almost the entire month of August.  Last year, I wasn't sure if it would be our last time to be able to do this, but we're blessed with the chance to embark on the journey again this year.  My husband has been working overtime at two jobs for awhile, and it's time for him to have a real break.  Luci Belle wakes up in the morning and after every nap asking, "Is it time to go to Mimi's house today?!"  We cannot wait to swim, swim, swim at the Madison Pool, visit the farmer's markets and drive through nearby towns in the countryside.  This year, Steven and I will also get an entire day in NYC all by ourselves which hasn't happened in years.  And our family of three will venture to the Hudson River Valley for a long weekend to stay at a private home in the woods.

On that note, I do have to be completely honest about something...I've had to face some ugly feelings about my body this summer, about how different it is already.  I feel so much bigger at this stage of pregnancy than I was last time.  I fear what people will think of me when they see how much my body has changed.  Blech.  It's a daily struggle to remind myself that the second pregnancy is different, and who cares what size I am because my most important job is growing a healthy baby.  And remember when I was so sick that I couldn't even leave the house for 2 months? 

So as I embark on many days ahead of squeezing into my maternity swimsuit, I need to state clearly in writing that I am not going to miss out on the best parts of summer.  These words serve as a great reminder...

"I'm going to live in the body God made me, not because it's perfect but because it's mine.  And I'm going to be thankful for health and for the ability to run and move and dance and swim.

And this is what I'm not going to do: I'm not going to hide.  I'm not going to bow out of things I love to do because I'm afraid people won't love me when they see my underbutt.

This is the promise I'm making: this summer, I'm not going to be ashamed of my body.  Or at the very least, I'm not going to let a lifetime of shame about my body get in the way of living in a rich, wild, grateful, wide-open way." ~ Shauna Niequist, Bread & Wine

Truthfully, I'm disappointed that I still feel shame about my body, especially while pregnant.  And it's got to stop.  Now.  There's a whole bunch of summer left, and I'm going to make the most of it.

Here are a few of my favorite moments from last summer in New Jersey...

This crazy brood. (30 days of thankfulness - day 5)

Thankful today for my cousins back in New Jersey, a hilarious and crazy brood that I'm blessed to call "family."

They're still without power, 7 days and counting.  And if I know them well, they're probably helping everyone around them that they can.

Not pictured: Cousin Brian who was a Barney-loving toddler when I babysat him for an entire summer during college.  Now he's studying abroad in Australia, swimming with sharks.  Time flies.

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During the month of November, I'm practicing "30 days of thankfulness" - will you join me?  Use your blog, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to voice your thankfulness for something every day in November.  My hope is that this daily routine will create in me a heart of thankfulness and gratitude, no matter the day or month or situation.

My mommy. (30 days of thankfulness - day 4)

My beautiful mom had another birthday on November 1st.  How very thankful I am for her life which formed mine, which has nurtured me every day since I was born.  She's the one who taught me to swerve to the shoulder on a road trip whenever I saw a beautiful photo opportunity.  She's the one who sacrificed time and money to take me around the world when I was young, so I could experience other cultures and learn to love all different kinds of people.  She's the one who created a warm home for us, one where laughter and creativity and God's love were always present.  She's one daring woman, who writes her own raps and performs them in groups of strangers without hesitation.

She's not perfect, but what mother is?  She's not perfect, but she's mine.

The other day, we were talking about some sleep struggles I've been having with my daughter, and I told her the plan we'd put in place that was finally providing us all with a lot more sleep, peacefully.  She asked, "How did you get to be such a smart mom?" And I answered, "From watching you." I hardly feel like a "smart mom" most days but it's true - I learned about mothering from her, about compassion, and about serving.  She's never criticized my practices of attachment parenting or done anything less than fully support me in everything I've chosen in life (yes, even the unfortunate pre-teen stage when I insisted on taking TV commercial acting classes - seriously?)

All of that to say, I am thankful for my mommy.  She won't be here with me forever, so today I celebrate that she still is.

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During the month of November, I'm practicing "30 days of thankfulness" - will you join me?  Use your blog, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to voice your thankfulness for something every day in November.  My hope is that this daily routine will create in me a heart of thankfulness and gratitude, no matter the day or month or situation.

They survived. (30 days of thankfulness ~ day 1)

Power outages, lines for gasoline, homes cut in half by fallen trees.  Yet these 70-foot-tall oaks of righteousness are still standing in my parents' backyard.  So thankful for this mercy but broken-hearted for those who lost so much.

~ ~ ~

During the month of November, I'm practicing "30 days of thankfulness" - will you join me?  Use your blog, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to voice your thankfulness for something every day in November.  My hope is that this daily routine will create in me a heart of thankfulness and gratitude, no matter the day or month or situation.

What is saving my life right now.

I absolutely loved this post from Sarah Bessey: In which this is saving my life right now.  And apparently, a lot of other people did too (like my friend Allison), which sparked Sarah to create a syncroblog where other bloggers can share their own answers to the question, "What is saving your life right now?"

So I'm supposed to tell you quickly, without overthinking it, just spilling it out...

  • This trip to New Jersey, where I am for the whole month of August, is absolutely saving my life right now.  It's been a hard day - a hard year - emotionally.  As strange as it can be to return "home" for an extended period of time after becoming an adult, there are those wonderful moments when you can become a child again.  Tonight, my mom reminded me of something an old friend said that she never forgot - "When you cry, I cry." She's the kind of mom who does that, not just for her children, but for everyone.
  • Heart friends who share burdens with me and rejoice with me and send a little text message to say "I love you" save me when the whole world seems like it's going out.  Which is often for an INFJ like myself.
  • My sweet little girl whose smile and passion and compassionate heart bring so much joy to my every day.  Her newest exclamation, "Look at THIS!" makes me giggle every time - as she points to a kitty crossing her path, or a butterfly fluttering around the pool, or a squirrel in the back yard. 

  • I don't know how much longer she will be nursing, as she's a big two-year-old now, but I'm happy to continue providing that for her a little longer.  She came from my body, and the special bond and quietness we share during this time is so fleeting...

  • A husband who understands me and encourages my dreams and creativity.  The other day in the Marimekko store in NYC, I was swooning over all the beautiful fabrics.  I was thinking, "Wow, those are beautiful but too expensive, so let's go," but he said, "Could you make something fun with just 1/2 yard?"  I left with two 1/2 yards of different fabrics that happened to be on sale as well as the personal email address of the sales girl who helped me, another creative soul who loves to sew and secretly cut me a little more than she was supposed to of the dandelion fabric so I'd have enough to make pillowcases.

  • Salty caramel gelato inside a crunchy waffle cone on a warm summer day - not just because it's delicious but because I chose not to think of the sugar content and just enjoy every last sweet, melty bite.  I swear, something is magical about gelato from Eataly - I cannot stop thinking about it.

  • Trees with hearts in them.  Especially because those same trees were trimmed today, and the heart shape is no longer there.  But in my memory, it is.
  • Cooler weather.  Leaving 107 degrees, I almost wept when the first 80* breeze swept across my face, closed my eyes, soaked it in.
  • Joyrides in my mom's Jeep with the top off and wind blowing my tangled hair, driving past frolic-worthy fields so beautiful you have to veer the car over to the shoulder to snap a photo.

  • But, I think what's saving my life the most right now is this simple truth, which I've written about time and time and time again:

I am not alone, not alone, never alone.

Thank you, Jesus. My introverted self can get so deep into my head, into my thoughts, and sometimes I feel like I'm drowning.  But those compassionate hands of my God, and the skin-and-bones people here on earth whom God uses as His hands, reach down and literally pull me out.  Time and time again, I'm thankful for grace and second chances and that His mercies are new every morning.

What is saving your life right now?  Please, join in.

Living in the color.

Since I read this recent post by my dear friend Shawna in New York City, I haven't been able to stop thinking about these words...

I want to live in the color. I want to live in the abundance of life that Christ died for me to experience. Why does that feel harder in some seasons than in others? Why does Starbucks make me happy on days that I am not sure I'm going to survive? I know there will always be unfulfilled longings, so I'm searching for that joy that only Jesus can give in any situation until we experience the fullness of life that He intends in Heaven. I know that abundant life isn't about "being" or "doing" anything more or differently. It's simply about abiding in Christ. Being with Him. Experiencing Him. Focusing on Him. Caring only about Him.

The other day I got to reunite with another faraway friend, Lauren.  Her adorable, artsy home in a small town outside of Philadelphia was packed with moving crates, but amongst them was a bright pink gift bag overflowing with black + white polka dotted tissue paper.   She handed it me.  As I peered into the bag, my mouth dropped open - inside was a gift that could not have been more thoughtful - a bouquet of 10 tree bark crayons, each practically the size of a track baton, each one its own work of art. 

"I want to live in the color."

I know my life holds many unfulfilled longings, a plethora of responsibilities and desires that try to draw me away from the heart of God, away from whom He made me to be.  And often, those things succeed. 

There are so many things I wish I could be - less impatient.  Slower to become frustrated.  Logical, at least sometimes.  Slower to let others' moods affect my joy.  More prone to "glass half full" than "glass half empty."

But as Lauren and I sat together on her couch sipping red wine, dipping our toes back into the deep waters of what our friendship was when we lived a few streets - rather than hundreds of miles - away, I could feel myself exhale.  I could feel the color flushing back into my face, my life.  Those colors spilled a simple truth across the sky:

You are not alone.  Someone understands.

That's right, "It's not about 'being' or 'doing' anything more or differently." 

Life is full of tension, but I don't want to stay in the grey place of in-between.  I want to live close to the heart of God, full and whole everyday.  He says, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."  (Jeremiah 29:13)  So I go out looking, and suddenly there is a burst of golden Black-Eyed Susan in the midst of browns and tans and grays. 

Or, a sunset that lights up the kitchen with an orange glow, urging me to leave dinner sizzling on the stove and grab my camera and run outside for fear of missing a literal rainbow being painted across the sky.

Yes, I think "living in the color" means choosing joy, choosing to be engaged with this life, this one I'm living now. Maybe it means approaching each day with hope and possibility, not permitting darkness to have its way with me.  It means that the light, and the color, always shines brighter.  Because it is there.  Always.

Friends, what does this phrase mean to you?  Really, I would love to know...