The Contrast {Virginia & Peru}

“Render to me!” The eleven-year-old demands and the easy-going one-year-old complies.

I raise my eyebrows and am informed by half a dozen clambering voices that that’s how the eleven-year-old always asks for something. Considering their storytime each night consists of being read to out of a tome from the 1600s, it’s not all that surprising.

“Mama, I can’t feed myself, you need to,” the three-year-old’s plaintive voice sounds at lunchtime. When she doesn’t get the response she’s looking for, she gives us a wide-eyed stare. “Mama, I really can’t feed myself because my big toe hurts.” This is the same child that informed us just before bedtime that she was Hungry! and after being directed to her papa with the request for food, quickly amended it, saying she was “Hungry for a tic-tac in the morning after she had woken up.”

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The five-year-old tells me his “brothers are slightly more fun to clean the kitchen with because they just ask him to sweep the floor” and I’m reminded that I need to be a more fun auntie.

When the oldest girls (17 and 14) bring up stories I used to tell them when they were the little ones, I sigh in relief that the children do hold good memories of me.

Peru Landscape and children

My oldest sister and her husband have a passel of happy, loud, messy, hard-working, oftentimes chaotic, and never dull household of children. Nearly ten years ago I spent two months with them (and their then four children) high up in the mountains of Peru where they’d lived for the past six years.

The 12,500-foot elevation created a merciless environment with little air to breathe, an abundance of sickness, and a beautiful, but barren landscape. The sun was close and the wind was harsh – whistling through the valley, creating chapped cheeks, constant sunburns, and rough skin.

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There’s a vast difference between Then and Now. The abundance of greenness, the quality of the oxygen, the ease with which to keep a clean house… (There’s an art form that must be mastered in order to keep a dirt floor properly swept, whereas anyone can sweep linoleum.)

Yet some things remain. When I spent two months with my sister in Peru she was living in a dirt house, on bedrest while pregnant for her fifth child. The hostile land she’d chosen to live in had been hard on her – which was one reason I was helping her in the first place. Her family was moving back to the States where good nutrients and care (not to mention air) were more easily come by. Her attitude though remained calm and determined. No matter what she was going through, she kept her voice sweet, her words kind. I was amazed and inspired.

Peru Landscape

Ten years have passed, and although now in good health, morning sickness is zapping her energy. Yet through it all, she continues to be sweet – to allow a peace that passeth all understanding to keep her kind and thoughtful even as she doesn’t feel well.

My sister went to a Bible college when I was just six, and then married when I was two weeks away from turning nine, yet my childhood memories are full of spending time with her. Of growing up sharing a bedroom (where she tried desperately to teach my other sister and I the art of bedroom cleaning), learning to cook, and being read to. All throughout my childhood, I was in awe of my big sister. She was everything I longed to be, plus more.

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Things haven’t changed. Even though our lives have gone in very different directions (I would currently be expecting my fifth child and living in South America if I was her), I continue to be amazed and inspired by her. Her life shows God’s love on a daily basis, even when it isn’t easy. She thinks through what she says, remains kind even when her children try to ruffle her, and takes everything in stride.

Called Out

The sun-dappled leaves swaying in the breeze outside my room fairly shout that Spring is here. The early morning hour is my favorite as I sit in the stillness and soak in inspiration for the rest of the day. A day full of scurrying, laughter, life, baby hugs, and remembering my own childhood. Earlier while folding the laundry for the one-year-old I came across a pair of purple sleepers that I remember wearing. But surely I was bigger than that in those far-off memories, wasn’t I?

I’m still at my oldest sister’s house and don’t have plans to leave. Today marks the two-month mark since I’ve been to my little home. I miss my home and life, but I’m also thankful I can be here.

And now, book review time.

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 192
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: April 21, 2020
Title: Called Out
Nonfiction

Called Out

ABOUT THE BOOK

Too often we lean into the wrong things and burn out. We buy society’s lie that our worth is our work, our value is our vocation, our calling is our career. Confusing what we do with who we are wreaks havoc on our bodies, our souls, and our relationships.

Called Out is a deeply personal book from Paula Faris, the beloved on-air reporter for ABC News and former co-host of The View. She shares her journey through conquering fears that nearly kept her from the high-profile, high-stakes world of broadcast journalism, and then the dangers when that world threatened to consume her. She burned out and faced public humiliation, physical breakdowns, and family struggles. But along the way, she heard God gently calling her out of that dangerous place. As she struggled to find who she was outside of what she did, she discovered her true purpose and true calling. Today, she is the host of ABC’s popular podcast Journeys of Faith.

Written with passion and conviction, this book reflects on what it truly means to be called, how to move past the fear holding you back, and how to walk in God’s path for you.

Why I Choose This Book

Quite simply because the Afterward is by Max Lucado, and he’s an author whose work I really appreciate.

Several times as I was reading the book I saw what felt like influences of Mr. Lucado’s writing style, but still done in Miss Paula’s own voice, so that was a plus for me.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

I’ve watched the news, but I don’t watch the news. As in, it’s not an everyday activity for me. I’m familiar with the words ABC News, but don’t know much about them, and I’d never heard of The View. So, I really had no clue who the author was, or why it was such a big deal for her to change her job. Therefore, it took me a bit to get into the book, but once I did I really enjoyed it and learned a lot from its pages.

The Pros 

-The book is interesting and the author is a good communicator. She takes lessons she’s learned both from her life and the lives of people she’s interviewed at her job to produce a book full of wisdom. The stories she sprinkles throughout the book were intriguing and I was never bored as I read. She’s also honest in her approach – sharing openly where she’s messed up, which takes a lot of courage. The book is practical as well, which is always something I look for while reading nonfiction.

-There’s a difference between your vocational calling and your life calling. I grew up being taught that, but according to this author the distinction isn’t widely known, so she does a good job distinguishing the two. She then goes on to explain how they can work in tandem with each other, and why it’s so important to get this aspect of life right.

-I don’t think the book was written for a Christian audience. This can be a plus because it can reach far more people than if it had a nitch market, and I think that the message she shared was important and can help many people. She’s also open and shameless about the fact that she is a Christian – talking about how God slowly changed her heart over the years and citing Bible verses to back up what she’s saying. For the most part, I appreciated the balance, but this does lead me to my first con.

The Cons

-Although the author does a fantastic job of sharing her faith in Christ, there were times when I felt like it seemed as if she gave other religions just as much credence as Christianity. For the most part, the book felt balanced, but there were times when it seemed to lean towards the “of you’re sincere, then you’ll be fine” type of mindset. I don’t think that’s what she was actually meaning to imply, but it was a bit of a gray area.

-Mostly I liked her writing style, but there were a few times where she seemed redundant, or something that was supposed to be funny fell flat for me. That’s entirely a preference thing though, so it didn’t bother me too much.

-I wasn’t a big fan of the way she formatted some of the book – with interviews from various people over the years. The interviews were great, but how they were added to the book wasn’t my favorite. But, this was a very small con for me.

CONCLUSION

I don’t agree with everything the author said and did – when have I ever? But overall, this book was a win for me. It was well-written, the message was one I’ve worked on my whole life, and the author was very real and honest which seems like it would take a lot of courage since she’s a public figure who is already a household name to many Americans.

RATING

I’m giving Called Out 4 out of 5 stars. Thank you to Bethany House for providing me with a copy of the book so I could tell y’all about it.

Stay

When I opened this package from Bethany House I’d totally forgotten which books they were sending out for review, so it made me laugh. Being in the middle of quarantine and receiving a book that says Stay seemed very timely indeed. 😉

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 224
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: March 31, 2020
Title: Stay
Nonfiction

Stay

About the Book

As women, we are exhausted. Our hearts are being wrung out to dry–squeezed and yanked in every direction. We take care of everyone but ourselves. We’ve gotten lost in bedtime routines and our Costco lists. We have lost our voices in the storm of everyday life. We need to be reminded to reach inward and heed the quiet voice whispering, Stay.

This book is for anyone who longs for a connection with God and his people but can’t seem to escape the haunting feelings of guilt, shame, loneliness, and fear. Through raw, authentic stories, (in)courage writer Anjuli Paschall invites you to stop running from your pain and to recognize that the deep end of your story is the way to intimacy with Christ. Alongside Anjuli, you will encounter a loving God who invites you to stay with him at the table of your soul, where you are free to spill the milk, to fumble through your words, to embrace the awkwardness and the joy, and to taste and see that he is good.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOok: 3 Pros and 3 Cons

The Pros:

-The writing was beautiful, lyrical, peaceful. I didn’t read the book – I soaked it in, taking time to breathe deep, savor the words, and really think about what the author was saying. I felt rejuvenated each time I picked it up and paused my crazy world to read for a few moments.

-The author had a way of drawing the reader in, sharing her deepness, her faults, her triumphs. It was like sitting down and listening to a well of wisdom be spilled out along with enough craziness to remind you that the person in front of you was human, full of mistakes, and searching for the perfect way to live life, just like everyone else. I felt like I was with the author, feeling the dust from the trailer park by the river, standing in the corner watching the strangers spin in and out of her parent’s home, sitting in her small, newly-married apartment, as she realized yet again that she’d forgotten to take out the trash. Relating to an author is something that really helps me remember the message behind the words I read, and this author pegged that feeling.

-Emotions aren’t bad, but so often I think they are. I choose the ones I want to call my own and steadfastly refuse to acknowledge, accept, or dwell on the ones that I don’t like. And while there’s some merit to this way of living, mostly it creates a battle within me as I lie to myself over and over again, convincing myself that whatever I want to be true is, when that’s not the case. This book was all about accepting and owning your emotions. Which is so important, and something I need to get far better at. But, that’s also what leads me to my first con.

The Cons: 

-When it came to the message of the book, I felt like it was too one-sided. Yes, emotions are important and it isn’t healthy to simply push them away, but I felt like the author didn’t have enough balance in her message. While accepting the emotions and processing them, I think it’s important to also be careful with how much power you give them.

-The author talks multiple times about how her only purpose in life is to be loved by God. And while that is part of the equation, loving God is also very important (which highlights the above point about the book not being as balanced as I like).

-There were various small mentions of things that I don’t agree with.

CONCLUSION

Obviously, my cons list was way smaller than the pros because I really liked this book. I do plan on re-reading it in the future and hope to read other books by the same author.

At the same time, the things that did make it to the cons list were big enough that I’m (sadly) dropping the book to three and a half stars.

RATING

I’m giving Stay 3.5 out of 5 stars. Thank you to Bethany House for providing me with a copy of the book so I could tell y’all about it.

With Open Hands

“Stay as long as you want – we’re so thankful for your help,” my sister and brother-in-law in Virginia assure me.

“When are you coming back home? We miss you,” my sisters back in Ohio tell me.

“If you come into Kentucky you must quarantine for fourteen days,” Governor Beshear’s website declares.

I feel lost and adrift as I drink my lukewarm coffee. It’s like my dreams – the ones that felt so real and good in January – have dissipated. Now they’re like a fine mist floating over my head that I’m chasing – grasping – missing.

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What I really want to do is jump in my car and drive, drive, drive. Maybe to Florida. Then Alaska. And of course, Yellowstone is a must. Or maybe I can go to sleep and wake up on the other side of all this craziness. Or go back to January and make it last – snow and all – for twelve happy months and then magically be in 2021.

What I want to do is escape. To find my happy little nook where I’m in control, things are good, and my plans, dreams, and hopes play out before me like a happily-ever-after book.

Recently in my prayer journal I’ve been doing an exercise where I write How I Feel on one side of the page then fill it will the emotions that are bumbling around inside me. Then I flip my notebook upside down and write The Truth on the other side. I take each of the emotions that I’d rather ignore and work my way through them, figuring out why I feel that way, then remind myself of God’s truth.

Then, as those emotions pop up throughout my day, I’m able to name them, remember the truth, and conquer them. Yesterday was enlighting to say the least.

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My feelings fell in two distinct categories – joy, fulfillment, and thankfulness when I thought about where I was at the moment. The fact that I could help my sister’s family as they deal with some of the same health issues I’ve had over the years made me downright happy.

But then when the future loomed in front of me feelings of restlessness, despair, confusion, and even anger took over.

When I stopped to ponder what the difference was, the answer was glaringly obvious and horrifying at the same time. What is going on now I can control. I’m choosing to be here. I’m choosing to stay and help. I’m choosing to be a good sister/auntie and make a difference. I have faith in myself to make my here and now good.

The future though? That I can’t control. I can’t change the health, the minds, the laws, and the outcomes. I can pray and wait and trust, but I can’t control. Only God knows what will happen. Only He can do what I desperately want to be done. When it comes to the future I can’t trust myself because I have no power – I have to trust God, and only God.

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I’ve always thought of faith as one of my strong suits – I’ve never been overly concerned about my future because I knew God had it all under control. I work hard and prepare and God does the rest, right?

But what happens when I work hard and there’s no guarantee that God will follow through with what I’ve always thought was His part of the bargain? One thing I’ve been learning this year is that the future I thought God and I agreed on might actually be wishful thinking on my part.

So here I sit. And stand. And work. In a place where I’m learning to rest and breathe in deep with open hands. In a place where I’m learning to be still and know that God is. In a place where I’m learning that my view of the world is minuscule and His view is all-encompassing.

I want to know what the future holds. To know what normal will feel like in the coming weeks. To know what to expect and count on and look foward to. But I can’t know. And at the end of the day, that’s okay. Because I do trust. Not in myself, but in the God who holds the future.

Little Farmer Girl

The jangling of goat bells, shrieks of children’s laughter, and swish, swish, swish of milk hitting a metal bucket meld together into a symphony of the cadence of life.

I dump a gallon of water into a container then stir in milk replacer, the idyllic scent sending me back to my own childhood when I’d bundle up in layers to brave the zero-degree weather and tromp out through the crunching snow to bottlefeed the newborn kids. The sky was always clearest on the freezing nights, and many were the times I’d flop down on my back to stargaze on my way back in from the barn at 3:00 am.

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At the beginning of the week, my pace was frantic, busy. There was so much to do and no way I could accomplish all there was. I swept the floor half a dozen times each day, kept loads of laundry whisking through the washing machine, folding the clothing that the dryer spit out during what was supposed to be nap time. I churned out meals, bottle-fed kids, and found myself constantly exhausted.

Finally, my sister, who I came to help as she’s not feeling the best, sat me down to explain there was no way I’d ever find an end to the work, so I had better stop trying and begin pacing myself better.

Her advice was timely. Soon instead of sneaking in laundry-folding during nap time, I found myself collapsing into a sleeping heap each day. Who knew I could take a nap each day and still sleep so well at night? But, it’s been a while since I’ve spent my days surrounded by nine happy, questioning, and storytelling youngsters, so I think it’s the mental rest nearly as much as the physical one that my body needs.

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Now when I go out to bucket-feed the calves I drop onto the warm grass and gaze at the tree-covered mountains in the distance and sparkling stream that looks like diamonds are dancing along the surface. I breathe in deep. Relax. Soak in the moment.

When breakfast was finished this morning and I’d cleaned the egg yoke out of the youngest one’s hair and had sent the older children off to finish their chores, I asked the younger ones to help me clear the table and wash up the dishes. Then even though the floor hadn’t been swept, I chose to sit down and read to the littlest ones instead of indulging in more housekeeping.

Each day, each moment, I get to make a choice. I can either focus on the things that I can do, the ways that I can make a difference, or I can scramble around trying to do more. Trying to do the most. Trying to do everything.

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The other day when I came in to a sink full of dishes – a sink that I felt like I’d just empied – I gave my oldest niece a hopeless look, “I really did do the dishes earlier, not that you’d be able to tell now.” She laughed, and with wisdom that I certainly don’t remember having at seventeen told me that her mama often says that people don’t generally notice the work you do, but everyone would notice if you didn’t do it.

May has arrived and as I look back on the last few months I can see God’s guiding hand. Even though I wasn’t where I thought I’d be (or wanted to be), I can see how I was exactly where He wanted me. It’s nearly been two months since I left my little home in Kentucky to help my family for what was supposed to be a week and turned into almost seven.

At the beginning of March Mom was telling me that she was praying she’d have someone come and help her for a while. (Because my family was moving.) I was glad I was going for a week, but I couldn’t really take more time off of work than that, but then work closed so I stayed. Then, about the time that my family’s house was set up and my family was settled in, my oldest sister’s family needed help for a variety of reasons that I could relate to. So, instead of heading back to my little Kentucky home I braved the twisting mountain roads and arrived on their doorstep on a rainy Sunday afternoon. My sister told me how when she’d been praying that they’d have help, she’d never imagined would be the answer to her prayers.

And the truth of the matter was I hadn’t imagined I’d be spending the last few months helping my family, either. But I’m thankful. I’m thankful for the ways I’ve been able to grow and change and see into the fissures of my heart that need cleaned out that I didn’t even know about.

It’s not easy having plans upset and desires withheld, but today, I’m thankful. Today, I’m focusing on the differences I can make right where I am, and I’m rejoicing.

7 Pioneer Secrets You Won’t Learn in School

Growing up, my dad often gave us history lessons as we drove through cities or while on vacation. His “history” was full of outrageous stories that made us children peal with laughter and beg for more.

Today, I decided to put mimic my father and give y’all a delightful lesson in history that you won’t find in any of the books. I hope this video brings you some joy, and if you feel inclined to share it with your friends, that would be amazing. 😉

 

 

3 Words that Will Change Your Life

It’s Monday morning. Saturday was spent reading. Sunday was spent resting. And Monday? Monday will hopefully be spent working. It sounds like a blanced week, right?

I haven’t yet complied all the results from the 24 Hour Reading Challenge, but I do have a book review due, so that’s what today’s post is. This book was delightful, so the review was a breeze to write. Enjoy!

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 192
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Title: 3 Words That Will Change Your Life
Nonfiction

1

ABOUT THE BOOK

One tiny little sentence can change your life. Ready for it?

“God is here.”

It may sound obvious at first, but truly understanding these three words is the key to more happiness, less boredom, more rest, less rush, more love, less drama, more peace, less fear.

A deeply satisfying life doesn’t require a sabbatical, a mission trip, or a New Year’s resolution. As long as God is glorious enough and near enough, you can enjoy the life that is truly life–not just the cheap substitutes we’ve settled for.

This book will help you move from just enjoying the good moments in life to worshiping the God who is right here, right now. This movement will exponentially increase your happiness, peace, and contentment. It will allow you to shake off the guilt and shame of sin and see yourself as God sees you. Learn how to recognize God’s impact on your life and find the joy he’s been waiting to give you.

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

In my never-ending quest to be more like Jesus, learning to rest in His presence is high on my list of things I’m learning to do. This book’s about The Secret to Experiencing the Joy of God’s Presence so it sounded perfect.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

On the second page, the author wrote something in caps and followed that up by saying “And your inner grammar nerd was very disappointed that I left the cap locks on?” and then went on to explain why he did. That had been exactly what I’d been thinking – rather than focusing on what he was saying. And what he was saying did need to have the caps lock on when I went back and re-read it. I knew at that moment that this book was going to be a winner for me, and it was.

This guy. He’s real, hilarious, challenging, and someone who I want to learn more from. He writes a truth-filled book in a way that makes it easy to read and hard to put down. I laughed more while reading this book than I have in a long time, and that’s saying a lot considering its nonfiction.

The book has funny little sketches and an abundance (but not overabundance) of footnotes that insert a level of humor into a message that people need to hear.

It’s easy to forget the purpose of life. To get so caught up in what is going on around you, that it suddenly feels like the stuff that’s happening is the reason for life. What the author points out is that everything in life should point us – as children of God – to God. That means that the good should remind us of Him because every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17) and everything bad should remind us of Him, because He works all things together for good to them that love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).

The book is chocked full of practical examples and laughable examples, and nod your head in happiness examples. God is here, with us. And because of that, we don’t have to be dependant on the things around us in order to dictate how we feel. That’s a huge lesson I’ve been working on learning, especially during this quarantine. I’m not doing as well as I’d like with putting that into practical usage, but I am getting better.

When it comes to negatives, the list for this book is short. The only things I remember sticking out to me were: 1) He says we can trash talk the devil, which I think is very unscriptural. And 2) He talks various times about drinking wine. I don’t think it’s wrong for some people to drink wine, but I think it needs to be talked about carefully because it can be a stumbling block to some people, and I felt like the way he was talking about it here could cause some people to stumble.

CONCLUSION

This is one of those books that I’ll be recommending, re-reading, and continuing to learn from. I realize his writing style might not be everyone’s, but it is mine and I can’t wait to read more of his books.

RATING

I’m giving 3 Words that Will Change Your Life out of 5 stars, it was delightful, helpful, and a shoo-ine-in for re-reading. Thank you to Bethany House for providing me with a copy of the book so I could tell y’all about it.

Announcing: A 24 Hour Reading Challenge

This Saturday I’m doing something I’ve wanted to do for years. I’m doing a 24 Hour Reading Challenge.

And I’m not just participating in it, I’m also hosting it. 

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24 Hour Reading Challenge Defined:

It’s where you set aside 24 hours – for this one, it’s from Midnight on Friday night until Midnight on Saturday night – to read as much as you can.

I’m going super chill, so it’s a free-for-all as far as what you want to read. The category I’m choosing to read during the challenge is re-reading middle-grade childhood favorites. I’m still trying to figure out what exactly that means – so if you want to see that journey, you can check out my Instagram Stories.

What A 24 Hour Reading Challenge is NOT:

-It’s not a contest to see who can read the most
-It’s not high pressure
-It’s not a time when you have to finish a ton of books

What a 24 Hour Reading Challenge IS:

-It’s a time for readers to have fun as they’re all reading at the same time
-It’s relaxing, rejuvenating, and rewarding
-It’s a time to see what other bookworms are reading
-It’s a time to pick up that book you’ve been wanting to read for a while

How to Join the Challenge:

Comment here or over on my Instagram telling me you want to join
Choose what books you want to read
Clear as much of your Saturday as possible so you can get more time to read

How to Participate in the Challenge:

-Read as much as you can/want
-Keep track of the number of pages you read/listen to. (Yes! Audiobooks count!) This challenge tracks the number of pages you read, not the books, so you can switch back and forth to keep your mind engaged
-Post pictures on Instagram Story (or any social media venue) throughout the day with the Hashtag #24HourReadingChallenge
-Fun Option: Tag me on your 24 Hour Challenge pictures so I can see them, too!

What I’ll be Posting in my Story:

-Updates on what I’m reading
-Where I’m reading (inside, outside, upside-down)
-Snacks I’m chowing down on during the challenge
-Number of pages I’ve read
-Anything else book related
-Plus, I’ll be re-posting what other people are posting with the #24HourReadingChallenge hashtag

I’m so excited because I already have several people from Instagram (including my mom!) interested in the challenge.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Watercolor and Fabric {reaching outside my comfort zone}

Day Twenty-Nine dawns with lukewarm, day-old, decaf coffee, scrounging through the refrigerator for enough protein to count as breakfast, and the hum of the lawnmower under a gray sky.

During the last week, I was able to step outside of my comfort zone and do some things I’ve thought about doing for a while but didn’t really fit into my life. It’s been fun to branch out, surprise myself, and spend quality time with people I love.

And now, I’m off to clean the house, make lunch, and mow the lawn. Have a great day, my friends!