Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Wishin' and Hopin' and Thinkin' and Prayin'

In 2014...

...I think I'll continue to put a priority on exercise. More and more, I'm realizing how crucial it is to my mental health and sanity.

...I hope we'll get to pick lots and lots of blueberries, raspberries, cherries and peaches to freeze. I miss them right about now.

...I know we all really need to go to the dentist. It was on my list last year and it never happened because insurance changed over and over again and it was hard to keep track of what was covered and who the participating dentists were, and who really wants to spend a lot of time putting effort into something as awful as going to the dentist. And then, it's just been so long that now I'm embarrassed/scared/terrified of how much it's going to cost.

...I plan to read some amazing books.

...I know the girls are going to give me a run for my money in the most glorious way possible.

...I hope to find some ways to satisfy a longing for creativity. Photography. Reading. Writing. Quiet moments alone to just be. I need more of it in my life than I had in 2013.

...I want to find some real, practical ways to make our house work for us. I think that may mean some different furniture in some cases and getting rid of the excess in other cases.

...I hope that Justin and I put more of a priority on date nights.

...I look forward to lazy evenings at home watching How I Met Your Mother on Netflix.

...I'd like to do things differently in our garden, but I'm not sure how, exactly.

...I want to be intentional about quality time with Lizzy.

...I NEED for our house to get a good deep-cleaning

...I do NOT want to be pregnant.

...I really, really, really do want to go to the ocean.

What about you? What are you wishing, hoping, thinking, and praying for in the next year?

Monday, December 23, 2013


My to-do list is a mile long today...I'm sure we're all in the same boat there. Christmas is coming, and I don't know about you, but in order for *this* weary person to rejoice...there's a lot that needs to happen first. It's just the way of the game. There's presents to wrap, clothes to wash, toys to pick up...and about a week's worth of workouts to cram into the next two days. Meanwhile, there's tantruming toddlers, babies who won't sleep, and unexpected errands muddling it all up.

And yet, all day I've felt this tugging. To sit down, stop, and read a minute. I put myself into a mom-timeout after almost losing it with Lizzy earlier, and opened up my Bible. I won't tell you how long it has been since I opened it last, but it's been a long time.

I flipped open to 1 Corinthians, which is ironic because it's not my favorite book of the Bible, and also because a certain Duck Commander has been in the news and on my Facebook page quite a bit lately for his own reference and interpretation of a verse that comes from 1 Corinthians 6. Can I be honest? I'm tired of that conversation.What's on my mind and heart today comes from earlier in 1 Corinthians, and is related to that incident, I suppose, but I have no intention of rehashing it further (whew).

When I opened up to 1 Corinthians, my eyes first went to this verse:

"But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man, do not even eat." (1 Corinthians 5:11)

Now, I don't know about you, but I've seen, on more than one occasion, this verse used as a weapon. As a sword to pierce through gays and lesbians, addicts, and women heading to the abortion clinic. I've seen it be used as a way to separate...to draw a line in the sand between US and THEM. A way to justify not cultivating relationships with those who we determine are "ungodly".

I think we forget sometimes that in Paul's letter to the Corinthians, he is writing to members of the Christian church in Corinth. So when he talks about sexual immorality, drunkenness, idolatry-- he's writing to believers. He's not talking about 'those bad folk over there that we need to fix and show Jesus.' He's talking about US.

"What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside." (1 Corinthians 5:12-13)

In the very next breath, Paul goes on to explicitly tell the believers in Corinth to stop worrying about everyone else, and start worrying about themselves. What business is it of mine to judge the behavior of those who do not identify themselves as Christian? It's none of my business. None at all.

Lately, one of the things that we've been working on with Lizzy is appropriate roles. So, for example, at school, it is her job to make sure that she is following the classroom rules. It is NOT her job to make sure that the other kids are following the classroom rules--that's her teacher's job. 

The way I see it, it's just like that when it comes to the Christian faith. It's my job to do the best that I can to abide by the guidelines of our faith (not because I have to in order to go to heaven, but because I want to). I am NOT called to worry about the actions or behavior of those who don't identify themselves as Christians. I'm called to let God handle it. And that's the part that I think we forget sometimes.

"Be wise in the way that you act towards [unbelievers]; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation always be full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." (Colossians 4:5-6) 

Can we talk about salt for a minute? What is salt (other than very tasty)? It's a preservative. Back in the pioneer days, salt was a way to make food last for a very long time without refrigeration. I just think that's really interesting--our words towards unbelievers are to be full of grace, and to act as a preservative. To preserve the relationship rather than destroy it

To love and care for one another, always.

(Merry Christmas, friends!)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Catching Up

How in the world did it happen that I'm *ALREADY* so far behind in the monthly letters to Becca? I don't know...but here's the problem--I really want to write her another letter because there are just so many new things that she's doing, but inexplicably, I feel like I can't write her a new letter until I get caught up on all the old letters, but then that never happens and I just get further and further behind.

I'm calling it: slate clean. New letters can commence any time. And just for good measure, here's a little catch up into what's been going on around here for the past month or so:

Um, Becca turned ONE YEAR OLD. We had family over after church for cupcakes and taco soup. Nothing Pinterest-inspired, nothing stressful, and I'm really glad we went that route!
You know how kids never want their pictures taken unless someone else is trying to take a family picture, and then suddenly your kids MUST join?! That happened, and we could not have been more thrilled. Justin and I were cracking up. I know Justin was probably also thinking 'See, we could have four kids!'. Sorry babe, not sold.
 Also, don't mind my dirty feet above...yuck.

Then, we had some serious SNOW! The mountains here in Oregon get snow every year, but the valley floor hasn't really had much significant snow since 2007 or 2008. But this year, a HUGE storm was projected...so much so that they cancelled school without even a flurry on the ground. I have to admit that I was a little suspect, but the snow did eventually come, and we were basically house-bound, even with a four wheel drive vehicle. And I know that some of you mid-westerners are probably thinking that we're pretty lame when it comes to snow, and I get it that you all deal with much, much more on the daily. But the thing that makes it such a pain here is that (a) there are no plows, and nobody sands or salts the roads (b) the snow melts half-way through the day, but doesn't melt all the way by night, which just means it freezes and we have black ice everywhere. For real, our street was a *sheet* of ice, up until even last week, long after the snow was gone. This was apparently record-setting snow levels for our area, and it was kind of fun to get to play in it a bit with the girls.

Unfortunately, with the snow came a TON of frozen pipes, which means that Justin has been home even *less* than before, which I wasn't sure was possible. I will say that miraculously, we have *nothing* on the agenda for this Saturday, and I cannot wait for a day at home with all of us. We have equal parts snuggling and house cleaning to catch up on!

Then, I just had to include this last set of photos from cookie decorating because they are just *so* Lizzy right now. Her expressions kill me, for real.
Winter-11 Winter-13 Winter-14 Winter-15

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Book Review: The Book of Secrets by Elizabeth Joy Arnold

From the back of the book: At once a captivating mystery, a love letter to classic literature, and a sharp-eyed examination of marriage, The Book of Secrets is a gripping novel of family, friendship, and the undeniable pull of the past.

After more than twenty years of marriage, Chloe Sinclair comes home one night to find that her husband, Nate, is gone. All he has left behind is a cryptic note explaining that he’s returned to their childhood town, a place Chloe never wants to see again.

While trying to reach Nate, Chloe stumbles upon a notebook tucked inside his antique copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Written in code, the pages contain long-buried secrets from their past, and clues to why he went home after all these years. As Chloe struggles to decipher the notebook’s hidden messages, she revisits the seminal moments of their youth: the day she met the enigmatic Sinclair children ane the increasingly dangerous games they played to escape their troubled childhoods; the first time Nate kissed her, camped out on the beach like Robinson Crusoe; and the elaborate plan she and Nate devised, inspired by Romeo and Juliet, to break away from his oppressive father. As the reason for Nate’s absence comes to light, the truth will forever shatter everything Chloe knows—about her husband, his family, and herself.

"Sitting in our bookstore at night, I can hear the stories. Or not hear them so much as feel them: the neat, round softness of Austen with its improbable, inevitable love affairs; the sprawl of Dickens with its meandering threads tying into coincidental knots. All the books have colors and shapes not just from the stories written but from the stories of the authors who’ve done the writing; from Steinbeck’s realism to Murakami’s cubism, a regular art museum of voices.

It’s different from the stores that sell new books, I think, with their splashes and shouts for attention. Because here when I sit at night in the worn armchair by the fireplace, I can also hear the stories of people who’ve held these books. Some of the first editions must have been read by generations; I imagine women in their petticoats and men in breeches looking for escape from sadness or dreariness. The books have seen plagues and wars--back when wars were still romantic--have been read by candlelight and oil-lamp light; it’s all written there in smudges and stains if you just know how to look." 

And so begins The Book of Secrets. The first page drew me in, and it felt like it wrapped me in a warm blanket and welcomed me home. It's no secret--I love to read. And a book that tells a story while referencing some of the other greatest stories all throughout? Sold.

A few chapters in, Chloe began to dodgedly reference something terrible that happened to their son when he was around two. She didn't quite come out and say it, but she danced around the idea that he had died in a tragic and exceptionally awful way. She began to mention that she never wanted to return to her hometown again. She began to throw down hints that her father-in-law may be involved. But Chloe didn't really give the reader any concrete details--it just hung there in the air, looming, and I got the distinct impression that it would be looming for most of the novel. At that point, I had to shelve the book for a bit...now that I'm a mom, I've noticed that there are some storylines that I just can't handle, and books about the death of kids my own childrens' ages are typically one of them. I just wasn't sure that it was a book that I could handle reading, or would even want to read. 

But ultimately, The Book of Secrets is a book for people who love books, and so it kept drawing me back in. I'm glad that it did. It had a little mystery, a little love, a little tragedy, and a lot of  love for some of the greatest books. Reading The Book of Secrets made me remember how *I* felt when reading a lot of the books mentioned, which definitely made me sympathize with and understand Chloe as a narrator more than I might have otherwise. I was pretty certain that I had the big twist figured out early on in the book, and I did....but it didn't matter. I loved reading about Chloe, and even more I loved reading about the books that Chloe read at different points in her life--I now have a list of books that I need to read myself based on Chloe's recommendation!

Overall? I really, really liked this one. Check out the excerpt at Random House's website, and if you like what you read there, definitely move this one to the very top of your "to read" list! 

Disclosure Statement: I received a copy of this book to read and review from Net Galley. I did not receive any other compensation from this post, and I'm sure you all know by now that I couldn't lie about a book even if I wanted to :)

Monday, December 9, 2013

Book Review: Stella Bain by Anita Shreve

From the back of the book: When an American woman, Stella Bain, is found suffering from severe shell shock in an exclusive garden in London, surgeon August Bridge and his wife selflessly agree to take her in.

A gesture of goodwill turns into something more as Bridge quickly develops a clinical interest in his houseguest. Stella had been working as a nurse's aide near the front, but she can't remember anything prior to four months earlier when she was found wounded on a French battlefield.

In a narrative that takes us from London to America and back again, Shreve has created an engrossing and wrenching tale about love and the meaning of memory, set against the haunting backdrop of a war that destroyed an entire generation.
When Stella Bain was found, she was severely shell-shocked, and had no memory, not even her name. But then, over the course of a few months, the memories start to come back to her, slowly. She remembers her name. Her identity. Her past. Solid pieces of truth in an ever-changing world. Aren't they? 
Written in the first person narrative style, the reader goes along for the ride with Stella, and discovers that a story they thought was about one thing or person...may really be about another entirely. Is Stella even....Stella, afterall?
This book was a bit difficult for me to review because the thing that I love most about Anita Shreve is her ability to craft characters. Usually, I could care less about the plot of her novels, I just want to curl up next to her characters and spend some time with them. In this way, Stella Bain was a bit less enjoyable than her previous books for me, as the book seemed to be much more plot-driven and the narrative style made it difficult for me to really connect with the characters. I understand the choice, as it makes the reader feel right in the thick of things with Stella as she makes discoveries and works through things, but I found myself not relating to Stella well, and not caring about her all that much either. Stella Bain dealt with four or five sub-plots that I thought were absolutely fascinating, but I found myself wishing that Shreve had focused on one or two of the subplots and spent more time with Stella (and later Etna).

All that said, Stella Bain wasn't a bad book at all--I devoured it in just a couple of hours. It just wasn't what I expected as a fan of Shreve, and unfortunately not in a good way. I love when authors take chances and do things differently, but in this case, I felt that Stella Bain simply traded the soul for the plot, and it just didn't feel like a fair trade, to me. 

Overall?  I'd say that it's worth a read if the description from the back of the book grabbed your attention (but maybe pretend it's by an author you've never read before if you're familiar with Shreve's work). 

 Disclosure Statement: I received a free advanced reader copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for my unbiased review. I'm sure you all know by now that I couldn't possibly lie about a book even if I wanted to :)

30 Days of Thankfulness: Days 22-30

22. Justin worked a lot in November. Nights, weekends, a LOT. I'm thankful for the little moments here and there when he was unexpectedly off work, and we piled on the couch with every blanket we own for movies and snuggling

23. For stolen snuggles with this big girl in the car while Becca napped.

24. For an impromptu post-church lunch with Justin's side of the family. Back when Justin and I were dating, we used to head over to his parents' house almost every Sunday after church, and so would everyone else. We'd eat and lounge and visit, and it was one of the best parts of the week. That hasn't happened as much lately with everyone's work schedules and kids and just life, but I miss it.

25.It's still not even close to what we dream of it to be, but I'm thankful for our backyard, with room to run and play. We've come a long way from red clay and star thistle, baby.

26. For sunrises that just take your breath away.

27. For being able to watch Becca's personality emerge. Like Lizzy, she thinks she is hilarious and also has a fierce temper. But, I wonder if she might be more introverted than Lizzy is--she seems to need quiet to relax more than Lizzy ever did.

28. For the opportunity to stay home with these sweet girls, even if it does drive me a little crazy at times.

29. For our Thanksgiving FEAST. Loved all the delicious food made from scratch!

30. I am so, so, SO thankful for Justin...and also that he didn't get hurt playing football on Thanksgiving morning :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Blog Archive


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.