Monday, September 18, 2017

What I've Been Reading

This was such a neat, unique book. It's somewhat of a 'prayer guide' for your daughter. Each chapter has a specific topic (her identity, her heart, her mind, her sanctification) and then subcategories within that (that she be pure, kept, content, undivided). Within the chapter, the author shares some thoughts on the particular issues or needs, a prayer for the mom's heart, and then several prayers for the daughter, with a blank to insert your daughter's name and make the prayer your own. It may seem silly or unnecessary, but the prayers are so beautifully written and I found myself thinking of all sorts of things that I want to pray for my daughter that I would not have otherwise thought of. This book reminds you that the spiritual part of parenting is even more important than the practical side, yet it's so easy for us to get lazy in that area or to be satisfied with 'the basics.' The only thing I'd add or improve would be adding women saints to inspire the girls or intercede for them (especially Mary as a spiritual mother and role model!), but the book is not Catholic. 3.5 out of 5. :)

[Thank you to Baker Publishing Group for my complimentary review copy. This contains my honest and original thoughts.]

This book pretty much rocked my world. I found myself reading it the same pace as a fiction book rather than a nonfiction. Katie's story is incredibly fascinating to me. I was deeply impacted by my own mission trip to Haiti several years ago, but I'm in awe of how her one mission trip inspired her to return to Uganda and live there (over ten years now!) and adopt 13 children as a single mother (although she has recently married and had a bio baby too!!). It's so radical, I couldn't help but want to read more about this girl. I have not read her first book but now I want to. I have a feeling I'd like this one better anyway, though, because she shares a lot about how she and her faith have changed and matured in the ten years. Her message transcends time and place and I had tears several times with the way she inspired me in my own relationship with Jesus, to go deeper in relationship, to trust in the hard, to be patient with His plan. The subtitle really sums it up well: "Finding God's Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful." 5 out of 5. 

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

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Salsa of all Salsas

And this picture is exactly why I'm not a food blogger, y'all.

Ok, so not really about the "salsa of all salsas." When it comes to salsa, different strokes for different folks, you know? But this particular recipe is my favorite, so I'll share it with you anyway. It's a thicker style rather than watery and it has a rich, tomato-y taste as well as a kick of black pepper. You can modify the peppers to use more or less banana peppers or jalapeno peppers (swapping with green peppers) to change the heat. I would say it's medium as is, although if you leave the seeds in the jalapenos that might take it up to hot. Enjoy!

Amy's Mom's Salsa (gotta give credit where credit is due, haha!)

12 cups diced tomatoes
4 cups diced peppers (1 cup banana,1 cup jalapeno, & 2 cup green pepper)
2 cups diced onions
2 tsp red pepper seasoning (crushed red peppers)
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
6 tsp salt
3 6-oz cans tomato paste
2 tsp cumin
3 tsp black pepper
Combine all ingredients and boil 5 min.

This is how many containers it filled for me-- the smallest container is a 2 cup bowl
so you can see it makes quite a bit! The 'measuring cup' is actually a large mixing bowl (8 cups, maybe?)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Currently // September

New month. Almost a new season. September days are lovely. A quiet, subtle ushering in of the fall. Our weather is slowly changing but cooling down sooner than usual. I'm starting to think of book clubs and bowls of soup and picking apples and all the plaid. Here's what else I'm up to currently:

celebrating: with gratitude that our baby had a healthy heartbeat and was measuring right on track for growth. I know pregnancy can seem so natural and simple and resilient for so many people, but for us having experienced a loss before, we just don't take anything for granted. Every milestone is a celebration! We loved seeing our little bean and his or her precious heartbeat!

watching: Nothing. I'm still in the first trimester exhaustion phase and I go to bed shortly after the toddler. I miss staying up with my husband and our Poldark episodes. Hopefully by the time season 3 airs, I'll have more energy to stay up.

welcoming: people into our home despite the lack of perfection. We hosted two college-age missionaries from the Culture Project for dinner and overnight on their way east for training. Tonight we're hosting a national speaker for a last-minute dinner before his talk in our town (quite the feat with my "all day" morning sickness and finding out he is on the paleo diet! ha!). It's been a blessing to me to learn how to open our home with a loving and welcoming spirit even if the food or the decor or the cleanliness isn't exactly how I'd like it to be.

preparing: for all things fall. Mentally I'm preparing, that is...I could really get a move on with the physical prep-- like switching out summer clothes for cooler weather ones, stocking the pantry for soups and comfort food, outdoor work. I'm also starting to look for a new orchard or pumpkin patch to visit! Can't wait!

photographing: the occasional moments. Nothing fancy. But it's good to catch the little moments to remember. I was off instagram for the month of August and it was interesting to see that I sometimes failed to capture the little moments like I do when I post on instagram. I've always liked the way that particular social media encourages appreciating the little things in an ordinary day.

Linking up with Anne and Lowanda. Would love to hear what you're up to currently!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Seven Quick Takes // Happy Fri-yay!

1. My sweet girl is down for her nap and went to sleep relatively quietly. I hope our next baby is a better sleeper, but I wouldn't trade our G for anything. Just now I had one of those heart-melt moments when I looked at her asleep in her crib. She's just so beautiful and I can't believe she's ours. Yeah, all the heart eyes. :)

2. It's been a stressful week with a lot of pregnancy symptoms and some bad lab results. I had low levels of progesterone with G but mine are currently even lower than they were with her despite me being on maximum treatment. That's always discouraging and I can only hope baby is still alive and well and safe in there. My ultrasound is next week and that will (hopefully) be an encouragement that all is well. I was telling my husband how I understand the reality (and beauty!) that our children are gifts from God and His first, that He loves them more than we do, and that the goal for all of them is to be with Him in heaven someday...but when the fear of miscarriage taps at my heart, I realize how desperately I want to meet and know our baby here on earth first.

3. We have two missionaries coming for dinner and staying overnight with us while they make their way out East to a conference. They are from the Culture Project (check them out if you've never heard of it! SO fabulous!) and it will be fun to meet them and talk with them tonight! It's also been awhile since we hosted people for either dinner or overnight, so even that sounds fun. I'm busy getting fresh towels and little chocolates to put on their beds. :) #bedandbreakfastwannabe

4. I went to the dentist today for the first time in 2.5 years! That is the LONGEST I think I've ever waited between appointments-- my poor hygienist!! ;) No excuses, but it just took me that long from getting married and moving to finding a new local dentist. They were so great, though! Being a nurse, I always have high expectations for healthcare workers and they did not disappoint!! From the receptionist to the dentist, everyone was SO nice and caring and thorough. I think that's somewhat rare these days so I was so delighted. Plus my teeth are squeaky clean...time to start taking better care of them. On that note, do you have a favorite toothpaste? I prefer the natural stuff, but I just think baking soda and coconut oil might be too hard on my teeth for daily use...

5. I'm in JEANS today!! It is September 1st and feeling like FALL!! We didn't even hit 70 degrees today and there's a brisk wind. It's kinda crazy! I'm ready to make all the soups and brew all the tea and light all the candles now! But a part of me is sentimental and not quite ready to say farewell to summer. I didn't even make it to the new community pool!

6. So I've been reading this book and it's been very inspirational!! It's occasionally intimidating (the authors lived abroad a lot and seem to have endless money for projects/hosting/etc.) but I LOVE their emphasis on creating a warm and inviting home for your family and guests, and creating memories and moments for your children that will nurture them into a healthy adulthood. Have you ever heard of Sally Clarkson? She reminds me of Emilie Barnes. Quaintly old-fashioned yet full of some good wisdom.

7. I've been invited to several book clubs this fall in addition to hosting my usual one. Two of them are moms' groups and it's SO tempting to join because you can never have enough fellowship (plus one has free childcare!), but they're also 30 minutes away and I'm afraid of overcommitment this fall, especially since I'll still be in the first trimester. I'd be part of a total of four book club/Bible studies. ha. How do you balance stepping out for opportunities without overcommitting to stuff? 

Have a happy weekend, friends, and enjoy the holiday!! Oh, and I haven't forgotten about that salsa recipe...coming soon! ;)

Friday, August 25, 2017

Friday Quick Takes

1. Hallelujah, we have internet again! Okay, so we were only without for a couple days...but it's nice to have it again! ;) We've had the same internet company for two years and twice they have tried to increase our rate but somehow we have continued to get the same promotion. This year, however, no go. They weren't having any of our sweet talk. So we cancelled! Ain't nobody got time for paying double the amount. At least not us. My neighbor had told me about a different company that was almost HALF the price of what we were currently paying! Yay! I switched but obviously everyone else did too because it's going to be two weeks until they can install it...but our generous neighbors are letting us use their Wifi until then. I just love our sweet Mayberry town and neighbors.

2. Speaking of neighbors, a random neighbor invited our whole neighborhood to her Pampered Chef party this weekend. I think I'm actually going to go! I don't think I really need anything for our kitchen, but I've always enjoyed Pampered Chef parties, and it might be fun to meet some new ladies from the neighborhood! Despite sometimes being pricey, there are a few PC thing that I LOVE-- like my glass mixing bowl or my potato peeler. What kitchen products do you like, Pampered Chef or otherwise?

3. And while we're talking about the kitchen...I am CRAVING homemade salsa. And not just any recipe, but my favorite recipe I make every fall. It's from my friend's mom and we've been making it for probably twenty years now!!! It is SO good and I've never tasted anything like it. Today I mixed up the spices and tomorrow I'll head to the farm market to get some peppers and tomatoes. Mmmm...I can't wait. I think I'll eat a bowl of it for each meal, ha!

4. On the cravings note, I'm really starting to feel all the preggo symptoms. Which is interesting with a toddler around. Thankfully, both her pregnancy and this one it's relatively mild, just uncomfortable. Like nausea, short of breath, and fatigue uncomfortable. But it's manageable. Most of the time. And when it's not, I just lie on the floor and let her crawl on me, haha!

5. Tonight we're headed to a surprise birthday party at good ol' Chuck E. Cheese! Despite what you may think, it's actually a party for an adult! ;) They disguised it by telling him it's a birthday party for a two-year-old, but little does he know when he arrives that we've all gathered there for his 30th birthday!! I haven't been there in years, but it sounds fun to see friends, play games, and have some (likely cheese-less?) pizza. :)

6. My husband is hitting one of the busy seasons of his job. The fall holds 40 Days for Life Campaign and Respect Life Month so he generally has lots of events and talks scheduled. In addition this year, he's has masterminded and organized and led a core team to host a diocese-wide conference on the problem of pornography. Matt Fradd is coming to speak and I really think it's going to be a powerful conference. We've already felt some of the spiritual warfare surrounding it all, and I know God will use this to free many people from such bondage. So proud of my hubs, but please pray for him and all the team and all those who will attend.

7. And finally, some baby photo dumping. Here are the latest shenanigans in our daily life:

We cook together.

We do laundry together.

We, um, dry dishes together?

And then we chill out together. ;) That smile, though.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Work of Creating a Home

There's no place like home. A safe, comfy, beautiful haven where we can let our guards down, relax, and enjoy ourselves. Where we can make memories with loved ones. Where we can be refreshed before going back out into the crazy and chaotic world.

But now that I stay at home full time with a baby-turning-toddler, I'm realizing how much work it takes to keep our home a haven! Oddly enough, it seems that the more often I'm home, the harder it is to keep it clean, warm, loving, and welcoming!

This past weekend was one of those where I was shamefully nitpicky to my poor husband. To be honest, weekends at home can be challenging for me these days. I've spent a long week of making and cleaning up messes and taking care of G, but my husband has spent a long week of working hard as director for his ministries. We're both exhausted but there are still meals to be made, messes to be cleaned, and a mini energizer bunny to keep up with. There's a tension inside me know both he and I desire a break, so who deserves it more?? (I know, I know. I'm not proud of these feelings, just keeping it real!). If I see him lying on the couch, I feel resentment building up inside, thinking he should be helping me do all the work around the house (and don't get me wrong, he often does help!).

Yet one day as I was driving alone in the car, I was reflecting on the situation and a totally different perspective settled in. Yes, it's a lot of work to create a home, but it's also a blessing to have that as a job! Like any job, there are exhausting moments, discouragement, frustration, and such. But what a satisfying feeling to know that because of your efforts, other feel comforted, welcomed, and restful. When my husband is lying on the couch, it's not that he's being lazy. It's that my efforts to create our home have given him a safe space to rejuvenate after his long days working hard in ministry. What a gift that I can provide that for him! It's so funny how just a change in perspective can change your whole attitude. Seeing things this way helps me to see my work as a gift, a privilege, even *gasp* a joy. It's rewarding to know that even the most mundane work that I do (dishes, laundry, meals) is sustaining a life-giving place for my loved ones to flourish.  While my husband will continue to help me around the house (grateful!) and while self-care and my needs are certainly an important balance to have with homemaking, I'm finding a renewed energy in my role. Instead of seeing the endless and monotonous, I'm seeing purpose and art.

Whether we're single, married, or mothers...whether we live in an apartment or house...whether we have lots of money or very little...I believe all women have the gift of an innate ability to create a home with beauty, comfort, and security. What are your favorite ways to create 'home' in your space?

Saturday, August 19, 2017


Little Miss G has a new role coming next spring. As you can see, she is still adjusting to the idea, but my husband and I are thrilled! 

Monday, August 14, 2017

This and That on a Monday

-I took a walk a few nights ago with the dog after the baby was in bed. Normally I'm ready to crash on the couch and read or watch something, but I'm so glad I made the choice to get out-- I forgot how much I LOVE summer nights!! It's so still and quiet except for a few neighbor kids playing. The sky is huge and the stars and clouds make one so reflective. It was a great night to think and pray and reminisce. I remember so many summer nights when I was single. I loved to dream and think and pray while watching the night sky, sometimes alone or sometimes with a friend or two. And here I am, married and with a baby. It's crazy how life feel like it's going slow and then all of a sudden you look back and wonder where ten years went.

-We got a bike seat installed for Little G and we took it for a spin for the first time. So fun to be on bikes again! G wasn't quite sure what to think but she had some smiles so I'm going to say she cautiously liked it.

-Our weekend turned a little sour because G had a cold and P had a stomach bug. Sadly, we missed a family reunion because of the sickness, but I have a feeling a weekend at home after all our traveling with be good for us health-wise anyway.

-As much as I love summer, I do love the structure and routine of fall. I'm looking forward to my book club starting back up as well as a couple other events that I might try to make more part of our schedule in the fall. And then of course there are the apple orchards and pumpkin patches (all the heart eyes!!!)! Look for a fall bucket list post soon. ;)

-Our local Aldi is closed for six weeks! How will I survive?? haha. Are you an Aldi fan? I'll manage with Kroger in the meantime (and I have to admit it will be nice to not have to bag my groceries while feeding the babe puffs) but I can't wait until the remodeling is finished and I can go back to my favorite grocery.

How was your weekend? What's new with you?

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Summer Book Reviews

I was first introduced to Jane Austen when I was in junior high and I was hooked. Since that's been over fifteen years, I've not only read all of her novels, seen most of the movie adaptations, but have also enjoyed spinoffs and Jane Austen themed books and movies as well. Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge is a modern take on Sense and Sensibility. It followed SandS very well, where it was easy (and fun!) to see who was who and what plot twists mimicked the original, but it was also unique and had its own enjoyable and original plot. Most of the time I read with a happy, amused pace but occasionally I have to admit I would get a little bored or it would feel somewhat predictable or even silly at times. I definitely appreciated the Captain in this modern version much more than the Colonel in the movie! Overall, it was a pleasant fiction book and I'd recommend it, but don't expect it to be a page turner. :) 3.9 out of 5 stars.

[Thank you to Blogging for Books for my review copy at no cost. This contains my honest and original thoughts.]

This is a lovely, gift-type hardcover book with reflections on motherhood from not only Nichole Nordeman but also several other well-known women. There are beautiful real-life pictures on each page, great writing, reflection points in each chapter, and space for journaling. This would make a fabulous baby shower gift. I haven't read all of the book, but I've been impressed by the authenticity of the writing. It's neither a fake, fluffy depiction of only the sweet parts of motherhood but neither is it about fighting through the dreadful trenches of motherhood. It's a great mix of the reality of the beautiful and the reality of the hard. I've already been brought to tears a few times, and definitely nodded my head several. I used to listen to Nichole Nordeman years ago in her first gig as a Christian music artist. I didn't realize she had gone through some rough times, including a divorce. It made me really sad to read her book knowing that she was a single mom. I don't mean that in a judgmental way, but more in a way that my heart just saddens anytime I hear about motherhood after a broken marriage and how tough that would be. Despite that sad reality, Nichole seems to treasure her children and motherhood and writes in such a beautifully real and relatable way. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

[Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for my review copy at no cost. This contains my honest and original thoughts.]

Saturday, August 5, 2017

I Am Devotional: A Book Review

Ever since I read Sara Hagerty's book Every Bitter Thing is Sweet and learned about her daily "adoration" prompts using the names of God, I've been so intrigued by the different names of God and I'm amazed at how beautiful they are and how they draw me closer to Him. So when I saw a children's devotional based on the names of God, I was all about it. I Am Devotional is written by Diane Stortz and includes 100 devotions about the names of God.

It's like any relationship-- the more facets of a person you learn, the closer to you are them from seeing the many sides and attributes they have. When my daughter learns about God as "Jehovah Jireh" (the God Who Provides), she will know she can trust Him to provide for her needs. Or when she remembers He is "Jehovah Rapha" (the God Who Heals), she can rest in His arms and wait for His healing touch on any of her wounds.

The format of the devotional includes 100 unique names of God and accompanying discussion/Biblical stories about each one. At the end there are discussion questions and ways to apply this new concept to your life. It's deep in a beautiful way, but also practical for young ones. I would say it is definitely more for school-age children than littles. It is a gorgeous hardcover with colored pictures on each page and a purple ribbon bookmark. I'm very delighted with this book!

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

Friday, August 4, 2017

Seven Quick Takes

1. Our little girl turned ONE! I was both nervous and excited about her party because simply inviting our parents and siblings brings the total to 35+ people! Add in a few neighbors and friends (and an extra dog) and I was anticipating some crazy wonderful chaos! It actually all went beautifully. My husband's mom came a few days early and helped me get some things ready. My brother-in-law came with his 2 and 4 year old girls a day early and despite three little girls getting toys ALL over, it was so adorable to see G interact with her cousins. The day itself was so joyful and I (amazingly) didn't feel stressed at all! I think I let go of a lot of my expectations for the day and was able to just enjoy all our family being together in one place (they live all over the state). I feel so blessed with my family and my in-laws as well. They're all truly such great people, and were so kind to travel to celebrate with us.

2. We are continuing to watch Poldark and have started season two. You guys. It's painful. I'm too hooked now to quit but the stuff that happens is killing me. I'm probably going to have to cut these quick takes short to join my hubby for our Friday night episode.

3. I'm a little less burnt out with summer cooking but I'm still not on my game. It's been challenging with G starting finger foods because she is quite the picky eater and I spend most of my time figuring out what to feed her and then cleaning up after her (because her favorites are anything with peanut butter and spaghetti sauce, haha!). She does look super cute when she eats, though, especially with a fork. My latest/greatest meals are nothing to brag about or share, but we did grill out tonight and that was fun because we grilled PIZZA!! Bucket list check! I've always wanted to do that!

4. I'm reading a nice little stack of books these days and a few of them might be coming up in reviews soon. My spiritual book: Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly. My homemaking book: The Lifegiving Home by Sally Clarkson. Another spiritual book: Unseen by Sara Hagerty (excited to be on the launch team for this one!!). And fiction book: Jane of Austin by Hillary Manton Lodge. Reading always refreshes me so much, and these books have all been stellar so far.

5. I used some extra money I earned from teaching CPR to treat myself to two new goodies (rarely buy myself anything these days!). The first is a FIAT shirt was @brickhouseinthecity etsy shop. It's so comfy, so cute, and reminds me to give my 'fiat' or say 'yes' to each day, whatever it may bring, as Mary did. I also bought a rosary bracelet from Chews Life company that has essential oil diffuser beads for the 'Our Father' beads. It's gorgeous, smells lovely, and helps me pray more often. Need I say more? :)

6. I went to the Farmer's Market this week for the first time in awhile. Nothing makes me happier than fresh, local produce in my kitchen. We've enjoyed swiss chard, green peppers, Peruvian new potatoes, cantaloupe, tomatoes, and peaches these last few days! Yum!

7. Here are some pics of G's party to finish it off, since it's time for Poldark. Dah dah dum...

Note: these are NOT pinterest worthy, but we sure had fun!! Ironically, my sweet dairy-free baby had an ice cream themed party! ;) I had hoped we'd be able to eat ice cream by this time, but as St. Gianna would say, "Whatever God wants!" ;) Have a great weekend, friends!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Ordinary

It was a typical morning. My hair was messed up. I was overtired, chugging the coffee while I tried to read a devotional or pray a morning offering. The baby crawled around, interrupting me every two minutes but smiling so darn cute. I started thinking about all I needed to do for the day, most of it trivial yet necessary (meals, laundry, cleaning, etc.), and I could feel a negative attitude coming on.

And then a quote changed the course of my morning.

I'm reading Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly. There's nothing particular new about each chapter, yet all of them are life-changing. It's the simple things I don't do but should. The truths that are so important yet I forget.

Like this one:

"God loves ordinary things. The world is always trying to seduce us with the extraordinary. The culture fills our hearts and minds with spectacular dreams about hitting home runs, but life is about getting up every day and hitting a single."

If your life is feeling mundane and ordinary today, embrace it. God does. Let's focus on faithfully hitting a single today.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My Fertility Story [NFP Awareness Week]

If you've been following me long enough in this little corner of the web, you know a few personal things about me in the "ladies-only" department.

I have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome).

I've had major surgery for it.

I've had a miscarriage.

I've had some fertility struggles.

I had a medically rough pregnancy for my daughter.

But what you may not know, and what I'd really like to share, is how deeply grateful I am for the part NFP has played in my story. It's NFP Awareness Week, so it's a perfect time to open my heart and these chapters of my life to you.

Ten years ago I was on a hormonal birth control pill to treat a few symptoms I was having in my early twenties. I was somewhat ignorant and accepted the prescription my nurse practitioner gave me, even though she did no testing of my hormones, etc, but simply made a guess and gave me one of the most popular "women's health" prescriptions out there-- hormonal birth control. Why we heap mega doses of synthetic estrogen into women's systems without even testing their estrogen levels and call it healthcare, I'll never know. But I was swept into the current and took my pills faithfully for six months.

Until someone mentioned the Creighton model of NFP and Naprotechnology-- a medical branch of Natural Family Planning based on science but also very faith-friendly. This person suggested that maybe the birth control pills were simply covering up my symptoms without getting to the root of my problem. 

I made an appointment with a Naprotechnology doctor, learned the method of charting, and was thoroughly evaluated with labwork, testing, and in-depth evaluation of my chart. As a nurse, I was SO impressed. As a female patient, I felt empowered and dignified with learning more about my unique body's cycle-- and it's abnormalities.

Long story short, I was diagnosed with PCOS, had major surgery for it by a Naprotechnology surgeon, and continued to use Creighton and Napro through the years for my health. Though the surgery greatly improved my health and fertility, nothing quite cures PCOS so we knew there might be some residual effects.

When I got married, we conceived quickly but miscarried our precious child just as quickly. Off to the Napro doctor we went, and he was SO compassionate and competent with my care. The 'regular' OB world doesn't test you for anything until you've had 2-3 miscarriages consecutively. If you've ever had a miscarriage, you know that this would be pure torture to simply 'allow' 1 or 2 more to happen before getting tested. Our Napro doctor acknowledged that we had lost a child and that he would test us right away because who wants to lose more children if you can prevent it??

I was then found to have low progesterone and a funky genetic issue called MTHFR-- both put you highly at risk for miscarriage but are actually easily treatable once you know. With our sweet G, I was on medications for both even before we conceived her to give her the best chance of sticking around this side of heaven. :) I was also on progesterone throughout my pregnancy and monitored frequently. While it was challenging, it was all SO worth it to carry and deliver our healthy baby girl.

Honestly, I don't think I would have her if it would not for God's grace guiding us to Naprotechnology and the Creighton model of NFP.

We continue to use NFP each month, discerning whether God is calling us to postpone or avoid a pregnancy or to be open to it. It's beautiful. And it's hard. Yes, it would be easier to take birth control have a greater sense of control over my body. But did you know  hormonal birth control can actually cause an early abortion? Sure, it might be simpler to use a condom rather than "risk" a pregnancy when we don't feel ready for it, or to have to avoid sex that day if we truly aren't in a good place for a pregnancy.

But we took vows on our wedding day to give ourselves to each other freely, totally, faithfully, and fruitfully. And that includes in sex. Freely without reserve. Totally without stamping out our body's natural signs and abilities to be fertile. Faithfully and according to the Catholic Church's teaching. And fruitfully, knowing that to bear fruit of our love is a beautiful thing even when it's hard.

I'm always very open about our journey-- both with fertility struggles and with the reality of using NFP as a married couple. If you have questions or thoughts, feel free to email me!

Happy NFP week!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Life Lately

I'm guessing this post is going to take more than one sitting to write it...because my 'sittings' are rather short these days. ;)

-We have finally transitioned G to her crib and pack and play instead of cosleeping. To be honest, as she approaches one year we're realizing that she's just simply a very difficult sleeper no matter where she is. She was waking up 6-10 times a night in our bed to nurse (which at least I didn't have to get up and we both fell back to sleep quickly) and now in the crib or PNP she's waking up 4-6 times a night and I'm only nursing her two of those times. The whole nighttime thing is just grueling and takes me to the end of my rope mentally and physically and emotionally at times, but I try to step back, look at the big picture, and either tell myself to offer it up and give it to God or to remember it won't last forever and I *might* even miss those midnight snuggles someday. ;)

-Man, I'm tired just thinking about it all right now and I'm having trouble thinking of what else to write...because that seems like our life right now, ha.

-But there's Poldark. So one of the perks of no longer cosleeping is that my husband and I get back some quality time together in the evening! We were big Downton Abbey fans and were sad to see the series end, but we've recently picked up the PBS Masterpiece series Poldark, based on the books. Have you seen it? What are your thoughts? We were unsure the first few episodes and the characters are pretty flawed at times...but we're getting hooked just like I did with DA. Episode 4 was sooo good and we both had teary eyes at the end! Would love to hear your favorite period dramas or series in the comments!

-We bought our very first grill this past weekend! So exciting! We had a hand-me-down charcoal grill from my brother-in-law and it worked well and made delish food but we finally splurged on a gas grill that has much more surface area as well. I'm so looking forward to trying new things on it as well as the classics-- I really want to try grilling pizzas!!

Funny story about our purchase...we couldn't find anyone with a truck to borrow so we ended up renting the Home Depot truck (did you know they have that service? Pretty inexpensive, too!). I drove home with the baby while P drove home with the grill (his baby??). I helped him unload it and then I went to take the baby upstairs for her nap and he left to drop off the truck...

And then he called me when he got there because he realized he would need me to come pick him up and bring him back home!! We're so sleep deprived we didn't even think about that part!! hahaha!!

-Inspired by Humorous Homemaking, I have begun a weekly Kitchen Day, where I spend a large chunk of my time in the kitchen making 'non-dinner' items like muffins or granola or boiling eggs or prepping produce for the week. I am loving it!! I also designated a Laundry Day, Cleaning Day, and Grocery Day for the week. Beforehand, I had been doing those things as needed whenever they came up (throw in a load of laundry here and there, sweep the kitchen when I saw too many crumbs, etc.) but I am really liking to focus on one thing each day and to do it well-- and then to forget about it until the following week, haha! What are your favorite ways to do chores? Are you a routines and schedules person or a procrastinating person or somewhere in between?

-We've done a lot of traveling this month for family gatherings, holidays, and weddings but it has gone fairly well. It's been so much fun to see G interacting more with cousins and friends. Her first birthday party is coming up and we're so excited to host our family and friends here. I've gotten a few ideas on Pinterest without going overboard and decided to do an ice cream theme (even though we're dairy free, lololol....yeah, not really.) Supposedly, she is supposed to outgrow the dairy sensitivity by age one...but we're almost there and she's still getting nasty diaper rashes anytime I have milk products. Let me tell you, it's getting verrrrrry old in the summertime when I just want to eat all the ice cream, all the cheese, and all the yogurt and cream cheese, and did I mention ice cream? But it's a small thing in the big picture, and we're so grateful she doesn't have any true, chronic diseases.

-Naptime's almost over, so that's all for now, friends. Give me some comment love and tell me all about your summer. :)

Yes, I will do just about anything for some free Chick-fil-a food...
Cow Appreciation Day 2017. So fun. ;)

Sunday, July 16, 2017

On the Bookshelf: Fiction and Nonfiction

This is the first time that I've read a book by Beverly Lewis. I am a huge fan of Amish fiction, but I've always preferred the style of author Carrie Bender (an Amish woman herself), who writes lovely stories in journal/diary form about Amish women and their day to day lives. I had always viewed Beverly Lewis as more of a 'drama' Amish fiction writer, because the titles or summaries always seemed to denote a crisis of sorts in the Amish rather than peaceful living-- I mean, hey, one of her most popular books was called The Shunning. Maybe I'm ideological, but I'd rather read about the joys of Amish life than the struggles? That being said, I was really pleasantly surprised with The Ebb Tide!! It was a great book and was neither Pollyanna style nor gloom and doom, but an enjoyable read of an Amish girl who nannies for an non-Amish family on the East Coast for a summer. She did struggle with her Amish faith and her future (I won't spoil the ending!) but it wasn't negative about the Amish lifestyle, more of a true searching for this particular young woman's desires and God's will for her. It was thought-provoking and interesting. There were a few times I found myself thinking that the story was drawn-out, but overall it was a good book and now I find myself curious about the author's other books on this subject. Perhaps I misjudged them simply by The Shunning. ;) I would give this book a 3.5 out of 5.

[Thank you to Baker Publishing Group for my complimentary copy of the book. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

This book was a page turner!! Despite my limited time to read books with an active almost-one-year-old (how can that be??!!), I finished this book within two days! What a great summer read! High as the Heavens, by Kate Breslin, was set during World War I in Belgium. The heroine is a nurse in a military hospital by day-- and an underground spy by night! The first chapter starts off with a bang as she goes to meet her underground contact, who is injured in a plane crash, only to discover it's her husband-- who had been declared dead three years earlier in the war!! The suspense continues as she must keep both their covers and figure out a way to protect him as he recovers from the crash. It's hard to know who to trust! Loved this one. 5 out of 5.

[Thank you to Baker Publishing Group for my complimentary copy of the book. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

Despite my fiction kick this summer, my husband and I continue to read this devotional on the weekends (missing a few here and there-- keeping it real!). This devotional is based on the book Sacred Marriage, by Gary Thomas. I read that a couple years ago and it was a great book. The subtitle says so much: "What if marriage isn't about making you happy...but making you holy?" While I do believe God desires us to be happy, including in marriage, it's so important to remember that this journey of marriage is about refining us into the people God wants us to be-- and that involves smoothing some rough edges, which doesn't always feel happy. ;) If holiness is our goal and purpose, the hard and 'unhappy' times are easier to bear because we can lift those up to God, trusting that He is working on us and in us and through us to help our marriages bear fruit-- including true joy and peace. This devotional draws from Sacred Marriage's wisdom and is made up of 52 short chapters. They are not dated, so you can use whenever and however you like. We like doing one a week because it's been a great way to focus our weekends and have a little dose of 'marriage therapy' when we're together more for the weekend. I can't think of a chapter so far that we haven't both nodded our heads or said, "ooh, that was a good one." It makes both of us think and reflect and see where God might be asking us to grow in our marriage. This would make a great gift for a bridal shower or wedding. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Afraid to Love

(Originally written March 2016)

What's the greatest thing that holds you back from experiencing true love?

A deep, dark sin? 

A busy schedule?

A spell from a poisonous apple given to you by a Disney movie witch?

Though it could be (almost) any of those, I'm going to guess none of those are actually the greatest stumbling block to love for you and for me. 

You know what is, though?


Throughout my life, I've seen fear hold me back time and again from loving fully, loving freely, and loving...well...fearlessly. 

My husband and I were privileged to hear Matt Hammitt (former lead singer of Sanctus Real) speak at my workplace fundraiser this past week. We were both powerfully impacted by the story of his son Bowen, who was diagnosed with a rare heart defect at 20 weeks in the womb. Matt and his wife, though advised to abort little Bowen and end his life, chose life and continued with their pregnancy. Little Bowen had open heart surgery at just 4 days after birth and the recovery included an episode when Bowen's tiny heart stopped beating-- a doctor did compressions on his bare heart in his open chest while Matt and his wife cried and prayed and held on to the blue toes of their beloved son. 

But God has plans for Bowen. And we saw the adorable five-year-old this past week as he helped his dad sing a song on stage that was written around the time of Bowen's birth. 

Matt shared with us that he struggled to become attached to Bowen after that tragic prenatal diagnosis. The pregnancy became a time of fear and uncertainty and even detachment. As his song states, Matt was "afraid to love something that could break." Yet God continued to move in his heart and mind and showed him that he could love Bowen in the way God loves us-- with all that was in him. Without reserve. Without condition. Without fear. Yes, there might be sadness or struggle or even loss, but freely and fearlessly loving-- being all in-- was worth it. He learned to "trade the fear of all that I could lose for every moment I share with you." ("All of Me," Matt Hammitt)

My husband and I had tears as we listened to his powerful testimony and our little one kicked inside my own belly. Though our baby had a healthy heart at 20 weeks, this pregnancy has been rocky with bad blood level results and our own fears due to our previous miscarriage. We have struggled with detachment at times and being afraid to love this precious child too much in case we lose this one, too. 

But God continues to work in our hearts and we, too, are learning what it looks like to love freely, fully, and fearlessly. Despite lab results or increased medications, we are learning to rejoice in every moment we spend with this incredible gift from God growing inside me. 

Fear creeps in to every relationship and circumstances because the devil is always trying to keep us from experiencing the rich love of the Father and the love He desires us to have with each other. Where might fear be holding you back?

Are you sharing your deepest self with your spouse--physically, emotionally, mentally-- or are you holding back because you're afraid of feeling inadequate or unloved?

Are you diving deeper into your relationships with family and friends, or are you afraid of losing them to distance, disagreements, or even death?

Are you tithing, giving, and sharing with others or are you afraid of financial insecurity?

Are you sharing God's truths with other or do you fear misunderstanding or being made fun of?

And here's the biggest one: is fear holding you back from throwing yourself into your Heavenly Father's arms? Whether you're afraid of your mistakes and sins or you just feel ashamed for not living up to your potential, know that He will never reject you and is always ready with open arms, abundant mercy, and the grace to start fresh. He loves you with all that He is, and wants to teach you to do the same. 

Let's experience that freeing love together this week. God is an expert at breaking the chains of fear. All we need do is ask. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Quick Takes Friday // Let's Catch Up

1. I'm crouching on the floor in our bedroom so that G doesn't see the light of my laptop. We are working on crib napping this week and though it's mentally and emotionally exhausting but we're slowly getting somewhere-- she's currently sleeping in the crib right now. And probably only will for 25 minutes, but hey, one step at a time.

2. It's Memorial Day Weekend! What are your plans?? I pretty much just planned to go grocery shopping and wedding gift shopping for a friend until I realized it's a holiday weekend and we need some fun plans! haha! We are talking about having some friends over for brunch or dinner on Sunday. And of course I'll pull out all the red/white/blue for outfits...G has the cutest little patriotic dress for Mass. (shallow, I know. Don't worry, I also deeply appreciate the significance of Memorial Day and all those men and women who have defended the freedom of our country. I just can't resist celebrating patriotic days with food and colors and clothes, too...)

3. We also bought dirt and manure (my city boy husband could NOT believe that you can actually BUY manure in a bag at a store, it was hilarious) to make a little herb garden for me along the side our shed. I'd love to get that finished this weekend-- or at least the digging and dirt. I'll probably buy the herbs from a farmers market. What are your favorite herbs to grow? I'm thinking rosemary, basil, lavender, and mint.

4. Ever since our book club / Bible study last year, I tend to pay more attention when "God speaks twice" to me through recurring themes, verses, etc. in my prayers and devotions. Lately I've been reading/seeing a lot on friendship and really investing in a small circle of people and going deep with them rather than just having many acquaintances or, shall we say, Facebook-friends. ;) I'm not sure what God is nudging me towards, but it has definitely made me reflect on the relationships in my life and how I'm cultivating them, as well as a handful of women I'd like to go deeper with.

5. I got six inches cut off my hair last night. It's quite a bit shorter, but with the warmer/humid weather lately, it just wasn't holding curls and felt heavy and dull. I'm always somewhat sad to part with locks, but I feel much lighter with this shoulder-length style! I'm also in a wedding in a few weeks and I know it will be easier to do an updo without all that length! If I was on top of my selfie game, I'd share a picture, but alas...

6. I'm reading this book and this book on parenting and they're fascinating. A lot of interesting psychology on how children need time, space, and calm to grow and develop-- pretty much the opposite of our culture's busy, full, fast-paced lives. The Popcaks' book is full of excellent advice on growing in your personal relationship with God as well as fostering that with your kids so that you not only hand down the 'external' faith of Catholicism but also the deep-knit relationship with God that Catholicism is meant to draw us into. Good stuff. Good stuff.

7. And last but not least, some baby goodness...

Happy weekend, friends! Linking up with Kelly, who had some great ideas for celebrating Memorial Day as a Catholic!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Summer Bucket List

It's almost June!! We have some friends who are due with their baby in June and last night as we were chatting with them, I kept thinking how she'll have her baby in a couple months...and then realized it will be June in one week!!! Even though summer doesn't officially start for several weeks, I tend to think of June as the beginning of summer, so I've been having fun compiling a bucket list for one of my favorite seasons! (My other favorites are fall, spring, and winter. haha.) You can check out my spring bucket list here. We were able to cross off most of the items, but some of them got pushed to the summer list. What are some of your plans or hopes for the summer? Here's to sunny weather and great memories!!

-Go to the zoo
-Plant an herb garden (and cook with them?)
-Pick local berries
-Go to a farmer's market
-Baby G's first swim
-Go on a mini vacation
-Buy a gas grill
-Go out for ice cream
-See a hummingbird
-Create a rotating summer menu
-Make popsicles
-Host an ice cream social
-Make lemonade from scratch
-Celebrate the 4th with patriotic food and decor
-Grill kabobs (with that new grill, of course!)
-Have neighbors over for dinner
-Go on a hike at local state parks
-Play volleyball
-Neighborhood garage-saling (oh how I love thee!)
-Sit around a campfire

Sunday, May 14, 2017

What I've Learned About Motherhood

The bad news: You are not in control.

The good news: God is in control, and He loves your children even more than you do-- and He loves you, too.

The end.

Haha! I was going to make this a long post and as I sat down to write, I felt like these two 'news pieces' just summed it all up! ;)

Happy Mother's Day to all the mamas-- including the spiritual ones, the grieving ones, the yet-to-be ones, the lonely ones, the perfect ones. Oh wait, not the last one. There's no such thing. ;)

Thank you, Jesus, for this precious gift of motherhood, for my child in heaven and my daughter on earth. May I become more and more like you through it and lead my children to you.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Ah, that elusive word. Balance. Truly it's as hard to achieve it in daily living as it is on the tightrope.

How do I stay in the present moment while also being prudent in planning for the future (meals, schedules, goals, etc)?

How do I pour myself out for my primary vocation-- my family-- while sustaining myself with self-care and other friendships?

How do I invest in those friendships without spreading myself too thin or being resentful that I have less time for friends with family life?

How do I enjoy the community of social media without getting addicted or using it in place of other more worthwhile endeavors?

How do I meet my baby's needs without sheltering her or smothering her?

How do I choose a healthy lifestyle without going crazy and getting obsessed about all the health dangers in our world?

How do I learn from others without comparing myself to them?

How do I learn and grow from books and articles and research yet not become too dependent on them to leave room for surrender, grace, and originality in my spiritual life, marriage, parenting, and relationships?

Oh, balance. I try so hard to find you but sometimes it feels like I'm always swaying to one side or the other in the attempt.

Sweet friends, where are you seeking balance in your life right now? And how are you finding it?

Friday, May 5, 2017

Seven Quick Takes: In Which I Use Several Hashtags #justbecause

1. It's Fri-yay!! But to be honest, so many times I completely lost track of the day this week. There's some serious #sleepdeprivation going on this week as I try to gently encourage G to nurse a "few" times less each night. ;) So goes my love/hate relationship with Attachment Parenting.

2. We're getting #alltherain here lately. And the cold. Like April flowers brought May showers. So depressing but I'm trying to light candles and clean and bake and all the cozy stuff until the sun comes back.

3. I had a great time on my coffee date with a new friend and the play date with the other friend (G enjoyed her time playing with her new little friend's toys as well). I'd like to invite both of them to my book club this fall. Even though it's months away, I've already started thinking about what book we should read. Any recommendations? We have a beautifully diverse group of singles, engaged, married, and mommas. Last year we read this amazing book and the concept of my 'predominant sin' still resonates with me and helps me in my spiritual life (not that it was all about that, that sounds so negative, ha!).

4. We're having a priest friend over for dinner tonight and I'm attempting pan-seared/oven baked steak from the good ol' quarter of a steer in our freezer (thanks to my brother-in-law we have cheap steak). I've tried it once before and it turned out fabulous but can't remember the temperature or timing I used, so #heregoesnothing! (Tired of the tags yet?)

5. Anyone remember Brio, the Christian magazine for teen girls? My sister and I read it for YEARS and it seriously shaped my teen years for the better. I generally love anything from Focus on the Family and I was thrilled to see they were bringing Brio back! We bought it for my niece's 13th birthday this year to help her navigate the wonderful teen years. ;) I hope she enjoys it as much as I did.

6. I took a "9 months in, 9 months out" picture with G when she turned nine months (although still blurry after multiple takes! ha!)...this stage is so. much. fun. Her personality is just blooming and she is so aware and excited about everything. My hubby and I sometimes just look at each other and say "She's just so cute" several times a day. ;)

7. I'm continually searching and discerning better prayer patterns for my days in this season of life. Lately if I'm home for the day (or at least the morning) I've gotten back into having a cup of coffee and devotional time since G plays quietly on the floor for fifteen minutes in the morning by herself these days. I still get distracted but it has helped somewhat. It's hard to focus in general (remember #sleepdeprivation?) but I really desire to go deeper with the Lord and I realize how much I need Him. P has been encouraging me to get away to Adoration once a week and we've been able to make that work for at least a half hour at times. What are your prayer routines/disciplines/advice, even if not a mom?

Hope you all have a fabulous weekend! Linking up with Kelly for the Quick Takes!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Seven Quick Takes: Wine, Art, and...Feet

1. No fancy numbering for me tonight. Just the good ol' fashioned numbers. It takes too long to center, use hyphens, etc. and ain't nobody got time for that. ;)

2. But what I did have time for was a relaxing (steaming, sauna-like) hot shower and a little pedi-care while the hubby watched the baby. My poor feet. I've been a barefoot country girl most of my life and my feet are showing it. What do y'all do to care for your feet when you can't afford pedicures? I tend to use a pumice stone, some lotion (or petroleum jelly-- thanks, grandma!), and wrap them up in socks for the night hoping for some soft, gorgeous feet in the morning. At any rate, my toes are a cute spring pink color right now. Okay, did I really just spend a whole number on feet?? Moving on...

3. I'm sipping wine right now and it's sooooo good. I've only drank a handful of times since having the baby, mostly out of fear with breastfeeding, but I'm starting to get the hang of a glass of wine and how little it affects my milk supply. Cheers!

4. This is the first weekend in a long time that we haven't had anything on the schedule. And they're calling for rain and storms. Go figure. This month has been so busy and May is looking similar! But I spent the last two days home all day and it was wonderful. If you follow me on IG, you saw the awesome book I have from the library right now: Little House Living. It's fascinating and chock full of DIY ideas for beauty and hygiene, baby/kids, and cooking. Today I made pantry mixes of cake mixes, cornbread mixes, bread machine mixes, and more. I love that they are chemical free, frugal, and convenient-- total win.

4 (and a half). Dinner tonight was supposed to be spaghetti with some delish sauce I had gotten out of the freezer yesterday to thaw for tonight...but when I went to boil the noodles I realized I was out of them and only had lasagna noodles and a handful of rotini. Into the pot they went, with the lasagna noodles broken up into bite size pieces!! What I thought was a fail turned into a win-- the texture reminded me of ravioli!

5. I finally tried out the Baby Tour at our local art museum this past week and it was fabulous! (Despite a major diaper blowout from baby G on arrival...never fails.)  They gave each baby a board book filled with pictures of paintings and sculptures at the museum, so if you read the book to your baby a lot, they might recognize some of the things if you come back to the museum. So cute! My friend and her baby joined us, and many of the other moms seemed so friendly and open. Great place to meet new mom friends.

What do you think of this painting, mom?

6. Speaking of, next week I'm going for coffee with a new friend and having a play date with a different new friend and her girls later that week. I'm so thankful for the wonderful women God continues to bring into my life. I feel really blessed with all the friendships I've made here since marriage-- and that my old friendships are still thriving despite the distance.

7. My wine is gone and the baby is I'll quickly just mention that I took up a temporary job with a crisis pregnancy center that needed some transitional help. It's a half day per week and they are letting me bring the baby (pro-life all the way!). It's been nice yet challenging! I definitely could not work with a baby permanently but I'm happy to help them out for the month and am so grateful for their flexibility.

Have a beautiful weekend, friends! I hope yours is less rainy! (Or that if it's rainy, you can get all snuggly with books and movies and warm drinks!) Let me know what you're up to with some comment-love!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Devotions from the Kitchen Table: A Book Review

Food has somewhat become a passion of mine. I think it's because we all have to eat, so we might as well make it fun! ;) And as the wife/mom/cook of the family, I spend a LOT of time in the again, might as well enjoy it! ;) But even beyond all that, there's something special about the kitchen and meals as a family. Food draws us together and nourishes our bodies while we go deeper in conversation and quality time together. I love that food and treats and meals are such an integral part of daily life as well as special occasions. Even at church, we celebrate together with the Eucharist-- a meal!

Devotions from the Kitchen Table combines my love for the kitchen with my love for God. The book itself is gorgeous, a hardcover with beautiful colored pictures on every page and a sweet ribbon bookmark. But I was also pleased with the devotions themselves! I thought they might be a little superficial and just about the warmth and love of family and friends around our table...but they also go deeper than that. It's a lovely tone of slowing down and being grateful, with a touch of gentle conviction about misguided expectations and learning to trust God more.

I was so pleased with this devotional. I think it would make such a great bridal shower gift tucked among some kitchen towels or mixing bowls!

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

Monday, April 17, 2017

Happy Easter!

Easter blessings to you from our family! May the Risen Lord give us hope this season as we remember and celebrate that HE can overcome anything in our lives holding us back from the joy and peace He wants us to experience!** 

**My husband took a walk with the dog last night and wished a neighbor man a 'happy Easter.' The man grunted and said 'just another day.' It hurts my heart to think of those hurting on holidays-- the poor, the lonely, the singles (I remember, girls!), the childless...and honestly, each one of us has our brokenness that surfaces during the holidays. Even now, the hubby and I argue, or family gatherings aren't perfect, etc. etc. But let's all remember no matter what we're struggling with, that Easter is never just 'another day.' It is truly the reason for our hope-- that Christ died to give us new and eternal life, and that He overcame the grave and every darkness we may ever experience. Seek the Light this Easter season. The darkness cannot overcome it. Lots of love to each of you. Thanks for reading and being my friend.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Our Triduum Plans

It's here! The Triduum has begun! (For Catholics, the Triduum is the three days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. We remember and celebrate the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist, Jesus' carrying the cross and His death for us on it, and then the burial and the waiting, the "in between" time, of Holy Saturday.)

Though my Holy Week started rather shakily, I'm excited about the Triduum and I've seen God's grace at work through this week. I was able to experience the sacrament of Confession on Tuesday and felt so much grace and mercy from the Lord's forgiveness. It has helped me clear my mind and heart to focus on the upcoming liturgy.

It's a blessing to be home this year, whereas previous years I've had to work on these days and it was more of a rush to get to a Mass or service. I'm thankful to be able to have the church events be the focal point of my days this year, although I know it will be a challenge to stay focused once I'm there and little G is moving all around! ;)

Holy Thursday: today I'm trying to clean the house, make a couple pot pie casseroles, one to eat today and one to freeze. Since we'll be with family on Easter, I know it would be nice to come home to a clean house and leftovers in the refrigerator. Plus I'm just in a spring cleaning kind of mood. Our neighborhood is blooming with cherry trees and flowers and I'm all about wiping the windows so we can see it better! This evening we'll head to our parish's Holy Thursday Mass. Today is such a rich day of layers-- the Passover of the Old Testament, the Last Supper of the New Testament, and the Mass and Eucharist celebration of today. The instructions to roast the lamb and eat it...the breaking of the bread to become the Body of the Lamb, "This is My Body, given up for you"...and now receiving the Eucharist as we do indeed remember and "do this in memory" of Him. Thank you, Jesus, for this incredible gift.

Good Friday: my husband has the day off, which will be so nice. I plan to spend the morning catching up on the rest of the laundry and cleaning, and then hopefully spend the afternoon hours in the solemn quiet and reflection warranted by the day. I wish our communities still observed the noon to three closings of businesses and schools and such. But we'll try to shut off our media and music and have our own solemn remembrance at home. Our parish has a service at noon or the neighboring Catholic church has one at 2pm, depending on the baby's nap schedule. ;) In past years, I've watched the Passion of the Christ but I'm not sure I'll be able to sit through a whole movie this year.

Holy Saturday: I love Holy Saturday. I read once that we tend to spend a lot of our lives in "Holy Saturdays." We don't daily have the tragedies of Good Friday nor the rejoicing of the Resurrection and Easter, but rather we live a lot of our lives in between those two extremes...and often waiting and hoping for something in the midst of the ordinary. I love that. I'll probably spend the day preparing for Easter. I'd like to put out my spring and Easter decorations, including my bird feeder and wind chimes outside and decorating my seasonal chalkboard inside. I'm making carrot cake for our Easter dessert (dairy free! Yippee!) and might make some deviled eggs (my husband hates them but my mother-in-law loves them...). I wish we could make it to the Easter Vigil Mass to top off the Tridduum because there's just nothing like that Mass. The new Catholics coming in to the Church, all the extra Scripture readings, the candles and the music!!! But alas, our baby is at that too-old-yet-too-young stage for it and I know the Lord understands. I do look forward to worshiping at the Easter morning Mass (and on a less pious note, G and I have very closely matching dresses, even though I found hers secondhand recently and have had mine for years. Very excited to snap some mother/daughter pics!). Someday when G is older, I want to make Resurrection cookies with her-- have you seen those? They are the ones like meringue cookies, where each ingredient stands for something in the Passion of Christ, then you put them in the oven ("tomb") and seal it overnight, then on Easter morning you wake up and they're not only ready to eat, but they're hollow or "empty" inside, just like the tomb after Jesus rose! :)

If you're still with me after all this rambling, you're a true friend! haha! What are your Triduum or Easter plans this year?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Martha, Mary...and Judas

A few sentences in to the Gospel (John chapter 12), I could recognize the story. The one about the dinner with the Apostles where Mary poured the costly perfumed oil on Jesus' feet to show her love for Him. Judas got upset and Jesus rebuked him and praised Mary's act of worship. I read on. Part of me grimaced at the sentence about Martha-- Martha was serving the meal. Always serving and working and doing while Mary sat. Although this wasn't the passage about Martha being too busy, so this time likely she was serving out of love for Jesus.

I usually identify with Martha. I tend to be a do-er, a worker, a list maker, and I feel accomplished by hustling and bustling and getting things done. While I enjoy rest and refreshment and every once in awhile identify with Mary and simply sitting at the Savior's feet, my first inclination is to do. But as I further read the passage with Mary and Martha, I realized that sometimes...I'm neither of them.

I'm Judas.

Mary was sitting at Jesus feet, listening and repenting and loving.

Martha was serving Jesus with love, likely listening to His wisdom with an open ear and heart from the kitchen.

But Judas? Though he was a follower of Jesus, Judas was focused on himself and his own well-being. He tried to be in control. He was upset at things Jesus allowed, like the waste of the costly oil. He was greedy. He didn't trust Jesus for his future but instead took things into his own hands.


I've done all those things. All while proclaiming to follow Jesus. What a painful realization. But you know what? Jesus loved Judas too. He met him in the garden of Gethsemane with a kiss, even though Jesus knew that Judas was about to betray Him. What love, what mercy. 

We all have our Judas moments. But we also have our Mary and Martha moments. By His grace, may we be true followers of Jesus who not only sit at the table with Him, but truly listen and serve and love Him with all that we are and all that we have.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

God Loves Mommy and Me (A Book Review)

My daughter loves it when her daddy reads to her. They usually lay on the bed or the floor and both look up at the book while daddy reads (usually because she can't reach it to chew on it at this age! ha!). I've gotten several 'daddy' books for them to read together but this one struck my fancy this time. The mother-daughter bond is just so precious and I couldn't be more grateful to have my own little girl. This book is a sweet celebration of that and all the fun things we can do together. Even more, though, it's a celebration of God's love for not only children but also their parents. Some specific things I loved about this book:

-The padded board book style. So durable yet pretty.

-The beautiful and sweet illustrations

-The discussions of God's love for us in the 'gifts' He sends us, like dandelions to pick or rain puddles to splash in

-The discussion of mommy's love and how God's love compares to yet surpasses that (God's love reaches to the sky like when mommy helps me fly high on the swings).

-My favorite line: "God loves Mommy and me, and when we make mistakes, We say 'I forgive you'-- that's the difference that love makes." It shows a little bunny and mommy bunny picking up a dropped spoon and mess in the kitchen. Such a precious teaching!

[Thank you to BookLook Bloggers for my review copy at no cost. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

Monday, April 10, 2017

When You Feel Unholy [During Holy Week]

Thanks to Sweet Little Ones for my Lenten printable!
It seems to happen every year around this time. The holiest week of the year is here and I'm feeling quite the opposite.

The good stuff first: it's been an overall good Lent with fasting from social media (minus the times I cheated...). I've kept in tune with liturgical living more than usual and have had simple decorations even when the first day of Spring presented itself. I've held off putting out the bird feeder, wind chimes, fresh flowers, and such things simply to make Easter even more celebratory. My days have been quieter and more contemplative for the most part.


I have gotten into a nasty habit of negativity. I'm sure I can think of lots of excuses (postpartum hormones? PCOS? lack of affirmation? long winter?), but no real reasons for it. The sad truth is I have simply focused more on the difficulties in this current season and vocation than the blessings of it. I sigh and eye roll and grumble way more than I want to admit. I shuffle around with a slave mentality instead of a servant-heart. Even my husband has noticed. (Or maybe if I'm being honest, I'm even moreso that way around him so he knows "how hard" my days are...). It's embarrassing and I'm ashamed of it.

Even God has gently corrected me a few times. I've learned from our book club last year to zero in when God speaks twice-- usually a verse or phrase or topic that comes up more than once in a personal way. In the span of a few hours, I had TWO Bible verses/themes repeated on the radio and in books I was reading: To "rejoice in the Lord always" and "when you seek Me with all your heart, I will be found by you." I knew God was reminding me He is the reason for joy and the only way we can have steadfast, constant joy. He was also encouraging me to seek Him in my days and to find Him in my family, but not halfheartedly.

I improved for awhile but soon fell back into my negative slump. Which is where you find me today, on the Monday of Holy Week. Feeling very unholy.

But you know what? Maybe it's not a bad thing to feel this way at the beginning of Holy Week. Maybe that's exactly where I need to be on this Monday before the Triduum. Because this is the starting place of remembering how much I need a Savior. This is the posture of repentance where I can receive mercy and grace. This is where I can focus on Christ on the Cross and learn better how to carry my own cross and to lay down my life in this season. And this is where I prepare for joy, true joy, the joy that comes from knowing that yes, I am unholy, but there is a Holy One who died for me and rose from the grave. My unholiness doesn't faze him. He is at work in me, always working on a resurrection for the dead, sinful places within me.

If you are feeling in a dark place this Monday, take heart! Enter into each moment of this week knowing that Christ too walked through darkness so that we would know redemption. Walk with Him carrying the cross and sit at His feet while He hangs there with love for you, just as you are. Know that He is stronger than any sin or struggle in your life. In the end, the Son will rise, the Light will shine forth, and that is reason for us to rejoice!