Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Uncommon Marriage Adventure by Tony & Lauren Dungy (book review)

One of the smartest pieces of marital advice we got and now give is to find another couple to mentor you. Nothing fancy, but just tell you about their marriage - the ups AND downs. Help you navigate these waters that are tumultuous just as often as serene. We have a wonderful couple who has been this to us for the past several years.
image via

That, in affect, is what "The Uncommon Marriage Adventure" by Tony and Lauren Dungy is - in devotional form. This once a day devotional tells the ups and downs of the Dungy marriage and family life. Nothing new under the sun, necessarily, but great advice paired with biblical wisdom.

I didn't get to read this through with my husband but combed through it myself. I didn't just learn from Lauren but from Tony's husband perspective. Sometimes I think I need marriage advice and counseling much more than my selfless husband.

He has Day 64 down perfectly: "Be willing to step up and do a little more than usual when the situation requires it." This message is paired with the Scripture 1 John 3:11, 16 which talks about giving up our lives for our brothers and sisters. Big A has done that gracefully these past few weeks of gestation. He's done dishes every day (even yesterday when he was ill himself) because that smell just makes me ill. He's cooked most of our meals. He's brought me cereal at 6:30 every morning. It's just a beautiful reminder to me of how Christ loves us.

That's the kind of selfless love that "The Uncommon Marriage Adventure" urges us toward. Loving one another as Christ loves us; doing for others because we love them without expecting a return gesture. Old-fashioned romance that doesn't seem old when you're in it.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. I have done so although my opinions may differ from others'. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

double dog dare

My friend Evi has been so challenging, convicting, and heart-wrenching in my life. I love her so much and wish I saw her more. And now she's challenging me to be more grateful through her blog, Gratitude Gal. It's fabulous; she has a wonderful writing style that makes me jealous.

Her post today was about how she's had a rough week but found some highlights, like Michael Keaton's Golden Globe acceptance speech (watch from 2:13). Then she put a few dares on her blog for us/me. I'll answer one today.

  • Dare Choice 1: Write down three things that have deep meaning in your life.  When something goes wrong today (as it probably will), shift your thoughts back to your list.
Dare Choice 1:

#1: Redemption: I could have nothing else and only have redemption from Christ's sacrifice on the cross. That would be enough. When I leave this world, I am going to heaven with my Father. When I truly let this sink in....truly, then what else can I complain about? 

#2: Marriage: I didn't understand marriage when I got married. I didn't fully understand the vows. The sickness and health. The for richer or poorer. Mind you, neither of us has been very sick. Nor have we been very, very poor. And yet I have found great examples of godly sacrifice, selflessness, and peace through the times in our marriage that have not been butterflies and rainbows. My husband is a shining example of a godly man. His name could be in Hebrews 11. He'd deny this, too, which makes him even sweeter. He's not my idol; I've seen his flaws, too. And yet, he has the most childlike faith I've seen and when I have doubts or am far from Christ, I know I merely need to follow his example to find Him for that's who Big A follows.

#3: Motherhood: This long-winded word that has been since almost the world began has changed my life. It does not come naturally to me. You don't find me cooing and coddling and playing on knees all day with my children. I've worked very hard at being a good mom - and I've failed a lot (don't we all?). I've also come to terms that it's good to fail. It keeps me humbled. It keeps me from having a big head. It keeps me on my toes. It keeps me close to God. I love my sons and this little guy or gal growing deep inside. I love them even when they make me sick (baby) or drive me nuts. I love them fiercely with a love I didn't know I could have. I didn't grow up wanting to be a mom. I assumed I'd have children but didn't give it much thought. And then it was thrust at me. I've had many a curveball in my 7 years of motherhood. I've said and done regretful things. I've also said and done many beautiful things. I didn't know motherhood would speed up time either. Yet 7 years seems like the blink of an eye. Long days, short years. So true. I wouldn't trade a minute of it....except perhaps the vomiting pregnancy moments. :) 

Monday, January 12, 2015

gratefulness found in the letting go

Months ago when we were debating on whether to have another kid or not, I had in my mind a few ideas about this pregnancy. Looking back, I was naive without reason to be naive. I've been through two other pregnancies that were about the same and yet I had hope that this one would be different.

I thought I could run through this pregnancy. I'd forgotten about the several weeks/months of the beginning that were full of nausea and vomiting. I thought 'it's been five years, maybe it won't be the same.' I forgot that genetics don't really change in five years so I could have mentally prepared myself for this better. I thought I'd love it. I'd forgotten how I hate this part.

Yet it's been a good challenge. I've gotten very self-reliant in the past 5 years. I can cook fairly decent meals (not as good as those of my supper club partners but I have a few tricks up my sleeve). I can keep a fairly decently clean house (no one's eating off the floor here but it's not bad). I can run up to 18 miles at a time (not without injuring myself apparently but still). I've become the housewife and mom I've really wanted to be. It's taken a lot of work on my part; this has not come naturally to me.

And now. It's all changed. I've given over all of my household duties to my family. My sons clean toilets and sinks and tubs and microwaves and dust (kind of). I'd been handing that off to them for a few months but it's more imperative that they help. My husband cooks meals except when dear sweet friends have dropped off wonderful meals to supplement. My husband does laundry (which I can fold, thankfully). He vacuums (granted, he always does this because I don't think to as often). He does dishes (oh that smell!!!).

What I'm learning most is from him, my sweet Big A. I have not heard one complaint from him in all of this. He even lets me soak his shirts with my overly emotional tears.

Do you know how often (prior to pregnancy) I would complain about laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning?????

We have a son who is naturally a complainer, a whiner, a grump. And he comes by it most naturally. Certainly not from his father. And that has been all too apparent in my eyes these past few weeks. Poor kid.

I am learning to let go because I know my husband has never loved me because of my stellar domestic skills. I know my children have never loved me because of the hours I spend cleaning their toilets (hours? uh minutes).

I know my worth is found in the Lord and His righteousness and all else doesn't matter. It's hard in my human perspective to see it doesn't matter but when I dry my eyes and really use my brain (although it's hard lately!), I know God loves me because He loves me. It doesn't make sense and it doesn't have to but I'm grateful I don't have to earn my way to heaven. I'd be failing, miserably. I know I have a spot in heaven because Christ came and died on the cross in my spot. Nothing I ever have done or will do (because, thankfully, pregnancy does NOT last forever!) will change that.

Even in this time of spending too much time with my face in a toilet cleaned by elementary students, I know I am blessed. Not with material things, necessarily. Not even with my beautiful family. But with a Savior's love that no one can take. He loves me whether I'm supermom or laying on the couch. He loves me whether I'm running or sleeping. He loves me whether I'm puking or smiling. How can I ask for more? And yet He's given me so much more.

Today I'm grateful.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Every Bitter Thing is Sweet by Sara Haggerty (book review)

I can't remember why I wanted to read "Every Bitter Thing is Sweet" by Sara Haggerty, but I'm glad I did. I wasn't that in love with it when it started. I wasn't taken in by her sorrowful account of infertility; maybe because I have a friend whose story is so similar and familiar to me.

I completely understand that infertility is a hard pill to swallow and foreign to someone like me. I have tried my very hardest to be comforting and patient and gentle with my friend and so I put forth the same while reading this book. I ended up really falling in love with the struggles of the Haggertys. That sounds strange but so often in books, we don't see the struggles, and so we feel like our lives are wrong if we struggle. Yet here is this author telling us of her struggles to love her husband, to fill a void of an empty womb, to mother these children not knitted in her womb but fully in her heart. I came to love that openness and appreciate her being so vulnerable with her words.

image via BookLook
I will say this sparked such a fire in my heart. For many years my husband and I have talked of adoption; I believe  since prior to our wedding even. Yet it's been put off by the raising of the biological children we have (or are in the midst of having). But after I was through with this book, I told my husband that we need to adopt. In the past this has been a difficult thing for us to discuss because it's not like adoption is cheap! Yet this time he was all chill about it. I think that means something special.

Then I will quote one spot in the book that really touched my mother-heart.

"...motherhood's greatest fulfillment is not when children become vibrant God-followers who change the world for Him. Though this goal is certainly high on my list, I would be left bereft in the day-to-day reality of parenting if my eyes were on this alone. If this is my highest goal, then what am I to do when anger floods her limbs and his heart seems stuck, when I'm waiting and praying but not yet seeing fruit? If my chief end as a mother is anything less than knowing Him and carrying His glory in my life, I will walk through these years empty."

This really hit me because I've always said that was my goal, to have my children love the Lord. And yet, Haggerty is so right in this. I must know Him and carry His glory in MY life. I cannot make my children love the Lord; in fact, I have friends who love the Lord very much and raised their children to do so, too, and yet they do not. Did they fail as mothers? No because they were raising very human children with free wills, just as I am. I cannot make that choice for my children. I can point them in the right direction and the best way I can do that is to live it myself.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own.

looking ahead to 2015

My friend, Evi, is a much better writer than I. She set up a gratitude challenge around Thanksgiving to get all of us to really think about what we're grateful for - and to be grateful! She had some questions on her blog to help us reflect on this past year and look ahead to 2015.

1. Looking back, what (and who) am I grateful for this year?

Of course, I'm grateful for my family. My incredible husband who has taken care of us and put forth even more effort while I've been dealing with nausea, vomiting, and lethargy with this pregnancy. My children who are driving me crazy today (can it warm up so they can run off some energy?) but who also drive me crazy with their love and sweet cuddles. I LOVE these kids. I am grateful, too, for this budding child inside my belly. July can't get here soon enough!

What I'm thankful for could be any sort of material thing. I have so many things I'm thankful to have, but they are just things. I am really thankful for the time friends have spent on me this year. For my friend Kim who unfailingly will pick my kids up when I am unable (even with mere minutes' notice), my friend Rachel who always has an encouraging word, my friend Linda who is always up for a walk with me, my other friend Linda who has spent much time teaching me the art of quilting, my friend Kara who has opened her beautiful home to me just to talk, my friend Stacey who takes even the smallest amount of her limited internet time to message me and encourage me and challenge me through her blog. There are others, of course, but my limited brain power only works so fast lately.

2. Where have I felt true joy?

I have found true joy in these moments of clarity with the Lord. When I feel His presence, when I understand something about His Word, when I get to worship with my church family, when I feel His words and convictions penetrate my heart. That's my true joy.

3. What has challenged me?

Honestly, being pregnant has challenged me. A lot. I do NOT take well to being sick. I do NOT take well to not being able to work out (makes me queasy). I do NOT like change. Seriously, who talked me into having another child? Just kidding. But it's been really hard for me to step back and not feel guilty or angry at all the things I cannot do right now. I don't like having my husband do all the dishes (not because I love doing dishes - ha - but because that's part of my responsibility). I've worked really hard to become the wife, mom, and homemaker I am and to have that all ruined (even for a short time) is incredibly hard.
It's not like I haven't been pregnant before but I was at different places in my life. And where life has been really good, it's just hard for me to step back and be ok with that. But I know suffering (even this small kind) produces perseverance and that's what I'm holding on to.

4. What has troubled me?

My inability to look beyond what I want. My selfishness continues to wreck havoc on areas of my life because I am short sighted. I really need to work with the Lord to open my eyes to His eyes.

5. When did I have time for renewal and pause?

Ha! I feel like this has been the busiest year. Even with my kids in school full-time and a very part-time job, I have felt overwhelmed more than ever before. My renewal and pause comes mostly when I run and that's not always renewing, of course.

6. Have I noticed God in any of this?

I, more often than not, fear that I ignore God more than I rest in Him and His presence. I can go about my day so easily without Him in my first world comfortable life. And that's why I am so thankful for this new challenge of new life. Never in my past have I relied more heavily on the Lord than when I've been pregnant and with a newborn. It pushes me out of my comfort zone and makes me over and over realize my need for God and my dependence on Him. I am so thankful for that. I hate that I can so easily overlook Him in the good times (even though I know I'm not alone in this). Normally, I would hate for hard time to come, but this time, I am looking forward to that (and really relying on that now). I need God and I need the reminders that I need Him.

7. In light of all this...what is my response moving forward?

I haven't been grateful for the Bible and the ability to read His word without fear of retribution like so many Christians in dangerous countries. And so I've set the goal, lofty even for me, to read the Bible before this baby comes. That's about 6 months and that will be a challenge. I don't want to read it for the sake of reading it but really enjoy that I have the Bible to read. To challenge myself more I'm also reading it in the KJV translation which is more difficult for me to follow sometimes.

I also have realized I've been slacking in the teaching of my children about the Lord. We do talk about Him, but it's not been consistent. My boys and I were talking about prayer and I thought it so sweet that Squirt asked me to write a little prayer for them to go in their lunchbox (along with the joke I normally put in there) to encourage them to pray at lunch time. He balks most of the time when we read the Bible or Bible stories so this is encouraging to me. I want to read the Bible with them and talk about it with them. We read Genesis 1 yesterday and it wasn't a deep theological discussion but it was fun and nice and good.

Happy New Year all!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Food: A Love Story by Jim Gaffigan (book review)

I LOVED Jim Gaffigan's first book, Dad is Fat, so I thought it would be great to read Food: A Love Story. I wasn't completely wrong but it definitely didn't live up to the expectations I had to laugh the entire time.

There were funny pieces; in fact, most of it was funny, just not laugh out loud funny. I laughed out loud from the foreword to the end in Dad is Fat. I chuckled often with Food: A Love Story.

Some of my favorite chapters were At Least I Don't Eat Blubber about whales and Hot Pockets: A Blessing and a Curse. For Gaffigan fans, you know that some of his biggest hits have been about Hot Pockets.

I don't think there was a lot of new material in this book, which was what other commenters said about Dad is Fat. I don't listen to a lot of Gaffigan's routines so it was new to me both in that book and this. I guess his thing is, if it's not broke, don't fix it. If this material works, why write new stuff? That's all just me guessing because I really don't know much of his material.

I think Food: A Love Story is a pretty good read. It's fairly quick with short chapters. If you like to watch shows like L.A. Beast (like my husband) or Man vs. Food (like me and my husband), then you'll quickly take a liking to this newest Gaffigan book.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own and you don't need to share them.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

we have an announcement to make

That's right folks who still read this book, we will be a family of five come the end of July!
I hope this baby is as good-looking as these two boys with as sick as I've been. 

I apologize for the lack of posts lately but I've been doing the best I can minus energy. 
Happy New Year!

Monday, December 15, 2014

GIVEAWAY: The Good Lie starring Reese Witherspoon

I've been a Reese Witherspoon fan since she dated Ryan Philippe back in the day but I'm still her fan several boyfriends, children, and years later. I'm excited to share with you this giveaway offer of one of her new movies, released in October, called "The Good Lie."

The movie is a true-life tale about the Lost Boys of Sudan. Their lives were torn apart by civil war while they were left to grow up in refugee camps and then finally given the opportunity (through the efforts of church groups and other charities) to start new lives in the U.S. Reese Witherspoon may be the celebrity name in this but some former Lost Boys are actually in the movie, too. I think that's incredible that they get to be a part of telling their very important story.

This movie could be a part of your home library!


Mandatory: You MUST complete this entry in order to be eligible to win this prize.

Spread the news about this giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Leave the URL in the comment section. Must also leave a valid email address so I can contact the winner.

That's it! Very simple for this very busy time of the year.

This giveaway will be closed on Tuesday, December 23, 2014 at 11:59pm so this will make a good New Year treat! Void where prohibited and must be 18 or over to be eligible.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Bonhoeffer Abridged: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas (book review)

There are names in Christianity that are thrown out there like Big Bird and Elmo to a toddler crowd. Names like John Piper, Francis Chan, C.S. Lewis, A.Z. Tozer, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. There are many more but you get the idea. It's basically a bunch of guys with some good quotes (and one with an awesome children's book series), right? Sometimes these quotes and their authors are thrown out there like anyone who's anyone should know who they are! That's frustrating to me on one hand because a lot of Christians are ready for the meat they throw out; they are new and just need uncomplicated milk teaching.

However, I feel like I'm ready for more meaty teachings and so I decided to read more about some of these guys. I've made it through a John Piper book. I've read several books from Chan. I've read more of C.S. Lewis than the Chronicles of Narnia (which are always good). And so Bonhoeffer was next on my list (if I had a list, that is). I picked up Eric Metaxas' book, "Bonhoeffer Abridged." I haven't read an abridged book since reading "Little Women" as a child, but I was glad to read this version of the book.
image via BookLook

There was just enough information about Bonhoeffer's growing up in Germany and his family. There was just enough information about Hitler's rise to power and what Bonhoeffer (and colleagues) thought. There was just enough to pique my interest.

I thought "Bonhoeffer Abridged" very interesting about many a good things I didn't know about World War II. Mostly when I read about that, I read Holocaust accounts. I was very glad to read about the Christian church leaders standing up for the church and Christ - even when so many went astray. I wish they taught more about that in history classes because for a very long time, I just thought "what happened to the Christians in Germany?"

Great book. Great man. Tragic in his early death when liberation was so near. Seems like that happened a lot in that time.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions reflect my own and not others'.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

thank you notes

I've been making my kids write thank you notes before they could write. Yes, I have. I used to have them scribble on a typed out thank you I printed. When they learned to write their names, they signed each card. Now that they are getting older, I have had them fill in the blanks on their gift items. Perhaps this year I will have Moose write out full thank you notes.

Nothing complicated, but just "Grandma, thank you for such-and-such. I am having fun with it. Love, Moose." It doesn't have to be grand to be real. But you also don't know if the kids understand what they are doing; the impact it has (or doesn't) on them.

However, I got a glimpse of the impact it's had on Moose probably a month or two ago. I was reading "A Robertson Family Christmas" by Miss Kay Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame. Moose saw the book and was interested (he loves the show). He handed the book back to me and, with all seriousness, said, "We should write her a thank you note."


Dear child thought Miss Kay had given me the book herself. I didn't have the heart to correct him, so I told him sure. He got out some paper and a pencil and he wrote:

"Dear Miss Kay,
 Thank you for the book.
(he signed his real name)

That was it - short and sweet and to the point but it spoke volumes to me. That my son understood someone gave me something and I should thank them. 

Squirt decided he wanted to write a letter, too. I asked who he wanted to write to and he replied, "Uncle Si." So out came another pencil and a piece of paper with this written in cute little 5-year-old handwriting:

"Dear Si,
 I have been playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Mario Kart Wii. 
(who also signed his real name)

I tried to help him write the letter and make it more like I would write it but then I realized, I'm not the author of this letter. He can write whatever he wants. And it's so darling.

I added in my own little note to each, saying why my kids were writing them letters. Especially Moose's, I could see Miss Kay reading it and being like "what book?" I didn't know where to send the letters so I searched online. I remember sending letters to Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Tiffany Amber Thiesen as a kid and getting "signed" pictures back. I wasn't sure what to expect for my boys but I wanted to send their letters. 

A few weeks later, we came back from somewhere and got our mail. And there was a hand addressed letter to Squirt from SPFC Silas Robertson (Ret.). How cool is that?! Our whole house was pretty pumped about this kind gesture from this man. 

Of course, Moose was like, "where's mine from Miss Kay?" but we talked about how sometimes you just don't hear back from someone. And that's not saying anything bad toward Miss Kay at all. I understand completely they can't address every letter they receive. 

Anyway, it was just a really special thing for Squirt but for me to see my boys being so kind with their words.

Did you ever write a movie star or singer when you were growing up? Did you get an autograph back?

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