Saturday, December 24, 2016

giveaway winner!!


Sarita Boyette - you won!! Send your address to rodman.angela@gmail.com! I'll ship the book after Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

merry christmas! {giveaway}



I'm going to keep this short and sweet because I only have one functioning hand. Thanks to The Blythe Daniel Agency and Blog About Network I have a copy of Bible Basics to give away!



This board book primer is NOT just for babies. Bennett and Ainsleigh have asked me to read our copy multiple times since we received it. Bible Basics breaks big concepts down, but leaves enough content for rich discussions. The illustrations are beautiful AND the people depicted are not white! I appreciate the opportunity for my kids to see a more accurate portrayal of Biblical characters. I think Bible Basics is an important book for parents and grandparents to have.



To enter to win a copy please leave a comment. (US residents only) That's it! Like I said, keeping it simple. I'll post the winner Friday evening! 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

no, they are not twins


Three weeks ago I fractured a bone in my hand. My RIGHT hand, which is my dominant hand, of course. I'm in a brace for at least three more weeks, but I am slowly learning how to function with one hand. And B has learned how to buckle himself in his car seat and change diapers so good is coming from the frustrating situation.

Yesterday at 3:45 we got a call that we were supposed to be downtown singing papers. We are in the middle of a poor weather stretch - snow & ice -, our bigger bathroom is gutted to the studs, we're hosting Christmas AND we decided to refinance our home loan.

The refinancing process has been long and hard so when I found out the final papers were ready to sign we all hustled out the door and headed downtown. I apologized for my poor left handed signature and we began signing reams of paper. The kids watched the traffic streaming by outside the huge conference room windows as we signed.

The woman helping us commented on how cute they were, complimented their names, and then said, "Are they twins?"

I knew it was coming. I could see her sizing them up as they stood side by side and looked outside. They're about the same height and weight. It's understandable to wonder, but it hurts when it happens.

"Nope, not twins," I responded. "We get that a lot, but they are 5 and 3."

Her eyebrows shot up. "He's 5?! That is a small 5-year-old."

"Yep, we've had some growth issues. Food allergy problems ..."

She quickly said, "I am sure he is really strong though!"

We continued signing papers and then headed home on icy roads.

We get asked if the kids are twins a lot. People often comment on Bennett's size and height. I know he is small. I see it. We are concerned about it. I've been concerned about his weight since he was born. I've been carrying this burden his ENTIRE life. I don't need others commenting on it. And I certainly do not need comments on his size to be something he hears once a week - or more.

We saw a new doctor on Wednesday. It was a very hopeful appointment. She thinks Bennett might grow out of his food allergies. She has medicine we can try to calm his reactivity down so we can introduce more foods. But part of the process is checking the functionality of his body's systems. When the nurse called after the appointment and asked if she could send another lab order to us I asked why we needed it. She said, "It's part of the general failure to thrive work-up."

We might not get a failure to thrive diagnosis. We might not have to see an endocrinologist. He might just be small, end of story. But we have to check off every box and jump through all the hoops so we ensure we don't miss anything.

In the process I would like to protect Bennett from as much of it as possible. We fret about his weight out of earshot. We talk about how kind, fast, strong, quick, compassionate and sweet he is. We focus on his abilities instead of our concerns. I don't want food to be an issue - this might be a pipe dream. And I don't want to answer any more questions about how old he is, or whether or not he is a twin.

He is our Bennett and he is who God made him. Big or small. Short or tall. And no, his sister is NOT his twin.


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 <http://booklookbloggers.com> 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 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “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

and 

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 <http://booklookbloggers.com> 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 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “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.

Still.

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.

Medicine.

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?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

a mile wide {book review}




A Mile Wide: Trading a Shallow Religion for a Deeper Faith by Brandon Hatmaker is a challenging book. I am glad there were discussion questions at the end of every chapter, but I need someone to read it with me now!

Hatmaker writes honestly and truthfully about faith and how to create a deep spiritual life at a time when the church is awash in confusion. It's easy to get lost in living a Christian life, in doing the perceived right thing, and following the crowd, but Hatmaker consistently points out what the Bible actually says about discipleship, the church, justice, missions, and living a Jesus focused life.

I've been reading a lot about community and living well with others. A Mile Wide reminded me to continue seeking out those who don't necessarily fit into my everyday life, and to continue building on the idea of creating relationships outside the church.

And in a season when I feel like my faith is rapidly developing and changing this book encouraged me to keep going; to continue learning and seeking time with those who can help me develop my faith.

Every faith based book I have read in the last six months has highlighted two Biblical truths: love God, love others. Brandon Hatmaker takes the same idea and builds a spiritually deep book around the concept so that after reading A Mile Wide one walks away with a blueprint of how to strengthen and deepen one's walk with God.



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> 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 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

parenting and anxiety: 6 years after my loss


It's been six years since Charlotte died. Six and a half if we're splitting hairs. It's been 5 years since our B came into the world; 3 since we met our Ainsleigh girl. If you think that being six years out from loss with two healthy, thriving children growing before my eyes is easy, in some ways you would be right. I am speechlessly grateful we were able to have two healthy children, and I am immeasurably thankful we were gifted with two children to raise in our home, but that doesn't mean I don't struggle with anxiety and fear.

This afternoon I reached that Mama boiling point where the kids' rooms had to be cleaned, and I was the only one who could do it properly. I usually have them do it, because it's not my job to clean up their things, but today I wanted it Mama clean. The kids were outside playing, which is what they do most days, rain or shine, while I cleaned Ainsleigh's room.

As I picked up and sorted toys I wrestled with whether or not I should be cleaning Ainsleigh's room while the kids were outside. Usually if the kids are outside I am in the kitchen or dining room. I can't always see them, but I can hear them and easily jump up to make sure all is well. As I dumped out her toy bins and picked a few things to get rid of / toss an insidious narritive played out in my head:

If they ask I will tell them I was only in here for five minutes. I will explain that I checked on the kids frequently. I will explain how it was not my fault x, y, z happened. There is nothing wrong with letting the kids play in a fenced backyard for a few minutes while I clean a bedroom. It does not mean I am a neglectful mother. It does not mean I am not paying enough attention to them ...

Who was I even defending myself to? Who is this "they?" And why are "they" so concerned with my parenting?!


The guilt I feel over Charlotte's death hangs like a fog over my parenting life. It permeates every aspect of my parenting choices, so much so that I find myself defending my choices to unknowable forces, like I did this afternoon. I often try to explain my parenting decisions to this invisible "they" because I feel like I failed Charlotte so thoroughly someone might decide I am not worthy to have living children and step in to take them away.

I felt like I was put on trial after Charlotte died. And yes, some of that is on me because I wrote so publicly about what happened, but at the time I felt like I could not keep my thoughts and feelings in and continue to breathe. But even without the public component, which was absolutely brutal in its mean-spirited assumption that my choices led to Charlotte's death, we were judged. There was an element of, well, you birthed out of hospital ... from numerous corners. I felt like those who heard our story found us guilty of failing to parent Charlotte well. And to be honest, sometimes I thought God did too.

It's only been recently, while reading the Bible and stacks of books on spirituality, faith, and developing a relationship with Jesus that I've begun to understand on a heart level that the only judge is God (James 4:12, Revelation 20: 11-15 ) and knowing that truth in a deep spiritual place has led to great freedom.

As I raise my kids how I want to: with time away from me, with unstructured hours outside, with space of their own, as well as quality time with me, there is an element of fear present, but it has become possible to parent despite this fear because I have Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit in me. Letting the God of angel armies do battle for me instead of taking on the burden of defending my spirit from evil myself has changed my life.

Let me be completely clear and brutally honest: If I was suffering under this burden solo it would be crippling. I would not be able to function fully or parent my children well.

This week, for the first time, I felt a wave of fear about B going to preschool. I have never felt that way before, but I tuned into the news one too many times and the fear just about knocked me over with its power to invade my imagination and create twenty-five horrifying scenarios in two minutes flat.

But then part of a verse I had read the day before came to mind: perfect love drives out fear (from 1 John 4:18) That small fragment of verse reminded me to put down my phone and ask God to remove the feelings of fear.

Then I remembered a sentence I read a couple weeks ago in Falling Free by Shannan Martin about entrusting God with our families:

"If we say we trust him with our lives, we can prove it by trusting him with theirs."

And I realized God is using everything I am reading and studying to help me function and live in peace.

(Let me pause for a moment and be clear about something: I am not saying medication for anxiety does not, or should not, have its place. I have not needed it, but I absolutely think there are times when one needs it, and there is nothing wrong with using it to increase one's enjoyment of life and ability to function.)

It's not easy. It's not like I have a few verses and book quotes memorized so I'm fine now. I don't battle with anxiety daily, but it is a very present part of my life.

When B was born I was so terrified he would die I sought help via counseling. And while that counseling was good, and I received enough coping tools to help me through those particular weeks of crisis, I needed something more. And as I have increased my Bible reading and studying, as well as my reading about faith, I've gained more insight into how to manage my anxiety.

So, how exactly do I tamp down the anxiety?

It starts with being in the Word first thing in the morning as suggested in Uninvited (Lysa TerKeurst) instead of immersing myself in the world's words first via the news, instagram, and facebook.

It's paying attention to my words and keying in immediately when I notice they are not from God. God does not deal in fear, hysteria, criticism and guilt. Those are not the words he uses to bring change to those who love Him. When my stream of thought shifts from life giving positivity to life shaming negativity it's imperative to notice and cut it off via prayer and the calling forth of remembered Bible verses.

It's building relationships with people who can be present in my life and the lives of my children, and keep me focused on the fact that while this world feels frightening at times there are good people all around us who love our family.

It's being honest. It's taking the time to write out these words and confront the ways I am struggling, as well as the ways I am improving.

It's seeking help when I need it, as well as offering help when I am feeling strong and capable.

I don't think I can stop putting myself on trial. I don't have the power to overcome those feelings of guilt and inadequacy. But after years of begging God to tell me - please! - why Charlotte died, that question is no longer part of my life (thank you Jesus for removing that burden). It is by his grace that I am saved, and it is through his power and spirit that I can be free of anxiety and guilt. Or if not free, as I am not yet there, free enough to remember who is in control and where to turn when the darkness closes in.


Monday, October 3, 2016

for such a time as this {love, henri: book review}




Love, Henri is a collection of letters written years ago, but it is a refreshing, reassuring read for the politically uncertain, chaotic world we live in. If we lose sight of our faith and focus on what is transpiring in our world it is straight up scary out there isn't it, friends?

But books like Love, Henri remind us that the world has always been a frightening place with upheaval, wars, and dissension. In 1981 Henri Nouwen was asked in a letter if he thought humanity would survive the century. Here is part of his answer.

"But important for me is not if our civilization will survive or not but if we can continue to live with hope, and I really think we can because our Lord has given us His promise that He will stay with us at all times. He is the God of the living, He has overcome evil and death and His love is stronger than any form of death and destruction. That is why I feel that we should continually avoid the temptation of despair and deepen our awareness that God is present in the midst of all the chaos that surrounds us and that that presence allows us to live joyfully and peacefully in a world so filled with sorrow and conflict."

Isn't that a beautiful reminder of where our focus should be?

In his letters Henri Nouwen doesn't just write about what may happen to civilization and how to maintain hope; he covers every topic. Henri's letters cover subjects from moves to job changes to grief to unfaithful spouses to denominational differences to struggles in the church to difficult friendships to insecurity and rejection to current events to missionary life and fulfilling one's calling ... The list is endless!

I am going to keep Love, Henri on my permanent shelf and refer to it for Biblically sound, Scripture based advice any time I need it. It tied in so well with books I have recently read as well as the 1 & 2 Peter Bible study I am participating in right now I want to keep it close at hand so I can refer to the many sections I marked.


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

Friday, September 23, 2016

uninvited {book review}




I have to admit, when I began Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst my attitude was a little smug: I don't need this book! I like the concept of it, but I feel great about myself and I love my friends! I am so loved!

Then I remembered there are moms I hide from, or avoid, or don't try to get to know because they scare me.

Last year I needed almost the entire school year before I would talk to a mom because she seemed so put together. Turns out she's really nice! And I can now say "hello" to her without feeling scared.

This year I watch little ones while their mamas attend Bible Study and a fellowship group. The mamas all look so fresh, their clothes are so cute, and they all have ankle boots (booties? is that what we call these?) and now I think I need a pair ... but please don't expect me to wear makeup. Please. I just can't. I don't know how.

And there I go again - assuming other moms won't like me because I don't look or dress like them.

So yes, turns out I needed this book, because maybe all of these feelings and thoughts inside of me come across on the outside without me realizing it and maybe, just maybe, people are scared to approach me.

Feeling rejected is hard.

Being rejected is hard.

In Uninvited Lysa steps into that hard, raw, really painful space of rejection and applies Biblical truth to deep wounds.

I read Uninvited as an e-book, which was really hard for me because I wanted to write all over it. I took four pages of notes instead. I know, I know, you can highlight and mark passages in e-books, but it's just not the same!

A few things I LOVED about Unvited:

The reminder that "people can't be our soul-oxygen." We have to fill our hearts with the truth that Jesus loves us, because expecting love to come from outside ourselves will just leave us feeling disappointed and rejected.

We need to be in His word before we get into the World and its messages so that what is at the forefront of our minds is His message. I've been getting up in the morning, leaving my phone on the nightstand, picking up my Bible and starting the day with that. I am not allowing myself to touch my phone until I get the Word in front of me, and the kids, because I want His word to be the first thing I encounter every day.

Scarcity Thinking vs. Abundance Thinking: We think, if she gets that - house, job, car, husband, life - what is left for me? whereas God promises He has a plan and path uniquely set out for everyone.

Being given Biblical tools and resources to help me understand rejection, relationships, and how to communicate better. I am not in the middle of any friendship crisis right now - YAY!! - but if I am ever again in a place where things are falling apart with a friend I am going to use this book as a guide to get us both through with intact hearts and souls. Uninvited has useful and applicable advice on how to handle challenging relationship situations well.

I received this book from BookLook bloggers in exchange for a fair review 

Monday, September 19, 2016

when mountains move {book review}




I have to be honest: when I see a Christian publishing house imprint on the back of a novel I usually put that novel back on the shelf, but after reading When Mountains Move by Julie Cantrell I want to give more fiction put out by Christian publishing houses a try!

I didn't realize When Mountains Move is a sequel, so there were moments when I was a little lost, but I still found Millie's story engaging and interesting.

When Millie marries Bump Anderson she attempts to leave her past behind and begin a new life with him in Colorado. However, Millie is unable to bury the past completely and has to find a way to make her marriage survive the secrets she has kept.

Cantrell's honest writing about the difficulties of motherhood, especially in an isolated situation, rang true for me. The first year of a baby's life can be so hard on a marriage and Cantrell does an excellent job exploring the tension and troubles of that time between Bump and Millie.

When Mountains Move is a quick, enjoyable read. I was captivated by the story, and was surprised to find the story to be less predictable than I expected. I have to go back and read the first book so I can understand the full story behind Millie and her life.



I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers. 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

thoughts on hearing loss, books, music and early intervention


 I was reading and singing to Ainsleigh before bed a few nights ago when the idea for this post popped into my head. When Ainsleigh was first diagnosed with unilateral hearing loss (she is profoundly deaf in her left ear) I didn't want to have anything to do with the community of parents raising kids with hearing loss. I was done being part of a parenting group that was set aside because something was wrong with their child. I'd been to Holland when I expected a vacation to Italy. I had no idea what country I landed in after Ainsleigh's brith, but I knew I didn't want to see that essay again. I wanted to raise my baby without being labeled a hearing loss parent. I was already a loss parent. I didn't want to add to my resume of perceived failures.

But even though I didn't want to join the community I was still pulled in because Ainsleigh needed support. Ainsleigh needed an audiologist and speech therapist. She needed regular testing and in home care to help her develop language. And even though I didn't want to need support, I did.

I thought I had to be fine with Ainsleigh's hearing loss simply because she was alive, but once we were knee deep in hearing aid battles and delayed development fears I realized being fine wasn't going to be possible. Raising a child with hearing loss is hard and frightening, even if you've been through harrowing parenting journeys before.

There are parenting networks for parents who have deaf/hard of hearing children. I haven't joined one. I lean on our audiologist and speech therapist as well as my family, friends, church and husband.

Even though I haven't reached out to anyone beyond a pumpkin patch visit last fall for parents of deaf/hard of hearing children (which was actually really good for Ainsleigh) I wanted to write about my experience a little bit. Because maybe there's someone who needs to know they are not the only one who has struggled with putting a hearing aid on a determined one-year-old (tip: flip your kiddo on their side across your lap, gently hold them down with one arm, and get it in). And whether or not I want to be in the deaf/hard of hearing group I'm IN. And Ainsleigh needs me to be IN so that she can grow and thrive.

Which she is.

Ainsleigh is doing remarkably well with her speech and language considering she has significant hearing loss in one ear. I think some of that is up to me because I am the one who sat with her day in and day out and put her hearing aid in over and over and over when she was a baby. But I am also the one who left her hearing aid out for six weeks when we moved, so it's not all me!

Early intervention as well as exposure to music and books has been instrumental in helping Ainsligh succeed.

If you are dealing with a child who has hearing loss READ to them. Every. single. day. For as long as they will hold still, and even when they're not holding still. Don't skip words. Don't stick to board books because they're not yet 1 or 2. Turn on audio books when they're busy playing in their room. Take them to the library, let them pick picture books, and then read when they're at the table, in the bath, before bed, before nap, playing on the living room floor, etc.

Read beyond picture books. Read non-fiction, magazines, early chapter books and poetry. This evening I read poetry to Ainsleigh while we slowly drifted off together. I eventually had to lever both of us out of the rocker and put her to bed because we were so sleep drunk on soothing words and calm rhythms we could hardly keep our eyes open. It's a soothing way to end the day and it fills her brain with rich language right before she drops off to sleep.

I am not saying I am the most amazing parent EVER, but I have seen so much benefit in my children's lives because we inundated them with books from birth.

Along with reading every day, sing to your kids. All day. Even if you are like me and cannot carry a tune. We have been really lucky to connect with an amazing music program and teacher (Music Together) but if your family doesn't have that option you can still sing and expose them to music every day. I love ending the night with Ainsleigh snuggled in my arms, or in her bed, while I sing and she listens. When the house is quiet and Ainsleigh is listening to me read and then sing in very close proximity she can glean far more information about words and sounds than she can when it's midday and I'm trying to explain something and her brother is rocketing around the house.

I often tell my children that every single human wandering this earth is experiencing some difficulty or challenge in their lives, but it is also up to each individual how they deal with and grow from their particular challenge. I am hoping to teach my kids they don't have to be limited by their challenge (food allergies for my son, hearing loss for my daughter) through exposure to books and music, which in turn exposes them to the wonder and beauty of the world we live in.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

we remodeled a bathroom!!


Well, okay, we are mostly done remodeling the small bathroom. We're still trying to find the perfect shower door, but we are otherwise done!

This is what we started with. This is the best complete before shot I could find - thanks honey! It looks really bad!!



Then Jon took everything out. Except the shower. It is a custom size (very small) which earned it the right to stay.



Then Jon worked and worked and planned and created and built and built and built and I stressed out about EVERYTHING and didn't like ANYTHING and worried we would never find flooring. And then this weekend it all came together beautifully and I couldn't be happier with how it turned out. It's really hard to get a good picture of this tiny bathroom, so you'll just have to come on over and check it out!


Jon had so many problems with this shower! It is not what I had in mind, but it turned out great and I am so glad the brown and tan duck tiles are gone (unfortunately we do not have a before picture of that!)


I love the creative and beautiful vanity/mirror barn door solution Jon came up with. I couldn't find a mirror I liked so he came up with this idea. He built the vanity and mirror trim, then attached the barn door hardware. It required a lot of time and effort. I think he should be proud!




I was so happy when I discovered this multi-color and varying plank width floor! It was exactly what I wanted.


We extended the floor into the laundry area/hallway to the family room



We are going to take a couple weeks off and then it's on to the next bathroom!!

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