Book Review: Play With Fire

In her book, Play With Fire, Bianca Juarez Olthoff invites the reader to consider the mythical fire bird, the Phoenix, in regards to our lives being reborn from the ashes of the past. Being a Christ follower is not a guarantee for a life free from troubles and trials. God has not overlooked you or forgotten you just because it feels like you're walking through a wilderness.

This book reminds us that hard times are not a sign that we've got it all wrong, but instead that God is leading us on into something more. The fire of trouble is actually an invitation to an even greater adventure if we are willing to step forward and let go.

"There will be desert seasons and wilderness wanderings and moments when we feel like we are in the fire. But we must not lose perspective when we cannot see our future, because we know who holds the future. The fulfillment of God's promises comes when we have the boldness to enter into the fire and embrace the transformation that takes place."

*I received a free digital copy of this book from NetGalley in return for a honest review.



I don't even know how to start this post.

It all started when the PE teacher sent home a message from school that my daughter didn't know how to dribble a ball. And then that my son needed a lot of work on some other coordinated activity that I can't even remember now.

No wait, it all started when our daughter ran away and left a note stating that she didn't want to live with us anymore.

Actually, it was probably way before that, but the resulting factor is that I start to look at what I'm doing as a parent with a magnifying glass, because it is obvious to the world that I'm lacking somewhere, somehow.

It could be as simple as deciding to put my son in karate instead of soccer, or homeschool versus public, or trying meds to help my daughter get a slight handle on things. Everybody has their two cents, their wonderful opinion.

Night before last I was checking out Pinterest for some cool ideas and came across several posts with ideas on cool things to do with our kids in the fall. I was expecting some amazingness. But what I got was some basic things that left me thinking, somebody had to write a blog about that? Are we that separated from figuring things out on our own that we need someone to come up with the bright idea to take a walk with our kids?

But I get caught up in it too. Like my kids won't be viable citizens of the world unless they have such and such skills and speak three languages and play outside for x amount of hours each day. I'm all for great ideas and new ways of doing things. But somewhere in the midst of that I think that we push too hard. We set up these unrealistic meters for measuring our success that really doesn't matter at all.
I'm also finding that as I open up to real life people around me, people who have been there, done that, I get some really good, hard-earned advice. Whether its the anonymous mommy at the playground that reassures me that even highly successful people can't hang from the monkey bars. Or the women that see my struggle in the journey and come alongside with their own painful reminisces that assure me that things can turn out well.

Parenting is a lot like picking out a baby name. There is always gonna be someone with a story of how they knew someone by that name who was a such and such and did this and that. Follow the basic guidelines and your kid probably won't hate you when they grow up.

I have to remind myself that the guidelines are simple.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.

The basics are written out in His Word. I need to follow His guidelines myself and teach them to my children. All the rest is just extra fluff.

Relax and go take a walk with your kids.


The Hungry Caterpillar

Mondays are always a hard to begin day for me. The Pastor's house is harder to wake up and get moving for school, nobody is really hungry for the breakfast that I set out, and the house is usually a complete wreck. Today was no different and with last week's storm and flood I needed to get some work done in the garden too.

I sent the kids off to school and the man off to work and headed out to weed and tidy the garden. We worked hard on the yard and garden this year and are just a tad bit proud of the harvest that has been coming in. As we planted the seeds and tenderly cared for the baby plants, it was an eye opening experience to watch the miracle of sowing and reaping right there in our backyard. The tomato plants have been an extra difficult project since they wanted to rot on the vine, and then only blossom but not produce any fruit. Finally, with this cooler in the morning weather we saw the long awaited green tomatoes hanging from the vines.

As my eyes passed over my much loved plants something unusual caught my eye, a bright green caterpillar perched right there within the greenery of my tomato plant. I had to fight hard my inner little girl urge to think of all caterpillars as potential butterflies and dredged back in my memory to my grandpa disgustedly plucking the green "tomato worms" from his own garden. All I could see was danger encroaching upon and munching on the tender green fruit I had waited for so patiently.

These worms were well suited for their task, camouflaged to blend in with their surroundings as they silently ate away. Closer inspection revealed 7 of the stinky guys and I quickly removed and disposed of their filthy carcasses.

Getting to the purpose of my writing, I realized at that moment a silent answer to a prayer I've been praying. Lord, why? You know that prayer don't you? And in that moment as I was attempting to rid my garden of its unwanted guests, I heard Him speak to me and realized this truth, "Bearing fruit attracts some dangerous pests." Profound thought, right?

I had worked so hard to provide rich soil, adequate water, the right amount of sunlight, and my garden was growing and flourishing in a verdant green abundance. But the purpose is to provide a harvest and that was being threatened despite all of my following the proper procedures and guidelines. I had to get in there and recognize the invaders and forcibly remove them.

It was a deeper level of gardening and it mirrors my life right now.

Take a step closer and look out for fruit thieves. 


Bandersnatch: A Book Revew

In our society, in our world, in our churches, we are slammed with the message to conform. Blend in. Do what everyone else is doing. Watch what they watch. Wear what they wear. Follow the rules. Blend in. Don't rock the boat.

But the truth of the matter is, we are created uniquely, with custom made gifts and innate creativity just waiting to be released. Bandersnatch is an invitation to explore that side of yourself that makes you different from everyone else. It is permission to explore your own God-given creativity.
"You weren't made for conformity. You weren't made with some cosmic cookie cutter. You were made precious and rare and only." Erika Morrison-Bandersnatch
By looking more closely at some common by-words of Christianity and redefining others, Erika Morrison opens up a new strategy of living that frees us up to live the way we were created to live.


Wood, Hay and Stubble and the Straw that Broke the Camel's Back

I don't know about you, but its been one of those seasons for me. The if-I can-just-get-through-this-it-will-all-be-ok kind of season. The crazy thing is that the light that I think I see at the end of the tunnel is just another torch, lighting the next portion. I'm thankful for those little reminders that someone has been there before me, like the marked trails, pointing me in the right direction. But, when I lay my head down at night and try to muster up the courage to get up again in the morning, I feel myself dragging.

For all my hard work and faith and striving, I get weary. The daily chaos of raising children, supporting my man, being a good wife and mommy and pastor's wife and Christian. Trying to eat healthy and workout and failing miserably because I want to starve my fears but end up feeding them instead. Counseling appointments and doctor's appointments and managing homework schedules. These things bear down like a weight. They become burdensome and heavy. Out of all the things I do, what will stand in the fire? What remains? When its all sorted out what is really important?

And then as I'm wading through my day to day, the unthinkable happens. My washing machine dies. Its happened before and we were able to resurrect it, but this time we see no hope. I feel weak that this is the thing that breaks me. When I stack up my haves to the rest of the world's have-nots, I feel lacking that a broken appliance can push me over the edge. Its a good thing that I'm not a crier, because this could really make me lose it.

At times like this, I start looking at what I'm carrying around. Baggage restrictions make us look more closely at what we really need to bring along on this journey. What have I been hanging on to that needs to be left behind? What have I been doing with the tough times I'm going through? Have I ignored the hurt and just piled it up instead of dealing with it and letting it go? There are those things we push for and make happen that really aren't worth the effort in the long run. And there are those little injustices that we push under the rug, don't handle and allow ourselves to heal from, and pretty soon we're carrying a load of mess around with us. Between useless efforts and mishandled hurts, the heaviness is unbearable after awhile. 

But He says that we should cast our cares upon Him. 

He says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Why don't I believe Him? Why don't I take Him up on His offer to lay it all at His feet?

In all my wondering and wandering, the truth is found in Him. The answer is always found there. with my prayers, with my praise, when I can rise above these mundane obstacles to see what really matters. Not the potential mounds of unwashed laundry, or the cranky kids, but the hope that these things while seeming endless and overbearing, they are but momentary.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
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