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.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Image“…All I can say is we’ll figure it out, I swear.  When I read a book, I want you to be reading it at the same time.  I want to know what would [you] think about it.  I want you to be mine.  I can promise you books and conversation and all my heart.”

A.J Fikry is a bookstore owner, widow, and alcoholic.  When a baby is mysteriously left in his bookstore one evening, A.J. Fikry’s drunken and wounded heart is challenged.  The mother is found dead with her last known wish that her child be raised in a bookstore.

“It is the secret fear that we are unlovable that isolates us… but it is only because we are isolated when, you will be driving down a road.  And someday, you do not know when, he, or indeed she, will be there.  You will be loved because for the first time in your life, you will truly not be alone.  You will have chosen to not be alone.”

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is story of “unexpected love [rescuing] you and [bringing] you back to real life, in a world that you won’t want to leave, with characters that you will come to love.”

“There is only one word that matters… we aren’t the things we collect, acquire, read.  We are, for as long as we are here, only love.  The things we loved.  The people we loved…. and these,  think these really do live on.”

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.

35c66a9f85e973a06b685ced6e3cf8fb_clj7

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.”

Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke

As a general rule, I don’t read a lot of books about the WWII/Holocaust.  The words of Anne Frank, Escape from Warsaw, The Book Thief, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society paint a picture of a time that haunts my soul.  What happened to society – to people as a whole – to inspire such hatred and violence?  How did people find the courage to continue living despite such hard times?  The courage embedded within the hearts of many people inspires and amazes me while the hatred and violence of others frighten me beyond belief.

download Centered around the time of WWII/Holocaust, Saving Amelie  by Cathy Gohlke is the story of a four-year-old deaf German girl, daughter to a prominent German officer.  Having an “imperfect” child is a stain upon the father’s “record” that he is unwilling to have.  Arrangements are made for Amelie to attend a facility specialized in caring for disabled children without the mother’s consent.  Rumors have it that children like Amelie, once admitted, are never seen alive again.  Desperate to save the life of her daughter, the mother reaches out to her childhood friend Rachel for assistance.

Rachel, a daughter to a prominent American researcher, is hesitant to accept her friend’s request.  Her father’s research has shown the power of eugenics and she isn’t quite sure where she stands.  Her friend must be over-reacting.  After a spin of events, Rachel is forced to flee and enter hiding herself along with the deaf Amelie.   Saving Amelie knits together a beautiful story of individuals learning to love and sacrifice despite the risks.  It is the story of people learning to look beyond their needs to help a stranger, sister, and friend.  The words of this book, while they were powerful, made me see the importance of looking beyond my own needs in all circumstances.

History enthusiasts and non-history-enthusiasts will unite within the pages of Saving Amelie because every soul – regardless of age, gender, and race – has value.  It doesn’t matter when, where, or how – this value exists.  I walked away from this book with a renewed desire to teach my children the importance of respecting the people that surround us.  The only “true crime” against humanity is committed when we fail to honor the light, the life, and the love of the souls that surround us on a daily basis.  We are created equal in the eyes of God, and we must strive to remember that in all times, in all things, and in all places.

 

–Book was provided by Tyndale House for my honest review.

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.  

Caught in the Middle by Regina Jennings

index

In Regina Jennings first book,Sixty Acres and a Bride, we learn of the “crazy” Anne.  People avoid her.  She isn’t like everyone else.  When Anne is forced to kill her violent-abusive-husband, the town begins to avoid her more than ever. In Jenning’s second book, Love in the Balance, Anne is all alone.

Throughout the first two books, Anne’s tough (and different) exterior keep people at arms length.  When an abandoned child falls into Anne’s lap, everything begins to change and Anne becomes Caught in the Middle.  Does she have the courage to open up and love the world for the sake of the child?  Can she learn to trust again?  What about her broken and bruised heart?

Anne’s bravery and willingness to overcome her fears inspires me.  How many people surrounding me are internally hurting like Anne?  The people that surround Anne, patiently helping her learn to love again, inspire me.  And what of the romance?  Super cute.

I walked away from Caught in the Middle with a deeper understanding of what it means to love unconditionally.  People, fictional and real, are starving for love.   Everyone is lonely. Together, we can learn to put aside the judgement in honor of love… just like Anne.