Friday, December 2, 2016

it's not fair: learning to love the life you didn't choose {book review}

In the middle of reading It's Not Fair I texted my best friends and said: you must read this book. Now. Right now. Drop everything. READ IT.

Okay, it wasn't quite that intense, but I was so encouraged and moved I did suggest they pick up the book soon-ish.

I think we can all relate to this book because life rarely goes as planned. And while these books often tip over into overdone sentimentality (it's fine, love Jesus more, have more faith!!) Melanie Dale throws in enough irreverence to keep it funny and away from the fake happy arena.

Melanie Dale uses her story of infertility and adoption as well as other's struggles to explore how to cope and move forward when life doesn't go according to plan. She uses humor a lot - sometimes a bit too much for me - but she also provides clear Biblical answers on how to move forward and continue living in the face of extreme pain.

I like how Dale included other people's stories, but the overall mix was off for me. In fact, I didn't like how the book was laid out at all. Maybe I would have liked it better in paper format, but the e-book formatting made the book feel a little hectic and jumbled. I did not like having random Facebook and Twitter posts interspersed throughout the book, because they were often right in the middle of a heavy chapter or paragraph.

Despite my issues with the layout I thought It's Not Fair was an excellent book for anyone who is standing in the middle of their life wondering how they got there and how to go forward on a completely different path than the one they expected their life to follow.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

not a book review!

I am finally sitting down and writing out something other than a book review! It's about time, right? We had a crazy good Thanksgiving weekend. We invited a bunch of people to the retreat center our church owns. We rented it out, and ran the weekend, and everyone survived each other and my cooking.

It's a crazy thing to do - throw a passel of people together in one big lodge and see what happens. We had people from my side and Jon's. We had brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and some people hadn't even met before. But we also had Nerf guns, and there's something truly bonding about an intense Nerf gun war.

Being in a large group like that, but having a reason to disappear for long stretches, is my dream. I could see the ocean from the incredible kitchen (double ovens, a prep island and a serving island) and I was content to spend my time cooking and setting out food. With Ainsleigh hanging off me most of the time. Sweet girl is in a season of intense love. I am about drowning under her smothering.

(I could not have pulled off the weekend without Jon, my mother and my mother-in-law. I now know a LOT about cooking for a large crowd. And I'm getting pretty good at prepping and cooking Thanksgiving dinner too. If you have questions I would be happy to answer them!)

On Saturday morning Ainsleigh was up at 6 am so we climbed out of the bunk we shared (B and Jon were on the top bunk. Putting both kids in one bunk did. not. fly) and tiptoed out to the kitchen. We closed the kitchen door and I began putting breakfast together while Ainsleigh sat on the counter and ate first breakfast (she needs at least two). I like being the one on the serving side of the counter; the one who says, "Here's warm oatmeal and milk and muffins. Good morning, good day, how did you sleep?"

We are coming off a stressful time with Bennett's health. To be completely honest we're still in a stressful time with his health. Bennett can hardly eat anything, and we are really frustrated, but in a couple weeks we have an appointment with a specialist so maybe we'll get some answers .... ???? Or maybe not. And if not, God is still GOOD and very much in control. I'm throwing this one over to him because I am at a complete loss and feeling pretty burnt out.

As for Ainsleigh, her last hearing test did not line up with the previous one, which was the main goal of this round of testing. The odd thing is that it was better than before! Each test is showing improvement, which is really, really strange. We are thankful her results are improving, not worsening, but why this is happening is a mystery. Her next hearing test is in a couple weeks as well; the day before Bennett's big appointment actually.

I'm just throwing my hands in the air in prayer and repeating, Jesus, heal my babies because I'm not sure what else to do.

The second bathroom is nearly gutted - just in time for the holidays! - and Jon is working away at the remodel. It's going to be a slower remodel for many reasons. Let's all hope we have a second remodeled bathroom by spring.

The Monday after our big beach weekend we went out to find our Christmas tree. Jon was off work, and the kids really wanted to go, so we did, even though I wasn't really up for it. I had just planned, shopped for, and executed four days of meals for 28 people. I was ready to put my feet up! Instead we found the Christmas decorations and got the tree and had a magical afternoon of decorating (kids, don't touch those ornaments. You can have these ones. Don't step there! Don't bite the lights! Don't throw the lights! NOT those ornaments!! - Totally magical).

Christmas is always hard. This year I don't want to do anything. Bennett has already tossed out twelve ideas of what we should do: gifts for friends, cookies, cards, Advent!! But I'm just feeling like I want the holidays to be over. I love Christmas. I love giving gifts and the magic of the season, but for some reason it feels hard this year. Maybe it's Bennett's food issues. Like I cannot fathom how we will make Christmas cookies with his severe limitations, but Jon often finds a way when the food options seem impossible. (He made milk from raw sunflower seeds so the kids could have hot chocolate and chocolate pudding at the beach). Bennett had a smoothie for Thanksgiving dinner for goodness' sake. It's just so hard to feed him right now.

Some of the sad, hard feelings are grief related. Some of it is always Charlotte related. Yesterday I was aching for her when an opportunity came along to share about her a little bit, and how I am, and what we do for her for the holidays. And by an opportunity came along I mean Jesus knew I needed to speak about Charlotte.

And when I dropped Bennett at school this morning there were new name tags out - trees and stars - and my eye landed on the name Charlotte. Of course he has one in his class. It is comforting to see her name though, to know Bennett hears her name throughout the day. It is meaningless for him, but meaningful for me.

I want to make this a good Christmas for the kids, but I don't want to put myself in a place where I am stressed or yelling. I think we are going to take it slow and focus on giving, serving and loving. With all of the appointments coming up and questions hanging above us simple feels manageable right now.

I watched just over half of the new Gilmore Girls episodes this afternoon during "rest time." The kids were in and out, but I managed 15 solo minutes with hot tea and sea salt caramels, which was really nice. It's hard to pour into the kids when I feel really depleted, but forcing rest time (why do I feel so guilty about making the kids have rest time together?) and sitting down with a book instead of tidying up, or doing laundry helps me prepare for the afternoon.

This feels like a self-care season, but when life gets holiday busy it's hard to make room for that. I'm trying to use my Advent study as a focus point. Keeping God and His word in front of me at all times helps ward off all sorts of ills.

How are you feeling as Christmas approaches?

Sunday, November 27, 2016

bible basics board book {book review}

When I saw the page proofs for Bible Basics my first thought was, why didn't I come up with this idea?!

It is brilliant.

Teaching young children Biblical concepts is really difficult, but in their new board book primer Danielle Hitchen (author) and Jessica Blanchard (illustrator) use early learning and beautiful art to introduce fundamental Biblical principles to babies and toddlers.

Instead of counting cars, trains, animals, or other popular items the Bible Basics book cleverly uses numbers to impart Biblical truths.

For example:

The number 2 explores the 2 natures of Jesus: fully man / fully God


The number 8 explains the Beatitudes:

I will be getting TWO physical copies and I will be giving one away when they arrive! If you are interested in early Bible education for your children make sure you check back here soon for the giveaway!!

Thanks go to The Blythe Daniel Agency and The Blog About Network for the opportunity to review - and give away a copy! - of Bible Basics 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

journal the word bible {giveaway} - WINNER announcement!

See bottom for the winner!

This is my first time reviewing with the Blythe Daniel Agency and Blog About and I want to think them for the opportunity to review and GIVE AWAY a new Journal the Word Bible.

I've been using a copy of the NKJV Journal the Word Bible (KJV also available) for a few weeks now and I love it! We attend the Saturday night service at our church, which is much smaller than Sunday services, and on Thursday nights we gather with others from the Saturday night service to discuss the sermon and pray together. It's so helpful to have a dedicated place in my Bible to take notes since I know I will need to have them handy when we meet on Thursday nights.

I've also been using it for my Monday night Bible study and it's been so useful to have a place to write notes and comments I want to remember and keep close at hand.

My last Bible didn't have roomy margins so a lot of the pages look like this:

The Journal the Word Bible has wide lined margins so I can take notes without worrying about running out of room. You could draw in the margins as well if you are artistically inclined, which I am not!

The translation is requiring some getting used to since the Bible I've used for years isn't NKJV, but I love the wide margins so much I haven't switched back to my old Bible!

Now for the fun part: you can enter to win your own NKJV Journal the Word Bible! I will select a winner next Wednesday! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, November 5, 2016

finding your voice {book review}

In Finding Your Voice: What Every Woman Needs to Live Her God-Given Passions Out Loud Natalie Grant uses insights from her singing career as well as her Christian faith to provide a map for women on how to discover who they are and who God has called them to be.

Finding your God-given calling has been a theme in my life lately. My Bible study, the verses I've been reading, the sermons I've heard, and many of the books I've read in the last few months have been about or mentioned calling. It was interesting to read Finding Your Voice during a time when I am seeking to hear God's voice regarding my calling.

Grant talks about how to discover who we are by learning to listen, caring for ourselves, finding our "thrive zone" (i.e. what we are really good at) and learning through failure and brokenness. Grant briefly touches on when she found her calling to help women and girls who are trafficked around the world, but I wish she would have discussed it more.

In Finding Your Voice Grant uses her life experiences, some very difficult and painful, to show readers how they can find their unique voice. We all have a song within us, and Grant shows us how to discover and use it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

rad women worldwide {book review}

My initial goal when I received Rad Women Worldwide was to read through it and then shelve it until the kids were older and ready to integrate it into their history lessons.

But as soon as Rad Women Worldwide came in the door my kids adopted it as their book. I have found my 3-year-old all over the house this week with the book in her lap, silently flipping through pages and enjoying the illustrations. And my 5-year-old son has brought it to me and asked me to read a page or two that caught his interest.

I even found my daughter sitting on the bed I just stripped with the book in hand this morning!

Since I am planning on teaching my kids in a classical style I can't wait to use this book to highlight relatively unknown historical figures when we are focusing on certain time periods and geographical zones. Of course we are a few years out from that, but I am so excited about homeschool and jumping in and learning with my kids. I love history, but there were still quite a few women in the book whose contributions to the world I did not know.

I love the papercut artwork in Rad Women Worldwide (I think that's a big part of why my kids love it. It is so visually appealing!) and that multiple countries and time periods are covered. I also like the reference section in the back that highlights more fascinating women. The homeschool side of me is really excited to pull that out someday and send my kids out on research trips.

I think Rad Women Worldwide is a great reference book for schools and homes to have on hand. And I think we need to get a copy of Rad American Women A-Z as well!

"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."

Friday, October 21, 2016

in the eye of the storm

It has been a week.

Thursday morning I was writing a LONG blog post about how Bennett has been having a series of allergic reactions, but hopefully the next two days would be calm, when he had another reaction.

Here's the really fun (sarcasm) news: We're not sure what exactly he is reacting to. His doctor is fairly certain Bennett is having a massive immune response to something: either the initial food we thought caused the reaction, or a virus. Right now Bennett is on a very limited diet for 10 days - meat, vegetables, fruit - and then we'll start to reintroduce foods slowly.

Because without being on a limited diet this happened:

Bennett had a breakout - hives all over - Tuesday morning, followed by a flare up in the afternoon and evening. We thought we knew what the trigger was, but immediately after breakfast on Wednesday morning he broke out again. And this time it was worse. On Thursday I once again thought I knew what the trigger was, but in the middle of breakfast I noticed small dots breaking out on his face. I immediately took his food away and put him in a bath with apple cider vinegar and baking soda. I gave him an extra dose of the medicine and tincture given to us by our doctor as well. I don't know if it was the quick action on my part, or something else, but his reaction yesterday was not nearly as severe.


Five reactions in three days has me a little on edge.

And by a little I mean verging on hysteria much of the time. 

Despite being a nervous wreck most of the week there has been relief as well. The people who have loved us and given me grace while I fall apart have been instrumental in helping us survive the week. I am high needs in these kinds of situations. The stress has been so intense I've been sick most of the week.

And there's been the hand of God on Bennett and our family as we navigate this week.

On Tuesday as I frantically pulled out of the driveway on the way to the doctor the song playing on the radio was Eye of the Storm by Ryan Stevenson and the first lines I heard were,

In the eye of the storm
You remain in control

It was one of those moments where the desperate prayers I lifted up as I prepared for us to leave the house and go to the doctor were heard.

On Wednesday as I was driving to school/work (while Bennett is in school I work for the church in a different part of the building) this song came on

Then on Wednesday afternoon Jonathan came home from work, because my ability to carry on alone didn't seem possible. I needed someone else to be "on" for a while. It's really hard for Jonathan to leave in the middle of the day. I know he had to move patients around, and I know it wasn't easy, but I appreciate him stepping in when I was depleted.

And on Thursday after I completely fell apart on the phone with Jonathan, sobbing and wailing about not wanting to lose another child, a friend called and asked if she could pray over me. Jonathan letting me cry, and my friend praying truth and healing over me and Bennett, were life giving for me. I didn't feel like I could cope. My stomach hurt so much I was ready to haul Bennett and myself into the ER. But with the tears flowing out and the prayers coming in my stomach stopped hurting and I was able to calm down enough to parent effectively and handle Bennett's latest breakout.

Weeks like this I always wish I was a bit more together. Logically I know Bennett is not going to stop breathing suddenly. And if he does struggle to breathe I have medicine to give him via an Epi-Pen and there is a hospital a few minutes away. But when you've watched a child of yours stop breathing, it's extremely difficult to face emergent, or even urgent, situations without that trauma jumping forth from the back of your mind yelling and demanding to be heard. Jon thinks, Hmmm, he's having a reaction, while I think, This is it, the moment I lose him just like I lost his sister.

This evening I can look back and see how I could have handled things better. Or if not better, at least with a little more peace in my heart. But in the moment panic takes over and I just can't see straight. However, I can also see that although I was not very calm I did manage to pray a lot, ask for help, and be thankful.

Thankful for what, you ask?

That I didn't have to go through this week without my faith and my God holding me up.

For Bennett's doctor, who put up with my early morning phone calls and made time in his day twice to see us.


A car to take me to the doctor.

The ability to pay for the doctor and medicine.

Friends and family.

In all of that - the phone calls, the doctor, the people, the prayers - I see the hand of God and I see my prayers being answered. I've been in this season where my faith is stretching and growing through community, and to have the communities that I've found in the last six and a half years be with me during this difficult week has also been a way for me to see God at work in my life.

It is so difficult to say, this is really hard for me. I am not coping well. I don't feel like I can do this, but I am really trying to live honestly and vulnerably, and sometimes that means admitting I don't feel like I can handle what life is throwing at me.

The last three nights I've slept with Bennett's forehead pressed against mine. I forgot that he used to sleep like that as a baby; it was one of the few things that would comfort him when he was small and itchy and we didn't know why. This week I've watched him turn to art and coloring to distract and comfort him when he was in the middle of severe, uncomfortable breakouts (I'm talking head to toe hives). It's important for me to see the growth and change in him; to see the baby and the boy that are contained within every 5-year-old. It reminds me Bennett is growing, and he is here, and full of life and love.

As we drove to his doctor's appointment this afternoon he was listing all the things he saw out the window that God had made. After he worked through that list he said, "And God made me!

He sure did, buddy. And I am so glad God not only made you, but that in His infinite wisdom He chose me to be your mother. I don't feel equipped or able, but through Him I am. Isn't that amazing?


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