Saturday, August 06, 2016

Collage wall

At our home in Wake Forest, it took us forever to decide what we wanted to put on our 'big blank wall' behind our couch. We finally opted for a collage wall, and loved it so much that we quickly put it in place at our home here in Jackson. A few things have changed in our layout, and we have added items (with more room to expand:), so I thought I would explain a little more about it.

From left to right:

  • Tennessee state watercolor, painted by a Union University art student
  • Four postcards representing places we have lived, including two of Waycross (one a map, and one a shot of the Ware Hotel), one of Southeastern Seminary, and one of the original Southern Seminary campus in Louisville
  • "Important Dates" print, which lists all of our birthdays and the wedding anniversary that started it all
  • A print of Habukkuk
  • North Carolina state painting with a heart over Wake Forest, and signatures on the back from dear friends of Leah's
  • Hatch Show Print of Johnny Cash
  • Georgia state outline with a heart over where N and L met
  • Envelope w/ Johnny Cash stamp (and a postcard of FBC Durham stuck in front of it! We need to find another frame for it)
  • This Is My Father's World hand lettered artwork by Kimberly Cambell

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Spring highlights/lowlights

Ah well, once again I have missed several months of updates, and it would take multiple lengthy blogposts to truly catch up. Instead, let's hit some highlights and lowlights of the past few months, shall we?


Hamilton, the musical: I had heard about it, but had not listened much to it. It kept reappearing in my Facebook feed, and then I saw the cast performance on the Grammys. And then Nathan started listening to it on Spotify. And then on our way home from Memphis one night we downloaded the soundtrack and, well, the rest is history. It is fabulous, fun and even a bit educational! Give it a listen, you won't be disappointed. And if someone would like to buy me tickets to see Hamilton on Broadway, I would not turn them down.

Memphis, the city: For our 15th wedding anniversary we took a trip to Memphis. Honestly, it took a long time to get to the place where Memphis was "okay" for a big anniversary trip. What I really wanted was a trip overseas, but our time, money and resources are not lining up for that trip to happen any time soon, if ever. Instead of some elaborate exotic getaway, we spent three days exploring the fabulous city of Memphis--and it's only an hour away! Because N and I didn't fly anywhere, we spent more time "on the ground", eating really well, and splurging even on a night at the Peabody Hotel. It was delightful, and even better-- it's close enough for us to visit again and again.

Georgia, the big: This spring, Georgia has taken up violin lessons AND has started her first stage of braces. She loves the violin and is taking to it very quickly. To my utter amazement and pride, she performed in her first recital just two months after beginning lessons, and was even the first person to play. She has a natural confidence and ease that is a joy to see develop. Georgia also started her first phase of braces, and she has been so excited and proud of that. Instead of seeing them as an obstacle, she is embracing them.

Baxter, the brilliant: Baxter struggled a little bit at the beginning of our time at Faith Tutorial this year, pushing his boundaries and testing the teacher multiple times a week. To be blunt--and this does not excuse his disobedience--he was bored with a lot of the work. Change occurred with him in two major ways. We shifted our focus more from punishing his acting out to praising his good behavior, and I began working with his review work more directly. That second part shows my inexperience as a teacher:-), but I didn't review with him much early in the year because he knew EVERYTHING. Once I started reviewing even the stuff he "already knew", Baxter began acing all of his phonics quizzes and little tests, and that changed everything. He loved to brag on his scores of 100, and it bugged him if he didn't make it. Baxter's a competitive boy, and once he knew what was within his grasp, he went after it like a champ.

Eleanor, the reader: That Eleanor is five years old now, and wants to read like her siblings. We have been slowly working through Hooked on Phonics (just like I did with her siblings!), and she is catching on very quickly. Stop the clocks, people. I need my girl to stay little.

Fuller, the superhero: Fuller turned three in April and his birthday was filled with superhero surprises. Hulk is still his absolute favorite, so when his Aunt Ruth sent him a Fuller-sized stuffed Hulk and an Avengers sleeping bag, his life was made. He has been sleeping with both ever since! (I had to insist on removing the sleeping bag, because it was making his bed so hot). Next up for this guy: potty-training. Pray for us.

Gallbladder, the saga: Nathan had his gallbladder removed in April. The surgery went very smoothly, his recovery was easy, and he has felt marked improvement ever since. However....


Gallbladder, the saga: Before we knew that Nathan had gallbladder issues, he spent several months battling severe pain, indigestion, stomach discomfort and many other symptoms. Praise the Lord, the doctor listened to Nathan's complaints and quickly scheduled tests to determine the root of the problem, but he still spent weeks in pain. It was a physically, emotionally, and spiritually draining time for everyone in the family. I am thrilled to be on the 'other side' of this story, and I pray our time in those trenches of regular, severe pain give us more sympathy and empathy for those with chronic pain, illness and disease.

Cancer, the killer: We lost two friends to cancer this spring. Both were women who loved Jesus, who now see Him face to face and worship at His feet and feel no more pain and suffering. But these women leave behind husbands and children who love and miss them, and friends who ache and struggle. It's hard. There is more that I could write, but suffice it to say: we long for a better world, one without disease and illness, death and brokenness, pain and suffering. Maranatha.

There is so much more I could say and write, but perhaps if I leave that off I will actually write another blog post. Ha! Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment about your spring highlights (or lowlights too).

Monday, February 15, 2016

Just another manic Monday (also, I hate February)

It's a rainy, nasty, dreary Monday here in Jackson, and I have had just about enough of February already.  Granted, I am thankful that we don't have snow or ice that other parts of the country have right now, but still, February, it's been nice, but bye-bye.

February is hard.
February is cold.
February is fickle (cold one day, warm another day).
February can't decide how many days it has.
February doesn't like the sun.

Yes, February has Valentine's Day, but give me spring over chocolate and flowers...
actually, give me spring, chocolate, and flowers! That's perfection.

To combat the February-ness of today, I decided to post about those things that help me through manic Mondays. And Tuesdays. And other days that end in "y", especially in February.

Coffee, preferably in a big mug and with endless refills
May I recommend Back Alley Roasters? We love this small company that is run by friends

Stress Away in the diffuser
(I'm not a crazy oil lady, but the Stress Away is my new favorite. So wonderful in my house. And hey, Young Living kits are 10% off this month. Let me know if you want more details)

A cracklin' fire
On gloomy rainy days, a fire in our fireplace is essential.
It warms both the body and the soul.

Fun music
When the kids are trapped inside and attacking each other, it's time for a dance party.
Awesome Mix, Vol. 1, from Guardians of the Galaxy is always a hit, as are songs byTaylor Swift, Black-Eyed Peas, and Fun. A current favorite in the house is also "Cheerleader" by OMI (thanks, Anita, for introducing us to that). 
If it's about ME needing cheering up, then I turn on Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, or if I'm working/cleaning, Bon Jovi, as loud as possible. Yes, they are totally different genres, but oh well:-)

Nothing soothes a rainy day like a good book. I highly recommend a diverting mystery or spy novel, as February really cannot handle heavy tomes of theology and philosophy. February needs to be distracted, so I would suggest a Daniel Silva spy novel, or a James Patterson mystery, or re-reading Harry Potter for the umpteenth time.

These are some of my ideas. How are you surviving this manic February/I mean Monday?

Friday, February 05, 2016

January notes

*The Finnlings' new favorite snack (and honestly, Nathan and I like it too) is this  fruit tape from Annie's brand. It's better than any Fruit Roll Up you've had, I promise. My grocery store doesn't carry it (Kroger), but my not-a-super-Target has it in their snack food aisle. Yum.

*The Farmer Restaurant in Memphis is quite possibly the most amazing food I have had since we moved to West TN. We spent part of a day in Memphis on the weekend of our anniversary--it involved shopping at Teavana, Whole Foods, and Anthropologie, and having dinner at this delicious restaurant. It will NOT be our last time there, and it honestly served for inspiration for our spring getaway trip to Memphis (more on that later, maybe:-).

*Sometimes, as a grownup, as a parent, when you do not have your children with you, it is fun to simply walk around a grocery store together. Hence, our visit to Whole Foods mentioned above. Yes, it is also where we spend our "whole paycheck", but still. I have rarely been disappointed by a visit there, or by something I purchased there.

*I have never owned a long cardigan, mostly because I have never seen one that I liked. I am not at all up to date on fashion, so they may not be in style that much anymore, but I found one that I love and I am wondering why it took me so long! It looks great over a variety of things, and the one I bought is super soft and comfy too. Go get yourself a long cardigan.

*Alan Rickman's death was so terribly sad.  I loved him first as Colonel Brandon, I will be honest, but his portrayal of Severus Snape through eight Harry Potter movies was brilliant. 

*We joined a wonderful church here in Jackson in late December (First Baptist Jackson TN ), and in January the kids started attending Awanas. We have never been involved in a church with Awanas before, so I must say it is a bit daunting for the parents! However, the Finnlings ADORE it. They have so much fun, they look forward to it weekly, and they count their Awanas bucks almost daily. I'm grateful for a ministry that seeks to pour biblical truth into my kids' hearts.

*Last tidbit: if you are desperate to watch a television show that you can't pick up with your antenna, purchasing it through Amazon Prime Video is cheaper than iTunes. Ask me how I know (Team Flash!).

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Favorites/ Highlights of 2015

Just for fun, I thought I would post a few of my favorite discoveries of 2015. 


Seasalt -- Sherwin-Williams paint color
This is my favorite color of the year, as evidenced by the fact that my entire house (minus the kitchen) is painted this color. Fair warning: it probably won't show up gray on your wall, but more green-blue-gray. I love it:-)


Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors -- They aren't a new band, but I have fallen in love with them this year. Their folksy Americana sound (please, do not mock me, as I am not a music critic) has been the sound track of my year. My husband gave me a perfect Christmas gift by enrolling me in Drew Holcomb's Magnolia Record Club (see: record player below)

Psalm 23 by Shane & Shane -- I first heard this song at the SBC, and it quickly became "my song", which sounds like I am in junior high. It can be found on Shane & Shane's new release, Psalms 2. Listen to it. It's lovely.


I read over thirty books last year (list coming soon!), but my favorite was All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It is a captivating novel set at the end of WW2. It looks like a dense book, but the chapters are short, so it is completely manageable. 

Television and movies:

The Flash-- Nathan and I started to watch this show in December. It's a good-heartened, fun, enjoyable superhero show. It is not dark like many other shows, the lead is winsome and engaging (and can sing and dance!), the cast is diverse, and did I mention Jesse L Martin? We love it.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens -- it was all we had hoped for, and definitely worth seeing in the movie theater! It is, above all, a lot of fun, and a good continuation of the original series.

The Martian -- we saw this movie on a whim and found it delightful.  It holds your attention from the beginning, is genuinely funny, and has a happy end (spoiler!)


Hot tea -- Nathan developed chronic heart burn this fall, and one of the homeopathic remedies he uses is a glass of hot tea every night with a drop of peppermint oil. It has become our evening tradition to put the kids down and promptly brew the tea. We like a variety of tea flavors and types, and look forward to trying more in 2016!

FAITH Tutorial -- This homeschool tutorial offered here in Jackson has been such a blessing to our family. It allows G and B two mornings a week to sit under someone else's teaching. It gives me a structure and lesson plans to follow. It helps Georgia drill her math by reinforcing it with someone else's teaching style. We love the friendships we have been forming through this tutorial as well!

Record player -- Nathan gave me a record player for my birthday. I love it so very much, and am completely hooked on vinyl! I grew up listening to records, and even logged many hours listening to recordings of classical music in college, so it feels like coming home. 

What were some of your favorites from 2015?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Challenge: Do One "Un-do-able" Thing

Life of a mom, of a parent, seems often like a life on repeat.

For instance, today, I loaded and ran the dishwasher. Unloaded. Reloaded, and now it's ready to run again. Nathan and I folded a couple of loads of laundry, yet there are still more clothes sitting in my dryer, waiting to be folded. And even more in our dirty clothes hampers. Let's not even talk about getting them put away. And bathing the kids. Didn't I just do that? Oh wait, probably not, 
because I am notorious for how infrequently my kids get baths or showers.

Anyway, our lives are often filled with habits, chores, work that we repeat over and over again. We pick up toys only to have them strewn all over the floor again two minutes later. We make our bed only to have our kids pile on it. We wash our car, only to drive through mud puddles. Etc. etc. It can make our day to day life feel boring or worse--like we aren't making traction or getting anywhere.

I came across this article about the one thing that keeps this blogger sane, and I found it encouraging and inspiring. She goes into greater and better detail than I can, but her encouragement is to do
one thing a day that cannot be un-done. Something that will not be changed or made obsolete by eating or changing clothes or children waking from naps.

Since reading that post, I have been brainstorming about tasks that cannot be undone. Here is my beginning list, and I would love to hear your suggestions! (In my mind, it is okay if they are tasks you will repeat. They just cannot be things that can be un-done, i.e., making lunch for your family, which is gone as soon as they eat it:-)

Read a chapter in a book (there is always more to read, yes, but it cannot be un-done)

Create something (sew, knit, cross-stitch, bake a special goody)

Color in a coloring book

Write a card to a friend

Call your mother or grandmother or best friend

Plant a garden

Drink a cup of hot tea

Take a walk around the neighborhood

Weed out old clothes or shoes

Have coffee with a friend

Write a blogpost :-)

Read your Bible and meditate on it

Snap a picture of your kids, your dog, your house, yourself

What little things have you done today that can never be undone? How are you investing your time?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Creamed Ham and Cornbread

When it comes to the traditional Thanksgiving turkey, the Finnlings are unimpressed, 
but they will all eat ham (frankly, we are pork lovers in this house).
So this year, for Thanksgiving, I bought a Honey Baked Ham.
It is pricey, and yet, so very worth it! :-)
After eating the ham for a couple of days, I froze the leftover ham in 1 cup portions.
This is a recipe my mother used to make with our leftover ham,
and it has become a Finn Family Favorite.
My kiddos love it--which completely surprises and thrills me.
Try it out and let me know if you like it too!

Creamed Ham and Cornbread 

2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs flour
2/3 cup warm milk
1/3 cup chicken broth
salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste (optional)
1 cup diced ham
*optional: two hard boiled eggs, diced

Melt butter in saucepan over medium low heat and add flour. Whisk for a couple of minutes until smooth. Slowly stir in milk and broth. Cook over medium heat, whisking continually, until the sauce thickens. Add ham and diced eggs if using. Stir together well and serve over cornbread.
Note: if you like lots of sauce, you may want to double the sauce recipe:-)


1 cup corn meal
1 cup all purpose flour (I use soft white wheat)
2-3 Tbs sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, combine corn meal, flour, baking powder and salt. Add milk, egg and oil, and stir until smooth--do not over mix! Pour into a greased 8x8 baking pan. Bake for 20-23 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes clean. 
**recipe taken from Aunt Jemima's Yellow Corn Meal package

One last note-- we have also served this Creamed Ham over my homemade biscuits and it was heavenly. Be flexible, try it different ways, and let me know if you love it! 

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

November Notes

I love reading blogs that several different people write entitled "What I Learned in _________". I intend, most months, to complete a summary of the month and link it to the appropriate blog roundup and share it with everyone so they can be enlightened by my thoughts.  And yet, I have published all of one or maybe two of these actual posts. Whoops. I'm so far behind on blogging, it's just not even funny. In an attempt to catch up, here are my November Notes. Nothing fancy, just some randomness from my head:-)

*Planning to keep up your homeschool work when you're traveling is always a good idea...except for my part, it never gets done. We have made two different week-long trips this fall, and both times I packed schoolwork for the kids, and both times we did....maybe two worksheets total. So, here's the new plan: my kids are young, and their workload is such that they can easily make it up, so until that changes, time out of town is NOT school time UNLESS it is filled with field trips (and I am down with that, by the way. Zoos and museums are even more fun out of town!).

*Nathan and I started watching The Blacklist on Netflix. And oh my gracious, we were hooked. I have never been a James Spader fan until now, but as Raymond Reddington he is genius. However, about halfway through the second season, I really grew uncomfortable with the characters and the direction of the show (it's hard to find a good guy, and from what I understand, it only gets worse). My kind husband sensed my foreboding and suggested one night that we switch to something else. Bless him.  Enter....

*The Flash. It's so much fun, so lighthearted and not too frightening or gory and not filled with the typical CW "petty problems of pretty people. For a comic book show, it's uplifting and funny and light hearted. My husband knows me well, and he knows that I want at least one person to really be the good guy, and for there to be corny jokes, but without it making fun of stupid people or being truly painful to watch (I'm looking at you, Michael Scott).  So The Flash is our fun fix right now, no regrets at all.

*Speaking of a fun fix--Grantchester on Amazon Prime is wonderful. It's a period crime solving drama involved a young priest in England in the 1950s! Whoo- hoo! Now, this priest is flawed and makes some rather dramatic mistakes, but he feels the weight of those mistakes and grieves them. I loved the series, and wish it was more than 6 episodes (these British tv shows with their abbreviated runs!). I am reading the short stories that the series was based on, and the series is better!

*I HAVE been reading books this month, but I have nothing to show for it--i.e., nothing that I have finished. It might be because I am trying very hard to finish the expansive Warmth of Other Suns which I started in the spring. It is SO good and so so so long. Maybe I'll finish it by the end of the year?

*Fall is always busy for us. Add in a move, a new job, new responsibilities, and let's just say the fall is crazy. We traveled the week before Thanksgiving, our family came into town FOR Thanksgiving, and the week after Thanksgiving we had three Christmas parties. What does that mean? It means this week until Christmas is relatively quiet and peaceful and for that we are truly grateful. We have very few plans, and I do not mind that one little bit. Peace on earth, and good will toward men.

*Last--we finally bought tickets to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens the night before it opens ;-) We are now debating what time we should get in line beforehand. Ha!

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Baxter turns seven -- September 28, 2015

Wasn't Baxter JUST born? How did he suddenly turn 7 years old?
This boy:
energetic, joke-teller, sensitive, snuggle-loving,
wrestler, sword-fighter, Master Builder extraordinaire,
light sleeper and early riser, chocoholic,
blue-eyed wonder of a child

We have lost more sleep because of B than any of our other children.
Yet when his sleep is interrupted, Mommy and Daddy can easily soothe and settle him. 
It is a precious thing to comfort a child--especially one getting so big!
We pray that the intensity with which he experiences life will become 
an intensity lived for Jesus. 
Celebrating his seventh birthday was loads of fun! Presents included books (he LOVES to read now!), Lego sets, breakfast with daddy, and double chocolate cake.

You are loved, Baxter!! Happy Birthday! 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Nathan's sermon at SBTS, September 15, 2015

Last week, Nathan had the opportunity to preach in chapel at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. We spent two years at SBTS for Nathan's M.Div., and we loved our time there. We grew in our love for Jesus and our love for each other, and the seminary has greatly shaped who we have become now. It was quite the honor and privilege for Nathan to preach. Sadly, I wasn't there in person, but I was able to live stream it (see my cute screen shot?:-)

You can listen to Nathan's sermon here, and I pray you will be blessed by it!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Finns take Jackson, part 2 (first contact)

You can read part one here

Mid week of Valentine's week, Nathan came home from work, put his things down, and sat in his rocking chair to chat with me about his day. This was not unusual or uncommon; he did this most days. The kids weren't around at that moment, though I don't remember why. Nathan seemed distracted and fidgety, but it wasn't enough to bother me.

Then he said: “I've been contacted by a friend at Union about submitting my resume for the Dean's position.” Long pause. “And I didn't say no.”

BOOM. There it was. He didn't automatically say no, and in that moment, I think we both knew something had changed.  In the past, different people had suggested Nathan submit his resume for the open position, but he had never felt led to do that until the "first contact" in February. 

He agreed to pray about it, and we took a few days to pray and decide if he should proceed with sending in his resume. Truthfully, I prayed a little bit, and cried a lot at least once in those few days. Yes, I had a big, ugly, I-don't-want-to-go-don't-make-me cry before Nathan even sent his resume. Because, you see, sending the resume is saying we were okay with going. And I wasn't. In fact, I told Nathan that if he wanted to submit his resume because of some age-old promise to Danny Akin (see part one), I wasn't biting. It was not necessary, and it was unfair to Union (or any other school that came calling) if we didn't really mean to go through with the process. Nathan assured me that he wanted to submit his resume to Union because he wanted the job. God had changed his heart, and I am not sure either of us saw it coming until it hit.

We can point to many things that led us to the conclusion that Nathan should submit his resume, but the biggest one for me was the multitude of 'outside confirmation.' To be clear, we told very few people we were even considering submitting our resume. It was much too early in the process for us to do that. However, Nathan and I each told our closest friends so they could be praying for us and supporting us (and for my girlfriends to know why I might randomly burst into tears at any time). The response was universally positive, encouraging, 'yes I could see Nathan doing this job' comments. We felt a peace about taking the first step in the process and Nathan sent his resume in.

This was not a calm peace, at least not for me. It was a jittery, on the edge of my seat, waiting for the cute guy to call me, nervous energy kind of peace. I knew it was the right thing to do, though I was reluctant about it, and Nathan knew it was the right thing to do, and we just wanted answers. What next? Would he get an interview? If he did get an interview, would he be offered the job? Would he take it? Our minds were racing about how soon Union University wanted to fill the position. As it had been vacant for two years, we knew they needed someone fast. There was a lot of crazy speculation happening in the Finn household, and at times, not much else! Nathan still had to teach, and be an elder, and a daddy, and I still had to homeschool, and help lead a Bible study, and be a good mommy and wife. It was an interesting balancing act, to say the least.

Right after Nathan submitted his resume to Union, winter storms hit. Two weeks in a row, we had snow in Wake Forest, and Jackson Tennessee had snow and freezing temperatures at the same time. It threw everyone's schedules out of whack, including all the committee meetings. So we sent Nathan's resume off, and then we heard absolutely nothing for weeks. It seemed like months, but it wasn't quite that long (though it was close). It was nerve-racking, but God was teaching us and molding us, causing us to cling to the cross, to focus in on what was most important, and to lean hard on God's goodness when we had no idea what the future held.

More to come....

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Things I Learned in August

*moving is hard. emotions and struggles hit at random moments, sometimes simply feeling a sadness, other times something reminding you of "home" so suddenly you can't breathe. My oldest had a couple of days where she simply felt sad and wanted to cry a lot. I understand, sweet girl, I understand.

*Faith Home School Tutorial has been a huge blessing to our family. The two big kids go to the tutorial twice a week in the mornings. Their teachers cover English, Science, Art and Math (G only), and at home we work on assignments, handwriting, history and spelling. This structured classroom setting challenges my kids--and that is SUCH a good thing! 

*Moody Sisters-- I've talked about Moody Sisters before, but I tried their new eyeliner in August and it is fantastic, with intense pigmentation that is creamy and smooth without smearing.  They have new powder foundation and liquid foundation (can I buy everything??), and their new scents are fabulous (I love the new lavender citrus scent).  If you have never purchased anything from Moody Sisters, you can use the code LFINN to receive 10% off. Trust me, you'll like it!!

*starting fresh is good. After months of prepping our house to sell, selling our house, moving to another state and settling in, Nathan and I needed a major reset to our eating habits.  We started the 21 Day Fix in August, and couldn't be more pleased with the results.  The 21 Day Fix is an eating plan with accompanying workouts that is produced by Team BeachBody. No calorie counting, and no cutting out everything you love--it's simply eating clean, whole foods in appropriate portions, and exercising daily. I followed the 21 Day Fix workout videos (7 days of different exercises), and Nathan used cardio equipment at the gym. We also drank Shakeology drinks most of the time as part of the Fix. Shakeology is a protein drink that is packed with super foods, vitamins and nothing artificial. True confession: it took me a little while to adjust to the taste, but we like it now:-) Most importantly, as a family we want to be good stewards of the bodies we have been given, and eating more vegetables and fewer carbs is the best way for us to do that! I'd be happy to answer questions you might have about this, or you can poke around this website.

*my oldest boy made a huge jump in reading in August. He went from reading a little bit, as needed, but not motivated or enjoying it--- to TEARING through books now. Baxter is reading chapter books with ease, and is so proud to show us when he finishes. His current favorites are Magic Tree House books, Magic School Bus books, and Lego or Marvel graphic novels (the kid versions, I promise). I often find him walking around with his nose in a book, and I love it (though sometimes I've given him instructions to do something else:-).

*speaking of books, Journey by Aaron Becker is a new discovery. It is delightful picture book that will capture your heart and imagination. It is spellbinding, which is a high praise considering that it contains no words. Don't worry-- you will be able to tell the story, and it will captivate you!

The author/illustrator has recently released a sequel called Quest. We just checked it out from the library this week and have already read it several times!

*I leave you with a few fun pictures from August. Thanks for checking out what I've learned recently!

**Affiliate links are included, but all opinions are my own.**

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Back to School 2015

It's Back to School time in the Finn house!

This year, we are doing school a little bit differently.
The two big kids are enrolled in Faith Tutorial here in Jackson.
They will attend the tutorial on Tuesday and Thursday mornings,
and will cover English, Science, Art, and Math (for G).
They will have homework/assignments for the days they aren't in class.
I will still cover history, spelling, and other subjects at home.

Since they are now going to school (even in a reduced manner), the kids needed backpacks.
After reviewing a very professional poll (I asked Facebook:-), 
I ordered L.L. Bean Deluxe backpacks--and to say Georgia and Baxter were excited was an understatement!! They were thrilled, and I am excited about quality backpacks 
that should grow with them over time. 

Epic First Day of School Fail
It was the first day of tutorial.
It was a parking lot.
It was blazing bright.
Epic Fail.

Baxter in his tutorial class.
He's obviously impressed with my taking pictures of him.

A few days later, we took our "Clapham Academy" pictures.
Fuller and Eleanor were just cheesing it up for the camera the entire time.
Here's to a new school year, a new state, a new homeschool/tutorial plan!

My first grader

My pre-kindergartener

My crazy toddler

My third grader

Thursday, August 13, 2015

One month in

One month in Jackson today. It seems both long and short. It seems like "hey, we've completely got this whole 'Jackson' thing down" and then other days we are drowning in adjustments and emotions and new jobs and making friends and life. God is good, and God is faithful, and this struggle--for struggles are not automatically bad--is for our good and His glory. We are glad to be here in Jackson. We have seen growth and fruit and development already, and we cannot wait to see what else lies ahead for us on this journey.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Finns take Jackson, part 1 (the background)

Before I can even start the story, I need to give some background. If my life were a movie, this would be a quick flashback, but my life is not a movie and instead it's a long rambling blog post. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Union University is a top-ranked private Christian university united in its love for Christ, for rigorous academics and for Biblical truth. (I didn't write that--it's direct from the website, but it is truth, and you can check it out here:  Union is the gold standard in evangelical Christian liberal arts education, and has been for decades. The former president, David Dockery, a brilliant theologian, writer and thinker, influenced and shaped Nathan's view of higher education for the glory of God.

Five or more years ago, Nathan and I informally talked about our five and ten year 'plan.'
It wasn't a real plan, as in we did not take active steps to put things in motion; it was more of a dream followed by some searching questions about what was next for us.  Union was a 'pie in the sky' kind of dream in that talk. You see, in our early married life, we never expected to teach at a seminary. "Our plan" was always to pursue a Ph.D. and then Nathan would find a job in a small Christian college. Teaching opportunities at a seminary rarely materialized, and so we didn't hope for it. When we discussed our pipe dreams, teaching at Union under David Dockery was on the list. 
But that changed--honestly because we found ourselves becoming more rooted in Southeastern. More involved in the vision of the campus. More in love with the Wake Forest/Raleigh/Durham area. We loved being a part of the mission at SEBTS and had no desire to leave.

Let me also back up a little bit and say that in the academic world, there are some positions, some jobs, that just due to WHAT they are, you should hear them out. In other words, don't automatically say no, don't slam the phone down on them, don't say it could never happen. Once upon a time, Dr. Akin told several young faculty members that though he wants them to stay at Southeastern forever, if certain schools should come calling, especially for positions of influence, they had to talk to them. Yes, Nathan was one of the people who heard that speech.  Union was one of the schools on that list, but Nathan thought nothing of it.

Circling back around (thanks for bearing with me, folks!), Union University's Dean of the School of Theology and Missions left two years ago to become the president of another school.  The position has been vacant for a long time! It was vacant while we were here for sabbatical last spring, which led to a lot of jokes (which really weren't jokes) about us having a semester long audition for the job.  Let the record show, the job was not offered to Nathan while we were here January 2014-June 2014:-)

We didn't even really pick Union for our sabbatical. Shortly before Thanksgiving 2013, we were discussing Nathan's upcoming sabbatical and I wished out loud that we could go someplace exotic (confession: I meant England). Nathan told me that we could relocate, but it would have to be affordable, and have access to a library and writing space. I thought it sounded intriguing, and we made a list of a few schools to contact. Union happened to be the first one because Nathan has a good relationship with several administrators. To our surprise, Union was very amenable to the idea, and ended up rolling out the red carpet for us, finding us a house to live in for free, giving Nathan office space, and granting him library access. So we moved to Jackson for five months.

And...Nathan's and my experiences were a bit different:-)
He researched and wrote all day almost every day. He attended weekly STM faculty teas (basically just faculty hang out time), and though they gave him plenty of space to do his work, he got to know most of the faculty in the department. For me, it was harder. We moved in January, when the temperature was zero degrees. I had four children that I was homeschooling, it was freezing cold and I didn't want to go out, and the youngest child was just eight months old. It was a lonelier time for me. I confess that I allowed that loneliness to color my interpretation of Jackson to my friends back home, to the point that someone said to me "How can you move there? You hated it!" Whoops.

I didn't hate Jackson. I missed my friends, my home, my church, my rhythms of life in Wake Forest. Jackson felt foreign to me, though it is a very Southern town and in many ways is oh so familiar. My kids were very lonely during the cold winter months, especially my social butterfly, Georgia. I did not feel like people made much of an effort to reach out to me, and I allowed that to irk me.  In addition, though we lived in Jackson for five and half months, we were away from that city five weeks of the time, visiting Wake Forest, hanging out with friends in Nashville and Kentucky, and spending two weeks in Georgia when Nathan's mother was deathly ill. We were never in town more than five weeks in a row.  I could have made an effort to make friends and get to know more people, but I wasn't too concerned about it-- we were going back home to Wake Forest soon!

All of the above aside, Jackson was an amazing time for us as a family. The Finnlings grew in their relationships with each other and their abilities to play together. I read so many books because we didn't have any evening plans! As a family we explored parks and cities that we had never seen before. Chickasaw State Park became a favorite weekend spot, we adored our day trips to Memphis, and we stayed in Nashville for the weekend as much as possible:-) We found our favorite Mexican restaurant, Tulum, in Jackson, Tennessee.  Much to my surprise, after returning to Wake Forest, we had many moments where we spoke about how we missed Jackson.

It was the Lord preparing our hearts.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Big changes for the Finns

When months go by between blog posts, many things are bound to change.

For the Finns, the change in the past few months has been earth-moving for our little family. We have moved from our home of eleven years, Wake Forest (and our beloved church and school), to west Tennessee--specifically Jackson, TN and Union University.

Nathan has accepted the position of Dean of the School of Theology and Missions at Union University in Jackson, TN. In God's kindness to us, we lived in Jackson for five months last year, so we have a jump start on our knowledge of the area, learning our way around town, etc.

We have seen God's hand guiding us here, and we have been blessed beyond measure by how He worked every detail out during the process. As a family, we all miss Wake Forest, First Baptist Durham, and SEBTS, and that manifests itself in different ways at different times. Yet the Lord has said "Go" to us, and we cannot help but follow. We look forward to seeing what is in store for our family here, and we are excited to be a part of the wonderful things going on at Union University.

Over the next few blog posts, I hope to tell the story of how we came to this place, not because it is an amazing or even terribly interesting story, but because we want to remember this process and set these 'memorial stones' in place as a reminder of God's faithfulness to us.

For the record, God has ALWAYS been faithful to us.
It is against his nature for him to be unfaithful.

Nathan and I know that in this big life changing decision to move states and jobs and homes and churches we have seen God's faithfulness and sensed God's leading in multiple ways. I do not want to forget these past few months, and I want to be sure my children know this story as well. So please feel free to follow along. Thanks for your patience with me in my sporadic blogging. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Things I learned in April

Here it is, a brief recap of April. Forgive me for not elaborating more, but perhaps that will come later!

-waiting stinks. I thought I was good at it, but I have learned this spring that I am not. More to come on that later.  Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:14

-audio books help housecleaning go more quickly. Seriously. I get much more accomplished while listening to audiobooks. Audible is a wonderful way to get audiobooks for cheap. You can also check your local library to see what they have available in their download library.
Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

-moody sisters mineral makeup is terrific! I already love their skincare line, and now I'm a big fan of their makeup as well. Find it online here: Moody Sisters Mineral Makeup

-foyle's war. amazing. Christopher Foyle is a man among boys. Check it out on

-mythbusters are awesome. Seeing them live on stage was a treat.

In these pictures, they are shooting paintballs at a kid in armor.
The catch was the paintball gun was a semi-automatic weapon.
No one was hurt in this segment.

-karen swallow prior is great. We had a fabulous time when she visited the SEBTS campus to lecture for the Center for Spiritual Formation and Evangelical Spirituality.   Her book Fierce Convictions is an inspiring biography on Hannah More, a reformer who helped bring literacy to the British people and who worked to end slavery in England. I highly recommend it if you have not read it.

**some of the links above are my affiliate links**

Easter 2015

First, let's compare the Finnlings from 2014 to 2015:

The biggest difference? Fuller had to be held in 2014, so he isn't in the pic. 
2015, he's running everywhere!!

As we were on the way home from church, 
we noticed many families stopping to 
take pictures on SEBTS' lovely campus. So we did the same!

We shared our Easter dinner with three other couples.
It was an amazing spread! 

Instead of giving the kids their Easter baskets first thing on Sunday morning,
we waited until late afternoon.
This allowed us to keep the "first thing the first thing",
and focus on the miracle of the resurrection of Christ.
It also helped their Sunday School teachers,
as we didn't send them to church hyped up on sugar :-)
As usual, there were a few Usborne books as well as some candy.

Happy Easter! Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed!