Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Books of 2016 {so far}


I've been binging on fiction lately. I'm not really into any TV shows right now, plus fiction is good when I needed a break from packing and purging and organizing and unpacking and purging. And it's summer. When Rachel naps at the pool in her stroller, I like to read whatever fiction book I have with me.

(Yes, you can have little kids and read books too. I've shared before how I manage to read books while mothering little ones. I will say, during the summer, I read more library books because it's hard to read my Kindle in the bright sunshine with wet kids near.)

In all of 2015, I read 21 fiction books. So far in the first six months of 2016, I've read 18. Binge fiction reading, I tell y'all. Although there has been some non-fiction reading, but that's happened at a slower pace.

(Here's my 2015 book list, if you need recommendations beyond this post. I keep an updated list of what I've read at Goodreads.)

Fiction
  1. "Thin Ice" (Men of Valor #2) by Irene Hannon {Review
  2. "Sanctuary Lost" (WITSEC Town #1) by Lisa Phillips 
  3. "Sanctuary Buried" (WITSEC Town #2) by Lisa Phillips
  4. "Sanctuary Breached" (WITSEC Town #3) by Lisa Phillips
  5. "Cold Shot" (Chesapeake Valor #1) by Dani Pettrey
  6. "Tidewater Inn" (Hope Beach #1) by Colleen Coble
  7. "Rosemary Cottage" (Hope Beach #2) by Colleen Coble
  8. "Seagrass Pier" (Hope Beach #3) by Colleen Coble
  9. "The Inn at Ocean's Edge" (Sunset Cove #1) by Colleen Coble
  10. "Mermaid Moon" (Sunset Cove #2) by Colleen Coble
  11. "Honeymoon for One" by Beth Orsoff
  12. "Keep Quiet" by Lisa Scottoline
  13. "The Girl on the Train" by Paula Hawkins
  14. "Firefly Lane" by Kristin Hannah
  15. "Fly Away" by Kristin Hannah
  16. "Magic Hour" by Kristin Hannah
  17. "The Good Girl" by Mary Kubica
  18. "Home Front" by Kristin Hannah

Non-fiction :: Parenting

Non-fiction :: Memoirs
  1. "Coming Clean: A Story of Faith" by Seth Haines
  2. "The Gift of Friendship: Stories that Celebrate the Beauty of Shared Moments" by Dawn Camp {Review}
  3. "Looking for Lovely: Collecting Moments that Matter" by Annie Downs {Review}
  4. "Wild in the Hollow: On Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way Home" by Amber Haines
  5. "Everything You Ever Wanted" by Jillian Lauren
  6. "Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter" by Jennifer Grant

Non-fiction :: Christianity
    1. "None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different From Us (and why that's a good thing)" by Jen Wilkin {Review}
    2. "You're Already Amazing" by Holley Gerth // Book // LifeGrowth Guide // LifeGrowth DVD // {Review}

    What have you read lately that I should add to my never-ending list of books I want to read next?
    _____________________

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    Wednesday, June 29, 2016

    Lessons Among Boxes {aka 7 Things I Learned from Moving}


    Well, we’re in our new house. I love so many things about it and I’m excited to truly settle in and make it our home. Greg and I moved some boxes in the days leading up to our big move – when friends showed up and loaded the big truck and some smaller trucks and a trailer in record time – and then I filled my mini van with more boxes and randomness in the days following.

    Of course, during the packing and hauling and unpacking, I learned some things.

    1. Verizon will pay off AT&T phones/contracts for new customers and wifi assisted calling is amazing for both phone calls and texts, even when there’s no service inside.

    2. Greg resigned from the Murray City Council earlier this month because we are moving to the county. 

    I know he’s my husband, but I’m proud the way he has served our neighbors and our community with conviction and integrity these past 5 1/2 years. Now, bring on the new adventures.

    3. Packing up an entire house is emotional even when I’m excited to move to the new one.

    This house was our home for half our marriage. We brought two kids home here. We have celebrated and grieved here. So many kids have been here to play. Honestly, collectively, these were the best years of my life.

    I know we will make many new memories and always have these memories, but, goodness, I wasn’t prepared for these emotions.

    4. The pool and fiction books are good escapes when I’m overwhelmed.

    Okay, so I didn’t just learn this, but I certainly was reminded of it! Lately I’ve read four Kristin Hannah books – “Firefly Lane” and “Magic Hour” were my favorites – and “The Good Girl” by Mary Kubiac.

    5. Tetris helped prepare me for packing boxes into the back of my mini van. And, let’s be honest, playing Tetris is more fun than moving. (Our friends must have played Tetris too.)

    6. ClosetMaid shelving makes closets so much more practical.

    7. “Let me know what I can do to help” is a good sentiment, but showing up after the actual move with willingness to work or plates of food and offering specific ways to help are the best.

    My best friend Jaclyn came two days in a row just to help me. We replaced cabinet knobs and put away things. Her middle girl helped Cate paint a dresser. She brought food. Courtney brought dinner one night – and her family hung out among the boxes to eat with us. And she brought a second meal for another day. My mother-in-law responded to my “Oh, I’m overwhelmed …” text with coming out to help, bringing lunch, and running some errands.

    Have you learned any lessons from moving? What did your June teach you? 
    _____________________




    This is a different take on my monthly posts that document what I learned. Read previous installments here. Subscribe to get new posts and/or a monthly newsletter with content not available on the blog in your inbox. When you subscribe, I'll send you a FREE #choosingJOY printable.

    Wednesday, June 22, 2016

    Joy in freedom

    I'm excited to introduce you to another blogging friend of mine. It's people like Tiffany Parry who make me love the internet. Her words encourage well and point to truth. Her post today is more of that, just as we're settling into summer, officially this week! 

    Tiffany and I dream of sharing stories around a real-life table, but until then I'm grateful to call her my friend across the miles. Please welcome her to my blog for #ThreeWordWednesday. 


    I’m a rule-follower, the quintessential say-what-I-do, do-what-I-say girl. I thrive on order, tidy boundaries, and well-laid plans.

    In the practicalities of day to day life, my Type-A personality and patterns suit me just fine. The problem with all my orderly rules is that we live in an unorderly world. “Things” don’t always go my way – our way.

    Organization is one thing, but under the influence of pressure, the craving for order turns into a pension for control. And of this I am absolutely certain: we don’t own control.

    God doesn’t want us to grip life with both hands, but instead surrender it into His.


    “In His hand is the life of every living thing
    and the breath of all mankind.”


    Christ gave His life and breath to purchase exclusive rights to ours. In exchange for our faith, our smallest seeds of belief, Jesus offers us rich freedom and fullness of joy. It hardly seems a fair exchange, does it? But it’s what makes our freedom such a sweet gift.

    Freedom and joy go hand in hand. {Tweet that.}

    Joy is a byproduct of a heart at peace with God’s plan. Even if our circumstances aren’t precisely peaceful, we can know the joy that Christ affords us through a life lived with open hands willing to receive His plans over our own.

    Can I tell you a secret? This isn’t easy for me.

    Can I tell you another secret? God’s plans for us are always good.

    Maybe both are entirely obvious to you. But, after living nearly half my life as a Christian, I’m still learning not to allow my control freakiness to wrestle away my freedom and steal my joy. My heart longs to know peace and my hands crave that open position, but I often watch my joy plummet as I fall prey to my flesh. If you can relate, I have good news:

    Our level of joy isn’t an indication of God’s goodness – He is always good. {Tweet that.}

    If that isn’t enough (PS. He is always enough), I have more good news: Summer is the ideal season to perfect your joy and reclaim your freedom.

    Days are longer, weather is warmer, and sweet tea abounds. There are sandy beaches and grassy fields longing for your footsteps, books waiting to be cracked open, and beautiful sunsets hand painted by a God who delights in you experiencing the abundance of life.

    Here are a few ways to choose joy in freedom this summer ... and every day after:

    1. Give up ought-to.

    Control can wrangle freedom with our self-imposed “ought-to” and “must-do” rules. Instead let’s live intentionally. Rather than make choices based on people-pleasing, perfection, approval, or random bouts of guilt, choose what pleases God. Pursue what is honorable in His sight and that which evokes fullness of joy and freedom in your heart.

    2. Answer wisely.

    This is tied closely to #1, but takes it one step further. We have permission to say “no.” Just because we are able to do something, doesn’t mean we should or have to. Over commitment is a form of control that robs us of free time and energy. Without those precious resources, our joy will quickly dwindle.

    3. Insert grace.

    If you’re anything like me, you’re bound to wrestle for control once more. Grace means your freedom does not run dry and second chances will come at the break of day. Open those hands and receive grace, then freely give it to those around you. Joy is catching, didn’t you know?

    4. Savor.

    This is the fruit of #1 thru #3. You’ve created the foundation for freedom, now enjoy it. This broad space is truly a gift. Have fun, bust through those tidy boundaries, set you margins on wide and savor the goodness of God. His wonder is all around you – watch for it and let freedom ring.

    Friends, here’s to a joyful summer filled with the sweetness of freedom!
    _____________________


    Tiffany is a wife and mom who dwells in the sunshine (and smog) of Southern California. She’s a lover of words who purposes to use hers to speak God’s truth with grace and authenticity. More than that, she longs to provide a safe place for others to do the same. You are invited to join her word-by-word journey through the mountains and valleys of faith at her blog, Simply for One, or on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
    _____________________






    I've been opening my blog doors to some friends this month :: Susan Shipe shared about summertime fun and Melody Hester offered advice for navigating new seasons. You can also download The Summer Not-To-Do List I made for you, if you haven't already. 

    Subscribe to get new posts and/or a monthly newsletter with content not available on the blog in your inbox. When you subscribe, I'll send you a FREE #choosingJOY printable.

    Sunday, June 19, 2016

    Our Father's Faithfulness {and Rachel @ 9 months}

    When I looked at the calendar and saw Rachel would be 9 months on Father’s Day, I invited Greg to the blog to share about fatherhood and our youngest daughter. If you’d like a peek into his life as a dad these past nine years, feel free to watch the video I made him. I’m grateful for Greg’s word here today, and, more importantly, the way he loves and serves our family. There’s nobody else I’d want to have beside me on this adventure!


    Every year when Father’s Day rolls around, I am reminded that our God is faithful. It’s a time for me to look back and reflect on His goodness and grace in my life. I am so undeserving, and yet He has blessed me with three small souls to love and lead.

    In looking back, I can tell you that He uses my children to change me daily. The Holy Spirit convicts me of my own shortcomings through the questions and conversations had with my two older inquisitive children. As we live life with them, I hope that they can hear and see the reality of God’s grace through my attitudes and actions.

    My own father passed away in 2010, and I can tell you that I learned how to follow God by watching him. He followed God with his whole heart and was the example for me and my brothers on how to lead our families.

    Hopefully, Kristin and I have learned a few things about parenting over the first 9-plus years with Cate and then 6 ½ years with Ben. Mostly, I think we’ve learned that the children need to see Kristin and I mess up, and see what it means to ask for and receive forgiveness from each other and God.

    This year, in reflecting on Father’s Day, it is amazing to think about how last April, we had no idea that Rachel was even on the horizon. We had felt the Lord calling us to adopt again back in 2012 and looked into several options, but never had the right situation.

    Kristin and I were disappointed and frustrated, but eventually we just realized that we had already been amazingly blessed by the Lord to have our 2 children. And so we mostly gave up our hope of adopting a third child. Our hearts were still pulled toward adopting a third child, but we finally had the grateful perspective that we needed. We learned a bit about being content in any situation and then, when we least expected it, we got a phone call from Rachel’s birth mom.

    Rachel was born last September, and she been such an amazingly sweet addition to our family. Ben and Cate were immediately taken with their new sister, and she has responded in kind. Rachel has an engaging smile that she flashes to almost everyone.

    At 9 months, she now gets around by crawling and she loves to grab, touch and taste everything she comes in contact with. We are so blessed to have her with us. We probably are a lot more laid back with her than we were with Cate, but hey, now we have a 9-year-old and 6-year-old to help us with little things around the house.

    And the best part is that Rachel has two older siblings to look up to and learn from. I love watching her interact with them every day. So on this Father’s Day, I am going to reflect on the goodness of our Heavenly Father and rejoice in His provision in my life. I pray you can do the same.
    _____________________

    Other monthly update notes from momma :: This girl is fun. She’s into everything and curious about all the details in her world. I forgot how exhausting this phase can be, but it’s fun to watch her discover. Speaking of discovering, she loves the pool. Good thing because my big kids and I prefer to spend our afternoons there. Funny thing, she still doesn’t like her baths.

    She’s crawling at fast speeds, pulling up quickly and thinking about letting go, and climbing the steps. She still loves to eat whatever and whenever we are eating and is taking {very} small drinks from her sippy cups. She takes usually four 8-ounce bottles a day, although I can tell she’s cutting back. Oh and she’s wearing 12-month clothes, except pajamas, shorts and bathing suits, which she requires 18-month size, but each day I had another garment to the pile of stuff she’s outgrown. Girl is growing, obviously.

    Look back on Rachel’s growth :: One monthTwo monthsThree monthsFour monthsFive monthsSix monthsSeven months. Eight months.

    _____________________
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    Wednesday, June 15, 2016

    She is home {to me}


    I can hear the hammering four houses down from my yard, the one with a For Sale sign. I would have told you there wasn’t enough room for anyone to build a house there, but they made room when they cleared some trees. It sits back more than some of the other houses on Sharpe Street.

    But the sounds of nails going into the wood to make walls reminds of Schureck Court. Our house at the edge of the cul-de-sac was one of the first. We heard and saw so many of our neighbors’ houses go up, eventually circling our end of the street.

    We played on the mounds of dirt and ran through the structures as the walls went up. These days, my kids would get in trouble for doing that. But as much as the fields were our playgrounds, so were the new houses.

    I remember being excited to see who would move in next door. As I eyed the newly completed house, I was less interested in the floor plan and more intrigued with the family who came from Pennsylvania in October of 1990.

    Turns out, that family included a girl who was a grade behind me in school, shared my hair color, and became my best friend.

    Katie could sing and play the piano – hobbies that never interested me. But we could tell you exactly how many steps it was from her bedroom door – the first door on the left of her house’s first floor hallway – to mine at the end of the far end of our house’s second floor. We dreamed and cried and laughed and wished we were older. I don’t know how many games of flashlight tag we played, boys we talked about, or Dr Peppers we drank. Summers were running through the neighbors’ sprinklers, staying up late, and trying to get tans. We shared meals, secrets, and bags of circus peanuts.

    Perhaps the best part of this story soaked in childhood memories is the girl from next door is still my dear friend. For more than two-thirds of my life, Katie has been part of it, somehow. She lives farther away now, but our lives are still intertwined.

    My kids know when it’s Katie I’m talking to on the phone. I really don’t talk to many other people (hello, texting), but our conversations are unlike the ones I have with anyone else. Silly and serious are spoken in the same sentence. Greg says we think each other are funnier than we actually are.

    From across the state, she still gets me. And when we’re together, we pick up where we left off during our previous visit several months earlier or finish whatever conversation we were having when we had to end our phone conversation because one of our kids needed something.

    Katie is the first person I think of when all these years later I hear the builders at the new neighbors’ house in the Summer of 2016. They’re hammering out a family’s floor plan, building a foundation for new memories for people I probably won’t really know because we’re moving to our new land soon.

    Yes, I wish it was Katie’s boys who rode their bikes past my house. I get sad thinking about how much our society has changed that I can’t let my kids run as free as we did – on mounds of dirt, through houses without walls, around our horseshoe-shaped neighborhood.

    But I’m grateful for a recent visit with her and the way my boy was excited to play with hers. I will forever hold onto the childhood memories, thank God she’s still my friend, and embrace the adventure that’s still to come. And if Katie isn’t here to experience it with me, I’ll be sure to tell her about it because she is home to me.
    _____________________

    Have you downloaded my Summer Not-To-Do List? Reminiscing certainly isn't on there! I often myself thinking of the summers we've already lived as we experience the new one. If you are encouraged by the not-to-do list, be sure to share it with a friend ... or all your friends on social media! 
    _____________________



    Monday, June 13, 2016

    Books to share with YOU!


    There’s nothing like packing your entire house to realize you have too much stuff. And by “your” and “you,” I really mean “mine” and “me.” Too. Much. Stuff.

    I spent a good portion of the weekend packing and purging and organizing. We even loaded up the mini van and car with boxes and delivered them to our new house. The actual big move is happening Saturday.

    So this week is going to include more packing and purging and organizing and hauling. And there will afternoon breaks at the pool, if you were wondering. Probably some errands too.

    But while we’ve been uncovering all sorts of treasures and memories in our house and Greg and I have told the kids stories they may or may not actually care about, I discovered we have some duplicate chapter books that I want to share with one of you – well, really, the young reader in your life.

    Specifically, the chapters books I’m sharing are:


    Tuck Everlasting” by Natalie Babbitt (Grades 5-8)
    Wayside School is Falling Down” by Louis Sachar (Grades 3-7)
    Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” by Judy Blume (Grades 3-7)
    Pippi in the South Seas” by Astrid Lindgren (Grades 2-5)
    Boxcar Children Mysteries #2 “Surprise Island” by Gertrude Chandler Warner (Grades 2-5)


    Most of these are fairly classic children’s chapter books, but I put the suggested grade level next to them. Obviously, kids are across the board when it comes to reading, but as a point of reference my daughter who is going into fourth grade and reads well above grade level has read and enjoyed all of these in the past couple of years except “Tuck Everlasting,” which she and I are getting ready to read together.

    (Meanwhile, I’ve been devouring some adult fiction. Lately I’ve read this one, this one, and this one. And I’m in the middle of this one. Besides afternoons at the pool, what is summer for? Oh, moving, right! Anyway, stay tuned because at the end of the month I’m sharing a whole list of what I’ve read this year!)

    Back to the giveaway: use the Rafflecopter widget below for several ways to enter to win the stack of chapter books. The giveaway is open to only U.S. residents through next Monday. Then, from the comforts of my new house, I will choose a winner. Until then, happy reading.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    _____________________

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    Friday, June 10, 2016

    On wanting & needing things

    I wrote this last night on my phone with 5% battery left after Kate revealed the Five Minute Friday prompt. Seems appropriate.

    Do you know about Five Minute Friday? Basically, set a timer for five minutes and just write. And then join us at Kate Motaung’s place. You can find us chatting while anticipating the prompt on Thursday evenings on Twitter. Follow #fmfparty for all the goodness.

    Now, WANT.

    Ready, set, go ...


    I have a long list of things I want ...

    ... to write.
    ... to visit.
    ... to do.
    ... to see.
    ... to buy.

    Literally lists of chores and things I think our new house needs and ideas I have fill pages and my email inbox and my mind.

    It’s as overwhelming as it sounds, sometimes. But sometimes I remember life is best enjoyed one project and one page of words and one dream at a time.

    And then right there in the midst of living life I realize so many of my dreams are intertwined and separating them isn’t always possible. The big picture is full and beautiful, and the smaller picture of steps and projects and chores and places and products to get there is quite lovely too, really.

    Sure, I finally found the white room-darkening curtains I wanted for my kids’ bedrooms online after looking in three stores with three kids.

    I’ve got trips and outings plan that I want to have on the calendar.

    And I’ve got my favorite season as a back drop.

    I find myself looking at my lists and seeing what’s really right in front of me: My family of five that God made. Our {soon} move to 33 acres that’s my husband’s dream that has become mine. Friends who are like family. Friends who share in the everyday-ness of motherhood. Opportunities to serve and play.

    So, really, I have everything I need.


    {timer buzzing} And stop.
    _____________________

    I'm linking up with Kate Motaung and the rest of FMF crew

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