Come on SPRING.

I think I speak for all of us when I say I have NEVER longed for spring as much as I am longing for it now. I am so ACHING for spring I can't even stand it. This winter has been a beating and I am OVER IT.

I'm a Texas girl, after all, and we like our weather nice and warm down here, and our NORMAL winters that last about 3 days are JUST FINE. Break out the coat and the Uggs, wear them 3 times, THEN YOU PACK THOSE THINGS AWAY because FLIP-FLOP SEASON LASTS 362 DAYS A YEAR. That's how it's supposed to work, down here in Texas.

Remember the days when we got to wear swimsuits on Spring Break? Yeah, those were the good ol' days... 

You're breaking us, Winter, for the LOVE. 

All this cold, dreary, icy weather that WON'T LEAVE ME ALONE has me getting all misty-eyed over the garden that isn't quite here yet... 

And sort of misty-eyed from, uh, pollen too. 

Oh, sweet harbingers of better days ahead... and also: harbingers of itchy eyes. 

Such a THRILL to see tiny green leaves poking their heads out of the ground, especially after a long, long, long winter. Did I mention it was long? 

So much hope. So much expectation of a bright and sunny new season. 

And... uh... so much sneezing. And a tiny bit of sore throat... 

It happens every year. Winter gets tedious, and at the first sign of spring's arrival, we can't even help ourselves: the first chance we get we dive head-first into our new garden, and inevitably, head-first into feeling really lousy.

As happy as I am to see spring arrive, I REALLY want to avoid that allergy nonsense that goes along with it. My sore throat is here already, but I have my go-to HALLS honey-lemon drops at the ready. It's a tradition, really; I know there are other cough drops out there, but I'm a classic HALLS honey-lemon girl. In fact, I've had one in my mouth the whole time I've been writing this post.

Here's hoping that this year, my HALLS will knock this sore throat out so we can get outside and enjoy our garden before our tiny green babies get any bigger. I think after the brutal never-ending winter, we deserve a bright and sunny (and allergy-free) spring.

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25 Books to Read in 2015.

I've suspected for a while now that I have a problem.

Just how big of a problem, though, I didn't fully realize until my pre-New-Years-Resolution-Preparation Simplifying Binge where I went through closets and nightstands like a crazy woman filling up boxes for Goodwill and bags for the garbage and returning all the things to their rightful home, and was forced to come face to face with the painful reality that (gasp)... I'm a book hoarder.

I gathered up all the books from off of my desk, off the kitchen counter and out of the living room, and made a stack on my nightstand of all the ones I have not yet read... and there were TWENTY FIVE. This doesn't include the unread books in my Kindle, or the pile of audio books in my van. No, these are just the actual physical books made of paper. I put them all in one stack and vowed I would NOT BUY MORE BOOKS until I read the ones I already own. 

I already have the shakes, man. 

Facebook friends post a status about a book they're reading and I have to smoke cigarettes until the urge to GO STRAIGHT TO AMAZON AND BUY IT RIGHT NOW passes.

But I'm determined to overcome. 
So, as it stands now I can read one book every two weeks in 2015 with room to buy just ONE more. Just one. And it has to be a novel, because in my towering stack of books there's only ONE of those.

Unless, of course, I finish all 25 of these books in record time, and then I can buy more... *lights up a cigarette*

So without further ado, my reading list for 2015...

On Writing (on account of that unfinished novel in my nightstand...)
1. Stephen King on Writing
2. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

On Improving Productivity and Leadership
3. The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz
4. The Pomodoro Technique by Staffan Noteberg (Time management. It's the thing I am WORST AT IN THE WHOLE WORLD. Help me Jesus). 
5. Everyone Communicates, Few Connect by John Maxwell
6. Organize Now! by Jennifer Berry
7. The Seven Habits Workbook by Stephen Covey (I've read the book... been procrastinating doing the workbook)
8. How High Will You Climb? by John Maxwell
9. The Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Burchard

On Deep Thoughts and Spiritual Stuff
10. The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson 
11. The Pilgrim's Regress by C.S. Lewis

On Network Marketing (Y'all, my life took an unexpected turn this year. If you'd told me a year ago I would be not only involved in Network Marketing but also READING ABOUT HOW TO DO IT BETTER, I would have laughed. Then scoffed. Then cried. What can I say? It's not what I pictured for myself, but it's a thrill for my competitive side that's long been dormant. I LOVE my new career). 
12. Being the Best You Can Be in MLM by John Kalench (I've already read this one once, but it must be read again)
13. Beach Money by Jonathan Adler
14. The Four Year Career by Richard Brooke

On Diet and Health (I can't believe there are only two this year; normally this is my number one preferred reading topic)
15. Eat Right 4 Your Type by Peter D'Adamo
16. The Weigh Down Diet by Gwen Shamblin (I read this when it came out decades ago; just saw it at Goodwill and had to have it)

On Dealing With Past Baggage (Four years later, and I'm still seeing after-effects. These books came highly recommended by some very wise friends, and I'm sharing this list because many of my friends need to know about these, too). 
17. Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy Bancroft
18. When Dad Hurts Mom by Lundy Bancroft
19. The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick
20. Safe People by Cloud and Townsend
21. From Anger to Intimacy by Smalley and Cunningham

On Parenting
22. Toddler Wise by Gary Ezzo (Loved, and highly recommend, the Babywise books. I don't know how new parents make it without this book).
23. Pottywise by Gary Ezzo (Shoot me now. Potty training is the WORST. Which is why I'm reading all those positive thinking books first...). 

On Being Wannabe Homesteaders (because there's a farmhouse and chickens in our future)
24. Ready for Anything by Abigail Adams (honestly I have NO IDEA where this book came from, but here it is. And I have an OCD compulsion to read every book in this house that has not been read).

And the ONE LONELY NOVEL on my list (drum roll please)
25. In the Heart of the Dark Wood by Billy Coffey. If you haven't read anything by Billy, you MUST. I don't even want to tell you it's Christian fiction, because I don't do Christian fiction. But this is different. And follow his blog here. He's one of my faves. 
26. To Be Announced...

So tell me. At the risk of getting tempted off my "no book buying in 2015" wagon, If YOU could only read one novel in 2015, WHAT WOULD IT BE? 

If you liked this post PLEASE click that blue 'F' and share it with your friends! ~ Melissa Beene Taylor
Oh, and FYI, this post contains affiliate links. Purchasing through these links doesn't cost you anything, but it does help contribute financially to supporting my book-buying habit. ;) 
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On Being Inadvertently Swallowed by a Whale.

I wonder if Jonah felt paralyzed.

I wonder if - maybe -

He knew what God wanted from him, and wasn't entirely unwilling to do it.

Maybe he was willing, but weak?

Maybe he was still stinging from the last time he had attempted a Big Thing and stepped out side of his comfort zone, for whatever reason.

Maybe everyone around him was obeying God and doing a better job, and he just felt inferior and insecure about it.

Maybe he completely doubted himself and his abilities to carry out the command.

Maybe he thought, "Well, I want to, but I'm so LAME, and AIRHEADED. And I have never been able to manage my time well... And besides, I haven't felt really good for months. And what do I even do when I get there, because I'm shy about talking to people..."

So maybe each day he woke up, knowing Ninevah awaited, and wrote it in his planner, even.

Each Monday morning, moving the task over to a new week: "GO TO NINEVAH," writing it down but not taking any REAL action to get there.

Contemplating - how he KNEW he had to do it - but paralyzed with doubt about whether he could.

Focused on his own shortcomings.

Watching with envy as all the other prophets accomplished great things...

I wonder why, if God Himself assigns big tasks to us, we remain convinced that we can't do it?

I wonder if self-doubt is THE THING that cripples all of us, causing us to sin because by skipping out on a big task, we've disobeyed God?

Just wondering, as I type this out by candlelight from inside the whale...

Identity Crisis, Interrupted, and a Giveaway.

I'm having a blog identity crisis.

I don't know if you've noticed, but I haven't had much to talk about in months and months. Which is not like me, historically, because this blog has always been free, fun therapy for me, and when I can write a post that makes people laugh, that's always been the BEST. Oh, I churn out a post now and then just to keep my ads active, but my heart has not been here. I haven't even felt like I could even write anything funny lately even if I wanted to, and that's an even bigger crisis.

It's just that I came to a point recently where I was struck by the feeling that this is all so... DUMB

And also... stupid.

If I had to pinpoint the moment that revelation struck, I'd say it was when my grandmother died. This is out of my comfort zone to talk about, by the way, because I'm MUCH more comfortable talking about the meaningless: you know, stuff that my kids do that makes me want to smoke cigarettes, and heck, I can even delve into some pretty deep stuff now and then when the mood strikes, but this is ME I'm talking about, and I don't do that

Come to think of it, I really don't even want you, complete stranger, to read personal stuff about me right now, so could you please stop and go on about your business somewhere else? OKAY THANKS. And let's NEVER MENTION THIS AGAIN.

Hello.... you're still here? 

OK if you must know, I've thought about my grandmother at least once a day since she died (there is a point to this), and I think - and this just occurred to me! - it was because I wrote her obituary. I think there's gotta be something really life-changing about writing another person's obituary, condensing down all the best parts of an entire lifetime into a few short paragraphs, especially someone like her who made the world a better place.

It's not the first time I've had a minor little identity crisis. The first time was in 2009, when I decided I DO NOT WANT THIS LIFE ANYMORE AND I AM NO LONGER DOING THIS and I didn't even CARE what anyone else thought about it, I packed myself and my kids up and got the heck out of that living hell and started down a gentler, less abusive road.

In 2009 all I knew was that I didn't want THAT life, but what DO I want is a home that's full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and all that. And while I've been happily enjoying my new happy, healthy home life since sometime in 2010, since the day I cried my eyes out while writing a few paragraphs about that lovely lady who served Jesus and other people every single day of her life, I've felt this discontent, unsettled feeling that I'm supposed to be doing something. I NEED (need) to DO MORE with MY OWN life and even this blog. 

I want to be more like HER and I want to be more like JESUS and I want to do (and say) things that matter. I have a degree in Christian Ministry, for Pete's sake, and have attended ALL the church there is my ENTIRE LIFE, and I need to DO SOMETHING.

So all of this I've been pondering for the last few months, and when I had the opportunity to review this book, Interrupted, by Jen Hatmaker, it was about the time this big conviction storm was brewing in my heart.

Inner conflict, Jen calls it. 

Oh, and if you didn't know, Jen Hatmaker is my best friend, by the way. (No offense, Pioneer Woman; we can all three be best friends). And by best friend, I mean, we've only hung out once. And by 'hung out once,' it was Jen and me and hundreds of other women when she spoke at my church a couple of years ago, but seriously, if she took the time to get to know me => BFFs. That's all. 

If you don't know her, oh my word. So darn funny. The first time I heard of her, I was invited by a friend to some sort of women's banquet where this supposedly 'funny' Christian author was speaking, and I went grudgingly, all scoffing and rolling my eyes, because Christian comedian? Please. No. Lame. No Christian comedians, no Christian fiction. It's one of my life principles. 

But my friend bought my ticket, and there was lunch. And then I laughed until I cried and decided I will stalk her with binoculars until I can hang out with her in person. Seriously. It's on my bucket list. 

So I read her book, Seven, when it came out, and it so resonated with me. YES, I thought. I want this. I want this simple life of being a good steward of everything. Seven fit with the new life I wanted for myself. Living within my means. Being content with less so we can give more. I LOVE THAT. More taking care of the earth, more thriftiness, less status symbols, greed and materialism. Just yes. She's funny AND has this heart for widows and orphans JUST LIKE JESUS WANTS US TO and you know the Social Worker in me is ALL ABOUT widows and orphans.

At least, I want to be.

At least, I know I'm not content with the lazy Christianity I've been living lately... all sitting on the pew, no doing anything for anybody. Not doing ONE THING that costs me anything, not one thing for anyone who can't repay me, not one thing that benefits me zero, ignoring all those who need.  

But let's get to the point before this rambles any further. Listen, I'm just gonna tell you straight up: THIS IS THE BEST BOOK I'VE READ ALL YEAR. I do not say that lightly. I'm a total geek who loves to read, and I figure I've read a book a week the past few months. And THIS one is the best, and I know that because it's the only one I texted my sister about 172 times, OMG YOU HAVE TO READ THIS BOOK. 

Do you KNOW that that's the highest possible praise for a book? When I text my sister about it? That's the pinnacle.

(The last time we texted about a book was probably The Help, and there have been no others since then). 

But my sister and I have had many conversations about the sad state of the church nowaways, where nobody is satisfied, content, or fullfilled, young families are leaving in droves because 'church hopping' is the norm, and in a church like ours that's the size of a small city we have to beg and threaten and stalk and harass to get enough people to teach Vacation Bible School. People show up to take; only an embarrassingly small percentage shows up to give

Holy passion... WHERE IS IT?

Like Jen says,
There were other question marks. Like why wouldn't people commit to our church programs, despite the endless work poured into them? And why did the same people end up doing all that work? Why did 70 percent of the initial program enthusiasts drop out by the end? Why did so many leave, claiming they needed more, when we were all working eighty hours a week to meet their needs? Why couldn't I recall the last person I led to Christ? Why did I spend all my time blessing blessed people who should be on the giving side of the equation by now? Why did I feel so dry? 
I read this book with the backs of my eyeballs hot and leaky through entire chapters of conviction, interspersed with huge belly laughs through the tears, where she says something so completely absurd and hilarious that I would THINK OF IT long after I had turned the lights out at night and literally burst out laughing all over again and wake Michael up. 

There is so much in this book that spoke to me. I read through it with a pen, underlining, writing in the margins as I soaked up the story of her family's journey out of comfortable but discontented 'Churchianity' into a countercultural life on mission, BEING the church rather than DOING church. 

Do you FEEL IT? Do you feel the nagging sense that there must be more, that people are lost and dying and struggling in poverty and disease and hunger and we're all SITTING HERE ON OUR PADDED PEW gorging on Thanksgiving dinner Sunday after Sunday and that this world NEEDS YOU to BE MORE LIKE JESUS so we can HELP?

Do you FEEL that too? Oh my gosh, my friend, then you must read this book. THIS BOOK, Y'ALL.

And now that I've read it... what next? Where do I go from here? I still don't know. I just know it won't be the same.

Tyndale House Publishers sent me an ebook plus a free book to give away, but because I went and marked and underlined this one all up, I'll buy you a new one. This one, I have to keep. 

Wanna win it for yourself? Enter below. Or you can find it on Amazon here

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you liked this post PLEASE share it with your friends! ~ Melissa Beene Taylor
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FYI this post contains affiliate links. Purchasing through these links costs you nothing, but might possibly pay me a little commission to support this blog. Thank you. ;)

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So lately I've been feeling the weight of some stressful stuff. I won't bore you with the details, but I've been worrying way too much lately about something over which I have no control... Not a life-or-death thing, you know (it never is) and I KNOW 'this too shall pass' and all that, but I'm not sleeping well... Making myself sick by letting something gnaw at me from the inside.

And I get up in the middle night to go find comfort and strength, which for me has always been that spot on the end of my couch with my Snuggie and my Bible

It seems to be when God talks to me the most, alone on my couch between 3 and 4 in the morning. He didn't ask me, because I'd choose to just stay asleep like a normal person at that time of night, and maybe just roll in to meet Him for coffee at Starbucks during normal business hours, you know, when it was convenient, but I wonder how much I'd really seek Him if I didn't wake up anxious in the middle of the night...

So I was telling a friend I was feeling "crushed" by this situation. And then I got up and prayed, "Lord, help, because I don't know what to do and I'm feeling crushed by this..."


I used that word, more than once.

And then I flipped open my Bible right to this page in Psalm 34, where at some point in the past I'd had the foresight to underline this verse... 

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
I kid you not. The first page I flipped to, there it was, jumping out at me. I don't believe in coincidences... It's happened too many times that I NEED a word from the Lord, and there it is. God wakes me up, says LOOK, here I am, and I'm still Me, just like I've always been...

I remembered that God used that word, crushed, in another verse...

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
And I was so encouraged because it's true, and it's always been true... And I know this because I have survived many things worse, and far more stressful, than this one. In every one of those crushing times in my life, God has shown Himself to me in His word, and has always been close to my brokenhearted self. And I've never been abandoned, never been destroyed, and though I might have felt crushed in spirit, I've never, ever been crushed.

Praise God for that. Our difficult times may keep us on our knees at 4 am crying out to the Lord, but He will never let us be crushed.

If you liked this post PLEASE share it with your friends! ~ Melissa Beene Taylor
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The Big Blank Living Room Gets a New Paint Color.

So you know by now that we're neck-deep in another home project. And if you DIDN'T know, you should probably read about all the Lifetime Network-level drama and intrigue here before you go any further, because it's just plain entertaining.

This one has been painfully slow-going. With my last house (and the one before that) I KNEW the look I wanted (1930s cottage charm). It was easy. This one is not, for a couple of reasons.

One, I'm an 'old house' person. And by 'old,' I mean 1930s.... hardwood floors, glass doorknobs, high ceilings, crown molding (this is my last house, here). An old house is all I ever wanted in life and I don't know what to do with any other style of house. This house is old, but it's just old enough to have metallic wallpaper and flat doors straight out of the 1970s, and things out of the 70s are just old enough to be a dowdy old eyesore.

And I should know, because I'm straight out of the 70s and both this house and I face an uphill battle turning our dowdy old eyesore selves into something Pinterest-worthy. It's a battle I fight daily on both fronts.

But I digress. 

The second reason this house has been hard to decorate is that I'm married to a husband, and he has ideas about where the couch should go. He also happens to be a 'new house' person (some pics of his last house, here). 'New house' people go pick out a room full of brand new matchy furniture and ALL the decor straight out of the home decor store at the mall, and he doesn't get that I prefer my home decor to come from other people's curbs or maybe somebody's grandmother's estate sale. And I'm just trying to go for win-win, people. Just trying to create some synergy out of the chaos. 

Seriously, in 2010 I got rid of 2/3 of everything I owned and started over, and because I'm kind and generous of heart I 
tossed out Michael's unacceptable things for him ("oh, your ex wife bought that? buh bye..." *backs up the Goodwill truck*). I want our house to be OURS, with none of that baggage. So here we are.... in a big house that's basically a blank slate. 

Technically, it's a 'floor-to-ceiling metallic wallpaper' slate, but whatever...

It took me months to narrow down the paint choice for this room. I tend to lean toward dark and cozy rooms; Michael wants our house all lit up with humming flourescent lights like a gas station.

We compromised (win-win, remember), and narrowed it down to pale gray. And if you didn't know, gray is HARD, y'all. I know this because I once chose a gray for our bedroom (it looked SO perfect in the store) that turned out blueish, like the color of a dead body. It's an awful, horrible mistake that I have to live with every day.  

I didn't want to chance going with "corpse blue" again, so I taped up swatches and moved them around and eyeballed them in all different lights for weeks, literally, and in the end chose Crushed Ice by Sherwin-Williams. When I first began to consider colors, this was in my bottom 5 because it looks beige on the card, and I am ANTI beige. It just goes to show you that you MUST try out a sample on your own wall, in your own set of lighting conditions, before you commit. 

And here's a handy tip: Sherwin-Williams sample cards have an LRV number on the back. This shows how much light they reflect back; dark colors reflect less and have a smaller number. 

I do have to agree with Michael that a pale, light-reflecting color is best in this room; 1970s houses have low ceilings and not much natural light, and even on a bright, sunny day, this room is DARK. Crushed Ice has an LRV of 65, which means it reflects back a lot of light, and yet it has JUST ENOUGH color. It was the perfect choice. 

OH. And the ceiling! In my last house, I painted the downstairs ceilings Rainwashed by Sherwin Williams and it was beautiful, but they were two feet higher than the ceilings in this house, so I went with a lighter shade called Window Pane instead. It's only ever-so-slightly pale blue, like, almost white, but still looks really pretty next to the gray walls.

So here we are. The room is painted in a color we BOTH like *queue the Hallelujah Chorus.* 

And at the rate we're going, by sometime in 2016 we might have some things hung on the walls. I'll let you know. For now, here is Phase One... 

We need all the light-reflecting we can get in this room! I love Crushed Ice. Also... do NOT notice the trim that has not been painted yet. That's Phase Two. 

Don't pay attention to this mantel either. This was called "throw some fall decor on the mantel for now." The pumpkin has since found a new home. And what's up with those sticks?
All bright and light. 

A better shot of the color. In Phase Two we decorate the walls. Stand by.

Window Pane on the ceiling... so very subtle that it's almost white. 

You should see my "decorating around your toddler's potty" board on Pinterest. Just kidding. And also, it's terribly obvious this trim is still unpainted. That's coming up in Phase Two. 

The other side of the fireplace (which is painted True White by Sherwin-Williams, btw). The door is yet unpainted. It might end up white. Who knows. 

Metal blinds definitely fall under the 'dowdy old 1970s eyesore' category. Don't worry... they're going away soon. See Phase Two. 

More metal blinds. Oh, so painful. Their days are numbered too. 

FYI,  Sherwin-Williams provided the paint for my project. I <3 affiliate="" also="" and="" are="" clicking="" commission.="" costs="" didn="" even="" exclusively="" font="" i="" if="" in="" links="" may="" nbsp="" nothing="" on="" paint="" post="" receive="" sherwin-williams="" t.="" their="" there="" these="" they="" this="" use="" while="" would="" you="">If you liked this post PLEASE share it with your friends! ~ Melissa Beene Taylor
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