Girl Defined (A Review)



I came across Girl Defined Ministries on Twitter recently, and I loved reading about their stand for biblical femininity.  Then I saw that they had written a book and requested to review it right away!

In Girl Defined, Kristen Clark and Bethany Baird (who are sisters) discuss God's design for women, and how that often clashes with our cultures expectations.   They tell their personal journey in discovering what God expects of us as women and His plan for living out our God-given femininity.  They address topics like gender roles, working outside the home, and relationships with grace and biblical wisdom.  I really appreciated how organized this book was as they discussed the three "pillars" of biblical femininity, and how those apply to life and the decisions we have to make as women.

The book is written in the tone of big sisters encouraging a little sister, and it was very easy to read - a book I looked forward to picking up.  I would say that target audience is probably late teens to early twenties.  However, I still got a lot of encouragement out of this book personally, even though I'm probably a bit older than the target audience.  Some of the topics they address are big enough to have their own books, but I liked how the Kristin and Bethany stayed focused on the big picture.  I was especially encouraged by the chapter on living in light of eternity, since that is something I've written about because it's so important.  I appreciated the reminder and encouragement to live to glorify God, because what we do here counts for eternity.

This is a book I'll be hanging on to for Gwen and Clarice when they reach their teenage years - some books are timeless, and I think the focus on God's design for women will be just as relevant in another 12-15 years when they will be ready for this book.  I'd definitely recommend it!

Note: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.

Missional Motherhood (An Audiobook Review)



I was excited to review the audiobook of Gloria Furman's Missional Motherhood.  This is Furman's newest book, and though I haven't read through an entire book of hers before now, I have heard people speak so highly of her.

This book was not what I was expecting, and I have mixed feelings.  However, I will tell you what I do not have mixed feelings about - the doctrine presented in this book is all sound, with a solid biblical foundation that is clearly explained.  That is not always easy to find these days, and I loved that this book was chock-full of Scripture!

What I didn't love about this book was the title.  That may sound trite at first, but from the title I was expecting a book of encouragement about how being a mom is also being a missionary to these little lives that God has given us to steward.  Maybe I shouldn't have assumed, but I thought the book would be about the "mission work" of teaching our children about the Lord.

Instead, I would say this book is mainly a theological overview that is slightly geared toward moms.  Slightly.  It almost felt like the motherhood element was thrown into the chapters as an afterthought.

The first half of the book was a recap of the Old Testament - I was not expecting this, but I thoroughly enjoyed it!  Furman does a beautiful job of giving you an overview of God's grand story from the Fall to Jesus.  It was at this point I was very glad I was listening to the audio instead of reading the book - these chapters could have gotten a bit tedious since I have already read through the actual Old Testament several times, but I enjoyed the narrator and getting the whole picture all at once.

However, I have to admit, the fact that the book was entitled "Missional Motherhood" made me a bit impatient to get to the parts about...you know, mothering.

Finally in the last five chapters Furman actually speaks to how the gospel affects how we do our jobs as moms.  However, I don't think I was able to enjoy these chapters as much as I could have, because the writing seemed wordy and a bit redundant.  I felt like Furman could have gotten the point across in half the chapters.  I honestly think after reading this book that Furman's writing style is just not for me.  Her train of thought sometimes seemed disorganized and I had to remind myself what the main point of the chapter, or book, was.  I like books that have a clear outline, and her style is too messy for me.

Though I thought the narrator did a wonderful job and was a great fit for this book, it was in these final chapters that the narration style also started to get to me.  The narrator reads in a tone that imparts the importance of each sentence - but I find that when each sentence is emphasized with such gravity, I start to get emotionally drained through the listening.  I would have taken this book more in pieces, but I had to finish it in one chunk for this review, and I was just tired by the time it was over.

Overall, I think the book ultimately got the point across, to view our mothering in light of God's grand plan of Salvation - but the point was made in a very round-about way, through the overview, and then reviewing the gospel again with a slant toward motherhood.  I think this book would have been more appropriately titled "An Overview Of Theology And The Gospel For Mothers".  I would have been more prepared for the way the content of this book was presented if that was the title - but it's not as catchy.  I would recommend it, but I would recommend taking it in pieces (and ideally listening to the first half of the book on audio, and reading the second half).  Each chapter made more sense to me individually than the book did as a whole.

Note:  I received the audio version of Missional Motherhood from christianaudio in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion. 

Why I Don't Read Blog Strategy Posts Anymore



"How I Gained 1,000 Followers In One Week"

"Three Ways To Grow Your Pinterest Following"

"How To Make Money Blogging"

I see titles like these every single day in my newsfeed, and if you are a blogger, my guess is that you do too.  When I first started blogging, I searched high and low for posts like these, trying to figure out what in the world I was doing.  There were no such posts back then, and I resorted to the few ebooks that were available about blogging, from a business and practical perspective.  I learned a lot from those ebooks, but I'm not sure I can even share them here because they are likely outdated. Blogging is a constantly changing thing, and these days you no longer have to search high and low to find advice about blogging from people who have "made it" (whatever that might mean for them or their readers).

But as for me?  I'm kind of done with these kinds of posts.  I don't think there is anything wrong with them, and indeed there is a lot of good information to be had for those who have the time to implement these strategies.

But it's just not for me anymore.

1) I am not convinced that many of these blog and social media "strategies" will work for everyone.

Some write posts about their success as if they are experts, when in reality there is a good bit of luck mixed in.  I have three posts that have been pinned thousands of times on Pinterest.  Does that mean I'm a Pinterest expert?  No, it means I happened to hit on a topic that people wanted to read about.  I'm not going to write something titled "How To Get Your Posts Pinned Thousands Of Times On Pinterest" because my success was partially due to luck and good timing.  I automatically distrust those catchy titles on how to achieve blogging success, because I've discovered that half the time the success was due to a non-repeatable event.

2)  Focusing on strategy and money sucks the fun out of it for me.

 I make a little money off this blog from time to time, but over the last couple years I have realized that I don't write here to make money.  I mainly write because I have an inherent need to do it.  When I start focusing on social media strategies, page views, and networking, and when I let those things affect my writing, I feel drained.  When I sit down here and just write something that is on my mind, I feel filled up.  I have realized that while I must consider all areas of blogging to a certain extent, I don't have enough energy to focus so much on the draining parts in this season of life.  Also, I must say that it is incredibly difficult to make good money at blogging, and those who do put a TON of hours in. Which leads me to my last and most important point.

3) I don't want to spend my limited time trying to grow my blog into something bigger and better, at least not at this time in my life.

I have four kids, guys.  Four kids under six years old.  I have somehow managed to keep this blog up and running while balancing the needs of my children, but I have finally come to terms that at this point in my life, "up and running" is as good as it's going to get.  Anything more is just selfish.  I was reminded of this verse the other day:

"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves."  Philippians 2:3

I was really convicted by that, because the truth is that when I get too focused on growing my blog, it does fall into the "selfish ambition" category.  Focusing on getting my name out there, making money, being a "success", is all selfish ambition.  Even when I might use growth strategies in a more selfless way, to try to encourage more moms in their families and walks with the Lord, I am not choosing the best thing.  Encouraging others is a good thing, but my children are the best thing.  

Training them to love the Lord, being there for them, having the time to sing songs and read an extra story is the best thing.  I cannot be everything to everyone and do it all well, not right now, and since I have to choose where to invest my time, I have to choose the best thing.  

Jim Elliott once said that wherever you are, you should be all there.  Where I am now is in this house, raising four eternal souls.  Where I am is reading books about homeschooling, and teaching my son to read.  Where I am now is in my home, trying to make a good dinner for my husband a few times a week, because I know that makes him feel valued.  Where I am is being wife and mom, and those are the best things.  Those things will last much longer than this little old blog, and that is where my time needs to go if I am truly considering others more significant than myself.

So this is where my time must go.  I'll continue to write on here once or twice a week, because my need to write is part of who I am, and I do believe this blog is a good thing.  But I don't read blog strategy posts anymore, because I know my blog is not my best thing, and it doesn't have to be.






The Day I Went Back To The Office



April 2016

I am spending a silly amount of time picking out an outfit this morning, and I know it.  But what does one wear to pay a visit back to their old office when they've been a stay-at-home-mom for the last year?  Especially when that office is a dental office, and all I ever wore there was scrubs?  I end up with a floral tank, a cardigan, rolled up skinnies, and my lace-up pointy-toed shoes to add a little flair.

I come with my four kids, packed tight in the minivan, licking my tongue over my teeth.  I am way overdue for a cleaning.  I had been due to come in right around the time Clarice was born, but the post-baby haze didn't allow for a phone call to set up an appointment until she was nearing six months old.  Or maybe I had just been avoiding going back.  Is it weird to go back to your old place of employment for a dental cleaning?  Should I just find a new office? 

But here I am, turning onto a street that still feels familiar.  I drive up and down the hills that lead into the picturesque "downtown" area, where I would turn left and park in the back next to the flowering trees.

The jay-walkers.  I had forgotten about the jay-walkers - combine a nearby college and a touristy town, and somehow everyone forgets how to follow traffic signals.  Today is especially busy.  Was it always this busy before?  Did the college students always look that young?  For goodness sake, it had only been a year.

I circle the parking lot for a full 20 minutes before I finally find a spot.  I pop a mint in my mouth and unbuckle my seatbelt.  They had closed off the back-lot parking where I used to pull in everyday, and there must have been some event going on, because there is more traffic than I ever remembered.  And the trees aren't blooming.

Derek meets me to pick up the kids, four little sets of shining eyes, and 3.5 rounds of "I love you, Mama! See you later!" Clarice just shrieks at me, and I know she is repeating the sentiment.  But I don't look at her too long so she won't start crying when I walk away.  How did I ever leave my babies for a full work day?  I feel sad leaving them now for an hour.

The front looks the same as it did when I left, the brand-new renovation over a year old now.  A fresh face behind the counter, greeting me as if I hadn't worked here for six years.  I sign in and wait.  I ask if one of my favorite co-workers is here today.

"Oh, she doesn't work here anymore."

I bite back disappointment as a hygienist I have never met before brings me back to clean my teeth.  She is professional, and friendly, and does everything right.  No hint that she knows I worked here.  I'm still not sure if she knew.

"So how many kids do you have?"

"I have four."  I state proudly.

"Wow, what are their ages?"

I tell her.

"Wow, good for you.  I couldn't do it." And she looks at me like I'm an oddity.  My old boss comes in later and repeats the sentiment as teeth are poked and x-rays scrutinized.  I need a sealant on #14.  The associate dentist pops her head in to say hello.

"I'm sorry I was late," I say when my exam is finished. "I circled for probably twenty minutes, and they closed the old parking lot."

And they both accept my apologies, and talk about how the office is growing.  "Things keep changing!" my old boss says with a smile.

And that phrase rings in my ears as I walk to the front and pay, as I say hello to old co-workers, and maybe good-bye too.  Because things do change.  And I don't belong here anymore.

I don't belong here anymore.  

And I walk out without looking back.

---

It was such a weird experience going back to my old office, which surprised me.  I left last year because I was pregnant with Clarice, and the office was growing.  They needed me to work more hours, but my family was growing just as the practice was, and I just couldn't imagine leaving my kids more.  So we worked out our budget, and I left a job that I enjoyed, an office where I was happy.

For a while I felt like this was something unfortunate that had happened, because I wouldn't have left if it hadn't been for the fact that they needed more hours for all the growth.  What rotten timing, I thought.  And it was bittersweet, walking out that door in 2015.

I don't know what I thought it would be like when I went back to visit, but the one thing I realized that day was that this didn't just happen to me.  I chose this.  

For a while after I resigned I was sad that I wasn't working, and I missed my patients and the one day of the week that added some structure.  But going back made me realize that my little family is where I will always belong.  I am an indispensable member of this team.

Last spring I weighed the cost of working more against the joys of raising my children myself, and I chose them.  

And since I have finally owned that, I don't have an ounce of regret left in my mind.  The day I went back to the office was like the period at the end of a sentence, at the end of a chapter.  All plot lines closed, all loose ends tied up in a bow.  And the best parts are in all the pages ahead.




I'm Glad She's A Non-Crawler



Almost anytime I go somewhere, someone asks me the ages of my kids.  I guess we are quite a sight, me with my three little ones trailing behind me and one in a stroller.  I answered, and Wyatt chimed in.

"No, Mom, Clarice is 7 months." (I told you we get asked the ages of our kids often.)

And I had to explain that another month had indeed rolled by, and she is eight months old now.

Time. slow. down.

This little girl is growing so fast!  I actually considered buying size 4 diapers at the store the other day, but the thought was startling, so I just tried a different brand of 3's.

Clarice is right around average in height and weight, which was shocking enough when she was solidly in size 3 diapers.  I somehow think of her as being this petite little thing, but no, she's not tiny.  She just apparently seems tiny to me.  Maybe this is the effect of having four kids so close in age.  It's such a continuum of stages that you have a hard time believing all your other kids were really this small.

Miss Clarice is loving her solid foods, and she takes bottles very easily now, but we still nurse 3-4 times a day.  She has a blond curl on top of her head, and the only blue eyes in our little family, with a hint of gray/green at the center.  No typical teething signs except gnawing on random things, but I can't decide if she's trying to cut a tooth or just discovering the world.

She is sitting up very well now, and is pretty content sitting by herself as long as there is activity bustling around her.  She does not even attempt to crawl, for which I am grateful.  We are in a sweet spot right now.  I can set her down by herself and she can look around, and she is content.  I don't have to worry about chasing after her yet.  As soon as she is crawling life will become a bit more complicated.  I always used to laugh at moms who said to be grateful for late crawlers, always impatient for my babies to start moving, but I totally get it now.  I like that she is happy just sitting for a little while longer.

Her favorite toy is her little princess puppet that we got her for Christmas.  She'll just grab it, stare, and grin.  I think she likes the face.

She still has the most devastatingly cute little grin, a gummy little smile with a dimple in her right cheek.  She smiles with her eyes.  Babies can't help but use their eyes too when they smile, but she can smile with her eyes even when not smiling with her mouth.  She will smile at anybody, but as soon as someone takes her from me I have to run out of sight so she doesn't start bawling.  The only exception is her daddy.  She grins at him when he takes her.

Each of her siblings makes her laugh, and she tries to talk to them with her signature hiss/coo.  Sometimes I'll be driving and I'll suddenly hear a shriek, and it takes me a moment to realize she isn't crying but laughing at her siblings antics.  I am so proud of my big kids.  None of them has ever been jealous of whoever was the "baby".  Instead they all love Clarice, and Clarice loves them.

We celebrated Mother's Day this last month, my first with Clarice on the outside, and my heart is just full with all these sweet little ones around me.  I am so glad to have four, and it was nice to celebrate all four together this year.

---

Hey Little Darling! 

Oh my girl, you are not crawling yet.  I cannot tell you how happy this makes me, because it means I have a little longer before you become just slightly more too busy to cuddle with me.  You will sit by yourself and play, but you get impatient after a while and I pick you up.  You grin and pat my shoulder, or sometimes you'll laugh and chew on my arm.  You fit right on my hip, like a little puzzle piece.  I love every minute with you, my girl.

Love you always,

Mama


Feisty And Feminine (A Review + Vlog)




If you've been reading for a while, you know that even though I don't talk about it much, I am very interested in politics.  When I saw Feisty and Feminine: A Rallying Cry For Conservative Women up for review, I had to request it!  Penny Young Nance is the head of Concerned Women For America, a political action group for Christian conservative women - which I am one, so I was excited to read this book.

I do actually read a decent amount of political books and I think of myself as fairly well-informed when it comes to current events and politics, so the raw information in this book wasn't too new to me - however, what I really appreciated was how Nance addressed the different issues.  

Weaved throughout this book are biblical truths as they apply to the political arena, and Nance does not lose any opportunity to present the gospel, which she does in a natural way.  She talks about being "Esther Women", placed in this country "for such a time as this", and she gives different encouragements for what we can do to sway the culture and politics in a positive, biblical direction.  Much of the information in this book is sobering, but rather than coming off as depressing, this book is inspiring.



If you are not as up on political events, I think you would find this book very interesting and motivating.  If you are like me and do stay updated on politics, there is still a lot for you here.  After reading this book I am hoping to get in contact with the CWA chapter in my state - it sounds like a great organization.  This is one of my favorite political books in recent years - I definitely recommend it!

Note: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion. 



Stars Over Sunset Boulevard (An Audiobook Review)



I recently had the opportunity to listen to the audiobook of Stars Over Sunset Boulevard. by Susan Meissner.  If you follow my blog Instagram account, you are aware of my sudden discovery of audiobooks and how great they are!  I was excited to listen to this one.

Story: This is the story of two friends, Violet and Audrey, living in Hollywood in the 1930's.  They both have dreams, Audrey of becoming a star, and Violet of becoming a mother - and through this story we learn how far one of them will go to get her dream.

Narration:  The narration of this audiobook was great!  I felt like Ann Marie Lee's voice was perfect for the story, and I liked the southern accent she added for Violet's parts.  She added just the right amount of drama to the reading without going over the top!

Writing: Meissner has an interesting writing style, maybe a little wordier than I am used to, but she knows how to paint a picture.  I got a strong sense of time and place, the way she described the movie sets and studio where Violet and Audrey worked.

Thoughts:  I really liked this book overall, though at times it was painful to listen to - not because of the narration, which I thought was great, but because of the story!  I couldn't believe how my opinions of each character changed throughout this book!  I started out not liking Audrey as much, but as the book went on I liked Audrey more and started to dislike Violet.  Her reactions to things just became more and more self-centered, where at the beginning of the book she seemed more concerned about others.  It made me think a lot about my own selfishness, because in some instances I know I would have had some of the same feelings as Violet - and it wasn't pretty.  I wish the ending had addressed this issue of selfishness a bit more satisfactorily, but it was close enough for me.  I definitely recommend it!  It was the perfect book to listen to as I did laundry and housework the last couple weeks.

Note:  I received the christianaudio production of this work for free from christianaudio Reviewers Program in exchange for a review.  This is my honest opinion.
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