A Love Like Ours by Becky Wade and Other Reads…

Ohio has been a wonderful place for reading.  The Upper Arlington Library System has every book I could possibly want to read.  Do you remember that old Arthur episode where the kids chant “having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card?”  There is so much fun to be had in Ohio.

I’ve delved deep into Young Adult reads the last month or two.  Each one of them deserves its own post and review… but then I wouldn’t have time to read the stack of books on my nightstand.  The Geography of You and Me, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, On the Fence, The Distance Between Us, and My Life Next Door are super cute romance reads.  Isla and the Happily Ever After, Along for the Ride, and the fantastic fantasy of Splintered are worth checking out.

I have to admit that I was a Fault-in-our-stars hater until I actually read the book.  I’ve repented of my ways and now believe that everyone in the galaxy should read Fault in our Stars at least once.  I worship the words John Green walks on.  The metaphors and writing will blow your socks off…

The kids and I have been enjoying the Life of Fred Series, Story of the World, Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher, Maniac Magee, The Overlander Series, The Magic Finger, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and on a serious note – Good Pictures Bad Pictures.  Every family should own a copy of this book and talk about it on a regular basis.

Adult reads: The Shadow of Your Smile was fun. You can never go wrong with a Susan May Warren book. The Dress Shop of Dreams was well written, but kind of depressing.  I loved the characters and the magic, but the idea of living your entire life without the true love of your life made me sad.  Mermaid Collector – I loved the back story of mermaids and the way they influenced the town and people in it.  I don’t particularly enjoy stories with infidelity, but this one has a happy ending.  The minimalist in me loved the theme of “letting go of things that hold you back.”   And of course, I’ve read Edenbrooke again and again – because can you ever get sick of an book like Edenbrooke?

The ultimate icing on the book cake was Becky Wade’s newest book A Love Like Ours.  Bethany House sent a copy straight to my mailbox and I couldn’t wait to dive right in.

lovelikeoursThe book is as cute as the cover.  And seriously, the cover is cute.  It makes me want to grow my hair out and buy light blue pants.  A Love Like Ours is the third book in the Porter Family Novels, Undeniably Yours and Meant to Be Mine lead the way.  You don’t have to read these two books prior to reading A Love Like Ours, but you will definitely be missing out if you don’t read them sometime in your life.

A Love Like Ours takes place in Texas with Former Marine Jake Porter and Lyndie James.  Once childhood friends, the two of them struggle to find their way together again after years of being apart.  PTSD from years of military service keep Jake distant, aloof, and rude while years of nurturing and loving animals motivates Lyndie to breach the barriers of Jake.  I love the overall theme of “letting go of fear to embrace love.”

The majority of people don’t struggle with PTSD like Jake does, but throughout every romance novel I have read this year there is a common thread of vulnerability when it comes to love.  When you really sit down and think about the fear we carry around with us, it is amazing that so many people take the leap for love each and every day.  Opening your heart to someone with the knowledge that they could hurt us – is a scary thing.  That fear can bring the best and the worst in us out.

I think this is why I love romance novels so much.  They remind me what a gift love is.  They remind me of the importance of keeping my heart open and available to my husband because “Happily Ever Afters” aren’t always easy.  They require that we continue to keep our hearts and minds open to our lovers with faith that they will do the same for us. There are times when relationships can be scary – married or not.  But the most important thing is that we don’t give up on the healthy, supportive love when it comes our way.

Like Jake, we can each overcome our fears and find the courage to let the right person into our hearts to stay.  And that is a beautiful thing.

What books have you been reading?

beautiful magic

grandmaI want to photograph my grandma’s house.  The pianos, the pictures, the toys.  The knick-knacks and the decorations above her kitchen cupboards.  Her Precious Moments doll on her bed, the stuffed bird on the table at the bottom of her stairs, the deer head in the basement.  I grew up in that house.  Slept in all the spare beds.  Ate “hot cakes,” macaroni and cheese with heavy cream, and hot dog sandwiches at the kitchen table.  Snuck glimpses of Days of our Lives and quickly hid when my grandma/grandpa realized I was watching.  Sang my first and last solo.  Trick-or-treated.  Took naps on Christmas day in the basement.  Went sledding on the backyard hill.  Searched for Easter Eggs.  Learned to play cards…

I look around and realize that the “magic” of grandma’s house isn’t about the stuff.  It’s about the woman – my amazing grandma – that lives there, creates a home, and loves her family with her whole heart every single day.  It’s about the woman that still gives me a kiss goodbye even though I am 30 years old.  It’s about the woman that whispers words of love every time I see her.  Grandma always reminds me that I am special, when the truth is, I am special because of her.

It’s easy for me to downplay the dishes, the laundry, and the mundane tasks that fill the white space of my life.  I agonize over not being enough or accomplishing anything of worth besides the basics.  Days blend together as I jump around trying to keep up with the demands as they rain down.  Yet, as I watch my grandma’s beautiful hands hold my babies, I can’t help but wonder if she recognizes the impact of our shared ordinary moments.  I knew she always loved me.  I knew she believed in me.  And I knew she would always be there for me.  I wonder if grandma knows just how much her life and love mean to me and how much I need the reassuring power her presence brings into my life.

We are dreaming of our future home in Minnesota.  As a I judge the layouts and locations, I wish for a piece of grandma’s house.  Not so much the stuff, but for her.  I want the empty rooms and walls to fill with the beautiful magic she generously filled my childhood and now my adult life with.  I want to create a house (again) that sings of love and forgiveness and patience.  A house that inspires, uplifts,and edifies.  More than photographs of my grandmother’s house, I want to capture the love and beauty of her heart and sprinkle upon my own.

The ordinary acts we practice everyday at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.

-Thomas Moore

Voskamp, Jennings, and 1,800 Miles…

The drive from Utah to Ohio was loooong.  Thanks to the help of new toys and Lego bribes, the four kids rode the 26 hour stretch without a single complaint.  Thank goodness for Lego’s.

Our house is slowly coming together.  The chaos is beginning to become somewhat organized – although, I am still missing some of those highly important items that I packed somewhere.  We have a cute little three bedroom house with an awesome backyard and plenty of room to stretch and I am so grateful to be here.  Even though it was hard to leave family and friends, it feels good.  Deep in my heart I know this move is right, and that makes it so much easier.

I’ve been reading Unwrapping the Greatest Gift:  A Family Celebration of Christmas with the kids every night.  Ann Voskamp crafts a beautiful narrative of the Christmas story, our need for Jesus, and God’s glorious never-ending love.  God has the power to make good things happen from the bad and to calm our lonely hearts.  Ann has some beautiful Christmas affirmations on her website that have helped turn my heart towards the magic of Christmas among the crazy and busy move.  I don’t need to stress or worry or fear about everything being perfect.   Christ doesn’t expect me to climb up a ladder of perfection to reach Him, He comes down among my crazy life, my box infested bedroom, and my surprisingly utensil free kitchen to offer me His peace and His love.

Bethany House sent me a lovely copy of Regina Jennings’ newest book A Most inconvenient Marriage to read right before the loooong drive.  Perfect timing.  The book was amazing and the plot kept me company and occupied for a good stretch of the drive.  Like any of Regina’s books, this book is filled with fantastic, deep characters coupled with a fun/entertaining story line. When nurse Abigal is offered a ranch filled with horses, a home, and a family from a dying civil war solider – she takes it.  As she travels south to find the home, she falls in love with the area and the horses and the family.  When the widow finds herself face to face with her supposed husband that she had buried and left in the North, she has some big decisions to make.  Will she be able to save the family and horses?  Will her “husband” keep her or send her packing?  If her “husband” is alive, who was the man that she buried?  Will she ever find a place to rest and enjoy her version of a happy-ever-after?  I started this book and finished it in the same setting… and then read my favorite parts over and over again for a couple days. Soooo good.

Snow is coming.  The air is chilly and my toes are cold.  I managed to find some hot chocolate, mugs, and my internet was finally installed.  Forget the boxes and the complied messes surrounding my new-to-me house.  Little boys are calling my name with warm blankets and cute little bodies.  I plan to get a lot of hugs and reading done in the next couple of months.  I hope you have a happy holiday season and I am excited to talk with you more here about books and life and anything else that puts a smile on my face.  Until then, stay warm 🙂

belief in who we are

Let’s get one thing clear.  I wasn’t a super-chic-high-school-cheerleader. Instead of smooth flowing bleached hair, I had frizzy brown hair.  I couldn’t keep my zits under control and my body didn’t resemble that of a magazine cover figure.  I was awkward, extremely immature, and insecure.  People would walk down the halls – people from church groups or neighborhood circles – and I was terrified to say “hello” to them.  The fear of rejection made me tremble deep down to my bones.

I had my own circle of friends.  I love meeting new people and connecting social circles – but I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I would be good enough to be friends with the high-school-elite.

Ten years later, my hair isn’t as frizzy.  My zits are under control.  And I would like to believe that I am secure enough with who I am deep down.  Yet, when one of those past high school cheerleaders walked past me yesterday, the confident “hello” I have sported for the last eight years evaporated.  I felt sixteen all over again, in a not-so-good way.

What is it about our lives, our dreams, and our goals that make us feel insecure.  Why is it easier to believe that we are not qualified instead of embracing our goodness?  Assuming that we are not enough is a far easier belief than it is to trust in God’s perfect hands that molded us into who we are.

In the book The Voice of Knowledge, written by Don Miguel Ruiz, he says “I am God’s creation.  I do not need to be what I am not.”  When we live a life trying to be other than what God created us to be, we walk around not understanding who we are and the power we have deep inside of us.  He goes on to say, “what makes you powerful is your faith.  When you agree to believe in something without a doubt, you invest your faith.  If you have no doubt about something, then for you, it is your truth, even though it may be a lie.  Your faith is so powerful that if you believe you are not good enough, you are not good enough!  If you believe you will fail, you will fail, because that is the power of your faith.”

To believe that we are not good enough, is to believe that God is not good enough.  To believe in our imperfections is to question God’s perfection.  To constantly question our abilities, is to live in a state of trying to prove ourselves when we have nothing to prove.  The fact that we inhale the breath of life each and every day is fact that God himself crafted our souls, our bodies, and our lives.  That’s not to say that we shouldn’t try to improve each day… because we should.  But we should strive from a place of love within our souls instead of a place of hate and contempt.

It feels dangerous – and slightly “edgy” – to believe in myself.  To believe that I am good enough, that I will be good enough, and that I have always been good enough.  To move my trust from hair care products and “hip” clothing to God, Himself.  There will always be something new, another standard in the world because things change – but God’s love never does.  We know that “God looks upon the heart” and that His love is constant.

Picasso was an amazing artist.  He took the world, altered it, and made art.  If he were to paint my painting today, it would not resemble what I see in the mirror…although Picasso might argue that that is how he sees me.  There are many Picassos out there in the world, painting distorted images about what it means to have value and internal worth.  Their perception does not need to alter my viewpoint.

“You alone are enough.  You have nothing to prove to anyone.”  Said Maya Angelou.  For a moment, I am going to put my goals to the side.  Instead of rejecting my perfect today with dreams of perfectly organized houses, skinnier jeans, and published books – I am going to relish in the present moment of me.  Because who we are right now is who we were created to be.  “I am God’s creation.  I do not need to be what I not.”  I am enough.

books and dreams and packing it light.

i-mfCtQNn-X2A lot of life happens outside of books.  Since my last post, my husband graduated with his PhD in neuroscience.  We moved out of our house and into my parent’s house for a couple short weeks.  Ohio is calling our name and we are listening.  Among all the hustle and bustle of packing our house and moving, I have enjoyed reading the Rush Revere series and The Life of Fred with my kids.  Sixty Acres and a Bride (again), The Four Agreements, Here to Stay, The Rose Garden, Sandwich with a Side of Romance, Somebody Like You, A Tangle of Knots, and Once Upon a Prince have kept me company.  Sweet, lovely company.

Although I desperately miss my quiet read time, I am enjoying our crazy-move-across-the-United-States adventure.  Leaving our home and neighbors has been hard, but  it has forced me to evaluate my priorities.  So much of my time revolves around wanting to appear more “this or that” instead of embracing the life I have and the silly little quirks that make me, me.  I think it is natural to reach for perfection instead of embracing the perfection that already surrounds us.

I often forget that no amount of skill or talent will increase my personal worth because my personal worth is already there.  It is in you and it is in me and it has been since the beginning of creation.  C.S. Lewis talks about finding the God in everyone that surrounds us and Ann at Holy Experience talks about people’s tendency to “see the world in measuring sticks instead of burning bushes.”  Whether you choose to write or read or sew or bake or take fancy pictures – your worth remains the same.

As a stay-at-home mom, I struggle with this concept.  I believe that I should bake cookies more often, fit in smaller jeans, always talk kindly, and never take a minute for myself… yet, I berate myself for not being more “in the world.”  Other moms volunteer in soup kitchens, crochet hats for the hospital, and run their own private businesses.  The act of looking around at the world with my own ruler drains my energy and decreases my appreciation for the gifts I have to offer.  Oprah relates this habit of looking and comparing the accomplishments of others to the runner that spends more time looking behind then ahead.  Panic will boil in the veins when someone behind starts to get close and desperation will saturate our courage when others pass us up.  Somehow in this life of social media connections, I have to learn to start looking ahead at the things I want to accomplish in my life.  I have to find the courage to give validation to my dreams.

I’ve learned that it is hard to “pack it light” when it comes to expectations we have for ourselves and for those that surround us.  We define what we want and we expect results.  Like my over-stuffed storage unit, we hang on to harsh personal standards that really hold us back and weigh us down.  In the book Walden, Henry David Thoreau talks about the weight and responsibility of our possessions.  We buy a little knick-knack and we have to dedicate our time and resources to keep it looking dust-free and nice.  Like our knick-knacks, our harmful thoughts and definitions of what it means to be a good person weigh us down and prevent us from enjoying the amazing blessings of today.  They force us to always see our glass as half-empty instead of overflowing, bubbly, and fizzy with gratitude for the amazing life we have to live today.

Thanks to a highly-stressful move, I am beginning to see the overflowing exciting bubbles of joy in my cup of life.  I am happy, loved, and dreaming big dreams.  I have everything I need and so much more.  And for that – I am truly grateful.

The Art of Falling by Kathryn Craft

At the risk of sounding cheesy, there are books that leave footprints across my soul – books that touch the broken pieces and heal the inner wounds that haunt.  The Art of Falling by Kathryn Craft is one of those books.  Eloquent.  Beautiful.  Exquisite.  I am a better person for having read this book.

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Penelope Sparrow only wanted to dance.  After a traumatic fall from the balcony of her high rise apartment,  she wakes partially paralyzed in a hospital bed and everything she ever wanted begins to fade away.  Amnesia, friend or foe, prevents Penelope from remembering what caused her fall in the first place.  With intense physical therapy, Penelope is able to walk and move once again… but the movement of dance isn’t welcome.  Memories of rejection begin to replace the amnesia-void and Penelope isn’t eager to walk back into the dancing community.  She rejects her hunger for movement, her creative thirst, and her dance cravings.

“It also hurts me, you know.  To watch you suffer… you’re starving… you’ve got to find a way to feed yourself.”‘

When everything in Penelope’s life comes crashing down again, she learns to once again embrace the movement of true love, forgiveness, and hope.  She learns the importance of feeding her body and soul and finds the courage to embrace the “divinity” of her creative talent… and she learns to value her expression whether the impact be, big or small.

Dancers and human beings alike all have their own metaphorical balconies.  The plunge into the dark emotional void paralyzes desires to create and love and express the art of the soul.  We strap ourselves to our “I-give-up-hospital-beds” and refuse to accept the rejection we feel in our lives.  Fear of rejection, anxiety that we are not good enough, and the constant stress that we don’t have enough time, prevents us from embracing the expression of our souls.   And at times, we jump while screaming into the wild void that “I will never create again.”  We paralyze the soul, bruise the heart, and destroy dreams.

Kathryn Craft and Penelope Sparrow helped me realize that jumping into the “emotional void” isn’t healthy. It blocks my expression and cuts me off from God.  The Art of Falling gave me the courage to embrace the vulnerability a little more and to avoid my metaphorical balcony.  To live is to create and love and express the language of our souls.

“… and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.  And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost.”

Tortoise and the Wave

hawaii

The popular children’s story, Tortoise and the Hare, tells of a race held between an overly-confident hare and a consistent tortoise.  The hare, upon recognizing that he is winning the race, lies down to nap before the finish line.  When the hare awakens, he discovers that the slow, but steady tortoise is inches away from winning the race.  The hare jumps up, and runs towards the finish line in an attempt to reclaim his title as the “fastest.”  In the end, the steady tortoise wins the race – reminding all of us that “slow and steady wins the race.”

I find that I have more in common with the hare than the tortoise.  I want to loose my belly-post-baby-weight today, I want the dishes done, and I want to finish writing that book in the next hour.  I push myself hard and then crash while the slow and steady pull ahead.    I don’t know slow-and-steady, instead I know dash-and-crash.

While sitting on the beach in Hawaii, the waves of the ocean pushed their way slowly up the beach.  With each and every swoop, they inched their way up closer to my sun-burned legs and sandy towel.  Up and back, push and pull, crash and crack. Like the tortoise, the water progressed slowly without a ruler, scale, or calculator.  Even when it didn’t appear to be so, the water succeed because it continued to splash and move.

With four young kids, I often feel that one step towards my goal is five big steps in the opposite direction.  Success hinges upon a completed book, an empty sink, and a happy number on the scale.  I stay up late, wake up early, and try to “squeeze in” as much as I can without depriving my children of my attention.  Dish by dish and word by word, I can put the calculators and rulers away.  It doesn’t matter how much I accomplish in one day, it only matters that I try.   The efforts may not feel big today, but eventually I will reach the finish line – slow and steady.