Sunday, August 13, 2017

Book Review: Almost There

Life is full of transition. Parts of "Home" might be ripped away at any time. People die, people move, relationships become fractured. We desire to have deep roots, but we are often uprooted. Even when we physically stay where we are, we are often unsatisfied, longing for something more. Author Bekah DiFelice and her husband have moved a lot. They get it. And Bekah writes to remind us that we are not rootless; we are rooted in an unchangeable God. He alone can quiet our restless hearts and become our true Home.

I've lived in 8 states and 5 countries, so the themes in this book resonate deeply with me. I felt like I could have written this book. Not the specifics, but the heart. God has shown me that He is my Home; that I am able to be content when my roots grow deep in Him. And so this book was a confirmation of sorts, a lovely book to ruminate over, to remind me of what's most important.

To learn more about the author, click HERE

I received this book from Tyndale House Publishers for this review.

Book Review: Hope for the Same-Sex Attracted

Our culture has undergone massive changes in how it perceives homosexuality. Author Ron Citlau attempts to answer two fundamental questions: "How can someone with same-sex attraction be faithful to Jesus? And how can everyone else support and encourage them in this pursuit?" He does this by first identifying obstacles that must be overcome (such as, "the obstacle of gay marriage,") and then by sharing several gifts available (such as "the gift of the Church.")

The author himself once identified as gay, and therefore lends an excellent perspective on the issue at hand. I appreciate how he approaches the issue, often communicating that we ought not take HIS word for the things he says, but we must test his words, read the Bible, and search things out for ourselves. Overall I think this is a thoughtful, loving response to a difficult matter in our Church.

You may learn more about the author HERE

I received this book from Bethany House for this review.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Book Review: Bible Sleuth, New Testament

Did you ever look at the Where's Waldo books? This book is a LOT like those books, except with Bible stories! This version (New Testament) starts with the Birth of Jesus and a busy Bethlehem scene and ends with the story of the crowd of people praising God in heaven. Here is what it says on the page about Jesus' birth: When Mary was expecting Baby Jesus, Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem to register in the census. There was no place to stay for the night, so they slept in a stable. That night, Jesus was born. Some shepherds, who were watching their sheep nearby, saw a choir of angels singing, and the angels told them the Savior of the world had been born. The shepherds hurried away and found Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus in the stable, and they worshiped God... See Luke 2:1-20. In the Bethlehem scene, you can find Mary and Joseph, Baby Jesus, the shepherds, and a host of other villagers and animals!

This book is so much fun, my kids have been fighting over it! My 8 year old just said, "Can I read all of it?" I suppose that's the extent of this review: This book is awesome, colorful, fun, and educational!

I received this book from Tyndale House Publishers for this review.

Book Review: The Ragamuffin Gospel

What is grace? I've learned that it is "unmerited favor from God." But do we really believe it? Do we really believe in a God of grace? This book is about how we are "ragamuffins." We are ignorant, dirty, sinful creatures who do not deserve what God lavishes on us. Brennan Manning says, This is the God of the gospel of grace. A God who, out of love for us, sent the only Son He ever had wrapped in our skin. He learned how to walk, stumbled and fell, cried for His milk, sweated blood in the night, was lashed with a whip and showered with spit, was fixed to a cross, and died whispering forgiveness on us all. This is the Gospel, the Good News, for ragamuffins like you and me.

I read this book in a season when I needed to hear it. Most Christians know that the Gospel is for sinners, but a lot of Christians like to forget that they are STILL sinners. We like to think that we've gotten better than that. (And then, in moments of weakness, we come close to despair, for we see then that we can never measure up to God's glory.) This book is about the Ragamuffin Gospel. The Ragamuffin Gospel is for all of us, all the time. And that's some pretty good news!

To learn more about the author, click HERE

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Book Review: The Ebb Tide

Sallie Riehl is a young Amish woman who dreams of traveling. She is saving up her money for a trip to Australia before her baptism, before she has to settle down to a typical Amish life. However, her trip falls through, and she accepts an opportunity to work as a nanny for a family in Cape May, by the ocean. Her wonderful summer is made suddenly confusing when she meets a young Mennonite man. 

This is a sweet, light read by Beverly Lewis. I've always enjoyed her Amish fiction. The characters have realistic struggles and interpersonal issues, there is excitement and a bit of intrigue, and there is always a happily ever after. This book is great if you want to disappear into a good story for a day or two!

You may learn more about the author HERE

I received this book from Bethany House for this review.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Secret to Making Your Routine Work

Yesterday was a better day than today.  I wrote an article about Taming the Chaos: 5 Principles for Creating an Effective Routine. And then today I realized that I actually listed SIX principles, and no one noticed. (Or maybe they noticed, but never told me.)

It was one of many things that went "wrong" today. I didn't feel like getting up this morning. I was lazy. I got on the computer and scrolled (1,000 pageviews on my article! Wow!). I didn't get up to fix breakfast until after 8:30. We didn't eat until 9. We DID do school... thankfully it was a light day and we were finished by lunch time.

But I didn't clean my kitchen. And I didn't do any chores, even though the bathrooms need cleaning and I really ought to go to the store at some point and pick up some things.

I'm not sick, I'm not overly tired, I'm not unhappy... I'm just... bored. And lazy.

That article I wrote yesterday? It's all good on my motivated days. But what about my unmotivated days? How do I get up and keep going when I just... don't wanna? 

Some days I still don't know the answer to that question. 

Some days I just wallow. I wallow in the laziness, in the sense of my own inadequacy, in the tinge of guilt that I feel for not doing "more." 

But you know what? 

Some days I NEED to stop and rest, and the guilt is misplaced. 

But other days I'm just being lazy, and I ought to get up and move. 

I just have a hard time sometimes figuring out which day is which. 

But I have something good to say!

Now, stick with me here. Don't let your eyes glaze over because you've heard this so many times. Just slow down a bit and let it soak in:

Even when I'm at my worst, Jesus loves me. 

In fact, He knew I would be this miserable person who keeps getting new chances and messing them up, and yet He loved me anyway. (See Romans 5:8!)

Here is the beautiful paradox:

-Jesus, blameless and pure, loved me and took my sin and my wretchedness upon Himself and allowed Himself to receive my judgement. (1 Pet 2:24)

-Now, because Christ took my place, when God looks at me, I am blameless and pure. I am loved and made able to love others, without a speck of wretchedness remaining. (2 Cor 5:21)

You see, when I get stuck in myself, focused on me and all my problems, it's really hard to get out of that place. But when I stop and look at Him, I get pulled out of myself and am free to be me. 

I am so not able, folks. He makes my heart to beat and His Spirit breathes life into my lungs. He has given me my precious children and He alone gives me the strength to keep going on the days I just don't wanna. 

"I have learned the secret of contentment in any and every circumstance. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength." 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Taming the Chaos: 6 Principles for Creating an Effective Routine

When I first became a mom, I didn't have much of a plan at all. But as more children joined our family, I began to get overwhelmed. I realized that we NEEDED some structure to our days! Our home is busy!

I mean, look! At meal times I feel like a cafeteria worker!

But as I began to try to figure out a routine, I have had a hard time coming up with a routine that works for us. I have read books, researched articles, and interviewed other mamas.

Here are the 6 things I've learned:

1. My routine will not look like anyone else's. 

When I first started researching how to "do" life with my kids, I had a hard time finding an example that was PERFECT for my family. Probably because no one's family is exactly like mine!

Here's my life: My husband and I have been preparing to be missionaries. I do not work outside the home. I have 5 children 7 and under, and we homeschool. My hobbies are writing, reading, and watching movies (also Facebooking). For exercise I do yoga and go for long walks.

Whose life is exactly like mine?


At the end of this blog post, you will find my current routine. But DON'T try to follow it exactly! Your home, your family, and your LIFE are all different than mine!

When you are trying to formulate your own routine, it can be frustrating that you can't have an easy answer. But it can also be freeing: You don't have to be tied down to someone else's routine! You can find what works for YOU and run with it!

2. The most effective routine removes the extras and sticks with what is best. 

I used to imagine a PERFECT schedule. The morning looked something like this:

6:15- Wake up, make bed, prayer time
6:30- Read Bible
7:00- Do yoga
7:30- Wake kids up, fix eggs and toast
8:00- Eat breakfast while we listen to classical music and read poetry

Let's stop right there. 

Can anyone else see the problem with this picture of perfection? Actual day may run like this:

6:15- Reset alarm because I'm tired
6:45- Go yell at kids because they're fighting and I'm trying to sleep
7:00- Drag myself out of bed and open Bible, but get interrupted by child in poopy diaper
7:05- Open Bible again, but get interrupted by kids who are "starving." Try to read again, but then kids says baby's poop came out of diaper in bed. Change sheets. Yell at kids. Feel guilty for not reading Bible
8:00- Stare at the pots crowding the counters, realize we're out of eggs and milk, and give each kid a tortilla for breakfast
8:15- Cry


You know, all those things were GOOD things to do. Getting up earlier, Bible reading, etc. But they weren't right for MY life with MY kids. I was trying to cram in too much "goodness" and it ended up being a miserable failure!

Another thing is that for ME, the clock is NOT my friend. I need a morning routine that looks more like this (in fact, this IS my current morning routine):

7ish (no alarm): Wake up, do yoga/prayer time (when kids poke their heads out of door remind them they may come out at 7:30)
7:30- kids wander in and watch if I'm not finished yet, then we move on to couch time
(whenever)- I sit on couch and tell the olders to get dressed while I snuggle the kids one at a time and change and dress the youngers
(whenever)- I fix breakfast and then we do our morning chores (more on this later)

We're usually done with all that by 8:30 or 9!

Do you see? I have what is MOST important to ME in this season of my life, which is starting with exercise, time to snuggle the kids, no clock to watch, and a focus on chore training. 

All those extras: Reading my Bible in the morning, poetry, music, cooking a nice breakfast... those may work out better for me in ANOTHER season. 

3. A routine will only work if I am willing to work.

I hate this one. I WISH a routine were a magical thing that just flew into my life like Mary Poppins come to make my life beautiful, but it's not like that. I have to be the grown up. I have to be diligent.

 I have to discipline myself. There is no one else to do it. 

I used to spend hours planning, but very little time actually working. Proverbs 14:23 says, "There is profit in all hard work, but endless talk leads only to poverty." 

Ouch. That's so me, so much of the time!

Here's another verse that stings: Proverbs 13:4: "The slacker craves, but has nothing, but the diligent is fully satisfied." 

Hard work brings great reward. 

HOWEVER, that leads me to my next point: 

4. A daily rest period is a life saver

We can get so caught up in hard work, that we forget to rest. Work and rest are equally important. BOTH are vital to a successful routine.

The way I incorporate rest into my routine is by having a 2 hour rest period every day after lunch. We call it "nap time." It's nap time right now at our house, and the silence is blissful! The baby is asleep in my room. The 2 and 3 year olds are napping in a bedroom. The 5 year old is playing quietly in another bedroom. The 7 year old is reading books in the living room. And after I finish writing this, I'm going to go doze for a half hour.

Doesn't that sound wonderful!?

I can do whatever I want for 2 hours, but I'm not allowed to do anything I don't enjoy. I must rest. I also have a "no work after dinner dishes are done" policy, and a "Saturdays are usually unscheduled" policy. Of course, these "policies" get broken occasionally for something important, but we try to maintain the seasons of rest.

In fact, did you ever stop to think that the first FULL day that Adam and Eve were on the earth was a day of rest? God intended that they rest so that they could work. We often get it backwards: "I have to work hard SO THAT I may rest." But God's design is different: "I have to rest SO THAT I may work."

 Because we were created to work. We find our greatest fulfillment in work. 

Teach that to your children and their lives will be easier.

5. Once I get used to working and resting, the routine will run itself

This is the point where I was pleasantly surprised. Once I got used to regular periods of work and rest, the routine kicked in. My kids knew what to expect, and they were happier and more ready to comply with the next thing on our schedule. I knew that nap time was coming. And as time went on, we could do our routine without really thinking about it.

You just have to buckle down and work hard for a few weeks (or months) before you see the fruit of your efforts.

6. My routine will constantly change (and I need to be okay with it). 

This one stinks. I wish I could have ONE routine that works for ALL TIMES. If I could come up with ONE perfect routine, I'd be rich! But there are many things that can throw off my routine. 

Here are some:

-Baby stops morning nap
-Toddler potty training
-Rebellious child who keeps defying me every step of the way
-Adding a new child in school

See? Things keep changing. There are many seasons in life. 

So I have to be flexible enough to change my routine when it needs to be changed.

If you need more help, here is The Secret to Making Your Routine Work

"So, what IS your routine like?"

I'm so glad you asked! Here's what our basic routine looks like:

1. Early Morning Routine (starting 6:30 or 7ish)
-Get out of bed, get dressed, do yoga and prayer and read Bible if there is time

2. Morning Routine
-Get everyone dressed, prepare and eat breakfast
-Table Chores (*)
-School time

3. Afternoon Routine
-Stop school and eat lunch at 12
-Table chores
-Nap at 1
-Laundry time while we watch a show (kids help fold)
-Finish school (if not finished yet)
-Go outside (if time and weather is nice)

4. Evening Routine
-Prepare and eat dinner (timed to when hubby gets home)
-Table chores
-Free/family time
-Story time/kids to bed by 8
-Couple time/to bed by 10ish

*Table Chores
-Kids clear and wipe table, sweep, take out trash, pick up toys, and in the morning brush teeth/make bed
-I clean the rest of the kitchen and in the morning start laundry and do at least one chore in my chore rotation


Books that have inspired me: