Weekend Daybook: Candlemas & TGIFebruary edition

Seven days of collecting what I've been up to lately: places, people, books, podcasts, music, links & more for your weekend downtime.

Before the links, here’s a happy reminder that today is Candlemas, also known as the Feast of the Presentation! Several years ago I wrote a brief essay about the prophetess Anna, and it’s been one of my favorite Scriptural figures ever since: Anna’s Advent Prepares Her For A Glorious Epiphany.

Here’s a lovely write-up from The Homely Hours about the meaning of Candlemas and a family liturgy printable for Candlemas. Don’t miss the enchanting Candlemas gift at this post!

And it wouldn’t be a feast day without a playlist!

(1) photo from this week*

*January’s been rough! Except for this sweet weekend Alex and Rebekah visited from Texas, one or the other of us has been sick since Christmas. I prepared this post last week and then never published it. It’s a week late, but still full of goodness. Hope you enjoy!

Alex & Bekah visited us from Austin! We spent one afternoon traipsing through New Haven & Yale campus in freezing temps.

Alex & Bekah visited us from Austin! We spent one afternoon traipsing through New Haven & Yale campus in freezing temps.

(2) of my favorite tributes to the poetic gifts of the late Mary Oliver

  1. Mary Oliver: The Gift of the Word Despair by Allison Backous Troy via Image Journal | “But in my case, as for the millions who have read “Wild Geese,” the poem popped up in my life at a time where what I needed to hear was that I was heard, and known, beyond what I could say, and that the world was not simply what I had known it to be–a flatland of concrete strip malls and familial anger–but something exciting, something that called out to me, lonely and unloved as I had felt.”

  2. With Thanks to Mary Oliver by Nancy Nordenson | “Reading her was like having a friend next to me, urging me on to pay attention, to pause, to look, to wonder, to praise.”

(3) podcasts I enjoyed recently

  1. How Does One Remember God? Christian Wiman with Krista Tippett via OnBeing | “The poet Christian Wiman is giving voice to the hunger and challenge of being religious now. He had a charismatic Texas Christian upbringing, and was later agnostic. He became actively religious again as he found love in his mid 30s, and was diagnosed with cancer. He's written, "How does one remember God, reach for God, realize God in the midst of one's life if one is constantly being overwhelmed by that life?"

  2. Ira Glass: The Man Who Launched a Thousand Podcasts via Without Fail, Gimlet Media | “On this episode, host Alex Blumberg sits down with his mentor and former boss to talk about the early days at This American Life, what Ira taught Alex, and how being a good boss means learning to set people free.”

  3. Think Christian has a podcast! Here’s Episode 1 - Heroes and Humanism (Stan Lee, Doctor Who) | “Both the Doctor Who franchise and the superheroes created by the late Stan Lee are rooted in secular humanism. How might Christian humanism relate?”

(4) photos from Alex & Rebekah’s visit earlier this month

  1. We spent an afternoon walking around Yale Campus and eating delicious Cuban food in New Haven.

  2. Also shopping at bookstores.

  3. Alex & Kendra led worship for us on Sunday and it was such a sweet gift! At one point, Brian was on the platform with just Alex, Kendra and Jordan (Kendra’s wonderful boyfriend). I snapped this photo and thought “What a blessed man!”

  4. Sunday afternoon naps are still our favorite way to hang out together. It’s Juliet’s favorite, too.

(5) links about current events in peacemaking and reconciliation

  1. We See What We Believe by Propaganda (Jason Petty) via Preemptive Love Organization | “Listen, I have no desire to adjudicate this moment. Even with the myriad of videos, no video can discern the heart of man. I am here to give commentary about us, the onlookers.”

  2. The pro-life movement has always been pro-women. Our priorities should reflect that. via America Magazine | “We should be passionate about making sure that the rest of the world can see our respect for women as well.”

  3. What It’s Like for Secular, Liberal Pro-lifers at the March for Life by Ashley Fetters via The Atlantic | “Though some describe themselves as the “counterculture within the movement,” many members of nonreligious and left-leaning pro-life groups feel welcome at the largely Christian, conservative event.”

  4. A Long Road From ‘Come by here’ to ‘Kumbaya’ by Samuel G. Freedman via New York Times | “Robert Winslow Gordon, below in 1928 and at the Library of Congress with his wax cylinders, captured the sound of someone named H. Wylie singing a lilting spiritual in the key of A.”

  5. Freedom’s Ring via Stanford University | Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech animated. This is an excellently crafted multi-media experience.

(6) links reflecting on the values of minimalism, simplicity, and tidying up

  1. Holy Clutter by Matt Miller via Comment Magazine | “Our stuff isn’t just for private joy; we have things to share.”

  2. Liturgies of Less … and More by Tish Harrison Warren with Sarah Hamersma via Comment Magazine | “There’s nothing in the Anglican liturgy that is explicit about simplicity. That’s different, maybe, from the Quaker tradition or certainly the Amish tradition. That said … I think being intentional about liturgy itself can be a practice of simplicity, in the sense that there is a kind of consumeristic impulse in evangelicalism that makes every church service novel, every church service entertaining, every church service ramping up—“This is going to be different than anything you’ve seen before.”

  3. Minimalism By Design by Bob Hamersma via Comment Magazine | “I was at peace with the realization that I would be forever changed, bereft of not only material goods but also physical abilities to do almost anything.”

  4. We Were Wrong About Marie Kondo by Lisa-Jo Baker and Christie Purifoy via Out of the Ordinary podcast | “This is the story of the secret shame we all carry about our houses. And the one thing that can free you from it.”

  5. Simplicity by Erin Ware via Tend podcast | “The spiritual discipline of simplicity is often tied up with money or belongings, and specifically the idea that, if we are to follow Christ, then we have to give up everything we own (at least the good stuff!) In this episode we talk about how that is not really it. It's far deeper and much more simple.”

  6. The Reasonably Clean House via Like Mother, Like Daughter | “The Reasonably Clean, Fairly Neat, and Comfortably Tidy House: Start Here for the Plan.”

(7) blog posts from this week in the archives

  1. 2018 - Encountering Christ in Chiquila, Mexico {Walking Epiphany 2018 series} (We first met Amy at Church of the Apostles and is one of the mightiest encouragers I've ever met. Through her, we met Adiel, and together they shared with us through their stories and their work with Hands Offering Hope their great love Adiel's hometown of Chiquilá. Since our very first conversation around our kitchen table, I've been excited for the day I get to visit Chiquilá for myself. )

    You can see more from this series that published this time of the year: WALKING EPIPHANY in Juneau, AK: neighborhood notes from Wendy Wall.

  2. 2018 - 8 books our church read together last year {Apostles Reads} (I'm happy to look back on our first year reading together and see that the Apostles Reads group has been up to the challenge. They have responded to each title - from the martyrs and apostates in Endo's 17th-century Japan to the four lonely children rummaging through a wardrobe into Narnia -  with grace, humility, empathy, and intellectual curiosity.)

  3. 2016 - Next in the Series of Fortunate Events, the Rehearsal Dinner {pretty, happy, funny, real series} (The pretty, happy, funny and real photos from the Rehearsal Dinner we hosted for Alex & Rebekah's wedding party and families on New Year's Day.)

  4. 2013 - Parenting Unrehearsed: Family liturgies for Christmas and my mama's rule for feasting (And so we're learning to order our days and seasons as a liturgy. We do our best with the truth we know -- pray together as often as possible, giggle at ourselves when we fall asleep on the couch watching Home Alone instead.  We revel in the permission to both feed the hungry homeless as well as the four children grazing at the refrigerator in our own kitchen.  We take delight in the pantry bulging with ingredients for the feast that arrives on Christmas Day.)

  5. 2012 - 7 quick takes: a photo diary (A photo diary from our first January in Austin.)

  6. 2010 - IAM Reader's Guild review: Silence by Shusaku Endo (Endo masterfully depicts a stark and silent world -- in the subtle descriptions of buzzing insects, withering heat and rotten food, dark water and crimson blood stains on dusty courtyards.  His storytelling had a sobering effect on us all and we were grateful for the chance to come in from the cold January evening and cheer each other with brisk conversation, merlot and gummy fish. It was a good evening and we are looking forward to gathering again.)

  7. 2008 - Once (I love, love, love this movie and this is where it all began.)

9 years ago

January 2010: hiking through Sarah P. Duke Gardens on the campus of Duke University, NC. I still have the pinecones I gathered on this walk. (Also, back when I lied about my hair color!)

May your weekend include some rest and some fun with friends and family. Peace...

p.s. This post may contain affiliate links because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!

Weekend recap: parents tour Texas + links I love

Reviving the weekly post in which I share my favorite (and, sometimes, not-so-favorite) moments from the week and links from the web. 

-- 1 --

On April 10, this blog turned 11 years old. Crazy, right? I feel like I've lived 3 or 4 lifetimes since 2006. I've lived in 6 different houses in 3 different states, worked about 5 different jobs, attended 4 of my kid's high school graduations, 2 college graduations, and 1 wedding.

In the 11 years I've been writing at this blog, I've figured out several important life questions, and asked a whole lot more. We've worked and served in 3 different churches, become confirmed in the Anglican communion, and celebrated my husband's ordination into the priesthood. 

I've quit blogging 537 times, but somehow never stopped publishing new posts. It's been a consistent space in a season of unpredictable highs and lows. Even this week I quit the blog, yet here I am typing new words onto a white space. And here you are, reading them. 

Thank you. 

In the past 11 years, I've met more new in-real-life friends than any one person deserves. I've also learned the deep sadness of moving thousands of miles away from people, given the choice, I'd pick as my next-door neighbors for the rest of my life. It probably doesn't take a therapist to analyze the reason I value the relationships I've begun or maintained through this digital space. I know it can never take the place of face-to-face connection, yet it does provide a kind of connection that is also meaningful.

So Happy Birthday, blog!  And thank you, friend, for participating, affirming and connecting with me through this intermediary platform.  I'm forever grateful. 

-- 2 --

April brought our first Eastertide in Connecticut (which was lovely in so many ways), and our first trip back to Texas to see our kids and as many other people we could collect on the way. 

-- 3 -- 

We celebrate a family tradition of giving our children an additional middle name at the time of their 21st birthday. We hope to bless qualities we've seen grow and develop throughout their life, and give them a name to point them toward their future. We also hope to acquaint them with a hero of the faith as a reminder of their heritage within the communion of saints. 

This was the first time we saw Kendra since she turned 21 in March, and were so excited to reveal her new name: Kendra Jenee Edel Murphy, after Edel Quinn

We bless you, Kendra, for your fiercely tenacious, lovably persuasive, exceedingly capable, mystically devoted, churchly oriented, nations championing, friendship nurturing life. Godspeed into this beautiful and terrifying world, KJEM. We are always for you, and Christ is always with you.

-- 4 -- 

Favorite sights, sounds and reads from the internet this week:

  • Bono & David Taylor: Beyond the Psalms - Last year, Brian and I had the privilege to support this project behind the scenes. The latest releases are examples of great conversation and craftsmanship. Excellent. | via Fuller Studio
“We don’t have to please God in any other way than to be brutally honest; that is the root not only to a relationship with God but the root to a great song . . . or any work of art of merit.” —Bono
  • In Venezuala, the Catholic church endures among the revolution's ruins - One of my former co-workers in Austin was born in and still has family members living in Venezuala. I've been following the links he's posted on social media to try to understand the current turmoil.  This post helped give me some historical and religious perspective. Lord, have mercy. | via America Magazine
"When the state becomes predatory, the defenders of the faith are called upon to point people in the right direction, away from the violence of the authorities and back to God. Reminding the people he is still there; he is still looking; he is still caring."


  • Rewrite Radio, the podcast from the Festival of Faith & Writing - A year ago, I attend the festival for the first time. It was a game-changer for me, even though, at the time, it felt awkward and lonely. If you love writing, reading or just listening to interesting speakers, check out the archives of previous festivals in this new podcast series. If nothing else, listen to episode #10 featuring Frederick Buechener from the very first festival in 1993. | via Calvin.edu


"I think of how often God's messengers and Jesus himself urged, "Be not afraid." Both comfort and command, those words suggest that taking that full look at the worst is exactly what the Spirit equips us to do—to have eyes willing to see, and ears willing to hear, and hearts willing to participate wherever we can in redressing injustice and fostering the kind of community we were called to by the Holy One who made us stewards and called us friends." -- Marilyn McEntyre

-- 5 --

We're headed into the third week of Eastertide. I hope you're still celebrating - maybe even with champagne for breakfast, as N.T. Wright recommends!  On the blog, I'll be sharing a Sunday post each week, highlighting the Gospel accounts, great visual art, and some of my favorite literary quotations on the theme of resurrection life. I'm also excited to kick off the annual weekly Practice Resurrection photo contributions from friends all around the country (and globe). 

In the meantime, here's 271 of my favorite songs on the theme of Gospel resurrection. Enjoy!  

May you enjoy a weekend full of worship, love, and beauty, friends. Maybe even, champagne!

{pretty, happy, funny, real} birthdays, office lunches, Texas small towns and more!

| a weekly capturing of contentment in everyday life |

A few photos to practice contentment this week

| pretty |

Friends' Daytrip to Hye, Texas

Our dear friends, Shaun & Katie, celebrated their 11th wedding anniversary last weekend by inviting us to join them for a deliciously delightful afternoon in charming Hye, Texas.  I spent the day regretting I'd ever said Texas wasn't beautiful because this day was prettier than most I've seen in my life.  The temperature, was perfect - with no humidity or bugs. The company, food and wine impeccable. The Hye Market is located in the historic Hye Post Office (still operating).  The food was good, but being surrounded by all the marvelous old wood and tin was even better.  And the winery! Totally charming, relaxed, hospitable.  We enjoyed live music and hours of sweet conversation.  Totally our kind of day.  (Thanks, friends. A long & blessed marriage to you!)

| happy |

I had a birthday

Hello, my name is Tamara.  I am 45 years old.  I want to go to Ireland before I die (or this summer, whichever comes first.) I am kind of happy to be this age, but not entirely sure.  I'll keep you posted.  

| fun(ny) |

Kendra has a birthday

This is my daughter Kendra, who for the last 20 years has celebrated her birthday the day after her momma.  We try to make it special and her own.  We told her we'd have a special dinner for her when she got home for spring break and asked if she'd like to invite a few friends.  

She said that, yes, she would.  They were more than happy to come and celebrate with us.  (see below for Kendra and some of her BFFs)

Party games included dollhouses, skateboarding and hanging out in the ENO we gave Kendra for her birthday.  And it was a delightful party, indeed.

| real |

I left work just as Sixth Street was gearing up for SXSW. Providential timing?

Snapped this pic on my way out of the lobby of my office building my last day

(being admired, apparently, by a SXSW tourist)

This and a few photos of my kids were all I brought home from my desk: a hearty succulent I hardly ever watered, a Princess Buttercup bobble-head and my signature letter T.

My last day of working in downtown Austin For two-and-a-half years I've worked at a digital marketing agency in downtown Austin.  I probably will always giggle when I say that because, honestly, it's not a place (city or company) I ever imagined working.  When I drove away Wednesday afternoon, I started crying instead.  Tears of pure gratitude.  Living in this city is expensive, and we landed here at a financially vulnerable time with four kids in the college years. It took me awhile to find someone in Austin who would believe that I could do good work.  And, this company filled with mostly twenty-something, urban-savvy media geniuses welcomed my grey-hair, Bible-reading, Jesus-living momma type.

Before moving here, I wouldn't have guessed that some of my best friends in this city would be people with such different social, educational, religious and political backgrounds as myself. I told them that I could write a book from all the things they taught me (the stuff I'm able to repeat in polite society, anyway).  I told them that they had become so dear to me, and that I'd be praying for them.  And I will.

They sent me out with the same kind of hospitality in which they'd received me: free lunch, a couple of beers, breakfast tacos and Austin-famous doughnuts.  I hope I can be as kind to the people I meet in Connecticut as they have been to me. At the same time, I sincerely hope to not have to work the 9-to-5 life ever again.  I'd love to go out with this happy ending.

Have YOU captured any contentment this week? 

 I'd love to hear about it!

| Join in at P,H,F,R to see other wonderful people practicing contentment. |

{pretty, happy, funny, real} in a life-changing February

| a weekly capturing of contentment in everyday life |

"Weekly" is not exactly accurate since it's been over a month since I posted anything other than the devotional Lent daybook posts.  I'd like to say this was an intentional fast for the season or something, but that wouldn't be true.  The real reason for the lack of personal posts is that February was cray-zay.  I spent 17 of the 29 days out of town (sleeping in about five different states), and I spent a total of 8 days sick in bed (literally). On the few remaining days, we visited with a few friends, went to work, marked Ash Wednesday, and accepted a new job in a new state. 


 Keep reading, friends.

A few photos to practice contentment this week

|old friends|

A visit with an old friend

We have not seen A. for probably 8 years, before living in Austin was even an idea in our heads.  One of the most serendipitous moments we've experienced since moving to Austin was the day we met a new family at Christ Church, and in our first conversation discovering that they had lived with our friend across the world in Asia.  Not only did we discover we had a mutual friend, but we learned that this very family had been one we'd prayed for when A. sent the requests about their daughter who was seriously ill.  And here she was -- in Austin -- miraculously cured and full of life.  The whole thing came full circle when A. came back to the U.S. and visited all of us in Austin.  

We enjoyed a breezy dinner out doors and caught up on stories.  It was especially sweet for Natalie - who had prayed for A. with her Sunday School class in NY when she was little - to ask more grown-up questions about life on mission.  


| Central Texas ministry retreat|

ministry retreat in Central Texas

At the very beginning of the month, we spent a few days at a retreat center with a small band of church friends, training in a new ministry offering. There was just enough time for me to get out for a late afternoon hike.  I accidentally went far beyond the trail, finally stopping at the edge of a cliff.  I got to watch the sun set, and it was gorgeous.  Then I hustled back while there was still a bit of daylight because I'm still terrified of all that creeps and crawls in Texas.

|Connecticut interview |

St. Mary's-by-the-sea Park, Fairfield, CT

I've mentioned over the past year, somewhat between the lines, that Brian and I really did not know where we would end up working once he is ordained into the Anglican priesthood. Last summer it became clear to us that we would not likely have the opportunity to rector a church in Austin, we prayed hard about church planting outside of Austin vs. interviewing for Rector positions outside of Texas.  As part of that discernment process, we sent resumes to a few hiring churches.  We wanted to get a sense of what other Anglican churches in the U.S. were experiencing, and what needs they were expressing in terms of pastoral leadership. 

Two of the three locations followed up with Brian with several Skype interviews.  After each conversation, Brian was energized not only by the questions, but also by the earnest hearts of the church members in this hard task of searching for a new priest.

Much to our amazement, both churches invited us to interview in person within one week of each other.  In theory that sounds logical -- back to back interviews.  In practice it was emotionally and physically exhausting. Not just because of the toll of air travel and meeting large groups of new people for weekend-long intense conversations, but the greater exhaustion came from the love we felt for each location.  We hoped to be chosen -- as any normal human would -- but we also agonized the choice.  Our choice to respond, to leave Austin, and, essentially, to leave behind one of the congregations we met and prayed about, in addition to the church we already serve and love here in Austin.

It surprised me how hard that felt.

Providentially, one of the dear members of the church in Connecticut handed us a homemade loaf of Rye bread on our way out the door Sunday afternoon.  And so, we had chunks of bread and glasses of wine for our hotel room dinner that night.  While it started to snow outside our window. And it was very, very good.

Of course, one of the perks of interviewing in Connecticut was flying in and out of our favorite city in the world.  And, not only that, we got snowed into Brooklyn for two nights because our flight home was cancelled and the next available flight wasn't for another two days.

Oh darn...

We made the most of our added time, traipsing through sleet, wind and snow for a delightful belated Valentine's Day dinner at the excellent Franny's.  This photo shows our dessert, but the rest of the meal was utterly fantastic as well.

The rest of our time in NYC

  • the quintessential NYC Italian eating experience, in which I was the only female in the crowded cafe and we found out we had to pay cash when we're already through the line and the little Italian owner-guy told Brian "It's OK. Eat it before it gets cold! You can pay me later." (which we did, of course)
  • Waiting out the pouring rain inside Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn
  • Reading, writing, people-watching in the perfectly buzzy The Greene Grape Annex coffee shop (across from Greenlight)

| Virginia interview |

A day and half after returning to Austin from Connecticut, we headed out for our second weekend of interviews in southeastern Virginia. 

This church was dear and we fell in love with each person - from the two-year-old to the 91-year-old couple.  They are a small band of people who love Jesus, love each other and love their town and we will keep praying that God sends them exactly the right shepherd to join them.

| Maryland sister visit |

When we looked at the map and realized how close we'd be to my sister's new house in Maryland.  How could we miss the chance to visit?  And I can't stop looking at this picture. (we were recreating this one before my niece Ellie was born). This picture represents so much prayer and so much courage from my brother-in-law and sister.  We give thanks to God.

| Denton daughter weekend |

Mother/Daughter event with Kendra

After catching up with two days of work back in Austin, I loaded up my podcast playlist and hit the road to Denton for a weekend with my daughter.  Her sorority hosts an annual mom's event, and we've begun a tradition of getting a hotel room and hanging out for a whole weekend. We got time to trip around town a bit, hitting up the huge used bookstore, a couple of cute cafes, and meeting up with Kendra's roomies and their mothers. Another highlight of the weekend was helping Kendra prepare her support letter mailing for her mission trip to Kenya this summer. 

On Sunday I visited Kendra's church with her, and loved the opportunity to worship with yet another Anglican church earnestly seeking to love God and neighbors well.  

As I said, it was a full month with some life-changing results. We are grateful, excited, nervous, sad and eager.  I imagine I'll be talking a lot about it all here in the coming months. In the meantime, here's the basic announcement in Brian's words:

Big News for the Murphy Family| Christ Church website

Have YOU captured any contentment this week? I'd love to hear about it!

| Join in at P,H,F,R to see other wonderful people practicing contentment. |

The gift I finally have permission to share with you

Back in the fall, when our kids asked Brian and me what we wanted for our 25th Anniversary, I said "I want every single one of you in the same room. And I'd love it to be a Once party."

A Once party is our code name for a dinner in which everyone at the table brings some form of art to share with everyone else.  It can be original, performed, made, found, or a shared favorite.  The idea comes from one of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite movies of all time, and we first experimented with the idea for my 38th birthday party years ago.

Our kids blew us away.  Andrew wrote and performed jokes in his ingenious stand-up comic way (and what better time to tell jokes then one's Silver Anniversary?), Amber & Elayna painted a sweet canvas, Rebekah read (and gave us) a beautifully-framed prayer for marriage from Tertullian, Alex and Natalie played and sang a gorgeous version of Forever Young (this gorgeous version) and Kendra wrote and performed an original song for us. 

I wish I could have brought you all into the room with us for a few minutes, but maybe I'm a bit biased at the beauty of these "four(+) wild hearts" we've been charged with and now send out into the world.  Like every musician I know, Kendra was hesitant for us to share her song publicly.  I think we all understand that phone video work is not the most conducive quality to translate beautiful music.  I think it's worth the risk, and you'll find this beautiful anyway. 

Here's Kendra's song for a gorgeous taste of the entire celebration.

If no other record of our lives is preserved, this one would tell the world everything I'd like them to know.  It would tell God our Father how very grateful we are for the finished work of His Son and the energizing life of His Holy Spirit.  May the gift move outward from us into this beautiful, broken world through our children's children's children.