You Are Enough

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I am a multicultural mommy. One of my kids is part Hispanic. One is part Asian. And one is part African American. They are beautiful, but they are different from me. Their skin care and hair care is much different from this white, straight-haired mama (and I’m honestly not that great at doing my own)! This week alone, I spent over six hours oiling and braiding my three-year-old’s hair, and it ended up in one big mess! She cried; I cried. It was a disaster (don’t worry – a professional is coming this week!)

Harmony braids

I try to take care of their cultural needs. I read and research and talk to other moms. But I always seem to fall short, and I often have mothers of all backgrounds and cultures come up to tell me how I fail. It’s very easy to wonder why God chose me to be their mom! The poor dears!

But it’s in those moments of frustration and failure that I have to speak truth to myself – God gave me these children because these are the children He wanted me to raise. I may fall short when it comes to braiding their hair or finding the right soap for their sensitive skin, but I’ll figure it out eventually.

He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD! – Psalm 113:9

You see, God made me a promise. He said that He gives a barren woman a home and makes her the joyous mother of children. And He did! I am so blessed to have my mommy heart full with these children who have different skin and hair than I do! I am exactly what these children need because God has placed them in my care. He knows them better than I do!

I know that all of us moms go through times of doubting if we are enough for our children. The mom who is dealing with a mentally or physically impaired child wonders if she is doing enough to meet that child’s needs. The mom with three children just a year a part in age is wondering if she should have planned to have her children farther apart. The mother homeschooling her children is wondering if she is doing enough for their education. The working mom is wondering if she is giving her kids enough time and attention.

We moms put so much pressure on ourselves to be enough for our children – as if we are supposed to fulfill their every need and want. But that is not the role that God has assigned to us!

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus – Phil. 4:19.

It’s God Who provides their needs. He gives us moms the ability to meet those needs in certain ways, but ultimately, every good thing comes from Him. The Bible talks about the jobs of a mother – to look after the welfare of her household (Prov. 31), to use the resources she has to provide for her family (Prov. 31), to teach her children (Prov. 6:20), to train her children in the way they should go (Prov. 22:6). But I can’t find anywhere in the Bible that says I am failing in my job as a mom because I can’t braid my three-year-old’s hair!

If you believe that God is the One who created our universe, Who declares the times and seasons, Who sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins, then why do you question if He made the right decision in placing you as the mother of your children?

But before I start getting ugly messages about abusive moms or women who choose to abort their children, I want to remind you that God has given us an opportunity to be mothers, but we have to make that choice for ourselves. He has given us just what we need to mother our children well, but we have to be willing to reach out to Him for those resources.

 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
         And do not lean on your own understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge Him,
         And He will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
         Fear the LORD and turn away from evil – Prov. 3:5-7

When we try to rely on our own wisdom, we are going to fail. We are sinners, and we are capable of evil. But when we trust in Him and follow His ways, He promises to show us the way to mother our children well!

So today, Mama, speak truth to yourself. You have been chosen by God to mother these kids. And you are enough.

 

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Children’s Authors

“You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.” – Madeleine L’Engle

If you follow me on Facebook, then you already know my big news – my first children’s book is being published! The release date is set for fall of this year, so keep following me for updates.

In honor of finally seeing my childhood dream of becoming a children’s author come true, I thought I would share a list of my top favorite children’s authors to inspire your library and get you reading with your children. I fully believe that one of the most important ways we can bond with our children is through reading. My own children love to snuggle up with me on the couch and journey into worlds that they would otherwise never encounter. They were enthralled with my husband’s reading of A Christmas Carol over the holidays, and my reluctant reader just completed her first chapter book about Amish children all by herself! My son is really into listening to me read The Hardy Boys to him, and my three-year-old loves anything with princesses or Elmo!

I think reading together is even more essential in this age of technology, when we are losing our children more quickly to video games and television shows. We need to grow their imaginations to help them grow and change our world in spectacular ways!

“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall.” – Roald Dahl

Here are my favorites, but this is in no way an exhaustive list! Please feel free to share your favorite authors with me – children’s authors or others. I love to expand my library!

1. Roald Dahl 

I don’t have a complete collection of Mr. Dahl’s works, but my library is pretty full of this author’s gems, including Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryMatilda, The BFG, and The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six Other Stories. I even have this author’s autobiography, More About Boy. This man inspires me to think outside the box, to see things in a different way, and to never stop writing. His stories are so eccentric, that I imagine he was quite a strange person himself. Even if you’ve never opened one of his books (which I find hard to believe!), I am sure you have seen one of the movies based on his books – Willy Wonka and the Chocolate FactoryJames and the Giant PeachMatilda, and, most recently, The BFG. Trust me – no library is complete without this author!

2. Beverly Cleary  

I know that people either love or hate this particular author. For me, I could completely relate to her star character, Ramona Quimby, who was the middle sister who often managed to get into trouble when trying to just be noticed by her family. If you’re a middle child, you know what I mean! I saw so much of myself in Ramona that it was hard to not fall in love with the author who created her. If you don’t like the Ramona series, then you may like some of her equally delightful books – Henry Huggins, Dear Mr. Henshaw, Socks, Sister of the Bride (another one of my favorites), or The Mouse and the Motorcycle.

3. Lois Gladys Leppard 

When my third grade teacher began to read the Mandie series to us after lunch, I used to dream about being friends with the feisty girl, who had been raised by Native Americans and then sent to live in a finishing school for high-society girls. In fact, my best friend and I would often pretend to be Mandie and her best friend, Celia, who often find themselves in the middle of a mystery. I collected the books one by one growing  up, and I even met Mrs. Leppard once! This author is still writing, and her Mandie stories are finally being presented as movies. If you want a book for your 8-12-year-old daughter that is clean, historical, and adventurous, then I highly recommend this series to you!

4. Arleta Richardson 

Ms. Richardson was an author in the mid-20th century. She was a librarian and teacher, most well-known for her Grandma’s Attic series, although she wrote many other series as well. She was a gifted storyteller, sharing the stories of her grandmother’s childhood in such a way that the reader wants to live in the days of hoop skirts and horse-drawn buggies! I love how Ms. Richardson keeps the memories of her grandmother alive in these well-written tales! History comes to life for children as they see the fun that children had back before television was even a thought.

5. Laura Ingalls Wilder Image result

What children’s book collection would be complete without the Little House on the Prairie collection? I loved to read of the adventures that little girls experienced on the wide, untamed prairies of the Midwest! This series is an excellent collection for boys and girls alike as Pa Ingalls tells tales of hunting down bears and traipsing through the woods; the children meet and befriend Native Americans; and a farmer boy struggles to become a man. My son’s favorite book in the series was Farmer Boy, and we actually spent a summer doing a unit study on this book. We learned all about how they planted crops in untested land, how they cared for their animals, and how they prepared their food without a lot of our modern conveniences. This series has been delighting children since the 1930s and continues to inspire future writers.

6. Carol Ryrie Brink 

Ms. Brink was an award-winning author, who lived in the early 1900s. Her book Caddie Woodlawn won the 1935 Newberry Award and was one of the most inspirational books of my childhood. I loved to read about the spirited Caddie, who was based on Brink’s own grandmother, who told her stories of growing up in the woods of Wisconsin. This book was very similar to the Little House on the Prairie books and even inspired me, as a young child, to write a story about growing up in the woods. As a shy child, I could live out adventures in these types of books!

7. Madeleine L’Engle A Wrinkle in Time Poster

One book series that I have read over and over again is Ms. L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time. I am not normally a science fiction fan, but this series was so beautifully written that I couldn’t pull myself away. When Meg and Charles Wallace’s father goes missing, they are left with more questions than answers. Unwilling to accept the fact that their father would just abandon them, the siblings, along with their new friend, Calvin, go on an adventure of a lifetime, finding themselves in a completely different dimension of space. I think it’s Ms. L’Engle’s way of describing the people and places in her book that makes me come back to the series over and over again. Her descriptive writing makes each detail in the book seem plausible, even if the reader knows those places do not exist. I understand that Reese Witherspoon is starring in a big scene adaptation of this series to be released next year, but I always recommend the books first!

8. A.A. Milne 

Even as a child, I imagined that some day I would have a child, and I would create a Winnie the Pooh nursery just for them. And indeed, I did! Unfortunately, that child is not as enamored with Winnie the Pooh as I have always been, and her beautiful green nursery has since been turned to purple. But I always loved Milne’s collections that were specifically written for his son, Christopher Robin, and his own collection of stuffed animals. Some of the sweetest quotes come from Milne’s creative characters!

9. Louisa May Alcott Little Women: The Complete Series (Illustrated) by [Alcott, Louisa May]

Although her books are more suited for middle school or high school, I absolutely loved to read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. I loved the relationship that the four sisters had with one another, and I adored the stories that Jo would create. I could easily imagine myself as one of Ms. Alcott’s characters. I have since seen several different movie versions of her book, and my beautiful friend, Joanie, recently starred in a local production of the Broadway musical version of the literary classic. This is one of those stories that can’t seem to be told wrong. Ms. Alcott has several literary classics, including Little Men, but I remain a traditionalist and love her most well-known work the best! I became so fascinated with her that I even bought a biography about her.

10. L.M. Montgomery 

What girl growing up in the ’80s didn’t love Anne of Green Gables? I think every girl I knew was reading the series after seeing the movie, starring Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie. But as I immersed myself into the books, I fell in love with Ms. Montgomery’s style of writing and soon found myself reading any of her books I could get my hands on. Although Anne of Green Gables remains my favorite, I also love Emily of New Moon as well. In fact, I have the complete collection of both of these series, and I also have the complete DVD series!

Like I said, this is not an exhaustive list! I am constantly, even now, being introduced to children’s authors that I have never read but now adore. These are simply my top 10. I hope that I have helped you remember some of your favorite authors, and I hope you will consider adding my book to your must-have list as well!

“There is such a place as fairyland – but only children can find the way to it…Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair, lost path again…only they can bring us tidings from that dear country where we once sojourned and from which we must evermore be exiles. The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and story-tellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland.” – L.M. Montgomery, The Story Girl

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Two Are Better Than One

For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! – Eccl. 4:10

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Two are better than one!

It’s been a rough start to the week. I already had more on my plate than was necessary, and I was running a little late with the kids yesterday morning. All I did was walk out the front door, and immediately I found myself down on my knees in excruciating pain. I don’t think I tripped over anything. I think my ankle just gave out. The pain was so bad that I started hyperventilating from crying so hard.

Needless to say, the children were scared. But they were also terrific. My son went into protective mode. He helped me up and held onto me as I hobbled into the house. My oldest daughter went into nurse mode (she’s been training with Grammy). She immediately started to remove my shoe (gently) and then ran to get an ice pack. She helped me to prop up my foot and then proceeded to call my mom. The three-year-old? Well, let’s just say that she was concerned she wouldn’t get lunch – forget that it wasn’t lunchtime, but that’s where her mind went!

My support system didn’t end there, though. I was not left to nurse an injured ankle by myself with three kids running around me. My daughter wanted to call my husband at work, but it’s sod season, and he’s the “Sod Father.” So I told her to call my mom. My mom immediately stopped what she was doing, grabbed her purse and keys, and ran out the front door. On her day off. To come and get me and my kids for the entire day. She iced my ankle, made me lunch, fed my kids, put them down for naps, and basically turned her entire day upside down just to take care of me! She even fed my family, including my husband, supper before sending us on our way.

Meanwhile, my dad, who is probably the busiest person I know, also rearranged his schedule to make sure that he could drive me home and get my mom’s car. He even made plans in his fully-packed Tuesday to make sure I wouldn’t have to cancel a very important meeting. My mom took another day off to watch my kids – again – in order for me to make that meeting.

Meanwhile, at home, my husband has taken complete control over the children, taking care of their baths, getting them dressed for bed, and making sure I was completely comfortable on the couch. He has been working extra hard at work, and then he comes home to make sure the kids and I are doing well.

These are just a small sample of the people I can count on, the people who will be there when I call, the people who will drop everything to pick me up when I’ve fallen – literally! They are the people given to me by God to help me get back on my feet. They are God’s reminder to me that He will never leave me alone.

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. – Ps. 34:17

We moms struggle to ask for help. We don’t want anyone to think that we can’t manage on our own. But the truth is that there is no shame in reaching out when you have fallen. There is no guilt in needing a little help. If Jesus commanded us to help one another, then I believe He was telling us to not try to do life on our own.

Solomon, the wisest king to ever live, saw how desperate life can be when we try to do things on our own. “One person who has no other, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, ‘For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?’ This also is vanity and an unhappy business” (Eccl. 4:8). He knew that life was empty without someone to walk through the trials, toils, victories, and celebrations with us.

Hey, sleep-deprived Mom with a newborn nursing around the clock, God sees you. You’re not alone.

Hey, Mom knee-deep in messy diapers, God sees you struggling through your tears as you haven’t had a shower in a few days. You’re not alone.

Hey, Mom dealing with a tantrum-throwing toddler, God sees you trying to control your own temper and walking your child through their storm. You’re not alone either.

Hey, Mama with the insecure preteen, God sees you trying to build up your child and encouraging them to walk tall among their peers. You’re not alone.

Hey, Mama struggling with a teenager in the dating years of life, God sees you trying to protect their hearts while giving them wings to fly. You’re not alone.

Hey, Mom with an empty nest, God sees your heart breaking as your children grow and begin to start families of their own. You’re not alone either.

In a world full of mommy wars, I think it’s time to form a peace treaty. The truth is that we can’t do life alone. If we could, then God would not have said from the very beginning, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18).

We all come from different walks of life. We have different parenting styles. We have different beliefs. But we can still come together and lend each other a helping hand. We don’t have to make life as hard as we do!

I know that not everyone has the kind of family that I do, but is there anyone in your community that could help you? Can you meet some other moms at the park? Are you participating in church activities and connecting in small group? Are you seeking ways to help others?

I encourage you to reach out to someone today. Parenting is hard, but you don’t have to do it alone!

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. – Eccl. 4:9

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The Beauty of Her Gotcha Day

It was three years ago. The day dawned warm and a little bit cloudy, but the morning held much excitement in our household. We dressed the children and ourselves in our “Sunday best” and headed to the courthouse. The day had finally arrived for us to legally and officially make our youngest daughter our very own. We met my best friend and our families at the courthouse and proceeded into the building with our attorney, eagerly and nervously awaiting our moment before the judge. With just a few simple questions and time for pictures, we were soon stepping back out into the March sunshine as a legal family of five. It was our youngest daughter’s Gotcha Day.

family picAll five of us with Ephraim looking at Mama

Three years later, as we celebrate the anniversary of her joining our family, it is amazing to recall the events that led up to that day.

We were perfectly set as a family of four – one boy and one girl. Anyone looking in on our family from the outside would have thought we were done. What more could we want? We were living the American dream. But my husband and I have always longed to have several children, not just two, and we had determined from the very beginning that we would not hesitate to say yes if our children’s birth mother had more children. We felt it would be in the best interest of our children to keep them together with their siblings if God allowed us.

I can recall the moment I received the phone call as though it were yesterday. I had just left the ladies’ book study that was held weekly at our church. I was driving home when I saw our attorney’s assistant’s phone number on my caller ID. As she is the coordinator for families and birth mothers, my heart began racing as I answered her call. Sure enough, our children were going to have a new sibling. The question was, did we want to pursue this adoption? Of course, we answered yes, although we proceeded with much more caution than the first two adoptions.

We had no money. When I say no money, I mean we were able to barely pay our bills each week and maybe have a little leftover to go out to McDonald’s occasionally. But that was with generous help from our parents, who often let us “shop” their cupboards when it was a beans and rice type of week. We weren’t poor, but we weren’t very far over the line. Did God really want us to have another baby? And how would we ever afford the adoption costs?

Private adoptions can run anywhere from $10,000 to $60,000. But because this was the route the birthmother had chosen, this was the route we would have to take if we wanted to keep the siblings together. I told my husband that the only way that I would be confident that this adoption was from God is if we could do it without going into any debt – at all. No loans were to be taken out that we would only struggle to pay back anyway. We were working to be debt-free, and we were still paying off the loans from our second adoption. My husband was skeptical that we would be able to do it loan-free, but I insisted that we had to trust God to provide. And I began to look into every grant I could.

Unfortunately, there are very few grants available for a private infant adoption. Most grants are for agencies, foreign adoptions, sibling adoptions, or special needs adoptions. None of those grants applied to our situation. But I persisted in applying for every single one of them anyway. My full-time job became filling out mountains of paperwork.

Along the way, I discovered a random website (through Pinterest, no less!) that offers an adoption grant once a year in November. The entry process is pretty quick and simple, and the final step is to write an essay answering the question of that year. Our question was, “If your adopted child came to you one day and asked you why you chose them, what would you say?”

I was so touched and inspired by that question that I decided to write a love letter to my children in response. I was so surprised when I received the phone call to tell me that I had won the grant!* It was the last little bit we needed for the adoption. Our fundraisers had done well, and many people were happy to donate to our adoption, although many were concerned about us adopting a third child.

We were asked the same questions over and over again. “Why would you adopt a third time? Are you just going to keep letting her get pregnant and give you the children? Why don’t you adopt for free from foster care? Where will the baby sleep? Are you sure you can handle this?” We were even told by a few people that we were being selfish.

To say that this adoption was a roller coaster ride of emotions would be an understatement! One day we were on a high from someone’s generous donation that just met the amount we needed to continue with the process. But then the very next day, someone would say something so discouraging that we would doubt our decisions and forget how God continued to open doors.

My emotions were all over the place as I was often the one fielding the questions. By the time we were called to the hospital for our baby’s delivery, our nerves were frayed. In addition, it was the holiday season, and my dad had just been given the news that his heart was not doing well, and he was preparing for heart surgery the very next week. At that point, I was so stressed out that I could only process one emotional event at a time, and I am sure that it seemed as though I didn’t care about my dad’s news. In fact, it took me a couple of days to really process what his surgery meant and to be able to prepare mentally for the stress that it would bring.

We dropped off our kids with my family and hurried to the hospital, where we would wait for another 24 hours. It was the longest and loneliest time of my life. I started to have panic attacks that were so bad that my husband almost checked me into the emergency room. I could barely breathe, and I kept making myself sick. The stress of the last few months had caught up with me, and I was having a hard time waiting in the cold, hard chairs in the family waiting area. I also missed my kids, who were hardly ever away from me. It was a tough night. In fact, my husband sent me home for a couple of hours to get some sleep, promising to call me if there was any sign of progress.

As I drove back to the hospital a few hours later, it started to snow, and I felt a slight uptick in my spirit as I anticipated our daughter’s arrival. When I arrived at the hospital, her birthmother had decided that she wanted me by her side after all. So in I went to wait out the last hour of birth with her.

I was the first face my daughter saw when she entered the world, and I had the privilege of cutting her umbilical cord. Her birth mother, who is so precious to me, held her for a moment before handing her to me, and then she was mine.

I wish that I could say that it was all sunshine and roses from there. But due to some health concerns, our daughter was not released from the hospital for five days. In the meantime, we still had people bombarding us with their concerns when all we wanted to hear was, “Congratulations!” It was a dark time, and it was hard to not want to shield our baby from the critics.

To say that I shook off my melancholy after we finally brought her home would be a lie. One of the least known, but very common, conditions for many adoptive parents is post adoption depression.

While most post delivery “Baby Blues” are of very short duration (less than two weeks), 77% of survey participants with PAD reported that they suffered their symptoms from two months to over one year with 45% suffering for six months or more. 85% of sufferers reported that their depression affected their health in some way (serious weight gain/loss was followed by sleep disturbances and headaches), 70% felt that PADS had interfered with smooth transitions and bonding with their new children. Clearly, Pots [sic] Adoption Depression is a significant, multi-faceted issue supported by the entire adoption community! – The Attachment Coalition

I am sure that the trauma of my dad’s heart surgery played a part as well, and we nearly lost him at one point. If I wasn’t at home trying to bond with my newest addition, I was at the hospital, sitting with my parents as we waited for dad to recover enough to come home. I was exhausted as a mom of a newborn, and I was sick for over three months.

But spring had come. And, as is common in spring, things were coming back to life. My dad’s health was much better. I had finally shaken off my illness. And we were ready to stand before the judge and become a forever family.

Every year, on my daughter’s Gotcha Day, I am reminded again how God brought us through that difficult season and showed us that “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Eccl. 3:11). First, He had to bring me low so that all I could do was lean on Him. Only then could I see His hand in this adoption and in the life of our precious baby. Now I can’t imagine our life without our spunky, little, curly top girl!

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*The adoption grant that I won inspired me to write a bedtime story for kids. My beautiful friend Sarah encouraged me to pursue it and agreed to illustrate it for me. I am hoping to see it published very soon.

 

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Speak No Evil

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer” – Ps. 19:14.

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See(?) no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil

The words slipped out of my mouth before I thought to stop them. “What were you thinking? Are you crazy? What’s wrong with you?”

His little face crumbled before me, and he ran into his room to cry. Of course, I felt like the absolute worst mommy in the world. What kind of mother makes her six-year-old cry? But it had been an exasperating day with a lot of disobedience, and I had reached my limit. The resentment and anger had been building in my heart until it came spewing from my mouth, burning anyone in its path.

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” – Prov. 15:1.

I know that I am not alone in the struggle of soft words with our children. We are sinners raising the next generation of sinners. When their sin collides with our sin, we can only brace ourselves for the damaging impact. It’s not the kind of mom I want to be, but, unfortunately, it often is the mom that I am.

We are now in the time of Lent, the 40 days before Easter when many Christians give up something in observance of the 40 days that Jesus went through His wilderness experience (Matt. 4:1-11). Many will put off food, drink, or bad habits in order to prepare themselves for the observance of Easter, when Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice in His death and resurrection.

I don’t usually practice Lent, but this year I was challenged to participate on Facebook through a group that wanted to build up a community of like-minded women who were willing to put off their unkind words. As this is a daily struggle for me, I decided to participate. I don’t believe in putting something off without putting something on in its place, and their biblical focus seemed to be just what I need!

Let me tell you, this is an exhausting challenge! It is so hard to give a soft answer after telling my kids (for the 100th time!) to please put their shoes on, so we can leave for their extracurricular activities! It is so difficult to not want to scream when they have poured syrup all over the kitchen floor. It is almost impossible to keep calm when there is pee all over the bathroom floor! (Seriously, how does this even happen with potty-trained children?!)

But let’s consider the psalm I put at the top of this post. In the verses preceding this verse, the psalmist has been proclaiming how wonderful God’s law is and how it benefits us:

The law of the Lord is perfect,[c]
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules[d] of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether – (Ps. 19:7-9).

 Can we put off the sin of our harsh words on our own? No, of course not! We may be able to put on a facade for awhile; but eventually the anger and frustration will bubble forth again, and we will lose our cool. We can’t simply get rid of anger in our hearts; we have to fill up our hearts with God’s love, which comes from meditating on His Word.

God’s Word is so powerful that it can revive us, make us wise, cause us to rejoice, and enlighten us! The words of our mouth are a reflection of what’s in our hearts. If I haven’t memorized scripture to meditate on, then there is nothing to fill in the sinful emptiness of my heart, and anger can easily slip back in. But when I allow the Holy Spirit to fill my heart with the precepts of the Lord, I have the resources I need to give my children a soft answer. I can “let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable” because God is my Rock and my Redeemer. I don’t have to do it on my own.

As I struggle through Lent, I am more conscious than ever that I can’t do this mommy “thing” all on my own. What about you? What are you struggling to give up for Lent this  year? Even if you don’t participate in Lent, I want to encourage you to spend time in God’s Word, memorizing it and meditating on it. You will be much more prepared to face the day!

Now I guess I’d better go clean up the mess in the bathroom…

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In the Shadow of Denali: Book Review

It’s a rainy Monday at my house, so what better weather for reviewing another book, right? I’m sitting here with my cup of coffee while the kids enjoy quiet time in their rooms. Such a nice time of day!

Recently, it seems I have been given the opportunity to learn more about Alaska’s rich history, and now I long to take a trip there! I edited one book on the Alaskan waters, and I have the privilege of reviewing Tracie Peterson and Kimberly Woodhouse’s book, In the Shadow of Denali.

If you haven’t read any of Tracie Peterson’s books before, then I suggest you head to your local bookstore or library and see what’s available. I have been reading her work for years, and she is very good with the details!

In this first book in The Heart of Alaska series, the history of Denali and its name change is clearly presented, including a detailed visit from President McKinley and his wife. At this time, the name of the mountain is still greatly contested by many who wish to return to its original name of Denali.

Shadow of Denali

Set in the early 1900s, In the Shadow of Denali introduces three men set on conquering Denali. Frank Irving and Henry Brennan are partners in an outdoorsman-type business, and they believe that they can offer more to their customers if they have scaled the treacherous mountain themselves. They hire John Ivanoff, a local guide, who has scaled the mountain already and knows the best way to reach the top. But one of these men has murder on his mind, and a stormy, unpredictable mountain top is the perfect place to get away with murder.

Or at least that’s what Frank Irving thought.

Allan Brennan is determined to get to the bottom of what happened to his father – even if it’s been six years since he went missing. With bitterness and anger in his heart, he decides it’s time to leave the family business in Frank’s capable hands and intern with John Ivanoff, the man he believes is responsible for his father’s disappearance.

But when Allan gets into town, he is amazed to find a godly man who has been humbled by the loss of a man on the mountain. What’s more, Allan can’t help but be drawn to Ivanoff’s daughter, Cassidy, whose smile reaches to the deep recesses of his heart. But how can he fall in love with the daughter of his enemy?

Cassidy Ivanoff has lived a sheltered life with her father until they moved to Curry to work at the Curry Hotel, a key resting stop for the Alaskan railroad. Working as the cook’s assistant, Cassidy wonders how she will ever be able to start a family with no prospects in such a small town. But trusting God to steer her path, Cassidy finds joy in the job she has and the people she works with. When Allan Brennan comes to work for her father, Cassidy begins to wonder if she could really have feelings for such an angry man or if she is simply looking for the first eligible bachelor to come into town.

Can Allan resolve his anger and move on with his life? Will Cassidy find the answers to her dreams? And where is God when tragedy strikes?

While I wouldn’t consider this a deep read, I could recommend this book for someone looking for something to read on vacation. The storyline is rather predictable but does continually point the reader back to the Gospel. However, I truly enjoyed learning some interesting facts about the Alaskan railroad, Denali, and President McKinley.

If you’re looking for something to read over spring break, then this may be a book that would interest you!

*This book was provided to me by Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

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Marital Bliss

When she got engaged, I know she was so happy and excited to hear from those of us who had been married for more than a decade or more. In earnest, she put forth her good news on social media, waiting for the good advice and congratulations that would follow. Instead, she heard all of the jokes, “welcoming” her to the end of happiness, congratulating her on a life of being the “old ball and chain,” and urging her to enjoy being single while she still could. Unfortunately, there were many other engaged ladies who commented that they had received the same “advice.” Rather than encouraging them in their happiness, these ladies were feeling a little dejected by the very people who should have been embracing them! I know that most people don’t mean any harm by these “jokes,” but our words can do a lot of damage when we aren’t careful with them!

Jamie and Katie 1

Just the two of us

Recently, my cousin Laura, posted an article that really convicted me and has given me a lot to mull over. We all want a Titus 2 woman in our life–someone who has already experienced our season of life and who will come alongside us to help us on the journey. But very few of us seek opportunities to be the Titus 2 woman. We want to do the receiving instead of the giving.

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” – Titus 2:3-5.

I know that we women do not want to be considered the “older woman” in any situation. But the truth is that there will always be someone who is younger than us. There will always be someone who can use our “experience” to help them in their own journey!

Marriage is hard work; it’s true. I’m not one who tries to shade the truth. In our 14 years of marriage, my husband and I have faced some really tough situations, and there have been times that I have thought it would be easier to just walk out. But by God’s grace, our marriage is stronger than ever – because of our trials.

If older women are supposed to “train the young women to love their husbands,” then we need to encourage them to do so. We need to embrace them in their engagement and recall the excitement we felt ourselves when we were about to embark on a journey with the man that we love.

Romans 12:9 says, “ Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” If we want to look critically at marriage, we will most certainly find problems. It’s easy to reflect over the many mistakes, offenses, and evil that have occurred in our marriage. But it’s just as easy to reflect on the things that have been good, to remind ourselves why we married this person in the first place, and to thank God for the grace He has given us along the way!

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” – I Thess. 5:11.

We have the opportunity to encourage one another to love well! Even if our own marriage is unhappy or if we are struggling to love our own spouse well, we can still recall a time of “wedded bliss.” We can still “build one another up” with congratulations and well wishes! And most of all, we can pray for the happy couple–pray for grace, love, and mercy to abound in their home; pray for unity in God to dwell richly together; and pray that when trials come (as they certainly will) that the couple will form a stronger bond instead of being torn apart.

The next time you want to make a joke about marriage, please stop yourself. Test your words against Philippians 4:8:

  • Is it true?
  • Is it honorable?
  • Is it just?
  • Is it pure?
  • Is it lovely?
  • Is it commendable?
  • Is it excellent?
  • Is it worthy of praise?

If you answer no to any of these questions, then stop talking! You have the opportunity to be a Titus 2 woman right now in this season of your life! How can you encourage a younger woman in her journey of faith? Let’s walk through this life together and show one another how to love as Christ loved us.

 

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