The Beauty of Broken—a book review

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“There’s no such thing as a perfect family.” If I’m honest,  I don’t like that sentence even a tiny bit. If I’m still honest, I’ll admit that it is true.

We’re all a little broken. Either by our choices, by our parents’ or grandparents’ choices, or sometimes just because life is broken. It’s ugly. It’s messy.

It can be hard to lift up your face and look the world in the eye and admit that you don’t have it all together. It is for me. 

But, the good thing about being broken? It is the perfect thing for finding The Source of inner strength. It’s the perfect thing for finding what true beauty really is—something that shines out in spite of the less-than-perfect way our live story often goes.

In Beauty of Broken, Elisa Morgan shares her story. And how brokenness shaped her story—and ultimately, how God used it to create a kind of beauty in her life.

I appreciated Elisa’s honesty, and the encouragement she gave to not be ashamed of our stories, even if they are broken. It could be that the brokenness that Satan meant to destroy us is the very thing that God will override and use to be one of our greatest blessings.  And that, I think, is really beautiful.

*I received this book in exchange for my honest review from Book Sneeze. The opinions are mine entirely.*

Checkpoint January + Twitterature

Well, it’s February.  You know what that means: Checkpoint time!

I’ve written a lot of drab Reading Challenge updates in the past few years. I’ve felt like a boring Professor droning on and on about interesting things in the most uninteresting way.

I’m a kind of book blogger. I love books. I’m going to write about books. But there’s no need to drone on about every book I read or tried to read, right? So I’m trying something new.

One of my friends and co-writers for Kindred Grace, Emily Gardner, writes a lot about books too. Last year she did something called Twittature as a way to share her reading piles, and I like the idea. A lot. So, thanks to Emily and the Modern Mrs. Darcy, I’d like to .welcome you to Checkpoint January, Twitterature Style.

What I’ve Read

(This post may contain affiliate links.)

A Real Mother: Stumbling Through Motherhood—by Denise Malloy

The story, as told over the years through her column, about her motherhood journey as a woman who never really thought she’d want to be a mother. Some of it was hilarious! Even though I also don’t necessarily agree with certain family planning methods, I did have a problem with the somewhat downgrading way in which she poked fun at large families. It sort of tainted the fun parts of the book for me.

Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage—by Allison Vesterfelt

Imagine stepping away from your entire life and career and packing across the entire US in a Subaru in chase of your dream. Sound’s crazy, and Allison’s story was. Didn’t agree with some of her philosophy, but fascinating and inspiring story of doing whatever it takes to discover and follow your dreams and realize your calling—even if it means doing something a little bit crazy. Loved the open, honest way she takes us on her personal journey, emotionally and physically across the country and back again.

Current Books in Progress

Here’s what I’m currently pouring through. Check back for more in depth reviews on both of these in the near future!

My Listen Through the Bible Goal

I mentioned in my Goals for 2014 post that I wanted to listen to the Bible through at least once this year. Status check on that? I’m taking it slowly this first time. I’ve listened to the first 35 chapters of Genesis at least once. It’s been so good for me on the days I’ve done this to keep my focus where it belongs—even when I’m super tired! Looking forward to being more consistent and intentional about this in February.

Your Turn!

What are you reading this year?

a tradition is born

It’s been a while since it’s looked like Christmas here.

Last year we were in California. I had only just dragged in the Christmas Boxes when we got our tickets and I had to drag them back out to the shed again. The year before that I had worked a super stressful job and was too exhausted to feel much Christmas energy.

But this year…this year was different. It’s Charlotte’s first Christmas. We don’t celebrate in all the same ways that a lot of people do. But there’s something about lights and sparkling things that make winter much less dreary.  Scott loves Christmastime.  I love creating memories and looking forward to our little traditions. That’s what makes it so special.

We hauled in the Christmas boxes last Sunday and decked our little halls with lights and christmas cheer. It takes a long time to unwind the lights and hang the sparkles on the tree, even if it is small.

When the l ast the last candy cane is hung, and the last bit of garland is wrapped around the tree, THE moment of the evening arrives: we light the tree for the first time and put the gold star at the top to remind us of the Angels who sang at Jesus’ birth.

Charlotte gets to do the topper, Scott says. He took her in his arms and helped her tiny (grabby) fingers hold the gold star for a minute and then they put it on the highest little twig right at the top. She likes the sparkle and babbles in approval.

tradition

Our tree is done. It’s beautiful. And just like that, a tradition is born.

three months of charlotte

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Today at 11:29 pm, Charlotte will officially be 3 months old.

Becoming parents is a huge adjustment. It is one of the most amazing adjustments of my life. I’ve alternately thrilled over new accomplishments, and inwardly been amazed that we made it three months without any giant mishaps.

We’ve weathered the first cold, We’ve gotten going to town down a little better. We have found and lost night time routine at least a dozen times.

Charlotte weighs in at 14 lbs, and is officially wearing 3–6 mo clothes. I never get tired of the snuggles, and the smiles.  The 1200 pictures on my iPhone chronincal  the gradual change from squishy infant into wriggling, chubby babyhood. My heart begs for time to slow down. My sleep deprived body looks forward to the first night of more than three hours of sleep at a time.

Without a doubt, motherhood is the most time consuming thing I’ve ever attempted. I’ve floundered through days after sleepless nights. I’ve come face to face to to the reality of a true never ending laundry pile and the monster of the perpetually unmade bed.

I’ve gained new awe for work at home moms who keep a whole family fed, clothed and somewhat on track while bringing in an income as I’ve battled my way to deadlines these last three months.
I’ve found first hand that there are few rules in mothering. What works for one, won’t work for another. Instinct, prayer, and precious advice to just do what works for us, regardless of what the books say have helped to keep me sane.

But in spite of the crazy days, the sleepless nights, the never ending laundry and the house that doesn’t get vacuumed as often as I wish there is no doubt in my mind that these last three months have been some of the greatest moments of our life.

Being a parent isn’t easy. We’re learning as we go. But there is nothing we’d trade for these moments.

And today, we’re thanking God for three months with our girl.

great words about gratitude

I collect quotes. I have files of them on my computer, boards of them on pinterest, and I even subscribe to a daily quote by email just because I like them that much. One of my quote collections is titled “Gratitude”. I had a lot of fun creating a few graphics out of some of my favorites and wanted to share them with you.

Feel free to pin, share on FB or retweet your favorites, too!SONY DSCblessings Rose Bush on a Street Corner, pink Petals fallen on Ground

 

what I love about autumn

For most of my life, I didn’t like autumn.

I didn’t like anything about it–not the cooler nights, or the frosty mornings, or the single day in which most of the leaves fell. It was depressing. The abbreviated intro into yet another long, dark, cold Alaskan winter. It felt like I was watching Summer’s dying breath and it always made me sad. Snow quickly followed, and Alaskan winters aren’t always really that much fun.

Well, four years ago, I moved just about as far away from Alaska as I can get and still have autumn. For the first time in my life, I think I’m starting to learn to love it. Here’s a few of the reasons why.

  • The air gets this delicious autumn scent and feel to it. Not too cold, but just cool enough for you to know that it’s not summer anymore.
  • The sky is so blue. I don’t know if it is scientific or just my imagination, but it feels more vividly blue in the autumn. Pair that with a few puffs of white clouds and the hills on fire with color below and you have something so breathtaking it is impossible to capture on camera.
  • The hills are alive…with color. The leaves turn gold. And red. And orange. And yellow. All at once. I sometimes can hardly bear to drive because I just want to look at the hills and try to soak in the beauty of the autumn moment. If you haven’t seen the Appalachians in the Autumn, you need to put it on your bucket list.
  • Apples and pumpkins. Well, mostly the apples. But pumpkins are everywhere this time of year and it really seems to add just the right touch of autumn to the landscape.
  • Thanksgiving is coming! I feel like everything about autumn here makes you feel festive. It’s like it is gearing you up to celebrate the goodness and beauty of the entire year up to that point, and making you feel more aware of how much you have to be grateful for.

What’s your favorite thing about Autumn?

making new friends

I’ve never been really good at making new friends. I love people, but I’m introverted. It’s enough that I often feel like I come off as awkward and distant in real life while I’m trying to get use to new people. I struggle with small talk and sometimes it is hard for me to figure out how to fit in. Sometimes that can end up being a bit lonely in the local friend category.

Well, last year one of Scott’s coworkers invited us over for dinner. They invited another couple over as well who was near our age. You know those times when it just seems like you are meant to be friends? That’s what happened.

We had so much fun together–both of us expecting our first child. Both of us having girls. But the bad thing about living in a university town is that most people don’t come here to stay. They moved to Michigan in July. They’ll be back–but it’ll be 2 more years!

Lately, we’ve been getting to know another couple who recently married. It’s been so fun to have someone to call and say “Wanna go walking this evening?” Or  “Want to hop over for breakfast this morning?”

Making friends might not be my greatest talent, but I am pretty sure it is one of the Great Things about life. I know it’s one thing I’m really grateful for this year.

for the love of technology

I didn’t grow up tech savvy. I didn’t get an email address until I was 18. I had never heard of messenger, and when one of my friend’s wrote “LOL!” in a letter, I stared at it trying to figure out what on earth they meant.

It took my childhood BFF–the one who had grown up with computers and the ‘net–to teach me the ropes of making it around the virtual world of Instant Messengers, email and chatspeak.

Quite honestly, I entered the online world kicking and screaming in a way. I didn’t like the idea of a virtual world. I didn’t like the way that it seemed like real interactions got left behind with the real letters and the real phone calls and the real visits. It felt like a cheap version of friendship and I wasn’t sure I wanted in on it.

I have had to eat some words, and take back some of my opposition to technology over the years. Today, I still crave the “real” feel of friendships before there were like buttons and before everyone was so busy when there was time for journaling and writing to friends one on one.

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But I can’t deny the fact that technology has a huge part in my life. I use it to work from home. I use it to educate myself. Most importantly, I use it keep in touch.

When you live thousands of miles from the ones you love, you learn there’s a time and a place for everything–even facebook. And with the inventions of skype and facetime, even my far away sister in the Philippines feels a little less out of reach.

My BFF and I keep in touch almost daily thanks to iMessage. Even my dad has an iphone now so he can keep up with the growth of the littlest grandchild.

My family may be far away, but technology has made them closer.

As much as I’d love sometimes nothing more than to retreat to the simpler life before the ‘net, I don’t know what I’d do without the ability to connect with my family.

For that, I love all the technology in my life and give it a deserved spot in my list of Great Things.

happy {almost} birthday to me

I kind of forgot about my birthday this year. It turns out, though, it is probably going to be one of the most memorable of my life. It’s the day I held our little girl in my arms for the very first time.

Charlotte’s due date and come and gone and two more weeks had passed. I didn’t mind the waiting so much. But eventually, time to wait runs out. That was what I was afraid of.

My pregnancy was beautifully easy, but the only thing about labor and delivery that was anything like we hoped for was the fact that at the end of it all, our baby was healthy and in our arms.

I did all the “right” things. The exercise, the positioning, the natural induction methods.I walked miles and miles in the weeks before her birth. I even ate pineapple for good measure! But the days faded together and labor never started.

I scheduled the induction, and spent the next few days hoping I’d never make the appointment. I kept hoping I’d still get my natural birth. Labor could start without notice, and I never gave up hope that it would.

But my birth story wasn’t going to be about making it without medicine and pushing out our little girl into the world. It would be about needles and tubes, and monitors and wires and hours and hours of painful lack of progress. It would be about letting go of all the hopes I had built up for labor day over the past nine months. It was about trusting, and doing what was right for our situation, even if it wasn’t anything like what I wanted (and tried for more than 18 very long hours to make happen).

I was exhausted emotionally and physically. Feverish, in pain, and scared–all I could think of as I lay on the operating table was just let her be okay.

 

Suddenly, Scott was saying “She’s here! She’s here!” And then we heard that first cry. It was 11:29 pm on August 26. Just 31 minutes before my 28th birthday.

By the time they put her in my arms and wheeled us to recovery, it was an hour into my birthday. I couldn’t have asked for a more wonderful birthday present than a healthy, beautiful little Charlotte girl. <3

In case you were wondering, this takes spot number one for Great Things of 2013. It may not have been exactly what I hoped for, but it is exactly how it needed to be.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.

to my friends

So this post? This is to you. Those of you who I get to share the daily grinds of ordinary life with, those of you I’m honored to call my friends.

This is to the friend who gave gentle pushes and told me I could do it, when I was afraid of failure and afraid of disappointments.

It’s to the one who always has time to answer my techy questions, and who listens to my rants about the million times I get asked if my baby is sleeping through the night yet and who reminds me why I write time and time again–by her own faithful words on her own blog.

It’s to the friend who never forgets my birthday and sends notes to say I’m thought of and prayed for. It’s for the letters and the emails and the heartaches we’ve lived through and the quiet, consistent support of just knowing, on the other side of the country, there’s someone praying through it with me.

It’s to the friend who sends cards just because. The one who texts to just check in once in a while.

It’s to the friend who took the time to write an email to the weary and kind of scared new mom. The friend who wrote soothing, encouraging, positive words that made the tiredness and the unknown seem so much more doable.

It’s to the friends who share their hearts with me. Who aren’t afraid to let me see that they don’t have it all together and don’t judge me when drop the ball and fumble through life trying to figure out what exactly I’m doing.

It’s to the one who I knew I could text moments before being rushed to surgery and who would understand  and know exactly who to call to pray for me.

To the friends who answer my new mom questions and don’t make me feel stupid for not knowing what to use for a teething baby.

It’s to the friends who challenge me to be a better writer, a wiser blogger, and to keep pushing and a more effective Virtual Assistant. The same ones who don’t mind if I type with one finger and like everything because I haven’t figured out how to type with one finger very effectively yet.

 

To the ones who cry with me when life bumps and when I find myself saying too many good byes and not enough hellos. To the friends who laugh with me when life gets crazy, and rejoice with me over new jobs, new babies, new seasons and the little, good things that make life wonderful.

It’s for all of you who have been there for me, who have shared your life and your hearts, who have had a part in making me better.

This is for you.

I haven’t lived life all on my own. You have lived life with me and been there when it counted. I’ve been very blessed. I’m humbled that you call me friend. I’m amazed by your love, your generosity, your support. I’m amazed by you. And I’m honored that I get to share my life with people like you.

This is just me saying thank you, thank you, thank you. I don’t say it enough. But I feel it. Every single day.

When was the last time you intentionally thanked the people who have been there wit you in the everyday joys and pains of everyday life?