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?

Fear. 

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

Balance

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 fussing...so 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 kitchen...so 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.

Ouch.

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.

But.

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!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Donuts


Since a couple of you commented about the donuts, I thought I'd share the recipe! It's so, so easy, I'm almost tempted to pretend it's this complicated, secret recipe.

But we'll keep it real. It's a cake mix!! The only difference is you use a few less eggs. My favorite thing about the recipe is that you can choose different cake mix flavors. My goal is to let our kids/family choose flavors for holidays and birthdays-- like maybe baby G will want cherry chip or another child would choose funfetti. And then there's always red velvet for Christmas or spice cake for the Fall. The possibilities are endless!

Here's the deets:

1 cake mix
1/4 cup oil
1 cup of water
1 egg

Mix and pour into sprayed donut pans (I got mine from Bed, Bath, and Beyond and they are nonstick Wilton brand). Bake at 400 for around 10 minutes. They are fairly cake-y and I do want to try my hand at a from-scratch recipe sometime to see if I can make them a little more dense, but my hubby thought these were amazing and raved about them. So as long as he's happy. ;) For the frosting, I did a quick glaze with milk (almond milk in my case) and powdered sugar. You could also add a touch of butter or vanilla for additional flavor. For the chocolate frosting I did the glaze just mentioned but added melted chocolate chips. That frosting was heavenly, esp. when it hardened somewhat in the fridge. Don't forget the sprinkles on top!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Water Advisory Adventure

Last week the doorbell rang on a Monday morning and by the time I corralled the baby and the dog to answer it, there was simply a notice hanging on the doorknob.

There was a water boil advisory, in which our whole street needed to boil any tap water before using it for drinking, washing dishes, cooking, or brushing teeth. They would let us know in three days if it was lifted or extended.

I glanced at the dirty dishes on the counter as I thought about all the ways this was going to cramp my style for the next few days. And all of a sudden I was very, very thirsty. ;) Questions ran through my mind, like what do I do with the ice machine in our freezer? What about the dishes I just ran through a cycle in the dishwasher? All of a sudden it felt like I use water for everything!!

But as I dragged my two big soup pots onto the stove and started boiling, a part of me got giddy-excited that I was like Laura Ingalls Wilder and all those great pioneer women (ha! except they got their water from a creek while I simply turned on the tap!).

Our advisory only lasted two days, but it certainly made me think and ponder! What a great, unexpected Lenten exercise. The Lord took away something I take for granted and I realized how much I need to be grateful for the huge gift of daily clean tap water.

When my husband and I were in Haiti, we visited a 'tent city', where thousands and thousands still lived in makeshift tents after the hurricane years ago. Water was brought in weekly on a truck and small rations given to each family. Water was precious and scarce to them, yet how often I don't think twice about running the faucet, spilling water, or how quickly I can satisfy my thirst.

Another thing I noticed was how much more intentional and purposeful I was with my water use during the advisory. It took a lot of effort to boil those two pans so I was all about conserving when I washed dishes and I found myself truly focusing on the act of washing dishes and the amount of soap and water. It also took focus not to accidentally turn on the faucet to rinse the dishes, so it caused me to stay simple and stay in the present moment...and I found that I actually (almost?) liked the (soothing?) task of washing dishes.

Finally, I realized that I've been a little whiny about how much time I spend in the kitchen cooking and cleaning, and how difficult that is with a baby (womp womp). But adding the need to constantly boil water took that to a whole new level. When the advisory was lifted, it was actually a treat to be in the kitchen and it seemed so fast and easy to cook and clean, haha. Oh, perspective.

As much as I admire and love to read about pioneer women, and to pretend I have that same strength and stamina within me, I have to admit there was a lot of rejoicing and relief when they lifted the water advisory. That being said, I'm so thankful for the ways it caused me to slow down and be grateful for a gift I use daily and so often take for granted.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Seven Really Quick Takes

1. I'm pretty sure we won't get to number seven unless I make these really short. Like this.

2. My daughter has been napping for 2.5 hours this afternoon...which would be great, except that she naps on me in a babywearing carrier...which limits me somewhat in the amount of noise I can make typing and such--not that I'm a super loud typer, lol. (I know, I know, total #momfail about the babywearing naps. I wish we could get her in the crib, but I just haven't felt peaceful about letting her cry it out and this is the only way she gets decent sleep and I get a decent break.)

3. We had a water crisis / water boil advisory this past week, in which we could not use our water for drinking, washing dishes (including the dishwasher!!), brushing teeth, etc. without first boiling it. Thankfully they lifted it after a couple days but it certainly made for an interesting time, and I learned several good lessons that I'll probably maybe share in an upcoming post.

4. We're having dreary, rainy, overcast days this week. Yucky. Bring me some sunshiny spring weather. Another short one...over halfway to seven but she's stirring.

5. I made donuts this week. My hubby's fiftieth radio show aired this week and I was more than ready to use my new donut pans to celebrate. They turned out ridiculously cute and tasty. I'm pretty sure it's going to be our new family tradition to make donuts for holidays, birthdays, and other celebrations.



6. She's awake. And so stinkin' cute. This girl is totally worth giving up my alone time. Look at that ponytail. I can't even.




7. Happy weekend, friends. Until next time.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Connected: Halfway Through Lent


So I don't actually know if we're halfway through Lent, but I'm thinking we're several weeks in and
we're still several weeks away from Easter.

One of my fasts (who am I kidding? Pretty much my only fast ;) ) was from social media. It's been such an interesting time. On one hand, I find myself with more mental space and energy and just time in general. I like feeling more in the present moment instead of feeling 'caught' with my phone in hand when my husband or daughter are around. I like feeling more available in the here and now. I just feel more free and relaxed and focused in the moment, which is beautiful and makes me contemplate and question how much of social media I want to allow back into my life when Easter comes.

But there's something unexpected that I realize I'm missing lately.

Connection.

Not the connection of knowing who's doing what and when. Not the nosy scrolling on Facebook. Not the competitive scrolling on Pinterest to stay connected to what's in and what's out. Not even the connection to giveaways on Instagram (um...actually I take that back. I'm a sucker for giveaways.)

But I'm missing the relational connection, connection with other women friends. The community that's found through social media. With staying at home full-time, it's encouraging to see other friends, moms, and just women in general living life and the little moments they're cherishing. I often felt refreshed and rejuvenated by those connections.

So what's a girl to do? Do I conclude that the benefits of social media outweigh the negatives?

Maybe. But Lent is not over so I'm not ready for conclusions. There are a few lessons I feel the Lord is teaching me...and it's not quite about the benefits of social media.

I'm learning we all need connection. Especially women. We live so isolated today compared to how families and villages used to live in community. This can feel especially lonely in the child-raising years when it's a little harder to get out of the house (though the single years can feel really isolated too!). So we turn toward social media-- facebook groups, instagram friends, etc. And while this can be good, it can't replace the "IRL" relationships...the real, face-to-face, in-the-flesh friendships that we're meant to cultivate. So I'm allowing this time of missing my online connections to nudge me to seek out real-life ones. I'm taking walks with my neighbor, texting friends when I need encouragement, inviting friends to visit even when my house is messy.

Honestly, it takes some motivation to reach out and connect in real life. It's so much easier to click on an app when I need connection and sign out when I'm 'filled'. But that's not the tidy, selfish way relationships are meant to be. They're meant to be a little inconvenient. They're meant to draw us out of ourselves and make us a little uncomfortable. That's what it takes to learn to be real and to grow...and we can't do that online no matter how much we preach authenticity in our profiles and bios. We're still editing and concealing and subconsciously choosing what we present. We're missing out on the raw beauty of an up-close-and-personal, messy-hair-day, don't-have-it-all-together-but-I'm-here kind of friendship.

I'm also learning that when we crave connection...it might just go a little deeper than even real-life relationships. At our very core, we desire friendship with God. And even more, He desires that with us. Have you ever heard the saying, "Loneliness is God's cry for intimacy and friendship time with you."? The beauty and vulnerability in that gets me every time. We're so quick to fill our loneliness with social media or friends or spouses or even kids. I know my greater instinct when I'm lonely is to call my mom or sister, or spend time with my husband or girlfriends. But this Lent I'm trying to make my first instinct to be to seek out the Lord, my greatest Friend. He is the only one who can ever truly fill my aches and desires and needs, so why not go to Him first? I want intimacy and friendship and connection with Him...and knowing He wants that with me is all the more inviting.

Join me these next few weeks to pause when we're feeling lonely or craving connection? Let's seek God first and spend time with Him, and then ask Him what relationships around us in real life we can cultivate to grow the abundant grace of rich and lasting friendships. He's the perfect Friend, and growing in friendship with Him will teach and guide us to be better friends to those around us.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Spring Bucket List

We are officially into Spring this week and the temperatures are rising along with our spirits! It's always such a joy to look around and see the spring flowers popping through the earth, hear the birds singing, and see the buds on the trees. I'm excited to bring G outside more soon-- the other day we just sat out on the patio and she felt the grass for the first time. What a blessing to experience her first Spring together-- I love this season and it's a treat to see it through her eyes. Here are a few items we're hoping to do to make the season even more memorable. I'd love to hear your favorite things about Spring or anything special you're hoping to do for it! Stay tuned for a Lenten update soon as well!

Our Spring Bucket List

Go on a run
Drink tea on the porch
Blow bubbles
Go to the zoo
Bring a baby gift and helping hands to an expecting friend
Buy fresh flowers during the Easter season
Make an Easter dessert or treat
Have a weekday picnic
Go to the metropark with daddy
Make donuts
Dye Easter eggs OR participate in an egg hunt
Go to the art museum (they have a baby tour we plan on trying out ;) )
Pick berries
Plant something

Monday, March 20, 2017

Once Upon A Time Storybook Bible


I mentioned a few posts ago I wasn't crazy about The Story Traveler's Bible. This children's bible, however, is wonderful!!! I LOVE this book. The size is a large 'storybook' size that just makes you want to open the cover and begin. The illustrations are beautiful-- similar to Disney type animation. There are many, many Bible stories in the collection and they are written at a great level for children, containing important truths but in a way little ones can understand. Each story begins with 'once upon a time,' going along with the book's subtitle of "The Bible is not a fairy tale, but every story happened once upon a time." I was also delighted with the "Happily Ever After" tidbits at the end of each story: a moral or lesson, such as 'Abraham trusted God even when he couldn't see the promise coming true. We too can trust that God is always working in our lives!' The only thing I might change would be the very last chapter about the book of Revelation. It talks about Jesus coming back and the kingdom of God, but Revelation is actually full of additional wisdom about God's kingdom here on earth, and even more specifically the Catholic Mass. All in all, though, a definite treat for a child. I've always loved fairy tales and I love the way this book shares the beauty and wonder of fairy tales but with Biblical stories that actually happened! As Hans Christian Andersen said, "Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale." I'm excited to give this to my godson for his birthday next month, giving him the gift of both stories and truth!

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

Friday, March 17, 2017

These Days

Other than book reviews, I'm not blogging much these days. I'm thinking a lot, but my fingers stall on the keys.

Not much is happening, yet so much is happening. I told my mama-friend the other day how odd it is when someone asks how I've been. To the outside eye, every day is simply the same-- staying at home with my daughter, the diapers and food and naps and such. Yet every day feels like a roller coaster internally with all the physical, mental and emotional energy the day commands. Especially the emotional. No one told me that motherhood would take me to the end of myself and mirror back to me not only the best of myself and my strength, but also the ugly parts and the weakness.

But there's this nagging fear that maybe I'm the only one who thinks this is hard. Maybe she has family that lives nearby to help. Maybe her husband has different work hours. Maybe my perfectionist personality brings on my own hardships. Maybe it's just me.

Then there's this nagging guilt that this is everything I've ever dreamed of, this life of home and hearth and husband and babies. Guilt for the friends' who want this so desperately. The friends whose left fingers are empty of a ring, or whose wombs are empty of a heartbeat. I know. I remember. So I feel guilty when having those things now feels hard. 

Sure, there are the days when music is playing and dinner is cooking and the baby is smiling and my soul is soaring. There can be nothing greater than this, I think, my heart fairly bursting with gratitude and joy in this season of my life. My husband is romantic and charming, my baby is gorgeous and endearing, myself productive and accomplished and enjoying a good hair day (ha! rarely for that last one!). The sun shines and I cannot think of a better way to spend my life.

This swinging of the pendulum drives me crazy. Why am I so fickle? Why cannot I not be steadfast in the mountains and the valleys? Why cannot I not remember the joys in the hard times? Why cannot I see the grace in the the distasteful moments? Why cannot I not "count it all joy" (James 1:2)?

We're coming out of a week of teething, tummy bugs, respiratory bugs, and freezing temperatures and snow. I'd like to say I handled it all with saintly wisdom and grace and patience, but instead I feel bedraggled and, well, dragged through it. The lack of sleep and the constant body fluids wore me down.

But there's the tiniest light inside me that says all is not hopeless within me. That even though I don't like what I see in myself, God sees more. That even though I might have trudged more than I danced through it, I still did it. I showed up and offered up and begged for grace. I saw the places where I need His healing and molding and cleansing. Isn't that what Lent is all about? Perhaps this is all the point. God is at work, but it is a process. And for someone like me, that's difficult. I want so badly to "do things right" from the start but God simply wants me to do them and give them to Him, letting go of the outcome....and maybe sometimes not even to do, but just be.

My delusion is often that since motherhood is my vocation, I must do it well (and dare I say perfect?) all of the time and from the very beginning. Yet I forget that because motherhood is my vocation, God is going to use it to make me into the woman He desires and created me to be-- which will not happen instantly but rather over a lifetime. And wouldn't it make sense that the very vocation that will shine light on the dark and broken places for healing to occur will be a little messy (or a lot!) at times? I know when I'm cleaning out a closet, it gets messier before it gets cleaner!

I'm broken, friends. And that's hard. But it's also hopeful! We serve a God who mends the broken places and makes beautiful mosaics from them...and then shines through them.

"We're all broken...that's how the light gets in." -Ernest Hemingway

Maybe it's time I start focusing on the Light instead of the broken.

Come, Lord Jesus, Light of the World, and shine through us this day, even and especially through the broken places.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

On the Bookshelf

Since we've been snowed in (after all that gorgeous spring weather!! boo!) and little G. has not only been teething but also caught a small tummy bug and a big respiratory bug...needless to say, we've been home, indoors, and I've been reading a lot during snuggles and naps. Here are three that have been in our stack: one on marriage, one on motherhood, and one for little ones.



Your Marriage Masterpiece: Transform Your Relationship Through God's Amazing Design, by Al Janssen

This was a good book but not a great book for me. I fluctuated in my opinion through it actually. Some chapters I would be engrossed and think "YES! The world needs to read this!" and other chapters I would skim and feel like I've read similar things before. (Maybe I need to spend more time focusing on my marriage itself instead of reading books about it-- haha ;) ). A few things I liked: the book is a companion resource to The Family Project DVD by Focus on the Family. My husband and I LOVE that course/project, particularly the movie Irreplaceable (about the necessary connections of love/sex/marriage/children and how disconnecting those has broken down the family). I appreciate how much FotF has done and continues to do to promote healthy marriages and families. This book is definitely included in that effort. I liked the real-life stories of marriage. I liked the study guide included. I even liked the Biblical imagination narratives woven throughout, showing us how we are to mirror God's "marriage" to us in our marriages (very Catholic). I did not care for: some of the Biblical narratives were cheesy or took too much artistic liberty for my taste. I felt that the flow of the book was somewhat slow and didn't keep my attention. Overall, a good book on marriage but not one of the top five on that subject that I would recommend to someone.

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



Long Days of Small Things: Motherhood as a Spiritual Discipline, by Catherine McNiel

I did not expect to like this book as much as I am! I'm not sure exactly what I expected, but so far it's exceeding that! What a beautiful, inspiring, and even gently convicting book! Ann Voskamp has a review quote on the cover of this book and I can see why-- it has something of the mystic/poetic prose style that she uses when she writes. This book goes deep into the soul of motherhood by using the simplest, earthiest everyday things. The author writes about the (sometimes monotonous) things we experience as mothers and encourages us to find God in them...the God who became a baby, a child, to bring us closer to Him. He is in our children today and wants us to find Him in them...and to find Him in our own weary, changed bodies as well. One of my favorite parts was when she wrote about Jesus being one of us in the messiness of life-- how He lived with and joined the normal, everyday people and talked about fish, yeast, water, taxes as He ministered and taught the kingdom of God. I mean, I know this already but somehow reading her words and seeing Jesus like that was very tender for me. I also appreciated the Catholic vein woven throughout the book even though the author herself is not Catholic-- she writes a lot about the sacramental realities...God using tactile, tangible things to give grace and spiritual meaning to our lives (reminds me of another great book I'm reading by Laura Kelly Fanucci: Everyday Sacrament). At the end of each chapter, there are several reflection and practice points to integrate into your own life. This has been a very meaningful book to me and one that I will likely read more than once.

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





God Loves Daddy and Me, by Bonnie Rickner Jensen

I'm such a sucker for faith-based board books. This one does not disappoint. Beautiful illustrations and a touching story to introduce little ones to God's gentle and fatherly love for all of us. I like the specific message that God loves not only children but also adults (who are also His children). I think it's good for kids to learn that God loves us even as we grow and that God loves and takes care of mommy and daddy too so that they learn faith is not just for children, but also for us as we grow up! (Maybe even more necessary as we grow and lose that sense of childlike innocence and trust!) My only slight hesitation about the book is that some of the activities the dad and child do may not be ones all fathers do with their children-- build forts, go on picnics, etc. I wouldn't want a child to feel left out if their daddy doesn't do these things with them. Also, the raccoon child seems to be a boy, so not that a little girl and her daddy couldn't have these adventures, but there's a father-son feel to the relationship described. These are all fine things, but just information for those considering the book if they have a daughter. :)

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


Friday, March 3, 2017

7 Quick Takes



1. Lent. My devotional today was such a beautiful reminder that this is a season of GRACE. So often we see it as a time of lack or emptiness or dryness because of the fasting...but the fasting is simply there so we can make room for all the grace and growth and presence the Lord wants to give us!! I'm fasting from social media (oh, Instagram, how I miss you!) and though I'm missing the sweet connections with friends because of it, I'm also enjoying the mental detox and the greater openness to prayer, reading, and staying in my own present moments.

2. My monthly meal plan is going along swimmingly and I was THRILLED to notice the past few weeks' grocery bills have been lower as well as the grocery list itself being easier to plan. This tickles me to no end. I've tweaked a few things here and there, and will probably revamp the whole thing when spring/summer rolls around (give me all the fresh food!!) but for now, I'm delighted with the way it's kept us healthy, frugal, and saving time and energy.

3. P and I have been enjoying the When Calls the Heart series from Hallmark. He turned up his nose at the cheesy Hallmark DVD cover but it has since sucked him in as well and he happily joins me. My parents are watching it too and have commented how much Mountie Jack reminds them of my husband. What can I say? I married a charming, handsome adventurer...

4. As for books, I've got bookmarks in probably a dozen books these days...marriage, motherhood, simplicity, spiritual growth...but my fiction books really have my heart right now. Have you heard of Bess Streeter Aldrich? Lesser known than Louisa May Alcott or Laura Ingalls Wilder, but I'd say she's similar to both. GORGEOUS writer, I can't get enough of her characters and scenes and wisdom in each book. I finished Song of Years (my third time through it, though it's been years since I read it) and am now in the midst of A Lantern in Her Hand. Whenever I feel motherhood overwhelming me, I pick up this book and I'm re-centered. The main character Abbie Deal is a pioneer mama raising four littles on the wild prairie, how can I complain or worry or lament in my twenty-first century parenting world? And she throws in such beautiful life lessons and wisdom, it really gives you all the feels.

5. Our little "Spring in the middle of Winter" is over and we're back to freezing temperatures. But those crazy days of fifties and sixties were wonderful. I took lots of walks with baby G and P enjoyed his basketball hoop. One of the days we walked through our whole tiny town with no coats as the sunshine smiled down on us.

6. I had an Amazon gift card and decided to spend it somewhat frivolously and bought a curling wand. I'm hoping it is a dream come true when it comes to my hair, ha! I love the look of those beach waves, but my own hair is a bit of a frizzy, not quite straight, not quite curly mess. This little gem promises to give me those elusive beach wave locks, so we'll see. ;) You know how those things go...

7. The baby woke up so it's goodbye for now...I do appreciate that she waited until number 6 of my quick takes. Hey-- here's what we're having for dinner: Zesty Tilapia thanks to the simple idea from Sweet Little Ones! :)

Have a great weekend, dear friends! Let me know what you're up to-- books, TV shows, recipes! :)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Story Travelers Bible: A Book Review


Even though G is still an infant, I think it's never too early to contemplate ways we can introduce our Lord Jesus, our Mother Mary, and our beautiful Catholic Faith to her. Books and stories are one of my favorite ways to do that-- and what better book to introduce a little one to Jesus than the Bible?

The Story Travelers Bible is such a cute idea. It's about three modern-day children who go back in time on an adventure tour through the stories and places in the Bible. Set in the same order as the Bible itself, they begin their adventure at the creation of the world and ends with John's vision on the island of Patmos. The book is filled with colorful illustrations, memory verses, and extra 'fun facts' in addition to the Bible stories. It would make a great movie or TV series, but I like that it's a book of stories instead-- just as captivating yet better than screen time. :)

The only things I wasn't crazy about is that because the STB is from a Protestant perspective, there are a few stories that are missing the fullness and beauty in the Catholic faith...the Last Supper, Mary's stories and personal holiness, even some of the typology in the Old Testament. The Catholic Church is so amazing at pulling out the depth of scripture and how intertwined the Old Testament and New Testament are...whereas this Bible reads more of a beginning to end storybook without all the connections present. Still a great book, but I would be hesitant about the few stories that are missing important details. I hope a Catholic publisher comes up with something similar in the coming years. :)

[This book was provided to me by Tyndale at no cost. This review contains my honest and original thoughts.]

Thursday, February 23, 2017

What Trust Looks Like

My daughter was loaded in the backseat of the car in her carseat. I glanced at her in the rearview mirror and then glanced up at the pin on my visor. A silver medal of Jesus (Divine Mercy) with the words "Jesus, I trust in You" below it. I breathed a quick prayer of it and we started on our way to the doctor.

The visor pin made me think of a conversation with my husband the day before. We were on our first date post-baby, a simple afternoon getaway to a bookstore and coffee shop. We were talking about what trust looks like for us in this season, when fears have a different shape than they did when we were single. I shared how one thing I learned during my single years is that when it comes to trust, we must trust in a Person, not an outcome. I couldn't necessary "trust" that I would get married and all would be well, but I could always, always trust that God was good and He loved me and He would take care of me.

Little did I know we were about to embark on yet another one of those journeys in learning to trust Him.

The doctor examined our baby girl and then excused herself from the room. She brought in another physician to examine her as well. They were both stumped and started to converse about options and diagnoses and possibilities. While they talked out loud, my heart was racing almost as fast as my mind. Fear was tightening its grip around my throat. They don't know what's wrong. I had hoped it would be a simple exam, obvious answer, and quick fix. But two doctors were confused about what was wrong with my daughter. They started talking about medications and xrays and other testing, but I could barely take it all in.

I called my husband to let him know we were headed to the bigger town's hospital for testing and if he could cancel the repair man that was supposed to come today to fix our water heater (when it rains, it pours). He promised to meet me at the hospital and I could hear the strains of worry in his voice, both of us trying to be strong for the other.

I stopped at Subway to get a quick sandwich so I could drive straight to the hospital instead of going back home. Of course, nothing is quick with a baby and time was in fuzzy, slow-motion ever since we'd left the doctor. I stood in line at Subway, not really caring what I ate but knowing I needed to eat something, and watched the people in front of me. When it was my turn to check out, the cashier glanced at me and said "our card machine just got jammed, so go ahead. No need to pay today."

And in that odd little moment, a distracted Subway manager reminded me to trust in a Person rather than an outcome. The small coincidence of my lunch being paid for on that day was a hug from God. A reminder that He was with us, He loved us, and He would take care of us no matter what lay ahead.

I got back in the car and continued our journey to the hospital, this time with peace instead of fear. A favorite song by Josh Wilson came on as yet another reminder of God's goodness, of the 'dark before the morning' and the 'pain before the joy.'

We still don't fully know the outcome, but things are looking so much better with her health and prognosis right now and we are so grateful for that. But I'm also grateful for the ways God showed up and reminded me to look to Him and not an outcome. He was, and is, tangibly present with His grace in our situation...first shown to me that day by a Subway manager.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

30 before 30: A Bucket List in Retrospect

So that 30 before 30 thing? Where you list 30 things you want to do before you turn 30? I was all into the idea. I love bucket lists! But for the past year, every time I thought about it I couldn't come up with much! And here I am, freshly turned 30 this month!! (I know! Still getting used to this new decade myself... ;) )

 Since I didn't make a bucket list for the past year, I spent some time thinking on all the things I've already done before turning 30 and I had a great time coming up with this list! What a wild, wonderful life! Though I certainly struggled mightily at times during my single years, I'm so grateful I used much of that time for adventures as well. I see so much how God used my travels, my jobs, my relationships, and my experiences to mold me (and prune me) in ways that continue to help me even in this new vocation. Somehow I have a feeling the next 30 will be a little less crazy...then again, marriage and parenting are their own crazy adventures. ;)

1. Kayak in the Caribbean.
2. Get cornrow braids in Mexico.
3. Move out on your own.
4. Get your nursing license at a young age and be able to legally give narcotics before you can legally drink alcohol.
5. Become a CPR instructor.
6. Be a church youth leader for three years and have your heart begin to stretch by your love for the teens.
7. Go on a cruise.
8. Break an engagement and break your own heart as well. Hurt deeply. Find God deeper still and feel heart widen.
9. Drive a motorcycle.
10. Learn to water ski and wakeboard.
11. Swim in the ocean.
12. Hike the Rockies.
13. Hike the Smokies.
14. Shoot a gun with aim like Annie Oakley.
15. Get a convertible and realize your favorite thing in the summer is driving in the open air.
16. Go white water rafting in the moutains of Tennessee.
17. Cook over an open fire.
18. Fly alone to Paris...get lost in Paris...learn the metro system in Paris out of necessity and experience deeply that God is with you in your greatest fears.
19. Ride alone on a train through France to Lisieux and kneel in the convent where one of your favorite saints knelt. Pour your heart out with tears to a random nun who speaks broken English and then gives you a relic and some words of encouragement. Realize again that God is everywhere.
20. Visit a ranch in Texas and learn true virtue, patience, and hospitality from one of the greatest families you've ever met.
21. Perform ultrasounds on women considering abortion and watch their lives be changed by seeing their babies in their wombs. Cry with them. Walk with them. Love on them. And feel your own heart widen.
22. Be on a radio show
23. Go to a third world country and experience Mass on a rooftop.
24. Have your heart broken by an orphan baby boy you will never forget.
25. Have a spa day with Haitian women who were dying. Laugh with them. Rub lotion on them. And realize you're not so different from each other. Feel your heart widen, stretch, and break once again.
26. Fall in love. Oh, what a ride. The love that had mountaintops and valley lows. The love survived two breakups and vocation discernment and fear and grief and uncertainty. The love that grew despite it all.
27. Get married to the one you fell in love with.
28. Experience the hardest loss yet: the loss of your miscarried child. Feel the grace seep through all the broken cracks of your heart. Know that yes, it is better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all. We will see you again, little one.
29. Get pregnant again and this time give birth naturally (oh, pain like you've never felt before!) to a daughter. A daughter. Oh, your heart is so full, so full.
30. Realize anew that God is so good, He uses everything we give Him (the good and the bad), His grace is everywhere...and life is beautiful.

Here's to the next 30 years, God willing!