Just the Two of Us

I came across this old picture of me and Josh the other day and was swept back in nostalgia-land once again.

Baby faces, that's all I can say. What a couple of babies. This was the very beginning for us. We had absolutely no idea of what we were getting into. Still aren't always sure, to be really honest. Every day I ask myself how I got so lucky as to get to share life with this guy and fight through life together. Sometimes we are fighting each other but that's for another blog. There have been times that it has only been our stubbornness and God's grace that kept us going and moving forward. Simply put our marriage is indeed a miracle. But I wouldn't trade the struggle for anything. Raising babies, growing up together, getting old together. One thing I am so certain of is this, the best is yet to come.


Tree Trimmings

Yesterday was our annual tree trim extravaganza here at the Goodman household. Every year it comes with a flurry of activity and every year I ask myself, "What am I doing?" My mom was and still is a Christmas lover extraordinaire and I grew up with decorations, cookies, candies, parties, everything. My husband's family took it with stride and simplicity. To say the least it was a melding of minds when we entered into marriage. The blending of traditions has made for some pretty interesting end results, however, we do in all in the spirit of the season.

Every year I come to Christmas time with certain expectations for my house, my kids, the food, etc. and every year I walk out of the room shaking my head. Martha Stewart would be ashamed...

The Nativity and Darth Vader?
Bickering over who hangs up the star, whose ornament should go where, clear lights or multi-color? This year, we decorated the tree too early according to the kids. The noise and the mess and ugh. But, step back and look at it all from a distance and its pure family. Humankind at its simplest. Our tree is completely covered star to skirt with memories and childhood crafts and favorite cartoon characters.

My oldest caught me eyeing the tree critically and I had to admit that I look on our tree with a mixture of cynicism and nostalgic reminiscence. My tree might not make it to a magazine but its chock full of years and years of love and family. And I think our grandparents would be proud.


My Boo

Today is my oldest daughter's 18th birthday. The thought completely rocks my world. I thought it was rough when Tony turned 18, but now I'm flashing from me at 18 and her now and I'm flabbergasted. That's the best word to describe what I'm feeling: surprised and completely astonished. I was 5 months pregnant at 18 and thank God she is so...well, not. Don't misunderstand, I have some high hopes for all of my children, but one thing stands firm, I want them to be better than me. I want to influence their lives in such a way that they don't make the same mistakes I did.

Then there is the Boo herself and the story that she has already discovered when she was old enough to count up the months and realize that we must have already been pregnant with her when we got married. Again not a proud moment in my life, but one I can point to and say, "I am so glad that you are here, but don't walk the way I did, its a hard way." Sin is sin is sin is sin and that's the best way I can put it. However, when you find yourself tripped up and flat on your face, dust off, ask for forgiveness and move on. God just might surprise you and turn your stupid mistakes into wonderful milestones in your life in a way that only He can. Bask in the light that He provides and allow Him to lead you and you never know what can happen.

This is not everyone's story, it is mine. It is part of my testimony of how God has done miraculous things in a life that struggles to remain submitted to His will.


Body Building

Perception is a funny thing. The reality can be one thing and the faith within us pushes us forward in hope of what will come.

For the past little while I've been doing a lot of soul searching on the idea of what we say about the church. By the church I mean the body of Christ collectively, from the church all over the world right down to the church that you attend every Sunday morning. People are free on their facebook statuses and twitter accounts and blogs and the long list of social media outlets to allow our frustrations to vent. An outlet to let the steam off is good, prayer is a good outlet for that. Typing up a tirade and posting it publicly is not necessarily the best way. Every body seems to think that because we have the freedom to do so that we should exercise that freedom. Gossip and backbiting are not just spoken sins...

Another thing is that we think in mentioning this stuff we are helping the situation. Thought process here: I see (perceive) a problem, I don't like it, I tell somebody about it (not necessarily the right person), problem remains.

As a part of the Body of Christ, you are in fact the body and when you talk bad about it, you are in effect talking badly about yourself. You cannot distance yourself from the problem. Like it or not you are a part of the team and therefore part of the problem. That's a perception adjustment!

I know that its difficult to push on when it feels like you are the only one. That is an age old misconception. We can look around and see that we are doing our best but that person over there sure could be doing a better job. God calls people together to triumph but it starts with each one individually. Instead of tearing down, seek to build up with your words. Collectively, we can get so much done when each person has their hearts in line to complete the task. Nehemiah and the people rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem come to mind. Go back and read the book of Nehemiah and take notice of the troubles that came their way but also make note of the work of each family to bring about the desired result of rebuilding the wall.

Recently I came across the story behind the Keep Calm posters that seemed to be everywhere for awhile. Pretty cheesy in my opinion until I learned the purpose behind them. They were actually part of a three part series printed in England during WW2 and plastered on walls all over the British Isles to keep the morale of the people up. The message is simple and straightforward and speaks to our situation today as well. My very favorite one is the second poster.
The message reminds us of the individual responsibility we all have to remain brave, joyful, and determined even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Life isn't a picnic, but no matter the circumstances you can find encouraging words for others instead of constantly tearing down the situation.
Nehemiah 2:17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.



When I was a kid, I loved finding honeysuckle flowers and pulling out the tiny drop of nectar hidden inside. It was painstaking work to me and not every time was I successful. The reward was well worth the search.

I'm reminded of the chore it sometimes is to find the sweetness in everyday life. More times than not I feel as though I'm in a scavenger hunt to seek out the joy. Day by day as the good and bad flutter past me, I must make the choice to harp on the negative or search out the positive. After all the Word says, the joy of the Lord is our strength. What better thing to seek than the exact thing that will sustain us through the hard times and discouragement!

“What I am anxious to see in Christian believers is a beautiful paradox. I want to see in them the joy of finding God while at the same time they are blessedly pursuing Him. I want to see in them the great joy of having God yet always wanting Him.” ~ A. W. Tozer


U is For Ungrateful

Once more this past week God has spoken through the overheard conversations in the back of my over packed family car. Oracles of cold, hard truth they are. So here's the set up: The kids' school had a book fair and as is the tradition the classes are allowed some "shopping" time in which they take a piece of paper and make a wish list of books that they want. My kiddos actually came up with some good stuff and so I had no trouble picking from their selections. Here's Emari's wish list:
I went with The Beautiful Haircut, since in Emari's values of estimation it seemed to be "priceless." For Zion (who had an even more extensive list than his sister, probably because he had a scribe to write down his choices therefore he was allowed to be exhaustive), I went with a small book entitled, Volcanoes.

After school, I presented the children with their books and felt inwardly proud of myself that I didn't choose what I wanted for them, but went with what they asked for. They were ecstatic and full of thanks and kisses. They toted their new books around and when it was time for the ride home from church, Zion noisily announced, "Mom, I don't want this book anymore! When are you gonna get me the rest of my list?" The air evaporated from my mommy's so amazing balloon and I began to sink back down to earth. Quickly searching for something parental to say other than, "You're a stinking brat!" I found myself not having to.

Emari quickly piped in and informed her brother that he was indeed an ungrateful sort of person to which he retorted that yes he was but when would the rest of the books be arriving for him? Emari explained that ungratefulness is when you don't appreciate what you have and yes she said appreciate. She preached to her brother for a good five minutes and slowly, he relented and with a sniff sat quietly and while ungrateful and unappreciative, he was silent.

My own ungratefulness clawed at me and I thought of Emari's words: how often do I have the same fit when I don't receive all that I asked for? From the mouths of babes I tell you...

Book Review: Beyond Bath Time by Erin Davis

The back cover reads: MOTHERHOOD IS TOUGH. The understatement of the millenium. Having been a mom for twenty years now, one would think that I had my act together, knew what I was doing and such. The thing is that motherhood is one of those adventures that begins the moment that you read the results and doesn't stop stretching you mind, body, and soul until you die. Its not for the weak of heart. It can and will push you to your utter limits.

The crazy thing is that its also the single most rewarding thing that you can ever do with your life. This book written by Erin Davis is one of those great reads that helps you along on your journey. It refreshes, it puts things into perspective and it holds no punches. Our society undervalues motherhood and child-rearing as though its something you fall back on when you can't make it doing anything else. As women we fall for that line and our lives seem mundane and without purpose, but God's desire is that we find the joy in mothering.
How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman's function is laborious, but because it is gigantic; not because it is minute."
-G. K. Chesterton

Check out Erin's blog here.

I received a free copy of this book from Moody Publishing in exchange for an honest review. 


Book Review: You'll Get Through This by Max Lucado

So, I have never picked up a Max Lucado book that I didn't like, but this one has become my new favorite. In times like these where it feels like the world is falling apart slowly around us and even the most mundane things tremble beneath our feet, we need the reminder that we can make it. You can do it! Hang on! Keep going!

Like a true coach, Max urges the reader to keep up the good work. Using the story of Joseph, he weaves a fabric of biblical proof and modern true life examples to point to the reality that even when it feels like the bottom has dropped out, we can always look up.
You’ll get through this.
It won’t be painless.
It won’t be quick.
But God will use this mess for good.
Don’t be foolish or na├»ve.
But don’t despair either.
With God’s help, you’ll get through this.

Check out a copy of the book here.



Friday night I made the rare trip to the store with little kids in tow. Zion had received a gift card for his birthday and so I wanted to let him pick out a toy. From the get-go it was explained to Emari that this was brother's "special" money from his birthday so she would not be picking anything out. That went over well as you can imagine. We scoured the toy aisles at Target, made some suggestions for Christmas lists and purchased Zion's choice.

Having to stop by Barnes and Noble to pick up the big sisters, we were met with another opportunity to purchase Emari some goodies. Of course, she explained why she should get something special, since we were no longer at the place where Zion got his present and so on and so forth. I was adamant in my defense that she would not be receiving a treat tonight. As a parent, I always want to be giving my children things. The rub is that I know that my job is not to give them everything they want, or even everything that I want to give them. My job here is to prepare them to be good people who love God and serve Him and others. Now good people who love God don't get everything they want when they want it and more often than not have to watch other people receive things while they do not. We each have our turn getting the good stuff, but somehow we don't recall that when we're watching it being doled out to others.

That said, I felt strong and right in my stance to keep a vigilant eye on my daughter to ward off any hints that she may be envious of her brother's good fortune. The next morning we went out for doughnuts and again the rare occasion to go into the doughnut shop and pick out our own treats presented itself complete with chocolate milk. Then on to the church Holiday Bazaar with all you can jump bouncy house, face painting, candy, hot dogs, sodas, and cousins, cousins, cousins galore. A child's dreamland right?

I thought so and Emari agreed. As we got into the car to take her sisters to a game, she said, "Mom, this is the best day ever!"

Yes, score one for Mom.

However, on the way back to the church and the endless fun, Emari said, "Now I think when we get back you need to give me three dollars cuz I want to buy something and get a snowcone." My reply of course was to mention that today had been full of treats and sugar and that she herself had said that it was the best day ever. Then she rebutted with a gentle reminder that she didn't get any treats yesterday and that she was having a great day, but she just wanted more....

I promise you sometimes I feel like this parenting thing is a cosmic battle of that old card game, War. I lay something down, she lays something down. Sometimes my card outranks and I take the round, sometimes she does. Here we were at a stand still. I stood my ground and reminded her: 1) Yesterday was brother's birthday money and I did not "owe" her a present, she had to wait for her birthday to roll around, 2) She had two hand-picked "sugar laden" doughnuts and chocolate milk for breakfast (something that never happens) 3) She had spent the entire day playing with cousins, eating treats and generally doing whatever she wanted to.

Score Mom.

We returned to the church to help wind things down. Emari came to me with a bouquet of white and purple star balloons that one of the vendors just gave to her for FREE! (Emari's emphasis added)

Score Emari.

Then her auntie gave her one of the fairy wands she had been eyeing all day.

Score Emari.

Finally, momma won a raffle, not either of the raffles that mommy really wanted i.e. the Scentsy owl tart warmer or the burlap Christmas stocking, oh no. Mommy won the basket with the tutu and matching headband.

Score Emari.

I sat back and thought, I just got trumped by the Most High! Here I was doing my mommy duty of teaching my daughter about fairness and taking turns and rejoicing with others and He went and put me to shame.

Score Mom and Emari.


Why Won't You Let Me Forgive You?!?

There was an excellent example of real life forgiveness played out within our house last week. On Tuesday morning, Emari was complaining about her sisters talking mean to her. Well, it escalated over the course of the day and by the afternoon, she was full blown ready to forgive someone. I was thinking "wonderful" and left her to do some forgiving of her sister while I grabbed Zion from after school care. As I returned to the car and found big sister repeating, "What's wrong with you?" and Emari, tears streaming down her face screaming, "Say you're sorry!"I knew something had gone awry. As usual, I took the matter to the pastor AKA Dad. He sat down with the two of them and the reality came out.

Emari was under the impression that she couldn't forgive sister for her offenses if said sister did not first ask for her forgiveness. So she demanded the apology. In her mind sister not being sorry or being oblivious to the fact that she had even done anything wrong was standing in her own way of bestowing forgiveness and therefore going on with life. Emari really wanted to forgive her sister and in the end we were able to explain that if doesn't work that way. Forgiveness is given whether its asked for or not. She forgave her sister and sobbed all of her pent up tears on her sister's shirt and we went on home.

That image stuck with me though. I mean, I feel the same way. How can I forgive Lord, if the offender hasn't even acknowledged that he or she is doing anything wrong? Can't they be broken and say sorry first? Sometimes it works that way, but more often than not, it doesn't.
Colossians 3:12-14 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.


Book Review: The Beauty of Broken by Elisa Morgan


Broken is something that no one wants. Not for your life, your family, or your children. Unfortunately, its an inevitable part of every one's life. No matter how hard you try and what fool proof formulas you attempt, the perfect life is an illusion. Bringing hope, this well-written book points out the beauty that can be found in brokenness.
Are you exhausted by this fairy tale? Sick of it? How did we become convinced that following Jesus would provide an escape from sorrow in our families, that discipleship would always produce loyal disciples? And why do we keep pursuing the myth that if we just follow some parenting formula, our children, even the wayward ones, will turn out right?

 For any one who has ever struggled with feelings of disappointment, discouragement, and failure as a parent, Elisa Morgan has written a book which will push you forward like a shoulder to lean on. She eloquently reminds the reader that God has all things in His tender hands even using our children to help to shape us into what He wants us to be.
My children have been God's chief tool for the shaping of me, shaving off the certainty, molding a softer version, raising up the gumption necessary to face another day.
Broken can be a place to begin again and allow God to reshape the structure of our lives if we allow Him the opportunity...

 I received a free copy of this book from Booksneeze in return for an honest review.

Check out more about the book here.


Pride Rock

Growing up, Lion King was one of my son's favorite cartoons, still is. I don't know what it was that spoke to him: the loyalty, the danger, the resolution? It was the first movie we ever owned and he'd watch it on our VCR on a daily basis. Starting out, we lived in a little single wide trailer in the woods, Josh, Tony, Becca, and me. I look back now and those were the days....

I remember walking around each day with this chip on my shoulder that I had to make something of myself, I wanted my kids to be proud of me. Good aspirations, but faulty premise. I thought the way I would make them "proud" of me was by going through college, becoming a psychologist, and making lots of money so they wouldn't have any needs. I went through college and then when faced with leaving these little people I wanted to make so proud in order to pursue a career and "make something of myself" I chose to be with them instead. I'm not rich, but their needs have always been met. All of their wants? Not so much.

I struggle still with wanting to give them stuff. I want to send Tony money every month so he can go out for coffee and see movies and have fun. I want to get him a car and Becca a car and eventually Serena and on and on. I want to splurge on them and I can't. What stings is that at the root of it is still the same old, "I want them to be proud of me" garbage. There's nothing wrong with wanting to pour out my love on my beloved ones through gifts and things. What is wrong is my motivations....and essentially its my pride.

God knew what He was doing when He gave these guys to me and even with all the things I couldn't give them, they are not wanting for anything that is good. So Keep it in check, Mama.
Psalm 84
How lovely is your dwelling place,
    Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
    for the living God.
Even the sparrow has found a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
    Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
    they are ever praising you.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
    they make it a place of springs;
    the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
    till each appears before God in Zion.
Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty;
    listen to me, God of Jacob.
Look on our shield, O God;
    look with favor on your anointed one.
Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
    the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
    from those whose walk is blameless.
Lord Almighty,
    blessed is the one who trusts in you.


At Arm's Length

In America, we have a space requirement for comfort and well-being. You may not even realize it until you get out into a crowd, but its there and you feel like you're entitled to it. You say, "excuse me," but you really mean, "get your carcass out of my way." In your car you use your horn politely to let people know they are holding you up from getting to your destination in a timely manner. You expect that people will not cut you in line, you expect that there will be a line as well and that it will have well defined borders and that your waiting time in said line will not be too taxing on your schedule.

This is all good and well and helpful for a streamlined society to get things done in a orderly fashion, but the fault is that it is man's construct. God makes the rules for real and He knows exactly what kind of rules we need. He says bizarre things like, Love your neighbor and Turn the other cheek and Give away your stuff if somebody needs it. Those things aren't so hard to do when I like my neighbor or I don't really want that stuff anymore anyway. Love is a difficult thing to do when you must embrace the unlovely, the unlikable, the mean and hurtful. Our natural reaction when someone invades our space is to shut down, close up shop. We react through inaction. Cease and desist. But God's love is full of action and so should ours be.


Don't Stop Believing

Yeah, I know its a Journey song and my little boy will contend that its the Transformers song. This is the same guy who when asked what he wants to be when he grows up will tell you, Bumblebee from Transformers. Ok, so the guy's a little obsessed right now.

I'm not gonna be the one to burst his bubble that it is not humanly possible for him to become a car that also turns into an intelligent robot/alien who will save our planet from ultimate destruction. Who am I? Eventually he will come to his own conclusion that this life plan isn't feasible and I hope he remembers that I didn't dash his dreams at the assembly plant. Keep dreaming baby, eventually you'll get it right.

Now on to the real reason for this post. I've been around this church thing for a while now and something that has recently struck me as interesting is the high number of differing viewpoints we all have on things. I mean, is God grace, love, or a great big old guy who doesn't really care? Is He out to punish us for every little thing? What about heaven and hell? Are they up there and down there or around us everyday and we just can't see them? Are we predestined for one place or the other or does God allow us to choose even though He knows what our choice is gonna be? Why did He start this whole thing to begin with? How's it gonna end?

You must admit that we spend an awful lot of time thinking about those things, contending for our own beliefs and even if you're at all like me, worrying if we can really know. In the grand scheme of things does any of it matter? Have you ever changed your mind about something you thought your beliefs hinged upon? I personally was raised to believe certain things and as I've grown up in the faith and have learned about God for myself and heard other views I've changed my mind a lot. But I think that there are some things that don't really matter, they will just be like Oh, I was right, or Oh, I was wrong about that. The point is are you majoring in the minor things? Are you focused on the minute details or can you look at the big picture?

John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
1 John 4:7-21 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.  This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.


Gripping the Treadmill

So I have this treadmill in my basement, and when I make up my mind to get away from the kids and try to pretend like I can't hear them wreaking havoc above me I go down there to try and work out. Now, I don't know about you but I like to be in control and stepping up onto that moving strip of canvas and trusting that it won't try its best to fling me up against the opposite wall is a real test of faith. To drown out the sounds of my kids doing their elephant impersonations upstairs, I turn on some music that motivates me to want to kick my own fat butt and turn on the treadmill. Steadily, steadily, I increase the speed and walk faster and faster until I am forced to break into a nice jog.

The problem is that I can't let go of the arm rails. Remember my trust issue that I shared earlier? Well it goes into full force as the speed increases and I imagine doing a face plant on the basement floor. I can let go with one hand and that works when you're walking. But try to do anything with more speed and one handed running just doesn't work. You end up feeling lopsided. Pumping both of your arms while running is the way that this thing is supposed to be done. Once I managed to pry my fingers from both rails and I could just hear the Chariots of Fire song playing in the distance. But then it was drowned out by Wipe Out. I know its all in my head, but at the same time its not...Just last week I was at the gym minding my own business on a stationary bike (much safer for the balance challenged like myself) when out of nowhere I see movement out the corner of my eye accompanied with a crash and a roll and splat. Case in Point: A girl flat on the ground having been flung from her treadmill due to disrespect for the force of gravity and improper usage of arm rails.

So this is some serious business for me, my distrust of letting go and really running for all I've got. But it didn't just happen one day that I didn't trust right? That's a build up sort of problem. Everything is running fine and then boom you fall or you watch someone else and seeds are planted. "That looks really bad and that could happen to me if I'm not careful" sort of thinking....How often do I do that with God? I get in there walking the walk and yet I'm not totally sold out to the mechanism of trusting Him, I'm still gripping tightly to the safety features like contingency plans and back doors and just in case this doesn't really work out scenarios. Like God's not gonna be there to reach out and pick me up when I fall down.


Book Review: Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl by N. D. Wilson

N. D. Wilson does it again in this thought provoking book about life. While its not an easy book to follow (there will be much rereading of paragraphs), there are some eye opening truths contained inside. This is not a book for those who believe that life is about being comfortable, finding your place and filling it in. Instead it is a challenge to realize that life is a journey and an adventure.
"Christianity is no longer about changing the world. Christianity is no longer about facing the darkness and walking into shadow with souls full of light. We don't see evil as a thing to be conquered, we don't see life as a story with any kind of arc. We don't want our God to be the God of falcons and mole rats and skunk justice. "
Life happens, it comes and it goes, there are bumps and twists, it is to be both enjoyed and endured. While we are living it, we are to live life to its fullest regardless of what comes, charging into what lies ahead and not shirking back.
"The world is rated R, and no one is checking IDs. Do not try to make it G by imagining the shadows away. Do not try to hide your children from the world forever, but do not pretend there is no danger. Train them. Give them sharp eyes and bellies full of laughter. Make them dangerous. Make them yeast, and when they've grown, they will pollute the shadows."
If you have trouble with the realization that your life is not what you pictured it would be, if you can't understand why a good God would let bad things happen, this is an excellent book to get you thinking about some things in a new and different perspective. Give it a chance and you may actually start seeing your place with a better viewpoint.

I received a free copy of this book from Booksneeze.com in exchange for an honest review.


Grab Bag

I absolutely love writing on Sunday mornings. Because of the nature of our household, our house is the quietest it gets on this one morning of the week. The Loud People of the family go to church early and I'm left here with Taylor and the two little guys. Besides throwing together a quick breakfast and starting up the Netflix I can sit here sipping coffee and meandering through my thoughts and ponderings of the week.

But this week there's too much going on up there. I'm full of thoughts on love, and grace, and entitlement, and growing older, and kids away at college and still missing them on the second year of this thing. What to write about? So I'm choosing a topic that just came to me this morning yet has been flitting into my mind all week and maybe longer.

Surprise! Don't be scared by my outbursts, that's the topic...really. When I was a little girl my mom used to take me to a little shop downtown and I would get to pick a treat. I loved getting the grab bag, which was filled with assorted little toys and always a huge surprise. You never knew what you were gonna get but it was oh so exciting. 

Well, I've been really thinking a lot of how this is how my life has turned out. Kind of Forrest Gump "life is like a box of chocolates"-esque. When I made my initial life selections like spouse and church and house and job I never imagined this. With each venture into the bag of treats I pull out something I like and maybe something that I could do without. I mean if its all super amazing everyday, would I truly appreciate it? Would I know what I know now about myself or more importantly my God? By walking through the superb and the difficult I see Him more clearly. I've learned to recognize Him even on the rainy, cloudy, not so good days.

Bottom line, I'm surprised by what I'm finding out about this life and living it. The hard times bite, the low times scrape my knees, but I'm gonna keep on reaching in.


Book Review: Death by Living by N. D. Wilson

In N. D. Wilson, I have found a new favorite author. At once sharing the ordinary details of his life, that have matching ones in our own, while at the same time weaving a story so poignant and beautiful to bring tears to your eyes. He uses stories from his own heritage and beckons the reader to reach back into the past and search out our own history.

There is that profound reminder that we often forget that we are not stand alone figures in this production, there are those who paved the way for us as well as those who will replace us on this earth. Every breath is grace, every day a gift. What are we doing with the time allotted to us?

Each of us is part of this great story. We don't know when we will exit, only when we entered. Live like you mean it. Enjoy the life that has been given to you. Laugh even when its not really funny. Bad stuff happens, good stuff happens. Love, loss, no one can control when or where or how, but God knows it all and He's got it all under control.

Read this book.

I received a free copy of this book from Booksneeze in exchange for an honest review.


Mommy Senses

Forget Spider Man. He has the opportunity to put his costume away and live a "normal" life. Once a woman becomes a mother, the job is never done. When I woke up on this fine Saturday morning, the only morning of the week that I can actually sleep in, and found myself wide awake at 7:30 am, the idea of this blog post came to mind. If you're not convinced yet that the mild mannered home school mom who lives next door is really a superhero in disguise let me give you a run down of the typical warning signs.
1. Strong-Can carry a baby in one arm and the entire contents of the trunk in the other arm.

2. Brave-Anybody who can clean up somebody else's vomit without puking herself is pretty brave.

3. Intelligent-Has a PhD but chooses to "help with homework"

4. Special Powers-Can hear her baby crying in a soundproof room

5. Wears a Costume-Let's be honest here, she didn't dress like that before she had kids. 

6. Earns respect-You can hear people talking about her as she leaves church, "I just don't know how she does it...."
7. Athletic-Over developed upper body strength from simultaneously vacuuming and soothing a crying toddler.

8. Has a “sidekick”-AKA "Dad" or "Grandma"
9. Role Model-Everybody wishes they could be a mom "just like her"

10. Unique-Only this special lady could handle this special family.

11. Has a Weakness-Chocolate
12. Uses Gadgets-Dishwasher, Vacuum, Blender, Wii Remote, LeapFrog, Ipad, etc.
13. Has an Arch Enemy-PMS

14. Has a lair or “hideout”-Hidden in plain sight and otherwise known as the "bathroom", only her own kids can find her.

15. Secret Identity (alter ego)-Victoria's Secret Vixen                           
16. Interesting Past (Motivation)-Once upon a time, before her body was morphed into a human bean bag, she enjoyed staying up late and going out to movies and making decisions that didn't have the lives of numerous other people riding on them like "what am I going to eat for dinner?" She is holding out for the day that she will once more return to those long ago times...

17. Love Interest-The kids know him as Dad, his superhero persona.

18. Vehicle-Mini van or for the mom who is deep undercover, an SUV complete with keypad operated doors and built in DVD player.

19. Has a goal-making the world a better place one cookie at a time.

20. Determined-You kids will enjoy yourselves and use your manners and your inside voices and keep your hands to yourself and flush the toilet and do your homework and eat your food!


Book Review: The Surprising Grace of Disappointment by John Koessler

The title of this book is what initially drew me to it. Finding hope when God seems to fail us? What sacrilege is this? That was my initial "spiritual" thought on the subject, yet when I was really honest with myself, I could admit that God has disappointed me alot. Now before you shut down on me, hear me out and take a moment to be honest with yourself as well. Nobody's judging.

Every chapter of this book gripped me to the core. I mean, the author touched on everything from the apparent absence of God is situations to the possibility of Him ignoring my pleas for help. There is not a person alive who has not felt disappointed by God at one time or another. So I say that every Christian should take a look at the words of this book. It will reveal things to you, and in some instances it will release you. Its okay to be disappointed, but the core of the matter is that God is good, God is constant, and God has a plan for your life.

I received a free copy of this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.


No Substitutions Allowed

Here in our house, things still haven't quite settled down to normal since school went back in session. What with Josh's birthday, family in town, work, church events, and school we had a pretty chaotic schedule. Then just as things started looking "normal" momma got sick. I came down with this sinus, cold, stuffy head garbage that you can wade through during the day and then in the evening you just succumb. Not good for a full time working mommy with school kids and a busy schedule. Inevitably something is left undone. Round about Wednesday morning I tried to stay home from work and my husband reminded me how difficult it would be to find a substitute for me at work, so I trudged on. Actually, it made me pretty mad on top of feeling so ill. I mean how unfair that I must go to work sick because I have a job nobody else can do...

Then I started thinking and wait a minute, hold the phone. My whole life is that way. Nobody can be the mommy around here, the wife I can be, the list goes on and on and on. I don't mean any of this in a prideful way, just that I am one of a kind, unique. There are no substitutions allowed for me. If I am absent from any of these situations there is a vacancy, a lack. The same is true for all of us.

And even more importantly the same goes for our relationship with God. He made us each unique and with a purpose in mind. If you even think for one minute that God doesn't notice you, you are so wrong. Your daily struggles and your heart's cries: they matter to Him. Take a look at your relationship with Him. Is it blatantly one-sided? Is He the constant in the relationship and you just flit in and out when you have a need? Know this, God desires a friendship with you, a close relationship, not a fair weather friend and no substitutes are allowed.


Book Review: Finding God in the Bible by Darren Wilson

I absolutely love it when a book I chose to read comes around at just the right time. Stumbling through books that I don't enjoy is not my style, I don't have that kind of time to waste, and it always amazes me how God can use books to speak to my heart and reveal things I didn't know were there. From the introduction this book had me in its grasp. The author, Darren Wilson, grew up in church like me and was pretty much freaked out by many of the stories in the Bible. This fear kept him from really seeing God for who He is and what His real purpose is in doing the things He does.

The book takes the reader through various major characters and the weird stories that maybe like me, you never really understood either. I mean God does some pretty unusual stuff and asks His people to do some weird things. Don't you ever ask yourself why? Darren is honest enough to say yes. What it all really boils down to is that God desires to have a close relationship with us. He loves us and wants us to love Him back. Friendship is what He is after, not a casual acquaintance. keeping God at arm's length is what most of us do, because we don't really want to know Him that well. He's a little scary and some of us have had misconceptions about His motives for so long that we really don't trust Him either.

Finding God in the Bible will help you to reach past that initial impression and see who God really wants to be to us, His chosen people. A closer relationship with Him and and understanding of His unfathomable love can be the result if you really let the message of this book sink in and grab a hold of your heart and mind.

Read an excerpt from the book here.

I received a free copy of this book from Chosen Books a division of Baker Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.



So remember when I wrote the post yesterday and I said that everything would hit me later on this week and then I'd just crumble? Well it came a little earlier than I expected. Josh and I drove Tony to Charlotte last night and dropped him off for his semester to really begin. A headache began and escalated and then this morning I literally woke up and started crying. Being a girl is so weird sometimes. Ech! Crying and emotions are just so inconvenient. Anyway, I figured that here in the midst of all this I'd go ahead and write again to help with the pressure of all these fast flowing thoughts and reminisces.

As we were driving through Charlotte, Tony brought up the idea that had we stopped with him and Rebecca we would have been "done" by now. In his mind he loves his siblings dearly, but I think as he's gotten older he thinks me and his dad are a little crazy to have had all these kids considering that life would have been so much easier had we stopped at two. My mind went to this movie quote from On the Waterfront which should be familiar to you, but with which I am going to make a few alterations to make it fitting for this post...
"You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a mum, which is what I am, let's face it. "
Ok, silly I know, but you get the picture. I used to think that way, just like my son, that in deciding to become a mommy I was giving up some rich life full of adventure and wealth and success. Before I had my kids, I had things really "going" for me. I could have become anything I wanted to, and I chose this.

This life.

These kids.

This adventure that has brought me more joy and excitement and fulfillment than I could have ever imagined.

I am not just somebody, I'm somebody's momma and that's all the recognition that I could ever hope to achieve.

Done is so final. Sorta like : this is Amber's portion of life in which she has raised little people and now that that's over let's get back to the real story (period) Meanwhile, now that the kids are all gone, what now? How sad, how selfish. I pray that my kids never feel like they are speed bumps in the highway that is my life story. I look at them like fellow travelers and even when they are grown I really want to travel on with them branching out and merging back together as we all head to the same destination.

For the record, I will never be done with them.


Tiny Dancer

This week has been one crazy ride! For those of you not in the know, we celebrated my husband's fortieth birthday last night. We are really elegant so we turned off the lights, splattered some paint on the walls, dressed in retro 80's costume, served pizza rolls and white castle burgers, all while we sang karaoke. This so wouldn't have happened without some amazing people running the show and Josh had a blast. He told me it was his best party ever and he was really overwhelmed by all the people who came out to help us celebrate him. You guys are like totally rad ok...

Permeating all of this joyful celebration has been some pretty dizzying busyness in our house. Two weeks ago, I went back to work at the school and my four youngest returned to their studies as well. Zion, my baby, began Pre-K and I'm still trying to swallow the enormity of that. Then last week Rebecca Lynn, my first girl baby started college and I gotta tell you, driving away from her standing there in front of the school was just as difficult as walking Zion to class. The turmoils of a mother's heart! Tony left to return to UNCSA on Thursday and the only thing that has kept me from crumpling into a heap of utter mush has been my exhaustion and busyness. I know that later on this week, as all of the family returns to their homes in Texas and the Dominican Republic, its all gonna come crashing down and I'm gonna need a trip to the beach or something to keep from going completely bonkers.

I remember when I was a little girl and my great ambition was to grow up to become a famous ballerina. One of the things I longed to do was the elaborate spins those gifted dancers can accomplish. I learned that you can't just spin around and around, its not that easy and you will fall down or get out of control if you don't know what you are doing. Its a technique called spotting. The goal of spotting is to attain a constant orientation of the dancer's head and eyes in order to enhance the dancer's control and prevent dizziness. ( I took that definition from wikipedia)

You know I never reached my goal, but I do utilize the technique anyway. As my life rolls onward and I execute the choreography laid out before me, I must throw in some fancy spins and turns. Without proper technique however, I can get out of control or get dizzy from the pace. The key is to fix my eyes upon a singular point and allow my body to spin and spin all the while not taking my eyes off that point. Huh, crazy idea this keeping focused on one point and not allowing things to throw us into a tizzy. That's the saving grace of following Jesus. He's the one unchanging and unmovable thing in my life and keeping my eyes trained on Him, I can handle all this crazy go go go.


Book Review: The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

If you have never read a book by author, Brennan Manning, this one is an excellent start. From start to finish he will have you hooked with his message of ultimate and ever-reaching grace. In the Ragamuffin Gospel, Manning restates what all Christians know: that justification is by grace through faith. What he points out in each of us is the need to add more to that statement. Can't I work for my salvation? Isn't God wanting me to do more, be more, try harder?

The answer that the book points out and what we are truly in our heart of hearts know is that we don't earn our salvation. It may make us feel better to strive for greater accomplishments, but at the end of the day our walk begins when we acknowledge that no matter how "good" we are, we can't do this on our own.

As Brennan Manning so eloquently states, "Do you live each day in the blessed assurance that you have been saved by the unique grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? After falling flat on your face, are you still firmly convinced that the fundamental structure of rality is not works, but race? Are you moody and melancholy becasue you are still striving for the perfection that comes from your own efforts and not from faith in Jesus Christ? Are you shocked and horrified when you fail? Are you really aware that you don't have to change, grow, or be good to be loved?"

 If you think you've got it all under control, if you know that you don't, if you just need a reminding of how very awesome our God is in despite of our failings as human beings: read this book. It will envelope you in the true and unending love that God has for each of his people.

I received a free copy of this book from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Company in exchange for an honest review.

The Ragamuffin Gospel - By Brennan Manning (Chapter 1) by WaterBrook Multnomah


The Last Day

Being a mother of six, you would think that I had this letting go thing down to a science, but I must admit that I cry every step of the way. My kids don't know that, unless I tell them later, because I absolutely hate crying in front of them. I don't want to handicap their moment. You see I cry at all the major events in their lives and even at the small ones like starting and finishing another year of school. This can be awkward considering the fact that four of them attend the school where I work so my crying has to be a little incognito. But it happens, and there's absolutely nothing I can do to stop it.

We start school tomorrow and I'm fearing for the worst because we've got a lot of growing up that has occurred this summer. Here's the breakdown: Tony returns to UNCSA for his second year of film, Rebecca begins her first year of college here in Fayetteville, Serena begins high school, Taylor is starting 7th grade, Emari is going into 1st, and my baby, Zion, is entering Pre-K. Some pretty big milestones we're hitting there across the board. But this is the part that's really difficult: my BABY is leaving the nest to start on his formal education.

I remember, beginning with the pregnancy, I savored every little thing because I knew that it would be my last whatever. My last maternity clothes, my last baby shower, etc. Then through his babyhood, it was the last bottle, the last diaper, the last day in the nursery. There is something different about the knowledge that you are doing something for the very last time ever. There isn't much in life where you can have that certainty of finality and its sad even in the joy that you find in the memory.

Tomorrow I will be dropping off my last baby to school and that will be that. He's gonna be learning new things and making new friends and thinking that his teacher is smarter than me just like the others did. Except this time its different, because he's the last one. Today is my last day to enjoy my last one just like this and I'm gonna enjoy it.


The Path of Least Resistance

On August 1st, our church embarked on a 21 day fast. Now I've done this before, but how many know that just because you've done something doesn't make it easier to do again? I love to be challenged by difficult things, but when it really starts to press I want to give up. There are things in your life that other people can look at and say, "Gosh that looks hard and you do it so well." Nice compliment, but those things are usually the things that "come naturally" to me and don't take a whole lot of effort. What about the things that don't come easy and I have to push myself to do well?

You know in parenting my six kids, there inevitably comes that time when you have enjoyed them and disciplined them and lived life with them and then you really wish you could give them to somebody else for a few years until they get their heads back on straight. Parents of teenagers know what I'm talking about. Until I had teenagers I thought poopy diapers and sticky fingers were a challenge. Now I know the truth. However, I know that looking back at my own teenage years, they were the ones in which I really discovered what my parents were made of. Our relationship was truly forged in that time of our lives. It had its foundation laid in the early fun and easy years, but forging requires some heat and some sweat and tears.

Psalm 66:8-12
Bless our God, O peoples!
    Give him a thunderous welcome!
Didn’t he set us on the road to life?
    Didn’t he keep us out of the ditch?
He trained us first,
    passed us like silver through refining fires,
Brought us into hardscrabble country,
    pushed us to our very limit,
Road-tested us inside and out,
    took us to hell and back;
Finally he brought us
    to this well-watered place.

If we have chosen to follow after Christ then we have already chosen the harder way, but there are times along the road that we will be tempted to go back, take a detour or a short cut that looks easier. In conclusion, let me leave you with this well known poem.

The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;        5
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,        10
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.        15
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.        20


Book Review: All In by Mark Batterson

The Gospel cost NOTHING, but it demands EVERYTHING. It's all or nothing. If Jesus is not LORD OF ALL, then He is not Lord at all.

Mark Batterson is definitely one of my all time favorite authors. His writing challenges me to push for more, to not settle for what I'm already doing. His books always seem to find themselves in my hands at the most perfect times and minister to me in the ways I need to be ministered to.

If you have ever felt like your sacrifice is not so much what Jesus was asking from you, but it was your obedience, this book is for you. If you wonder how God asks for everything we have, yet promises to give us everything that He has, this book is for you. Be compelled to not just live your life but live it for the purpose it was given. As Batterson says, " Jesus didn't die just to keep us safe. he died to MAKE US DANGEROUS."

 I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for a review from Booksneeze.



Well, I've been kinda off the radar the past few days, enjoying some rest and relaxation at the in-laws house. Did I mention they live in the Dominican Republic? Josh, me, and the kids did a short stint here a few years back and I gotta say there's no better thing than to wake up in the Caribbean. I love the beach, the people, the weather. Plus, just getting away and doing absolutely nothing of consequence for a few days can be oh so nice.

A couple of evenings ago we were invited to have dinner at a missionary's house and partake of a traditional Dominican dinner. It was absolutely delightful with rice and beans and avocados and fried plantains. Now that I've got your mouth watering let me tell you what really got me at that dinner: the family's story. Every missionary has a story, but this one really spoke to me.

Earlier in the day I had been reading about the rich young ruler and how Jesus had told him to give up everything and the man just couldn't do that. The readers can look at that story and think that Jesus was being so harsh and maybe the guy should have seen what he was gonna receive in exchange for his worldly possessions. But to us its still just a story, somebody else's story. Well, as we sat there at the dinner table of this family from Bolivia they began telling us about how in Bolivia they had been at the top of their game. She had a lucrative career in the tourism industry and he had a PhD. in Geology. They had the nice house, nice car, nice stuff and they had kids going to school and doing well and things were pretty good. Then God began whispering in their ear to give it all up and come follow Him. Long story short they literally opened up the doors of their house and allowed people to just come in and take what they wanted. Then when the house was empty they gave away their car and the house. What got me was when the man spoke about the toys, all the toys that people just came in and walked away with while they watched. They went on to share about how the Lord led them to the Dominican Republic and the journey it took to get them here and the ways that God has provided for them day to day.

I was undone completely. I thought I might just break down and bawl right there. I mean how many times do I get caught up in my little sacrifices and things that I have to go without. Yet here was a family that gave up everything to pursue what God really wanted them to do. How convinced am I that I'm doing what God wants for me and how like the rich young ruler am I? Am I blinded by what I have to give up or can I see beyond to what I stand to gain that is so much greater? What can I complain about really?


The Quiet Girl

You know its not until you get away from the noise and bustle that you realize just how very noisy and crazy it was? I'm a quiet person by nature and somehow God saw fit to attach the other half of my heart to the loudest man on the planet. It doesn't bother me as much as it used to and even the fact that my kiddos all take after him. But every once in a while I just can't take it anymore and I have to get away into the silence.

Ministry and work are loud places as well and people in large crowds can do me in. With this all swirling around me I can have the tendency to think that there must be something wrong with me to want to be quiet every once in a while and stuff.

So, we came here to the Dominican Republic and the obvious retreat from my normally loud life was a welcome reprieve. My husband likes to hit the ground running and surf, and swim, and run here and there. But me, I was so happy when Tropical Storm Chantal blew through the island and stirred things up so that I couldn't do anything but sit around and watch the rain and listen to the thunder and sip coffee and read. How lovely! Today I'm sitting here on the balcony blissfully typing away with an overcast sky and nothing at all on my agenda. Nobody to cook for, nobody to clean up after, no phone, no noise. Ahh! Getting back in touch with my quiet was just the ticket for this girl.


Book Review: Chronicles of Dinosauria

In this all new book by Dave Woetzel you will explore the history and the mystery of dinosaurs and man.

Evolutionists try their level best to defame the Bible and creation through the existence of fossil "evidence" that man and dinosaurs did not roam the earth at the same time. Up until reading this book you may have been at a loss to even understand the possibilities and credence of evolutionists claims. However, after partaking of the proof put forth in Chronicles of Dinosauria, you will be better equipped to defend your own beliefs.

Filled with beautiful illustrations and photographs, the book keeps the attention of even younger readers. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and the detail given by the author to the subject at hand. Having loved dinosaurs since I was a kid, I always had a difficult time melding my beliefs in creation with what I had been taught about dinosaurs and fossils at school and in other books. This book is an awesome tool for Christian parents and teachers to help explain some of the more "difficult" questions about dinosaurs that children may have.

Read a sample from the book here.

I received a free copy of the book for review from Master Books, a division of New Leaf Publishing Group.


Elegance Elusive

You've seen them before. Those memes that have the contrast pictures showing what I think I look like when I ___________, and what I really look like when I __________. For me that's the story of my life. I have an idea of what I want to look like when I head out the door or sit there on the front row at church or walk around the grocery store, but that's not the reality. I'm a mom. That says it all.

Once upon a time I bought a beautiful white dress coat and was naive enough to think that it would last more than one excursion with my kids. Nope, chocolate hands and baby spit up did that puppy in. High heels to chase my son down and keep him from running in the street? Cute flippy skirt so my kids can take turns flipping it up at church? Perfectly manicured nails to clean the toilet? Don't even get me started on my vocabulary skills. I say things I never thought I'd say. Like just now as I was sitting down in the midst of this blog my youngest came out of the bathroom swinging his underwear in one hand and a piece of toilet paper in the other requesting some assistance. I had to say it because no one else would, "Poop stays in the bathroom!"

Don't misunderstand me, you can have it all together with nice things and all that and be a great mommy, I just can't seem to do it. I love nice things and start out with the nice stuff, but give up the fight to keep it pristine. I don't want to have anything that I care for more than my family.

The funny thing is I find myself wondering if there should be a meme that shows the opposite. Like I see a bedraggled mom with unwashed hair and unplucked eyebrows and God sees a warrior princess fighting the good fight.


Blog Review: Indoctrination by Joaquin Fernandez and Colin Gunn

Prior to reading Indoctrination, I was one of those "riding the fence" parents. I had utilized public schools for my children but had chosen to send them to a private school instead. My own opinions I kept to myself out of fear of offending my friends who had to send their children to public schools due to financial constraints. My own education was in both private and public schools and though I had felt the drastic change of atmosphere when my parents put me in a public school in seventh grade, I sent my own children for a short time as well. However, after reading this eye opening book, I am no longer afraid or undecided on the public school for Christian children issue.

Whether you are stirred by the revelation of what foundation the public schools are built upon, or the over medication of children due to misdiagnosis, or even the hostile environment for Christian teachers and students, this book will encourage you to pull your children out of public schools. The authors, Joaquin Fernandez and Colin Gunn, have done a remarkable job in collecting the individual stories of countless parents and teachers with the same underlying message.

I received a free copy of this book for review from Master Books, a division of New Leaf Publishing Group.

Read a sample from the book.

Check out some other reviews of the book here.
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