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936Pennies Book Review Motherhood

3 Places I Never Expected to Find the Beauty of Motherhood

May 13, 2016

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There was this image that I had of motherhood.

Delicate sunlight cascading down through a window, casting soft shadows across the bedroom. The bed is a brilliant white; adorned in a plush down comforter and feather filled pillows. I lay on my stomach, perched up on my elbows, staring down at my infant son. He is all smiles as he gazes back up into my eyes. I take in his freshly bathed scent of lavender soap and oatmeal lotion as he happily babbles to me about his day.

Of course, this was before I actually became a mother, and realized that parents never buy white bedding sets. For oh so many reasons.

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It’s not that I romanticized the idea of motherhood. I knew there would be dirty diapers and spit up and skinned knees and sleepless nights.

But there is so much of motherhood that cannot be understood until you are in the thick of it. 

There are so many surprises.

In her book Surprised By Motherhood, author Lisa-Jo Baker writes about “Everything I never expected about being a mom.”

I think that many of us arrive at the threshold of motherhood with a whole lot of expectations. And yet, I’ve come to discover in my short almost-five-years of experience, that the beauty of motherhood often lurks in the most unassuming places.

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First, I never expected to find the beauty of motherhood among the messy imperfections.

For instance, that soft downy comforter, lavender soap, and freshly bathed baby that I used to imagine? Reality looks a lot more like me curled up on a couch that’s covered in Cheerio dust, napping next to my infant boy in his footie pajamas he’s been wearing for two days; his nose all chapped and runny from days of fighting a cold.

And you know what?

It is lovely, this true image of the breathtaking mess that motherhood actually is. Just how magnificent it is in all of its raw, unfiltered, rough-edged truth.

Even on my family’s best days, when we’re up in the mountains, tossing rocks in the river, and watching a herd of elk grazing in a nearby meadow—someone is bound to be whining about something. Or we run out of snacks (which is a very, very big deal with 3 boys…) Or someone is cold. We can surround ourselves with the most perfect setting, and still “perfect” eludes us every time.

Motherhood has a beautiful way of teaching us that “It is what it is”, so we had better enjoy it to the fullest for what it is! That is where beauty unfolds.

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Secondly, I never expected to find the beauty of motherhood in the mundane nature of our day-to-day.

Among the piles of dirty dishes and laundry, in the pool of spilled juice, in the splatters of water paint and the rainbow orbs of bubbles dancing through the backyard–this day-to-day humdrum is where I stumbled upon the extraordinary.

Lisa-Jo calls it the “Sacred marriage of the mundane and the eternal.” She says it is, “The small directly related to the massive; kids walking around like so much eternity with skin on.”

And it’s in words like these that I see it– the magnificent beauty of spreading peanut butter on bread, teaching the difference between consonants and vowels, scrubbing out sippy cups, and stopping to answer one million and one questions throughout our day.

These little things, they are huge. They matter. I never could have imagined just how much.

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Lastly, I never expected to find the beauty of motherhood in how ridiculously hard it is.

As Lisa-Jo puts it in her book, “Mothers may want to find room to breathe, to weep, to panic. But they don’t want it to end—this delivering, shaping, cheering, loving, bringing life into the world.”

After a long day of motherhood, this “room to breathe” is exactly what I long for. I often find it in bubble bath at the end of the night. The other night was no different—except that the baby was crying from his crib in the next room over.

I crept through his door, and lifted him out of the crib and into my arms. I took off his pajamas, unstrapped his diaper, and plopped him down into my bubble bath. And there we sat together, playing in mountains of white bubbles, lavender wafting through the air, French music playing softly, him looking up at me to smile every few moments.

After another long day of navigating my little people through life, I just wanted some rest. Some quite. Some alone. But him there, all joy with bubbles dancing atop his blonde curls, was the reminder I needed of why all the hard is worth every single moment. Every single tear. Every single exhausted morning. It’s worth every hard thing.

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Motherhood reveals the very worst of me. And that, I believe, is what is also unearthing the very best in me. Sometimes it takes coming face to face with your deepest fears, your shocking selfishness, and who you are at your very weakest in order to discover where true beauty finds space to grow.

I asked on Facebook this week, “What has surprised you most about motherhood?” I loved Gretchen’s answer. She said, “It’s a daily dose of the Gospel. How God uses it to refine me. How the trials that he brings me through with my kids are as much a learning process for me and my own sinfulness and need for a Heavenly Father to guide, protect and love me. Every time I lecture my kids, God’s tapping my shoulder and saying… ‘Sound familiar?’”

Surprising beauty, right there.

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The truth is, this job is very, very, very hard.

It is demanding and exhausting and confusing and incredibly emotional.

But that is exactly where the beauty is found. In the hard stuff. And in the big grace that makes the hard stuff into the holy stuff.

To all the Mamas out there taking joy in the imperfect mess, loving hard in the middle of the mundane, and learning who they are in the very hard stuff—this is exactly where the beauty of motherhood is found. So never stop looking for it.

You can purchase Surprised By Motherhood here 

 

{Note:  I am not receiving any compensation for this endorsement. I have greatly benefited from Lisa-Jo Baker’s book, and believe that many others can also.}

 

Book Review Living With Intention

Say Goodbye To Survival Mode And Yes To Your Purpose!

May 10, 2016

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I was sitting at a table of strangers, sipping on chicken soup, my nerves still dancing over a promising meeting I’d had with an Author Agent that morning. Next to me sat fellow writers, their minds and hearts abuzz with all the information we were taking in over the weekend at a writers’ conference.

We were discussing, as many writers do at these gatherings, the frustrations of spreading our messages in an already (very) loud online world. In this industry, it’s imperative that you have an audience, and growing that audience is tough business.

The woman two seats to my left was all ears as I shared about my desire to merge my love for writing with my passion for web design and marketing. I explained my plans for growing my business by working directly with authors, and helping them spread the reach of their messages online.

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When I told her that I would love to help her with her website, she could hardly contain her gratitude. She was not the only one I offered to help that weekend. I was excited to help fellow writers, and to begin this new chapter for my business. However, and perhaps you can relate to this, in my excitement to help somebody or pursue a dream, I can be quick to say “Yes”, before stopping to consider how well that new project will fit into my current season of life.

In the following weeks I met with a couple of new friends from the conference to discuss their websites. I drafted plans, chose color schemes, and began designing these beautiful new online platforms—I was very excited to finally develop this part of my business I had been dreaming of for some time.

That was, until the baby stopped sleeping through the night.

And until that promising meeting with an agent turned into many new drafts of my book’s first chapters needing to be written.

And until the date for our move to a new state began rapidly approaching, and boxes were strewn across our house, waiting to be filled.

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I was quickly slipping into survival mode, suffocating under the weight of the tasks I had piled onto my plate. Crystal Paine says in her book, Say Goodbye To Survival Mode, (win a free copy here!“Living with purpose means wisely choosing and committing to a few of the best things for the season of life you’re in.” I had chosen good things, but it was quickly becoming apparent that they were not a good fit for my current season of life.

It was this realization that led me to crawl out of bed late one sleepless night, and write an email of apology to the writers I had promised to build websites for. I explained my current commitments, and that I had simply bitten off more than I could chew. Typing out the words felt like a step backwards for my business. But as I hit “Send”, peace overcame me, and I crawled back into bed and fell fast asleep.

Sometimes it is those steps that seem backwards, that actually free us to move forward. Sometimes it is those steps that redirect us to the path that our hearts really want to go.

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Crystal says in her book, “Saying yes to the best means focusing and streamlining your time, energy, and efforts on what matters most at the time.”

She walks readers through how to create their “Best Stuff” list. It is an exercise in courageously unearthing and embracing what you are most passionate about, what your long-term values are, and what will produce the most fulfillment and purpose in your days. It is invigorating!

Setting those writers’ websites aside allowed me to focus my mental and physical energy on our move. I discovered room to breathe, think, and sift through my own emotions, as well as help my boys sort through theirs. I found time to rest between nights of interrupted sleep with our new little guy, as well as time and mental space to pour into my book.

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Setting aside the projects we are excited about does not necessarily mean saying “No” forever. Several months after I sent those apology emails, the opportunity arose to pick one of those website projects back up. After a week of praying and thinking through the commitment, I realized that my season had some extra space now to accommodate the commitment. I took it back on, and it felt a whole lot lighter this time!

That one website helped pave the way for a seminar I would teach a few months later, walking 50 writers through how to set up their online platforms, and better spread the messages that God has laid on their hearts. That path also opened up the opportunity to work with several other writers on their websites. The plan that had hatched in my heart to work with writers was blossoming into a beautiful part of my business—a place where I have discovered a whole new sense of passion and purpose.

And I don’t believe that the journey would have been quite as beautiful had I forced it into the wrong season of our life.

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Perhaps you have some of these exciting opportunities laying in your lap right now, but the weight of them is growing heavier with each passing day. Those opportunities that we are excited about—they are the most difficult ones to set aside.

But what if saying “No” for this season would prepare you to say “Yes!” in a season better suited for the task? What if “Not Now” would allow you the space to rest, reflect, and restore your vision, in order to glimpse a more fulfilling plan ahead?

Sometimes it takes a bit of saying “No”, to realize what we really want to say “Yes” to.  Let those “No” or “Not Right Now” answers be where you discover new freedom; freedom to dream and unearth what matters most to you. Freedom to rest and heal. Freedom to explore new passions and interests. Freedom to take care of you. Freedom to discover what it really is that will bring the most fulfillment and purpose to your days!

You can purchase Say Goodbye To Survival Mode here 

 

{Note:  I am not receiving any compensation for this endorsement. I have greatly benefited from Crystal Paine’s book, and believe that many others can also.}

Book Review Motherhood

Finding Hope In The Unexpected {Anchored Book Review}

July 12, 2015

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I never realized how big 8 pounds could seem until I brought home a 5 pound baby.

And now, two months later, the addition of just three pounds bring him to the weight that most babies are born at. The whole of his tiny body feels large in my arms.

And then I read this raw and sobering story of a baby born weighing “less than six sticks of butter.”

One pound and eight ounces.

Fingers the size of grains of rice.

 

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I read it as I nurse my own, and I kiss his little head. I nuzzle his hair in desperation to know him, and to memorize him. Because before I know it, he’ll be nine pounds.

This story of this frail little girl and her mother who knows faith like I’ll never know it, it has shown me the reality that this could have been our own story.

It could be anyone’s. Because we are never guaranteed what our 936 pennies will look like, or even that there will be 936 of them.

Two and a half months ago my boy stopped producing amniotic fluid. It could have happened at any point in my pregnancy. He could have been like the 6-sticks-of-butter baby girl in this book. He could have needed evicting at 24 weeks.

But graciously God held his tiny hand. God held my boy. And told him each day to wait until it was safe to come out.

He was born one hour before he reached full term.

 

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This book is showing me the hardship we were spared, and what God’s power looks like for those who must endure it.

This is one of the hard reads. The ones we can’t ignore, can’t fathom, can’t handle, and can’t put down. And every page is leaving me more grateful than the page before it.

Last week I attended a writer’s meeting. The speaker was talking on how to choose the right words and use them in such a way that will grab readers and keep them reading. One of her points was that using humor is a great way to keep readers engaged, especially in the midst of a sad story.

Immediately my mind was drawn to the book I’ve been reading this past week.

Kayla Aimee nailed this on the nose. Her book, Anchored, launched early this month. Upon reading Lisa-Jo Baker’s blog post featuring Kayla’s book, I immediately Amazon one-click ordered it.

 

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Kayla’s story is anything but light-hearted. Yet she manages to balance out the heart-wrenching details of her daughter’s premature birth with candid honesty and humor. As she divulges her own vulnerabilities and shares the terrifying details of her story, she draws her readers near in such a way that they must face their own questions of how faith works in the midst of unexpected circumstances.

As soon as I began reading Kayla’s story, I couldn’t put it down. Don’t get me wrong—I wanted to.

Her and her family’s story is one of great shock, heartache, fear, and pain. Time and time again I wanted to set the book down as it overwhelmed my emotions, but I couldn’t. Kayla’s story exposes the raw vulnerabilities of a mother’s heart. She holds nothing back in her words as she wades through the big questions of how faith, prayer, and God work when everything you think is concrete begins to crumble from beneath you.

 

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Kayla’s story is unique, but it communicates great lessons on life, faith, and motherhood. These are the lessons that will change how each one of us Mamas views our children, the gifts that they are, and the time that we have with them.

 

Click Here To Order Anchored Today.

{I think Amazon even has it at a special price right now}

 

{Note:  I am not receiving any compensation for this endorsement, I simply believe that Kayla Aimee and her precious daughter Scarlette have a story that needs to be shared.}

936Pennies Book Review Motherhood

The Melody of Surprises That String Motherhood Together {Surprised By Motherhood}

June 10, 2015

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For most of us, motherhood commences with a big surprise.

 

Even when you’re expecting it, as we were with our first child; even when you are trying to conceive–it all seems to drop into your lap as one big surprise when you take in the sight of that second pink line.

And they don’t end there–that positive pregnancy test is only the beginning of the surprises that begin rolling in with alarming speed.

It hits you again in the delivery room–at least I know it did for me. As first breath filled my boy’s lungs and my arms embraced all the fullness of another life born from my own, I never imagined just how right it could feel to meet a complete stranger. This boy of mine, crafted of my own being, image of my husband, yet wholly strange and unknown.

A first introduction with a first impression so strong and beautiful enough to graft two souls into one. I never knew such a love was possible.

 

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I had read the books and heard the birth stories of others, and I may have thought I knew what to expect, yet as I stared deep for the first time into those blue eyes designed after my own, I found myself completely taken aback with surprise.

And the thing is that even after you’ve memorized the shade of those eyes, and the shape of that chin, and the scent of that hair, you are still overwhelmed with surprises around every turn of motherhood.

Because you are never done learning your child.

As they watch you and mimic your behaviors and follow your lead in life– you are the one being filled with discovery.

They may be observing us, but we are the students.

 

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I happen upon it at the most unsuspecting moments, but I guess that is how surprises operate, after all. That in the piles of laundry, and smears of peanut butter, and finger-smudged windows, and yet another request for that same train book we’ve already read 10 times this morning–there is a whole lot of holy to be found.

 

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This motherhood gift, all wrapped up as surprise even when we think we know what to expect, Lisa-Jo Baker explains it in her book, Surprised By Motherhood, as this,

“A gift from God who names every part of who we are and what we do as significant. Because ‘He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.’ There is no part of our everyday, wash-and-repeat routine of kids and laundry and life and fights and worries and playdates and aching budgets and preschool orientations and world and marriage and love and new life and bedtime marathons that Jesus doesn’t look deep into and say, ‘That is mine.'”

It was when I read Lisa-Jo’s book that I began to see it from a whole new angle and in a whole new richness: the holy mundane of motherhood, brimming full with the abundant life, and strung together in a melody with each note made up of these surprises that never stop coming.

 

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In candid honesty and eloquent storytelling, Lisa-Jo shares with her readers just how surprised she was in becoming a mother. Her story captivated me as I was carried from page to page, unable to set the book down. I saw my own story in her words, and I recognized my own motherhood in her transparency.

She brings clarity to the muddy waters of emotions and fears, and offers a simple joy and purpose to extinguish the complications we often allow to seep into our days of raising these little ones.

In so many ways, her words brought me back to that delivery room, lights aglow and shining down on my body all broken and his own all new and perfect and perfectly mine.

 

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We don’t realize it then. There is no way in that moment that we can comprehend all the potential of this new relationship being born.

Because when we take into our arms that wholly unknown but altogether loved bundle for the first time, we are also receiving the gift of 936 pennies, representing the 936 weeks we have to raise this child.

And we can only know what those pennies are worth as we begin to invest them, one by one.

And I bet you that the worth of those pennies will be yet another surprise singing out the melody of our motherhood.

Because, as Lisa-Jo puts it so perfectly in my favorite quote from her book,

“Mothers may want to find room to breathe, to weep, to panic. But they don’t want it to end–this delivering, shaping, cheering, loving, bringing life into the world.”

And that’s exactly what those pennies are teaching me to do.

 

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{I am not paid for this endorsement–I simply want to share just how Lisa-Jo’s book has touched my life and changed me as a mother.

You can purchase Lisa-Jo’s book, Surprised By Motherhood, here.}

 

Book Review Motherhood Parenting Time Management

For Any Mom Who Feels Like She’s Drowning {Say Goodbye To Survival Mode}

February 26, 2015

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He walked in to find me curled up in the fetal position in our armchair—crying.

 

Through sobs I spoke of backache, children jumping on me, impossible fatigue, endless demands, and poop—lots and lots of poop.

Only I may have used a different word for poop.

I heard comedian Jim Gaffigan comment once on what it was like when he and his wife had their fourth child. He sad it was like you’re drowning—and then someone hands you a baby.

I’ve felt a little bit like that lately. Maybe you have too.

 

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It doesn’t take four kids. It doesn’t even take three. Maybe you’ve just brought home your first little one, and you already feel like you’re gasping for breath, hardly staying afloat above the surface of the waves.

Motherhood is demanding.

It is impossibly difficult, everyday challenging, and tragically humbling—because it shows us our inability to handle it all—at least not with eloquence and poise.

Because really, who of us are managing this motherhood gig with Pinterest perfection?

 

At times we can all feel like we’ve switched gears into survival mode.

 

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I challenged myself to read 20 books this year. Minimum. And not any 20 books, but 20 books that would challenge me as a follower of Christ, as a wife, as a mother, and as a writer—20 books that would challenge and inspire me to do life better.

And I could not have begun the year with a better book than this:

 

Say Goodbye to Survival Mode

by Crystal Paine (MoneySavingMom.com)

 

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We all know that in this season of raising kids at home, the weather can change rapidly. 

It seems that in just a moment we can go from floating on a cruise ship while sipping a cold iced tea, to flailing beneath the waves of too much stuff, too many appointments, and too little time.

We all have those moments, those days, those weeks—even those years—when there is just too much to handle.

And we are unsure of how to best move forward—so we stay stuck.

Perhaps it’s not an overwhelming sense of “How do I handle it all?!” that keeps us stagnant. Maybe instead, you’re asking this question:

“How do I handle it all in the best way?

 

Maybe we are afraid to move forward in life—to pursue that dream on our hearts—because we don’t know the best route, and we are afraid to take a wrong step. So we refuse to take any step.

 

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Say Goodbye To Survival Mode is composed of both purposeful hope and practical application.

It helps you first to identify your passions, and what you believe you are called to, and then to use those passions to determine your best priorities in life–what you should focus on.

And then it guides you through how to set up goals and daily strategies to see those priorities nurtured.

 

Here are a few things this book helped me to discover:

 

  • I don’t have to do it all
  • I should not do it all
  • How to identify what matters most in my life, and prioritize those things daily so that I live a life on purpose
  • How to set realistic, attainable, and intentional goals
  • How to strategically work towards meeting those goals every single day
  • How to create and stick to a plan for managing my time, home, money, and meal planning
  • And that for those days when you feel like a failure, or like you just can’t get ahead–there is grace for those days. Beautiful, life-changing grace.

This is so much more than a how-to book. It helped me look beyond strategy and methods, and to the motivation behind them–to what drives me; and what God has called me to.

 

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There is no better time than now to pick up this book.

Perhaps you began this year with new resolve, resolutions, and virtuous goals. But now we’re two months in to the new year– and you’ve lost some gusto, and the waves are gaining power and threatening to overwhelm.

The grocery budget went over. The bathroom floor hasn’t been mopped in….well let’s not go there. The child caught a cold, and no one has slept through the night in days. Life with young ones at home is unpredictable and messy. Magnificently messy.

It’s a beautiful thing–and a very arduous thing; this mapping out of how to do life best while our kids are young and at home; how to manage it all with grace and beauty.

Now is the time to regroup; to refocus on what is really important, and pursue those things first. Now is the time to resurface above those waging waves and take a breath of fresh air. Let this book get you started. 

 


 

Just a note:

I’m not getting compensated for this endorsement, or paid when you click this link. In fact, Crystal doesn’t either. All of her proceeds from the book are donated to Compassion International!

I just think that when a treasure like this is discovered–it needs to be shared. Order Crystal Paine’s book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode, here

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