Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Love is said a million ways

Love is said a million ways.  We most often think of the big dramatic first "I love you", which signifies this is more than a simple friendship. I remember standing outside my parents' house with my now-husband, and hearing him ask, "What would you say if I told you 'I love you'?"  It was a defining moment in our relationship, but even more importantly, he had backed up those words through months of invested friendship (getting to know my family, figuring out my favorite coffee, texting me Scripture verses, etc).

In the last couple months, I've been thankful for the many ways I've heard "I love you" through special actions of friends when I've needed it. I suppose this post is more of a gratitude journal coupled with a personal challenge to love others well.

Love looks like getting a text message from a friend just to ask how you're feeling that day.

Love tastes like chicken strips sent home with you by a friend because it's the exact food you've been craving for four days, and you quickly devour that bag in three days.

Love sounds like the quiet prayers of a two year old pleading with Jesus to help mama not be sick.

Love smells like your husband faithfully cooking supper each night because you're to tired to do it all.

Love feels like your bed when you are sent upstairs for a nap, when your eyes just can't stay open anymore.

Love tastes like Juice Stop picked up by your husband on the way home, because it's the only thing you can eat.

Love sounds like washing the dishes, because he knows you hate the dishes. And you simply say, "I love you too."

Love looks like flowers given just because.

Love sounds like prayers on your behalf being sent up.

Love looks, feels, tastes, sounds and smells like many things. The words may be great to hear,  but the actions give it power.

Today, how can you say "I love you" without using words?  And perhaps, start recording how often you "hear" it too. You may be surprised by the number of ways you've heard it just this week.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The book that read my mind: Decluttering at the Speed of Life

Have you ever read a book that seemed to have read your mind?  Somehow the author had thought of all your reasoning, excuses, fears, or imaginary scenarios and answered each one.  As you read through the book, you chuckled to yourself wondering how the author knew you.

Or perhaps you've had the opposite reaction to an informational book, where you wonder if the author has ever really struggled with the issue.   While they seem to have great ideas or even great photo proof of their successes, they seem to fire off good ideas and new solutions without any acknowledgement of the struggle to implement them. You may pick up some good ideas, but you'll never feel like a team member with them.

Deluttering at the Speed of Life is a book for real life people. Dana K. White is a real life messy house person who simply tells her story.  She shares real examples of stuff she's collected with grand dreams of marvelous projects or things she's stored for the possible 'future need'....for years.

Dana shares on the value of breathing room vs. the cost of storing something (your mortgage payment divided by the square feet of your home), our emotional attachments to things and dreams, and how to just start...even when we only have five minutes.

One of the best parts?  She writes it all with humor, grace, and a realness that makes it clear she's right there with you.

I bought her first book How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind and loved it for all the same reasons.  Her podcasts are also pretty simple, practical and humorous.

If you are a 'real life' person, who just wants another 'real life' person to share your journey, this book is for you. She will not share some fancy new organization system she invented or tell you how many shirts you should own.  Dana just lays out basic principles for simple home management in an easy to relate to way.

I was super excited to see this book available on the Booklook Blogger review program, and thankful to receive a review copy.  All of the views in this post are mine, and are not affected by receiving a review copy.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

How to be the Spring for someone's Winter

Spring...that elusive, teasing, bi-polar season that likes to pop in and out for weeks until it finally decides to stay. I get so hopeful waiting for the ONE day this week the sun will shine, but then sad again as I read of the chance for snow. When those few days come where the sun finally breaks through, the kids and I hurry outside to catch the sun's rays, if only for 15 minutes, to last us through the cloudy days to follow.

Spring reminds us that winter is not forever. The season of barrenness and waiting is not our future, but will eventually be in the past. Hope beckons us forward with promises of warmth, and sun rays to brighten the dark corners of our weary souls. 

For the last nearly month and a half, I have been so sick that I've felt the 'winter of the soul'.  Yes, it's been winter outside, because winter here in the north lasts.....FOREVER (with some repeat appearances made as it fights it out with spring).  But it's also been a soul winter as I have felt like a prisoner in my house, unable to leave till late in the afternoon, and always afraid that my stomach contents would make a guest appearance in public.

In this season, I have been immensely grateful for dear friends who have brought moments of 'spring' to my soul.  Never underestimate the power of your words, texts, visits, etc in the life of another. It may be the moment that they look forward to all day.  It may be the word that drives the storm clouds away and gives strength for the day's tasks.

Getting a text message that said, "Hey, how are you? Thinking of you and praying for you today", felt like a warm sun ray just passed through the clouds.  Getting visits was my motivation to get something done, and also helped the days not drag on.  And getting a surprise bouquet of flowers reminded me that I was not alone in this rough season.

Often people just need you to 'be' the spring. When some of my friends offered to pick up my kids so I could rest, I responded with "I don't need someone to watch them, I need someone to 'be' with me and remind me this won't last forever and that I will make it through."  When our hope runs low, we need others to share their hope with us.

Let me encourage you to 'be' the spring for someone's winter season of the soul.  The power of your words, visits, and presence will be like the daffodil stems peeking up through the dirt.  They give hope that this cold season will not last forever, but someday in the (I hope near) future the sun's warm rays will be given free reign.  And when your 'spring season of the soul' comes, (be it next month when it should be warmer or in 28 weeks for me), may it cause you to rejoice with even greater gratitude because of how long the winter was.

And may it remind you to in turn....
                      Be the spring for someone else.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

God made the World: a book review

I  was pretty excited to see this little treasure arrive in the mail!  Now I just have to keep it tucked away till some dear toddler's birthday this summer. :-) I can't wait to see her light up when she pulls it out! It's a board book, so it will even be safe from her not so careful younger sibling. (always a plus in this house).

The illustrations are simple, yet in beautiful full color. The book goes day by day through the six days of Creation and God's final day of rest. (I still love that He modeled rest for us, because He knew we would struggle to sit still)  Each pages illustrates the next step in Creation through artistic renditions of the sea, moon, trees etc. And it typical children's book fashion, each set of pages ends in rhyming words (made/played, kind/find).

This book is perfect for preschool age children.  My only wish was that it had the number of the day on each page so she could connect what God made on Day 1, Day 2 etc. Now I just need to find a good hiding place to stash it away for her birthday. :-)

I received this book as part of the Tyndale Publishers Blogger review program, however all of the views are mine.  And I specifically requested this book, because I thought I would enjoy it.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Hello Mornings: a book review

For years I've risen (though not always early) to start my day with time in the Bible. It was a simple habit, based on a simple need....to have the right focus for the day. I also knew that life's craziness would probably happen, and if I didn't get it done then, I probably wouldn't get it done. It was also simple because I was only responsible for me. That was it. Barring unforseen circumstances, my mornings went as I planned them. That's not how it is currently.....

Currently we creep out of bed at 6:30 trying to make as little noise as possible so we can extend the quiet as long as we can.  When I get downstairs, I rush to let the dog out so her frantic "Help, I've been in my kennel all night! Let me out!" noises don't become high pitched shrieks and wake the sleeping littles. Should we hear the toddler's voice begin the initial calls, instantly my husband and I lock eyes and one of us says in a voice like we just woke the sleeping dragon..."she's up". Lately it's been 7 or 7:15, so our quiet time is short and sacred.

I've enjoyed listening to Kat Lee's podcasts 'Inspired to Action' and 'Hello Mornings' and was excited.....no...ecstatic when I saw her book, Hello Morningswas out to review. My expectations were met in this book!  I've drawn stars by key points, folded down corners to mark favorite sections, quoted on Facebook, and shared a couple Instagram snapshots of the pages.

Kat Lee's platform, which she shares on her website, podcasts, Facebook community and now her book, is for women to start their day intentionally.  Her three minute morning routine (which you can expand on in time) focused on soul care, time management, and your health.  Starting simple eliminates most of the excuses we give for not spending time with God, nor being mindful of our time and health. In three minutes, you can read and pray Psalm 143:8, read your calendar/pray over your day, and drink some water. In time, you can expand the Bible time to include your own devotional plan, expand the planning time to include writing out and prioritizing items on your to-do list, and expand the health time to include a short workout or walk.

Kat focuses on developing a solid habit or ritual that part of who you are. In each season of life, it will grow and shrink due to the demands on your time, but it will always be there. Some of the points she covers include the importance of planning, setting up your personal space, developing accountability, establishing a habit, and the blessings that follow when you commit your first moments and your day to God.

This is more of a heart book, dealing with our personal excuses for avoiding this habit and calling us forward to see that more is possible. Honestly, I'm not sure what that looks like in this season. For me, it currently involves writing out my daily intentions the night before because my day starts off running, dealing with two hungry littles and a cooped up dog.  I would love to have a slow morning to sit and savor the Word, make a plan, and exercise, but I can't convince myself to get up at 5 yet. :-) Especially not as long as at least one of the kiddos is up in the night.  But Kat's book is grace filled, just calling us to do what we can in our season. If nothing else, we have three minutes in the shower  or the work commute to pray, plan, and think of something to care for yourself (fill your water bottle, plan a healthy supper, stretch, walk the long route to the office, etc).

I received a complimentary copy of this book as part of the blogger review program with Booklook Bloggers. However, this book was on my dream wish list and all of the opinions are mine.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Life Giving Table: a book review

(I don't even remember what all was in this meal from our vacation, but it probably was not the healthiest choice :-) 

19,710......the number of meals you could have with your child before they turn 18.  Even if you don't count some meals due to summer camp, sleep overs or weekends at grandma's, that still leaves you in the thousands.  Thousands of opportunities to invest in that life. Over the years, how many life changing decisions, battles won, hearts encouraged, or wisdom shared has happened over a cup of coffee or a shared meal. Food brings people together, unites us in a common activity, then invites us  to share our experiences in that safe (ideally) space.

     In her book, The Life Giving Table, Sally Clarkson challenges us to use meal times and coffee times with intentionalityThe power of the right word combined with the comfort of a good meal or hot drink warms both the body and spirit, and provides a sense of hope.  The camaraderie developed over frequently shared meals knits people together in bonds that can be closer than family.

     I love how in  The Life Giving Table, Sally made it clear that to be memorable, a meal does not need to be elaborate. Currently some of my daughter's favorite moments are eating her cheerios and raisins in the morning while I read to her, and getting cheese burgers with dad. Hopefully, when she is grown she will treasure her memories of cheese burger dates with dad when she was a kid.  She already looks forward each week to when I'm gone to study, and she gets to watch a movie with dad and eat 'cokcorn' (popcorn). She loves making it with him, but never really eats it. :-)   Cheery Coke is our drink of celebration and survival. When we got engaged, his cover up errand was for us to get Cherry Coke.  Cherry Coke was also bought ahead of time, and packed into the hospital bag to wait for the arrival of our firstborn. It is also our drink of choice when we feel we have fought the long hard battle of the toddler 'will' that day, and require extra strength to finish.

     The key is to be intentional with the time we are given and opportunities presented to us to be a blessing in the lives of those around us. That invitation to dinner, cool drink on a warm summer day, or hot coffee might be the key to creating a safe place for someone to open up about the deep things. Giving them the invitation lets them know they are valued and their voice in the world is welcome.


     This book is not a quick read. Rather it goes indepth into Biblical celebrations that happened over a meal, and how Jesus used food and drink to reach people where they were. It also provides plenty of opportunity for soul searching as she leads you through seeing how being intentional with people looks like in different seasons.  Sally shares stories and personal testimony of being intentional during the season of small children through her friendships with her now adult children.  She also shares how being intentional with invitations blessed her in return during seasons spent in new communities and during times where she needed the invitation herself.

Life passes so quickly, and it was never meant to spend alone. We are given the opportunity to breath the breath of spring into the winter of someone's situation, and they in turn to ours.  I look forward to studying the book more closely to see how I can implement some of the principles. Start simple. Perhaps instead of quickly handing out the afternoon snack to a child, it involves sitting down to share it with him/her. And just...being.

I was given a copy of this book for review purposes by Tyndale Publishing Company, but the viewpoints are entirely mine. When given the opportunity to read this book, I jumped on it as I have heard so many good things about Sally Clarkson's writing.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Zaide: Mozart's Lost Opera (a book review)

Not being an opera fan, or a lover of classical literature, I was unsure of what I would find when I cracked open Rollan Wengert's new book Zaide: Mozart's Lost Opera.  Intrigued by the story line, but mostly wishing to support a local author, I agreed to read it with no promise of how long it would take (having little ones tends to limit the reading time).  However, I finished the book in record time due to it's engaging story.

The book fleshes out the missing details from Mozart's unfinished opera around 1780. It follows the story of Zaide, a slave in the Sultan's harem, as she meets and grows to love Gomatz, a new slave of Puritan background. Desperate for happiness, and for someone to really care for her as a real person, she schemes to be near him which endangers her position of safety in the Sultan's harem. She must then decide between comfortable safety and knowing real love.

The author went to great pains to develop the story around the pieced together details we have of this incomplete opera. Woven throughout the story are musical references that both set the tone for the current events and remind the reader that this was originally intended to be a musical masterpiece. The story was well developed and contained detailed descriptions of the characters and setting to help the reader experience the story. The ending will leave you wanting another act to be written.