Thursday, February 8, 2018

God Bless My Family: A Children's Book Review

So to offset my doom and gloom post of yesterday ;) I thought I'd review this precious little book. There's nothing like puppies to take away the blues. For the past week as we all recovered from The Plague, we watched a lot of TV and read a lot of books to little G. This new one is so sweet. As G gets older, I realize how significant the content of books is for her growing mind! It's so important to me to have wholesome and faith-filled messages. I want her first impressions of faith to be joyful, warm, and loving-- just like her Heavenly Father is. This book is a great one for that. Each page there are different pictures of "puppy families" and words describing  the blessings of different family members-- aunts, cousins, brothers, mothers, and so on. It's very cute to see the different dog breeds and the different activities they are doing (baking a cake, racing outside, etc.). My only cautions with this book would be that 1) not everyone may have or be close to all the members mentioned (sister or brother, even grandma or grandpa), and 2) some of the descriptions are stereotypical and a child might wonder why their aunt doesn't bake or their sister doesn't play dress up. Probably miniscule things, but just keeping it real. Other than that, we're thrilled to have it on our bookshelf. 4.5 stars.

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

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Spiritual Battles

In about a month's time, I've been in the hospital for early contractions, we all developed the worst stomach flu ever in one weekend (esp when you're third trimester preggo), and we've had multiple (expensive!) appliances break down: my car brakes, the garage door, our dishwasher, and today the washing machine (naturally the washer and the dishwasher would be out of commission as I'm continuing to clean up the massive amounts of laundry and dishes after last weekend's Plague).

To say the least, dear friends, I am utterly overwhelmed.

We heard yesterday that our last local standing abortion clinic has been ordered to close by the state. This is what my husband has been working towards in his job for several years now and it's incredibly good and grace-filled news. Not only do we believe in the sacredness of all human life, but this particular clinic has been sited for multiple issues that would have shut down any other medical facility much sooner (an OB with a child porn record, transferring an emergency patient to a hospital in an employee's car, and more). Women deserve so much better than that (and they deserve better than abortion...but that's another post.) The clinic plans to appeal the order so the war rages on.

Are the crosses my family is experiencing directly related to such happenings? I don't know. My husband is a firm believer in spiritual warfare. I am a little less quick to link the ordinary happenings but this time around I'm inclined to agree. It's just been too much and too coincidental.

Whatever the case, it's been excellent preparation for Lent next week.

Please say a prayer for us-- and also for the clinic to close its doors for good for the sake of our women and children-- and let me know how I can pray for you!

Friday, February 2, 2018

{Really} Quick Takes ;)

...just to let you know I'm still alive.

1. Poor, precious G either had a fast and furious tummy bug or ate something disagreeable at dinner. She got sick over twelve times in two hours and continued on through part of the night until finally stopping and sleeping around midnight. Saddest thing ever as a parent. She's doing much better today but we're just taking the day slow with lots of crackers, water, and even some Barbie Rapunzel movie time. ;)

2. Naturally, our weekend is unusually packed so we're going to have to play it by ear with what we can or cannot keep on the schedule. I will probably cancel my book club in the morning to have some more rest and a slow Saturday morning as a family. We may be visiting a dear friend in her new home for dinner tomorrow and then on Sunday we plan to host a Super Bowl party (which in my mind = good food).

3. Winter is starting to get a little long, which is rare for me. I think it's the realllly cold temps we've had because I can't even bundle us up for a walk. I am enjoying my cozy naptimes with crocheting a blanket for the baby and reading the book Caroline: Little House Revisited, by Sarah Miller. The book is just like the Little House series but for adults and from Caroline's perspective. I've really enjoyed it so far and am amazed at her strength in traveling over the prairie with two littles and one in the womb!

4. I'm also getting a little tired of winter food and have been craving anything from a farmer's market. ;) Tell me what you're eating or making lately and inspire me!

5. I'm planning to make chili for the Super Bowl party and possibly that delish buffalo chicken dip. When I was pregnant with G, I used to eat Red Hot by the jar poured on tortilla chips. I loved everything spicy with her.

6. So proud of my hubs lately. He does such great work for our diocese. His latest endeavor is a pornography recovery/support group for men that meets monthly. They've seen some powerful things happen in the men's lives and it has made my husband even more passionate about the need for men in the church to have other male friendships and accountability/mentoring.

7. It's my birthday month. :) I used to 'celebrate' all month long, haha. Which pretty much just meant using my birthday as an excuse for anything fun, celebratory, or tasty to be enjoyed shamelessly. ;) Maybe I should do that again this year...but then again Lent is happening in a couple weeks! ;) I've started to reflect on how I want to grow/fast/pray...would love to hear your ideas!

Happy Friday, happy weekend, happy Super Bowl!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Bishop Robert Barron on a Sunday Afternoon

A biography is not generally the first book I'll pick up to read. But one of my moms groups is doing a Bishop Robert Barron Bible study and I've really enjoyed the videos that accompany it. Bishop Barron is both eloquent yet relatable, extremely intelligent yet casual, and friendly yet completely passionate and on fire for the Catholic faith. I would love to be like him when it comes to sharing the faith with others, so when I saw this book not only about his life but also about his thoughts on effectively sharing the Gospel in our current culture, I was intrigued. 

The book did not disappoint! It was so interesting to read about Bishop Barron's childhood, priesthood vocation, faith background and journey as well as the beginnings of his now worldwide ministry Word on Fire and where he'd love to see it go in the future. While not written by him, there were many interviews and quotes of his. I loved hearing his thoughts on different issues the Church and the world face today. He has a deep well of knowledge when it comes to the faith and is completely faithful to the teachings of the Church (including the hard ones!) but he's so passionate about reaching those who have left the faith or those with no faith at all and helping them understand the 'whys' behind the teachings and how they bring us to true freedom and joy-- and God's love. 

One of the things that has stuck with me most was his thoughts on liberalism. He prefers to avoid the labels of 'conservative' and 'liberal' because of how divisive they can be. While he obviously is conservative in a lot of his views and approaches, I thought it was really neat how he said the liberal movement of the Church brought some good with it and we don't need to denounce that. What we need to do instead is move beyond it. It's good to care for the poor, be passionate about social justice, and work hard to speak and act for change in these areas. But he calls stopping there a "reduction" of the Catholic faith. We can't reduce the faith to simply outward actions of caring for those in need, we must also have a relationship with God, cultivate prayer, and learn God's word through Scripture and Church teaching and history. It's a "both/and" kind of deal. Too often I think we like to label ourselves and hang out with like-minded people, but Bishop Barron is bold and passionate about moving beyond these labels to the heart of the New Evangelization.

There were a couple times near the end of the book when I found myself wanting to skim or getting slightly bored, but overall I thought this was a fascinating read that made me want to dig deeper into the wealth of Church history and writings as well as evangelize in the modern world as winsomely and persuasively as he does!

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

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Little Randoms (and Some Photo Dumping)

1. I'm in need of some new books to read. Hit me with your recommendations. I usually like to have a fiction, a nonfiction (usually related to marriage/parenting/homemaking), and a spiritual book going. I have a spiritual one but that's it...and shallow as it is to say, I have to admit I'm really missing my fiction! I recently finished this book and it was fascinating, particularly because it came from a secular, nonreligious viewpoint but stressed the importance of the mother's presence in the first three years of her children's lives for healthy brain development and attachment/relationships. Obviously, God's grace helps fill in the gaps of our parenting mistakes (thank goodness!!) but I'm still amazed at learning the way the human brain develops and how crucial it is for safety, security, and affection in those early years. This book was so countercultural to the way we view children and motherhood and parenting here in America, yet the author's tone was very open and encouraging and helpful. Loved it.

2. I'm cleaning out evvvvverything these days and it feels so good. I had intended to use January to start organizing baby stuff, making freezer meals, and all that...but once I took down the Christmas stuff and started to clean out a few areas, I realized a much bigger project was in store. I told you before about this fabulous book that you need to read, and it is completely revolutionizing my January. I'm realizing that in the childbearing years (and maybe beyond??), I just don't need or want a lot of stuff. I don't have a lot of time to decorate, scrapbook, etc, and too much stuff just stresses me out. I want a simplified life so I can focus on my family and our day to day needs and goals. I'm not saying I'm 'throwing away' the other parts of me...just that they don't feel as desirable in this season. I don't need ten thousand hobbies; I'm content to have my crocheting and a few cardmaking supplies (or even just reading books with a cup of tea refreshes me!). And I don't need tons of decor; the toddler will just spread it all around the room. I'm finding minimalism and simplicity is extremely freeing mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. So I keep opening cupboards and drawers and filling boxes to go out! Do I sound off the deep end yet? ;)

My sister and mom have been my partners-in-crime for a lot of cleaning out and it's been fun to have our G and my niece get to spend more time together.

3. My mother-in-law came to stay with us for several days after my hospitalization last weekend. It was so great to have her, she's always a joy to have around and a huge help with G and housework. My dear friend from Kentucky also came to visit while her husband was on a work trip. I hadn't seen her since her wedding last summer, we stayed up until 1am talking the first night (this from the tired mama who didn't even stay up for NYE)! She is preggo with her first and we are due TWO DAYS APART! Exciting. My husband actually had both of us on his radio show while she was here to talk about spirituality and pregnancy. It was a lot of fun. Maybe I'll be brave enough to share the podcast with you once it comes out. :)

On the air in 3, 2, 1...
Twin baby bumps!

4. We've had tons of snow this year and it's been very pretty. Sadly the temps have been sooo low that we've only been out once to play in it. But today it's "warming up" to the 20's, so that's a positive thing, ha! 

Our backyard view
5. This little chica is growing up so fast and turning into such a little lady. It's just awesome to see how her personality and intelligence are developing more each day. She understands so much and is a fun little playmate. My favorite thing she does is "pour tea" with a plastic teapot and cups and share it with us. She even makes the sound effects. Is it too soon to introduce her to Anne of Green Gables or Little Women? ;)
She finally started walking full-time this month and it's crazy to see her walk into a room.

Can't forget the handsome hubs!

6. Because of my little hospital stint, we got to have another ultrasound and see this little one. I LOVE 4D ultrasounds...the baby literally SMILED as she was taking the picture. It was awesome. 

It's beautiful how the heart expands to love each child as much as only one.

7. Well, look at that. This could be a quick takes post, after all. Maybe I'll link to Kelly this Friday. ;) Have a great week, friends!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

When a Grocery Trip Changes Your Day

There's something about the grocery store that provides so many ways to grow in holiness.

We all go there. It's pretty mundane. Yet the way we interact with people can change the course of our day-- and theirs. There's a lot of opportunity in that. 

Last week I was in the checkout line, unloading my cart. The line behind me was getting long and the person in front of me was slowly finishing his transaction. As it became my turn, I realized why things were going slower than usual. 

A middle-aged man with a fresh, innocent face was the bagger. It was clear that he had a developmental disability and it was clear this was a new job for him as the cashier directed him to 'pack the fruits together' or 'put the bread on top.' The cashier seemed a little frazzled and apologetic to the customers and I could hear the edge in her voice as she hurried him along...not in a mean way, but moreso in a way that showed she was nervous that we were all annoyed and upset with the sweet man taking his sweet time. 

Maybe it's the pregnancy hormones. Or maybe it's just the human connection. But I watched the scene with a flood of compassion unleashing inside. And I knew I wanted to say something to let her know it was okay.

I smiled at the bagger and said, "you're learning from the best. I love the way you guys bag groceries here." It was kind of silly but it was all that came to mind as I smiled at the cashier, trying to reassure her that I didn't mind the delay.

Her whole expression changed from stress to appreciation. She smiled at me and said "You have a really good day, ma'am." Neither one of us said what we were really thinking. But there was a knowing between us, a silent communication between us. 

I continued to chat with the bagger as I helped him load my cart. His innocence and friendliness cut my heart as I thought about how often I myself am in such a rush...and how hard it must be for him and others like him to go slow in a world that won't slow down and make room. 

The grocery bagger gave me a gift that day along with my purchases...a reminder to slow down and see people. Every moment of life holds beauty...why am I so quick to miss it and rush to the next moment? Many people may have thought him simple and slow, but by God's grace that day I saw that he was the one living with true wisdom and grace -- focusing on the moment, carefully performing his tasks with intentionality,  and seeing and engaging the people right in front of him. 

I drove home with tears in my eyes, my trunk full of well-packed groceries, and a heart full of gratitude for an unexpected lesson in love.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

My Word for 2018

It's still the month of resolutions, although I think statistically we're almost to the point where people give them up again? ha!

I'm normally ALL about goals and resolutions this time of year. So it was really odd for me to not have any idea of what I wanted to do for the year. I would think about it and pray a little, but nada!

Trust me, it's not because I don't need to improve. There are pleeenty of areas for that.

But nothing really stuck out. And in some ways, I'm already working on a lot of areas from the past few months-- decreasing/eliminating social media, cleaning out and organizing my home in preparation for the new baby, and striving to use naptime more for prayer and creativity.

But the list-making, label-loving part of me still really wanted a resolution or goal. So I prayed again for a word.

And it came.

Not what I thought it would be. But it's perfect.


In the midst of all my 'doings' and 'improvings' and strivings, THIS is what I need to remember: I am blessed with my husband, my children, my family and friends and community. With little moments and daily rhythms and ordinary beauty. And instead of forgetting all of that in the midst of my improving, I want to cherish them all.

To pause more, love deeper, play sillier, hug tighter, and relish these precious people and fleeting moments. 

We are a people of looking ahead. And when we look ahead, we fail to cherish in the present. 

With God's grace, not this year.

Do you have a focus or desire or hope or goal for this year? I'd love to hear it!