Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review: The Blessed Church


 This was my first experience reading a book for review that I received from Blogging for Books. I have to say that I chose this one because most of the others offered to me were in digital format, and, for better or worse, I'm really not a fan of reading books that way.

So, hooray for shiny new hardback books!

This book was designed more for pastors or church staff members, but I have plenty of experience reading books that were designed for pastors or church staff. (PK & now married to a man on our church's pastoral staff).

These are some of the points that Robert Morris made that had me nodding my head and agreeing:
  • God made us to want to bring an increase
  • Healthy things grow
  • We need to write down the vision
  • Leading is not an option
  • His chapters on church governance were insightful and challenging
That said, there were some drawbacks to this book:
  • This book is not really a template to follow, even though the subtitle is "The Simple Secret to Growing the Church You Love". Every church is different because people are different and circumstances are different. I didn't see "secret", simple or otherwise.
  • I suspect I have significant theological differences with this author on several important doctrines.
  • The author's brand of emotional Christianity and his use of "so I flipped open my Bible and the next verse I saw was {fill in the blank} so I knew God was telling me {fill in the blank}", was off-putting to me.
All in all, this book is concise and does contain some encouragement and insight some pastors might find helpful. You just have to take the good and leave the bad. But I could say that about nearly every book I've ever read.

To find out more about this book or its author you can:
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Monday, February 25, 2013

In Which I Endeavor to Have Perspective

Last night we came home from church and I went to put my rings and jewelry away - the way I always do - and my earring box was gone. I looked behind the dresser. I asked the girls if they had taken it (some of my girls are little magpies).

Then I noticed the muddy footprints on the floor which lead to my husband's closet (on his side of the bed) and my closet (on my side of the bed).

My jewelry, stored in one of those three drawer organizer things from Sterilite or Rubbermaid and placed on a shelf in my closet taller than I am, was all gone. Except for one drawer, which was empty.

All gone.

My earring box that my Papaw and Mamaw gave me for Christmas when I was a very young teenager. All my jewelry that I had been given, made, inherited, or bought since I was a child. Along with Sweet Pea's birthday cash that she had just received at her birthday party.

I am still dealing with this loss. I've never been a "jewelry person". I don't wear a lot and I don't desire to own a lot. But what I owned mattered to me. There were sentimental things that can never be replaced.

It's an awful feeling.

My brother and I found the empty plastic drawers and a bunch of empty jewelry boxes in some trash cans near the end of our street. There were a few odds and ends left in the boxes, but none of the things I had been praying to find.

My Isaiah necklace, a bracelet a friend made me with the 3 oldest girls' names on it, gifts from my grandparents, my birthstone ring that my parents gave me as my class ring (remember, I was homeschooled), and things like that are all gone.

We've been dealing with a very nice police officer (female). She's sympathetic and seems to be willing to do her job, but really, there's not much to be done. It looks like kids / teenagers did this and the chances of tracking them or the jewelry down are not great.

Another thing I've learned, while looking through our family pictures to try and find pictures of certain pieces of jewelry: I am not in very many pictures. And I'm not wearing jewelry in many of those. This seems bad for several reasons. After all, I don't want my girls to look back one day and say, "Well, I think Mom was there, but I'm not sure."

Even if we had the itemized list & pictures and everything, our deductible is a high one. Considering that the items are mostly a) irreplaceable to me but b) not monetarily valuable, I doubt insurance is going to be anything but a hassle. (Query: When is insurance NOT anything but a hassle?)

Like I said, I am still processing this. It's an awful feeling and I was actually physically sick over it last night. But today I am seeking perspective and God is actually helping me to find it.

Here are some things I'm thankful for today:
1. We weren't home.
2. No one was hurt.
3. Nothing in our house was broken, ransacked, or destroyed.
4. They didn't take our new camera (which was sitting out in the next room), computer, or anything electronic (TV, DVD player, the girls' Wii).
5. They took the visible cash (Sweet Pea's birthday money) but didn't take any of our other cash we have in our home. I shall not be specific, but let me just say that we use the Dave Ramsey envelope system and I am thankful they did not find those envelopes.
6. I was wearing my favorite earrings and my wedding band / engagement ring. Many times when I'm pregnant the engagement ring gets too tight to be comfortable but so far this pregnancy it hasn't. So I had it on.
7. Pastor Dad and Mom are home from visiting my sister, brother-in-law and new nephew. I needed them around last night. And The Bear too. He was a huge help and so sweet. (Shh, don't tell him I said so.)
8. This final one is a quote Pastor Dad reminded me of:
“I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.” - Matthew Henry (a clergyman in England in the late 1600's through the early 1700's.)
There are some small, mean, stupid, and desperate people out there. I am glad that, by God's grace, I do not have to be one of them.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Dear Sweet Pea

Oh, my darling Sweet Pea!

I don't even know how to describe you and your personality. Here are some words that come to mind: busy, smart, sensitive, blunt, funny, thoughtful, energetic, high maintenance, joyful, affectionate, and definitely one of a kind.
You love your sisters. You are proud to be one of "The Girls". You're really excited about this Baby Brother thing, and you're already getting him prepared for his arrival with lots of hugs and kisses while he's still inside me.
You bring such joy to Daddy and me. You are a blessing from God, no doubt about it. You came into the world in a bit of a hurry and ever since then, you've had places to go and people to see. We just try to keep up. (Maybe it's something to do with the curly hair?)
And I know you didn't go for my idea about you just staying five, even though I promised you a birthday party even if you didn't go on to be Six Years Old (which, as you point out, is more than a handful).

Well, how 'bout staying six instead? As the poem says:
Now We Are Six
- A.A. Milne
When I was one I had just begun
When I was two I was nearly new

When I was three I was hardly me
When I was four I was not much more

When I was five I was just alive
But now I am six, I'm as clever as clever;

So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever. 
So, think that might work?

Love,
Mommy

Weekend Links - February 23, 2013

Lots going on this weekend - special services at church, birthday party for Sweet Pea (a Sweet Pea birthday post will be up later today), visit from the in-laws, remembering our baby who didn't join us here, and then these things: stomach virus (me), furnace that randomly decides when it will or will not work (just enough to drive us crazy, call a repair guy, cancel repair guy, and wonder if it's going to give out), first house showing in months and then, oh, yes, a terrible smell in our bedroom wall that we can't track down. Just another weekend, right?

Anyway, on to the linkage.

Spiritual / Inner Life:
Marriage / Parenting:
Homeschooling / Education:
Homekeeping:
Everything Else:
Pins of the Week:
Yum:
Colorful dining room:
Great use of space:

So, what caught your eye this week?
This post will be linked to Saturday Linky Love at Vanderbilt Wife. If you do a links post, please consider sharing it with us there.

Friday, February 22, 2013

In My Distress and Wherever I've Gone

This is the anniversary of the day we found out that our Baby #5 wouldn't be joining our family here on Earth.

It was hard, friends.

It is still hard, sometimes.

Here's a story I haven't told you yet:We had to wait over a long weekend, through a birthday party for our Sweet Pea, through a day at church, through a Monday, until the D&C the doctor scheduled for Tuesday night. Do you know how awful it is to go through days and nights knowing that your body has become a casket for your child? Do you realize the awful irony that womb and tomb actually rhyme? What kind of sick joke is that?

Dark, beloved.

My body knows how to be pregnant. It was not ready to give up the baby, even though he was already dead.

So we had to have the D&C.

Did you know that you have to go to the same floor of the hospital where babies are born? The nurses are thoughtful: they put us in a back waiting room, used primarily by med students, so that we didn't have to sit in the main waiting room with all those excited people waiting for their new grandbabies and baby sisters or brothers.

Then we followed a nurse down the hallways and corridors, back through what looked like a storage closet to a hospital room. There was another woman in there, behind the curtains. Everything was said in hushed voices, to not disturb this other patient or anyone else. Everyone was gentle and kind. No one made a scene, not even me.

So, I'm in a hospital bed, in a hospital gown. I'm cold and they're covering me with blankets that are just like the blankets they put over me after I've had a baby - which is the only other time I've been in a hospital bed: to give birth to a baby.

The nurses go away for a bit. We  had to wait even longer because the doctor was held up in another procedure.

My husband takes my hand.

"Maybe we should pray," he says.

"Can you stop trying to pastor me and just be my husband, just be here with me?" Oh, yes, I snapped the words. They were harsh. I didn't want to pray together. Pray for what?

He looked startled, of course. "I'll just pray for you later, on my own," he said. I turned away but I was still holding his hand as tightly as I could.

I don't remember a lot after that. Answering questions from the anesthesiologist, medicine kicking in, down the hallway, kiss from Philip and then he had to go wait on his own.

And I woke up and he was right beside me. So strange, that one of the most significant experiences of my life is completely gone from my memory. Not that I want to remember what happened in that delivery room, of course. It's just so odd to only remember that shabby little hospital room: pregnant, then not pregnant in what seemed to be a matter of minutes (in actuality: much longer), with remarkably little physical side effect for me. No blood. No visible scars.

I didn't want to pray out loud because it would be ugly. It would be messy.

Things were ugly and messy enough without that. And I didn't want to hear his prayer because what if it wasn't ugly and messy? What if he was calm and composed and could string coherent sentences together? As if our baby hadn't just died, as if none of this really mattered very much anyway?

I didn't want to hear that.

I didn't want out loud prayers.

But I was praying. I had never stopped.

I didn't hear this song until later, several months after the miscarriage. And I cried. Because this is how I had prayed:

It was the only prayer that made sense when things didn't make sense and I didn't know why things were happening a certain way: God, I need you now. I need your strength just to breathe. I need you now.

And He was there.

So later, I could hear this song:

And yes, it choked me up. But in a good way.

Because yes, there are sleepless nights. There are tears. There are prayers that are too ugly to share out loud. And then there are the real blessings of God, the mercies we did not want and would never have asked for, and yet cannot do without.

The ugly prayers? He didn't mind. The sleepless nights? He was there. He was near. He is.

I am a different person this February 22. Some things in my life that have changed for the better: I read the Bible differently. I pray differently. I parent my children differently. The way I think about Heaven is different. Our marriage is stronger than it has ever been - we've needed each other more than before. This current pregnancy is different: I've cherished each moment God gives me with our youngest Baby Boy - I certainly haven't taken anything about this pregnancy for granted. I haven't complained about the aches and pains like I did in previous pregnancies. (OK, I've grumbled a bit, but not as much.)

Some other things have changed in negative ways. I've felt so afraid with this new pregnancy - almost paralyzing fear, a kind I've never faced before. (Bad things can happen to us. Would it happen again? Could I survive if it did?) Relationships have been damaged. I'm afraid to trust people. Even though I've always struggled with that, it's worse than before. People have hurt me with insensitive words and actions and those don't just roll off. I feel even more intensely protective of our privacy and the atmosphere in our home (sometimes that's a good thing and sometimes not). The part of me that wants to stay home and just not deal with anything else, well, that part wins a lot.

For those of you who have stood by us, I thank you for praying for us, then and now. I thank those of you who remember our baby, who call him by name and make memorial gifts to your churches or ministries in his honor. I thank those of you who have shared your own stories of loss with me. I pray for those of you who are going through similar situations. I hope you know that I am praying for you, far better than I could have back in early February 2012.

But ultimately, no matter what my earthly circumstances, day by day, I must choose to honor the God who is there. The God who answers. Just like Jacob told his family:
"Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” Genesis 35:3
I now testify to the same: He is the God who answers me in my distress and He has been with me wherever I have gone.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Booking Through Thursday

How often do you visit a library? Do you go to borrow books? Do research? Check out the multi-media center? Hang out with the friendly and knowledgeable staff? Are you there out of love or out of need?
 I love the library. I think I've always loved the library.

The first library I remember was in an old, dignified building off the square of the small town where I grew up. It had been a post office before that, but not one of those small and dingy types. This is what it looked like:
The children's section was in the basement, down a steep flight of stairs. Story Time back in those days was for kids only: moms had to go read a boring magazine or something.

Some of the librarians, including the Children's Librarian were stern and kind of scary. When a librarian checked out your books, the machine made a loud punching sound, which was almost the only sound in the whole building because librarians in those days were excellent shushers and they were not afraid to Hush You Up.

But I loved the library anyway.

And I still do. I try to take my girls every other week. Our system now has an excellent book ordering system on line so I can order all the things I need for the girls' school on Philip's teacher card and he can pick them up for us when he's there tutoring (almost every afternoon).

I still try to take the girls every other week, just because they love it.

There's a lot less shushing these days. There are computer games, internet access and programs of every type. I occasionally make the trip to the downtown library for research. There's something mystically soothing about scrolling through microfilm.

Our librarians at our branch know us by name. They ask us about our lives and how Philip's games are selling. They comment on how big the girls are getting, and they should know, because we've taken them there since Polly was a baby.

I remember Sweet Pea asking how much we had to pay for the books we were getting (several book bags worth). Not feeling it necessary to go into a discussion about local taxes (or late materials fees), I just said, "Nothing. They let us borrow these and then we bring them back when our turn is over and borrow more."

She looked around the building.

"All of this?"

"Yep."

"That's really nice," she said.

I agree.

This post is linked to Booking Through Thursday.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Random...Tuesday

I do not have my act together these days. I'm guessing you already figured that out.

Anyway, here's my randomness. On Tuesday instead of Monday. ('Cause Deb's link up is forgiving like that.)

* I promise not to turn this blog into "all prayer requests, all the time", but please pray for the niece of a friend. This baby was born today because of complications in her Mama's pregnancy. Her gestational age is 24 weeks so she has a lot of challenges ahead but we praise God for His gift of life and pray that she will live a long, healthy life despite her early entry into this world.

* We took the girls to Children's Theatre today. We met up with several sets of friends. Philip invited some of these friends to eat with us after the play (some other friends were already meeting us there). They agreed. Turns out, they didn't know where the agreed upon restaurant was. So, yeah, such awesome friends we are. "Come do this thing with us" in one breath and "Run, kids, don't let them follow you!" in another. OK, we didn't actually do that but I feel badly about it. Note to ourselves: always make sure everyone knows the meeting place.

* For Science this week, we're studying Earthquakes. We're using some of these resources, too. And can I just say that I love it when I don't have to search all over THE WHOLE INTERNET for activities and such for a homeschool unit?

* This was going to be in my Saturday links post but I think I'd rather share it now: For When We Ache by Aubrie Drayer.

* Philip and I really laughed over this anecdote in the most recent Reader's Digest:
After downing half a glass of milk, my ten-year-old son declared, "I am an optimist: The glass is half empty!"
"Looking at the glass as half empty is a sign of pessimism," I said.
He corrected me: "Not if you don't like what's in it."
That, my friends, is what you call perspective.

This post is linked to Random Monday at Not Inadequate, even though it's Tuesday. Don't let that throw off your whole week.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Weekend Links - February 16, 2013

Before I get on with the usual (lengthy) links post, I have to ask you to please pray for our church family and dear friends as one of our own died suddenly Friday. This one feels like a sucker punch to the gut as it was so unexpected. This man was a friend to everyone he ever met, never walked by you without saying something encouraging. There are not enough people like him and I cannot imagine who can possibly fill his place and role in our church. Thanks in advance for your prayers for the family (and multitude of friends) he leaves behind.

Now, on to the links for this week:
Spiritual / Inner Life:
Parenting / Marriage:
Homekeeping / Food Related:
  • Photo Collages: Choosing Photos by Kelle Hampton.
  • Really needed this one: Dream House from The Handmade Home.
  • And yet I don't think this is contradicting advice, but rather complimentary: Visualize Your Dream Home (a post about organizing) by Colleen Madsen.
  • OK, I'm ridiculous and I know it, but I enjoy posts and getting ideas like this: Organized Bathroom Cabinet from Hi Sugarplum.
  • Simple Steps You Can Take to Reduce Food Waste by Deb Lee. Food waste is one of the things that annoys me on a regular basis. How do we end up wasting so much when we have so many hungry people living in this house?!
  • Kathryn of Designing Around shows how she deals with The Lego Scourge. Oh, yes. Every parent knows this battle. I like her solution a lot better than the usual Lego advice.
  • Cut Your Coffee Costs by Roasting Beans at Home. Philip uses the popcorn popper method. I can't say I've noticed it cutting our coffee costs (especially since I still have to buy Decaf and sometimes regular, depending on what he asks for) but it does make him happier with his morning coffee. That's worth a lot to me.
  • How to Stop Using a Microwave. We haven't had a microwave for years and here's the crazy thing: we haven't missed it. (Note: we did not stop using our microwave because we thought it was bad for our health. Ours caught on fire and we just never replaced it.  I take all those microwave related health warnings with a LARGE dose of salt.)
  • Love this approach for all those "don't really need it any more but I have a sentimental attachment to it" items (yes, I'm a recovering Pack Rat): Our Memory Boxes from Simple Organized Living.
Homeschooling / Education:
 Clothes / Personal (The Semi-Shallow category, I suppose):
Interesting / Non-categorized:
Well, that ought to keep you busy until next Saturday. (I kid, I kid. But seriously though, am I going to have to make this blog all links, all the time? Because these posts aren't getting any shorter.)

Pins of the week:
Really like this outfit (gives me something to aim for post-baby, right?):

This looks so good:

What a cozy, colorful little spot:

OK, folks, you can breath a sigh of relief. That's it for this week.

This post will be linked to Saturday Linky Love at Vanderbilt Wife. If you do a links round-up any time through the week, please consider sharing it here!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Booking Through Thursday - Love

What do you love most about reading?

What do I love most?

Most?

How I love reading, let me count the ways:
We'll start with the superficial: New Car Smell has nothing on New Book Smell. How I love those fresh, new pages just waiting for me. (And how I loathe a smelly book. Dear Library Patrons: thou shalt not smoke while reading a library book. 'K? Thankyousomuch.)

Every book, whether I like it or not, whether I enjoy it or not, whether I remember all the characters, plot points, and settings or not, changes me in some way.
Books take me to places I will never visit, to times I will never live through, and to worlds I could not have imagined on my own.

Books make me want to improve myself, they help me understand bigger things, they help me to appreciate smaller things, and they are readily available. I have a stack of books just waiting for me in the night when I can't sleep, a story ready to whisk me away when Real Life is Too Much, and they can make me laugh or cry as needed, but not if I don't want to.

Books reassure me that I am not the Only One. That other people have struggled with things similar to my struggles. That people have conquered mountains that I need to conquer. That someone, somewhere, asked themselves similar questions to the questions I ask.

What do I love most about reading? Hmm...
This post is linked to Booking Through Thursday.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

WWW Wednesday

• What are you currently reading?
I have current bookmarks in these:
Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard. I can't say I knew a lot about President Garfield or his assassination before reading this but this book is well written and completely fascinating.
The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson. I have to say that this one is challenging me and my perceptions of what a "prayer life" should be. I can't say I've agreed with everything I've read, but then, I can rarely say that. I do think the author has an unfortunate propensity for writing in cliches and "motivational poster speak".
A Complaint Free World by Will Bowen. (I'm reading an older edition than the one I've linked to on Amazon.) So far, so good, although I'm not very far in and the concept of wearing a bracelet to improve my life seems pretty gimmicky at this point.
Stained Glass Hearts by Patsy Clairmont. And I've just realized that I must be working on a lot of spiritual growth right now, judging from my current reading list.

• What did you recently finish reading?
I recently finished this non-fiction:
The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers by Meg Meeker. I highly recommend this for all my Mom friends. My only complaint is that Meeker was not more specific when describing how important "faith" and "hope" are, although I understand that she was not writing this book specifically for Christians. That one (minor) drawback aside, I recommend this to any mom currently in the trenches of motherhood (and even for those of you who have primarily grown children).

And before that, I finished this novel:
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey, which I talked about in this blog post.

• What do you think you’ll read next?
Either a mystery or one of the non-fiction books that has gotten pushed to the bottom of my stack. Or, I should say, one of my stacks. I have a few going now.

So many books, so little time.

What are you reading now?
This post is linked to WWW Wednesday hosted by Should Be Reading.
This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. Action taken with these links could result in compensation for me. Opinions are my own.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Top 10 Tuesday - Valentine's Edition

Valentine related things I want to share or remember:

1. I wrote a post back in 2011 about my Top 10 Literary Love Stories. I thought about updating it but I re-read it this morning and pretty much agreed with myself. I'm not sure I would add anything to the list. Is this because no love stories have swept me off my feet in the last two years? I'm not sure. It seems unlikely. But anyway, it takes a lot to make a story Top 10 Worthy.

Now for some Valentine related pins I've saved:

2. Massive round-up of Valentine related printables:

3. We've played this oh, so easy game at our church's children's program for Valentine's, but it would be fun at home too. (Tip: if it's too easy, have your kids make a stack using chopsticks to pick up the hearts instead of their hands):

4. You might need to make some red hot chocolate:

5. Or some Raspberry Punch:

6. Or a different pink punch:

7. A classic dessert for your kids on Valentine's:

8. Someone might want to decorate their chocolate boxes (once they finish the chocolates):

9.Another round-up of ways to show your children you love them:

10. And, just for fun, a love story that didn't make my list:

And - shh! - don't tell Philip, but I'm giving him this Valentine. We don't usually exchange gifts but I'm making an exception this year:

OK, not the most romantic thing you've ever seen, right? Well, he'll love it anyway.

This post is linked to Top 10 Tuesday at Many Little Blessings.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Random Monday

First my husband shared this link with me: BBC News - Richard III dig: DNA Confirms Bones are King's.

Then I read this book:
Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. Wherein a bedridden Inspector Grant takes on the historical mystery of whether Richard III was villain or victim of a terrible propaganda campaign after his battlefield death.

Then I found out that there is an entire society dedicated to Richard III.

I've sent in my dues.

OK, no, I'm kidding about that part. But I'm convinced. Common history and Shakespeare himself have misled us. (Shocker!)

I highly recommend the mystery, by the way. It's well written and funny. And considering how often the "news" misleads us on things THAT JUST HAPPENED, still relevant.

*
Did you know there's a contest about the Top 10 Blogs for Book Lovers Contest? I haven't decided which of my favorite book blogs I should nominate. (Leaning toward Semicolon or Ordo Amoris, based on the number of books I've added to my stack because of their suggestions.)

Please do not consider this a passive-aggressive way of asking you to nominate me. My blog is far too small for such things. I'll let you know more about it later though, so we can all vote for the right person. (Reading all this historical fiction may have activated my latent, likely unnecessary Kingmaking tendencies.)

*
Things are progressing fine on the Baby Boy front. My glucose test is Wednesday morning (oh, joy). I've had so few negative side effects (aside from the worrisome signs in the first trimester that have all gone away now) that I feel bad for complaining about anything...but I'm going to anyway:

This baby is causing me the worst heartburn I've ever had in my entire life. Foods that normally don't bother me (and I can usually eat anything) are bothering me. How bad it is: I had heartburn this morning after drinking a cup of tea and eating cold cereal. How ridiculous is that?!

I don't think Philip believed me when I told him the other day that I was miserable. Until he found me in the kitchen practically bolting down the entire jar of Tums. (Side note: I'm exaggerating. I took 2. Which is two more than I usually have to take after eating. But I could have easily taken a few more.)

Guess I'll have a chance to find out if heartburn and babies arriving with full heads of hair is true or not. (My guess: Not. My babies don't come out that way.) There you go. Sorry for the complaining. I love this baby and he's worth a little (A WHOLE HUGE LOT) of heartburn. And I will remind him of it for the rest of his life (along with whatever birth story tidbits I deem necessary. "I pushed for three hours!" Although I'm really hoping that won't happen.)

So, what's going on in your world this lovely Monday?
This post is linked to Random Monday hosted at Not Inadequate.