The smell of coffee, Gram’s Oil of Olay and Tiffany Rose Gold: oh the memories I have…

I walked in the door and couldn’t help but inhale deeply. The rich, deep, comforting smell of coffee both assaults and eases into every part of my olfactory system. The funny thing is? I don’t even like DRINKING coffee. But my body, heart and mind are instantly comforted with the smell…

Growing up, the coffee pot was always on at our house. I didn’t even think it then, it just was the smell as you entered our house. Similarly, my dad always had the coffee pot on in his physical therapy office and I remember my mom consistently wrinkling her nose about “how strong you make it!” when we stopped in to visit. I simultaneously connected the smell to home, my dad, hospitality (because somehow, when adults were together, coffee was ALWAYS offered) and also the taste being “too strong.”

In my young adult hood I was privileged to spend a lot of time in the home of my mentor with his family. They had three kids and both Rick and Mariann were instrumental in these hard to understand years in my first job (in ministry), both had counseling backgrounds and were very accepting and authentic; a tremendous comfort to me. And anytime I walked into THEIR house, was the smell of coffee.

It had a slightly different aroma than what I grew up (Perhaps Folgers versus a coffee house blend?) but was still, the smell of coffee. The smell had come to mean safety, care and just being heard. And still, the taste left me wrinkling my nose and sputtering. I am actually a tea kind of girl, but that is for another day, another post for sure.

In those early days of ministry, I spent so many afternoon and sometimes evening hours at a new (at the time, to our corner of Michigan) coffee shop called JP’s. I’m not quite sure how I landed there, to be honest, being that I was NOT a coffee drinker…I think it was effort to be the “cool adult” in youth ministry and JP’s was my inroad to the goal. I spent hours tucked in a booth, munching on bagels, tea (for me) and hearing intense, beautiful unforgettable stories in the lives of so many teens. I went home with the smell of JP’s coffee embedded in my clothes, all the way to my skin, their stories, tears, laughter growth embedded just as deeply in my heart and my prayers. The smell of coffee morphed again to mean ministry, prayer, hope and a sense of awe that I got to be the person to listen to every one of those amazing kids.

Do you have one of those smells? One that brings you back to a time or feeling the second it hits your nostrils? Our olfactory receptors—proteins in the nasal passages that bind to odors and relay a signal to the brain, are a big connection to both the good and the really difficult memories sometimes. For some dealing with trauma, it could be the smell of gasoline that brings back the difficult memories of a car accident or the smell of bleach and sterilizer at the vet’s office that brings back the death of a beloved pet. I have for a long time, helped people process both the good and the hard associated with smell.

My beloved Gram ALWAYS wore Oil of Olay – a blush pink bottle with an abstract logo of a very serene woman, sitting front and center on her bathroom counter. In searching for a description of the scent, the best I read was, “White floral scent with almond, wisteria, cinnamon.

Her house had it’s own distinct smell too (like everyone’s): the smell of baking, sunshine and HER. Somehow, her Oil of Olay was blended in there as well. When she died suddenly when I was 19, within a few days, I panicked about “not smelling her house again.” Even then, the connection to smell was so important to me. My mom gave me a small little bottle of her Oil of Olay and for the longest time, in my missing her, I would open the small worn out bottle whose label had all but worn off and feel her standing right next to me.

I have listened to countless stories of people who are making their way through difficult losses and while in a store, library or some other completely random spot, somehow catch a whiff of “their person.” I think it can be a comfort and a painful thing to be transported this way. And unexpected sometimes, I have normalized it probably 550 times throughout my career…

For me, I love also to attach a scent to good memories, much like my Gram’s lotion.

My daughter has a special affinity for Tiffany jewelry but last year, begged for Tiffany Rose Gold perfume. We wandered through Ulta and I can still see her bouncing with excitement as we waded through the perfume aisles and cloud of competing fragrances. She handed me the tester bottle and as I sprayed it on a small strip of paper, the scent was a little unworldly. The ingredients list is blackcurrant, blue rose and Ambrette seed. I could not tell you what any of those look like or smell like individually, but I can tell you that my daughter and I sniffed that paper all afternoon between giggles and shopping. The aroma became a memory of spending time with her.

I did buy it for her for Christmas, she wears it often and as she recently traveled abroad with school for Spring Break, she quietly left the bottle on my counter to find when we returned from the airport. I wore it nearly everyday while she was gone, a way to hold her close.

Now, before the bottle becomes “ours,” I gave hers back and ordered my own.

You may think, this is silly or even have a hard time understanding such a connection to scents. Maybe that is not how it is for you. But I think if we close our eyes and imagine a smell of comfort, I imagine an image, feeling, place or memory comes to mind….

In 1998 the Parent Trap (re-make) was released. There was a scene where one of the twins, Hallie who “traded places” with her sister, Annie, met her grandpa for the first time. Annie had described him down to the mints he kept in a pocket and the pipe tobacco that clung to his clothes. Hallie buried her face in grandpa’s sweater, hugged him and inhaled deeply.

“What are you doing?” Grandpa asked.

“Making a memory.” Replied Hallie , tears in her eyes.

Of all the ways our bodies hold all the things, trauma, joy, memories, pain and relief, the connection to scents is one of my favorites. From the smell of walking into the Magic Kingdom, to the memories of my babies newborn “smell,” the way roses remind me of our wedding day or my mama’s lemon meringue pie, I am so thankful of the simple ways God allows us to remember…


Psalm 13

Anger is easier than vulnerable…

After a week full and by full, I mean 11 sports events for my two oldest kids, my body is completely spent. My muscles have been tight and reactive, causing my back to tighten up and sending everything else into spasms as well. When I walk, I feel like these legs have become sticks, or steel rods, unbending and taunt. I long to be ” a normal mom,” attending my kids events with ease, simply walking up the bleachers, or across the the green, uneven grass. And, I am trying so hard to be kinder, honor and not be angry with this body. That has been my go to, to simply become furious with my body because of what it could not do.

How silly is that? Or maybe stupid? To blame and shame this body that has worked so hard, that has endured so much. This body that fights and shows up even when it is so hard. THIS body that God says he created, IN HIS IMAGE. I wonder if you do the same? If anger is just EASIER than care, acceptance or dare I say, love. Why is that? Why are we so hard on our very selves at the time when our very selves need even more care and encouragement.

Anger is a million times easier than vulnerable. And most of us are masters at getting our needs met, OR avoiding feeling at all out of fear of feeling too much… I have been asked many, many times both in my life and in my office, “what if I start crying and I can’t stop?” I usually talk about the fear of that and gently remind people that I have never had to sleep in my office because someone couldn’t stop crying. Not even once.

Kinder is letting the tears come; reaching for the person who will listen, even when it’s really vulnerable to do so. Fierce self compassion says, care about yourself the same way you would about your best friend. Show up for you rather than beating yourself up for having feelings at all. As hard as it is to be kinder, its truly much harder to come out from under shame, fear and worthlessness.

Acknowledge the vulnerability, frustration and sadness, or whatever you don’t want to feel while also acknowledging the hope. I was ridiculously blessed this week as I desperately tried to be kinder to my body. My husband was so present and made sure that as my muscles fired “extra,” he was never far away. My kids were kind with hugs, prayers and care. And my youngest heard me talking to my husband about purchasing a new massager but wanting to wait due to some upcoming bills. She didn’t miss a beat. “Mom, take my pet-sitting money!” She quickly retrieved it and brought it to me. I could not believe it, I didn’t see an ounce of selfish in her eyes, I just felt the love of God, profoundly.

On the flip side, a dear friend who normally does not “let people in,” was going through a particularly hard week. I was very honored that she trusted me with her tears, anger and staggering loss. And at the same time, grateful, knowing that she had a bit of relief just “being herself for a few minutes” even though there was no “fixing this.”

Oh so hard…and so good to be loved and supported. I pray that as you go into the week, you can find more kindness for yourself and others, you can feel hope for the week and that even in the struggle, you can trust yourself even a bit.


Psalm 13


At the start of the year, for a reason that could only be the Holy Spirit, I came across many posts about “The Bible Recap.” There was ALOT of buzz about the podcast, the host and reading through the Bible in a year. I will NOT usually jump on the bandwagon if something is picking up popularity. Not because I don’t believe my friends or acquaintances, but because I don’t want to do something because I am caught up in the hype. I usually wait a few weeks or months (or even years) and then give something a try if I am at all interested. This is why I surprised myself when I downloaded it that same night that I was scrolling on social media and nearly everyone was posting about it.

“Who AM I?” I thought as I got the app and looked up the year long Bible reading plan. As it turns out, I was someone who needed exactly this…

I have always been searching for the backstory, especially in the Bible. I have loved Jesus since I was very small, but have never been able to chronologically read the Bible. I’ve read lots of parts of the Bible, (indeed taking some out of context, but not knowing how to figure the context out, exactly…) and very much struggle with understanding other parts. (I feel a little guilty saying that part…)

But as I began listening to the The Bible Recap, I found myself hearing the connections, all the way through every book and sentence of the Bible. The host, Tara-Leigh Cobble is fantastic about saying, “don’t get hung up on the whys, but instead, focus on how you see God in what you read.” Yes, that is exactly what I needed…and I didn’t even know…

The year before Covid, we found ourselves needing to leave our church of 20 years for a multitude of reasons, mostly that it wasn’t the right fit anymore. We began to attend another church and loved parts of it, had questions and unrest about other parts. Then Covid happened and the church we had started to attend fell silent, in every way.

Feeling lost and unmoored, I felt drawn to the Psalms and our former pastor told me to look up Steve Carter on Instagram. Steve has a story of his own, one of beauty and a season of tremendous loss. But as I randomly looked him up, I didn’t know. “The Evening Psalms,” brought me to tears in the personal style in which Steve shared the back story on Psalm 1; the beauty of God and how parched I had become without connecting with Jesus and the Bible.

For the last 2+years, Steve has been our family pastor, though we have yet to meet in person. We all have leaned into and on his preaching, teaching and passion for Jesus Christ. And, we honestly are better for it. But about a month before Christmas, our kids began to express a desire again to “go to a church.” We found ourselves visiting a church we’d been told about often and funny enough, the church I’d grown up in. “Church shopping” is so hard and out of all of us, I was the most hesitant. As we walked in the first day, we were greeted warmly by so many, enveloped in genuine care, interest and gladness that we were there. It was as if Jesus stood so close and reminded me how much he loves us; and how close he had come.

So, here we were, finding our way and connecting with a new church community, deepening our love and relationship with Jesus anew and then “The Bible Recap” is on every other post…I am simply in awe at all the ways God pursues, ALL the things I DON’T understand and ALL the many things I want to.

This week, while reading 1 Samuel, the host discussed how though Israel had “shaky faith,” God is with them. “The enemy loves to attack when we are moving toward obedience” she said. Samuel placed stones near the river, following deliverance from yet another enemy, calling the spot, Ebenezer, meaning, “thus far the Lord has helped me.” I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this since listening to Day 99. My shaky faith, God’s faithfulness and how he continues to pursue. Absolutely humbled and so grateful. And every day, I can’t wait to hear more of the story. Thus far, the Lord has helped me indeed. Please Jesus, don’t EVER stop.