Monday, October 30, 2017

What NOT to say when someone has a miscarriage

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I've tried to post a little something during this month each year in honor of our baby we miscarried two years ago.

As I reflected on miscarriage this month, I realized how incredibly difficult it is not only because of the grief you experience on a personal level, but because of our culture's confusion and insensitivity when it comes to life in the womb. If someone wants an abortion, our culture denies that the baby is a person, a human life, a unique individual. We callously state it's all about a woman's body and it's her choice and no one should judge or have specific opinions about it. We close off the matter entirely from each other. It's no wonder when a woman has a miscarriage, the world has no idea how to comfort her or how to offer respect and condolence for the unique little life she has just lost.

People say a lot of stupid things to a woman who has miscarried. And sometimes they say nothing at all. Here are four things NOT to say to someone who has a miscarriage...and a few thoughts on what you could do or say instead.

1) At least you can get pregnant and can have more kids. / At least you already have ___ number of kids.

These two go hand in hand depending on when your miscarriage occurred-- your first or somewhere down the line. Again this is our culture's predominant view on life in the womb-- that it's replaceable. One pregnancy is as good as another. Yet what a huge miss of the mark! Every conception results in a human being with unique DNA that has never been before and will never be repeated again. This is a unique human life. When a woman loses that life within her, she knows intuitively it cannot be replaced or repeated. That child was unique and the parents will never get to know him or her in this life. What to say instead: I'm so sorry for your loss. Acknowledge that this unique child's death was indeed a great loss, not something to be brushed over or replaced by other children. There are many organizations that sell sweet jewelry with a birthstone or engravings...these would make beautiful gifts to acknowledge the uniqueness of this child.

2) At least you were only ____ weeks along.

I get it. I get the sentiment behind this. We often think that the longer we know someone (or carry them beneath our hearts), the deeper we love them and the greater the loss. But you know what? Sometimes the earliest losses can be so deeply painful because we didn't get to have those moments and memories and we'll always wonder what might have been. This statement also suggests that human life becomes more valuable the bigger and older a child gets (something we see a lot of in abortion discussions...scary how much that has seeped into our view of life in general). I remember after our early loss having such a deep, tangible pain because my body was no longer carrying our child...I wanted so desperately to have more days, more weeks knowing he was alive beneath my heart. What to say instead: I'm so sorry for your loss. Sensing a trend here? It's always appropriate to give heartfelt, sincere condolences. A dear friend also asked my due date and remembered on the very date many months later to reach out to me-- that was so touching and amazing and rare.

3) Heaven needed an angel. 

This one drives me nuts for a couple reasons. First of all, humans don't become angels when they die. We become saints (hopefully if we go to heaven, that is.). I know it's cute to think of babies with angel wings but it's just not theologically sound or true. It sounds trite and superficial, however well-meaning it may be. The other thing is that heaven doesn't need anything or anyone. We don't understand God's ways or timing, so let's not assume we know that a mother lost her child because heaven needed it up there. ;) What to say instead...This may actually differ depending on your faith background. As Catholics, we believe in the Communion of Saints-- that those who die and go to heaven can pray for us from heaven in the same way we pray for each other on earth. So we believe that our miscarried children (knowing we would have baptized them had they lived) are in heaven, waiting for us and praying for us. For me, this was comforting to have others acknowledge. It further showed their respect for the tiny soul that had once been inside me, that my child's soul was eternal and his life has eternal significance despite the too short time on earth.

4) Everything happens for a reason. 

While it's true we have a sovereign God and nothing happens without first passing through His loving hand, this statement is so cliche and feels superficial. Kind of like something that someone says when they don't know what else to say. It's like a "shrug it off" type of statement. The truth is that we don't know why bad things happen sometimes...children die, people get cancer, hurricanes devastate. Yes, God is in control, but we also live in a fallen, broken world because of sin. So sometimes things happen that would not have been in God's perfect will. Yes, He permits them but He doesn't always cause things to happen because He had a "specific reason." Personally, I find much more comfort, strength, and hope in Romans 8:28 (an actual Bible verse instead of a cliche *wink*): "And we know that in all these things God works for good for those who love Him." We don't know why things happen, but we do know He will bring good from them. He is the Redeemer of all people and all things. What to say instead: God is with you in this. God weeps with you. God will bring grace in the midst of suffering. 

I hope this has been helpful on ways that we can weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). Miscarriage is such a silent cross in our country. Don't be afraid to step forward with your time and your presence to someone experiencing one. Acknowledge their loss. Offer a meal or treat. Give a gift of remembrance. And best of all, remember their child through the years by mentioning it on or near the miscarriage date or due date.

Every single person is created unique and unrepeatable by our good God. You are. Your friends are. And every tiny person in the womb.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Cozy Fall Reading: Book Reviews

I first read her well-known book The Lifegiving Home and mentioned it a few times on here and how much I loved it. So when I saw she had a new book called The Lifegiving Table that focused on food and meals, I was all in! I am such a fan of food and I've always connected it with celebration...when you have a party or gathering or even a friend over for tea, there has to be food! Author Sally Clarkson takes it a step further by connecting not only celebration with food but also spirituality. She explains how the warmth, comfort, and welcoming of a delicious meal can nurture conversation as well as evangelization. This is particularly important in raising our own families, but also in inviting others in (similar to my post about inviting the lonely). I not only loved the message of this book but also the layout and 'extras.' The first few chapters focus on the core message of the book. The rest of the chapters are divided into ways we can live this out (birthday meals, everyday meals, Christmas meals, meals on the go, etc.). Each chapter includes some devotional verses and questions, as well as practical ideas to put into practice. Sally Clarkson is fast becoming a favorite author/mentor for me, and this book affirmed that. Five stars.

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

Two of my favorite books are One Thousand Gifts and The Greatest Gift (an Advent devo!) by the popular Ann Voskamp. She is a beautiful, beautiful word-weaver and her messages are profound. But somehow this book just didn't do it for me. Be the Gift is a gift-type book and collection of passages from previous books. The message is for all of us to be a self-gift to others (love the Theology of the Body implied there!) no matter how broken we feel. That by giving, we can not only heal and help others but ourselves as well. Her reflections are always touching and gorgeous, but this particular book just felt somewhat redundant which make the message lose some of its lackluster. It was also a bit confusing because the reflections were not separated by dates or chapters so you didn't quite know when you were in a new story or section (just a fancy capital letter beginning the story each time.). I think in some ways, this is still a rich book for meditation, and I love the 'extras' in it-- space for journaling your giving, ideas of intentional ways to give, and even some cute tags to add to food gifts for others. But overall, I found myself less drawn in than I usually am with her books. 3 out of 5 stars.

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

Last but not least, I've mentioned how crafty I've been feeling lately and I ordered this book to go out on a limb and see if I can master a new skill: watercolor. The title itself was tempting: Everyday Watercolor, Learn to Paint Watercolor in 30 Days. Honestly, I love this book. But honestly, it's much more in-depth than I anticipated. I think my best explanation would be that yes, you could learn to do watercolor in 30 days but it would be more like taking an actual course for those 30 days rather than slipping in a quick chapter and five minutes each day, if that makes sense. So the book is still EXCELLENT and I really look forward to learning, but it's not quite going to be the short naptime activity I thought it might. I envisioned learning some quick stroke techniques to be able to paint pretty flowers and leaves around some calligraphy quotes. But instead the book covers not only strokes, but also principles such as hue, saturation, value, shadows, gesture, volume, background and foreground, and much more. Again, I think it's a great resource and I love that they divided the concepts into 30 days, but I would definitely be aware that the book is very thorough and technical as well. I would give it a 4 out of 5. 

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

Sunday, October 22, 2017

God Places the Lonely in Families

"God places the lonely in families." -Psalm 68:6

This verse. I can't get it out of my head. I don't even remember when I read it, but somehow it's been on my mind and heart the past couple months and that's usually a pretty good sign the Holy Spirit put it there. 

But what does it mean?

I'm now married, living in our cozy home, raising a little girl and ready to welcome another baby in the spring. My life and my heart are full in a beautiful way. Because of my family. 

We are meant for family. God Himself came to earth in a family with Mary and Joseph. Even in the Trinity, we see the family image of Father, Son, and Spirit. The first created humans were a family with Adam and Eve and their children. Obviously, family is a pretty big deal to God. 

On this worldwide Mission Sunday, I'm thinking about my own family's mission. And you know what keeps surfacing? Perhaps my family's mission these days is not so much to go out, but to invite in.

We are so blessed with the love of each other in our little family. Companionship, conversation, faith, warmth. In our broken world, not everyone has this. And without family, life can be so very lonely. God knows this, and so I believe He asks those of us that do have a healthy, loving family life to invite in those who are lonely. God wants to place those people in our family. This includes:

The single woman yearning for children, uncertain of her place during so many upcoming holidays that often center around children. She needs to be included, not only with your children and the fun activities, but as a friend and equal with her own valuable experience for you to learn from.

The person struggling with same-sex attraction yet trying to live a chaste life and follow the Church's teachings on human sexuality. They need so greatly for the Church to BE family to them, to welcome them in with love and grace and belonging. 

The elderly lady who lost her husband a year ago and whose children live far away. She needs your family to welcome her in and show her she still has so much worth and purpose and wisdom to share. 

God has adopted each one of as as His children (Romans 8:23, Ephesians 1:5) and has made us a family in the Church. For those of us who also have loving families we live with (whether it be your spouse or your parents), let's respond to God's call to allow Him to place the lonely in our families. Don't be afraid to reach out and invite someone in to your everyday life-- your meals, your trips, your holidays, your mess.

It may not be the greatest-reaching mission like those evangelizing in other countries. But to one lonely person, by simply inviting him or her into your loving family, it's life-changing.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Quick Takes on a Monday

(Because I wrote these on Friday but the internet wasn't working when I tried to post!)

1. This has been such an exhausting and crazy week and it’s not over yet. P continues to be busy with his job, working lots of late evenings and an occasional Saturday (including this one) and is just swamped mentally even when he is home. It’s definitely our sacrifice as a family for the ministry and working for the “least of these,” but I often have to remind myself to do it joyfully and willingly.

2. However, it was neat to see God gently speak to me about this at one of my mom’s group book clubs this week. We’re doing Bishop Robert Barron’s study Untold Blessing: Three Paths to Holiness and in the video, he was talking about when Jesus fell asleep in the ship while the storm raged and the disciples were going crazy. Bishop Barron said that we all are a ship and when we get busy and focused on too many things and we lose Christ as our center, we are allowing Him to ‘fall asleep’ within us and we lose our calm. The storms come and we get anxious because we’re simply relying on ourselves to make it through. We need to wake up Jesus within us and give Him the central focus in our lives once again and we will find that “no storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that Rock I’m clinging.” It was SO beautiful and I was not the only mom touched by it. It was such a beautiful and convicting reminder that HE is enough in my life right now. He is with me in all the hard moments when I’m holding down the fort at home and I can be calm and at peace even with the craziness around us right now.

3. We had an overnight guest last night, a mission director. She is possibly coming for dinner tonight as well. Though I was a little nervous about it all (morning sickness still hitting me hard all day!), it turned out really well and I enjoyed meeting her and talking with her. We even had a little God-ordained chat on a drive today about relationships and it was neat to see God use some of my past brokenness to minister to her in a current situation. Last night we all went with her to a pro-life fundraiser banquet and it was great to dress up and have dinner served to me (shallow, I know) and have G behave pretty well, too.  The speakers were great, too. ;)

4. My mother-in-law is arriving today for the weekend. She’s always really sweet and helpful and it’s nice to have the company. G is still in a somewhat clingy mood (I saw a tooth popping through yesterday!) but I’m hoping she’ll warm up quickly to her nana so I can get some extra breaks and rest—um, or clean out something? Haha. That minimalism book is motivating me!

5. And remember how I was wanting to craft? I bought some Sugar and Cream yarn today on a great sale!! I’m pretty sure I’ve decided to crochet a bunch of rustic washcloths and then make some homemade soap bars to go with it as gifts this year. Another book that I’m reading for the book club I host had a mind-blowing chapter on how in the modern world our minds work so much more than our body (esp since modernism/industrialism) and there’s been a subsequent increase in workplace (and home) depression because of the body’s lack of movement/skill/innovation/etc. Because we’re created body AND soul, God intended for us to use both, to work with our hands in addition to our minds. The whole chapter was INCREDIBLE and I can’t even summarize it in a few sentences. She said mental work has great value and importance (she’s a writer, after all!) but that if our work is somewhat sedentary, to make sure we are engaging our bodies outside of work rather than succumbing to screens in the evening. Anyway, it really made me want to craft even more. Now to find my crochet hooks.

6. Children update: G is just super fun these days. We have our hard moments of course (sleep, picky eating, and such) but she is such a doll and I love seeing her little personality, her humor, and her creativity in playtime. She’s my little partner in crime each day and we have so much fun. As long as I’m not feeling sick, these are sweet times we’re enjoying before our new baby comes and we transition yet again. That being said, we heard little baby’s heartbeat at my appointment this week and it just makes me fall in love all over again. We could even hear a few kicks on the Doppler. So precious. Can’t wait to feel this little one move in a few weeks.

7. We’ve had a mix of weather this week—some cold, rainy day and some warm, sunny days. It’s a reminder that winter is coming and it makes me want to take advantage of any and all of the nice fall days and get outside as much as we can!

Tell me about your past week or your upcoming weekend! What books are you loving? Is your ship going through storms or calm right now? Where do you think is an area you can use your body to be more healthy/creative?  

Linking up with Kelly!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

My October Front Porch Tour!

So I'll start out with the disclaimer that my porch is nowhere near being "Pinterest-perfect," but having it clean and decorated seasonally has brought me so much joy this month and I wanted to share it with you! I asked my husband to sweep it a few weeks ago and he went all out with taking furniture off and cleaning every inch! There were so many cobwebs prior, you would have thought we were decorated for Halloween. ;) But now it's a lovely place to sit during naptime with a cup of cider and some books! I wish you could join me to sit a spell!

I found the pumpkins at a neighbor's roadside sale, the corn was given to me by my mom,
and the mum was a $3 Walmart steal. ;) I have since switched the yellow "R" on the door
to my fall wreath once I knew the little berries on it wouldn't fall and be choking hazards.

The rug was a gift from our wedding...still looking pretty decent after two years! ;)

These yellow mums are just so bright and cheery!! I love that I can see them from the inside of the
house through the window, too! They were from the local farmer's market and I have to say
I've noticed a big quality difference in them from my Walmart variety. ;)

This cute little guy was salvaged from a free box at a garage sale, haha! My husband thinks
he's creepy, but I think he's rustic-ly charming!

Thanks for stopping by! Come again soon!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Currently // October

Joining Anne and Dana for a Currently link-up today! Here's what I've been currently...

Styling // unfortunately NOT my hair...I really need to come up with some tried-and-true styles for everyday. I love my hair straightened or curled for the weekends but day-to-day the messy bun and I tend to be together.

Saving // Very little. I've been on a minimalist kick and loving this book about minimalism for Christians/Catholics. Don't get me wrong, The Life-Changing Magic had its merits, but some of the New Age parts just weirded me out too much, plus some of it was just unrealistic for a married momma. I'm really appreciating Sterling's views on why minimalism is important-- even a calling-- for a Christian.

Searching // For fun, family-themed trick-or-treat costumes! We don't really celebrate Halloween, but we do love All Saints' Day as well as trick-or-treating in our neighborhood. Our neighborhood is a huge, family-friendly place with lots of young kids and the neighbors go crazy for trick-or-treat night. This is the third year we've lived here and we've created a tradition of inviting my side of the family for it. Right now my top pick for cuteness and simplicity is a 'money bag' costume for G and 'robber' costumes for me and P. ;)

Picking // A recipe to make for an Oktoberfest we were invited to this weekend. I'm so excited because I've been wanting to go to a fall party and this one sounds fabulous-- lots of families, hosted in a barn, and includes a bonfire and hayride. I'm pretty sure I'll be bringing a pumpkin dump cake as a dessert to share.

Making // I want to be making Christmas gifts, but need to find the time, energy, and money, haha. I've lately just had such a desire to do crafty things soap making or crocheting or scrapbooking crafts... This season has got me with all the heart eyes for the upcoming cozy holidays-- and the accompanying food and crafts and traditions.

What are you up to this month??

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Hello, Fall! {Bucket List}

Our Fall Bucket List 2017

Hanging out at the apple orchard this year!

I've really enjoyed creating bucket lists for the past few seasons (you can see my summer one here!). It helps me enjoy the uniqueness of each one and think outside the daily grind. I've definitely learned to keep them simple and realistic in this season of life, but sometimes the little moments are even more precious than the wild and crazy things! Here's what we'll be up to this fall (I may have already gotten excited early about the fall and crossed off a few things we've done the past week or two):

Burn a fall-scented candle
Go to a pumpkin patch
Visit an apple orchard
Make applesauce
Make turkey-pumpkin chili
Decorate pumpkins
Host a bonfire
Have a popcorn and movie night
Decorate our porch
Buy a mum or two
Go to a fall festival
Wear a cozy sweater
Crunch in the leaves
Drink apple cider
Take a family photo

What are you looking forward to in this new season?

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!