Souls, Words and A Second Attempt at Sleep

Sometimes my soul feels like it has arms.  Lots and lots of arms and they are all flailing around inside of me. They are jittering with a restless movement.  It always starts like this for me.  The movement always comes before the words.  I can sense the presence of the words but they are still locked up.  Sometimes they trickle out in little streams but I know the floodgates of articulation haven’t opened yet.  I mess with the streams…trying them out as I walk the route in my neighborhood again and again throughout the week.

Sometimes I feel as if you and I are Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail. In fact, if anyone ever tries to force me to describe my writing style, I’m going with “It’s very ‘You’ve Got Mail’ email style.”  We are each other’s person on the other side of the screen.  Write me back because it will complete the picture.

Are you waiting on words?  Or are you armed and loaded, ready to nail it?  I am an ongoing cycle of word release and then back into the quiet processing.  So tonight, as I go back and attempt sleep again, I’m connecting with Him and letting my soul settle.  The words always come when it’s time.  Just like a baby comes when it’s ready to come.  So we remind ourselves that right now is good. He’s in the right now.  He’s okay with the right now.   Perhaps He’s even okay with the odd picture of a soul with lots and lots of arms (a little creepy in retrospect).

Sleep tight, person on the other side of the screen.

Honest Abi

(It’s late.  That studio picture is most definitely not what I look like right now.  But – it’s late.)

Breaking Up with Disappointment

I am a glass half-full person.  You? Half-full or half-empty?

But there are layers of processing each of us need to do, at the right time, to keep following Healing.

A few days ago, this picture popped into my thoughts.

If you have eyes in your head, you can see that that is not one person.  It is two people.  The one with crazy (er) hair is disappointment: sometimes so one with us that we forget we aren’t one unit.  The silent vibe would be Abi + disappointment = Me

I don’t walk around nursing disappointment! Gag.  Nonetheless, my personal belief is that God has grace for us to shed hidden disappointment, when He says it’s time.  The follow up belief is, if He shows you hidden disappointment or you simply become aware of it, then He’s saying it’s time.  Simple.

The first picture is disturbing, isn’t it?! What I call ‘me’ and normalize and embrace is me plus one.

But disappointment isn’t a slightly sour companion.  It’s a jailer.

That’s disappointment laying on the floor with her whacked hair and she’s reaching right for your wrists and your ankles.  She has you chained: attaching you to the past. Attaching us to where we were and what we lost.  Staking us into that ground….which is gone and behind us now.  But still holding us.


That can be an overwhelming realization, can’t it? That the thing we no longer even identify as foreign in us, has silently become one with us and tied us to something.

You know what doesn’t have to be overwhelming? BREAKING UP WITH IT.

If you’re identifying with this, you’ve already taken a giant step towards a breakup.  Or is it break up? As you can see in the next drawing, I’m confused about what it should be.

Can breaking up be simple? Oh yes, yes.  Yes, it can.  We turn to Truth and believe.  It’s so simple it is mind boggling.

In the Bible, the book of Luke, chapter 4 and verse 18 says:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me (the Messiah),
Because He has anointed Me to preach the good news to the poor.
He has sent Me to announce release (pardon, forgiveness) to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed (downtrodden, bruised, crushed by tragedy),”

Jesus is the power to release the captives, to set us free.  So, yeah, it’s a matter of deciding you believe the truth more than the lie.  And the truth is, disappointment is not a part of you.  It’s not your friend.  It’s not telling you the truth.  And it’s holding you back from moving forward.  Break up with the lie.  You are separate from disappointment.  You are not one with it.  You stand on your own.  It does not need to have permission to stand with you any longer.

What happens to it, post break up?  Well, I like to picture it getting scooped into a massive fisherman’s net. (Refer to above picture, hehe)  Arms flailing, angry as all get out, but trapped.  And sent into the darkness.

Breaking up with disappointment does not mean we do not feel disappointment.  It does not mean we don’t need to deal with disappointment.  It means we break up with our ongoing relationship with it and we quit identifying ourselves with it.    

You can do it!  I can do it!

Much love to you today!  I’m personally hoping for a more lighthearted subject for our next time together, ha!  But, I am brimming with hope for us and I’m tempted to dance over the thought of how many break ups may ensue.

Honest Abi and her stick figures



Rome: By Myself

I looked down at the text my good friend had just shot me as we bantered back and forth while I was in Rome.  It was something along the lines of ‘how are you doing without the boys?’  (we have two sons).  I took a breath in and quickly responded, “I am good!  I keep having these moments of feeling like I am at the right place at the right time. So I know I am where I am supposed to be for the moment.”

This is the third piece I’ve written in a series about my time in Rome with the dashing man who is my husband.  Journey through the whole series with me!  I’d love your company.  The first piece sets up our time in Rome (here) and the second piece is alllll about experiencing beauty through food in Rome (here).

Even before we knew the city we’d land in for our time away, Zion and I both knew something: we wanted time to be quiet as individuals.  Not in order to be away from each other or to obtain distance, but to be able to listen without distraction.

So we did it.

I wrestled through a few odd layers of thought at first: “Is this weird?” “Should I want to be alone?” “What would so-and-so say?” “Is this too luxurious for me? Someone else is watching my boys and I’m sitting on my rear eating Italian ice cream and pondering life.”

The thoughts worked themselves out quite quickly, because well, I WAS in Rome, and my parents were watching my children and shoot yes I was eating my daily serving of Italian ice cream and pondering life seemed like the only right thing. Now I look back on my time alone in the city and I am so thankful I didn’t resist the blocks of time by myself journeying through the city.  The vast majority of our time was spent loving our time there together but our willingness to each be alone here and there was delightful, too.

I think it’s possible that we can spend time alone, by ourselves, but spend most of the time running from ourselves.  And running from interaction with God.

Time alone can be a tremendously vulnerable thing, can’t it? It is the space where the spirit and soul can breathe and stretch.  And for many of us, that is either uncharted water or we are perfectly clear on what’s down there and it’s an easy answer: pass.

If we all have a mind, a soul and a spirit, that would lead us to believe that there are layers of ourselves to get through.  Each layer is one that God made and designed so getting through the layers is not a bad thing.  In my unresearched opinion, each layer down gets us closer to the truth.  Each layer is us but the core of who we are – the truest part of ourselves – is in our spirit.  Why? Because our spirit is where the God of all truth lives.

And so, is it possible to spend time by ourselves but not really with ourselves?  Yes.

Rome was a luxurious city to be quiet in.  No bones about it.  I can close my eyes and go back to it in an instant.  I can remember the sunshine on my legs as I sat against church doors, ice cream in hand, journal in lap: watching and writing.  (Yep, those are white socks under my Keens.  Everyday.)









I can picture the student run and filled coffee shop where I spent hours sipping, staring, praying, reading. The barista actually did a kitty cat (or maybe it is a panda bear) in the frothed milk of my latte!









I can remember vacillating between strong strides and slow steps as I navigated to the Spanish Steps late one morning.  I can remember climbing to the top where the sunshine was splashing onto everyone and everything and watching the city stretch before me.

I can remember one afternoon I wrote postcards to my boys underneath the shade of the columns of St. Peter’s Square.

I can remember starting my walk back to the apartment and catching sight of the flights of stairs from the street level down to the water level of the Tiber River.  And thinking, ‘why not?’ and walking along the river, by myself.  Sheer beauty.

There are a lot of creatives that talk about the role of boredom in creativity.  Google it. Bottom line, your creativity often lies just beyond the point of boredom.

Does the word boredom mess with you?  If so, replace it with ideas like sustained inactivity: time for your brain to not work a list or produce anything.  No agendas.  And, ahem, no phones.

We know we don’t have to be in a city other than our home to find quiet stretches.  We don’t even need to leave our homes.  We can be in our familiar environments (unless that familiar environment is my couch holding laundry waiting to be put away.  In that case, any other room in the house but that one would do.), and find space to disconnect in order to connect and hear the truth of where our hearts are and really, what Truth is saying.

Still, the story line of ‘I have no more time to give’ for you fill in the blank reason runs through our minds in the most convincing voice.

But, that’s not true is it?  That story leads us to believe an un-truth.  And the truth is, we each have enough time for the important pieces.  You do have time to find quiet spaces and I do have time to find quiet spaces.  It may mean less sleep on one end or the other.  It may mean pulling out of the Netflix binge habit that conveniently hides us from moving forward in vulnerable ways (personal pain point).  It may mean intentionally saying no to a social commitment.  It may mean re-negotiating your time with your spouse and working together to find some quiet spaces.  It may mean none of those things.  It may be as simple as saying yes to the bravery of letting yourself come to the surface in time spent alone or it may be as complex as reorganizing schedules.

Why is creating space for quiet important for us?

It is important because you are a creative.

How do I know this about every single person reading?

Ah, because God is the Creator of All.  He is creative and therefore, you come from creativity.  It is, actually, who you are: a creative.  And the more you ponder Him, the more it becomes blatantly clear that being a creative has very little to do with whether or not you like to craft.  That may be how your creativity emerges but there is a wide variety of expression of creativity.  Accountants are creatives just as sculptors are creatives.  Moms are creatives just as poets are creatives.

The things He longs to express through you require time and space to discover.  Time and space don’t need to mean finding five hour blocks of time with no interruption.  And they don’t need to mean traveling to a different country. Don’t underestimate the impact ten minutes walking around your living room before everyone wakes up can have in this pursuit.

Whether you’re in Rome, or you’re working your shift today or you’re starting the same exact routine over today as you pounded out yesterday….a few things I have found helpful to remember in the pursuit of quietness:

  • Expect a loud mind.
    • It is unbelievably easy to give this pursuit a whirl and stop two minutes later. The moment you try to quiet yourself, thoughts of every sort of thing flood in: the project that’s coming up six months from now, the recipe you meant to look up yesterday morning, that one snarky comment, and oh yes, you have been wanting to look up that one book – what was the name of it?.  Most of us become discouraged and quickly walk away.  May I encourage you instead to realize how normal this is?  Your mind is simply saying ‘yikes!’ and using the space to grab for other things.  Be patient!  Just keep coming back to what you’re aiming for.  Let each thought that comes in, come in and then let it go and come back to quietness.  Your brain just needs some time to blow off steam.  It will catch on if you hang on long enough!


  • A trick:
    • Julia Cameron has a method she encourages in her book, The Artist’s Way.  It is called morning pages: journaling three pages of any and every thought that comes to your mind, as quickly after you wake up in the morning as possible.  The objective is not to diary your thoughts or to create usable content.  It is purely meant to be a space your mind dumps. The more we get into the rhythm of it, the more quickly our brains/souls get to the point and truth starts popping up.  It is fascinating!!!  If you give it a shot, push yourself for the three pages.  One paragraph is not enough.  Three pages gently eases you into the discipline and the results will shock you.  Promise.


Thank you for stepping through Rome with me again.  For my hardcore introvert friends, spending time alone on vacation may be par for the course.  It was new for me!  Today, you may not be able to pull off a pocket of alone time to be still.  That’s okay – discouragement isn’t your friend!  Take a look at the next week – I bet a pocket of time is there somewhere.

You are a delightful thought to me as I write.  I love sharing time and space with you!

Much love and cheers to your dreams of adventure,

Honest Abi

Unchaining from Stories that are Untrue

Stories are being breathed in us, around us, through us most all of the time.

I tell myself stories.  You tell yourself stories.  And then, there are the myriad of stories that track us down, on repeat.

My imagination has always been vivid.  Since I was a little girl, scene upon scene, like a movie, could play out in my mind.  And shockingly, they always felt real.  I used to be embarrassed when I would snap out of the mind-world and realize I had just spent five whole minutes living in a reality that was most certainly not real.  The older I have become, embarrassment seems to be more and more unproductive. I’ve been able to pivot from embarrassment to curiosity.  Curiosity tells me to step back and observe the story I was pulled into.  What can I see?  What true desires do I see playing themselves out in the movie of my mind?

But, there are times a story feels so strong and binding that it begins to be real.  And we can’t tell where story/emotions begin and truth ends.  We can’t see through it all sometimes.  We feel owned by this story breathing down our necks even the first time we open our eyes in the morning.

For these purposes, a story is not necessarily a scene playing out in our minds.  A story is any thought that tells you a narrative based on a fact.


Fact: I drop three things consecutively as I rush around to get out the door.

Story: “Why do these things always happen to me? This is too hard.  Everything is against me.”

It sounds dramatic and it is dramatic.  Which is why these stories so often play out in our recesses.  Not in big obvious thought patterns…but in the inner agreement place of thinking/feeling/being that is the foundation of our big obvious thoughts.

If you’ve been alive for a minute, you know that this example is the cotton candy version of what can easily become.

Stories can escalate quickly, can’t they?  We can easily and suddenly find ourselves feeling trapped by what feels real but isn’t.  And that’s a scary feeling.  Months ago, I found myself so owned by a narrative in my mind that it felt like I was walking the tight rope of stability.  I felt like I was spinning into outer space…orbiting and tumbling and floating in this crazy world of story and I could see it wasn’t reality.  I could.  But it felt so real that I became desensitized to the difference between what is real and what feels real.

Distrust sets in.  It’s nearly worse than the orbiting itself: feeling as if you are no longer capable finding truth, seeing it and letting it become your anchor.

But, you can see through all of this can’t you.  If you’re in a place like this right now, I want to speak truth to you.  Whether you are dealing with a pesky story of un-truth that occasionally nags you… or if you totally relate to spinning out of control in the world of a story that has gripped you with its believability, truth is the only thing that sets us free.

And the truth is:

You have to get angry.

This story is not who you are.  It is your enemy.  It does not have good intentions for you and it is not watching out for you and it is not guarding you.  It wants you to fall deeper and deeper into the world of illusion where it can tell you things that look and smell real but are so far from truth it’s ridiculous.  It wants to slide right up next to TRUTH and pick up a few characteristics of it but in the roots of it, differ wildly.

And you, dear friend, must become angry enough to fight.  Truth is what He came for.  Truth is what He bought for you.  Truth is His name.  Truth is what He promised you.  And He said that He came to set the captives free…..that’s me and that’s you.

So, this captivity can end.  In reality…the real reality… it has already ended.  You can already tell it where to go.  You are on top of it.  And this is where you simply must suffocate the emotions.

We do not intend to live detached from our emotions.  But, when they come into agreement with a story that holds us captive, there’s no question, they ain’t your friend.

So listen to me:

You are strong.  You are connected to Truth.  You have power.  You are not a powerless victim beholden to a story of oppression.  You, dear person, are alive.  You have breath in your lungs.  AND THAT means that there are things for you to do.  He is one of freedom.  Freedom is a guarantee, if you so choose it.

I am praying for you.  I am asking God to stir enough anger and clarity in you to see the story and to gather enough belief to see yourself unchaining from it.  Literally.  Picture the story/untruth and you with a heavy, thick chain attaching you to each other.  And now, look at your other hand and see that there is a key in it.  Unlock the lock.  Unchain yourself and turn away.  Step away from the chain.  Feel the sunlight on your face.

And then, hear all of heaven roaring with joy because truth won.

You have people in your corner.  Tell them.  Strength comes in numbers and so very often, inviting even one other person in to hear the story you feel chained to, is enough to at least give you enough courage to think that perhaps you could unchain from it.  That’s a beginning.

I am for you.  But, He is for you in a deluging force of a way.

That’s true.

Honest Abi

Rome: Food and Beauty

Food was, undoubtedly, one of our top priorities in choosing to spend eight days in Rome.

Leave it to a gorgeous Italian model and actress to nail my thoughts on Italian food and beauty:

Ms. Sophia Loren said, “Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti.”   Preach sister.  That’s the kind of beauty I am after: pasta based beauty.

And this other quote she gave, while not about food, will come back to us down the road I think: “Nothing makes a woman more beautiful than the belief that she is beautiful.”  Let that mess with you for a while and we will circle back to it.

Eating in Rome.  Food is beautiful….yes?  What it makes you feel can be beautiful.  The experience of sharing it with someone you love is beautiful.  Every moment leading up to the meal can make sitting down to either inhale it or slowly savor it beautiful.

On the off chance you’re planning a Roman adventure, or on the off chance that you love vicariously experiencing delight through another’s journey, want to see nothing but pictures of our favorite food moments in Rome?!

What’s that? You love coffee, gelato, carbs, and wine, too? Huh.  So odd.  I guess you and I are cut out of the same piece of cloth.  Come, let’s salivate together.


Remember that in my first post about Rome, I told you there was one coffee shop we went to twice a day – every day?  I was a bit off.  I occasionally threw in a third cappuccino.  🙂  Our neighborhood shop was one of the oldest and most noted coffee shops in the city: Tazza D’oro.    Steps away from our apartment, it was irresistible.  By the end of day two we had mastered our ordering.

In the morning, maxi cappuccinos:


Can you see what a key word, maxi is? Our first day we ordered regular cappuccinos.  Nice but not enough espresso to milk ratio.  Our eyes searched the menu until we saw the word maxi. Tried it, loved it.  Double shot of espresso but the same amount of milk as a regular cappuccino.  Every morning.  I’m sure there was more than one silly look shot our way, as we were the only ones at the bar drinking maxis.  But we loved the baristas and they seemed to subtly love us in return.  By day three, the cashier saw us coming and knew we took two maxis in the mornings.   In my book, that’s living the dream.

Coffee shops in Rome are mostly different than the American idea of a coffee shop.   They are small, bustling and you stand at the bar to drink your coffee.  Our shop crowd was a  mix of business people, neighbors and tourists.

After you’ve finished, you walk away and the counter gets crowded with emptied cups and countless partly full sugar packs.  Most Italians seemed to add sugar to their espresso or cappuccino.

Afternoon coffee became my bold, adventurous move:  machiato. In Rome, a machiato is espresso topped with just a spoonful of froth.  They made our mouths sing!!!


There is one last coffee delicacy you need to know about: granita.  My understanding is that Tazzo d’Oro originated it and it’s the place to get it.  Even the New York Times did an article explaining how you could make your own version at home when you’re not in Rome.  Granita is a crushed ice, slushy beautiful thing drenched in a slightly sweetened espresso concentrate….topped with panne.  The cream crystalizes where it meets the ice and oh, how I wish I could meet you there right now to share a granita.




I would love to tell you about my top three favorite gelato shops I went to.  But, I can’t. Because we only went to one.  And we went every single day.  And I got the same thing each time.  I’m telling you – THIS is why we decided to land in Rome for our entire time away.  We found what we loved and we – ahem – pounded it.

Giolitti has been in the same location since 1900.  We first discovered it ten years ago when we did Rick Steve’s self-guided night walking tour of the city.  So, did I hit that on our first night in the city? Yes, I did.  And I just didn’t bother trying anything else….dark chocolate and hazelnut on repeat.  With panne on top.  Please.


Zion’s go-to: affogato.  Espresso with gelato plopped right in the middle.  If it were acceptable and I didn’t care about becoming grossly overweight, this is how I would drink my coffee every day.


Pizza, pasta, prosciutto, olive oil, salami, tomatoes.  Repeat.

Taverna Trilussa:

Taverna Trilussa, in Trastevere, won us over stomach, mind and heart.  We often use Rick Steves as a resource and he listed it as one of his top four restaurants in the city.  Good enough for you, Rick, then it’s good enough for us!  We made reservations in the afternoon and then ventured out on our second night in the city, walking twenty minutes from the Pantheon to Castle San Angelo and the Tiber River….then along the river and turned into the old river neighborhood of Trastevere.  Those river walks became sacred treks.

Trastevere is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Rome.  Birthed because the Tiber River came to the perfect point to port at – there was easy access to the water marketplace.  Trastevere is quaint, humming with life, and even medieval at points.  And it has Taverna Trilussa – so now it’s one of my favorite spots in the city.

The moment you walk in, you are hit with the distinct aroma of truffles.  And a quick glance to your left reveals a large case of gorgeous truffles just waiting to be added to dishes. Next, you notice walls jammed with family memorabilia, photographs, and….meat.  So much meat.  Prosciutto hanging by the tens, salivary glands instantly alive.

Notice the first item on the menu: Bucatini all’ Amatriciana.  It’s a classic Roman dish, and Taverna Trilussa has won awards for its version.  So, why look further? We ordered it, we drooled over it, we pounded it.  It’s thick hollow spaghetti with tomato sauce, guanciale bacon (prosciutto) and pecorino cheese.  Frankly I’m not sure how such a simple dish can deliver such a punch, but we loved it so much that we decided it would be our ‘last night in Rome’ meal.  I wish I had taken a picture of the Roman fried zucchini flowers we started with.


After Zion used his spoon to scrape the pan nearly clean, I literally swiped my finger into the remaining sauce and licked it off.  No shame. Let’s meet there for dinner this weekend, shall we?!

It was one of those meals we re-lived in conversation time and time again starting the moment we stepped out of the restaurant.  So, when our last night in Rome came along, we headed straight back.  They couldn’t get us in until 9:30pm.  The dining room was even busier at 11:00pm when we left than it was when we got there!

We, no brainer, got the Ameritriciana again and we added Carbonara to the mix.  Carbonara was unlike any dish with the same name I’ve tasted here.  Fat carby pasta tubes, with a white wine and butter sauce, and, duh, prosciutto.  Topped with fresh shaved black truffles.  It was beyond words and I licked the sauce with my finger again.  I’d never indulged in the real deal truffles before. Mercy, they were worth it.


We walked everywhere. No taxis, busses, subways.  The walk home from Trastevere along the river after dinner made us stop and stare every time.  Night, night St. Peters.


Alle Carrette Pizzeria

Even bad pizza in Rome is good.  When we were in Rome many years ago, I ate so much margherita pizza that I think it must have been the first thing on my mind each morning as I woke up.  Being a little less experienced, I wasn’t looking for the good stuff.  I was just looking for pizza.  In Rome.  And this time, we wanted to find the good stuff.  I’m not sure that Alle Carrette was the very best in the city.  But it was delicious.  And we ate there three (maybe four – I get fuzzy) times because we liked it so much.  You, intelligent reader, can see our pattern by now: find something you love and plan the rest of your time around the goal of seeing how many more times you can eat that thing.

Alle Carrette was tucked into the end of an alleyway in the Monti neighborhood –  near the Colosseum/Victor Emmanuel.  Half of the tables spilled onto the nondescript alleyway.  It was nondescript until it turned into charming simply because of the delightful meals we shared there.  The tables and chairs were jammed in as close to each other as possible while giving diners just enough space to suck in and squeeze into the light wooden chairs. Our first time there was our first night in Rome.  7pm is an embarrassingly early hour to eat dinner in Rome.  But, our first night we didn’t care.  We showed up right after they opened for the evening, ready to carb-load and shuffle back to our apartment.

House red wine for $5 – it was good and the price made it even better.  And salami…oh salami.  And bruschetta.  How can tomatoes, garlic, salt/pepper, olive oil and basil spooned over Italian bread be so much better than the American version??  We always ate outside.

Below is me after a long, long day.  I think you can tell that by my pizza crazed eyes. Margherita pizza and roasted tomato and prosciutto pizza.  The jacket in the other picture tells us it was taken at yet another meal at the restaurant: not hard to believe.  Bruschetta and fried zucchini flowers.


Next time, we repeated prosciutto pizza and sampled the calzone.  Oh me, oh my.  This is, case and point, why we walked everywhere.  This is how we wanted to eat: quantity and quality.  In order to do that, we had to walk everywhere to make space for the next beautiful meal!  See the plate of fat fried beauties?  Fried artichokes.


There were certainly a handful of tourists eating there each time we went.  But it mostly felt like a local crowd…especially when you showed up closer to 9 instead of our super early 7pm the first time 🙂


Ristorante il Fortunato

Sometimes, wonderful meals are made even better because they are in beautiful places.  Il Fortunato was just down the street from the entrance of the Pantheon.  Dark black uneven stone streets connected the front door of the restaurant to the large front porch of the Pantheon.  True to form, we had dinner there twice.  Pardon some of the fuzzy phone pictures!


Fortunato is a classic long-standing family restaurant and it was worth a little splurge.  It seemed like a spot that Romans enjoyed coming for a quiet meal.  I distinctly remember one well-dressed and kind older couple sitting in the main dining room, with their small dog patiently waiting under the table as they enjoyed their dinner.  I was too embarrassed to snap a shot, but I wish I had!

Calamari, so tender and delicate.  Beautiful.


We tried the Ameritriciana again – quite good.  Not as wonderful as Taverna Trilusa’s dish, though.  We also had the Cacio e Pepe.  It is a traditional Roman pasta – simple with pepper and cheese.  The simplicity and subtlety was nice!

On our second visit, we ordered Roman Artichokes.  What a treat!



On the other side of the Pantheon was a casual restaurant with a pub vibe.  It catered to students and buzzed with crowded tables and a colorful menu.  We ate one meal there on our way to an opera/ballet performance in a church quite a long walk from the restaurant…so we had to eat more quickly than we would have liked.  There was a table right on the street so we grabbed it and watched the backside of the Pantheon.  Even its backside is beautiful.  Miscellanea had some different options and we ordered everything we wanted to try!  No disappointments.

Behold.  A slice of eggplant, topped with a slice of tomato, and roasted with bread crumbs and Parmesan.  Rome and eggplant are meant for each other.

Always bruschetta.  Never not bruschetta.

Linguine and clams for me.  If you are a clam lover, so good.  Mussels, squid, etc etc and pasta for him.  Adventure!


How can you forget a meal like this?  Staring at the back of the Pantheon with its nighttime glow and eating delicious food.  And it was cheap! What a beautiful spot to sit and eat wonderful food.


The last food highlight is one that took us by surprise.  My friend told me about a tea house at the base of the Spanish Steps called Babington’s.  We love English tea.  But in Rome?  I probably would have kept walking had it not been for my friend’s raving.  It was rave-worthy.  We ate a late lunch there on one of our next to last days and hurried back for a mid-morning brunch on our last day.

Two young English women came to Rome in 1893 and decided to open a tea house to cater to the growing community of Englishmen in the city at the time.  So, it’s been around for a while.  And it’s worth your time to go if you are in the city.

The brown building on your left edge of the steps is Babington’s.

I so wish I could remember exactly what these dishes were called, but I can’t.  Both were fantastic though.  The tea was wonderful, and that’s coming from a coffee lover.


The dessert was edible 🙂


Breakfast on our last morning in Rome:

Tea house in Rome? A beautiful surprise I am so glad she went on and on to me about.


Rome brought us one beautiful eating experience after another.  Some of them were unexpected.  Some of them were a splurge.  Some of them so cheap we pinched ourselves.

Exploring new arenas stretches you to push deeper to define what is beautiful to you.  You have beauty inside of you.  Each human does because each person was created with a distinct reflection of the Great Creator.  Discovering the distinct beauty in you doesn’t require you to go to Rome.  We find and become acquainted with beauty by quieting ourselves enough to stop and look at things.  Smell things.  Notice things.  Take second glances.  Even stare at someone you find intriguing.  What is it about that person’s nose for instance?  Why did it grab your attention?  The road to being a beauty drinker starts with first noting that something has vied for your attention.  It doesn’t have to seem or feel or look particularly beautiful.  There is a far stronger connection between beauty and truth than there is between beauty and a particular definition of physical beauty.

Rome served us beauty by the hand fulls every day.  We ate the beauty with joy!  I so look forward to hearing about the ways beauty finds you and what it does to you.

Ciao for now,

Honest Abi




Beauty is powerful.

It is confrontational.  It pushes right up to your face and does a deep dive down to the heart.  It gets all up in your stuff.

Beauty is a trigger; it demands response from us whether we want to give it, or not.   My experience has been that the more I let beauty push past the mind into my soul and spirit, the more I see beauty.  The more it finds me.  There is something about beauty that reaches to the deepest part of me and grabs on.  In the same way the Bible talks about deep calling to deep, beauty calls to beauty.

Beauty is certainly revealed in a physical, human way.  But, beauty is more.  It’s a force; transforming.  It can be a source of life.  It has the potential to touch the deepest part of us and make way for truth.  That’s it isn’t it – there is an unspeakable connection between beauty and truth.  I’m at the beginning of a journey and all I know is that God is in beauty and it’s more than a lipstick color.  However – if you know me well – you know that I do love a popping lipstick :).

Last fall, I was swallowed by beauty.  Absorbed into it.  Sometimes I look at Zion and say ‘Can you even believe that was real? That we were right there? I, uh, do you remember, I mean….’  And he much more eloquently responds, ‘I know.’

We went to Rome last October.  At that point, we had been married eleven and a quarter years, but this trip was our ten year anniversary celebration…..and we chose to go on my 35th birthday.  So marriage and a birthday were our official reasons for the eight hour flight, but our hearts were craving unwinding, adventure, discovery,  and beauty, together.

We love traveling.  Before we became parents, our budget goals were solely focused on journeying to other countries together.  In past experiences, we squeezed two cities into each trip.  But this time felt different: all we could think about was landing in one city for eight days and melting into it.  Rushing held no appeal.  Pushing through a travel agenda made us exhausted to think about.  We knew we wanted to eat our favorite meals over and over again, to sit and watch, to walk aimlessly,  to have long conversations and to even spend some time alone.   So, we hawked the flight prices, booked it the second the rate dropped enough and then found one of the only Airbnb’s left in the neighborhood we wanted, thanked God for unreal parents who were willing to take the boys, and we got on that plane.

If you’d like, come walk Rome with me.  I’d love the company.  Beauty would love your company.  Beauty can reach through pictures and get to the deepest part of you. Come to Rome with me, my friend.  Dream of your own past experiences, the ones you hope to have someday and drink some beauty.

I’m going to weave through our time in the Eternal City.  Some of it will be sharing experiences and pictures, some of it will be observation and stories.  Bob and weave with me.  I’ll start at the beginning and see where the road winds.

We landed in the morning – and after one hiccup in finding the car – we buzzed off to the heart of the city.  In thinking about which area of the city we wanted to be, we never really discussed anything other than the neighborhood around the Pantheon.

About to go up to our apartment for the first time:

This was our first Airbnb.  It was delightful to have a little space and it was right where we wanted to be planted in the city.  We were on the top floor of a building with no elevator – which is not uncommon in Europe.  We climbed up four stories to get to our spot. The worst trip up was obviously when we arrived from the airport and we lugged our suitcases up the mountain of steps.  We were so tired after spotty (if any) sleep on the plane and we were totally unconditioned for the up and down climb.  I laugh as I type this because I’m remembering the burning of our lungs as we sucked air in, only one story up, and the very non-straight line we got up those stairs in.  We were so tired, we zigged and zagged up the stairs with our suitcases.  I remember thinking to myself, ‘This is charming.  By the time we go home this climb will feel like nothin!’  Lies.  It never felt like nothin.  Burning limbs and lungs every single time!  Worth it.


See those high windows in the living room and bedroom? The were probably five feet tall and they opened straight up to the blue Roman sky.  It felt a bit like a tree-house and even sitting to shower because the sloped roof wouldn’t allow you to stand straight up, became just fine.  Also, note the cheese picture below.  I tried to buy cheese three times: it never went well.  I couldn’t tell them what I was looking for and they felt very little pressure to learn English.  But it looks nice doesn’t it?!  The bread and the marinated zucchini made up for it.

I like hearing the details of a space; picturing where someone was and what it was like. So, there was a roof top balcony.  Mind you, only one and half people could fit at one time. That was mostly Zion: listening to music, watching the sun stretch over the rooftops and feeding the birds.  I tended towards having my feet elevated and sitting on my tuchus.

Our apartment was three blocks from the Pantheon. So if we went into the Pantheon once, we went in fifteen times.  First sightings:


Inside the Pantheon:

In the effort to avoid a nap, we set off to lay our eyes on everything we could walk to.  After we drank cappuccinos, that is.  Tazza d’oro Caffe was just down from the apartment and we, went there two times every day.  Unashamed.





At this point, we were grimy but happy.   Long staring gazes (‘no nap’ mode), trying to really see what we were seeing.  We had been to Rome ten years ago.  This time, we knew ourselves so much better.  We knew each other so much better.   Even though we had walked the streets before, the city immediately enveloped us into a rebirthed romance and experience.

And we were steps away from the biggest, baddest piece of beauty:


Truth be told, we didn’t succeed in the no-nap campaign on the first day.  We made a loose plan for the evening that included a pizza spot we had picked up on from Rick Steves, and set our alarms for 45 minutes and were asleep within minutes.  We actually woke up when the alarm went off!  We freshened up,  descended the four stories of stairs (relishing gravity) and set out for a slow walk to see more, watch more and start our eating journey.

I’ll tell the story of that dinner soon.

Rome overwhelms with a beauty that has scale enough to swallow you.  It’s not just something pretty.  There is beauty in the story of the centuries of endurance.  Your feet tread the same dirt as those alive thousands of years ago.  Many sites, holding the stories of persecution and death, are now commemorated holy sites.  It’s not just something pretty.  Rome is the survival of beauty from tension.  It’s the collision of dirt and beauty that grabs the heart.

Some of the beauty is brazen and obvious.  Some of it is quiet and rooted.

There’s a shot of Zion I’ll always love.  I can’t count the number of times he and I walked the Tiber River.  It called me back time and time again.  We’d go out of our way to walk the long stretch from bridge to bridge.  At the beginning of October, the leaves had only just begun to show signs of non-green color.  But, what do you see when you look at that long line of trees?

I see a canopied hallway.  I see leaves stretching for the water below.  I see a spot in the middle of a busy city where the noise dulls and the quiet and water speak.  I see the generosity of old friends reaching up to provide shade and cover.  I see the beauty of the shape of an arch and an accompanying long straight line.  Lines are one of my favorite elements of beauty.  But, I wonder what you see?  Tell me.

I love looking at pictures….whether they are mine or someone else’s.  And I assume that you and I are exactly the same.  Of course!  So, I am going to break up the stories of beauty in Rome over a few posts to follow this one.  One on food.  One on time spent alone in the Eternal City.  One on experiences.  Perhaps one on my favorite shots.  Si?

Ciao for now.

Honest Abi




I have never liked being a lone-ranger.

The feeling is a bit like nails on a chalk board to my soul.

It’s not about being with people or being alone in my every day life.  It is being on my own in the pioneering/creating/believing/leading moments that makes me want to run.  Whether it is an organization project in my home, a belief in parenting, pressing in to write, or just going a path that is less traveled than the one many of my friends are on, being a lone ranger makes me want to run. If it’s a closet that needs to be cleaned out, I find myself thinking ‘I need Anna to do this with me.’  If it’s pondering writing, I find myself avoiding in the worst way and then thinking ‘I feel so alone.  I wish I was a speech writer on a communications team.’  Cue my Toby Ziegler/Sam Seaborn West Wing drooling.

But, a few months ago, I had a break through.

We are a part of a house church and we partner in leading it with a team of six: it’s one of the hardest and the best things.  The six of us have vast areas of common ground and what feels like an ocean’s worth of different perspectives.  A few months ago, I left a leadership meeting in tears.  I was exhausted from feeling like my perspective was held by no one else.  I was weary from blank or even confused faces looking back at me after I garbled out my heart.  The more lack of understanding from them I perceived, the more tangled my words became.  I felt more of a lone-ranger than ever before, and my instincts said ‘Run…this can’t be right.’

The funk hung around and over me for the week following the meeting.  And then, all of the sudden, He broke through the funk and pierced truth into my heart:

“They don’t see what you see, because they are not supposed to see it.  This is not their’s to carry.  It is what I am asking you to do.  I am asking you to lead in this way…not them.  They are to lead in other ways than you are.  Stop craving consensus. Stop asking for a yes-vote from each person before you feel released lead.  Lead, Abi.  You lead.”

Holy mother.

Moments like that make me feel the truth of Hebrews 4:12 in my bones:

God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what.” 
(The Message translation)

In an instant, the temper tantrum over feeling alone melted into quiet realization.  I was supposed to be alone?  Being alone wasn’t wrong even though my instincts said it was wrong? I didn’t need to wait for consensus and approval and agreement before proceeding?  

Is the point to create a new formula? My brain gravitates towards formulas and always/never scenarios.  But no.  There is no always lone-rangering it; there is no never proceeding until consensus is attained.  There is only ear to the ground attempting to follow Him wherever He’s going. Sometimes that takes us to a road that is quietly alone.  Sometimes that takes us back into the fold of team and consensus.  

My brain continues to tell me that I am my best on a team.  But, my spirit and my soul are starting to tell me a story that differs.  They are starting to tell me that I am never alone even if I am misunderstood.  I am strong enough to be disagreed with.  I am strong enough to thrive or to fail without crumbling.  

There comes a time when striding forward is the right way.  Even if it seems like it is the lone ranger road.  Discomfort doesn’t mean wrong.  It doesn’t mean right either, but I have to tell myself it doesn’t mean wrong!  

Joshua 1:6-9
“In the same way I was with Moses, I’ll be with you. I won’t give up on you; I won’t leave you. Strength! Courage! You are going to lead this people to inherit the land that I promised to give their ancestors. Give it everything you have, heart and soul. Make sure you carry out The Revelation that Moses commanded you, every bit of it. Don’t get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you’re going. And don’t for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you’ll get where you’re going; then you’ll succeed. Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take.”
(The Message translation)

It’s an honor to share time with you,

Honest Abi

A note:
The people I serve on leadership team are some of the best out there.  The story I shared is not to say that they were wrong and I was right.  Lots of people together can be right at the same time.  There is no one right side and one wrong side.  Life would be so much easier if that was true, wouldn’t it?!?! And even in the feelings of being a lone ranger on a team, we’re still on a team.  And that’s beautiful.

Shaking Off a Foggy Heart

I am 2/3 the way through a large latte and 3/3 the way through a honey and fig scone.  It was one of those scones that got it right.  The dough was barely sweet and the figs brought that tiny granular texture….and I wish you had shared it with me.  I enjoy enjoying things!  You are one of those elements of life that I enjoy enjoying.  Know that you are enjoyed today.

Here’s a question, do you know how to get to your heart?  Yesterday was day 5/5 of solo parenting while Zion was away.  Sometimes when he is gone, I am the least good at making space for my heart to surface.  Do you know what I mean?  Solo parenting is a mixed bag… there’s more demand on your non-stop energy being poured out.  But there are also more gaps of space that are all yours.  The evenings for instance!  But, when he’s gone it’s either feast or famine for me.  Dude, I carry the main load of day-to-day parenting while he carries the load of providing financially for our family of Spencers.  BUT LET US NOT UNDERESTIMATE the impact and load lifter of Daddy coming home each night, chatting, rough housing, and the biggie: sharing bed time responsibilities with me. Reading one of them books and cuddling.  Oh, let us not underestimate that help!  So, sometimes when he’s gone, I get to those moments by myself in the evening and I can’t resist zoning out.

Mind you, zoning out is a KEY ELEMENT to the health and survival of motherhood.

But, zoning out breeds more zoning out for me.  Zoning out in moderate doses produces good fruit and health.  Zoning out continuously on my off-times produces a foggy heart.

What’s that one….you know the one that says our heart is the source of life? Ahhhh yes there it is:

Proverbs 4:23
“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”

Foggy heart Abi leads to lost Abi.  Foggy heart Abi leads to ‘huh? Abi.’

And while that state of fogginess is a real feeling, it isn’t really true.  The older I get, the more leery I am of living from my feelings as a trustworthy story-teller.  It’s that odd paradox that avoided feelings lead to death but also, when we take our feelings to the bank as truth-tellers, well, dem lead to death too.

The foggier your heart becomes, the louder the story of your emotions becomes.  The louder the story, the easier it is to believe.

Emotions do tell us a story and by no means do I want to shut mine down.  But they can serve as an entry way back to Truth if we let ourselves become curious about them instead of being owned by them.

So, how do we get back to letting our hearts breathe?

A few ideas that we can give a shot, even on the craziest of days:

  • Think/pray to yourself: “Come back to life heart.”
    • Note: reading that sentence on the screen is not the same thing as thinking it/praying it for your self.  In essence, you are saying to everything that has attached itself to your heart and clouded the way, to take a hike.  You are reconnecting with your heart and Him, by simply acknowledging it/Him.
  • THEN, get curious and watchful.
    • That’s it.  Start listening for your heart.  It will feel things, and truth will start becoming louder.  You may not have time to deep dive into it.  So just make a note of it and come back to it, when you can.
  • Acknowledge the things you do to avoid your heart when you do have time for it to come out and play.
    • And then commit to saying no to that avoiding thing, the next time you could say yes to it.  This is not permanently cutting out those things.  It is simply choosing your heart/Him over the thing that helps us hide in the one next opportunity you have.
  • Think to yourself, “Being kind and intentional with my heart is important.”
    • Your heart is the wellspring of life.  It where His life pours into and out of.  It’s very very important.
Don’t you wish we could sit and compare notes 48 hours from now???  If you want to send me any notes on your experiences, please DO IT!  I would love to hear!!!
Cheers to our hearts, reader friends!
Much love,
Honest Abi


Before You Sleep Tonight…

Ernest Hemingway: “If a writer stops observing, he is finished. Experience is communicated by small details intimately observed.”

Julia Cameron: “Once writing becomes an act of listening, instead of an act of speech, a great deal of the ego goes out with it.”
Julia Cameron, in my own paraphrase: We are all writers.
Good evening reader friend.  You are genuinely dear to me: your mind, your heart, your time, your spirit.
Let’s observe for a moment.  Just take a deep breath and picture yourself slowing.  Let your brain slow.  Observing starts in the brain, moves down to the soul and then seeps into the spirit.
When I say spirit, you have one.  Everyone does.  Having a spirit has nothing to do with whether or not you are a person of faith.  It is a part of who you are.  It’s the layer and the place beneath your soul – and the soul is where emotion lives.  If the soul is where emotion lives, the spirit is where truth lives.  Where the truth of who you are lives.  If you are a person of faith, this is where the Teller of All Truth resides.  Indeed, that sounds bizarre.  But, faith does lead us beyond reason.  It leads us beyond.
Take a few cleansing breaths.  And now listen. What’s in the depth of you?  What does the deep feel? If it feels uncomfortable, it’s normal.  Just stay there.  If you’re not feeling anything, it’s okay.  Ask God to help you connect.
If you’re like me, I get to that deep place and I look at her and observe both as her and as one outside of her.  I see her wrestle, I see her true joys, I see her questions, I see her weakness, I see her beauty.  I ask Him to help me see what He sees when He looks at her.  You can do the same.   Keep taking the deep breaths and will yourself not to run.  And now I say, come Lord Jesus.  You don’t have to claim Christianity to try those words out.  What do we have to lose? Come Lord Jesus.  Come Truth. Come.
And this is the place, the rooted place of depth, where the Truth is that
You are protected.
You are loved.
You are known.
You are seen.
You are covered.
You are intricate on purpose.
There is a Helper.
He has the way forward.
It’s okay to feel stuck.  You’re not really stuck…but it’s okay to feel it.
I am praying for you this evening.  Asking Him to touch the deep part of who you are.  The truest part of who you are – regardless of whether or not you know that part of yourself.  He does!  Asking Him to speak to the truest part of you…to let you hear the truth right now.
Sleep in peace, my reader friend.
Much love,

Honest Abi

Psalm 42:7
Deep calls to deep at the [thundering] sound of Your waterfalls;

All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me.

The Question We Can All Ask

How’s your day going??

I’ll tell ya, I had no vision of sitting and writing this afternoon.  I am frankly on day five of a child with the flu, restless within the walls of this house, not looking cute or clean, and tempted to eat my way through anything chocolate available to me: Nutella hot chocolate, Ghirardelli chocolate chips by the handful, my husband’s French Silk birthday pie in the fridge, the kids leftover Valentine’s chocolates, oh the damage I am tempted to do when I’m in Nurse Mommy mode for more than 24 hours.  
But, out of nowhere, my heart burns for you today.  My theology is forming to re-articulate that as His heart is burning for you today.  
Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, let us stop.  
Stop the thoughts.  Stop the distractions.  Stop the mental to-doing.  Stop the voice of fear.  Stop the self-obsessed thoughts.  Stop it all for a moment.
And know this: 
You can have more.

More of what? Things? Power? Achievement? Approval? Acceptance?
Maybe.  No.  Yes.  

You can have more of the Living God.  
And, I don’t think that there’s much more to life than that when all is stripped away.  So many of us nod in our hearts – echoing agreement.  But, if that is true, then each of us should be stopped right where we are with the earth shattering reality of it.  
Pretend you haven’t heard truth all your life.  Pretend this is the lightbulb moment, and you are hearing and believing for the first time ever that this is truth.  He is alive, He is at work and He is near and you can dive deep into life in Christ.  
But then, maybe this is the first time that the possibility of that feels real.  I wish I could look you straight in the eyes right now and tell you with every bit of energy that I have that you aren’t crazy and this is real.
I don’t care if you’ve been around the block one million times.  I don’t care if you’ve sauntered around the block three quarters of one full time.  I don’t care if you’ve only ever watched as others circled the darn block.  We can have more of the Living God.  
And how do we do that???
We ask Him.  
And that is the first step towards belief – to believe even enough to ask.  It sounds so simple and so inane.  And it sounds like something we all do, all of the time.  But when was the last time you were alone in a room and you said out loud, with your own voice, ‘God, I want more of you.’ 
The moment of vulnerability for many of us is His reply.  Will He give a lofty theological answer? Will we feel anything? Is He distant? Will everyone but me experience something?  Or worse – will it be silent?
I don’t know what you’ll feel.  I don’t know where you’ve been.  I don’t know your story.  But I am confident in what His heart is towards you.  Confident.  
This is the truth:
  • He longs to be known.  He aches to share Himself with you.  He wants you to know Him.
    • Jeremiah 9:24 “but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”
  • He loves you. 
    • Romans 8:37-39 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
He wants you to know Him.  If you already know Him, He wants you to know more of Him.  He longs for it.  
What if it’s true? There’s more.  
Message me on facebook if this resonates with you. 
Honest Abi
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