Friday, August 17, 2018

7 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You

I recently read 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke and it was fascinating. Like, the best book I've ever read on technology/smartphones. I'm usually pretty into articles that discuss the neurological and psychological effects of technology...I think it's because I grew up during the unveiling of the internet and didn't have a cell phone until college. So I remember the Dark Ages, haha, and have memories with which to compare the status quo. And while there are definitely perks to social media and the internet, I'm not convinced we're actually in a better place. 12 Ways focused more on the spiritual side of things than the psycho/neuro stuff, and that actually was more compelling for me to make changes. No it's wasn't that it's a sin to have a smartphone but rather he talked about ways our phone might be holding us back from prayer as well as becoming the people we're meant to be. Here are a few ways our smartphones are changing us (a la the book. GET IT, by the way. ;) But be prepared for it to change your life if you read it slowly and intentionally.)

1. We have a constant temptation for distraction. Yes, even without media we'll be tempted to distraction from the important or mundane things (that's human nature as well as spiritual warfare) but never before have we had such flashy, ever-changing, cutting-edge distractions literally at our fingertips.

2. We are conditioned to skim articles, books, and other written sources by our phones which teach us to scroll quickly due to information overload. We also develop a decreased attention span because of this. Anyone notice their ability to focus in prayer or spiritual reading decrease with an increased use of smartphones or internet, or is that just me?

3. We become desensitized to real and lasting pleasures or beauty. For example, we see pictures of vacations (Grand Canyon, etc.) or nature or cute kids through our feeds and get so used to the mediated thing that the real things holds less pleasure for us. We also become addicted to the quick flashy updates and don't have that deeper appreciation for real beauty around us.

4. Technology can feed superficial relationships. Our online friendship habits (clicking 'like', a quick comment here or there) become our real-life relational habits. We keep it quick, superficial, and avoid long or difficult encounters. Even our emotions are altered by our online habits-- instead of sitting with a grieving person and learning how to grieve, cry, or be silent with them, we can simply click a "cry face" and move on with our scrolling. We are bombarded by multiple emotional events in a simple scrolling session (ones inciting joy, sorrow, anger) but we don't pause long enough to truly feel these feelings. It's not normal and it's changing us and our ability to empathize.

5. Our phones create isolation as well as false community. The marketers for technology sell more items when they make them smaller and for the individual. No longer do we enjoy music via a theater orchestra or even a radio, now we have individual iPods. No longer do we watch live musicals (well, sometimes) or go to movie theaters as much, we can simply watch on our phones or iPads. We are encouraged to isolate ourselves. When we're in public, we isolate from real-life people by using our phones. When we're in private, we fear isolation and loneliness so we go to our online 'communities' and 'groups.'

6. Because our phones and the internet can connect us to people all over the world, we're less likely to focus on building local community or allowing ourselves to be rubbed by people who are slightly different than us and could help us grow. We simply seek like-minded people online instead of doing the work of building relationship (and evangelizing) with those who truly live near us.

7. We become addicted to novelty. We would rather mindlessly scroll through our social media feeds than take time for reflection. It's easier to sort through fun things in the here and now than allow ourselves to sit with the past or ponder the future. We're afraid of them and don't allow the time to focus on see where God might be inviting repentance and growth, change and freedom, redemption and mission.

Not all of us are affected by every single one of these points, but our world in general is definitely affected by all of them. I see our phones changing our social abilities, our spiritual abilities, our intelligence. I see it changing my own. This book was a powerful read for me, so much so that I decided to delete social media apps on my phone and do a "40 Day Smartphone Fast." I'm already seeing fruit from it after only a week, and my ability to live more fully is enhanced. I'd love to hear your own thoughts on how you manage technology and smartphones in your own life. I'll never completely eliminate it (hello, blogging!) but I'm more convicted than ever to put it in its rightful place, to use it for God's glory, and not allow it to become an idol.

Sorry but not sorry for such a serious post! Normal content and kid pics to resume soon, haha. Happy weekend, all, and stay off your phones! ;)

Joining Kelly and the gang for Quick Takes!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Safe in His Arms

I cried at the county fair tonight. And then laughed at my silly tears. Hormones, I said as I shrugged to my husband and shifted the sleeping infant in a carrier on my chest. We were watching the Terror of Vikings ride-- that huge long boat that goes back and forth like a giant glider swing. When I was a kid, it was called the Banana Boat. Terror of Vikings sounds much cooler and more fitting. But I digress. On the very tip of the boat, the part that goes the highest, sat a young boy and his dad. The boy's face held a mix of fear and excitement as the swing went higher and higher. The dad's arm was draped around the boy and held his son tighter each giant swing back and forth, a gentle smile on his face as he enjoyed the ride with his son. The boy began to relax and laugh with delight despite (or because of?) the height and speed of the ride.

And that's when the tears came. There was something so incredibly beautiful about seeing the peace and security that come from a loving, protective father. It was a small moment that spoke of a larger truth. In a world of absent or dysfunctional fatherhood, seeing this sweet cameo of true fatherly love and protection, seeing the confidence and joy it brought to the son, made my heart swell with how good and right the picture was.

It was also a glimpse of the great love our Heavenly Father has for us. This all-powerful Father who allows us on the ups and downs of life because He's right there beside us. He holds us tightly and wants us to trust Him and His protection. Only through leaning on Him can we truly begin to relax and see the view.

His arm is around you and holds you safely. Open your eyes, throw up your hands, and enjoy the ride.

Monday, August 6, 2018

More Summer Book Reviews

This lovely little journal caught my eye one day when I'd been noticing I was in a negative slump. You know, the one where you've slowly gotten out of the habit of being grateful for the everyday blessings and you start to see only the annoyances and irritations and monotony of everyday life. (Oh, I'm the only one that does that?) Even though we know being grateful each day brings joy, it helps so much to have a tangible reminder to do so! This journal is a daily devotional with a Bible verse, meditation, and a unique question for journaling to get you started in counting your blessings each day. It's a beautiful hardcover with a ribbon bookmark. The pages have color illustrations and each place for journaling is just a few lines (nothing too intimidating!). Some of the devotions were beautiful and thought-provoking but some were a little generic or superficial. I don't think this journal would necessary deepen your relationship with the Lord in big ways but I do think the daily habit of writing down blessings and pondering the verses and meditation is helpful in cultivating a joyful spirit-- and this journal is a creative, guided way to do so instead of just writing them down in a blank notebook. 4 out of 5 stars.

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

Oh, the Clarksons have done it again with their thought-provoking Lifegiving series. This time it was The Lifegiving Parent. Honestly, I have mixed feelings about all three books (Lifegiving Home, Lifegiving Table, Lifegiving Parent). Sometimes I feel like their views are idealistic and unattainable, yet I have to say there's a lot I love about their books! I think it's okay to read books that we can be inspired by without fully emulating all they contain. I really appreciate the Clarksons' emphasis on raising children to know deep love within their family and deep love in the Lord. They focus on excellence in every area of life, with that excellence giving glory to God. Lifegiving Parent was very in-depth and I'd have to read it every so often to pick up new things, or perhaps even read a particular chapter here and there. It was less practical than the other two books and more philosophical. Overall, I think it's a great read to ponder the magnitude of the gift as well as responsibility we have in raising children-- shaping minds, hearts, souls for eternity by the ways we spend our days. (But if it's one of those motherhood days where you are going crazy and need to plop your kids in front of Daniel Tiger with some microwaved chicken nuggets, shelf this sucker and pick it up a different day. We all have those days, even the Clarksons. ha.) 4.5 out of 5.

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

Saturday, August 4, 2018

7 Quick Takes

1. It's been a long week but things went better than expected. My husband flew to Arizona to the USCCB pro-life directors conference (he was even one of the speakers for a panel there-- good job, babe! ;) ) and I was home with the kiddos. My MIL stayed overnight with me the first night, I traveled to stay with my parents the next couple nights, and then did the solo parenting thing the last night back at home. Our kids are tough at bedtime and wanted me the whole time (and at the same time *so many tears*) but both my mom and MIL were so helpful with other stuff like meals and the dog and keeping me sane.

Me, two kids, and the dog. We got this. (Thanks to mom and nana ;) )

2. On a related note, I'm pretty sure we're going through the 4 month sleep regression here. Send help. Send coffee. Send chocolate. Um, and maybe send a maid service? hahahaha. Kind of. But this too shall pass and I'm a little more chill about it than I was with G because I'm less concerned that it's something I'm doing wrong and more aware that it's a normal development stage and we'll make it through. (A special thanks to cosleeping, babywearing, dairy free chocolate, and covered coffee mugs to keep it warm.)

Morning snuggles make me forget nighttime troubles!

3. It's climbing temps again this weekend and we'll be hitting in the 90's by Sunday. Time to fill up G's new (hand-me-down) pool from the cousins. And it's big enough for me to sit in as well if I can convince the baby to nap on daddy for awhile. Anyone have a swimsuit they want to recommend? I'm looking for a cute print, modest yet attractive (dump the frump), relatively inexpensive new swimsuit and thus far I'm returning the five I got from Amazon. #notpickyoranything

4. G's second birthday was last week and it was the best. The best. I'd like to call it The Old-Fashioned Non-Pinterest Birthday Party. I'm not against Pinterest but sometimes you just need a good ol' birthday celebration without consulting them, you know? For her first bday, I had the whole ice cream theme with food and decor and games and it was great. But this year I reveled in a simple, homemade 9x13 frosted cake with candles, a family trip to the zoo (our last time for the under 2 discount haha!), and some grandparents and cousins singing happy birthday on our back patio. It was so sweet. We all chatted outside on a gorgeous evening while the kids played in the backyard.

Tuckered out at the zoo

Check out the size of this pool! I'm as excited as she is
although I don't think I'll fit on the slide ;)

5. On a less happy note (#understatement), there's the McCarrick scandal going on right now within the Catholic Church. It's so deeply disturbing to unearth such corruption. Yet I really appreciated this letter from Ralph Martin of Renewal Ministries. It's long but comprehensive, and he makes some great points about the amount of corruption we allow when we gloss over the Gospel and the hard teachings of Christ. That it's okay to be upset with this and acknowledge there is corruption within the Church and still acknowledge that this same Church will withstand the gates of hell in the end. Pray, pray, pray. And maybe take some time to read it for some helpful thoughts.

6. I'm still loving my Kindle and reading lots of books this summer. I'm currently in the middle of 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You (can't remember the author right now), and I just finished Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. The latter was a painful read as it's based on a true story (a woman who stole children from poor families and sold them as 'orphans' to the rich from the 1920's to 1950). I haven't decided if I'd recommend it or not but it was a powerful read that's staying with me. Kinda like The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I think I need some light fiction for awhile.

7. I'm so excited to be a new contributing writer for! I'll be writing once a month for them. Check out their website for tons of resources for living your vocation to the fullest. I love their book lists and went there last year to look for ideas for my book club.

Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy the other quick takes at Kelly's!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

I Like Big Trucks {A Book Review}

Little G is currently into anything that moves. She loves trains, fire engines, and trucks. It's cute to see my little girly-girl princess also get so excited when she hears the trains go through our town or sees a big truck working on the new houses in our neighborhood. I thought this book would be a fun one for her, and likely baby J will enjoy it when he gets older too. The book is a sweet little story with lots of fun trucks to look at-- and feel! Touch and feel books are a lot of fun for her at this age. My favorite part of the book is the last page, after the trucks have done their jobs for the day, because it says "Goodnight and God bless." Just a sweet reminder of why even non-religious stories can bring the Lord into everyday life when they're from a Christian publisher. I appreciate that. The only negative to the book was that it seems a little more cheaply-made than some we've had from this publisher. The pages a slightly thinner than a normal board book so I'm hoping they don't bend. The touch and feels could be a bit more raised as well. Other than that, it's a cute addition to our shelf.

4 out of 5 stars.

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

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Quick Takes // Vacations, Babies, and Life Lessons

1. Our homeless house guest is no longer homeless! He will be moving into an apartment this weekend. There is just so much I could say but I might instead write a post about some things I've learned in the last six weeks...when J came into our home, I was a woman recently diagnosed with postpartum depression with a transitioning toddler and a non-sleeping reflux newborn. We were probably crazy for doing what we did, but maybe sometimes God calls us to the crazy, you know?  And there's always grace in the crazy. God provided in many incredibly tangible ways. We also had some powerful and beautiful moments with J when it came to sharing our faith in Jesus and His plans for us. But to keep it real, there were also many moments when I realized I am definitely not Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side. ;)

2. We are having a very hot summer, but are enjoying it nonetheless. G still takes a decent nap in the afternoon, so I tend to avoid the hottest time anyway. Our mornings and evenings are pretty pleasant and I've loved seeing G explore and play outdoors. Her favorite things right now are chalk, bike rides, and playing basketball with daddy. We also enjoyed this fun moon sand recipe.

3. Y'all know my love for garage sales. There are three neighborhoods around here that have such great, family-friendly garage sales each year and I always mark my calendar like it's a holiday. It makes it easy for me to clothe our babes and find toys/gifts to put away for birthdays or Christmas. My hubby laughs at me for making it such a big event and says he never sees me happier than when I'm going garage-saling, haha! I do love a good deal and it's so fun to see the random finds! This year I found adorable trick-or-treat costumes for the kids (see pics below), lots of clothes for our little boy, a Bumbo seat that I've been wanting, and some cute wall, and more, haha!

4. So real life. I started this on Friday during naptime and am now finishing up on Sunday after the kids are sleeping (one of them on me right now, of course...).

5. We had a great time this weekend with my family's second annual "river vacation." My parents live on a river and my siblings and their families all came and spent the night. It was our first time taking the little man on an overnight trip and for the most part, both kids did really well but I had a few unseemly moments of letting the stress get to me. (why do I always feel the need to confess on this blog to you all??) Despite my weak moments, we so enjoyed the rest of the trip, especially a boat ride with sweet G (she looooved 'driving' with Grandpa) and the public splash pad near their house. G cracked me up by carrying around a plastic watering can the whole time, barely wanting to get wet, and with a very intense look on her face as she filled and emptied the can over and over and over.

6. My husband and I had been talking about doing a small mini family vacation this month (we're pretty satisfied with just the fun of a night or two in a hotel and something nearby touristy...or maybe that's just because about all we can afford! ha!) but JP is not a fan of his carseat lately. As in screams and screams anytime we put him in the car and only occasionally calms down if we have the AC on the can't-hear-myself-think-its-so-loud-level and put his window down we're rethinking the timing of a trip until he's a little older and (hopefully!!) outgrows this anti-carseat phase. Hubby (a history major) wants to go to Gettysburg and I (just general history buff) am totally up for it if said little man gets better with car trips. Until then, it might just be a staycation around here...

7. Here comes the photo dump. Hope you had a fabulous weekend, friends! Get your coffee ready for tomorrow...we can do this, Monday!

Thankfully my parents are only an hour away...

He just wants to eat the monkey up...I just want to eat him up.

The Pinterest play sand. 

My little zoo. Love these two so much. Motherhood is so hard some days,
but these babies just have my whole heart.

Perfect way to end the day. Water can be so peaceful.

And there's me, hanging out in the bow. This weekend of sun and swimsuits
made me realize how much baby weight is hanging on me for dear life!!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Everything Is Already Okay

A newborn, a toddler, and a homeless man. Never in a million years did I think I'd be living with all three under one roof. Yet here we are.

When my husband originally asked me if we could shelter this man with no family and no money, who had lost a job and would soon have to move out of his current apartment...I said no. I was overwhelmed with a reflux baby, sleep deprivation, and a moody toddler. I could barely find time and energy to take care of our little crew, surely God wasn't calling us to do this and add one more? (I know, I know. So selfish of me when we are so blessed, but I'm keeping it real, y'all.)

But then a couple days later in prayer I knew He was. And so we invited him (or Him? -Matthew 25:40) into our home.

About once a week I start to get panicky about finances and time and energy and how long can we keep doing this. In the middle of last week, I had one of those days. I was on the way to the grocery and just feeling weary and overwhelmed. Not quite discouraged, but just on the brink. I asked God for some sort of sign. He's already given us several affirmations (like the time a family sent us a random gift card in the mail, not even knowing about our guest, that just happened to be the amount I had spent extra on groceries that week) but I felt like I needed a hug from God...a sign that He was with me, He cared, and He would work things out for all of us.

He sent me that sign in the meat section of Aldi's. A lovely middle-aged black woman saw me looking at the chicken prices while my sleeping baby was strapped to my chest in a carrier. She oohed over him and asked a few questions, then when we were going our separate ways she pointedly and emphatically said, "GOD BLESS you honey, and GOD BLESS your baby." Immediately my mind went back to my prayer and I had tears in my eyes as this woman blessed us. I wanted to share it with her but was afraid I'd break down in the grocery and how silly that would look over a simple "God bless you."

Instead I silently prayed for her as I continued through the grocery, encouraged by God reaching out to me through her. After bagging my groceries and heading out to my car, I noticed her getting into her van. She saw me walking through the parking lot and drove over, got out of her car, and started loading my groceries into my trunk. "That way you can get the baby into the car sooner and out of this hot weather," she said.

I knew there was no excuse to not share my story with her now, so I quickly mentioned how I'd prayed for God to reach out to me today and how much it meant that she had been a believer and blessed us in the grocery. Before I could even finish, she wrapped her arms around me and the baby in a big hug and started praying over us. It was so beautiful. The best part was when she prayed:

"Lord, we know that you are at work and going to make everything okay...we know that because of You, everything is already okay."

And then she was gone. And my day was changed.

What an incredible encounter. It was such a powerful reminder that when we ask God to show up, He does. When we ask Him for a hug, sometimes He gives us a real one.

And when we know Him and trust Him in this life, everything is already okay.

(I would love your prayers for our friend...God has found him a job and now we are looking for inexpensive apartment.)