"If the God you believe in as an idea doesn’t start showing up in what happens to you in your own life, you have as much cause for concern as if the God you don’t believe in as an idea does start showing up. It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling." ~ Frederick Buechner

29 July 2013

15 Gifts

3 Gifts on Vacation, at Home, in Relaxation ~
1. The laughter of my toddler and husband doing "yard work" outside my window
2. Being woken up by chubby little hands patting my face, saying, "Wake up, Mommy! Breakfast ready!"
3. Chocolate chip banana pancakes for breakfast, made by my husband with "help" from our toddler

3 Gifts of Sand ~
1. The swirled mixture of crimson, taupe, and ivory sand sitting in an engraved vase on our mantel, reminding us daily of the covenant we made *almost 5 years ago* to one another and with God
2. That He knows every.single.grain in the
whole, entire, blessed, broken world ... How can I even begin to doubt His capacity or ability to care for me and my most beloved ones?
3. Oh, that sheer, squishy pleasure of standing ankle-deep on the ocean shore, as the salty waves push sand in between my toes ... we live nowhere near the ocean now, and I so miss that sound, that feeling. There is something utterly blissful and soul-relieving about being by the ocean.

3 Gifts Understated ~
1. The Lord provides enough (must remember this more in my moments of panic).
2. Basic good health for our entire family. I keep being reminded that this is not to be taken for granted.
3. Having my very own Bible to read every day (I don't do it often enough).

3 Gifts in Jars ~
1. Hundreds of petals and memories saved from roses given to me by my husband when we were courting
2. Jars of homemade blackberry jam ready for gifting to friends, friends Abba "surprised" us with, just as my college roommate prayed for me when we fi
rst moved here, halfway across the country from our last home
3. Four shiny little Indian-head pennies sitting in a jar, a recent gift from a grandfatherly neighbor to our rambunctious little boy who loves "Mr. David" with abandon as only a toddler can

3 Gifts in Someone Older Than You ~
1. Perspective from a life longer lived, distance greater traveled, people loved and lost
2. Wisdom of a more grounded sort
3. Advice from a heart that is able to stand staunchly against the winds of worldly influence

16 July 2013

Still Moments (Giveaway Winners Announced!)

The WINNERS of a copy of Don't Make Me Come Up There! are:

#1: Hillary Adams
#4: Jessica Ryals

Today has been an off day.

Maybe it's because I went to bed before my toddler last night.

Maybe it's because I woke up at 11:30 and couldn't fall back asleep until two hours later.

Maybe it's because the weeks of waking up once or twice at night with B are catching up to me.

Maybe I'm just tired, lonely, emotional, and hormonal.

I used to mock women who would "excuse" their behavior and lack of self-control with "hormones." These days, I feel like I get it.

N had an doctor's appointment at nine o'clock this morning. He had an hour or so to spare after he got ready for the day, so he took B out with him after breakfast to pick up a couple odds and ends we've been needing. I had a blessed half hour to myself. A long, speedy list of things I could do -- should do -- ran through my head, but instead, I curled up on the couch with my copy of Don't Make Me Come Up There!

I've been following Kristen's blog for about a year now. What really attracted me to her writing was her passion for Africa. She traveled to Kenya in 2010 with Compassion International and it so rocked her world that she and Maureen, a former Compassion child, started up Mercy House, a home for young, homeless, pregnant/new mothers and their babies. It also changed the way Kristen and her family lived, surrendering the American Dream to pursue God's Dream for their lives. But really, what has forever connected my heart to hers is that one day, as I read the list of needs for Mercy House on her blog, I came across this: "Plastic sofa covers, because cloth-diapered babies leak."

"Oh, no, they don't!" I thought to myself. So I emailed Kristen right away, and through a series of emails, Cotton Babies (the makers of the fabulous bumGenius diapers that we use for Little B) agreed to generously donate 100 diapers to Mercy House!

Have you realized how, when extending a helping hand, you come away feeling blessed, too?

Anyway, continuing with my off day ... B declared he was "vewy tired" at ten o'clock this morning (several hours before his regular nap time). I made him wait until he was ready to go potty, because I've discovered that one of the secrets to a longer nap is making him go beforehand so he stays drier longer.

As soon as I had him all tucked in, I went right back to my spot on the couch to pick up where I'd left off in Don't Make Me Come Up There!

I finished it half an hour ago. The irony is, the subtitle to the book is: "Quiet Moments for Busy Moms." I think the idea is to read the short, uplifting chapters and pray the accompanying prayers whenever you find those "quiet moments."

Well, let's just say that my quiet moment was a long one, and what's more, I needed it. I found myself crying as I read some of the Bible verses that reminded me of God's promise to take care of me, of my family, to always carry my burdens even when I feel overwhelmed to the point of wanting to just lie in bed and hide all day. I felt Abba wrapping His arms tight around me as I told Him about my most recent disappointments with myself and with others. And I smiled at Kristen's brutal honesty as she shared some of her most challenging parenting moments and the grace that shone through those times.

Kristen generously sent me two autographed copies of Don't Make Me Come Up There! to give away. If you'd like to win one for you or for a friend, just leave a comment below (just one entry per person, please). And invite your friends! Giveaway ends Friday night, July 19.

11 July 2013

Wonderstruck: Review, Part 1

I follow the social media page of the library in our former city, and recently, they posted the question: "At what point, if any, do you give up on a book?" 
As an enthusiastic book lover from childhood onward, I used to believe that every book I picked up, I was required to complete. There just seemed to be something inherently wrong with giving up on a book.

And then I ran into Dickens. 

Yes, as in good ol' Charles.

Yes, I hear your gasps of horror.

Dickens just does not do it for me. I plucked A Tale of Two Cities off the shelves of my high school library one day, eagerly anticipating the story that lay within (after all, it is a "classic"). I stoically plodded through the first chapter, then the second. By the time I was turning the first page of the third chapter, I knew I was done. Now, nearly fifteen years later, I can't tell you exactly what it was that repelled me about that particular book, but it stands out in my memory as the first in the small list of books I've given up on. 

At the end of the spring, as my various church activities were drawing to an end, several of the women from my table at Bible study brought up the idea of continuing to meet through the summer as an informal book club. We threw around ideas of what to read: authors, themes, official Bible study or not, and so forth. 

We agreed on Margaret Feinberg's Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God. I eagerly awaited my copy's arrival in the mail and dove into the first week's reading assignment. 

I was less than thrilled.

I didn't like the filled-to-the-brim-with-descriptors writing style, the redundant metaphors, the excessive clich├ęs. Chapter .002 seemed desperately melodramatic, and it made me uncomfortable in the way that it makes you uneasy when someone is obviously trying way too hard to make you like them.

And then there was the issue of the labeling of the chapters themselves: .000, .001, .002... I understand that these headings are supposed to reflect listings on a soundtrack. I found a list of songs the author recommends to accompany each chapter.

I get it.

But it wasn't working for me.

So after our first book club meeting, where I sheepishly shared my struggles with getting excited about this book, I prayed the prayer Feinberg instructs us to pray: for wonder. I prayed that the Lord would humble me, to help me see past the literary criticism to see Him, to hear what I had to learn. I prayed that I would move beyond the abundance of adjectives and focus on the simple truths that were being revealed through Feinberg's journey.
True to His character, God heard my prayer and answered. I realized that I was so caught up in the dross of my day-to-day distractions that I was overlooking the beauty of what He was trying to convey to me through Feinberg's words.
He brought to the surface areas of my life that I needed to surrender (yet again). He reminded me of what "sovereignty" really means (81). He challenged me about living an excellent life, not to impress others but because I am a grateful ambassador.

I remembered the joy and release in a life of discipline, of working hard so that I can rest and play fully, of preparing ahead for the Sabbath, of simply breathing in His goodness (71).

Then I came to the line: "... to slough off the excess in our lives that we may live lighter and holier lives" (83) in the same week that I went to hear Jen Hatmaker speak about striving to eliminate the excess in her life, and I knew that I was hearing my Abba speaking into my heart.

In this season of sluggish Texas summer heat, I'm thankful for these new reminders, for a refresher course, in a sense, of lessons already learned and then somewhat forgotten. Summer is a good time to mull over things slowly, to implement new structure, to see what works and what doesn't.

I'm glad that Wonderstruck isn't going to be added to my list of books I've given up on. 

Plus, doesn't Margaret Feinberg just look like someone you'd like to get to know?
I'll be writing again about Wonderstruck as my book club friends and I continue to journey through it, but until then, have you read Wonderstruck? I'd love to hear your thoughts on it if you have!

JOY DARE: 3 Gifts in Jars
1. Hundreds of petals and memories saved from roses given to me by my husband when we were courting

2. Jars of homemade blackberry jam ready for gifting to friends, friends Abba "surprised" us with, just as my college roommate prayed for me soon after we moved here, halfway across the country from our last home
3. Four shiny little Indian-head pennies sitting in a jar, a recent gift from a grandfatherly neighbor to our rambunctious little boy, who loves "Mr. David" with abandon as only a toddler can

*My heartfelt thanks to Worthy Publishing for providing me with a copy of Wonderstruck for honest, personal review. My opinions are entirely my own.

03 July 2013

Happy American Independence Day!

Our town had it's annual 4th of July celebration this past weekend, for which we are immensely thankful, since it meant that we had a day to recuperate. I don't remember the last time Little B has stayed up quite so late. He was quite the trooper, climbing in the fire trucks, sitting on motorcycles, dancing and jumping to the music (which was a throwback to the 80s, apparently. I had never heard of any of it, but then again, I didn't grow up here) and waving his little glow stick around animatedly.
The sun doesn't set here in Texas until well after 9:00, and the fireworks started at 10:05. The booming, beautiful display was accompanied by loud music, and B did a great job lying in Daddy's lap and tapping his glow stick to the beat.
After about ten minutes, he crawled over into my lap, and I quickly felt his entire body relax into slumber. He didn't wake up for the grand finale several minutes later, nor for being moved into the stroller for the walk home. He didn't stir when our friend's little boy leaned into the stroller to give him a goodnight hug.
Only when I was done changing him into his jammies did he open his eyes to sleepily say, "Fireworks little bit too loud, Mama."

We decided that one very late night a year is good enough for our Little B, so tomorrow, we're going to just spend time together as a family and turn in early at night.

Happy American Independence Day, friends! Have fun, be safe, and be thankful for all the blessings in your life!