Tuesday, August 18, 2015

For the Love + GIVEAWAY!

For the Love, by Jen Hatmaker - release day + GIVEAWAY! 


Giveaway is now closed and the winner is according to Random Generator is... HEATHER!

 For the Love Book by Jen Hatmaker


This post is part of Jen Hatmaker's "For the Love" Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with many other talented and inspiring bloggers! To learn more or join us, click here.

Way back in March, on a whim, I signed up to be on the launch team for Jen Hatmaker's new book...with 5,000 other people. I have long been an admirer of Jen and have very often been inspired by her words. Somehow, I was among the 500 chosen to be a part of her team, to review the book, to write an endorsement, and to promote her book. An awesome honor and a distinct privilege.

Now today is the official launch date of a book that I wholeheartedly recommend. For the Love is an essential book for women. Community, parenting, fashion, difficult people - she's got you covered plus so much more. The subtitle? "Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards."

Do you feel like you never measure up?


Do you feel like you have to hide the real you?


Do you struggle with feelings of imperfection?


Do you have a "spicy" family?


Do you find it challenging to have meaningful relationships with other women?


Do you have trouble finding balance?


 Do you like to laugh?


This book is for you. Whether you are single or married, young or old, childless or juggling a houseful of cherubs, working outside the home or staying at home - whatever you're calling and place in life - this book is for YOU. This book is about grace - grace for others and grace for our ourselves and knowing the grace of God - GRACE.

If you have read Hatmaker's previous books (Interrupted is a personal favorite) or if you follow her on Facebook, then you already know how hilarious she is. This book is no exception. From "Thank You Notes," to dolphin sandwiches, to fashion advice, to real life stories, she will entertain you while speaking truth, encouraging women everywhere, and challenging the norm.

What I didn't know way back in March was that I was about to become a member of an amazing community of women. A community that truly lives out the message of this book. We have laughed, prayed, cried, and celebrated with one another. We come from different generations, different backgrounds, different locations, and different political/religious/theological/social views - yet there is a spirit of love and grace and friendship that goes beyond shared life experience. It has blessed and comforted me and challenged me in my local relationships.

The incredible opportunity to be a part of this beautiful book and community came at an incredibly difficult time in our lives. As the storm of life encompassed and confused us, I found solace in the pages of this book and in the prayers of women who had never met me. What a tremendous blessing and just a small way this book made an impact on my own life.

I was truly sorry for the book to end. I'm also pretty sure Jen and I would be best friends in real life. She is easy to read, easy to relate to, painfully honest, likes to cook (yes, she includes some recipes!), has a dry wit...oh, and coffee ('nuf said).

So, I encourage you to go and buy this book! Even my husband laughed when I read parts of it out loud to him. :) Let it minister to your soul, challenge your relationships, encourage your heart, and make you laugh out loud.


My officially official endorsement:
This poignant, timely, and hilarious book is a must read! Truth spills from the pages providing encouragement, challenge, freedom, and restoration. It is a breath of fresh air that will make you equally laugh, cry, nod, and think. ~ Alaina; Mama of a Spicy Family, Blogger, and Chef Wannabe. Indianapolis, IN



 For the Love Book
In honor of the release of this book, I am giving away 1 copy of FOR THE LOVE by Jen Hatmaker! Just comment below with your favorite coffee (or otherwise) drink and whether you have read anything of Jen's before (1 entry/person, please!). I will randomly select a winner on Saturday, August 23!


** A special thanks to MUCH more graphically talented individuals on the launch team than myself for all the quote images in this post! **

Disclaimer: I received an early copy of the book to read and review, but received no compensation for this review. This is my honest endorsement and opinion of this book. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Montana

We enjoyed a fabulous trip sans kid to Montana this past weekend. It's been YEARS since we have been away for more than a night or two. Andrew had the chance to participate in a colloquium for a group out there and they invited me to join. We were treated to fabulous dinners and even a tour of a ranch. He had a great time, but I had the best time. ;)

While he was in sessions, I drove to Yellowstone National Park. It was breathtakingly beautiful and it felt like a crime to enjoy it by myself! It was a delightful drive, though and I really enjoyed the alone time. What a treat to see a black wolf (rare even for those who live locally, I guess), bison, elk, longhorn sheep, and so much more. I had never been west before and it quickly became a priority for vacation in the next few years with the kids.

What a welcome trip. We have had such a challenging and confusing year and feel like it will never let up (we welcome your prayers). We were so thankful for the time away in a beautiful area of the country!

This ended up being a full rainbow with a partial double - gorgeous!

The view from where we were staying! 

The Lodge - a boutique inn known for their fly fishing.

Yellowstone River

I loved the texture of these. 

Hot springs - so remarkable and smelled like sulphur (ick!).

Bison crossed the road in front of me.

Beautiful waterfall - close to where the wolf was spotted. It was too far away for me to successfully photograph, but it was awesome to see!

A herd of bison roaming free in the park.

Another waterfall - about a 1/2 mile hike off the road - totally worth it.

On the drive back to the Lodge.


Thursday, March 26, 2015

On Being an Introvert

My sweet man gets me. 
There is no surer way to have your introvertedness confirmed than to be completely intimidated by a new Facebook group...it's online for crying out loud. I have the privilege of previewing and reviewing Jen Hatmaker's newest book (coming out in August) and with that came a fb group of other reviewers - there are 500 of us. I have to laugh that even online, I want to hide in the corner. :) Not because I'm uninterested, not because I dislike the lively conversations, not because I feel left out...because it's just too much socialness. (Of note, I have now used two 'ness words that have failed to meet with spellcheck's approval. :)) But seriously, I am so THRILLED to be a apart of the Launch Team!

My tendency towards being introverted has only solidified and deepened over the years. Even with people I've known forever, I sometimes find it hard not withdraw. We had a fabulous women's retreat with my church a few weekends ago and I enjoyed it, but I was so tired afterwards because, well, it's just a lot of social. When I walk into a room, I tend to go towards someone who I know well and who feels safe to me. It's not a reflection on anyone else in the room, it's simply my coping mechanism.

I'm private, I'm easily intimidated, and I don't have a high need for social interactions. I'm working on this because I know I come off as standoffish sometimes. I'm better one on one, but even that can be challenging for me. I also despise conflict and aggressive disagreement - they make me extremely uncomfortable and I will frequently escape or shut down in those situations.

The thing is...I love people. I care deeply. I am committed.

So, if you see me quiet or alone or talking to my family, it's probably because I'm feeling insecure. Be assured, I love you, I care for you, and I will happily talk to you...you just might need to initiate sometimes...or maybe a lot. I'm a work in progress - aren't we all? My life experience has only intensified my tendency towards privacy and silence.

The truth? My extroverted children exhaust me. By the end of the day, I need to be alone for a little while. My ears are tired and the constant interaction is exhausting. But I love them with all of my heart and I wil get up and do it all over again. My husband is also an introvert, but less so than me. He is so good at being sensitive to my need for alone time and I'm thankful!

I'm okay with being an introvert - I think it takes both introverts and extroverts for the world to go 'round. :)

Monday, March 23, 2015

New Sport

In the fall, the older boys decided to pursue Taekwondo. (We typically allow the kids to choose one sport and they have previously played soccer and flag football.) We were happy to find a great program that uses our local Y for their lessons. C & P have been participating twice a week since September. We really love that it focuses on self-discipline and self-control. Their instructor is a great remodel and someone the boys respect and appreciate.

In December, they tested for their yellow belt:

Yellow Belt Test
 They were super nervous at their first test, but they survived and we were so proud of them!

And this month they tested for their yellow and green stripe belt:

Green Stripe Belt Test
They were confident, knew what to expect, and demonstrated excellent skills as they proceeded through their forms, kicks, punches, and sparring. We were so impressed and bursting with pride! They were AWESOME!

Friday, March 20, 2015

On Moving & Laundry

I just have to note that we have had a really good end of the week. Mid-week, I thought I might end up in the loony bin (kind of for real). And then I went to bed and slept for over 10 hours - TEN HOURS. I guess I needed it. I woke up and my husband brought me breakfast - I think he was worried. Love him.

Anyway, feeling thankful as we head into the weekend. We are planning MANY home projects. We are putting our house on the market soon - it's been the plan for about 6 months, but we haven't been in a hurry. It's bittersweet - we've outgrown the layout of our home, but we still love a lot about it. We built it as fairly newlyweds and have lived in it for over 10 years. Lots of memories and every one of our children has come home here.

Seriously, as I write, I'm sitting in the midst of mountains of clothes to be sorted and folded. (Can you say procrastination?! ;)) Do I know how to spend a Friday night or what? Honestly, I can only tolerate folding when I can watch something or listen to something to distract me from the monotony.

Have you ever been tempted to just drop the kids clothes in a bin and be done with it? My kids have destroyed a couple of dressers (granted they were not high quality) and they could care less if their clothes are folded. But still I fold. It's a thing. I have to do it. I've taught them to do it, but my OCD kicks in and I have a hard time not refolding everything.

Off to deal with the mountains - strangely, they are not folding themselves. Well, I probably wouldn't approve anyway. Happy Weekend and Welcome Spring!

Our almost 10 year old, Pippi. Sweet but ornery, yappy, and opinionated. 



Thursday, March 19, 2015

Grief

We are navigating grief in our home. Deep grief. It is heart-wrenching. It is a grief that must be lived with - a grief that I cannot change or take away. We are sad. Early loss and trauma often takes time to surface and when it does, it comes in a variety of forms. It is currently effecting our daily lives - frequently in the form of anger. (I should add that we do have a fabulous therapist and we see her regularly! She helps tremendously as we work through things and as we continue to focus on our relationships within our family.)

I am an adoption advocate. I believe that children should have families and if their birth family is unable to parent them, then they need another. I do also believe that whenever possible, they should remain with their birth family.

Adoption was not God's original plan - it is a result of the fall - just as illness, infertility, death and so many other things are also. Yes, there is beauty in adoption that comes out of brokenness, but that beauty does not take away the sad, the hurt, the trauma, and the pain. Those are still present.

My children did not choose to be abandoned and they did not choose to come into our family - those choices were made for them (just as we do not choose the families we belong to either).

As we wrestle with these issues and walk through painful pasts, I constantly pray for wisdom and for healing for their hearts. I will readily admit that sometimes it's hard not to take it personally - we love our children with our whole selves. We could not love them more had they been born to us. With the questions and the tears and the anger and the deep hurt at being abandoned, I am challenged to walk that path with them with sincere compassion, unconditional love, an extra measure of grace, and an open heart. The hard days don't change my love or commitment, but they do make me sad and weary.

I choose YOU!
I love my kids. I would choose adoption again and again and again. I would choose them every time. Every. Single. Time. They are amazing. They are overcomers. They are beautiful and talented individuals and I am incredibly thankful to be their mom.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Choosing Joy

I frequently find myself encouraging my children to "Choose Joy." A message as much for them as for me. :) I think joy can come naturally and there are events and things that make joy easy, but I also feel that joy (and contentment) is a choice. 

As I validate emotions in our home (it's okay to feel ___________, but how you handle it is the issue), it makes me introspective. What do I model? How do my children see me deal with a range of emotions? 

Joy is a beautiful thing. Joy in the midst of suffering is challenging. Joy is often a choice. Even in the midst of being real and honest, I desire to live a life defined by quiet joy. It's easy to focus on things that are worrying or scary or uncertain, but worrying doesn't really do us any good and it takes a toll on your health. So much easier said than done. So much easier. 

Anyway...I'm currently finding joy in: 
- a deepened relationship with God. 
- decluttering and simplifying life - what a process! 
- hearing my kindergartner learn to read.
- reading an advanced copy of "For the Love" by Jen Hatmaker.
- anticipating a trip to Montana with my husband...by ourselves. 
- enjoying the start of spring.
- spending time with my children playing games, reading, and watching movies.
- blogging a little bit more - both here and at The Cooks Next Door.
- knowing that we are in the last 2 1/2 months of the school year. 
- looking forward to the birth of another niece or nephew in the summer.
- cooking - it has been awhile since I have enjoyed it, but I'm back to trying a few new recipes!
- working with a wonderful team. 

There are many other things I can list, but these are a few. 

Speaking of joy - look at these delighted faces! We have a new cousin (niece) who was born in November. We could not be more thrilled - isn't she a doll?! These big cousins were so excited that she came to visit (she lives far away) at New Years. Emmi is especially happy to not be the only girl anymore. 


Friday, March 13, 2015

Priorities

It's not a coincidence that the two books I've been reading lately have to do with priorities, busyness, and people... I didn't set out for it to be that way, but God fully ordained that these would be my books of late because both of them were "assigned." I use that term very loosely. :)

Making Memories at the Children's Museum at Christmas time!
What a blessing to me to take a step back and evaluate. I've felt the gentle nudge for awhile that I need to say 'yes' to my kids more and make more time to just be with them. Laundry and dishes and housework ARE important (and a clean-ish house makes me a happy lady), but they will always be there. They are endless and repeating. My children are growing up - the oldest two turn TEN (10!!!) this year. I'm feeling it. They will not always be here.

I've pondered what I want their childhood memories to be - me stressed and snappy and always too busy or us making time for one another and saying YES to the book or the walk or the movie or the cuddles. My goal is to not only say 'yes' but to create and welcome individual and family time with my sweet blessings. And while I cannot ignore the needs of our home, I can prioritize more efficiently and delegate more effectively.

Parenting has been HARD the past year or so (really a few years) - beyond the average kid drama because it is clearly compounded by early trauma and painful loss which results in actual brain change. Some days it's a challenge to want to nurture certain kiddos because I am just so over the hard and so angry and frustrated with the actions and words (and so hurt). It is in those moments that I know I need to be the most present. I'm working on this - we ALL are. Besides loving Jesus, the main thing I want to teach my children is to love people well. That starts in the home.

I need to stop making excuses of busyness/housework and show up consistently. My husband and children need it. I must refuse to accept that life is too busy and ignore the truly important things (Jesus and people). Yes, we have busy days and weeks and months and seasons, but that cannot replace our commitment to growing in grace, spending time with our children, and taking care of ourselves.

So, we are here loving one another, forgiving one another, and making time for one another. I'm feeling challenged and encouraged and renewed.

(Oh and I commend to your reading Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung. It's a quick read and well worth the time.)

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Seasons

This season of life just feels impossibly hard. Many days I feel stressed to the breaking point. Between parenting challenges, job stress, medical appointments, and life decisions, I feel like I'm drowning. I'm weary. I feel like we've been in a few years of just hard. We've questioned our decisions, wondered about our calling, and realized afresh how much we must rely on our Savior.

To clarify, one thing we have never questioned is the place of each person in our family - we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has placed each of us together to do life.  I am thankful to be doing life with my people.

As we have entered the latest season of unrest and uncertainty, I will admit that I have floundered. But through it, I see the faithfulness of God - He has ministered to my soul through prayer, through Scripture, and through people. When I am tempted to FEAR, I am reminded to fear not. When I am tempted to DOUBT, I remember that God is on the throne.  When I am tempted to DESPAIR, I am challenged by the promise of provision. He is faithful. It may not be my plan or my timeline, but He is faithful. We are not promised a life free of hardship, but we are promised a God who carries us through. He has a plan. He is trustworthy. All things through Christ.

So my prayer on this winter night, is that you know God. I truly could not endure or run this race of life without Him. Whatever the struggle, whatever the joy, whatever the sorrow - may you know Him. I believe this challenge and these months and years of hard will pass and I believe that God is using them to refine us and to grow us. It does not make our current trials easy, but it does give me HOPE (one of my favorite words).

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, 
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, 
and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 
Psalm 18:2

Aren't they the cutest?!

They were relieved to get enough snow a couple of times so far to actually enjoy being outdoors! They clamored for snow ice cream this week and I obliged. It must also be noted that when I explained to them that our family is done growing (at least as far as we can see - we are at peace :)) and we needed to sort and donate the baby toys (I'm in the middle of a big purge), they begged for 2 more children. They make me laugh! I assured them that cousins will be like siblings and they can enjoy those babies. :)