Monday, September 15, 2014

Finding freedom in the wastelands

I was stressed and angry. I had lost sight of what’s important in parenting. I couldn’t see beyond minor inconveniences and infractions to regain perspective of what actually matters. I blamed others in my mind for my weariness.

And my tears and words exploded all over Greg while we drove to Nashville for a delayed anniversary overnight date. As we drove away from the soccer fields where both kids had games earlier in the day, I didn’t want to go. I was tense and mad.

But we went. I cried and screamed and confessed. He listened and suggested and reminded me of truth. He told me it was going to be a good night. Even though I was hesitant to believe him, I hoped he was right.

My life is good. My kids are smart, healthy, and funny. My marriage is better than it’s ever been. Yet I’ve been feeling angry and weary. I sort of knew why but I was struggling to process.

Greg helped me with that. He loved me despite my feelings and lack of perspective. By the time we reached our dinner destination, my heart and soul were calmer and I didn’t want to yell anymore.

At one point during dinner, Greg and I were talking about how parenting is hard, how we’re all broken, and how the two of us needed to refocus. And then he said, “You should blog about that.”

“About what?”

“This. You should blog about how parenting is hard.”

So here it is: Parenting is hard. For me, specifically, parenting my boy is hard.

I love him. I love his laugh and his sweet, kind ways. But I don’t get why he thinks peeing in trash cans right next to toilets is a good idea. I don’t get why his speech has regressed and he now sometimes puts a “th” sound in place of “s.” I don’t get why boys do what boys often do.

I’ve been caught up in controlling Ben’s behavior and not teaching his heart and mind. I’ve been angry that I feel like I’m failing him and squashing his energy and joy in the process. I’ve been frustrated I don’t know how to do this.

Greg reminded me that even while this season is hard with him that we are not failing him. Readjusting and refocusing is necessary, but we’re doing some things right.

{I've said it before: Age 4 has been my least favorite age with both my kids. Even with their different personalities, nothing has challenged me more than parenting a 4-year-old. I may change my story when they’re teenagers, but this what I know now.}

On Saturday, Greg and I ate dinner and talked. We went to Target and CVS. We sang along to NEEDTOBREATHE songs on preparation for the concert that prompted our date.

I felt free again.

And that was before the concert that was exactly why my weary soul needed. When I bought the tickets months ago, I had no idea how perfect the timing would be. I was one of 4,500 people there, but NEEDTOBREATHE had a message I needed to hear.

Last week while working through the lesson in “Breaking Free” by Beth Moore, I read Isaiah 43:19:

“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

I recognized the words from NEEDTOBREATHE's newest album. But I recognized the meaning from my own life.

Looking back, God was preparing me for Saturday night. Greg and I sang along with NEEDTOBREATHE at an amphitheater surrounded by trees. The weather was cooler than usual and felt perfect. I laid down some burdens and filled my head with what I believed to be true.

Of the two videos I found online from Saturday’s concert, one was lead singer Bear Reinhart talking about what he learned about God doing a new thing in his wasteland before he and the band played the song my soul needed. {Watch here.}

And I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised God was reminding me about LIGHT. Again. It’s truly become the theme of my year. “In this wasteland where I'm living, there is a crack in the door filled with light. And it's all that I need to shine.” Those words from NEEDTOBREATHE's “Wasteland” reminded me of a post I wrote earlier this year.

This was only one song and one message. There were others. But this is what I’m holding onto today because it echoes what God has been telling me. I’m so grateful for the soul relief that came with a reminder God is indeed doing something new.

I'm linking up with the weekly Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood Gathering

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

{Dolphin Tale 2} #WinterHasHope

My kids don't watch many non-animated movies. But "Dolphin Tale" is one they've seen over and over. We even got to see Winter in real life at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in February 2013. {See those pictures above?} Winter's story and the hurricane that wrecked the marina are tales my kids still like to talk about.

"Dolphin Tale 2" releases tomorrow! So I'm guessing the stories will continue around our house.

The sequel has been on our calendar for months. It's going to be fun to be able to say, "We've been there!" as we watch Winter's story continue. Like the first movie, "Dolphin Tale 2" sounds like it's filled with messages of friendship, hope, and family that I want my kids embracing.

Plus, if it's anything like the first one, the all-star cast will make the movie one worth watching.

ABOUT THE MOVIE :: Inspired by true events, "Dolphin Tale 2" continues the story of the brave dolphin Winter, whose miraculous rescue and recovery — thanks to a groundbreaking prosthetic tail — made her a symbol of hope and perseverance to people around the world and inspired the 2011 family hit movie “Dolphin Tale.”

This film reunites the entire main cast, led by Harry Connick Jr., Oscar-winner Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, Kris Kristofferson, and of course, the remarkable dolphin Winter as herself. Champion surfer Bethany Hamilton, who has been an example of courage, also appears in the film.

It has been several years since young Sawyer Nelson and the dedicated team at the Clearwater Marine Hospital, headed by Dr. Clay Haskett, rescued Winter. With the help of Dr. Cameron McCarthy, who developed a unique prosthetic tail for the injured dolphin, they were able to save her life. Yet their fight is not over.

Winter’s surrogate mother, the very elderly dolphin Panama, has passed away, leaving Winter without the only pool mate she has ever known. However, the loss of Panama may have greater repercussions for Winter, who, according to USDA regulations, cannot be housed alone, as dolphins’ social behavior requires them to be paired with other dolphins. Time is running out to find a companion for her before the team at Clearwater loses their beloved Winter to another aquarium.

MORE INFO :: Official movie website. Facebook. Twitter. Trailer. Movie-related resources for homeschoolers.

And there's a giveaway! Use the Rafflecopter below to win a prize pack including an official Dolphin Tale 2 T-shirt and sunglasses. A winner will be chosen randomly Wednesday. CONGRATULATIONS, Mary! The prize will be coming your way soon.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


I received my own prize pack with a T-shirt and sunglasses from FlyBy Promotions, which is part of Propeller Consulting, in exchange for sharing about "Dolphin Tale 2," but the movie date my family is going on tonight has been planned for a long time. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you're not eligible for this giveaway. 

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Words for your weekend

Happy Friday, friends! Even with the short week, I'm glad it's already the weekend, again. It's going to be a busy but fun one for us, and, yes, we'll spend some of it at the soccer field. We're also going to have Greg's office party at the lake and have a fund-raiser for my kids' school. {If you're local, we'd love for you to join us for the Birthday & Benefit Concert for New Covenant Christian Academy. Who doesn't love the idea of classic rock for classical education?}

Meanwhile, I wanted to share with you some blog posts and book quotes that have encouraged me lately. Enjoy them as you head into your weekend!

"When matters of faith require action" by Kelli Stuart :: "I’ve long had a weary opinion of the Osteens. I do not believe in the idea of the prosperity gospel in any way, shape or form. I do not think that God is at all concerned with my happiness ... . There is zero evidence in scripture to support such claims, and so I’ve always taken Joel Osteen quotes with a grain of salt. They are feel good fluff – kind of like cotton candy. Fun to eat, but will rot you from the inside out if you consider it nutritious. ... God wants my yes. He wants my obedience. He wants me to give and love and pour myself out for others, not because it makes me feel good or look good or seem "good." He wants me to pour myself out as a praise offering to Him – so that He gets the glory. I don’t want the glory – I really do not, because it would be a cotton candy faith that dissolves the second I’m faced with any sort of challenge."

"Mel's Amazing Black Bean Salsa" by Kristin Smith :: Really, I've made this recipe several times now, including twice just this week. It's delicious. And easy. Both Kristin Smith and recipe creator Mel Schroeder are good ones to follow along on this big 'ole Internet.

"Today I'm Starting a New Book: Present Over Perfect" by Shauna Niequist :: Well, this is exciting. A favorite author writes on a topic I'm always needing to learn more about. "Present over perfect, indeed. This is life, this is family, this is the great beautiful brave spectacular adventure that is plain old everyday life, and it promises to remind you over and over that perfect is a myth, and that perfect breaks our backs and breaks our hearts. Real life is in the homework, in the shattered glass, in the apologies and kisses and walks to the bus stop. And that’s what this book is about. ... I’m aching to move from exhaustion to passion, from comparison to connection. I want to forgive myself for all the things I’m not, all the things I’ve been trying so hard to be. And I want to hold out my hand and invite the people I love into that same compassion, for ourselves, for one another. I want to be free to love wildly, to be silly, to fail and try again because bravery is worth infinitely more than staying safe on the sidelines, afraid to look foolish. I’m discovering, inch by inch, a new way of spiritual living–less striving, more receiving. More love, less hustle."

"First Friday Book Faves" at Circles of Faith :: If you're looking for some book recommendations, Circles of Faith writers (me included!) shared what we're reading. Come join the conversation!

From "Memory Maker" by Carlos Whittaker :: "And that, my friends, is what Moment Making is all about — using time to create a story worth reading. Not everyone is going to write a book about their lives and sell it on bookshelves. But we all write a story through our lives that will be read by those around us. And through that, we have an opportunity to have an impact by touching just one other person. And that, by extension, will change the world."

From "Breaking Free" by Beth Moore :: "A wide gulf lies between thanking God for our wonderful victories and pointing people to God as the One and only Sovereign victorious."

Have you read anything good the past couple of weeks? What's on your weekend agenda?

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

To Nap or Not To Nap?

My mom has told me I was a terrible at taking naps when I was a toddler.

Turns out, nothing has really changed.

Really, I bet the total naps since Cate was born more than seven years ago is less than 10. No wonder I didn’t like middle-of-the-night feedings with my babies. Speaking of babies, that’s me and newborn Cate in the picture above when we were still hanging out in the hotel room in Indiana waiting for the clearance from state adoption officials to head home to Kentucky.

Back to the subject at hand, I still get so restless when I even think about taking a nap.

Take today for instance: I didn’t sleep well from 3 to 4 o’clock this morning – although that shouldn’t be classified as morning – so I’ve been dragging today. Starting last night, I’ve been congested and achy. I went to sleep fine, but then was hot and restless when I woke up well before the sun came up. I read some on my phone and then moved to the couch to finish up sleeping until 6:45 a.m., which is a more respectable morning time. I woke up with a headache, congested nose, itchy throat, and tired eyes.

I had a busy morning of tending to work responsibilities for the two lake houses I manage and ran a couple other errands while my kids were both at school. I really prefer to be home when my kids are at school because they really are pretty good errand-running assistants and I can be oh-so productive at home when they’re not here – think writing, reading, doing laundry, cleaning the house, and organizing. But that just wasn’t going to happen this morning.

So I started thinking about napping. I figured Wednesday was a good day to try it. Cate gets out of school early on Wednesdays, so it gives us more time at home in the afternoons. I had a good plan: The kids could rest in their rooms and then watch a movie while I napped.

Well, they rested. Quietly. Exactly to the 2:30 p.m. time I designated.

And I laid in my bed, totally restless and wondering why I thought napping was a good idea. Being in bed in the middle of the day makes me think of everything possible I would rather be doing with my time: Reading. Writing. Blogging. Scrapbooking. Digging into “Breaking Free” by Beth Moore. Reading more of “Moment Maker” by Carlos Whittaker.

So I watched two episodes of “Private Practice” on Netflix on my Kindle Fire and mostly ignored my phone. That’s like resting, right? Yes indeed, especially for the mom who rarely ever turns the TV on for herself during the day.

Call it a mental nap. But it’s the best napping I have in me.

Even when I’m sickly.

And, yes, I pretty much drafted this blog post in my head while watching Addison Montgomery and company. Hey, it’s more restful than making the grocery list I need to make or sweeping the crumb-filled floor under the kitchen table.

Do you take regular naps? How about when you’re sick?

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

{Review} What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days

Holley Gerth writes like she’s sitting next to you at the table. I can say this with certainty because I’ve had the opportunity to sit next to and near Holley at a few meals. Her words in person echo the words of her books.

What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days” is Holley’s newest devotional that officially releases today. With verses from Psalms as her foundation, this is the kind of book you can tuck away in your purse – especially if it’s as big as mine – for encouragement on the hard days. Specifically, there are 52 truths she wants you to hold on to. Each chapter has a title that describes the character of God, a passage from Psalms, a devotional that’s based in real life, and a few lines to pray and journal.

As I was reading different chapters recently, I underlined lines I wanted to remember, thought about my own hard days, and prayed for friends walking through their own darkness. My favorite – I think, this is likely to change on a different day – was “God Knows Your Calendar.” If you’ve been around me, you know about my calendar. I make lists, plan parties, schedule activities and free time, and document dates. Sometimes forget I’m not in charge of my time.

Our days will have trouble. Sometimes we squander these days, thinking we’ll have all the time we want to make things right. Holley talks about how the memories of the days that have been – you know, the ones you keep circled on the calendar in your mind – eventually jolt us awake.

“We treat time like treasure instead of trash. That’s the hidden gift of trouble: it makes all that’s good and beautiful and true stand out like stars in a night sky. We learn to count our blessings and make our days count.” {page 143}

In the pages of “What Your Heart Needs of the Hard Days,” Holley shares about walking through infertility, being encouraged herself by the people in her life, living while waiting even when it hurts, and believing God is who he says he is. And when she does, she encourages others to keep living for and believing in the Creator of this world and its people, the One who delivers, redeems, accepts, hears our tears, gives joy, prepares, and protects.

Holley Gerth is a bestselling writer, certified life coach, and speaker. She loves connecting with the hearts of women through her popular blog and books like “Youre Already Amazing,” “Youre Made for a God-Sized Dream,” and “Youre Going to Be Okay.” Shes also cofounder of (in)courage and a partner with DaySpring. Holley lives with her husband, Mark, in the South. 

And I have some fun news! Holley is hosting an online book club. Learn more here. Or like her Facebook page to keep up. 

I received a free copy of “What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days” from Revell Books in exchange for a review as part of this blog tour. This post does include affiliate links. 

I linked up this post with Creative Home Keeper's monthly Book Notes

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Monday, September 1, 2014

7 Things I Learned in August

Yes, it's September already. Hello, the month that begins fall. But I want to reflect on August before I forget the whole month, which is entirely possible because I've been forgetful lately. 

1. NEEDTOBREATHE has some great new live music.
You can thank me later when you stop listening long enough to do something else. Listen here.

2. All my Kindle highlights are in one place online.
{Get to yours right here. Notice the "Your Highlights" link at the top of the page.} My blogging friend Ashley told me about this awhile ago, but I hadn't really used it until recently. Silly me; it's fabulous.

3. Lisa Harris writes good fiction books.
I had her two Southern Crimes series books on my Kindle and read them both in less than a week. I can't remember the last time I read an entire book in one day, but "Fatal Exchange" was the book for me this past Saturday. I do recommend reading "Dangerous Passage" first. They're both packed with action and good messages. She has a new one coming out at the end of the year and, yes, "Hidden Agenda" is already on my Amazon Wish List.

4. Launching an ebook is going to be fun. 
I poured my heart and much time into writing my ebook. Writing those 24,000 words was a therapeutic, inspiring process, but I am really excited about the launch I have planned. {In case you missed it, I'm forming a launch team. Read more here, if you're interested in joining us.}

5. Seasons are good. 
I'm never ready for school to begin again, but once it does, the routine is good. Seasons are meant to change. And, with that, I'm admitting I'm ready for the humid days to be over for awhile. I'm a summer girl, but I'm ready for some fall days. I want to wear sweatshirts, eat candy corn, watch some Murray State football, watch my kids play soccer, go camping, use our new deck, and eat soup.

6. There is a Bible verse that sums up one of the reasons I write.
"Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does." Psalm 96:3 (NLT) Isn't that lovely and true? {The other reason I write is for my personal therapy!}

7. I miss being in a women's Bible study. 
So I'm starting one. Our first meeting is this week, in fact. We're going to do Beth Moore's "Breaking Free," which I picked out from my own personal need knowing I probably wasn't alone.

How was your August?

I'm linking up this monthly post with Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky.  Here are previous month's recaps from 2013: June. July. August. September. October. November. And from 2014: January. February. March. April. May. June. July.

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{Circles of Faith} Perfection is an illusion

“We don’t have mango salsa anymore. It was seasonal.” Sure, it’s just a topping for my three-cheese nachos at Qdoba, but my perfected combination of flavors was disrupted.

“OK, give me the mild pico de gallo.” I settled for my next favorite.

But sometimes we build something after some trial and error that seems so perfect.

That’s how the nachos with queso, black beans, grilled veggies, shredded cheese and mild mango salsa were for me this summer. One afternoon not long before the kids returned to school, we met my husband for lunch. When I sat down with the not-quite-favorite nachos, mourning the disappearance of the mango salsa, I realized perfection is fleeting.

There are moments when perfection seems attainable, but that’s a trap. Every time.

Over the nachos that really did taste good, my husband reminded me about how pitchers can throw a perfect game but the next time on the mound a runner gets to base. Nobody throws back-to-back perfect games because perfection is just an illusion.

Unless you’re Jesus.

He’s perfect and he’s perfecting us.

{Read the rest of this post at Circles of Faith ...}

I'm linking this post with the weekly Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood Gathering

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Friday, August 29, 2014

On Real Life :: A Peek Into My Week

Standing in our lake house kitchen last weekend, I was talking to my friends Katie and Aaron when I noticed one set of cabinets was coming apart from the others, creating a gap where there wasn’t a gap earlier in the week. We kept talking, catching up because we don’t see each other more than once or maybe twice a year.

And then I wondered if the cabinets were going to fall. Such a thought interrupted a good conversation.

Greg and Aaron came back to our house that evening and retrieved some tools. They ended up securing the cabinets enough that we didn’t have to worry if they were going to fall on one of the five children 4 ½ years and younger who ran through the kitchen countless times as us adults continued catching up. Then Greg called his professional handyman Monday morning.

Slanted cabinets aren’t a big deal, but they require attention that we hadn’t planned on giving them.
And such as been my week.

Cate’s adenoidectomy – that’s a fancy word for a surgery to remove her adenoids – has been on the calendar for Wednesday morning for a month. So, of course, I wasn’t surprised when Ben woke up with a splotchy, red, swollen face Tuesday morning.

Thankfully, we only live three blocks from the local Medical Arts Building that’s attached to the hospital because I was there first thing Tuesday morning to sign some papers for Cate’s procedure 24 hours later and then went back about an hour later so Ben could get an oral steroid prescription to dry up his poison ivy that was nearing his right eye. And, yes, he had it on one other body part I probably shouldn’t discuss on a public blog.

His favorite nurses tried to teach him about poison ivy. “Leaves of three, let them be,” they said. They demonstrated with their fingers what poison ivy looks like. I showed him pictures on my phone. He listened and later repeated his own version: “Leave of three, don’t touch ‘em!”

Well, yes.

Of course, this is his second bout of poison ivy in the latter part of summer. And, no, I’m not surprised. He’s a boy who loves the outdoors – and is officially allergic to trees, weeds, and grass already. He takes allergy shots for those and apparently the occasional oral steroid for those leaves of three.

At least this time the steroid didn’t make him nuts, although I do think it’s interrupted his sleep. The nights run together, but I’ve lost count of how many nights he’s come into our bedroom while it’s still dark out because his nose was bleeding, he was restless, he wanted to check to see if Daddy had left for work yet, he wet the bed, or he thought it was an acceptable hour to start the day.

I don’t wish surgery of any kind on anyone ever, but the ENT removed “a big mess of adenoids” and in doing so she should be able to breathe better and be congested less. So that’s good news.

She was anxious going in, but she was brave. She came out of the anesthesia well. Even with a still-scratchy voice when the nurse wheeled her bed back to the room where we waited, Cate wanted to tell the nurse how she was going to eat chocolate pudding her friends Noah and Emma brought her.

We were home from the hospital by 9:30 a.m., so my girl and I spent the rest of the entire day at home. That part was especially glorious – right up there with the goodness that was the cinnamon roll Greg brought me for breakfast once Cate was back for surgery.

Silver lining, people.

She would tell you the silver lining of surgery involves treats and presents from friends. We’re dearly loved, that’s for sure. Plus Cate is well stocked in coloring supplies, new reading material, and treats. The texts, visits, and Facebook were more than social noise; they were reminders of community.

Her recovery is going well. Her throat is a little sore, but she returned to school the next day with only limitations at recess and gym class so none of her classmates would accidentally hit her sore throat and slow her recovery.

I’m grateful for health insurance because we’ve milked our plan for more procedures and appointments that would have seemed possible or necessary when this year started. I’m grateful to end the week with an Cracker Barrel breakfast with college friends this morning while the kids were in school. I’m grateful the no two days are ever the same.

Of course, not long after I published this post, I took Ben to get his twice-weekly allergy shots and when the nurse hoisted him up the table, she and I both noticed new patches of poison ivy on his ears, neck, arms, and legs. So much allergy shots. How about a steroid shot instead? Yep. 

And, yes, I’m grateful for normal life. Of course, by normal life I mean the one with sometimes slanted cabinets, conversations shared over all the other noises in life, and poison ivy that approaches a boy’s eye.

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