St. Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a holiday I like making a big deal about for the whole family. I want my family to know they are loved, and I seek to teach my children that loving others is a high priority for us since we are so well-loved by God. His love should motivate our love for one another.

I was on the hunt for a valentine banner for our fireplace, and came up with this one—part kit from Michael’s, part hand-made. Cooper and I made some penguins with heart-shaped bellies, beaks, and feet to send to family and friends.

I pulled out our over-sized felt envelopes and hung them on the bedroom doors again this year. It was fun to pick out a few treats for the kids and for the husband. On the cards, I wrote notes telling them things I love about each of them. First thing on the morning of the fourteenth, my four valentines opened their gifts and cards, and we started our day with donuts for breakfast.

I volunteered in Silas’s classroom on Monday when the class was decorating their valentine bags. It was adorable! Then, I also helped with their Valentine party on Tuesday. The best part was when Silas’s teacher had the class look through their bags and thank their friends for their valentines. Such a sweet class of little people!

Stephen knows how much I like chocolate, so he went out to our local cupcakery for some brownies, cake pops, and a cupcake after supper. We rented a movie after the kids were tucked in bed, and finished the day with some chocolate. Perfect ending!

These are some song lyrics we have hanging in our bedroom:

I believe that he brought us together,
and you are my one safe place

They’re from my favorite singer/songwriter, Andrew Peterson. While Stephen and I are both sinners who have wounded one another deeply, we’re also redeemed children of God who have forgiven each other lavishly. All because of the work of Christ in our hearts. Because of grace, Stephen has become my one safe place here on earth where I can be who I truly am, and he will still love me.

In the days and months and years that I struggled {and sometimes continue to struggle} with paralyzing anxiety, Stephen was faithful. When I decided to fight for joy and kill my sinful passions, Stephen was my biggest cheerleader and my devoted counselor. He is a safe place for me. He points me to Christ in this way.

Love my Valentine man more and more all the time…

YouTube Preview Image

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Building Each Other Up

That’s what we do each Sunday. When we gather, when we sing our faith, when we listen to the Word, when we share the bread and cup. We strengthen one another.

That’s what we do each day of the week. When we pray for each other, when we confess our sins to one another, when we fight for joy together, when we meet each others’ needs, when we break bread in our homes. We persevere our faith together.

This is the church.

And this is the kind of church we’re finding Hinson to be.

When a fellow church member sings his heart out in the morning worship service, my faith is built up. When friends rearrange their schedules in order to babysit our kids all weekend, my heart is hugged. When a sister in Christ confesses her struggle to me, my care for her grows. When a friend comes to the ER to sit with me and my baby, my heart is supported (and baby Brynn is just fine, by the way). When I share my weaknesses and am embraced instead of rejected, my hope is brightened.

God is building His church, and we believers are the stones. As Peter explains in his first letter {1 Peter 2:5 ESV}

you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

We need each other, and when we live together as God intends, it’s a beautiful thing to behold!

Posted in faith, friends, hinson, oregon | 1 Comment

A Self-Motivating Savings Plan–That Works!

This is one of the best things I tried last year, and you should try it too! I didn’t want to blog about it until I had done it myself, and I’m definitely going for it again this year. I already have $202 saved in 2017.

Christmas is expensive. Add two birthdays in November onto that, and the end of the year gets pricey for us really fast. So…enter the Reverse 52 Week Savings Plan. It was actually fun!IMG_20170126_192622821_BURST000_COVER_TOP

Here’s the deal. The first week of the calendar year, set aside $52 (because there are 52 weeks in a year). The second week, save $51. Third week, $50. The fourth week, $49, and so on in descending order. Save one less dollar each week, and by the last week of the year, save just $1. In the end, your savings total $1,378!! {That’s worth two exclamation points at the very least.}

Let me tell you, that savings account made the end of the year a lot less stressful! We paid for birthday gifts and Christmas gifts for family and friends out of that account. And we even used the leftover money to cover some travel expenses.

Here’s how it played out throughout the year. I would transfer money from our checking account to an online savings account immediately after payday.

Since Stephen gets paid every two weeks, the first pay period of 2016, I saved $103 ($52 for the first week + $51 for the second week). The next pay period (two weeks later), I saved $99 ($50+$49), and so on.

Later in the year, I added a Christmas Transfer event to my Google financial calendar to remind me to transfer the money twice a month. Since the amount changed each pay period, I couldn’t set up a recurring transfer, so finding some way to remind myself was a must.

I say this plan is self-motivating because the amount you’re saving decreases each week. If you stick with the plan, $52 is the most you’ll have to save any week of the year. Just by starting the plan, the hardest step is done!

Save up for whatever you want. Start your fiscal year whenever you want. But in the end, if you keep at it, you’ll have $1,378 without feeling the strain for more than a few weeks at the beginning. You’ll be glad you tried the Reverse 52 Week Savings Plan.

Posted in birthday, elisabeth, finances, holidays, life hacks, shopping | 1 Comment

My Baby Bought Me a Swagger Wagon

That’s right! I’m a “mini-van mom.” I’m well aware that I’m a rolling stereotype, but this new ride is worth it.Jan9002

Our 2004 Buick Rendezvous had been slowly dying for a long while. It wasn’t in great shape when we bought it six years ago, but we certainly got our money’s worth out of it! We grew from a family of three to a family of five, and amazingly, we squeezed three car seats in the back seat. We even managed to move from Arizona to Oregon in that car. It wasn’t comfortable doing it, but since I didn’t know anything else, we were just fine.

But, now I know better. This van has features I didn’t know existed—like a second rear view mirror that’s designed for seeing your kids while driving and a foot rest for my left foot. And then there’s all the lovely comfort features that make mini-vans a mom’s favorite; like heated seats, 13 cup holders (that I know of so far), power sliding doors and rear hatch, rear seats that fold into the floor, built-in blinds for all the back windows, DVD system (with headphones!), and extra seating. As Stephen reminded me, minivans are stereotypes for moms for a reason—because they’re the best!Jan9001

On top of all the bells and whistles, I’m fully enjoying the ordinary features any car should have that were broken on our Rendezvous. Now I can see what gear I’m in and what our mileage is since the light behind the dash isn’t  burnt out. We have windshield wiper fluid that doesn’t leak, a glove box that’s functional, and the AC/heat actually changes the temperature inside the car. It’s incredible!

We chose the Toyota Sienna since it’s the only minivan that has all-wheel drive. After the snowpocalypse of this winter, all-wheel drive was a must-have on my wish list. Even if it doesn’t snow at all next year, I’m sure the four-wheel drive will come in handy on those rainy mountain roads we plan to explore on the weekends. Overall, we’re much safer in this van, and it handles more like a car than a truck.

I’m thrilled to finally have a comfortable vehicle that meets our needs—better yet, the kids are excited to go for a ride!

Posted in car, elisabeth, just life, parenting | 1 Comment


Well, I was hoping for winter, and Portland delivered. Jan8001Jan8010Jan8016It delivered a foot of snow two Wednesdays ago. And the kids loved their first blizzard!Jan8013Jan8012

When considering moving to Portland, we found that an average Portland winter has about one or two days of snow—and then, it’s usually only about an inch of snow accumulation, if that. This winter has been atypical, to say the least.Jan8008Jan8015Jan8006

In our second snowstorm mid-December, we saw firsthand how slippery roads can be that aren’t salted or plowed. Even less than an inch of snow caused such chaos since Portland doesn’t salt the roads for environmental reasons. Jan8035Jan8036Cars were abandoned all along the roads as people simply couldn’t drive in any amount of snow. Residents have to resort to buying chains for their vehicles in order to drive in just a couple inches of the white stuff.Jan8024

I had quickly learned my lesson and ran to the grocery store between snow storms to stock my pantry. Good thing I did! Tuesday night and Wednesday morning dumped a foot of snow, and it didn’t melt until the following Wednesday! Portland’s snow emergency plan is to wait until temps rise above freezing and the snow melts. They do eventually plow the main artery roads and put sand and gravel down for traction, but this unusual snowstorm finally forced the city to salt some roads so the city could function. Silas was out of school for over a week. It was like a reboot to 2017.

The kids had a blast playing in the snow the first couple of days. We went sledding with our neighbors since we could walk about half a mile to a good sledding hill. Both boys were very brave at this new sport.Jan8021Jan8023

Brynn loved the snow, and all three of them couldn’t eat enough of it. We attempted to build an igloo in the backyard by packing snow into our recycling bucket to make snow bricks. We managed to make a ceiling-less igloo at least.Jan8025Jan8026Jan8027Jan8028

During our time snowbound indoors, Silas made a rain forest diorama for his animal project at school. Stephen was able to navigate the slippery roads that Saturday to make it to the craft store for supplies.Jan8029Jan8030Jan8031Jan8032Jan8038

Silas had chosen to learn about the red-eyed tree frog, which was pretty cool. He and I made the diorama together and filled in his chart with frog facts. He memorized his speech about the tree frog and will present it to his class sometime next week. I’m impressed he’s learning all about mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and such in kindergarten.Jan8039Jan8040Jan8041Jan8042

We made this super quick video of his presentation Friday morning before he left for school.YouTube Preview Image

The snow was like a giant “pause” button for the entire city. Not only was school cancelled, but businesses were closed, people were out of work, and no one could go anywhere. Since I was unmotivated to start 2017 after returning from our two week trip, it was nice to have an extended time at home to regroup. But we’ve definitely been enjoying getting back to real life and our routine. (not to mention how much we’ve enjoyed having the garbage truck pick up our trash and the plumber fix our burst pipe!)Jan8044Jan8043

Happy 2017 from Portland!

Posted in just life, oregon | 3 Comments

Playtime at Grandma and Grandpa’s

My dad fully embraced his role as Grandpa during our Christmas visit to West Virginia. Jan6057From the minute we arrived, Dad had an entire playtime schedule planned for the kids. He pulled out classic wooden toys from his childhood and was giddy with excitement as he shared them with Silas, Cooper, and Brynn. It was a memory-in-the-making to watch my dad’s joy at playing with the kids.Jan6008Jan6066

He even threw caution to the wind and rode down the hill in the little red wagon, letting out whoops and hollers. Too bad I missed out on taking a video of his ride!Jan6023Jan6065

Cooper and Brynn especially loved pulling the wooden yellow horse. Jan6006Silas couldn’t wait to see what idea Grandpa would pull from his hat next. He played with the matchstick fort Dad made as a boy, wore some of my dad’s historical hats and uniforms, and played “ship” in the family room with Grandma.Jan6016Jan6017Jan6041

There were tickle fights with the aunts, wagon rides, croquet races in the backyard, and stories on Grandpa’s lap. Jan6018Jan6014Jan6059The kids didn’t quite know what to make of Dad’s puppet voices he used for all the different story characters.Jan7004Jan6046

One night, we showed the boys Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson movie. It was adorable to watch the intensity on Silas’s face during the pirate battle.Jan6019Jan6067

We spread out the Christmas celebrations by eating the big turkey dinner on Friday, Jan6013Jan6015opening Christmas presents on Saturday,Jan6025Jan6026Jan7002Jan7003 Jan6033and then attending church and visiting with Uncle Tim on Sunday. It was great to introduce Brynn to her Great Uncle Tim on Christmas Day.Jan6036Jan6037

Later in the visit we walked through the old railroad tunnel,Jan6004Jan6007 ate a family dinner at the Chinese buffet, and enjoyed several tea parties courtesy of my sister Rebekah. Jan6032Our dear adopted grandparents, the Bells came for a visit too.Jan6044Jan6050

Spending several days at home led to some good conversations, bonding time with the aunts and grandma and grandpa for the kids, and—as you can see—lots of games. So glad we could be home for Christmas.Jan6055Jan6010Jan6060Jan6054

On our return drive to Indiana, we managed to squeeze in one more reunion with Uncle Paul and Aunt Elissa. They met us for lunch south of Pittsburgh, and we introduced our three munchkins to them for the first time. Stephen and I hadn’t seen them in over a decade when they came to our wedding ten years ago!Jan7001

This trip made it more evident just how far away we are in Portland. Our first flight from Indy to Denver was long, and I was relieved that our second flight would be shorter. It wasn’t! Denver was simply the halfway point—we’re really far west out here!Jan6011Jan6034Jan6049

I also saw more concretely the effects of living so far from family since it had been years since our last visit East. The kids grow up and pass so many milestones that we don’t get to share with our families. I was thankful for this blog. At least there’s a small connection, a chance for family to watch these little people develop and get to know them a bit before visiting.Jan6002Jan6056

Blogs are great, but in-person visits are the best!

Posted in brynn, cooper, family, friends, holidays, imagination, silas, travel, west virginia | 1 Comment

Eastern Shore Reunion

After five years since my last visit to the farm, a lot has changed. Now, all of my cousins are married with two kids each, and life with littles is busy (to put it mildly). My aunt and uncle have the most fully equipped grandparent pad. From their very own playground out back to a decked-out playroom upstairs, there’s no lack of things to keep grandbabies occupied. Aunt Debby even has a fully stocked diaper changing station in her den, and wow! She’s fast at changing those diapers while buzzing around cooking and taking care of everyone to boot.Jan5002

Although we had only a couple days in Maryland, Aunt Debby hosted two big family dinners so we could hang out and catch up. Aunt Sue and Uncle Brett even came over from Delaware one night. Jan5012It was so much fun to see our kids get to know their gang of second cousins. Nine kids ages six and under are an active group.Jan5006Jan5010

Silas desperately wanted to teach the older girls how to play checkers, but ended up playing Uncle Matthew instead. Jan5015Brynn would have given high-fives to Uncle Chuck all night if she had the chance. Jan5007On the other hand, I couldn’t get enough snuggles with Gemma—look at those chubby cheeks!Jan5004

I was disappointed, at first, that my cousin Laura and I didn’t get a lot of time together since she wasn’t feeling well the first day we were in town. Thankfully, the next night, she texted to see if I was up for a late night chat after our kids went to bed. I didn’t think we’d be talking until the wee hours of the morning (think, 2am!), but we had so much to say. We’re kind of blog pen pals (if that’s even a thing). But even with keeping up via our blogs, there’s so much we don’t share online—things close to our hearts that are best shared in person. That talk was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Love you, Laura!Jan5011

Another special event was taking my kids to meet Aunt Eunice who is 93 years old and still spunky.Jan5003 Okay, so she’s technically my first cousin twice removed, since she and my mom-mom were first cousins. But “aunt” is just easier to say. (I get some nerdy satisfaction out of knowing the technical descriptions for my relatives.) Aunt Debby took us over to visit Aunt Eunice where we sang Christmas carols for her and gave hugs all around. She is such a treasure!Jan5014

Our visit to the eastern shore of Maryland was worth all the miles and long hours in the car. Aunt Debby and Uncle Calvin are unwavering in their faithfulness to God through good times and bad. They model Christ-likeness in their love and forbearance. It was wonderful to spend a few days with them and the whole gang.

Posted in family, holidays, travel | 1 Comment

My Happy Place

This is the farm on the eastern shore of Maryland where my mom grew up. Jan3003In my mind, it will always be “Pop-pop’s Farm,” although my Pop-pop has been gone for over six years.

I have many happy memories of this place. Jan3004

I remember the feel of the patches of velvety grass in the back yard. My sisters and I would lay on the grass in the summer after picking blueberries from Pop-pop’s fenced patch. That grass seemed to be a magical variety that grew only in Pop-pop’s back yard.

Holiday mornings at Pop-pop’s were usually begun with the sounds of my parents watching I Love Lucy re-runs in the den below the back bedroom. Those TV episodes would goad me out of bed.

I remember the smell of Pop-pop’s cooking blueberry pancakes and scrapple for our breakfasts.

The taste of scrapple, blueberry pancakes, and crab cakes—for me—are tied to this farm.

The sight of the stately black and white farm house, with the quintessential red barns clustered just beyond, are enough to make my heart swell again with the sense of belonging, of roots, of family.Jan3013Jan3014

Happy childhood memories…

playing in the sand of Pop-pop’s long lane, getting lost in the cornfield with my cousin Laura, eating peas fresh from their pods in the field, creating make-believe houses at the base of the giant tree by the somewhat mysterious little white house, climbing the fruit trees, playing in the backyard which prompted Pop-pop to pull his camera out of his shirt pocket to snap pictures of us cousins, Pop-pop passing around his yearly box of Whitman’s sampler chocolates for us all to eat, tramping down to the red shed with the white door so we could look in the antique pink or yellow freezers for an ice cream treat

...endear this farm and its people to my heart.

I’m thankful I could share the farm and my extended family with my children this Christmas. Jan3015After visiting the Moodys, we drove twelve hours in the car Jan4002Jan4003all the way to Preston, Maryland where my Uncle Calvin and my cousin Matthew work the family farm. Jan3001They gave us a tour of one of their chicken houses. Jan3005Jan3007(Talk about sensory memories—the chicken house smell is enough to make your nose hairs stand on end!) This house alone has 20,000 chicks while there are usually about 56,000 chicks on the farm at a time.Jan3009YouTube Preview Image

The boys rode with Matthew and his little Maybelle in one of Uncle Calvin’s giant tractors. Jan3010Jan3016Silas was so thrilled when Matthew let him drive that he grabbed the wheel and started turning for all he was worth!YouTube Preview Image

I loved being able to see the old farmhouse and barns again, and we even drove over to take a look at Matthew’s new farm that is home to a Sears catalog kit barn and kit house. Jan3011Jan4001Wearing the Mountaire hats from Uncle Calvin, the boys were enamored with the idea that they were farmers for the day.Jan3002Jan3012

My view of the farm is overly romanticized, but it holds a magical place in my heart, and everybody needs a place like that to hold on to.

Posted in elisabeth, family, holidays, thoughts, travel | 1 Comment

Small Town. Big Hearts.

I didn’t realize it until I sat down to write this post, that we hadn’t been back to Indiana at Christmastime since we moved away to Arizona!Jan1001

Since my friend’s wedding was near my in-laws, it worked out beautifully that the kids could get some quality time with grandparents, aunts, and uncles while Stephen and I attended Rebekah’s wedding.Jan1011Jan1013Jan1017Jan1004

Even better, our kids (and I) got to meet their first cousin for the first time. Jan1002Jan1003Brooklyn was born just two days before Brynn, so it was fun to have the two little girls together and to meet this little person who made me an aunt. She was on-the-go, so getting a picture with Brooklyn was no small feat!Jan1005

We saw the new kitchen Dad recently built for mom. He did an incredible job, and showered Mom with love by adding a dishwasher, garbage disposal, breakfast bar, and hand-made cabinets. It felt like an entirely new house!Jan2001

Stephanie and Jason graciously let us stay at their place. It was an arctic weekend with extremely cold temps and freezing rain, but we managed to make it to church and then out to eat as a family.Jan1006 I loved that we had a Sunday afternoon reminiscent of our times in Anderson—hanging out with the family and watching the Colts game. Jan1008Of course, the activity level increased quite a bit with the four grandkids playing and needing to be entertained.Jan1009Jan1007

We had just a few short days with the family before we took off for Maryland and West Virginia, but we circled back to Indiana at the end of the trip and got to visit with Amy and Cameron who were in town from South Carolina.Jan1015Jan1014

So many Moodys, and still, we didn’t get to see them all. Looking forward to our first Moody Family Reunion this spring!Jan1010

Posted in family, holidays, indiana, travel | 1 Comment

My Best Friend’s Wedding

That’s a title I wasn’t sure I’d get to write. But God is faithful, and God is good beyond measure. My best friend, Rebekah, married her Richard on December 17th. And they are lovely together.


the happy couple


Dr. Pringle prays over his daughter’s wedding rehearsal


rehearsal dinner

Rebekah is my dearest friend, and she and I met in college over a decade ago now.Dec4008

There are many beautiful qualities I could highlight about my friend, but the one that has been most impressed on my heart is Rebekah’s intentionality in rejoicing with those who rejoice—even when the happiness she’s celebrating in another’s life is the very happiness she’s longing for in her own life.


bridal brunch


the soon-to-be Mrs. Yamada

Ten years ago, Rebekah was a bridesmaid in my wedding (and I’m thankful I got to return the favor). She helped me see what a treasure Stephen is.


2016: her wedding-2005: my engagement-same Christmas tree-same dear friend

Though hoping for marriage herself, Rebekah always chose joy as she celebrated not only my marriage, but the marriages of her friends and family around her. She did this in big sacrificial ways like flying to AZ to watch my kids so Stephen and I could have an overnight date. And she celebrated my marriage in small ways like addressing letters to “Mrs. Stephen Moody” when she could have just written “Elisabeth.”Dec4004Dec4003

When babies came my way, Rebekah adopted my kids as her own niece and nephews. As anyone can see, “Aunt Bekah” is one of the proudest titles Rebekah wears!


all nine of Rebekah’s nieces and nephews were part of the celebration

Rebekah’s friendship has grown my faith as we’ve memorized Scripture, read books together, and laughed, cried, and prayed over the phone. We’ve weathered some tough and happy times together, and Rebekah consistently pointed me to Christ—sometimes she even carried me to Christ when I didn’t have the strength to walk myself.Dec4013

For years, I’ve been praying that God would bless Rebekah with a husband who would love her like Christ loves the church. And this year God answered those prayers in Richard. Dec4010


her big brother officiated the wedding


her colors were forest green, blush pink, white and cranberry


I love this shot of Rebekah’s niece watching adoringly


with ten bridesmaids, the powder room was a happening place

Richard, you’ve been long waited for, long prayed for, and long hoped for. God is good and gracious to bring you and Rebekah together. I pray your covenant of marriage mirrors the union of Christ and His bride, as you live out your vows to each other.


introducing Dr. & Mrs. Richard Yamada

Congratulations, Richard and Rebekah!


Posted in elisabeth, friends, indiana, marriage | 1 Comment