Category Archives: Musings

On Making Friends Where You Are

Happy Friday! I’m joining Lisa-Jo and the Five Minute Friday bunch and writing on the topic of friend. Will you join me and read, write, or both for five (ish) minutes? Here’s how it works:

    1. Write for 5 minutes – no editing, no over-thinking, no backtracking.
    2. Invite others to join in.
    3. And then: go visit the person who linked up before you and drop them a note!
Dear friends in Dallas, nearly all of us pregnant or just had babies

Dear friends in Dallas, nearly all of us pregnant or just had babies

If you’re been hanging out here for any length of time, you probably know that once upon a time, I moved eleven times in eight years. That was two years ago.

We’ve been in the same house for two years and four months. A record and a wonderful reprieve from the apartment hopping, packing, starting of new jobs, figuring out new grocery situations, and saying good-bye to dear friends.

In each of the seven cities where we lived, I was so very blessed to have deep, real friendships. And as we lived in most places an average of a year and a half, that’s quite a feat.

I chalk it up to a combination of us “putting ourselves out there” and the grace of God.

And the fact that in most of those places, we didn’t have babies (or had just one), giving us way more time and flexibility to “put ourselves out there” than we have now.

If there’s anything I’ve learned about friendships from all that moving, it’s that they require effort.

Effort when you don’t feel like making new friends because you just miss your old ones. Effort when you don’t connect with anyone right away.

Effort when someone offends you or you offend them. Effort when you move away and your heart is all torn up from missing them.

But I’ve also learned that the effort is so worth it. Because by the grace of God, all that effort has resulted in friends that feel like sisters.

It makes it so much harder to uproot, but if the alternative is shallow relationships, I’ll take the pain that comes with leaving.

What have you found to be true about making friends where you are?

One more thing: You still have a couple more days to enter The Nesting Place book giveaway! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win. 🙂

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*This giveaway ends on April 27 at 11:59pm CST. One winner will be chosen using Rafflecopter and will be notified by email. The winner will have 48 hours to respond with their contact information; if they do not respond a new winner will be chosen. Must be at least 18 and live in the U.S./Canada to enter.

On Writing and Writers

On Writing | A Simple Haven

Happy Friday! I’m joining Lisa-Jo and the Five Minute Friday bunch and writing on the topic of writer. Will you join me and read, write, or both for five (ish) minutes? Here’s how it works:

  1. Write for 5 minutes – no editing, no over-thinking, no backtracking.
  2. Invite others to join in.
  3. And then: go visit the person who linked up before you and drop them a note!

To someone whose primary means of writing is this blog and whose blog has been varying degrees of broken over the last week, today’s Five Minute Friday topic is a bit ironic.

Writer.

For the longest time, I couldn’t even tell people I like to write, let alone call myself a writer. Eight years ago, I practically smuggled Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird out of Barnes and Noble.

Because heaven forbid someone see me buying a book on writing.

And think I was trying to become a “real” writer or something.

People who like to play guitar don’t hide this fact. Scrapbookers don’t get awkward talking about their hobby.

And yet I find I’m not alone in my discomfort with labeling myself a writer–it seems we folks who enjoy the written word tend toward our own little brand of neurosis.

Writer, me? No way. That’s like calling myself Lewis or Austen. Who do I think I am?

But my husband plays golf…making him a golfer. And you become a triathlete…when you do a triathlon.

When do you get to call yourself a writer?

I haven’t landed on any hard-and-fast rules, but the more I string more words together here in my little online home, the more comfortable I feel at least telling people I like to write.

And that I’d like to write books. And eBooks. And pamphlets. And Balderdash definitions.

Because what Lisa-Jo says is true:

“if you love to write, if you need to write, if you have to write – you will.”

Do you like to write? Or do something else that you feel awkward telling people?

PS-If you are a writerly type, here are some of my favorite sources of encouragement:

Books: Bird by Bird by Lamott, On Writing Well by Zinsser, The Writing Life by Dillard

Blogs: Jeff Goins (particularly his Tribe Writers course), Michael Hyatt, Emily Freeman, and Kimberly Coyle (she’s doing a great series on book proposals now!)

Welcome to My (Wonky) Blog

Hello there. If this is your first time to A Simple Haven, please rest assured that things don’t usually look this bad. Or work this poorly.

Really. As of a few days ago, things were lovely here, all pretty and customized and functional.

And then a freak trifecta of hosting switches, old WordPress themes, and PHP version misalignments slammed into my happy little online home.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t worry. I barely know what I’m talking about.

In plain English, my pretty blog home is broken. So for the foreseeable (unknowable? indeterminate?) future, things here will be a bit wonky.

I’m working my tail off to fix it–and have found some kind folks to help.

But in the meantime, I’ve learned a few valuable things:

1.) I like blogging. A lot.

2.) And I like you, reader who leaves comments. And you, reader who doesn’t (really, it’s ok). And I like you, fellow blogger.

3.) When my blog was down for a few days, I felt the loss more than I expected. I love to write and I love the relationships that have developed around this little online home.

4.) But if I’m calling ASH my online home and you’re my guests, then maybe I shouldn’t apologize for the wonkiness after all.

5.) After all, I preach all kinds of real, simple hospitality, the kind that doesn’t apologize for messes and the sea of Megabloks and leftovers given to unexpected lunch guests. What would that look like online?

6.) I think it might look like me continuing to write and invite you into A Simple Haven despite everything not looking as I’d like. Or working as I’d like.

7.) Because if Myquillan can have house guests without a kitchen or Emily can host a family of four for eight months (more on that soon, I hope!), or I can host a friend for the weekend amidst unstable cats…then I can certainly invite you into my wonky blog. Right?

8.) Nothing like being given a fantastic opportunity to practice what I preach.

So, please, do come in. Grab a mug of something hot and pull up a chair. You are so very welcome here.

xo,
Jenn

What I Learned This March

What I Learned in March | A Simple Haven

On March 25th, I awoke to cornfields covered in snow and a windchill of 6.  That’s about par for the course this year, folks. Like the time my son cried for about five hours straight in a hotel room, it’s gotten so bad it’s funny.

Unrelenting polar vortex aside, March has been full of loveliness and lessons learned.

What I Learned This March

1.)  Kids don’t really need bathing suits at the beach.

My husband may still disagree on this point, but they looked pretty happy to me.

beach2

2.)  I think I could connect every British period film ever made using two actors from each movie.

(Ex: Penelope Wilton + Tom Hollander in Pride and Prejudice → Tom Hollander + Michael Gambon in Wives and Daughters → Michael Gambon + Romola Garai in Emma → Romola Garai + Hugh Bonneville in Daniel Deronda → Hugh Bonneville + Brendan Coyle in Downton Abbey → Brendan Coyle + Anna Maxwell Martin in North and South….etc.)

3.)  I’m willing to spend more time connecting British period films than I would have imagined. Continue reading

On Joy Amidst the Bumps

Joy Amidst the Bumps | A Simple Haven

Happy Friday! I’m joining Lisa-Jo and the Five Minute Friday bunch and writing on the topic of joy. Will you join me and read, write, or both for five (ish) minutes? Here’s how it works:

  1. Write for 5 minutes – no editing, no over-thinking, no backtracking.
  2. Invite others to join in.
  3. And then: go visit the person who linked up before you and drop them a note!

I love to travel. I have small children. In my house, we mostly act like the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

Rather than postponing all movement beyond 100 miles of my home until my littles aren’t so little, the Hubs and I are perpetually trip planning–whether its just two-ish hours to Chicago to meet friends or our upcoming Canada Extravaganza (giving it a fun name helps moderate the fear of a two-week, 3,000 mile road trip with children under four).

Exploring new places, sampling the local food, seeing my children wonder at new things, and even the planning process all bring me joy.

Is traveling with small children all flowers and roses? Certainly not.

Case in point: the time Buckaroo screamed for nearly five hours in a hotel room in Wisconsin. For reasons unbeknownst to us, he was having the three worst days of his life.

Teething? Ears? Sick? All of the above? We knew not. All I knew was a thrashing two-year old bent on proclaiming his displeasure with the world to our hotel neighbors.

beach2

Second case in point: that time we went to the beach…without the kids’ bathing suits.  Not nearly as dramatic as the hotel fiasco of ’13 but definitely fodder for marital conflict.

“You didn’t pack bathing suits on a beach trip?”

“Well, the weather app said it was only supposed to be in the ’60s…”

Etc. (I’m sure you can imagine).

But you know what? With the right perspective, neither situation was a total loss. I won’t say I immediately arrived at a joyful outlook, but in both cases there was one to be found.

The hotel thing was so bad it was funny. Now I didn’t get to “funny” until about 3 am, when we started asking our son random questions in desperation to make him stop crying (he would actually stop mid-wail to answer), but funny it was.

And perhaps in answer to my frantic prayers, I was able to see bits of good: we had been upgraded to a suite so our daughter wasn’t awake right next to crazy-pants brother.  We spent our days with family who loved us and even took care of our wild children so Hubs and I could go see a movie.

The bathing suit situation was solved the moment I realized our kids didn’t care. They would roll around in the tide in delight with or without suits. Though I did make a run to Target anyway.

Traveling with small children is not the same as traveling alone with my husband. Clearly.

But as I’m unwilling to abandon my exploring spirit, I’ll just have to choose joy in the midst of the inevitable bumps along the way. 

Boldness, Intention, and Joy

Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenrider

I kept hearing of that One Word phenomenon where you pick a word to be your theme for the new year.

Ever cautious of jumping on the bandwagon, I wasn’t planning to make 2014 the year of anything.  That would be, like, committing to something. Which felt stressful and heaping more on my plate.

But then it came to me, almost like it picked me.

Bold.

That’s how I want to live in 2014: boldly.

It scares the bajeezus out of me to say it.  Bold is risky.  It’s doing things that might not work and that will probably be hard.

But experience tells me that boldness is the way to the best stuff.

Boldness, Intention, and Joy

If 2012 was a year of new beginnings, 2013 was a year of settling in and of unexpected joys.

And those joys have left me wanting more. I’ve had a taste of what’s possible if I live more intentionally and take risks.

The risks I took last year weren’t random; they lined up with my values.  So maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised when pursuing those things brought beauty and joy and wonder.

So this year, I want to live with bold intention and do stuff that scares me.

Like tell people I want to write a book or three–and then do something about it. Like totally purge my closet.  Like take a two-week road trip to Canada with a four and two-year old.  Like open a B&B for friends.  Like try to get pregnant while my husband’s still in grad school and then say that on the Internet.

In the end, I have only a shred of control over the outcome of many of these.  2014, in all of its boldness, might also bring failure and disappointment. Shoot, I might even fail to be bold.

But even attempting to walk in that direction seems best to me.

Making “bold” my anthem of 2014 doesn’t feel like adding to my plate; it feels like setting my course.  I’ll probably stumble along the way, but I’d rather attempt hard things and fail then not try at all.

(Or relatively hard things–I did mention closet purging, after all).

What do you want 2014 to be all about?

P.S. One of my favorite bloggers is the guru of intentional living.  She has a new book out on this very concept and I’m pretty excited to pick it up.

 

 

 

 

 

On Visiting

On Visiting | A Simple Haven

Happy Friday! I’m joining Lisa-Jo and the Five Minute Friday bunch and writing on the topic of visiting. Will you join me and read, write, or both for five (ish) minutes? Here’s how it works:

  1. Write for 5 minutes – no editing, no over-thinking, no backtracking.
  2. Invite others to join in.
  3. And then: go visit the person who linked up before you and drop them a note!

A
lmost nothing is more exciting to me than preparing for a trip or preparing to host.  When preparing for a trip, I begin several months in advance; planning, purchasing necessary items, repeatedly visiting websites of places I’ll see, strategically planning to see whatever friends I might have there.

For me, the anticipation of the trip is almost as great as experiencing the destination itself.

It’s the same with hosting.

Even though I believe hospitality has much less to do with how cute my house is and much more to do with connecting with and serving the folks who come, I still enjoy sprucing up a bit for company.  I like to imagine what might bless my guests, what special touches they might appreciate.

If I just agreed to host two days before the event, I don’t have much prep time, and we don’t have any (fun) food to share, I get some kind of thrill from the challenge of working with what I have.

Such was the case this week. 

The house wasn’t spotless, but the floors and seating areas were clean.  I didn’t make any “fun food,” but I offered homemade hot chocolate, my favorite tea, and decaf.

The house has been feeling a little bare since we took down the Christmas decorations, so I tossed white lights on our little winter trees and lit some candles.

Flipping the on fireplace and some Balmorhea finished my preparations and a simple, cozy evening was had by all.

There is hardly anything I love more than visiting.

On Encouragement

On Encouragement | A Simple Haven

Happy Friday! I’m joining Lisa-Jo and the Five Minute Friday bunch and writing on the topic of encouragement. Will you join me and read, write, or both for five (ish) minutes? Here’s how it works:

  1. Write for 5 minutes – no editing, no over-thinking, no backtracking.
  2. Invite others to join in.
  3. And then: go visit the person who linked up before you and drop them a note!

I
was going about my Wednesday when an email from a dear friend popped up on my phone.  She spoke of gratitude for our friendship, how she would be praying for me this year, and what she appreciated about my life.

Her unexpected and heartfelt words were a comfort to my soul.

How long did it take her to write the email?  Ten minutes, maybe.

How many times do I think about why I love a certain friend and am inwardly grateful for them–but neglect to speak it?

Speaking words of encouragement doesn’t take long and it’s not a grueling task.

So when I don’t share the words in my heart, I think it’s because I forget the power they can have for good.  The Bible says that words have the power of life and death.

I believe this; I’ve seen it play out in my life, both for better and worse.

Each time we moved to a new city, we would gather with friends to say a final goodbye.  Often these times were full of words of blessing and encouragement to us.

It made moving even more heart-wrenching, but it was a wonderful way to leave–knowing why we were loved, that our lives mattered in the lives of others.

This year, I want to remember the power of encouragement and be more intentional to speak it–in my home, to my neighbor, to long-distance friends, at the grocery store.

I may never know if my words have a great impact or not, but then maybe it’s more about me just learning the habit of speaking them.