summer book report: a trio of “ordinary” books, part 1

Summer is almost over. By that I mean we are two weeks and a few days away from day one of back to {pre}school! The summer has been good, in the way that hard things are ultimately good for you or that vegetables are good for your health. There were many days that felt like I was merely slogging through, like the long, hot days mid-summer when spring was a memory and fall a distant dream. My main tasks were (1) parenting my twin four-year-old daughters and (2) revising the manuscript for my first book to be released early summer 2016 on shame.  These are mutually exclusive tasks. No multi-tasking possible, and it was hard to feel distracted by one when seeking to do the other. Both tasks are also quite ordinary and a bit mundane. It is absolutely an unexpected and incredible opportunity to be writing a book but that doesn’t make editing sentences and punctuation any more glamourous. And, yes, being at home with my kids can be “the best hardest job in the world” when we’re having a blast at the beach or they’re being super-sweet, but these same kids still need to sleep, and get their clothes dirty every day, and occasionally (wink, wink) do not listen to my instructions.

My husband took a mission trip to Japan with our church in early July. He came back with stories of watching God at work in another culture and great pictures of Japanese sushi and Mt. Fuji. While happy for him, I felt a bit left behind like I usually do when he gets to have what I think of as “great frontline experiences” while I am manning the homefront.

But, oh, how good it is for me who can be so prideful and self-sufficient and self-everything to have to learn the hidden work of ordinary! And I was not left without guides, which came in the form of three books I read this summer.

Ordinary by Michael Horton called me to reexamine my definition and methods of success and happiness with the idea that the most important change toward Christ-likeness often happens in the most “ordinary” ways. It’s not only or primarily the mountain-top experiences that build faith, but the day-in, day-out challenge of faithfulness to where God’s placed me today. A few of the many quotes I underlined:

Even more than I’m afraid of failure, I’m terrified by boredom. Facing another day, with ordinary callings to ordinary people all around us is much more difficult than chasing my own dreams that I have envisioned for the grand story of my life.

This is not a call to do less, but to invest in things that we often give up on when we don’t see an immediate return.

When I find my justification in Christ alone, I am free to love and serve others in ordinary and unheralded ways.

Instead of mounting up to heaven in self-righteous ambition, we reach out to those who are right under our nose each day who need something that we have to offer.

We do not find success by trying to be successful or happiness by trying to be happy. Rather, we find these things by attending to the skills, habits, and — to be honest — the often dull routines that make us even modestly successful at anything. If you are always looking for an impact, a legacy, and success, you will not take the time to care for the things that matter.

It is precisely because of this extraordinary hope [of glorification in Christ], therefore, that we can embrace the ordinary lives God gives us here and now.

That’ll preach, as they say back where I grew up in the South. It’ll preach meaning and purpose to you as you’re doing dishes and picking up shoes and clothes of the little people or big people in your house. It’ll preach as you faithfully complete the spreadsheet and budget review and as you reply to emails and answer phone calls. It’ll preach to you and me every day of our lives actually. For ordinary will be part of each day we live, and God is at work right in the midst of these tasks. What hope that is for today!

Next up – A Loving Life by Paul Miller, coming your way in the next few days.

On my bookshelf, summer 2015 edition

Last year, I was a bit ambitious about my summer reading list. Therefore, I’ve paired it down a bit this year. These seven should be do-able. Here is what I’m looking forward to about each one:

1 – Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin: This is a primer on how to read and study the Bible. From what I’ve read so far, it’s like my seminary courses in one much-easier-to-read place. I’ve met Jen through The Gospel Coalition and heard her speak a few times. I love her passion for people and for women to be biblically literate. Amen to that!

2 – Ender’s Shadow by Orson Scott Card: My husband is a sci-fi guy, and he told me that since I liked Ender’s Game so much, I would also enjoy Ender’s Shadow. It’s been a page-turner so far, one that keeps me up way later than my bedtime.

3 – The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo: This Japanese organizer’s primer is making its rounds among my friends and the top-seller lists. I was thrilled to receive this book as a gift from my BFF and hope that it will help me to simplify my home as its radical premise claims.

4 – Simply Tuesday by Emily Freeman – I’m reading an advance copy and you will be hearing more about this as the publication date draws near (early August). Freeman is a favorite author and blogger, and I can’t wait to enjoy this new book of hers. It made my day when it arrived in the mail yesterday.

5 – Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist – Her writing style is vividly poetic and her stories ring true and honest. After enjoying her first book, Cold Tangerines, I had to put this one on my list, too.

6 – Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson – She’s the co-author of a favorite motherhood book, Desperate (with Sarah Mae). And full disclosure: as a Tyndale House Blogger, I chose this one to review. Several months ago – so it’s time! She’s a veteran mom with biblical wisdom and a mentor’s heart, and the title alone begins to help me show up in my life as it is.

7 – The Writing Life by Annie Dillard – As a writer, I need to read Annie Dillard. And what better place to start than this collection of her writings about writing?

On my bookshelf

20140227-134653.jpgIt’s been awhile since I’ve written about what’s on my bookshelf, and as I have picked up two books recently which I absolutely love, I thought that today’s a good time to pick up the “on my bookshelf” series. Without further ado …

1. Extravagant Grace by Barbara Duguid is one I haven’t yet started. But I have heard so many raving reviews about it, both on Amazon and through friends, that I am featuring it in faith that I’ll also love it. Another reason I’m confident that I’ll love this book is because the author was one of my distance-ed students through the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. The class was no easy one – “Counseling and Physiology,” taught by Dr. Mike Emlet, exploring the connection between soul and body through a variety of counseling situations including bipolar disorder, OCD, and depression. Her papers were the top of the class – beautiful writing, grace-infused, thoughtful and our emails back and forth were characterized by the same gracious quality. I cannot wait to read an entire book by her. Want to join me? Leave a comment – and/or send me your thoughts/review for a future post (counselinginhope[at]gmail[dot]com).

2. A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman is no surprise to those of you who have been following my blog for at least the past year. I loved Grace for the Good Girl (it was my #1 for favorite books read in 2013), and this one is following suit. Her honest writing and poetic invitation to “uncover the art you were made to live” is compelling and finds me (yet again) right where I am in life. It’s in the category of “books I wish I had written but someone beat me to it.” I hardly know where to begin, so here are a few of my favorite quotes so far:

Perhaps those who make art in the ways we traditionally think of art give the rest of us a framework from which to live our lives. They offer a gift of knowing what life could look like if it were handled more like a mysterious piece of art rather than a task-oriented list. We may not all have the same skill or training as do the painters or the musicians, but we all bear the image of a creative God.

…being an artist has something to do with being brave enough to move toward what makes you come alive. … Art is what happens when you dare to be who you really are.

For me right now in this season, I’m seeing that nurturing my art and moving toward what makes me come alive has hundreds of applications including:

  • being brave enough to say “yes” to speaking at a women’s retreat or teaching a difficult passage of Romans at our women’s Bible study
  • being brave enough to say “no” to what isn’t my art or to distractions from the art of living
  • blogging even when I doubt I have anything new to say
  • taking time and space to BE with my family and friends and listen to their stories and help them make sense of them, or at least let them know I want to be with them there in the midst of the confusion or the joy or the sorrow
  • stopping the tendency to schedule-to-the-brink-of-every-hour so that I can have an afternoon where I enjoy my children, laughing at their preschool jokes and delighting in their imaginative play and reading stories with silly voices

3. The New Strong-Willed Child by Dr. James Dobson. The title truly says it all. I love my daughters dearly, but parenting them has been one of the biggest challenges of my adult life. I think simply being three-years-old and being twins qualifies them for strong-willed, because that’s how it feels when they conspire on some new “project” that results in a mess (like using diaper cream to “paint” their nursery or writing their “signature” on every item of white furniture using red marker – thankfully the washable type). They’re spirited; they’re stubbornly independent; they want their way all the time. Kind of like me. In the first few chapters I’ve read, I think there will be many good nuggets of how-to’s as well as insight and understanding into what to expect of them and what makes them the way that they are. If you live locally and want to read along, let me know! I mentioned this book to another friend, so we may end up doing a one-shot book club in a few months …

Ok, back to reading!

On my bookshelf

20131121-112437.jpgAlthough I haven’t posted about books in awhile, I have still been reading a lot … no surprise to those of you who know what a bookworm I am. This “on my bookshelf” is actually from a couple weeks ago – but without further ado, here we go with my review of the above. It’s a good sampling of what I usually am reading – fiction, a faith book, a cultural/counseling study, and some sort of devotional.

Fiction:  Shanghai Girls by Lisa See is a riveting glimpse into a period of history I don’t usually consider – that of pre-WWII China before the Japanese invasion and Mao’s Communism, following the story of two Chinese sisters who escaped to the US through Angel Island, only then to be under the harsh accusation of being Communist decades later. See’s books are well written, both in terms of literary form and story. Two previous ones I’ve read by her are Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Dreams of Joy (this last one is actually a sequel to Shanghai Girls – I read them out of order!).

Faith: Gospel In Life small group study by Tim Keller is an excellent resource for any community of faith small group to study. The format is great – with a thought-provoking individual study to prepare for weekly group meetings; then discussion questions based around a DVD lecture by Keller; and good suggestions for applications to put into practice what we study. I’ve been challenged to examine how well our small group community actually reflects the biblical shape of a faith community (caring for one another; bearing each other’s burdens; encouraging/exhorting one another; etc.). Another theme that challenges and moves me to action is how living out the gospel leads us to engage our cities in real ways. That we need to be involved in our cities and neighborhoods for the sake of our faith as much as for the sake of the city.

Cultural/counseling: Daring Greatly by Brene Brown is one you’ve heard me talk about here before. I just can’t read her enough – after The Gifts of Imperfection, this is a longer more comprehensive look at how the principles she discovered through her shame research are worked out in what she terms as “Wholehearted living.”

Devotional: Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott is a book recommended to me by a favorite older friend at church. It’s as unconventional as she is (love you, Ann), and also refreshingly thought-provoking. Lamott always does this for me – puts spiritual truths in words that I can hear in a new way (too often I am calloused by familiarity with church-y words and Christian culture). And so Lamott has condensed prayer life into three cries of the heart: “help,” which is obvious; “thanks,” which is also self-explanatory; and “wow,” which was the newest piece to me. I close with a few words on “wow” –

When we are stunned to the place beyond words, when an aspect of life takes us away from being able to chip away at something until it’s down to a manageable size and then to file it nicely away, when all we can say in response is ‘Wow,’ that’s a prayer. … What can we say beyond Wow, in the presence of glorious art, in music so magnificent that it can’t have originated solely on this side of things? Wonder takes our breath away, and makes room for new breath.

on my August bookshelf

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Three books, all very different from each other. I’ll start with the devotional I’ve been reading for the past several months, Grace through the Ages. Not only is this written by my former counseling supervisor and colleague, Bill Smith, whom I respect and have learned from immensely, but in his typical way, he seamlessly connects Scripture (all of it, Old and New Testament) to my day-to-day heart struggles, doubts, fears, and hopes. Every day that I pick this book up to read a one page devotional thought, I am met with a glimpse into God’s heart for me: his desire to be in relationship with his people and the great lengths to which he goes to bridge the gap of my sin and folly. Here are a few nuggets for you to savor.

On suffering: 

Suffering burns away self-deception by making us aware of what we turn to apart from Jesus to make our lives work.

On communication:

He [God] made you in his image and when you properly fill your role, you will talk to others about how to live in his world, in the same way he’s spoken about it to you.

On community: 

The same grace that embraces me also calls me to share my life with people who are dramatically different from me and to live with them in small groups of people that look remarkably like that first one 2000 years ago.

Second is Susan Cain’s book, Quiet. I’ve mentioned it on here previously, and it’s a dense book that will take some time to peruse. I was drawn to read it because I find myself both longing for quiet in a way I haven’t before (probably something to do with the constant noise involved in staying at home with twin toddlers), and I also find myself drawn to introversion as a way of re-energizing rather than big groups of people. I’m a mix of both, to be sure, but I am increasingly embracing my “inner nerd” whose ideal day would be spent in a quiet coffee shop reading a few really good books, and then writing about it. Thanks for providing me with an audience. 

The final book in my stack is along the lines of funny-parenting-real-memoir, Carry On, Warrior, by Glennon Doyle Melton of Momastery. She is telling her story, and telling it in a brave, vulnerable way that invites me to do the same. And in a way that all of us can relate to. She begins by talking about what began this journey for her: opening up about her less-than-ideal past (that included addictions and jail) to a fellow mom while at a playdate on a playground. Now how’s that for inspiration to have different sorts of conversations the next time you gather with a friend? From her intro – an invitation to all of us –

The more I opened my heart to the folks in my circles, the more convinced I became that life is equal parts brutal and beautiful. And/Both. Life is brutiful. Like stars in a dark sky. Sharing life’s brutiful is what makes us feel less alone and afraid. The truth can’t be stuffed down with food or booze or exercise or work or cutting or shopping for long. Hiding from the truth causes its own unique pain, and it’s lonely pain. Life is hard — not because we’re doing it wrong, just because it’s hard. It’s okay to talk, write, paint, or cry about that. It helps.

The work of having fun

As I have been working my way through The Happiness Project, one chapter (or portion of a chapter) at a time, I’ve arrived at chapter 5: “Be Serious About Play.” What a delicious oxymoron! I was immediately hooked. Gretchen Rubin begins her discussion about the work of having fun with the following definition of play, as supported through research:

an activity that’s very satisfying, has no economic significance, doesn’t create social harm, and doesn’t necessarily lead to praise or recognition.

She adds to this her own caveat for how to personally determine what is fun and what isn’t by saying, “just because something was fun for someone else didn’t mean it was fun for me.” How liberating is that! When was the last time you tried to talk yourself into what sounded like a fun activity and then discovered that it was anything but? I think about the day I spent in the Natural History Museum with my husband and younger brother when he came up to visit us several years ago when we were living in Philly. I thought that on our day trip to New York City that heading to this museum should be very fun. The same way that a few years later on a trip to D.C. with my husband, we planned to visit several Smithsonian museums. Museums are supposed to be enjoyable activities with an educational twist. Truth be told, I don’t enjoy museums. At. All. Just ask my husband and my younger brother who had to endure my obvious boredom about one hour into the Natural History Museum. I eventually found a comfortable bench and waited for them to finish perusing the place. I wasn’t having fun (and forgot about this when planning for the aforementioned D.C. getaway with my husband).

So much of my life has been spent trying to force myself to enjoy activities that I don’t like because I feel like I should. Included in this category for me are:

  • Roller coasters/adventure parks
  • Museums (see above)
  • Hiking
  • Swimming
  • Sewing (yep, tried that when I was younger and still am a bit envious of all of you who can do this and then Pinterest your beautiful projects)
  • Knitting (attempted and failed miserably)
  • Crafts with my kids

I’m not saying that there’s not a place for doing an activity you don’t enjoy out of love for the person who invites you to join them in their fun activity. But you should go into it expecting that you’re not doing this for pure enjoyment but rather for pure love. How I could have saved myself some major frustration and disappointment along the way had I known this!

So how do I discover fun that works for me? Gretchen has another suggestion – ask yourself the question, “What did you like to do when you were a child?” And when I think about this, it’s quite similar to the activities I enjoy the most now:

  • Reading fiction
  • Playing with friends
  • Legos (well, truth be told I don’t do this much, except for assembling IKEA furniture which my husband and I affectionately refer to as “adult Legos”)
  • Scrapbooks (my modernized digital equivalent is designing  Shutterfly photo books)
  • Enjoying the outdoors – while sitting down or walking (not hiking – see list above*)
  • Going to the beach

Let me put that all together what should be my best afternoon of enjoyment: Head to the beach with a few friends who will all read books together, and then come home to assemble a desk from IKEA at which I will sit and design a photo book of our fun day. Ha! What would your fun day include?

On my bookshelf

20130610-062659.jpgI am an avid reader. I always have been, and in fact as a child I would often stay up way past bedtime reading by the light of my nightlight or a flashlight under my covers. I was such a rebellious bookworm. (Yes, I agree that’s a bit of an oxymoron.)

Since I’m seeking to write more regular posts, I thought a weekly or monthly “On my bookshelf” would give me something to work with (and something for you to look forward to). You’ll notice that I always have one fiction book, which I usually read just before bedtime and/or at the beach or stolen precious minutes of naptime. Right now I’m reading The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. It’s a murder mystery, a favorite genre of mine ever since Nancy Drew, and so far so good. A little hard to get into the story, but I love the writing.

Next in the stack is a nonfiction cultural read, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I’ve written a little bit about this book already, and you will be hearing more from me on this topic in the future. One quote that resonated with me from Chapter 4 – “Parenthood”:

In many ways, the happiness of having children falls into the kind of happiness that could be called fog happiness. Fog is elusive. Fog surrounds you and transforms the atmosphere, but when you try to examine it, it vanishes. Fog happiness is the kind of happiness you get from activities that, closely examined, don’t really seem to bring much happiness at all — yet somehow they do. … the experience of having children gives me tremendous fog happiness. It surrounds me, I see it everywhere, despite the fact that when I zoom in on any particular moment, it can be hard to identify.

And then I like to be reading some sort of Christian book which will help to strengthen my faith and understanding of the Christian life. I’ve been reading Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage for, well, several months now. Not because it’s not good but precisely because it is so good that I can only digest small portions at a time. I’ll leave you today with this quote from Chapter 3, “The Essence of Marriage”:

To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life throws at us.

Parenting book reviews

As promised awhile ago, here is my review of parenting and pregnancy books I’ve read so far:

PREGNANCY BOOKS

Product Details

“Pregnancy: The Ultimate Week-by-Week Pregnancy Guide”by Dr. Laura Riley – As she takes you into your pregnancy week-by-week, she has a clear format with interesting and applicable facts for each week. I actually haven’t read any other pregnancy book in detail besides this one. I’ve enjoyed being able to read each week’s information about baby’s growth, my body’s changes, emotional changes, with questions & answers. She includes helpful info for husbands throughout the book as well. 

I did browse a friend’s copy of “The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy” which looked pretty hilarious – a nice balance to the intensity of some of the “what to expect” books on the market.

INFANT SLEEP/FEEDING BOOKS

With twins, we know that we’ll be diving into the deep end of trying to figure out how to care for TWO infants from day one and so I spent most of my self-educational reading in this category.

“Dr. Turtle’s Babies” by Dr. William John Turtle is an “oldie, but goodie.” My grandmother gave this book to my mom to read when she was pregnant with me – and then she gave it to my brother & sister-in-law, who then passed it along to us. One day when I was reading it while waiting for my OB, she told me that she also read it when she was pregnant. If you can get past the fact that he calls mothers “girls” and refers to the baby as “it,” there is some good basic info about infant care, sleeping, and feeding that still holds true. With a few caveats – review it with your doctor! My doctor said, for instance, to disregard what he said about feeding babies sugar water in between feedings.

“On Becoming Baby-Wise: Giving your Infant the Gift of Night-time Sleep” by Ezzo/Buckman is one that I was admittedly wary of beginning because I had heard it was rather harsh. I was pleasantly surprised. I especially liked that he began by saying that what’s crucial to your baby’s well-being is your healthy marriage – that even babies can pick up on the affection and love between their parents and this is what makes them feel secure. He goes on from there to talk about how to put your baby on a schedule that works for your family. With twins, we really have no other option than to schedule them – and that suits our “type-A” personalities anyway!

Healthy sleep habits, happy child [Book]“Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child” by Dr. Marc Weissbluth also talks about the importance of sleep and setting a routine for your baby. I found it helpful the way he discussed how to look for signs of sleepiness and seek to put your child to sleep before she becomes overly tired. Another motto that sums up his philosophy is “sleep begets more sleep” as he discussed the importance of day-time napping for a baby to be able to go to sleep at night. It generally makes sense, and I especially love that he has an edition specifically for twins that came out last year – this was perfect for us.

TWIN BOOKS

Ok – if you’re like me, you probably had no idea that there were so many books on twins out there. All of these were extremely helpful, and I’ll try to categorize these as “best for …” in order to differentiate between them.

When You're Expecting Twins, Triplets or QuadsBest for twin pregnancy, labor & delivery (includes sections on bed rest, a recipe collection at the back of the book, specific weight gain goals, what to expect if your babies spend time in the NICU):“When You’re Expecting Twins, Triplets, or Quads” by Dr. Barbara Luke and Tamara Eberlein

Best for practical tips and advice for pregnancy through year one of twins “Twinspiration: Real Life Advice from Pregnancy Through the First Year” by Cheryl Lage – by a mother of twins with lots of humor thrown in to make you laugh as you think about how in the world you’ll make it through … !

Juggling Twins Best for practical tips and advice from newborn to toddler phase of twins by a mother of twins who is also quite humorous. My mother-in-law read this book and she said she found it very helpful – that it covers everything and gives specific ideas. “Juggling Twins” by Meghan Regan-Loomis

Product DetailsBest balance of medical advice and practical wisdom for the first 5 years of twins by a mother who’s also a pediatrician. She is straight-forward with helpful advice and not a lot of “fluff,” but her style is readable and practical – like she goes into specifics about how to actually transport twins from your house to the car when they’re still infants. “Raising Twins: From Pregnancy to Preschool” by Dr. Shelly Vaziri Flais

Product Details

Best for very specific sleeping schedule and feeding advice for the first year of twins with some British English “translation” required – such as deciphering that “dummy” refers to pacifier/etc. It’s a combination book, written primarily by a British nanny who’s an expert on child-rearing with introductions to each chapter by a twin mom: “A Contented House With Twins” by Gina Ford and Alice Beer

Not worth buying or reading: There’s just one in this category that I just didn’t find very helpful – “Twins! Pregnancy, Birth, and the First Year of Life” by Agnew, Klein, and Ganon

PARENTING BOOKS

“A Mother’s Heart: A Look at Values, Vision, and Character for the Christian Mother” by Jean Fleming reminded me of the beautiful and high calling that it is to be a mom. I loved her mix of practical and pastoral teaching on being a mother. She is balanced, biblical, and grace-infused in her approach. I found it very easy to read, and I think it will be a book to return to in years to come. She gives specific ideas and focuses of how to pray for your children, including praying for creativity in connecting with them.

“Parenting by the Book: Biblical Wisdom for Raising Your Child” by John Rosemond offers some practical wisdom and exposes our culture’s current tendency toward “child-centered” parenting and homes. He gives a good initial corrective to this, but I did not find that he talked enough (or at all) about grace and reaching a child’s heart instead of merely producing good behavior. I did like the section where he discusses seasons of parenting, and this is a good starting point, but for a book claiming to be founded on Biblical wisdom, I didn’t find his approach very Christ-centered.

“Don’t Make Me Count to Three: A Mom’s Look at Heart-Oriented Discipline” by Ginger Plowman is a book I read during a “Counseling Children” course at Westminster/CCEF. I am sure that I will return to this book as my girls approach their toddler years for her gospel-centered approach in how to highlight the heart of the matter in your child’s misbehavior. She takes the approach and philosophy of Tedd Tripp’s book, “Shepherding a Child’s Heart” and makes it very practical.

“How Children Raise Parents: The Art of Listening to Your Family” by Dan Allender is the one I am currently reading. I have enjoyed it immensely, as he turns the focus to what purpose children serve in a parent’s life — that having children is part of God’s journey and story for me as a parent and it will be a large way that God sanctifies me in the midst of the parenting process. His central idea is that we as parents are to reflect God’s mercy and strength to our children by answering the two questions they are asking: “Am I loved?” [YES!!!!] and “Can I get my own way?” [No]

 Here’s a quote as he talks about our dreams for our children – and a fitting end to this blog post:

It is our privilege to dream far bigger dreams than that good things happen and bad things don’t happen to our children. We are to dream and pray and desire and speak to the possibilities that pain and tragedy and pleasure and glory will weave our children into beings who hunger to touch the face of God. … To dream for our children is to lean into the quiet cries of the Holy Spirit that call out the true, God-given name of our child.

Tuesday thoughts

In my copious amounts of free time while on bed rest, I have been able to begin reading through my stack of books that I bought but never had time to read before now. Yesterday, I picked up from my shelf a relatively new book on marriage from one of my counseling professors, Paul Tripp, entitled “What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage.” I’m a few chapters in, and I’m finding it to be a good reminder of the foundation marriage is meant to be built on: loving one another out of a love for God and a perspective of living in God’s kingdom (not mine). It’s the simple thoughts that can make a big difference. In this morning’s chapter, I was struck by two illustrations about the importance of daily choices to shape the overall course of a marriage: (1) you reap what you sow: “…there will be organic consistency between the seeds of words and actions that you plant in your marriage and the harvest of a certain quality of relationship that you will experience as you live with one another”  and (2) the investment principle: “Every treasure you set your heart on and actively seek will give you some kind of return.” Both beg the question and day-to-day reflection on what sort of “harvest” I am sowing to in my marriage — or what sort of treasure am I investing in? Am I sowing words of kindness and love or of harsh criticism? Am I investing more in the “treasure” of my own kingdom (getting my own way – being demanding) or in God’s kingdom (seeking ways to love and serve and build up my husband)? Here is a good summary of why these are important things to consider DAILY in marriage:

The character of a marriage is not formed in one grand moment. Things in a marriage go bad progressively. Things become sweet and beautiful progressively. The development and deepening of the love in a marriage happens by things that are done daily; this is also true with the sad deterioration of a marriage. The problem is that we simply don’t pay attention, and because of this we allow ourselves to think, desire, say, and do things that we shouldn’t.

More thoughts I’m sure as I continue through this book. And I must say it’s a nice break from all the pregnancy & baby books I’ve been reading — probably a good balance, too, as we must keep in mind that our family is built first on faith in God, then on our love for each other … into which we invite our children to join. Marriage must remain a priority for Seth and me, which I know will be all the more difficult as we double our family size soon! But that’s truly what’s best not just for us, but it will be what’s best for our daughters as well. They will derive security from knowing that Mommy and Daddy love each other – through both good days and bad.

Second set of thoughts – or actually more of a recommendation. My little bro Bryan just started two for-fun blogs called best or worst, where you get to vote on what you think about his daily pick. So I will shamelessly promote them – check it out and cast your vote: Best or Worst Ride and The Best or Worst.

Bed rest update: today marks the fifth week of it. I’m still hanging in there – and the girls seem healthy. I’m now 30 weeks along, and I’m hopeful for more! Really thankful for friends and family who are taking such good care of us during this season.

favorite quotes from “The Horse and His Boy” (C.S. Lewis)

While on a road trip to South Carolina a few weekends ago, I listened to the audio version of “The Horse and His Boy,” one of C.S. Lewis’ books in the beloved Narnian Chronicles. It paints a beautiful picture of redemption – of Shasta’s journey from slavery to freedom, from being owned by another to discovering his royal identity. It truly becomes a metaphor for those who are Christ-followers. Enjoy a few of my favorite “nuggets”:

[Aslan to Shasta toward the end of the book] “There was only one lion … I was the lion … who forced you to join Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”

[to Shasta when he questions Aslan and asks for an explanation for Aravis’ story] “Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”