Shining the light of God's word into our confused world.

Month: June 2016

Dairy-free, Sugar-free, Totally Delicious Iced Coffee (and Other Recipes)


Summer is not even actually here yet, at least not technically according to Science. Somebody should really tell that to the heat index here in my neck of the woods, which has been in the triple digits this week. I’m gonna be honest here. Summer is not one of my favorites. I’d say it probably comes in at number 3 in my ranking of seasons–after Fall and Spring and just eking ahead of Winter.

It beats Winter mainly because I do enjoy not being cold all the time, being able to type without stiff fingers and only needing to wear one layer of clothing for modesty’s sake and not three or four layers just to feel kind of warm (y’all, my house is drafty and does not retain heat well). But Summer–especially in Oklahoma–comes with ridiculously high temperatures coupled with ridiculously high humidity and grass that never stops growing and has to be mowed constantly and SO MANY BUGS including West Nile-infected mosquitoes and . . . you get the picture. I’m not a fan.

That said, there are a few things I do enjoy about summer. One is the aforementioned ability to wear less and be warm. I love the sun, all the light it brings, and the longer days, and the disappearance of seasonal affective disorder. I love swimming, though I don’t get many opportunities for it. Ditto camping. And road trips. And cookouts and cold drinks.

Speaking of cold drinks, one of the very best things I enjoy about summer is sipping iced coffee.

Mmm, iced coffee.

It can be hard to get right, though, especially when you make it at home. I’ve been experimenting with it for a few years now, and I think this year I’ve found a dairy- and sugar-free recipe that I’m pretty happy with (yeah, I know–way to take all the fun out of it, Jean. But I have issues with dairy and I need to watch my blood sugar, so I can’t have as much fun as some of y’all can get away with. I thought my iced coffee days were over — last year I didn’t even try — but this version is great for my health requirements and is totally satisfying).

I start by following combined instructions from The Kitchn and The Pioneer Woman (I make it concentrated, a la PW, but make it in my French press like The Kitchn) to make a pot of cold brewed coffee. For reference, my French press holds about three cups and I put in about six rounded tablespoons of grounds and fill it up with cold water (I like my coffee strong). This provides me with two days’ worth of coffee concentrate, which I transfer to a pitcher and keep in my fridge.

Next, ice. I used to just add regular ol’ ice cubes, which of course watered everything down. At some point I tried making frozen coffee cubes as seen on Pinterest, but I didn’t really love that. Although these days I usually drink my hot coffee black, I like some sort of milk in my iced coffee, and as far as non-dairy options go I’ve found I prefer unsweetened almond milk. So the other day I hit on the idea of freezing almond milk cubes, and you guys! This is just right. As the cubes melt it just makes the coffee creamier. Also, as the cubes sit in the glass they soak up the coffee and sweetener, so it’s like little iced coffee pops to crunch on when you get to the bottom of your drink.

So I set up the cold brew and put an ice tray full of almond milk in the freezer the night before I plan to drink it. In the morning, I pop a few of the cubes into a glass or mug, fill it about two-thirds of the way with coffee concentrate, then fill it up the rest of the way with more almond milk and stir in a packet of Stevia. Best iced coffee my dairy- and sugar-deprived self has had in ages.


Have you perfected your own iced coffee recipe, or found one online that you swear by? If so, share it in the comments! Iced tea recipes are also welcome — that’s my second favorite.

I’m taking a break from the blog next week (I know, I just got back from an unplanned break — but my schedule has space next week for a vacation and since it might be the only chance I get all summer I’m seizing it while I have the chance), so I will leave you with some more iced coffee links to help you create your perfect iced coffee at home.

And hey! Want to get a friendly and casual letter from yours truly in your inbox this weekend? One that talks about how I plan to spend my sort-of vacation, what projects I’m working on, and what things are bringing me joy right now? If you said yes (or even just thought it), click here to sign up to Daydreamer Dispatches, my semi-weekly letter to friends of the blog!

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I hope you all have a glorious week!




R.E.M. is right. Everybody hurts.


I should confess something.

I’m an idolater. I covet stuff that’s not mine. I get envious of other people’s blessings. I indulge in self-pity far more often than I’d like to admit, convincing myself that I’m a victim of life. I compare and contrast until it makes me depressed, bitter and full of resentment.

I’m working on this. I’ve actually gotten a lot better about this stuff over the last few years, but it’s still a struggle sometimes.

But God keeps teaching me lessons about compassion. He keeps reminding me that life is hard for everybody. EVERYBODY. Every single person on this planet is under pressure.

People feel chronic stress the same way and suffer the same psychological and physiological effects regardless of whether that stress comes from overworking yourself to maintain an upper class lifestyle or taking on too many commitments trying to please all of the people or mothering multiple small children and being chronically sleep-deprived and literally having no time for yourself or struggling with infertility and daily fighting to take control of your own body and grieving lost pregnancies and mourning lost dreams or working multiple jobs and living paycheck to paycheck or living in a third-world hut and having to hike miles and miles just to get potable water to drink.

Wherever you fall in there, life is hard–not all the time, not every single moment of every single day–but sometimes, maybe more often than you’d like. And hard is hard no matter what it looks like. And people deserve compassion and kindness whether they wear a power suit and sit behind a desk in a high-rise office or they wear a nametag and a hairnet to work or they never change out of yoga pants and feel overwhelmed with ALL THE LAUNDRY or they wear tattered rags and sleep on a dirt floor or in a cardboard box.

People are people. Hard is hard. Stress is stressful no matter where it’s coming from, and pain is pain regardless of the cause, and it HURTS. And we are all–every single one of us–just doing the best we can to survive and to find reasons to hang in there and be joyful.

Your hard is valid. So is your neighbor’s. So is that Supermom’s whose Instagram feed looks like some kind of professionally photographed fairytale who makes you feel like your life doesn’t measure up. Guess what? Hers doesn’t, either. Not really. So there’s no use in comparing.

So when I start to play the comparison game, when I start to covet, when I feel my eye starting to turn evil because the Lord dared to be good to someone else while I’m still waiting for my prayers to be answered, I stop. I repent. I open up my gratitude journal and start listing all of the reasons I have to be joyful. I give my hard stuff to God and thank Him for the things on the list. I get my eyes off of myself and onto Jesus.

If you want to play the comparison game, compare your life to the one He lived. Nobody’s hard will EVER be harder than the hard He endured. And He did it willingly so that we could give all of our hard to Him and let Him carry it for us.


“Incline my heart to your testimonies,
And not to covetousness.
Turn away my eyes
From looking at worthless things,
And revive me in Your way.”
{Psalm 119:36-37}


PS – Linking up this week with Holley Gerth and Missional Women. Check out their blogs for more encouragement throughout your week.

30 Days After Whole 30


It’s been a month since I ended my Whole30, so I thought I’d look back at the last 30 days of life after Whole30.

All in all, I think it’s gone well. I’ve continued making healthy choices, although I have strayed here and there–most notably when we took my mom out for burgers for a belated Mother’s Day treat. We went to our favorite old-fashioned burger stand and I had a burger with everything (no cheese, though!) and a large serving of onion rings. WORTH EVERY BITE. For the most part, though, the majority of my meals have been in line with my dietary & health goals.

I find I’m “cheating” a lot less than I did back when I scheduled intentional cheat days, and when I do go off-diet to splurge it’s an intentional, thought-out decision based on whether or not the splurge in question is truly worth the potential consequences, and not an impulsive failure to exert self-control. I’m also finding that it often takes just a few bites of something to satisfy my craving and make me feel like I’ve had a real treat.

I haven’t been exercising as consistently, mainly because it was such a busy month. I’ve done better this week, though, and I aim to keep doing better, but that always seems to ebb and flow no matter what I do.

I weighed myself this morning, because I felt like I’d lost some weight, but according to the scales I didn’t–but I didn’t gain any either. That said, my clothes feel a bit looser — most tellingly, my denim capris that gave me a a slight muffin-top before W30 and fit just right by the end now need a belt to stay up. So I’m guessing I’ve lost somewhere around half an inch. Which just goes to show that scales are not the most reliable indicator of progress, so I can go on happily not weighing myself.

As far as “non-scale victories” go, though, I still have a lot more energy and stamina. Looking back over the last month I’m kind of amazed at how much I’ve gotten done. I’m starting to feel a little burned out, though, mainly because I slipped back into hustle mode, and my mind and soul are just not made for hustle, no matter how much energy my body has. So I’m trying to slow things back down to make more time for the things that are good for my mind and spirit and not just my body. I sat down this morning to look at my calendar, and I’m thinking I should be able to take a good, long break week after next, which will include a break from the blog.

At any rate, I’m pretty happy with the continued aftereffects of my Whole30. I can easily see myself continuing my good habits through the summer and into fall. Once the holidays roll around, though, things are bound to get interesting.

Interested in trying your own Whole30? Here are some links to get you started:

Have you ever done Whole30? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments!


What I’m Reading: June 3, 2016

What I'm Reading: June 3, 2016


I’ve always been a voracious reader. But there for a while, I fell out of a regular reading habit. Life seemed too busy, and I became convinced that I couldn’t make time for reading and writing, and chose to focus on writing.

Of course, my writing suffered for that decision, because you can’t constantly pour out words without filling yourself back up with them. You have to take time to fill that creative well in order to find inspiration. It’s not even that simple, really. Writers need exposure to other people’s writing in order to help process ideas and not only know what they want to say, but also become equipped with the right vocabulary to say them properly. Reading is important, y’all!

A couple of years ago, after a long reading dry spell, I finally figured this out, and made a conscious decision to fit reading back into my daily routine, even if it was just fifteen minutes a day. And do you know what? It’s amazing how, when you decide something is important enough to make time for, other, less important things have a way of shifting around or even falling by the wayside to make room for this new priority, without you even having to give it much thought.

Anyway. The point is that I’m reading so much these days, I might as well start using this space to document and share what I’m reading. These are my current reads. I typically read two books at a time now–a nonfiction work digested slowly in small bites throughout the day and a fiction work that I devour in big chunks on nights and weekends–which is amazing to me because I’ve always been a staunchly one-book-at-a-time type of reader. See what I mean about things shifting around to accommodate conscious priorities?

Nonfiction: Even if Not by Kaitlyn E. Bouchillon – This book was on my wish list and I didn’t even know my husband had ordered it for me. It arrived just in time to accompany me to the ER when he had a health scare, and it couldn’t have been more appropriate reading as we waited for answers (which we’ve since gotten, and in case you’re wondering, he’s fine now). It’s a hope-filled memoir with an encouraging message about choosing to trust God in the in-between–in the waiting time between questions and answers, between problems and solutions, between hard times and deliverance–and making up your mind whether you will still trust Him if things don’t turn out the way you hope they will. It was appropriate to that upsetting weekend at the hospital, but it also speaks to the bigger picture of our lives these last several years, and it’s been doing a lot to encourage me and renew my hope in the middle of my own in-betweens.

Fiction: Paper Hearts by Deborah Williamson – I picked this up on a whim at a used book store. It’s not the sort of thing I typically read, but I’ve been trying to branch out and expand my horizons beyond the gritty genre fiction I typically prefer. And you know, I’ve actually been enjoying some of the more light-hearted and heartwarming reads I’ve come across lately. This is one of them. A teen running away from her abusive past has a chance meeting with an old widower who’s ready to give up on life, and they end up rescuing each other. It’s set in small town Oklahoma and filled with believable and believably quirky characters that I’ve quickly grown to care about. I particularly appreciate that Williamson, a fellow Oklahoma native, doesn’t paint any of her characters with a stereotypically Okie brush, and yet I can recognize the Oklahoma in them. It almost feels like I’m reading about my own neighbors and kin.

I’m nearing the end of both books, and hope to wrap them up this weekend. So hopefully I’ll have a couple of new books to share next week (including Loving My Actual Life: An Experiment in Relishing What’s Right in Front of Me by Alexandra Kuykendall, which I can’t wait to get started on).

What about you guys? I’d love to hear what you’re reading. Do you have an recommendations for me? I’d love to hear them in the comments!

What I Learned in May 2016


May was a bit of a whirlwind. This is probably only the tip of the iceberg in terms of lessons this crazy month had to teach me. If I listed them all we’d be here all day, so here are the most pertinent things I learned in May:

  1. That I’m glad I did Whole30–it actually taught me a lot of things about my health and eating habits, too many to mention here–but paleo as a lifestyle isn’t for me.
  2. That I can work on two books simultaneously, as long as they’re in vastly different stages, and as long as I don’t also try to blog.
  3. That I can make word count on my novel and write an entire freelance article on the same day.
  4. That I shouldn’t try to do that too many days in a row.
  5. That nonfiction and fiction are very different in terms of how agents get signed and publishing deals get made. A lot more work (i.e, actually writing the entire book) is typically required up front in Ficlandia.
  6. That the nursing staff on the cardiac floor of Hillcrest South is pure awesome. Ask me how I know.
  7. That there is a fist-sized hole in our roof, courtesy of a fallen limb.
  8. That we’re surrounded by awesome neighbors.
  9. That Ben & Jerry’s dairy-free ice cream is creamy and delicious.
  10. That God is faithful and his ever-present provision never ceases to amaze me. The way He came through for us and held us up during the tougher and scarier events of this month served as a much-needed reminder of that.

What did YOU learn this May, friend (and can you believe it’s June already? Where is the year going?) Tell us about your own May lessons in the comments!

In love,



PS – I’m linking up this week with Emily P. Freeman, Holley Gerth and Missional Women. Check them out for encouragement and more May reflections!

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