Thursday, October 1, 2015

My Bookshelf: A Fiction Review and a Non-Fiction Review

Anyone else loving this reading season? It's still warm enough to read outside during the day with a warm mug and a blanket, and when it cools down in the evening I'm all about cuddling on the couch with a book. My husband and I are trying to challenge each other to sit and read at least ten minutes at night because it's so easy to just turn on the TV when we're tired after work! Yet reading is so much more fulfilling and healthy!

Here are a couple books from my shelf this month...

I was so excited to get a Janette Oke book in the mail and eagerly started reading this fiction book. I loved her books when I was younger and my girlish heart was delighted with the possibility of a new story of a teacher out West. I was somewhat disappointed with the book. It is part of a series, recounting the life of Beth Thatcher, who comes from a wealthy family but stepped out in adventure with a teaching job in the wild West of Canada. This particular book shares her visit back home with her family and their holiday excursion on a luxury steamship. Though I enjoyed reading Janette Oke's comforting, simple style once again, this book proved to be too slow of a pace. I found myself skimming at times even though I enjoyed the story and the plot. I also felt the kidnapping near the end (intrigued, are you? ;) ) was just a bit far-fetched. So I'm torn. There's the loyal Janette Oke fan in me, but there's also the honest critique. Final thoughts: love the author and some of her other books but this particular book was not my cup of tea. 

[Thank you to Baker Publishing Group and Bethany House for sending me this review copy at no charge. These are my honest and original thoughts concerning the book.]

This book is adorable. That cover. Don't you just want to open it up and look inside? I'm a sucker for decorating books even though I don't have a lick of talent in that area. I think it's because I love the concept of home. Of creating a warm and welcoming haven. This book is full of different rooms from different homes, with descriptions of decorating styles and ideas. It's an amazing reference tool whether you are an interior designer or just a wannabe like me. The rooms all look professionally done, but when I read the descriptions I feel like I could follow them and it isn't quite so intimidating. There are tons of extras to this book. Not only do they discuss style, color, lighting and art, but there are also sections on repairs, cleaning, and organization of your home. There's a "year-round happy & health home calendar" to help you remember home ownership tasks. And then of course, there's the room by room tour with hints and tips. Honestly, this book is solid. We're going with a 5 stars on the content, photography, and usefulness. 

[Thank you to Blogging for Books for this review copy at no cost. These are my honest and original thoughts concerning the book.]

Happy Fall reading, friends!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wisdom for Wednesdays

"The value of persistent prayer is not that He will hear us
but that we finally hear Him."

-William McGill

Monday, September 28, 2015

Her Story

She walked in the other night, a breath of fresh air. Five-foot-nothing with a couple inches added on with her stylish heels. Cute outfit, gorgeous hair, twinkling eyes, and an infectious smile.

I was intimidated.

It had been a long day at the new job and I was still finding my way, wading through paperwork, trying to make friends, and hoping I was where I was supposed to be, literally and philosophically! Despite my excitement about the new job, there was still fear and hesitation...and a nagging doubt that I would be able to handle it all-- these pregnant women in crisis when in some ways, I was still a woman in crisis after losing my own pregnancy.

She smiled at me and introduced herself, this beautiful woman who comes in to volunteer at the crisis pregnancy center a few evenings a month after her day job. She was perfect in my eyes--poised, friendly, and gorgeous.

So I assumed her life must be perfect, too. 

Why do we do it? Why do we compare, contrast, measure, and evaluate ourselves against other women? Why do we draw conclusions from what we see before we even speak? 

But even though I was intimidated-- and let's be real, a little jealous-- I still wanted to get to know her. I wanted to hear her story. I was inspired and curious that she would volunteer her evenings at this place despite working a full time job and have a baby at home.

I think God wanted me to hear her story, too.

Because as she opened the cover of her book and laid it all out there for me, I knew it wasn't a chance encounter. Her chapters of infertility, of then conceiving twins, of her son dying in her womb and her daughter dying in the neonatal ICU. Her subsequent chapter of the adoption of her daughter. That somehow she knew she was still called to work here. That God gives grace. That some days it's hard to see the clients conceiving child after child-- often unwanted. But there's grace. And there's redemption. And there's healing. 

You can do this. You are meant to be here. Despite your story. Or maybe because of your story. 

That's what I heard that night. It was exactly what I needed to hear.

All because I asked her story. And because she wasn't afraid to share it.

Open up your heart to others, sweet friends. Don't be afraid to let them read the tough chapters of your story. It might be just what someone needs to hear.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Wisdom for Wednesdays (we're bringing it back!)

"So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have had to endure many trials for awhile."

-1 Peter 1:6

Friday, September 18, 2015

7 Quick Takes Friday: I'm back and I think it's for real this time


I have Fridays off now and it makes me ridiculously happy. And it gives me a lot more time and energy to write. So. This time I'm making a solemn vow an honest effort to get back on the blogging bandwagon. Because when I looked at my last post and realized it was posted on July 30, I promptly fainted couldn't believe it!
In addition to writing and sharing more, I'm planning on bringing back Wisdom for Wednesdays, my weekly sharing of quotes, thoughts, and Bible verses with you. Stay tuned!


The job. Remember when I shared about a possible job opportunity? It happened! I'm not back in crisis pregnancy center work and I couldn't be happier! 

Back in the summertime, I was extremely stressed with my current job, mourning our miscarried child, exhausted from my daily commute to my old town for my old job. One night I was crying/venting/desperately begging P. to fix everything. In his calm way, he asked what my dream job would be right now. 

Working part-time at a crisis pregnancy center, I answered through my tears.

The next day, I went to a previously scheduled meeting with a center to discuss volunteering. By the end of the meeting, there was a job possibility arising.

Two months later-- and a LOT of prayer and discernment (because of my control freak cautious self in decision making)-- I'm now a nurse and sonographer for them. 

And I couldn't be happier or more grateful that my passion is now my job.


The fertility stuff. In addition to grieving our little Ignatius, our follows up with my doctor shed more light on the situation. It's one of those things. When you find out abnormal results, are you glad because now you have an answer or sad because they're abnormal? Honestly, it depends on the day for me.

In addition to PCOS (which I knew I had), I have low progesterone and a clotting disorder, both of which put me at high risk for miscarriages. That's the sad news. And let me tell you, it brings on a new grief, a grieving over a body that doesn't work right, that puts me at risk to lose more babies. 

But there's always hope. And I'm deeply grateful for my NaPro doctor. He's compassionate, faith-filled, and a highly competent physician. My treatment is minimal and hope-full.

It's a chapter I hadn't anticipated in my book, particularly not in our first year of marriage. But it's our story. And God continues to write with grace and beauty when I'm least expecting it. I'll keep sharing with you because that's what I do. And that's how I believe God gives further meaning to our suffering. I can't tell you how many women God has sent to me in these past few months who have shared their stories of hope, strength, and encouragement in the midst of subfertility/infertility struggles. I am grateful. And so I share mine.


The husband. He's great. I just love him. He shows me how to love more steadfastly, live more spontaneously, and trust God more deeply. In the midst of my fear of my medical diagnoses, he is my rock and a gift. So grateful. 

He's currently knee-deep (or maybe neck-deep?!) in coordinating the local 40 Days for Life Campaign as well as a leader in a local religious liberty men's group committed to bringing our country back to its moral foundation. But when he's not busy with saving lives and freedom...

He let me cut his hair for the first time! And he liked it better than the salon.

Brownie points for shaving down our budget (yep, pun intended) and for my mad skills.


A friend and I are hosting a women's Bible study beginning tomorrow. I'm so excited. We're doing a "mugs and muffins" breakfast theme for refreshments and hosting it once a month on a Saturday morning. I spent the afternoon making Healthy Cinnamon Sugar Apple Muffins and Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins. Here are some pics of the muffins (in process) as well as the book we are using for the study:

Cover art


The cornfields are turning golden. It's gorgeous. I'm not ready for winter at all, but I'm thrilled that fall is on its way. Fall into Autumn board. 

The first step is to admit it...:
Um. Guilty. 


Time for some prayer at the Adoration chapel with P. and then I am off to bed! If you are cooler than me and staying up late on a Friday night, check out the other Quick Takes hosted on This Ain't the Lyceum. Goodnight, sweet friends!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Media Detox

I'm detoxing this week, friends.

No, I'm not drinking that weird mix of lemonade, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper.

I'm not slurping green smoothies with chunks of broccoli and kale floating in them.

I'm not even exercising (okay, I'm going to try to take a run tonight!).

Instead, I'm cleansing my mind and spirit from habits related to a little handheld idol...

My Smart Phone.

The other day I was reflecting on the amount of time I spend on my phone (and the internet). It's not that I spend long hours at a time online...but rather that I fill little moments with it. If I'm in a waiting room at a medical office, waiting in the grocery store, eating lunch by myself, even if I'm procrastinating getting out of bed in the morning-- I'm scanning through the apps on my phone. What's new on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest?

It's so. easy. to get hooked on it and to waste those precious little moments with it. I mean, what else would I be doing during those short bursts of time? But that's the problem! What could I be doing with that time? (Prayer for others, meditation on God's love, thinking of a creative way to bring joy to someone else, relishing silence and simplicity.)

My phone can be an enjoyable distraction and a comforting habit. But it's also a thief. Of mental energy. Of focus and concentration. Of joy and contentment (what one of us has NOT struggled with comparison or jealously perusing a social media site at one time?).

Enter the detox plan.

As I reflected on my phone use and wondered what it would be like to use those moments in other ways, I thought...."I should do a fasting week from my phone sometime." Sometime. You know, like far in the future.

But then I changed my mind. There's no time like the present, right? So I announced it to my sister to hold me accountable. And then she decided to join and told my mom. And then my mom decided to join.

And then that night on the news they discussed a recent study on cell phones and the way our constant 'notifications' from them distract our focus and cause us to make up to THREE TIMES more mistakes than we would normally make on whatever we're working on. Thank you, Lord, for the affirmation of my decision! :)

Want to join us? Here's the scoop. We're not throwing the computers, laptops, and phones in the lake. We're being pretty reasonable about this, in case you were getting nervous when I asked you to join.

Here are my rules for the week:

1. Phone can only be used for texts and calls.

2. I am allowed to reference my Pinterest boards for projects/DIY/recipes that I'm working on, but no new pins or scrolling through my feed.

3. I can blog to my little heart's content because writing is creative and beautiful and joyful.

4. No Facebook at all. No Instagram at all (painful!). No surfing from blog to blog to blog.

I'm on Day 2 and it's been fabulous. My mind feels clearer already. I feel closer to the Lord because I don't feel like my online activities are coming before Him. I don't think we were ever meant to have such information overload and such busyness that the online world creates. I'll go back to it, of course. Just like I'd go back to a slice of chocolate cake after a veggie detox. But I'm re-creating better habits in the meantime. Like more discipline in my prayer life and time management.

I'll let you know more thoughts when the week is over! Until then, don't pin anything great that I'll miss out on! ;)


Friday, July 24, 2015

Quick Takes Friday [vol. 22]

Did you think this was turning into a book blog?? I know, seriously!! I was way behind in my book reviews, so my apologies for the slew of reviews! (but then again...I'm a book lover, you're a book lover. No apologies needed, right?)


Summer. Sweet summer. It's finally here. Our days are 80's (and 90's today!) with little humidity and lots of sunshine. It's so gorgeous. The cornfields around our house are topped with their golden fuzz. The birds can't get enough of the seed in my birdfeeders. I ate breakfast outside this morning just drinking in all the beauty of this season. 


P. has had two trips this month for work-- both of which involved flying out of state, which is unusual for him. My first time with him gone since we've been married, and my first time alone in the house. It was actually a bit of an adventure. I'm thankful my single years taught me to be content and competent on my own...there are recipes to be made, projects to do, books to read! But I was still very happy to pick him up at the airport and have him home once again!


Speaking of adventures, I sought out the nearest farmer's market last week! There's such a charm to market shopping! It makes me feel like an old-fashioned girl, going to the market to barter for fresh food for the week. My 'splurge' was a cute little pot of rosemary to plant in a flowerbox outside. I'll definitely be back next week! I can't wait until the watermelons are ready...


I'm writing for The Catholic Sip now and was featured on one of their podcasts recently. What a fun time. One of the hosts was one of our groomsmen, so I had a bit of an 'in' to writing for them. They're a great new ministry, though, and it's made me seek out other podcasts. I never really listened to them before and now I'm finding all sorts of neat ones (although I still don't quite understand how to use them...can you subscribe so they're automatically downloaded to your phone? Help a tech-challenged girl, will you?) Do you have any favorites podcasts to share  while I'm on this craze?


I officially told my employer that I'll be looking for a new job so they can begin the hiring/training process while I'm still there. What a bittersweet time! I've held my position in cardiology for eight years!! But the drive is now about an hour from our new house and I'm just exhausted from the early mornings and the two-hours worth of driving each day-- it makes for a cranky wife sometimes, just to keep things real. I'm on the hunt and God has provided some exciting opportunities! One step at a time...I'll keep you informed, stay tuned!


This book. This beautiful book that I've had for months but read at just the right time. God has a way of nudging us like that...despite all the joyous events in my life these past few months, I've felt a little spiritually dry or distant. Enter Every Bitter Thing Is Sweet, by Sara Hagerty. A story of personal faith, infertility, adoption, authenticity, rejecting legalism, and finding sweet intimacy with God. It was a powerful book for me and one chapter in particular just...hit me. And all of a sudden I was crying redemptive tears and praying from a heart that God was slowly renewing. 


And He knew I would need that closeness with Him. The God who sees us. The God who is with us. The God who holds us tightly and walks with us through the valley. 

Because last month I miscarried. 

I know. I'm tucking it here in the last of my quick takes. Because after these weeks of intense grief and sorrow, the wound is healed enough to be tucked away...or maybe rather protected from those who don't understand. But I want you to know. And I'll talk about it more soon. But for now-- know that I tasted the indescribable goodness of being a mama. Of a little life growing inside. I have a child. I will meet him someday. My heart is torn by the separation of this life...but rejoicing that the Lord is holding my baby. He is still good. And I praise Him for the gift of a little one, an eternal soul that will be happy with Him forever. We love our child more than I ever knew was possible. Love hurts but it's still beautiful.

Every life is a gift, no matter how brief it be upon this earth. And so life is still beautiful, too.