Today Was a Fairy Tale

100_2033Today I’m welcoming back my friend and fellow writer, Jessie Heninger, to Once Upon A Writer. I hope you enjoy her beautiful account of finding fairy tale magic in everyday life as much as I have…and then…go for a walk in the woods!

~Post by Jessie Heninger~

Monday is my favorite day. The kids go back to school, the crazy, that is our life on Sundays, is over and it’s Brian’s day off. An entire school day to spend as we please… wonderful.

Autumn in Michigan is spectacular, a color extravaganza before the dreary months of winter. So this week we dropped the kids off at school and drove to Holland. We stayed off the highway, and for once the weather cooperated. It was gorgeous! We did a little window shopping (seriously $80 for a baby outfit!) dreamed about retiring to Lake Michigan, ate gluten free pizza for lunch. It was lovely, but oh it gets better…

I was under the impression that downtown Holland went right up to the lakeshore, it doesn’t. So we asked Siri to take us to the beach (which she did not do, she hates me). Eventually we made our way to Saugatuck State park. There were two trails leading into the woods and we chose perfectly. It was a golden trip that wound through trees alight with color and a forest that was practically dripping with magic.

Jessie Headshot

Author Jessie Heninger

For me in a forest like that, smelling the wonder of the woods, I feel a presence. It’s so strong it almost feels tangible. Everywhere I looked I saw what my imagination is trying to do for the characters in my novel. Only it was better. I pointed to a spot and told Brian, “Giants, right there, I mean that’s exactly where they’d come through.” He laughed at me good naturally. (Thank God that man thinks I’m quirky in a charming way and not just completely nuts). We continued to hike through shadowed forest and then suddenly the woods brought us to the beach. Dark grey, cold waves practically touching the majesty of that forest.

Lake Michigan is really special to me, and being there with my husband on a kind of unexpected trip…there is so much wonder and magic in this world. Sometimes all we see is the darkness and the sadness but there is so much color just blazing and waiting to be discovered. I love it when my eyes are opened to that. When the sacred comes and touches us in a moment of beauty and awe. Pure wonder when the heart feels something we can never put words to. Bliss.

To read more of Jessie’s writings please visit her blog Confessions of a Housewife at

20 Things to Do Before the End of Summer

Wrinkled ToesToday I took my girls swimming for the FIRST time this summer. Here it is, August, and I’m just now getting my girls, and their super-cute swimsuits, into a pool.

Believe me; I am experiencing serious mom-guilt over this. At the beginning of June I promised to give my girls plenty of opportunities to swim this summer, but somehow we made it to August without the wrinkly toes and tan lines that serve as a badge of honor on hot summer days.

Inspired by today’s visit to the pool I’ve been making a list in my mind. It’s a list of all the things I’d like to do before summer days are gone…To I’m posting over at The Blog Pile. To read more of this post please visit


10 Tips for Loving and Listing (and Giveaway)

Gifts GiveawayIn last week’s post I wrote about two books, One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and Remember the Sweet Things by Ellen Greene, and how the practice of keeping lists has made a difference in my life and my marriage. (Recap Here)

After receiving all kinds of positive feedback I decided to follow-up with ten tips for keeping a list…AND a GIVEAWAY complete with everything you need to start a list(s) of your own. I hope you’ll enter to win (details below) and I hope you’ll be inspired.

The practice of loving and listing has changed my life forever. It is my hope and prayer that the same will be true for you.

10 Tips for Loving and Listing

No. 1: Focus on persistence instead of perfection

Let’s face it, no matter how intentional we aim to be life comes at us hard, and in the practice of loving and listing it’s easy to get distracted. The point isn’t perfection. The point is being persistent to keep the list going, to always start again, to not become discouraged when your rhythm gets broken. You will miss days. You will miss weeks. And that’s okay. Keep listing!

No. 2: It’s okay to start and stop…it’s not okay to quit

Similarly, if you’re anything like me, you’ll find that there are entire phases of life when your journal/list falls completely off the radar. And you know what? This is okay too. Again the point is not to stop. When a season flies by without any entries in your journal don’t give up. Cover it in grace and start again. Don’t try to fill in the time or season you missed. Start fresh and keep going.

No. 3: Leave your journal open or easily accessible

If your journal is where you can see it, it will be much easier to think about it throughout the day. Keeping mine on the corner of my dresser works well for me. As I pass by throughout the day I jot down lines when I have a minute or two. Keeping it handy also creates the opportunity for my husband to pick it up and read it. Doing this helps to keep both our hearts soft and engaged, our eyes open and focused on blessings.

No. 4: Keep notes on the go

When your journal isn’t available keep notes on the go. Stick a small notepad in your purse or use an app on your phone. Scribble down thoughts on your hand or put a dry erase board on your fridge to save your thoughts for later. As you’re able, add these notes to your journal.

No. 5: Make listing a family affair

The practice of loving and listing is a great habit to teach your kids and share with those you love. In our household we have a blessing tree. There are tons of ways to invite others into the fun of listing. Find a few that work for your family and see the difference it makes in your home.

No. 6: Include pictures and other keepsakes

No. 7: Use as a gift for a special occasion

Whenever a birthday or special occasion rolls around I love to fill cards for family and friends with a list of things I love about them or reasons why I’m thankful they’re in my life. Filling an entire journal for your spouse or a treasured love one is another way to create a meaningful gift. Be creative! Go crazy! There is no end to the joy this brings.

No. 8: Read and re-read your list

Periodically reading your list will both encourage you to keep it going and also remind you of special moments and blessings already recorded. Use it to ward off discouragement, doubt, depression, and division between you and your spouse.

No. 9: Record the mundane and seemingly insignificant

Sometimes thoughts come to mind that seem too trivial or insignificant to list but as your list grows you’ll find that these are the things that make your list worth keeping. These are the things that would otherwise go unnoticed, unremembered. Fill your list with the big and the small because life is lived in moments and all of them are worth noting.

No. 10: Record the good, the bad, and the ugly

No matter how much you practice the art of loving and listing there will always be things about life and about your spouse that hurt you, disappoint you, and drive you absolutely crazy. Make it a point to list these things too. Ann Voskamp calls this the ‘Beautiful Ugly.’ By giving thanks, by choosing to love even in the hard, the bad, the ugly, we are choosing grace. We’re choosing to keep our hearts wide open. This is profound. This is how a list starts to change a life.

Bottom Line: Marriage and joy are two things that are constantly under attack. Why not fight for them, protect them, anyway we can?

The books, the journals, the pages full are weapons in the battle. Fill up a journal and you just might find you’re filling up your life with lines of love and thanksgiving.

Sharper than any sword.

Included in this Giveaway:

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

Remember the Sweet Things by Ellen Greene

~ PLUS ~

Two Journals to get you started



To enter, leave me a comment in the field below. The winner will be selected by random drawing and announced in next Wednesday’s post.

What are some things you love about your spouse?

What are you thankful for today?

What’s on your mind?

I’d love to hear from you…