Everyday Life

Light Has Come – Why Winter Can Be Bearable

Welcome to the 2016 Winter Solstice, the darkest day of the year. We in the Northern Hemisphere are tilted as far away from the sun today as we ever get. In the past, I have dreaded this time of year, the dreary days of winter. Last winter was especially dreary. My husband and I spent all of our time from December to February in a drafty, smelly fixer upper, cold and cheerless. This year, we live in that fixer upper. It’s not drafty or smelly anymore–in fact, we feel it’s quite homey now–but as our first Christmas season in it approached, my feelings about it were kind of dim. After Thanksgiving, I started to look at this big white box of a house and think, “It’s so drab. How can we make look like Christmas?” I didn’t know where to start. We began our advent calendar tradition and pulled all our decorations down from the attic. Boxes of forlorn Christmas garlands and wrinkled red bows spilled over the living room and dining room, but none of it looked merry or bright. It all looked like an uninspired jumble.

The first few days of December came and went like that. The neighbors’ houses were
decorated, the pictures of friends’ beautiful holiday houses on social media flooded my news feed, the weather was cold, and I was a holiday sloth. “Maybe I’ll just hang a wreath and call it done.” I couldn’t find our wreath. But then we put up our Christmas tree. We found a beautiful one at the un-cool location of Home Depot and when we put it up, the lights shining through the deep green branches shed clarity on it all. Light.

We put lights up at Christmas because our souls need light in the winter darkness. 

Two trips to Hobby Lobby later, our front porches had garlands laced with lights and new red, cheerful bows on them. A few days and ten extension cords later, our windows had candles in them to light the night, and sometimes the rainy days. Our advent calendar ornament for that night, when all the lighting up of the house was done, was a candle.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”

This is why stringing up all these unruly strands of lights is worth it and why  lights brighten our holiday spirits without fail- The Light of the World came into the darkness. And he stayed and dwelt among us. Christmas lights will come and go, but The Light in the dark days of winter remains.

"It will all shake out, meanwhile I'm putting up more twinkle lights." You've Got Mail Quotes: Am I excited about winter now? Not at all. I hate winter. But I’m pulling out all the candles in the candle box I seldom open, and throwing wide curtains on sunny days. As Meg Ryan says in You’ve Got Mail, “It will all shake out. Meanwhile, I am putting up more twinkle lights.” Her friend Birdie calls that “a fine idea,” and it is. Candles, twinkle lights, lamps in every corner, whatever it takes, we will have light this winter. Light will remind us that the deep darkness in our souls is no more, that The Light has come and He has stayed.

May your Christmas and your winter be merry and bright, full of lights and flooded by The Light.

Children's Books, Reading

A Slew of New Autumn Picture Books We Love

There’s something about this time of year that makes all the children’s books feel full of warmth and rightness. Maybe it’s because the thought of little furry, woodland creatures scurrying around to prepare for winter makes us think cozy, happy thoughts next to warmly colored pictures. I don’t know, but I can tell you that we raked in a bunch of books that were perfect for the 2-5 age range at our last library trip. Not all of them are necessarily fall-themed, but most of them feature small, furry creatures  (and one tiny bear) and I guarantee you will not mind if your preschoolers ask to read them again and again. The last book in the list is a Thanksgiving themed one, so be sure to check that out, too!

2130219Whose Shoes? Anne Grossnickle Hines/ LeUyen Pham

A joyful little mouse-girl goes from room to room in her family’s house, trying on shoes. She has lots of fun being silly and so will your little ones when they read this book. Every other page has a lift-the-flap illustration. LeUyen Pham is one of my favorite illustrators, and she’s written some gems herself, too. I was quite pleased to stumble upon this one in our local library display.

Otto the Book Bear, Kate Cleminson

Otto the Book BearOtto is a tiny bear who lives in a book, but pops out on occasion to explore. When his book leaves him behind, he goes on an adventure to find a new home, and ends up finding something even better. The illustrations are soft and inviting, each page has just a few words that poignantly describe what Otto is doing and how he feels about it, and there’s just something about this book that makes you want to go live in a library for a few hours. It’s a perfect rainy day read-aloud, but any day will do. Plus, it’s so cute to hear my two-year-old ask for “Otto.” Thanks to Jansen at Everyday Reading for featuring this one in an Instagram post! We are in love with it.

Kitten's First Full MoonKitten’s First Full Moon, Kevin Henkes

Black and white, but not boring, Kitten’s First Full Moon is about a little kitten in who has to figure out that the full moon isn’t actually a bowl of milk to drink. She’s such a petulant little kitten, it’s hard not to wish that the moon would just become a bowl of milk. This book won a Caldecott in 2005, but we just recently started noticing the board book version popping up everywhere. It’s perfect to check out at the library or give away at baby showers.

Such a Little MouseSuch A Little Mouse, Alice Schertle/ Stephanie Yue

Alice Schertle is famous for Little Blue Truck, a favorite around here, and her latest children’s book about a little mouse exploring the world and storing up food during each season of the year does not dissapoint. The little mouse lives in a sunny field and meets many woodland creatures through the year, but the best part to me is the cozy drawings of his home under the dandelion clump.

Sharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving StorySharing the Bread: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story, Pat Zitlow Miller/ Jill McElmurry

All ages can appreciate this lyrical book with bright and warm illustrations that show a big family coming together to prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, it might be a far cry from what mine or your Thanksgiving looks like now, but it’s fun to see the work that went into a meal at the turn of the 20th century, and the warmth of family gathered and a meal shared glows on each page. Thanks to Sarah McKenzie at Read Aloud Revival for sharing this book!

Those are the picture books we’re enjoying this month! I hope you have a great week celebrating Thanksgiving with your friends and family and in your own heart.

Reading, Reviews

Books To Read This Winter – There’s Something For Everyone!

Winter is simply the best time to read. I mean, I love stretching out on a deck chair on a sunny June day with a book, but there are lots of other things I love in June, too… picking berries, swimming, planting things that probably won’t grow, going on long walks at sunrise, washing stuff…I really like June. But if I’m next to a roaring fire on a cold December day, my hands are aching to have a book in them. All is wrong with the world if I’m without something to read in wintertime. Lucky for you, I started my winter reading early this year! I’ve read a little bit of everything lately, and so I’m putting together a little guide for what to pick up this winter, gathered from several different genres.

Literary Fiction

To The Bright Edge of the World, Eowyn Ivey

To The Bright Edge of the WorldThis is my favorite book of 2016. It combines adventure with history in a completely new way, and is one of those books that is so interesting and well written, it will appeal to men and women of any age. Set in the frontier of Alaska at the end of the 19th century, this novel is based on the real historical figures of Colonel Allen Forrester and his wife Sophie. Colonel Forrester is given the task of mapping an unexplored area of Alaska, and the fictionalized accounts of his trip with his small group of men are enthralling and make me want to know much more than I do about Alaskan history and all the mysticism explorers encountered. While Colonel Forrester is away, Sophie pursues her own love of nature through the newly invented camera. I found both of their narratives to be equally absorbing. This is the kind of book that you put down and you can’t wait to pick up again, and when it’s over you long to start another one just like it. I haven’t read Ivey’s first novel The Snow Child, but it is on the bedside table stack and will surely be one of my Winter 2016 reads.

Historical Fiction 

Amy Snow, Tracy Rees

Amy SnowIf you like historical fiction about women in the 1800s, this book is your cup of tea. It follows the life of the title character Amy Snow, who was found as an abandoned newborn by a young heiress and raised in a confusing and unconventional way. After the heiress dies at a very young age, Amy must follow a trail left for her to discover the truth about who she is and who her benefactress was, as well. I would say that Jane Eyre heavily influenced Tracy Rees; Amy’s character is very similar in tone and personality to Jane. This is the winter equivalent to a light, well-written beach read, with a huge plus that it is fairly clean/non-smutty, though it deals with some adult themes.

Memoir

 The Magnolia Story, Chip and Joanna Gaines

As a fan of Fixer Upper, I knew I would be reading this as soon as I heard they were The Magnolia Storyreleasing it. I tried to go into it with low expectations…after all, they’re TV personalities, not writers. I was pleasantly surprised, though, because what I found in the pages of The Magnolia Story was not a story about TV personalities…it was a story about real people, with real faith and normal struggles. Sometimes it seems like a memoir has to feature a tragedy to get published, but this one was hopeful and inspiring. I garnered some real perspective on thriving when you’re not in the middle of what you would consider success, and on building a strong marriage by sticking close together in life, pursuing similar dreams.  As a book, it’s not a Pulitzer Prize winner or anything, but a tiny taste of what it would be like to sit around a dinner table for a few hours with Chip and Joanna Gaines and laugh and talk with them about life.

Mystery or Crime Novel

Lady Cop Makes Trouble, Amy Stewart

Lady Cop Makes Trouble (Kopp Sisters, #2)The sequel to Girl Waits With A Gun does not disappoint. Constance Kopp is back as one of the first lady cops in America. She is trying to work her way into the well-deserved role of deputy sheriff, but a German con-man is besting her and everyone else on the police force. Just as I did in the first installment of The Kopps Sisters series, I thoroughly enjoyed the history and real-life people woven into this page-turner. Amy Stewart always features a plot-line straight from the newspapers of the early 1900s. Definitely start with the first book, but don’t wait too long to get into this series if you’re a fan of Maisie Dobbs or historical crime fiction in general. On a clean-read note, this is a very non-graphic crime novel, for those of you concerned with being able to sleep at night (that would be me).

Faith-Based

The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp

The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant LifeI’m slowly and carefully soaking up the words of this book on chilly Autumn mornings before my children wake up. So far, it is everything you would expect from Ann Voskamp – a constant fluctuation between despair and bright hope, earthly circumstances and heavenly perspective, fear and awe-inspiring love. I would venture to predict that this second book of Voskamp’s won’t be the raging success her first one was, mostly because it isn’t as much of a self-help book on finding joy. Joy is still a theme, yes, but Voskamp is exploring a tougher path this time to true, complete joy in giving.  This one isn’t going to get you keeping a list of things to be grateful for. It will get you thinking more on what’s been given up for you and how you can give more up for others. As I keep on reading it, I’ll give a fuller review. I’ve read enough to say you should definitely join me in reading it!

Fantasy or YA

Nothing new to report here, but I’d strongly recommend Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword and many of her other books. Clearly, I need some recommendations in this genre.

Those are my top picks for Winter reads in 2016! Tell me what yours are, pretty please? I’m always looking for a good book this time of year.

And if you’d like to follow me on goodreads.com, here’s the link to do that. It’s so fun to be Goodreads Friends and see one another’s reviews about all sorts of books, and I guarantee you’ll find a plethora of good reads. It’s better than Pinterest for book lovers (and maybe more dangerously time consuming…but check it out anyway!). Happy Reading!

Image result for goodreads logo

 

Everyday Life, Parenting

There’s Ovaltine in My Pantry

There’s Ovaltine in my kitchen cabinet. That can only mean one thing. It means I’m waking up like this:

Ovaltine: Wake up PERKY in the Morning! ~ My husband definitely wants me to switch to Ovaltine if I can look and feel this great in the mornings!:

And this!

Sexy Ovaltine Original 1946 Vintage Print Ad w/ by VintageAdarama:

(That image actually scares me a little bit).

Or! It could mean one other thing. I’m pregnant. Twenty-four weeks pregnant, in fact, with our fourth child. We are thrilled! But you know what I’m discovering? When you’re pregnant with your second and especially your third or fourth (or beyond, I’m guessing), all those tips in the pregnancy books about how to take care of yourself just sound like mean jokes.

“Get plenty of sleep.”

“Exercise daily.”

“Eat lots of leafy vegetables that you have to wash and chop and then somehow keep down through nausea in the beginning and heartburn for the rest of the pregnancy, all while refereeing toddlers and preschoolers.”

Thanks for those tips, thanks a lot.

Image result for vivien leighYou want a really useful tip for your fourth pregnancy? Ovaltine. Okay, so yes, these ads probably aren’t founded on very scientific data and could be at fault for false advertising. I’m guessing “false advertisement” wasn’t a thing in 1950. But even though I still wake up looking like a druggy instead of Vivien Leigh, when I am pregnant, Ovaltine becomes a staple in our pantry. I drink it about every other night because, believe it or not, it cures my restless leg syndrome that only flares up when I’m pregnant. It really does. Maybe I’m actually treating myself with the proverbial sugar water, but if tastes like chocolate and has calcium in it? I don’t really mind that I’m psyching myself out.

So, while Ovaltine isn’t giving me one red cent for saying this, Ovaltine is my only true pregnancy tip for the world in a fourth pregnancy. Oh, and maybe some water with lemon. But Ovaltine tastes way better.

Children's Books, Reviews

Picture Book Round Up, October 2016

It’s picture book review day! I’ve caught up on reviewing the nonfiction I’ve read lately and the books I hope to read this season. Now, it’s time to talk about the picture books my children have loved lately! Reading books together is one of our favorites things to do. Our library card is almost always maxed out on items checked out. Isn’t that the way it should be? =) Here are our recent discoveries and current favorites.

Violet’s Picks (Age 2)

Get Out of My Bath! by Britta Teckentrup

An interactive book about an elephant with too many bath buddies, this one is silly and fun, especially right before bath time. Violet loves the part when the narrator tells the reader to say, “Get out, crocodile!” She uses her deepest voice. This book also might aid a little bit in teaching children the idea of right and left. Just a tiny bit, though. We have several of Britta Teckentrup’s books in our library basket this week, thanks to a good recommendation from a friend. Tree is my favorite so far.

Corduroy

231850I don’t really have to say much about this one do I? It’s well-loved. Violet wants to read it pretty much every day at nap time.

Curious George Goes to an Ice Cream Shop

291367The beach house we stayed in during the last week of September had several Curious George books that Violet loved, but this one was her favorite. We are now picking one out each time we go to the library. It’s funny how each of my children seem to really latch on different book characters at this age. Her siblings never loved Curious George, but Violet seems to relate to his mischief and mayhem. I just hope the books help her live that out vicariously instead of practically. Ha.

Isaac’s Picks (Age 5)

Captain Pajamas, Defender of the Universe, by Bruce Whatley and Rosie Smith

I wouldn’t have picked this one, but what boy can resist it on display at the library? Turns out, it is pretty fun to read aloud, though I leave out a few words based on family preference (nothing terrible, just a couple of “dumbs” that I think we can do without).  Captain Pajamas/Brian is a little boy who longs to do big things and keep people safe. The hidden message I gathered from all the silliness is that reminder for grown ups: little boys need to be encouraged to do big things and take on challenges. But mostly, it’s a funny book with a comic feel that little boys who want to be big boys will enjoy.

The Caboose Who Got Loose

Isaac loves the drawings of Bill Peet. We’re just getting into his children’s books because they are a on the long side for little people. This one reminds me of Virginia Lee Burton’s The Little House. I suspect it will make both you and your train-loving children very happy.

 

 

 

Dinotrux, Dinotrux Dig the Beach, and Revenge of the Dinotrux, by Chris Gall

The Dinotrux series was Isaac’s library discovery last month, and I have never seen him more excited about finding his own books. He plopped right down in the aisle and looked through all of them, and then you better believe my husband and I had to read the three he brought home over and over again in the following two weeks. (Also, many thanks to the aunts and uncles took some turns during our big family beach trip). I’d still vote the Jim and Kate McMullan truck books way over these, but if you’re looking for more truck books for your children, these are probably going to be a hit. Just please don’t send me nasty messages about how many times you have to say things like “grrr” and “boink.” That’s just life with truck books/boys. The bonus for this book? There are Dinotrux toys to go with the books. You may or may not want to keep that detail to yourself….

Ella’s Pick (Age 7)

Fancy Nancy: Saturday Night Sleepover

A new Fancy Nancy release always makes Ella’s day. She has been a fan for several years now. This newish (2015) book is about Nancy and her youngest sister sleeping over at their neighbor’s house while their parents go on an overnight trip. Nancy has to use her best big sister skills to help ease little JoJo’s fears about being without her parents. Nancy does a great job, and also discovers that she gains comfort from having a little sister close by. It’s a cute sibling story. On the Fancy Nancy subject, Ella is thrilled to find that Nancy is in her own set of chapter books now. The Nancy Clancy series is perfect for developing readers who have grown up with Fancy Nancy. Ella is on book 3 and I’m loving how she is gaining confidence in reading her own chapter books.

This is the only picture book I can remember Ella picking out herself lately, because she’s so into chapter books now! I’m glad she loves to read and is progressing rapidly, but I could just weep over how grown up she is becoming. Moms are so weird like that.  She still loves to read picture books with the rest of us, though, so I’m treasuring these days while they last.

That sums up our favorite picture books for now. Happy reading!

 

Uncategorized

Five Fall 2016 Read-Alouds

As promised last week, today’s post features the books we’ve read aloud as part of our home school curriculum or just for fun in the past two months. Before I get any further, I have to say a giant, gargantuan “Thank you!” to Julie H. Ross for her curriculum A Gentle Feast.  It lines up with my teaching style perfectly and gives me direction for adding richness to our daily school life. Several of our Fall 2016 read-alouds came from her reading list. The others are just-for-fun reads that we’ve enjoyed.

  1. Homer Price

Robert McCloskey is famous for his picture books, such as Make Way for Ducklings and Blueberries for Sal. I’d never picked up any of his chapter book, but now I’m so glad I did. Homer is a boy growing up in a small town in the 50s, with an eye for inventions and figuring problems out. Often, though, he simply enjoys the escapades of the grown ups around him. It’s a great book, full of illustrations, a funny cast of characters, and not too many big words for small ears. It was a big hit with both my seven-year-old daughter and five-year-old son. I was so glad to start the school year off with a chapter book that appealed to both of them, because sometimes they seem more geared toward middle grade girls.

2. Swallows and Amazons

Swallows And AmazonsMy husband read this book to the kids at bedtime for a couple of months through the summer. They all liked it (though one pretended he didn’t just because he was being obstinant), and really, what’s not to like? Four kids living on their own island with their own boat for a whole summer? Battles with other boats and an imaginary pirate? Real life thieves? If your children are old enough to put up with some sailing lingo, this book is an excellent adventure story. It is a bit on the long side for very young children, probably best suited for 2nd-5th grade. Apparently, it’s been made into a movie this year, too, though I’m not sure how available it is in the U.S. and I highly doubt it will compare to the book.

3. Ramona and Beezus and Ramona and Her Father

When faced with a three-hour car drive with my three children seven and under without my husband, I impulsively/desperately snatched these audio books up at the library. We listened all the way there and all the way back. We laughed and laughed at Ramona and Beezus. Ramona is only four-years-old in this story and her mischief knows no bounds. Ramona and Her Father was enjoyable, too, but the subject matter was a little on the serious side for my kids. Still, listening together sparked a lot of good discussions about the story. Sometimes I look to fictional parents to inspire me to greatness, but in the Ramona books, I just enjoy how flawed yet loving her parents are. I feel you, Mr. and Mrs. Quimby. You shouldn’t call your daughter “a naughty girl” so often, but I feel you. These are books that I don’t think we would have enjoyed half as much if we hadn’t listened to a professional reader (Stockard Channing) doing all the voices.

4. The Burgess Bird Book for Children

We’re making our way through this book as part of our science curriculum this year. It is delightful. I know I use that word overmuch, but it really is. Peter Rabbit hops through The Old Orchard, conversing with the different birds and casually learning their habits, likes, and dislikes, as well as a bit of their personalities. There are black and white sketches of the birds throughout. This is my first exposure to Thornton Burgess’s nature books written for children. The fact that they are about one-hundred-years old (published in 1919) only adds to their charm. I’m happy to discover I have several Burgess animal books on my shelf that I didn’t even realize I had collected over the years! These are the kind of discoveries that make my week.

5. The Five Little Peppers
3981348We just started this one last week.  Isaac (5) has already lost interest, so I’m guessing it’s going to end up being one I read mostly to Ella (7). However, the cookies and books technique might drawn him back in. =) The Peppers are a poor, fatherless family who all have to pitch in and “make do,” but they do so with cheer and love and that’s why I think generations keep coming back to read about them.  I only read the abridged, illustrated edition as a child, so I’m thoroughly enjoying this read-aloud myself. I love the character of Polly Pepper, who is both admirable and likable. I’m hoping the future chapters will feature Ben and the other boys a bit more so we can get to know them, too.

That’s it for our chapter book read-alouds so far this fall! Stay tuned for an update on the picture books we’ve been enjoying lately, coming soon. Happy reading!

Reading

Fall 2016 Booklist {Books I Hope to Read This Fall}

Most book reviewers start talking about the fall reading they plan to do under cozy blankets with mugs of hot tea, oh, right around, August 15th. All those images that start popping up on Pinterest and in blog feeds of soup recipes and chunky sweaters make us down here in the Southern United States scream, dunk our faces in ice water, and sit in front of a fan for a few hours. We literally have no memory of what naturally cool air feels like until at least October.

All that’s to say, I just gave the first thought to fall reading about two hours ago, when I noticed I would kind of like to put on a sweater at 1:00 in the afternoon.  The air has a fall tang to it, and now I’m itching for a good fall reading binge. I love a good fantasy book in the fall. The only problem? My Goodreads To Read book list is firmly entrenched in serious books. Dang. Who is picking these books for me? Oh, right, me. So, I’m writing down what I think I’ll probably read based on what’s currently on hold for me at the library, but I need your recommendations for just plain fun (but no Outlander recommendations, please), and I’m reserving the right to fling any part of my list out the window in the hope that some enchanting, engrossing, especially wonderful book (or, even better, series!) comes my way.

The Mia The Reader Fall 2016 Booklist

The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life

The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant LifeAnn Voskamp is releasing a new book on October 26th, and you can bet your book light it will be in my mailbox on that very day. One Thousand Gifts is one of my favorite books of all time, one that truly set my feet on a new and better course, and I eagerly await Voskamp’s second book. My only concern is I suspect it my wreck me for the typical American Christmas season. I’m mostly okay with that.

 

 

Truly, Madly, Guilty, Liane Moriarty

I don’t love all of Moriarty’s books but I always give them a chance after reading What Alice Forgot. Her newest came out this summer, and the premise is a little iffy for my taste, so the jury’s out on whether I’ll actually read it all, but I’ll give it a go as soon as my turn for it comes up at the library.

Teaching from Rest, Sarah McKenzie

I enjoy McKenzie’s approach to homeschooling on her blog (and her podcast is one of my favorites), so I think it’s high time I read her highly praised book. I could use a lot more wisdom in this area. McKenzie approaches her homeschooling from the Charlotte Mason way of thinking, for anyone who is looking for more of that in their homeschooling philosophy.

To the Bright Edge of the World, Eowyn Ivey

To The Bright Edge of the WorldI’ve heard Ivey can make any book work simply through her way with words. I haven’t read her first book, The Snow Child, but was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. This is her second novel, and both of her works are set in Alaska. Perfect fall/winter reading. (I know, I know, it’s not always winter in Alaska, but snow usually has something to do with the story).

The Magnolia Story, Chip and Joanna Gaines

Because I am a fan of Fixer Upper and I can’t help myself. I appreciate how Joanna’s blog writing focuses on the positive elements of work and parenting, and I’m just plain curious about how the Gaineses’ life has become what it is now.

This may be my shortest seasonal reading list ever, but I’m trying to be a responsible adult and sleep and cook meals and things like that this Fall. Also, we are still knee deep in home renovations here. But you can be sure I’ll be reading other books along the way. I’ll keep you posted. And coming soon is the list of what my kids and I are reading together right now!

What are you reading?

 

Reading, Reviews

All The Pretty Things and Other September Reads

Thank you for all your kind words after my last post, The Summer That Was Quiet and Hard. Knowing that the whole self-contempt, identity issue is something many of us face, I wanted to share a few books that are helping me think through it all. 

This past month or so of reading has been completely out of the ordinary. I am usually a novel girl, as in, I read lots of novels and throw in a few nonfiction books here and there for good measure. But when you’re trying to figure out a lot of real life and you feel like you’re wading through deep waters, a thirst for help and wisdom and true stories from other travelers along the path is all that will do. And I gotta say, a couple of these books that just came out in the last two months are amazingly wonderfully.

Present Over Perfect

Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of LivingI put Shauna Niequist’s Present Over Perfect on my Spring TBR list, hoping to get an early release copy. I didn’t get one, but it was God’s goodness to me that I didn’t and that somehow I didn’t even get around to buying it the day it came out. I waited to read it until the very end of August. There could not have been a more perfect book for me to read at that very moment in my life. This surprised me, because I actually thought before I started the book, “I’ve kind of heard a lot about this message –the slow your pace, pay more attention to the present message–lately and I’m not so sure this book is going to have anything new to say about it.” Let me tell you, I was wrong.  Present Over Perfect bowled me over. It was this book that helped me recognize the self contempt I was feeling, and the one that gave me some tools to start waging the slow thought-battle against it. Niequist has so many good things to say about how we define ourselves and what our defining measures can do to our lives, in good and bad ways. I want to read it again right this minute. I hope you pick it up, and I hope it is the huge gift to you that it was to me.

All the Pretty Things

All the Pretty Things: The Story of a Southern Girl Who Went Through Fire to Find Her Way HomeEdie Wadsworth of Life In Grace has been writing her memoir for three years. This is one of those, “I wasn’t going to write a memoir but a publisher asked me to” situations that makes aspiring writers jealous and angry, but I am really glad that Wadsworth wrote it, no matter what the process was. All The Pretty Things is a book I couldn’t put down. Edie grew up in rural Tennessee, the daughter of dysfunction and love. Her family and her story will make you laugh and cry in sequence over and over again. I loved it. If you’re a fan of The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, this book is definitely your cup of tea. I liked it even better than Walls’s memoir because of the huge measure of hope and redemption on every page. I bought this book. I love books, I read tons of books, but the library is my best friend. I hardly ever buy brand new books, but I bought this one. It’s so good, and filled with hope in hard situations. (Side note: her short podcast series Grace Talks is still my favorite podcast ever).

Chase

Chase Study Guide: Chasing After the Heart of GodThis is the second study I’ve done by Jennie Allen (the first one was Stuck) and again I am so thankful for the books and studies that are in my life at just the right time. Chase begins with a chapter called “Identity” and that is perfect. I’m finding you have to come face to face with who you are without God and with God before anything can become clear and you can live in the goodness God gives us. Chase studies the life of David and so far it’s been eye opening to look at stories I’ve read a million times (like David and Goliath) through the lens of how David’s belief in God changed his actions when compared to everyone around him. Truly, what we believe about God and ourselves changes everything.

So that’s what I read in September. And now it’s October! I’ll be back in a few days to post my reading goals for this Fall. Until then, have a great start to October!

Everyday Life

The Summer That Was Quiet and Hard: On Beating Self-Contempt

I’m don’t know about you, but I’m so glad to see September. Summer is my favorite, I adore summer…but I didn’t love this summer. It was a hard summer, and that came as a surprise. I thought it would be great. Remember my quest for less outside inspiration and more original thought? It began in early May, when I quit Facebook.  I thought my mind would be less clouded by outside influences and I would find my own voice and get down to reading good books, writing, and creating. It was a lovely plan. What happened?

Somehow, I assumed my own original thoughts would be, well, nice. Maybe beautiful, or enlightening, or empowering. Maybe hopeful and kind and worthy of sharing with others. Strange that I thought that was the obvious direction my brain would go if I were to stop taking in so much on the internet and start living more present in my own mind. It turns out, my own mind on its own wasn’t so friendly.

I muddled through most of the summer and made very little headway. To make a long, uninteresting story short, the more present I became, the more connected with my own thoughts, the more I stared contempt in the face.  You know contempt? “The feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn?” As I wrote, as I talked, as I pursued my own thoughts, all I found was negativity, and I didn’t like it. I was full of disdain for all sorts of things. It was ridiculous and never ending. What I began to understand is that contempt is almost always a message of self-contempt at my core.

Self-contempt is pretty easy to define: take that definition above of “contempt,” and point it at yourself. It’s feeling like you, yourself, are beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn. Yeah, not a fun feeling. Even less fun when it’s become a theme in your thought processes without your realizing it. How did I discover that outward contempt is usually a cover up for inward contempt? I was getting a lot of hints.

When I tried over and over to write a blog post about our homeschooling curriculum choices, I kept deleting everything I wrote because it all ended up sounding so defensive and a bit mean-spirited. Hint to self: I was insecure about my curriculum choices.

When I reviewed books, I criticized too harshly. Hint to self: I don’t like what I’m reading because I’m jealous that I’m not the one writing books.

image02
I greatly admire Joanna Gaines but a sign that says “Same Day Service” in my laundry room (which is actually the garage) would crush my soul to smithereens.

When I searched on Pinterest for ideas on various things, I felt loathing form firmly in my mind towards those Internet People who have Freezer Cooking and Capsule Wardrobes and Healthy School Lunches all figured out. And let’s not talk about people with pretty laundry areas or delightful school rooms.  Hint to self: I’m not so pleased with the job I’m doing at home.

 

Just like jealousy is a truth teller about your own desires, contempt is a an arrow pointing right back to something about you. “It’s so dumb to put all that effort into getting your hair highlighted just right” actually means, “I wish I had a fresh hair cut. Why don’t I ever get my hair done? I’m just not good at making myself pretty.” When I think, “What a waste of time to paint a sign that says, “Laundry” to put in your laundry area. Thank you, Captain Obvious,” what I am thinking at a deeper level is, “I am a wretched homemaker. My living room doesn’t even look as nice as that laundry area does.”

You can’t produce good things when you’re hating yourself. You can’t b20160826_204304663_iOSe a good spouse, a good mother, a good friend, or the kind of writer who can give people ideas that empower and encourage others in life when you’re full of negativity towards yourself. The reality behind this quiet summer: my thoughts were not beautiful. They were unkind towards myself and as a result, towards many things. It spilled over into everything.

I don’t want to be a negative person anymore. I don’t want to be a bully in my own thoughts, always trying to make myself feel better about myself.  So I’m focusing on kindness. It’ll have to start with kindness to myself. How can a self-directed mean spirit be so ingrained in a girl? Our culture makes it pretty easy, but I’m done blaming culture. It doesn’t get me anywhere. I know I can’t just suddenly be kind to myself. It’ll be a process. I’ve got some starting points, though, and things are already getting lighter. I’m not sharing this process because I want people to tell me I’m great, because trust me, that won’t help. As Anne Lamott says, “this will have to be an inside job.” I’m sharing this summer’s journey because I suspect a lot of us need to stop running away from our own thoughts and stand to fight them. Yes, it’s easier to find a Scary Mommy post on the very thing you feel insecure about, and sometimes that’s healing to find camaraderie, but it’s a frail fix to what’s really going on inside. We forget this fact too often: we are valuable simply because we are people. Not perfect people in any way, just people. We are created and we are loved and we must stop thinking our worth lies in anything else. This summer was hard, but if I can get that in my head and give that message back to the people around me, it will all be worth it.

Reading, Reviews

Quick Lit Review- August, 2016

I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Quick Lit today to review what I’ve been reading lately. I have to confess, most of these books were read at the end of July or before August 6 because OLYMPICS. I save up all my TV watching hours for four years and cram them into two weeks and I loooove it. I wrote here about how my husband and I had to re-think our sports watching habits a few years ago, but I will not be moved on this– I will watch as much Summer Olympics as possible. But onto the books I did read since last month’s Quick Lit review!

The Light of ParisThe Light of Paris, by Eleanor Brown – I looked forward to this new book coming out by Brown because I really enjoyed her debut novel, The Weird Sisters. The Light of Paris was not as appealing to me, partly because it’s one of those back-and-forth situations between a character in the past and present, which I am pretty much sick of. The one technique that saves this novel structure in The Light of Paris is the present day plot is narrated in first person and the past plot is narrated in third person, so it’s a tiny bit easier to keep the plot lines straight in your mind. Still, I much prefer getting into one character’s story and staying there. Other than structure, I’d give it a 2.5 stars, mostly because the themes and story lines were not all that believable or enthralling.

The Affair at the Inn – I discovered that Kate Wiggins, author of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, co-wrote a charming little book about a group of travelers in England in the 1800s. It was amusing, a nice light read for fans of old books and free on Project Gutenberg.

The House on the Cliff – My most recent D.E. Stevenson read. As usual, she does not disappoint.

The Grand Sophy – First foray into Georgette Heyer! I can’t say it turned me into a devoted fan, but all the readers who say Heyer is great for a sick day weren’t lying.

The Middle PlaceThe Middle Place – Kelly Corrigan’s first memoir is a touching and honest account of dealing with cancer and family relationships at the same time, though I much more enjoyed this memoir about a brush with death, largely because of the faith behind it. I listened to this one while painting some furniture.

Deck with Flowers – More Elizabeth Cadell! She’s my new-old discovery this summer, and I’m really enjoying reading her books as I can find them.

There’s an Easier Way: 21 Ways to Lovingly Raise Your Children Without Regrets – I picked up this booklet on Amazon after hearing one of the authors, Bonni Greiner, speak on The God Centered Mom Podcast (which I highly recommend). The book is an easy read that doesn’t go incredibly deep but is full of useful tidbits, all of them doable and sensible. If you’re feeling overwhelmed as a mom but you also don’t feel up to reading a deeply theological parenting book, this one is great to get you thinking in the right direction without robbing too many precious brain cells or sleep. =)

I’m currently in the middle of new release Radio Girls, and enjoying it so far! What have you been reading?