The Best Birthday EVER!

It's Friday, and I'm still basking in the love my family lavished upon me Monday! I never thought a 36th birthday was all that special, but WOW...I think it's going to be a hard one to top!

Something I want to remember about the day: it was pouring down rain and I had a sick child at home...not my ideal conditions for a perfect day. And yet, everything about Plan B was PERFECT. I have too often let expectations get in the way of REALLY LIVING. Not this day! {God's been working on this heart-o-mine!}

My husband spoiled me with a most unexpected and lavish gift at the end of the day, but here's what I'll cherish most about my 36th birthday: the handmade gifts and cards that remind me I AM LOVED and CHERISHED!

From my sister,
an amazing artist whose creations always wow me.

{Even her packaging is a piece of art!}

{I love this collage, Holly! Thank you!}

From my youngest daughter,
whose love of giving gifts makes everyday feel like a birthday:

{I love your flair for color and beauty, little one!}

From my oldest daughter,
whose gifts of poetry and song writing astound me:

{I love that she called me a "homemama." It's my new favorite word!}

{My jaw dropped as I listened to her read this poem.

From my husband,

who has never been that into birthdays,

but made me feel like the most cherished woman on earth:

{Thank you, sweet husband, for taking the TIME to put your whole heart
into this priceless gift...and for helping me believe what is TRUE about me!}

There's so much I'm still processing about that special day...about being loved THAT MUCH by both my family and my God...about the lavish gift my husband gave me...and the parallels to the lavish gift of GRACE my Heavenly Father gives me daily.

Happy Friday, Sweet Readers!

P.S. One more handmade gift: from my favorite local chef, Randy Evans at Haven, who not only made a special gluten free chocolate dessert just for me, but also spoiled us with EVERY dessert on the menu! Talk about a DREAM! Thank you, Randy! And a huge thanks to Bryan for selecting the nicest bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape I've ever tasted! {Ask Bryan for wine help anytime!}

{The iPhone doesn't do Haven justice. If you haven't been,
it's TIME! I'll make it easy for you: 713.581.6101}


The House of Belonging

It's official: I had the best birthday EVER on Monday. I was humbled, surprised and even cried my eyes out over all of the unexpected abundance on my special day. It's almost too much to take in!

I'll be back to share a few birthday moments with you soon, but for today, you can find me over at The House of Belonging.

When Tiffini asked to share my "Changing The Way I See" post with her readers, I was honored. But now that I've read her kind words introducing me, I am humbled...and amazed that she has perceived so much about my heart through the words I've written. What a gift from God.

Two things before you jump over to The House of Belonging:
  1. Tiffini's tagline, jumping naked, has me thinking. I'm as modest as they come (hate swimsuits, low necklines, etc.), so the thought of bearing myself fully (as in NAKED!) kinda scares me.
  2. But I love what Tiffini means by it. She's no longer a passive onlooker in life. Instead, she's striving to live authentically, transparently and to ENGAGE FULLY.
Now THAT is what I call stripping down in a GOOD WAY! Love that about you, Tiffini! Keep encouraging us to "get naked" if we have to!

Sweet Readers, I know you'll love Tiffini. ENJOY browsing her blog today!


An Early Birthday Note

Look what I found taped to the back door this morning:

A girl who likes to let you know you are loved and not forgotten! My sparkle and shine youngest daughter knows how to make your day with her little notes. {Remember this one?} And she didn't even read yesterday's birthday blog post! Thank you, sweet girl!

Happy weekend, friends! Let's live it to the full!


Bring On The Birthdays!

I've got birthdays on the brain! We don't just have a birth DAY around our house. We have a birthday SEASON! All four birthdays in about six weeks.

The whirlwind begins January 24th.

{The best every birthday cupcake made by my amazing sister.}

I'll be 26 on Monday. I mean...36! {Not trying to be cute or funny, but 26 is what came out, so I'm going with it!}

In the past, I've tried not to get too excited about birthdays. It's silly, really, but I don't like being the center of attention. And yet I don't like being forgotten (it's happened, and I've let it crush me). You know the feeling when a best friend or family member forgets your special day. {The Enemy is quick to whisper lies that you're forgotten and maybe even unloved, but the Lord says you are NEVER forgotten and ALWYAS loved, so don't buy it!}

I'm getting better every year at giving grace to myself and others, but the truth is, I LOVE BIRTHDAYS! Why not get a little excited on the day God made the one and only you?!?! {Funny memory: when my youngest was three, she said she didn't like my birthday. She didn't want it to be all about me!} 

{Cake made by my amazingly talented friend, Carol.}

Not every year is all sparklers and sunshine, but every year is a gift from the One who made you. I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)...and I AM WORTH CELEBRATING! And so are YOU!!! No more fearing birthdays, my friends!

My birthday is off to a great start this year thanks to my sweet mothers-in-law who remembered me a few days early! One went shopping and the other picked up a gift card from my favorite store:

{Lucky me to have TWO mothers-in-law who know what I love!}

My sweet husband isn't that into birthdays, but after 13 years of marriage, he's tuned in and ready for this one. He's taking the day off just to be with me. Awww!!! Quality Time is my love language, so I'm a happy camper. {Have you read The 5 Love Languages? Good stuff.}

{Love this man!}

We'll finish the day with my family at my favorite Houston restaurant:

[Side note: if you live in Houston and haven't been to Haven, please treat yourself! Chef Randy Evans (former Brennan's chef) and Manager/Wine Guy Bryan Davis will take great care of you! Tell them JD and Linsey sent you!]

The only thing missing from this year's birthday...

...the friends who've celebrated with me every year for the last decade. {Where did the time go?} New York City doesn't have anything on Haven, but you're doing a good work up there! {Miss you!}

Back to the birthday marathon...

On February 4th, this baby girl turns TEN!!!

{Talk about time flying!}

And on February 19th...
I  get to celebrate the man who stole my heart over Thanksgiving,
courted me over Christmas...and proposed to me on Valentine's Day!

{Yep, CRAZY, but GOOD! 13 years and thriving!}

And on March 8th, this little love bug turns EIGHT!


Life is rich, my friends. Let's celebrate it!

How about you?
What makes you feel celebrated and special on your birthday?
I'd love to know!


P.S. Also in the mix: my sister's birthday on March 3rd!

{We're only 13 months apart!}


What Day Is It Really?

Y'all, I was ALL out of sorts this morning. I thought today was THURSDAY! I dressed for Thursday (which means exercise clothes for my stretch therapy here). And I left my beds unmade like it was a Thursday (I have some new housekeeping help). When the housekeeper didn't show up, I called to see if she was coming...

...and that's how I learned that TODAY IS WEDNESDAY! And so now what to do with my exercise-clad self on one of the most beautiful, blue-sky January days ever?!?!

A walk would be nice, but I haven't exercised a single time this year and am secretly rebelling against the over-zealous workout types (another story for another time). So I came to the computer instead. I have a million and two things I'd love to share with you (more fresh and local food stuff, the Feingold Diet, great French design books, amazing conversations with teenagers, college girls and my own nine-year old...), but I'm still a little out of sorts and unsure of my direction today. Because it still feels like Thursday.

So I did a little blog surfing to get me going. Paige at Simple Thoughts knows how to make a girl's day! Her list of red favorite things made me smile. Especially THIS one:

{Her cute little daughter in red cowgirl boots!}

And then there's my friend Tricia at Morning T who's got me hanging by a thread to find out what she did during her two days of nesting. When that girl gets inspired, watch out! Here's one of her sneak peeks:

Then I visited a fellow Vanderbilt grad, Laura Casey, and was fascinated to learn about Haint Blue. Laura does an awesome job of both inspiring and educating on her blog. Here's where I'd like to transport myself for just a moment:

A few more hops around blogland and I was feeling a little less out of sorts about what day it was (because each of these posts reminded me that TODAY IS WEDNESDAY)! But I still wasn't feeling "on" today. So there's another stop I decided to make before leaving the computer: Emily over at Chatting at the Sky.

I don't know Emily, but everything I've read and seen on her blog tells me she is one amazingly authentic and gifted woman. We all are. We just have to let that woman live. And Emily's good at reminding me of that. In today's post, called Wake Up and Dream, she nailed me (in a good way) with this:
"I hope you are diving into the deep, sweet place of authentic this week. And I don’t mean climb into your quiet cave and wait for the Muse. No, I hope you are swimming around in the living...."
Yep. I'm tempted to climb into my quiet cave. It's my default. Amazing how God can use blog friends...people who don't even know the specifics of your heart...to remind you that THIS is the day to REALLY LIVE...no matter what day of the week it is! I hope you'll enjoy visiting each of these ladies today!

And one more thing before I go. Today's Jesus Calling was really good...worth pondering as we seek to set goals in the New Year.

Happy WEDNESDAY, Sweet Readers!

P.S. The fonts and spacing are kinda off in this post. It's just that kind of day, so I'm going with it!


A "Slow Living" Weekend

Our weekend was FULL, yet simple, home-based and slow-paced...my favorite kind! My husband summed it up by saying we were really living this weekend. Amen! Here's what that looked like for us:

1. Fresh food...preferably organic and seasonal from one of our local farmer's markets.

My girls chose the multi-colored beets and carrots. I added brussel sprouts. My husband worked his culinary magic. Pretty simple magic:
  • chop (leave beet and carrot tops on for some extra crisp in the end)
  • toss with a generous amount of olive oil, sea salt and herbs de Provence
  • roast for a while (a huge Le Creuset roasting pan is his favorite)
{We used the leftover veggies on pizza the next night.}

2. Wine and cheese. We love trying new wines (my husband has an amazing nose and palette, so it's always fun to hear his thoughts). Here're a few we tried this weekend...at three different price points:

Elements may have been the winner this weekend.
It's what one of our favorite wine guys calls "cheap and cheerful."
Just under $13 at Costco! A great everyday blend.

Next up:

Not a big fan of the Molly Dooker.
$22 at Costco. We tasted and poured the rest down the drain.
My husband's theory: "life's too short to drink bad wine."

If you like Big Reds, this one is killer:

Not your everyday wine at $55 a bottle (Spec's),
but it packs a lot of punch. (90% Napa Cab)

We're big on trying lots of different cheeses.
Here are two we enjoyed this weekend:

Campo de Montalban and Cambozola Black.
Spanish cheeses...both very, very good.
{Available at Whole Foods.}

3. Friends. Good food and wine are always better when shared with friends, don't you think? We love having people over, but the reality is that it doesn't happen often...mostly because we don't plan in advance and spontaneous doesn't work for most folks these days. Sadly, life is too busy. But this weekend, our last minute invitations worked our beautifully: new neighbors (who happen to love wine and food) and two families from school.

Our home always feels happier and our lives richer when we've filled it with the smell of fresh food, the pleasure of good wine and the joy of friendship and fellowship. Here's to REALLY LIVING! I'm hoping for a lot more of that in 2011!

How about you, Sweet Readers? What does really living look like in your life right now? 


A Half Price French Find!

Look what was waiting for me at Half Price Books:

Brand new, just for me. No one had even cracked the spine (which isn't always the case at Half Price Books). God knows I love a good French design book. Anything to remind of of the place where my heart both flutters and stills. {How does that happen?}

Recipe for a perfect weekend: this book, by the fire, with a good glass of wine and soft goat cheese. And of course...with my sweet girls and husband snuggling by my side and peering over my shoulder (because they're into the French thing, too!).

What's your recipe for a perfect weekend, Sweet Readers?

Bon weekend!


Thankful For You

You are such kind, encouraging, REAL women! I had no idea what to expect after my last post (I wasn't even sure if I was making any sense), but WOW! Your sweet comments were a HUGE gift! Writing has always been therapeutic for me, but YOUR WORDS were "a breath of fresh air"...not only to me, but to all who read them.

A new visitor to my blog wrote this about your words:
 "I am so encouraged reading all of your comments from these ladies...the realness...it is like a breath of fresh air!" 
Today, I'm feeling a lot like the Velveteen Rabbit: very REAL. And it feels just right! {You can read my favorite passage from The Velveteen Rabbit here.}

Thank you for encouraging me in my realness, Sweet Readers.

With love and thanks,

P.S. A special thanks to Tara from Between You and Me for sharing my post with her readers. I'm humbled and honored that my words touched a heart as authentic and lovely as hers.


Changing The Way I See

While pretending yesterday was a snow day, I did a lot of blog reading in bed. That sounds dreamy, right? It should've been, but instead of gathering inspiration, I became more and more overwhelmed by what I saw...goal setting that intimidated me, accomplishments that shamed me, creativity that was beyond me.

I came away thinking I am DONE blogging...both reading and writing. And it's not like anyone would notice my absence. It's not like I have many followers, subscribers, commenters, etc.  With all of the well-read, well-written and hugely followed blogs out there, who needs my ramblings?

But then I read this post by a new blog friend, Tara. {I love her authenticity.} Actually, I first read her post back in July, but I had forgotten all about it. I needed it more today than ever. This quote she shared from Beth Moore stopped me in my tracks:
But I'm not insecure, I thought to myself. Never have been. Right. So what was going on yesterday? Why did I feel so intimidated and...INSECURE as I surfed through all of my favorite blogs? It wasn't because of the person writing. Nope, it was something in me that didn't feel good enough.

This is the whisper of the enemy of my soul: that I am not good enough. We've all heard the whisper. The trouble isn't in the hearing; it's in the believing. And when we start believing the lie, it changes the way we see everything.

And you don't have to go very far to see things through the lens of the lie {that you are not enough}. All it took for me was one step out of my bedroom where I was confronted with this:

Looking at it now, I can see the truth: that we are really missing Elsa and the 10 hours of housekeeping help she provides each week. {Sweet Elsa broke her arm two months ago and has yet to return.} So things get a little crazy around here, and I'm no laundry queen. That's OKAY.

But when I looked at the laundry room through the lens of the lie {that I'm not enough}, I heard whispers of condemnation in my head. This doesn't look like all the blog photos I saw yesterday. Other people can do it all. Why can't you? {The comparisons reeled in my mind.}

Just ignore the mess, Linsey. Keep walking. Go downstairs and read that book you don't want to read. {More on that another time.} So I went downstairs to grab a cup of tea and sit by the fire when I saw this:

What's wrong with that, you say? Nothing. Nothing at all. Of course, I can see that now. But with the whispers of condemnation still ricocheting through my head, I thought: look at that boring, empty mantel, the dirty brick, the candle wax I've not yet scraped away...

...and the undecorated but yet-to-be-put-away CHRISTMAS TREE for crying out loud! No one who has a decent amount of motivation and respect for her home leaves things looking like this! {There's that condemnation again.}

You might be tempted to call me crazy, overly perfectionistic, too hard on myself...but I'm taking the risk of sharing this with you because I think there may be others of you who hear these same condemning whispers in your head.

And here's the deal: there is no amount of will power or goal setting or motivation that can permanently disarm these lies. To think there is would only cause you to further beat yourself up when you fall short. Been there, done that.

So it's time for a change: not in a resolution-making, goal-setting kind of way, but a change in the way we SEE, which requires a change in the way we THINK. The real question is: what will we choose to BELIEVE when the whispers threaten to undo us?

There's a lot more to say about those things, but this post is plenty long already. But I will say this: there's a shift that occurs when we choose to believe the truth. Now I can see things differently. 

Instead of fixating on the mantel, I sat beneath it and I enjoyed a hot cup of vanilla tea by a warm fire...and thanked God that I had a fire to enjoy on this chilly day.

And instead of focusing on yet another to-do (or "failure to do") as I gazed out the window...

...I shifted my gaze to a bird friend {bottom right corner}...

...and took the time to watch him drink, then welcome another friend.

And yes, my laundry room is still a mess (I only showed you half of it!) and my Christmas tree is still standing, but I see things differently now. And I see myself differently.
"For there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).
And THAT, my friends, is the truth...the truth that changes the way I see everything. And if sharing all of this helps even one of you see differently today, too, then this crazy-long post was worth it!

Blessings and hugs to you today from a heart that is being set free!

P.S. I thought robins were spring birds, but it seems they pop out even when it snows! I love the way my blog friend Paige captured a few bird friends here. Doesn't her post make you want to cozy right up in her home?
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