Saturday, February 11, 2017

Same Kind of Different As Me: A Book Review

Several years ago I read the original version of this book, "Same Kind of Different As Me," and was profoundly impacted by it. It was a beautiful (true!) story of a wealthy art dealer and his wife and their life-changing friendship with a homeless man named Denver. Reading about Denver's story, especially beginning with his childhood, brought so much depth to the stories of the homeless all around us. They're not just nameless hungry faces. They have stories, pasts, loved ones. They had mothers who held them as babies. They have dreams and hopes and sorrows and joys.

My husband has continued to impact me just as that book did. When we encounter the homeless, he will look them in the eyes and shake their hands and ask their names. He takes them out for lunch and learns their stories. Through these encounters, both of us have been changed as we meet the homeless and realize though we are each different individuals, we're also so much alike-- we're the "same kind of different."

When I saw there was a children's version of Denver's story, I was so excited! We want to raise our children to see each human being (born, unborn, rich, poor) as a beloved child of God. The book did a great job of sharing Denver's story at a child's level and I appreciate a book that will allow and encourage conversations about the poor and homeless and how we can help them in a deeper way than just "charities and giving money in church."

However, in all honesty, I also found myself experiencing a few hesitations as I read the paints such a pretty picture of a friendship between the art dealer's wife and the homeless man that I'm afraid some children might think that it's okay to talk to all strangers and "befriend" them. It's one thing for your kids to know it's okay to say hello and smile at others or say kind words to's another for them to think it's okay to befriend a stranger on their own. After some reflection, I'm really not quite sure what I think about the book! I hope that as G and our other kids grow older, God will give us wisdom and grace to instill kindness and generosity into their little minds and hearts while also teaching them to be prudent and cautious. Perhaps the book would be a tool for this in addition to conversations about stranger safety. ;)

What do you think when it comes to raising children to be kind yet safe around strangers, particularly the poor or homeless?

[Thank you to Book Look Bloggers for my complimentary copy. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

Friday, January 27, 2017

Quick Takes!

It's Fri-yay!! We've got some cold, snowy weather here after some unseasonably warm days the past couple weeks so it's indoor stuff for us this weekend...

1. But I'm marching in spirit with all those at the March for Life! My heart swells each year with hope, joy, and gratitude whether I'm actually there in D.C. or if I'm just watching the internet coverage (although I hear some mainstream media picked it up this year! Thanks, VP Pence!!). I'm hearing 500,000 strong are there today?

2. Speaking of politics (dare I?), it's brought me to tears a few times recently when I see President Trump holding true to the Republican platform and making some decisions for life. Like the Mexico City Policy...thank you, Jesus!!! Not only is it both wasteful and immoral to use American money to encourage abortions overseas, it's also incredibly offensive to those women! As if poverty makes them unable to think or act for themselves, and we need to go over and do some population control-- shameful! So sad for the past, but so grateful for the present policy being reinstated. Abortion is never the answer to poverty.

3. Speaking of life, my sweet former-client and now-friend from the pregnancy center came for dinner this past week. Such a gift to spend time with her and her precious baby. Her little one is catching up quickly in size to my baby G!

4. Speaking of girlfriends, I'm currently in two book clubs and I'm such a fan!! You know I've always loved reading, but I'm discovering how much I love discussing what I'm reading with other women reading the same book! It's harder than it used to be to have quality girlfriend time, so I'm finding that with these book clubs, we tend to go deeper in conversation right away yet also have loads of fun in laughter-- all in just a couple hours. With my church moms' group, we're reading Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. At first I thought it was cliche, but I'm enjoying it more. With the book club I host at my home each month, we're almost done with Unleashed: How to Receive Everything the Holy Spirit Wants to Give You. Highly recommend that one to anyone who wants to grow in your personal faith-life and how you see God at work in it!

5. Speaking of food (oh, wait, we weren't talking about food? Guess it's just always on my mind *wink*), I've created a monthly meal plan and I'm thinking it's going to be a game changer. I've realized cooking isn't too difficult, but the deciding/planning/trying new recipes is what takes more time and energy. Enter my monthly meal plan of tried and true recipes that are dairy free and husband-approved. I'm rolling it out this week and it's even making my grocery trips simpler. Maybe I'll share it with you guys if I can be tech-y enough to create a printable or something.

6. Speaking of technology, I'm once again this close to deleting all my apps and social media. But once again I'm too chicken. It will happen one of these months, I'm telling you. I'm so ready to be off the grid with that stuff. I'd keep my blog, of course, because some of you are like my real-life friends, you know?

7. Speaking of chicken, I'm getting hungry...snack time. Did I tell you I bought the tea pot?? Oh yes, I did and I'm so excited to use it with my tea cups! Everyone needs a little beauty in their daily lives. Erma Bombeck would say so.

Have a beautiful weekend, sweet friends. Let me know what you're up to in the comments! Or check out the other quick takes hosted by Kelly. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A New Chapter

I've always dreamed of being a stay-at-home mom...but I never guessed how difficult it would be to make that change.

Yesterday I walked out of the door of my beloved workplace, now without a paying job (because hey, motherhood is a 24/7 job!) for the first time in ten years. And it was a lot for my little heart to process.

I LOVE being a nurse. I've loved it since nursing school all those years ago. Yet even then, I knew my even greater desire was to be a mom.

And here I am. All those years of waiting and praying and hoping, and I have an incredible husband, a lovely home, and a precious baby girl. We prayed for weeks before making the decision for me to stay home full time with our daughter and I felt undeniable grace and peace about the decision.

So why did it feel so hard to walk out yesterday and close that chapter of my life?

I am over-the-moon in love with my precious girl and she is truly our gift from God. Having a daughter is a dream come true. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to stay at home with her, care for her needs and our little home, and to greet my husband when he walks in the door after work. But that gratitude is undoubtedly joined by struggles in my heart and mind that have caused me to reflect. In my relatively short experience of being a mother, this is what I've learned. While I believe these are the reasons it can be challenging to be a stay-at-home mom, these really apply to all mothers.

There's a lack of affirmation. While my husband is great at thanking me for caring for our daughter or saying the house looks great after I've cleaned it, the reality is that there's very little affirmation for the amount of time, effort, and energy that go into motherhood. No one is affirming you for every little diaper you change, every load of laundry, every poop or spit-up stain you scrub, or even just for getting dinner on the table. And for someone whose love language is words of affirmation, that can be tough.

There's a lack of definition to your life. It's so easy to define ourselves by outer things like our jobs, majors, or other accomplishments. I loved saying I was a nurse, or that I was passionate about crisis pregnancy center work, sharing about different hobbies or pursuits I enjoyed, or even just the way I did my hair or makeup! In a lot of ways, I was defined by those things. They made me me. With a baby, so much of myself has felt stripped down to the bare minimum and there are moments when I've told my husband I don't even know who I am anymore. The raw beauty of this is that it causes me to recognize that my true definition comes from Christ, not the things I used to define myself.

It can be monotonous. Having been single for years, my life was my own and I could do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. A freedom to change it up whenever I felt stifled. New activities, rearranging furniture, new projects, outings with friends, and so on. But this young motherhood life is full of monotony-- diapers, nursing, dinners, and sleep (or attempts to do so for both of us!). It can be tempting to lose sight of the eternal worth of the monotonous.

It is so easy to doubt your abilities. With a job outside the home, there are measurable goals and outcomes. You see the results of your efforts fairly quickly. There's progress and success and making a visible difference. But as a stay-at-home mom it can be difficult to see the progress or the success of your efforts. After all, you're a mother for life and may not truly see the value of your efforts until heaven! These are little eternal souls you're raising, and souls grow slowly and sometimes imperceptibly. There are a million books and websites to tell you all the right ways and it can be overwhelming to feel like you're falling so very short. I'm learning that doubt is normal but to turn to God's grace to fill in my many gaps. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but even moreso, it takes faith and trust and surrender.

There is a lack of support from the secular world. From outright disdain for motherhood (Margaret Sanger, y'all??) to a simple nod for it on Mother's Day, the world isn't exactly the biggest supporter of mothering. Women's rights movements are all about liberating women from the "bondage" of homemaking and child-raising. Women are subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) made to feel that motherhood is a back-burner sort of job, that the purposeful stuff lies in contributions we make to the world in an outside employment or larger movement. But what can be a greater impact to society than creating, raising, and forming new citizens in a stable family and home life? Thankfully, I've been seeing an increase in new feminism movements that support women to be all that God created them to be and to live it out in spiritual or physical motherhood.

So as I open this both exciting and daunting chapter of my life story, I do so knowing that there will be challenges. I will have to continue to fight off the lies of the world as well as the lies whispered within me. But there's incredible beauty in this chapter along with the fears, the doubts, the monotony. There's sanctification and molding of my own heart and soul by a loving Father. And there's watching that same loving Father work with and through me as I mold and raise this gorgeous little girl moment by moment.

What a gift.

[As always, a small disclaimer: mothers aren't the only ones who have a lack of support or affirmation or those who struggle with monotony or doubt or what defines them. My sweet single friends or my married friends struggling with infertility, I see you. God sees you. You are carrying heavy crosses. You are in my heart and in my prayers.]

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Winter Reading: One for Me and One for Baby

I'm still reading like it's my job...but maybe more a part-time job now because little G is awake and loves attention much more than she used to. I'm taking this reading challenge for the year but will probably pick and choose with a few of the books on the list as well as add in some of my own, including fiction. I just finished the fiction book below and realized I need more fiction in my life. I mean, I love reading on homemaking and organization and recipes and such to improve and streamline in those areas...but let's be honest...sometimes I want to escape those areas and get lost in a fiction story!

Where Hope Prevails is the third in the Return to the Canadian West series by Janette Oke and her daughter Laurel Oke Logan. I shared my thoughts on the second book in a past review. I definitely liked this book better than the previous one in the series. I'll pretty much read anything about a prairie teacher out West. Ever since I was a little girl, that particular story line has always captured me (Laura Ingalls, anyone?). As usual, Janette Oke's style is occasionally slow and almost boring or predictable, but also endearing to me. Though I skimmed a few chapters, for the most part I enjoyed the rhythm of this book and reading about the heroine and her story, even if it was the day-to-day activities-- or maybe particularly the day-to-day activities. I know I romanticize it but I love learning about how women of that era made their own clothes and cooked meals on a rustic stove and just the simplicity and authenticity of their lives and relationships. I think it's the same reason I enjoy Amish fiction. Overall, I'd give the book a 4 out of 5. Not a page-turner by any means, but a comfortable friend kind of book.

[Thank you to Bethany House for my complimentary copy. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

And then there's this sweet gem for the babe. I LOVE LOVE LOVE (have I emphasized it enough?) the song "Good Good Father" by Chris Tomlin and it brings me to tears nearly every time-- both the reality of the blessing of my earthly father and what a great dad he was and is, as well as the amazing truth that God is my heavenly Father and such a good and loving one, even infinitely more than my dad here on earth. As soon as I saw this book for little ones, I was so excited. I am SO thankful for the way my husband loves our daughter. He's already an incredibly loving daddy and I know as she grows older, she will be beyond blessed to have such a stable, godly, loving man as her dad. In turn, I love that that relationship will help her come to know (I pray it will!) God as a loving and good father. This book was a sweet board book full of cute pictures and different ways to relate to God as a father. For example, a good father is "like a king who is fair and kind, He rules with your very best in mind." My only disappointment was that it didn't actually talk about God. The whole time is shows a lion with each comparison and is speaking of what a "good father" is like, but it's never actually said the God is a good father like all those things. I suppose it sparks good conversation about the topic but it left me not completely satisfied. Beautiful book overall--size, words, pictures, quality. 4 out of 5 stars.

[Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for my complimentary copy. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Freshness of the New Year

I love new years. I love the clean-slate, fresh-start, begin-again feeling of them. It's probably the recovering perfectionist in me...I like getting rid of the messiness and feeling like there's a chance I'll get it right this year. ;) But at the same time, I think the writer and the optimist in me also like new years...there's an exciting and hopeful anticipation of what might be written on its pages...of the ways I'll grow and change and learn.

This year I did NOT make any specific resolutions, which is a big change for me! I did, however, choose a word and a saint (more on those below). Instead of a specific resolution, I have these lofty and vague (and never-ending?) goals for organizing life, haha. Mainly: organizing my home and organizing my time.

For our home, we've only lived her less than two years but we also were both single living on our own for several years before marriage, so we've collected quite a bit that just isn't necessary in our home. I really want to clean out and minimize and donate a LOT so that our daily lives are less cluttered and materialistic.

For my time, I'm all about the idea of routines and schedules. I see the necessity of them with having a baby because otherwise I would feel like all I get done in a day is dinner and diapers (which is nothing to sneeze at, my hubby reminds me ;) ). Yet I also see the need to have LOOSE schedules and routines so that I'm not constantly trying to abide by a schedule that just doesn't fit this season. I'm learning to just watch the rhythm of my days right now and utilize certain chunks of time for work and purposely rest/read/pray during others.

As far as my word for the year, I really wasn't planning on choosing one, but on the last day of 2016 my devotional encouraged me to choose a word...or rather to pray over it as I read the scriptures for the day. The Gospel was one of my favorites-- John chapter 1-- and the word grace reached out to me and I happily received it.

I want to live like Mary-- full of grace-- in my daily life. I want to look for the grace God sends each day, even in the mundane. I want to be graceful and gracious to others. Grace means gift and that's what each moment of my life holds...grace and gift from God if I have to eyes to see it and the heart to treasure it.

Last but not least, I enjoy the Saints Name Generator from Jen Fulwiler and this year's saint for me was Saint Bernadette! I know her general story but I look forward to learning more about her and the ways God may inspire me from her life, as well as to her prayerful intercession to help me become the woman God wants me to be this year!

What are your goals or resolutions for the year? Did you choose a word or a saint?