Portion Control

I'm gonna go ahead and come out and say it. Last year I worked my tail feathers off and lost 25 pounds. I was so proud of myself and the "new me" that was emerging. I had a system and a goal and I was totally committed. And then some major bumps happened and my attentions were focused on other things and I lost it. Well, I should say, I gained it. All. Right. Back. I was and am so disappointed in myself. Why did I let that happen? How did I lose my equilibrium?

In hindsight, I'm seeing that all my focus was on the diet and the workout plan and life was going along swimmingly. Everybody was in their places and didn't need much management. When that delicate balance teetered, I lost all control.

This time around, I'm trying to keep my sights a little more broad. Be more sensitive to the needs of my family and if the alert goes up, I can stay calm and work with it. I don't like emergencies, and deviations in the plan make me crazy. Such is life.

I'm working on my portion control. You know if I get up early, I go to bed early. If I have an appointment, I don't try to get in an extra workout that day. Morning devotions are doable when I get enough rest the night before. If I have a weekend of church events, its ok to let the house go a little bit. I love reading, but if the man says turn off the light and come to bed, alright then. It is not even humanly possible to be part of every event, party, meeting, et cetera going on in my vicinity.

They say we only have 24 hours in a day. They say if its important to you, you'll make time to get it done. That always makes me feel guilty. There are so many important things that I would love to get done. But when its all over, I feel like my day holds me prisoner. I go to work, and help the kids with homework and do a little housework and boom, what's left? I want to heap up my plate with all the yummy things out there. There's an all you can eat buffet and all my favorite foods are on it. I want successful kids and a happy husband and an excellent prayer life and a group of amazing women to laugh and cry with. I want to read tons of fun and encouraging books. Blogging every day would make me so happy. Workouts and jogging and eating right and losing weight. Volunteering some time and going to every baby shower, birthday party, church event I'm invited to. Museum tours and beach trips and the zoo. A trip to the park every Saturday while also maintaining a spotless house. Ahhh.

God's Word says that a man makes his plans, but the Lord directs his steps. So, I'm taking this in stride. Taking my allotted 24, and I'm asking Him. My choice would be to pile on all the things I love and that are comfortable for me, like a bunch of chocolate eclairs. But my choice and my serving portions would lead me to a fat, lackadaisical way of life, no discipline, no stretching, no hardships. What would be the best choice?  What takes precedence over the rest? What do I put on my plate, Lord? The really hard part is resting in His answers and letting the other stuff go.


Book Review: Surprised by the Healer

Even in our ultra-modern churches and Christian circles, sexual issues are many times a taboo subject. Somehow, the stigma of shame and guilt just continues to hover over those struggling with healing and renewal and the light is not often shed in those dark and shadowy places.

 This is the first book I have ever encountered that tackles the topics of pornography, abortion, rape, incest, prostitution and many others that women are still battling in churches today. Christian women, those whose lives have been renewed by Jesus' love and saving grace, but who have not walked out into their full healing due to shame from their past sins. Surprised by the Healer was a tough book to read. There are real life stories between its front and back covers of real women and their real struggles. So many hurts and broken lives. But the wonderful part of the book is the hope it brings. Hope that no matter where you've been Jesus sees all of you and still loves you. He stands with open arms waiting for us to run to Him and give all of our cares to Him.

If you are in need of full healing from your past, or if you know another woman who could benefit from this book, I highly encourage you to grab a copy and "embrace hope for your broken story."

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

I also linked this review up on Mama Revival Series. For more great book reviews and suggestions check out her blog.


Book Review: The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie King

Having only just discovered Laurie King and her wonderful stories of Mary Russell last year, I tore through the rest of the series and with bated breath awaited this latest. I have loved every one of the books, but The Murder of Mary Russell is by far one of my favorites. We've learned so much about Mary's past, and have the opportunity to see Mr. Holmes in a new light through his relationship with Miss Russell. Watson has become more familiar and "real" to me throughout the series. However, one major character has just hovered in the wings, right in the edge of the shadows: Mrs. Hudson.

 Without giving anything away, this is the story of how Mrs. Hudson came to be in the lives of Holmes and Russell and all the details interwoven between the past, present and then beyond. Its a story that is hard to put down and walk away from. Questions are presented and some are even answered and the reader steps away from the action to a new understanding of all the inner-workings of a life played out. Light is shed on dark places, the curtains are pulled back. You'll hate to set it down when its all over.

I received a free copy from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.


What I'm Reading: February

February caught me off guard with some abrupt changes so I cut back on volume this month and have decided to slow down a bit in my reading. However, I still have a lot to share.

First off, I'm continuing with Savor: Living Abundantly Where You are, as You are by Shauna Niequist. This is a year's worth of devotional readings, one for each day, with some lovely recipes thrown in. Each day is a little gem of truth.

I'm also reading Surprised by the Healer: Embracing Hope for Your Broken Story by Linda Dillow. I only just picked it up last week, but for any woman who is in need of healing from her past this book is very insightful. Once I'm finished I'll post a review.

Another book I'm planning on reading throughout the course of this year is Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. The flow of written prayer is really calming for me right now in this time where I feel like I don't even know where to begin when I sit down to pray. This book gives me a place to begin.

For fun this month, I picked up a couple of advanced reading copies from two of my favorite authors. I've already completed, Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye and you can read my review here.

The other much awaited early copy is The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King. I have just got my eyes on this book, but I've loved everything else she has written in her Mary Russell series so I have no cause to believe this will be anything less than wonderful.

Once I've finished with these gems I have a few waiting in the wings.





Book Review: Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

From the youngest of ages, I have loved reading a good mystery. Through in period costumes and a brooding, unreachable leading man, set in a Victorian mansion and I'm hooked. In addition, I've loved all of Faye's other writings, so when I had the opportunity to read her newest book I jumped at the chance.

Mirroring the sentiments of Jane Eyre, with plenty of Bronte-like workings, Jane Steele is the governess we all knew we could be. Her life is much like her namesake, but our new heroine decides to not live in the shadows but push on out to the light and take some matters into her own capable hands.

I absolutely loved every word of it beginning to end and encourage fellow lovers of the classic Bronte, Arthur Conan Doyle, or Daphne Du Maurier to indulge is this beautifully written story. You will not be disappointed.

I received a free copy from Net Galley in exchange for a honest review.


Bittersweet Goodbyes

Life is chock full of them, goodbyes. Every milestone of life holds the key to opening a new chapter, turning a page. Its progression, moving forward. Keeping our eyes on the prize, growing up and older and wiser. But just because its natural, doesn't mean its easy. Every time I walk through a new door, I'm walking away from something else.

Getting married meant saying goodbye to my single life and making my own choices about my future. Having children meant saying goodbye to my freedom and my heart. I had to say goodbye to my education for awhile so my babies would feel safe. Goodbye to each child as they grow up and move out and move on into new doors all their own.

Some goodbyes are harder than others. Calling off an engagement, changing career paths, moving to a new city. Starting over and turning your back to a different future. Being brave and moving forward in spite of your fear.

But every goodbye is really also a hello to some thing else. Its a trade off. A bittersweet exchange of one vantage point for another. As my heart aches for what used to be or could have been, it is soothed by the excitement of what's in store.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster to give you a future and a hope.


Common Ground

The younger version of me envisioned a time, maybe when the kids had grown up or at least gotten a little older when life would get easier. I thought that sometime around 40, I'd have figured this whole thing out and it would be smooth sailing. I'd have confidence and sophistication and problems would be a breeze. As I encountered issues in life, I found myself reaching out for someone who had been there, walked the road and survived it. My first tendency was always to go to my husband, unless he was the source of my annoyance, then my momma, and my peers, and of course, God. But I'd always have a hang up about taking advice from someone that I felt was unqualified. In other words, this person had to have gone through almost exactly what I was dealing with in order for me to feel like I could really take their word for it. Common disqualifiers: 1) not married to a man in ministry 2) not a mother of 4-6 children 3) not homeschooling, or public schooling, or private schooling whatever I was doing at the time 4) I didn't see the fruit in their life of what I wanted to replicate in my own. These are some pretty steep requirements. No wonder I had such a hard time taking anyone's advice, no one out there is just like me...

As I'm getting older, I'm realizing the beauty of commonalities. Having trouble with my teenage daughter...Hey you, have you ever raised a teenage daughter? Yeah? What can you tell me to help me out? Anything at all would help right now... Our stories don't have to be the same, our backgrounds, lifestyles, likes or dislikes. We don't even have to go to Starbucks for coffee. Its just cool to find someone else who's made it down the same slippery slope I'm on right now and can offer some pointers on how to get through a little easier.

These are some of the things I love about being part of a community of believers. Whether at work, school, church, there are people surrounding me that are looking out for back. Not waiting for me to trip and fall over the same root they just fell over, but genuinely reaching out a hand and helping to make my way smoother. I've been burned in the past sharing my story and trying to help others find their way a little easier. But I'm not gonna let that stop me this season. This is the time for letting down your guards and allowing the gift of the testimony that He has given to you to finally be spilled out for His glory. It doesn't have to be a big production, a podcast, news reel. When you find someone going through and you've been there, speak up. You'd be surprised at the good just an encouraging word or two can do.


Just Love

I challenged myself not to get caught up in gimmicks this year. I didn't want to set out to do anything just for the sake of saying that I did.

So in our house, we're taking it month by month and asking God to reveal how he wants us to move. January we focused on living simple. From our food to our time, we took it day by day and tried not to get caught up in the chaos and fluffy stuff. Can I tell you, I had no clue of what was in store for us, and that when I'm sitting here on the first day of February and looking back, I'm so glad that we had purposed in our hearts to live step by step. With the buzz of planning pushed to the sidelines, and our vision pared down we were able to be more sensitive to those things that might have otherwise gotten lost. Not that I'm saying January was easy, not in the least, but I could deal with it better.

In praying about and planning for February, I'm taking what we learned from last month. About letting love be what compels us and bolsters us up. Yesterday Josh and I were talking about looking for ways to actively do what our church stands for: Loving God, Loving Others, and Loving the World. We want to continue in our way of simple living and allowing our hearts to remain open to hearing God's still small voice as we focus more on Him. This year Cliffdale is stepping out in some new and exciting ministry opportunities with the homeless of our community and we want to take our family and jump on board with everything we can do to reach out and show some of God's love in our own city. We plan on supporting a child in Thailand through a missionary that we've known for years and years. 

But when it all comes down to it, these are my plans. They are straightforward and concise. Clean and pretty. All in my control.

So when I get the phone call or the text or the unexpected visitor that just cries out for my unplanned love, that's when it really matters. Plans are awesome. We need to plan. But don't get so busy planning that you miss those little opportunities for unplanned kindnesses along the way.

I'm still recovering from my rough January journey, and my heart is still a little sore, and the world keeps moving forward whether I'm ready for it or not. I pushed through and tripped in to my room after work today, bogged down with my bags, and my disappointments, and my to do list, and my heavy heart. And there, on my nightstand, a little dandelion blossom plucked from the yard by the caring little hands of my baby boy. Such a tiny token, could have almost missed it, all caught up in my day as I was right then. And then before bed when he asked me if I saw it and how he thought of me and wished he could have brought me more.

That's love, pure and simple.
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