Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Book Review: REALLY WOOLLY BIBLE STORIES

Really Woolly Bible Stories is a sweet collection of Bible stories for babies and toddlers. Each story by Bonnie Rickner Jensen is written in rhyme, which is always appealing to young ears. The illustrations by Julie Sawyer Phillips are both charming and interesting. The language is simple and engaging, and each of the elements of this book can spark some good conversations with toddlers about God and the stories of the Bible.

Stories include Creation, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, The Ten Commandments, David and Goliath, Daniel, Jonah, Jesus Is Born, Jesus Welcomes the Children, Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand, The Good Samaritan, Jesus Walks on Water, The Cross and the Tomb, and The Great Commission. Each story also gives the chapter and verse references in the Bible.

There's not a lot of depth to this collection, but it is a good introduction for little ones to the stories of God.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, October 4, 2010

Book Review: ONE HAND, TWO HANDS: Oh, the Ways We Can Help With Our Hands!

The wonderful illustrations are what first captured my attention in One Hand, Two Hands. Gaby Hansen has created sweet, colorful, warm, joyful illustrations that both children and their parents alike will enjoy looking at time and time again. The pictures truly invite the reader/listener to explore the book.

Of course, Max Lucado does a wonderful job with the words, too! Since the book is intended for toddlers and preschoolers, the language is very simple, and the use of rhyme engages their minds, attention, and senses. As the reader/listener observes the little girl interacting with various animals throughout the book's illustrations, the words evoke images of fun, playful, creative, and helpful things we can do with our hands.

One of my favorite features is found on the last pages, where listed are different things that Helping Hands, Kind Hands, and Loving Hands can do--things like clean my room, gather the trash, draw a get-well card for a sick person, and clap for someone else. Then the child is encouraged to think of other ways that their hands can be helping hands. So even though the book is fairly short, it can provoke some wonderful conversations between parents and children.

This delightful children's book would be a treasured addition to any family's library.   

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, October 1, 2010

Prolific Partridges

I just started a new blog where my children and I can post their writing and artwork. We're pretty excited about it! Check it out. Become a follower, even!

www.prolificpartridges.blogspot.com

Monday, September 27, 2010

70 x 7

Forgiveness. This can be such a hard thing for us humans, which is ironic, since we are all in desperate need of it on a daily basis. Sometimes I'm not sure which is more difficult--requesting it or granting it?

There are some people in my life that, honestly, I grow tired of forgiving. Particularly if it is for the same thing over and over and over again. I find that my forgiveness very often wants to be given with conditions. Things like, "Yes, I'll forgive you . . . as long as you've learned your lesson" and "Do you promise never to do this again?"

The only one who could ever even have the right to such conditions is God, and He chooses to ignore them. Instead He continually loves us unconditionally.

So why do I think that it's sometimes okay for me to withhold forgiveness from those who have wronged me? I am no better than nor any less sinful than anyone else on this earth. I have no right to harbor bitterness and resentment. But I do it anyway because, again, it's my sinful nature. However, the more I harbor these things, the more my heart is hardened.

When Peter asked Jesus, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?", Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven" (Matthew 18: 21-22). (Note: There are no ifs, ands, buts, or unlesses in that last sentence.) I'm pretty sure that the number Jesus gave here is not a magical number, as if on the 491st offense, no forgiveness is required. I think He's just saying, "Look. Your brother/sister/friend/neighbor/acquaintance/enemy/whomever is going to sin against you. A LOT! But it's not your job to offer consequences. I want you to forgive over and over and over again. Just like I do. To you! Over and over and over . . . "

God forgives me, and I am to pay it forward. That's all.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Book Review: OUTLIVE YOUR LIFE

Although I really like Max Lucado's writing, it's been a while since I've read one of his books. But when I read the back cover of his newest release, Outlive Your Life, I was intrigued.

We are given a choice . . . an opportunity to make a big difference during a difficult time. What if we did? What if we rocked the world with hope?

Yes! This was something I wanted to read. And I was doubly interested when I read that 100% of Lucado's royalties from this book and its accompanying products will benefit children and families through World Vision and other ministries of faith-based compassion. I really, really love that.

Max Lucado's familiar, conversational style of writing is both comfortable and effective in reaching his audience. He seems to be talking with us rather than at us. His humility is something I admire, and I think it probably makes his readers more willing and wanting to hear what he has to say, too. But just because Lucado's books are easy to read doesn't mean that they aren't extremely challenging. This one especially is.

As I read Outlive Your Life, I started feeling uncomfortable. But in a good way. I knew that he was challenging how I spend my time, energy, and finances . . . basically, my life! It's all too easy to get comfortable in this world--particularly in American society. And it's all too easy to ignore the problems of everyone around us. But there are so many ways that we can help and serve and love on people, whether they live in our neighborhood or on the other side of the world. We just have to make the decision to do it.

I love the Discussion and Action Guide in the back of the book, because there are lots of thought-provoking questions but also suggestions for how to practically live out our faith and God's love for people. ALL people.

This is an important book. Read it.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Reality Check

I have just begun reading Max Lucado's newest book, Outlive Your Life. I know that stories and statistics bombard us daily, but these really caught my attention:

These are devastating times: 1.75 billion people are desperately poor, 1 billion are hungry, millions are trafficked in slavery, and pandemic diseases are gouging entire nations. Each year nearly 2 million children are exploited in the global commercial sex trade. And in the five minutes it took you to read these pages, almost ninety children died of preventable diseases. More than half of all Africans do not have access to modern health facilities. As a result, 10 million of them die each year from diarrhea, acute respiratory illness, malaria, and measles. Many of those deaths could be prevented by one shot.

Yet in the midst of the wreckage, here we stand, the modern-day version of the Jerusalem church. You, me, and our one-of-a-kind lifetimes and once-in-history opportunity . . .

A mere 2 percent of the world's grain harvest would be enough, if shared, to erase the problems of hunger and malnutrition around the world. There is enough food on the planet to offer every person twenty-five hundred calories of sustenance a day. We have enough food to feed the hungry.

And we have enough bedrooms to house the orphans . . . 

The problem is not in the supply; the problem is in the distribution.

Sports Medicine: Should Your Young Athlete Take Prescription Painkillers?

September 2010 Cover

Here is my article in Parents & Kids magazine. Click on the link and go to pages 22-23.

GROWTH SPURTS: Play Ball!

September 2010 Cover

Here is my column for the September issue of Parents & Kids magazine.

Making Marriage a Priority When You Have School-Aged Children

Last week I got to be a guest blogger on "Clay Woman," a blog by Ashlee. Want some tips for making your marriage a priority when you have school-aged children? Check it out.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Caution: Check All Labels!

Aug-23.jpgHere is an article I wrote for the ParentLife blog specifically on the topic of the (literal) messages that we allow our children to wear on their clothing. Something to think about, moms and dads!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Book Review: TOTALLY DESPERATE MOM

Moms, you will love this book by Wendy Hagen! This young mother of three will keep you laughing and nodding your head in agreement as you compare her crazy, messy stories of motherhood with your own. Truly, only other moms can appreciate(?) this stage of life that is just as full of joys as it is bodily fluids.

Reading Wendy's book is like reading a long e-mail from one of your best girlfriends. She spills out all the frustrations of mothering babies and toddlers with both humor and grace (both of which moms REALLY need!). But Wendy also brings encouragement and wisdom to the matter, giving practical tips on how to take care of yourself and your marriage during this hectic time of life.

Totally Desperate Mom is a quick, easy read (very important for busy moms, who may only have time to read while in the bathroom or while cooking dinner)--one that will hold your attention and make you smile. You'll appreciate this realistic approach to what life is really like in "the motherhood." Moms, do yourself a favor and pick up this book. And if you know a mom-to-be, give her a copy of it, too, because she'll want to know she's not alone when she's in the midst of "the Black Hole"! Now you're curious, aren't you?

And here's the really fun news: Wendy and I will be giving away a copy of Totally Desperate Mom next week on Stuff Mamas Like! So keep checking in to find out how to win it!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Very Veggie Giveaway!

Wanna win some VeggieTales goodies?! All you have to do is officially become a "follower" of my other blog, and you'll be entered in the drawing to win either . . .


The Sweetpea Beauty package, which includes:
  • Sweetpea Beauty: A Girl After God's Own Heart (A Lesson About True Beauty) DVD
  • Sweetpea Beauty jigsaw puzzle
  • Sweetpea's Songs for Girls CD
  • Sweetpea Beauty stickers






--OR--



 
The Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Noah's Umbrella package, which includes:
  • Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Noah's Umbrella (A Lesson in Confidence) DVD
  • Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Noah's Umbrella jigsaw puzzle
  • VeggieTales 25 Favorite Action Songs CD
  • Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Noah's Umbrella stickers



The winner will get to choose which package he/she would like to receive. The drawing will be held this Friday, August, 13th, at noon, so be sure to follow me before then! Also, for those of you wonderful people who are already following Stuff Mamas Like, you'll be happy to know that you're already entered in the drawing. Thanks for reading!


Monday, August 2, 2010

Book Giveaway (on someone else's blog this time)

You can enter to win a copy of Friendship for Grown-Ups: What I Missed and Learned Along the Way by Lisa Whelchel on The Common Room blog! Go to the site for details.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Win a book!






 I'm having a drawing on my other blog, Stuff Mamas Like, tomorrow! Tell me what picks YOU up as a mommy and be entered to win this book by Edna Ellison and Linda Gilden. Better hurry!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Book Review: BILLY GRAHAM: HIS LIFE AND INFLUENCE

As I was growing up, I was well familiar with the name Billy Graham. I can remember seeing books he had written, hearing grown-ups talk about him, and watching his evangelistic crusades on television. I think you would be hard-pressed to find any adult in America who hasn't heard the name of this famous preacher--"America's pastor," as he has been dubbed.

Billy Graham has had an amazing life, and David Aikman has well documented it in the book Billy Graham: His Life and Influence. Truthfully, I was already fascinated by Graham's life before reading his biography, but now I am even more fascinated and inspired by him. This man not only has led millions of people to faith in Christ, but he has also had incredible influence in the political world, having had personal relationships with several Presidents and other world leaders. He has also contributed greatly to racial reconciliation in various countries, including the United States. And although Aikman's portrayal of Billy Graham is incredibly positive, he still does not attempt to portray Graham as a perfect man; through both Aikman's and Graham's words, we see that Graham is a man who struggles with sin just as everyone else does. But his honesty and authenticity are what have made Billy Graham so endearing to people all over the world. Of course, his natural charm helped, too!

Though this biography is rather lengthy, it still held my interest. I thought, at first, that I might not like the fact that it isn't a chronological record of events, but the way that Aikman breaks up Graham's life into topical segments is actually helpful in portraying Graham's influence. And anyone who loves history will really enjoy the way that Aikman weaves in so many historical timelines and details throughout the book.

If you have any interest at all in the fascinating and inspiring life of Billy Graham, you will not be disappointed when you read this book!

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Identifying with Eudora

I couldn't help but think of myself and my eldest daughter as I read this in Eudora Welty's One Writer's Beginnings . . . 

"It seems likely to me now that the very element in my character that took possession of me there on top of the mountain, the fierce independence that was suddenly mine, to remain inside me no matter how it scared me when I tumbled, was an inheritance. Indeed it was my chief inheritance from my mother, who was braver. Yet, while she knew that independent spirit so well, it was what she so agonizingly tried to protect me from, in effect to warn me against. It was what we shared, it made the strongest bond between us and the strongest tension. To grow up is to fight for it, to grow old is to lose it after having possessed it."

And then I identified with Miss Welty again in this . . .

"(As certain as I was of wanting to be a writer, I was certain of not wanting to be a teacher. I lacked the instructing turn of mind, the selflessness, the patience for teaching, and I had the unreasoning feeling that I'd be trapped. The odd thing is that when I did come to write my stories, the longest list of my characters turns out to be schoolteachers. They are to a great extent my heroines.)"

At least I gave teaching a shot for a couple of years. :)

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Savage Mama

Ruth Graham, the late wife of evangelist Billy Graham, kept a journal throughout her life and often wrote about raising her five children. I've just finished reading Billy Graham: His Life and Influence by David Aikman, and he included the following entry from Mrs. Graham's journal, to which I could greatly relate . . .

"The children misbehave. I reprimand them more sharply--more probably, peevishly. The very tone of the voice irritates them. (I know, because if it were used on me it would irritate me.) They answer back, probably in the same tone. I turn on them savagely. (I hate to think how often. And how savage a loving mother can be at times.) And I snap, 'Don't speak to your mother like that. It isn't respectful.' Nothing about me--actions, tone of voice, etc.,--commanded respect. It doesn't mean I am to tolerate sass or back talk. But then I must be very careful not to inspire it either."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Simple Celebrations: Emphasize Your Child, Not the Party

June 2010 Cover
*This article appeared in the June 2010 edition of Parents & Kids magazine.
"Simple Celebrations:
Emphasize Your Child, Not the Party"
By Carrie Bevell Partridge


My daughter Katie's fourth birthday party was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. We have always had our children's birthday parties at home, so we thought we were doing well in the simplified party department. But having over forty guests in said home for said daughter's birthday party was just too much. Nothing against the fortysomething guests. We just weren't able to focus on the birthday girl because we were too busy pulling off a party for her! And when it took Katie 45 minutes to open all her gifts, I think she had had it, too.

We can probably all agree that it's quite easy for a child's birthday party to get out of control. Some of us invite too many guests. Some of us go crazy on the decorations. Some of us spend a small fortune on the cake. Some of us plan too many activities. Some of us can't resist buying every accessory available for the thematic party. Some of us want to utilize the latest and greatest party facilities. And some of us end up giving more gifts to the guests than the guests gave to the birthday kid! It happens quickly, easily, and expensively.

So how can we avoid all of this? Well, here are some tips for the pooped-out parental party planners: 
  • Crowd control. A common rule of thumb is to allow your child to invite the same number of guests as the number of years he/she is old. In our situation, we have started using this rule to apply to the number of friends the child may invite, but we also invite additional family members.
  • Less is more. If your child wants you to buy every decoration, trinket, or favor available for their party theme, come up with a set dollar amount to be put toward buying supplies, and let the child be the one to decide which items will be purchased. This gives the child practice in decision-making while simultaneously teaching a lesson in finances.
  • DIY cake. That's right--find your inner Betty Crocker and make the cake yourself! I have yet to meet a boxed cake mix I didn't like, and I doubt your kids have. Want it to have cute decor, but you aren't artsy? Don't worry about an elaborate illustration; just have fun with colored frostings, cool candles, various candies, or even miniature toys for embellishment. You can save a lot of money by making the cake yourself. And your child is probably more concerned about how it tastes than how it looks anyway.
  • Location! Location! Location! Instead of renting a space for the party, save some money by having it at your home, a public park, or anywhere else that is free.
  • Steal ideas. Running short on creativity? Just ask other moms for ideas or browse the web for some creative tips. Some good places to start: www.birthdaypartyideas.com, www.amazingmoms.com, www.kaboose.com, or www.momswhothink.com.

This is not to say that it's wrong to have a professionally-made cake, an extra-fun party location, all the greatest decorations, or even a hundred party guests. But it's easy to get caught up in the comparison game when it comes to birthday parties, and we can often lose sight of the whole reason for having the party in the first place. It's a day to celebrate the life of your child. He or she should be the priority, not trying to impress everyone with your party-throwing skills. As Parents & Kids publisher/editor Gretchen Cook says, "Your self esteem and your child's self esteem should not be based on how elaborate the birthday party is." And I'll add to that that anyone whom you've invited to join you in celebrating your child should also not be concerned with all the frills (or lack of) at your party.

Just because you keep the party simple doesn't mean that it won't be an absolute blast for your child and his or her guests. And it can prevent you from having to refer to the pictures or the video to see what actually went on at the party and whether or not your child had a good time.


Carrie Bevell Partridge has been guilty of getting caught up in the party planning but has discovered the joys of the simple celebrations. www.oncarriesmind.blogspot.com and www.stuffmamaslike.blogspot.com

GROWTH SPURTS: Sum-Sum-Summertime

June 2010 Cover



Here is my column for the June edition of Parents & Kids magazine.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Book Review: JESUS MANIFESTO

Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola have teamed up to write Jesus Manifesto--a declaration that Jesus Christ is supreme and sovereign. It is obvious that the Church can easily get swept up in and distracted by programs, strategies, doctrines, and plenty of other "good things," and this can cause us to forget that Jesus truly is our all in all. We can get so caught up in talking about Him and doing things for Him, but we might not actually be getting to know Him--He who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Sweet and Viola challenge us to know Jesus and follow Him, not actually to try to be like Him, for none of us ever can be. They say, "There is a pervasive theology of 'likeness'--'O God, make me more Christlike'--that cheapens the gospel and depresses the spirit. Christlikeness is too small a dream, too shallow an ambition, for a Christian. The call to Christlikeness is also not 'good news' . . . [T]o be 'like Christ' often implies that you don't really need Christ, since you already have the ideas and teachings of Christ . . . The fall of humanity was all about women and men assuming the posture that they don't need anyone to tell them what to do. They would decide for themselves what's good and what's bad. They would be self-sufficient and self-determining . . . We can try as hard as we wish to be like Christ, but human effort will never touch the hem of that garment."

These words were probably the greatest summons to me as I read this book, because I greatly struggle with feeling self-sufficient--not simply resting in the promise that Jesus is the Alpha and Omega. There is nothing I can do--or need to do--to add to my salvation. He is the Author and Perfecter and Completer, not me.

I found the message of this book to be both challenging and freeing. And even though I felt that some parts of it, particularly in the first half of the book, were a bit choppy, the overall message is quite clear. In a world where our minds and hearts are being summoned to give devotion to so many things, it is a relief and a pleasure to be reminded that Christ is more than sufficient. Thank you for this powerful reminder through Jesus Manifesto.


To order this book, visit bookschristian.com.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Captivity of Me

"Get a fresh glimpse of your incomparable Lord, and you will be emboldened to stop spending your life on yourself. Connect with Him who is life, and you will be empowered to deny yourself, live beyond yourself, and live outside yourself. Let go, break free of the self, the captivity of me. Only Christ can set you free from yourself--the old self that He nailed to His cross. No amount of willpower or good intention can accomplish this. So lay hold of Him and escape the straitjacket of the exalted, exaggerated, narcissistic sense of self. You and your causes are not the center of the universe. You are part of a process of life that is greater than you. The self only exists at all inasmuch as it participates in the being of God. You are not the main character in your own story. God in Christ is." --Excerpt from Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

"Dreaming" by Callie Partridge, age 9

As I sit in my seat,
I can't help it--I dream.
I dream 'bout tonight's dreams,
I dream of hot summer.
I dream, I'm dreaming, I dream.

I can't feel my seat,
This year was so quick!
I feel the ocean, waves, and pool!
I'm dreaming of summer!
I'm  dreaming of fall!
I dream, dream, I dream!

I sit here and don't see
my classroom at all.
I see a pool, a beach, condo,
Am I really in school?
I am dreaming, that's all.
Just dreaming.
I think I'll fall asleep.

I dream, I'm dreaming, I dreamed.

You can, too.


*Author's Note: I write for other people's enjoyment all the time,but I usually don't write for encouragement.This poem is to persuade you to dream big every day and night-asleep or not. I dedicate this poem to my former first grade teacher,Mrs. Morgan-probably my biggest encourager,and now I encourage you to dream big-then try to write down your dream,and send it to me.Whaddaya know-maybe a poem will show up right here!!!:)            
                                                                                 - Callie

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Book Review: THE NAKED GOSPEL

The Naked Gospel: The Truth You May Never Hear in Church, Andrew Farley (Paperback)The message of The Naked Gospel by Andrew Farley isn't a new one, but it's certainly one that isn't always preached clearly. As a woman who personally struggles with legalism and a sense of earning God's love and forgiveness and approval, I experienced a sense of relief as I read through the pages of this book.  I have always known that Jesus' blood covered my sins, but I still felt like I needed to "do my best" and "make God proud." And if I sinned (which is daily . . . for everyone), I had better make sure those sins got confessed ASAP, and I'd better try harder to do the right thing next time.  Effort, effort, effort. Thus telling God that His Son's blood must not've been quite enough. 

But Farley reminds us, "Our forgiveness and cleansing are solely because of the finished work of Jesus Christ." It is FINISHED. Once-and-for-all forgiveness.

As I read his words, I could really feel the burden being lifted from Farley's shoulders. He dealt with being driven by a guilt-based faith for many, many years, which only led to depression. When he discovered the LIFE that God intended to give us through His Son's sacrifice, Farley began to experience freedom and God's truly unconditional love.

"Jesus exposed the futility of life under law," Farley explains. No one can keep every letter of it, and God doesn't expect us to. He simply desires for us to love Him and accept His grace and forgiveness. He doesn't want us to get down on ourselves when we sin; He wants us to simply desire what He desires. And since, as Christians, He truly does live in us, His desires become our desires. If we do not desire what He desires, then He is not in us.

"The message of 'Jesus plus nothing' from start to finish is often too humbling for us to swallow. Instead, we opt for performance hoops to jump through in order to impress God . . . The secret is that grace deactivates our pride. Removing the law from our lives means our self-effort is no longer prodded to control behavior. The law excites human effort. It encourages us to depend on resources outside of Christ. But unconditional acceptance deactivates human effort and allows the Holy Spirit to be all that he wants to be through us." I love this. This is the freedom God intended.

It is vital for everyone--Believers and non-Believers alike--to be exposed to The Naked Gospel. The author's fervor is contagious; his words are well-written; and his message is clear (as is the book cover--ha!) and well-delivered. Read it. And share it.



To order this book, visit bookschristian.com.


*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the product mentioned above for free by The Ooze Viral Bloggers in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Home Movies and New Stages

In honor of Mother's Day on Sunday, my family and I pulled out the home movies. We hadn't watched them in a while, and the hours passed incredibly quickly as we viewed our children literally growing up before our eyes. The kids--now 5, 7, and 9--got such a kick out of seeing each other as babies and toddlers, while Kevin and I watched through a mixture of gladness and sadness. Turns out our parents (and their parents, and their parents . . . ) were right. They really do grow up so fast!

Mostly, though, we simply enjoyed reliving some precious memories and are thankful that they were captured on video. (What a remarkable thing to be able to do!) We got to relive the births of our babies (sans physical pain), reopen Christmas presents, laugh again at all the cute sayings and doings of our little ones, and provide plenty of "Awwws" and "Oh my goodnesses." Although we remember living most of these moments, we had forgotten how sweet and tender and innocent those moments and babies were. Hearing their little bitty voices caused our own to crack.

But mixed in with all the sweetness and "I miss those days" were also some moments of just enough reality (i.e. toddler temper tantrums, pee on the floor, bottles and baby food, spit-up, etc., etc.) to remind us that we're in a wonderful place now, too, and it's okay that those days are behind us. We loved them--no doubt about it--but they weren't easy. Having three children under the age of four is extremely tiring. We changed diapers every day for six and a half years.

Six and a half years.

Yes, I'm quite okay with the new stage we're in. We've traded baby books for homework and onesies for school uniforms. The teeth we were so thrilled to discover popping through their baby gums are now falling out and being replaced with bigger teeth. And now their words aren't so hard to understand. But it's still fun. And it's still an adventure. And they're still my babies.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Music Review: "Slugs & Bugs & Lullabies"

In "Slugs & Bugs & Lullabies," Andrew Peterson and Randall Goodgame have created a wonderful collection of fun-filled songs that evoke giggles, toe-tapping, head nodding (both in keeping with the beat and in understanding of the songs' contents), quickly singing along, and dancing with your kiddos. The lullabies at the end of the album are sweet, soothing, thoughtful, and prayerful. Beautiful, beautiful songs that make you want to hold your babies close and never let them grow up.

Swirled into each of these songs is a dose of the messy reality of parenting babies and toddlers. You can tell that these two guys have had the experiences of playing with, entertaining, burping ("Chicken Wiggle"--so funny!), feeding ("Beans"--also hilarious), and changing their own little ones. The evidence points to the fact that these guys have lived the dailyness of parenthood and wrote these songs to help them get through it. Fun dads!

My personal favorites on the album are "Piggy Little Toes," which will have you square dancing; "Who's Got the Ball?," which will have you wanting to play a game with your kids; "Tractor, Tractor," which will have you laughing; and "You Can Always Come Home," which will have you feeling all sentimental about your babies.

It's hard to tell if these guys' target audience was intended to be young kids or the parents who love those young kids, but they succeed at hitting both. I've been a fan of Andrew's and Randall's music for quite a while, so I wasn't surprised that I loved this album. Your kids will be begging to hear this music over and over again . . . and you'll actually be happy to oblige.

Now if you don't already own this music yourself, you can get it a few ways:
  1. You can buy it from www.slugsandbugs.com.
  2. You can buy it from The Rabbit Room.
  3. You can win it this week on my other blog, Stuff Mamas Like!
Either way, just get it!

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this CD free from The Rabbit Room in exchange for posting a review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Quality Time With Your Children

Need some ideas for spending quality one-on-one time with your children? Here is my article on the ParentLife website.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The 23rd Psalm: A Mother's Reflections

Lucid Magazine has published my article on "The 23rd Psalm: A Mother's Reflections." Great online magazine! Take a look.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Announcing My New Blog!

 
PreviewToday I am launching another blog: "Stuff Mamas Like"! Yes, it's a shameless take-off of "Stuff Christians Like," which was a shameless take-off of "Stuff White People Like," but I'm okay with that. The purpose of this blog is to help Mamas everywhere laugh at ourselves and at the crazy and demanding world of motherhood.
 
So come take a gander. Maybe even leave a comment or two. Maybe even follow!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Great Faith?

A couple of weeks ago, my friend was sharing his life story with our Small Group, and he said something that has really stuck with me. As he discussed some of his current struggles with various things, including faith, and compared how different his life is now from how it was several years ago, he said, "You know, it's easy to have great faith when you have a great life." Basically, he was saying that back when he had a family, career, and "stability," it wasn't all that hard to believe in and trust in God. Now that so much of that has been lost for him (at least for a little while), his faith is being tested. And that's actually not a bad thing.

As I sat there listening to him share, I contemplated the ease of my own life. Honestly, this was not the first time this thought had occurred to me; I am well aware that I have it easy. I have a wonderful husband and three amazing children, financial stability, the house, the dog, the picket fence (okay, not the picket fence), etc., etc.--you know, the "American dream." And sometimes I don't know what to do with that.

Is it bad to have these things? Is it wrong that I have a "good life"? Should I do something to intentionally make my life difficult? Or should I just be thankful? I really don't know what the answer is. Certainly I have problems and struggles and hurts, and I do find my faith challenged, but my friend is right--It's easy to have great faith when you have a great life.

I can both acknowledge and agree with that statement. I just don't know what to do with it.

Book Review: WALK LIKE YOU HAVE SOMEWHERE TO GO

http://booksneeze.com/art/_140_245_Book.169.cover.jpgLucille O'Neal is most famous for being Shaq's mom, but her autobiography, Walk Like You Have Somewhere To Go, is mostly about her own story. She takes her readers through her childhood, which included a broken home; her teen years, which included being a single mom to Shaquille; her young adult years, which included marriage, being a military wife, and having three more babies; and adulthood, which included Shaq's move to the NBA, their family's move from rags to riches, her earning her college degree, and eventually divorcing her husband. Throughout it all, Ms. O'Neal describes her struggles with alcohol and dealing with broken family relationships. Her mother was a great influence in her life, and Ms. O'Neal gives her the credit for helping her build a foundation of faith, which wavered greatly over the years.

Although I learned some interesting trivia about Shaq (ex: His name means "little one"!) and found Ms. O'Neal's story to be somewhat interesting, I did not at all feel inspired by her story. In truth, I felt that her son's prosperity, not her "regained faith," is what gave her the freedom and confidence of which she boasts. (To her credit, this is very understandable.) A verse of Scripture is posted at the beginning of each chapter, and it just seems very forced and unrelated, in my opinion.

The story seems a bit slow at times and seems to jump around, but I appreciate the fact that it is told in Ms. O'Neal's own words and tone. Allison Samuels, who helped Ms. O'Neal with the writing, did a great job of letting Ms. O'Neal's voice be heard. I felt like I was sitting in her living room and just listening to her tell her story. And with the addition of family photographs sprinkled throughout the book, the story held my interest and helped me to picture the characters in her story.

Overall, this book is a fairly interesting but not a very inspiring read.


To order this book, visit bookschristian.com.


*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

First Guest Post

I'm really excited to have my first opportunity to do a guest post on someone else's blog! You can see it here on Mary DeMuth's "So You Want to Be Published" blog.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sacred

To all you mommies out there--let the lyrics of this song be an encouragement to you as it was to me this morning. It's a song written by Randall Goodgame and Andrew Osenga, and it's performed by Caedmon's Call on their latest release, "Overdressed."


This house is a good mess
It’s the proof of life
No way would I trade jobs
But it don’t pay overtime

I’ll get to the laundry
I don’t know when
I’m saying a prayer tonight
Cause tomorrow it starts again

Could it be that everything is sacred?
And all this time
Everything I’ve dreamed of
Has been right before my eyes

The children are sleeping
But they’re running through my mind
The sun makes them happy
And the music makes them unwind

My cup runneth over
And I worry about the stain
Teach me to run to You
Like they run to me for every little thing

When I forget to drink from you
I can feel the banks harden
Lord, make me like a stream
To feed the garden

Wake up, little sleeper
The Lord, God Almighty
Made your Mama keeper
So rise and shine, rise and shine
Rise and shine cause

Everything is sacred
And all this time
Everything I’ve dreamed of
Has been right before my eyes


Words and Music by Randall Goodgame and Andrew Osenga
(c) 2007 House of Mirrors Music (ASCAP) admin. by Simpleville Music, Inc. / 2007 Mighty Molecule Music. (ASCAP) admin by Music Services


To order "Overdressed," visit bookschristian.com.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Month of Sweetness

Last month I turned 35 years old.

I just had to pause for a minute and really look at that sentence. Wow. Just yesterday I was 18.

But that's not the point of this post. The point of this post is to brag on my wonderful, loving husband of nearly 12 years, Kevin Partridge. On March 1st, he declared that we would be celebrating my birthMONTH! It sounds really self-centered to say this, but I really enjoyed the month of March immensely.

There was much variety in the month-long celebration. On most of the days, I received a card from Kevin, and it often contained a word of the day that described me, and then he explained why he loved these things about me. Being very much a words person, I think I loved this the most. The cards will be bundled and kept for the rest of my life.

But the other stuff was quite fun, too! A couple of days I was given downloads of some of my favorite new music. One day I was given flowers. One day I got some Skechers Shape-Ups shoes, which have received lots of attention, even from total strangers. (To answer your questions--yes, I love them! Yes, they are comfortable. Yes, I can tell a difference. Yes, they do make a lot of promises. We'll see how well they're kept.) Other days included special outings--ice cream, Jim Henson exhibit, movie, dinner dates. Some days involved Kevin's doing some things around the house that I wanted to see done. Probably the most sacrificial gift was Kevin's commitment to watching one of my all-time favorite movies, Gone With the Wind. It helped that we took two nights to watch it.

The greatest of the birthmonth gifting were these:
  • Traveling up to Memphis to be with my Granddaddy on my actual birthday, which is also his actual birthday. When I was little, we spent many birthdays together, so Kevin's planning this was very sweet and memorable. While I was celebrating 35 years, Granddaddy was celebrating 85. It was good to spend time with him. The bonus of this trip was that we got to stay with some friends that I hadn't seen in many years, and it was a great time. (Thanks, Shackelfords!) We also got to eat lunch with my high school friend/college roommate and her husband, which is always a blast. (We must do this more often, Tiffiny and Richard!)
  • Having two parties--one with family and one with friends. My friends actually surprised me by just showing up at my house (Well, they were invited by Kevin.) with food and some sweet Guitar Hero skills. Both of my parties involved delicious chocolate goodness, which is imperative on my birthday.
  • Camping trip with my husband and children. I'm not all that outdoorsy, but I really enjoy these camping trips. It was pretty chilly this time, so we kept the fire going all day long. We still smell like smoke.
  • Dinner with Kevin by candlelight on our back porch, complete with steak, baked potatoes, and bread made from scratch by my husband. It was amazing! Then he made Bananas Foster for dessert, which was quite yummy.
  • An 11x14 print of my current favorite picture of Callie, Caleb, and Katie. It's just beautiful and really shows off their individual personalities.
  • A family photo shoot by one of my favorite photographers, Aaron Phillips! We had lots of pictures of the kids but not that many of all five of us, since either Mommy or Daddy is usually holding the camera. And Kevin and I had very few pictures of just the two of us, so Aaron took lots of those. I can't wait to see them!
I certainly don't expect a month-long celebration of me every year, but I absolutely savored the kindness and thoughtfulness that my husband put into this year's. I will never forget it. Thank you, love.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sacrifice

I am full of good intentions. It's the follow-through that gets me. At the beginning of this Lenten season, my plan was to fast from my favorite social networking sites (which I did) and to replace that use of my time with focused periods of prayer and Scripture reading (which I only did a little). There are so many different forms of fasting, and it looks different for different people. During this particular season of fasting, I was more aware that unless I am also replacing the intentional deprivation with something more meaningful, then the point of it all is somewhat lost. If I fasted from food for a week, but the only thing I did was think about how hungry I was, then little was accomplished. But if I substituted those meal times with meditation and intently listening for God's voice, then something great was accomplished. I'm no theologian, but I don't really think that it's the shape or size of the sacrifice that matters as much as it is how it affects your heart.

The actual weekend of Easter is what seizes my heart the most. On Friday I think about the sacrifice that God made for us. Simply because He loves us. Isaiah 53 describes how Jesus was to be wounded, crushed, pierced, and scourged for us. I try to let these words and images sink into my soul as I consider what Christ did on that day. It's not just a story; it was very real. Jesus experienced excruciating pain and suffering on our behalf. He allowed Himself to be beaten and humiliated. The Bible tells us that through it all, He remained silent. He didn't stand up for Himself or give any explanation, though He's the only One in the history of the world who truly could have.  I think about how selfish and full of pride I am and how, if it had been me, I would have at least let everyone know that I was making this great sacrifice for them--that I was perfect and didn't deserve to die, but this is what it was going to take for you people to have eternal life! See how much I love you! See what I'm doing for you?!

Yep, there's an obvious difference.

Jesus was despised and rejected by the very people for whom He died. He didn't try to defend or even explain Himself. He allowed Himself to go through it, knowing full well that even His closest friends would deny knowing Him. And that for generations to come, there would be so very many people who would continue to reject Him and scorn His sacrifice. Others would accept His love and sacrifice but would take it lightly or as if He owed it to them. And yet--unlike me, who can't seem to follow through on the smallest of sacrifices--He followed through with the ultimate sacrifice, the giving of His very life.

I find myself maybe the most pensive on Saturday of this holy weekend. There is nothing written about this day in the Bible, and so I wonder how Jesus' friends spent their time on this day. Did they remember what Jesus said He was going to do . . . and did they believe it? Were they hiding out, afraid that they, too, would be killed? Did they simply wonder, "What next?" I imagine it was a very, very long day.

And then came Sunday. Certainly their fear turned into hope, which quickly turned into rejoicing! Jesus was alive! No, death had not conquered Him. And this is what made the eternal difference. It was not enough for Jesus to be killed, to take our punishment for us. He had to defeat death, not just experience it. And He did. The victory was and is and always will be HIS!!!

Praise our God for the miracle and majesty of Easter! May we never take it for granted. May our hearts never grow numb to His sacrifice. May we never feel entitled. And may our celebration be exuberant--not just today but EVERY day!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Book Review: BEAUTIFUL THINGS HAPPEN WHEN A WOMAN TRUSTS GOD

http://booksneeze.com/art/_140_245_Book.139.cover.jpgAs soon as I started reading Sheila Walsh's newest book, Beautiful Things Happen When a Woman Trusts God, I began to identify with her. She is quite open and honest about her ongoing struggles with insecurity, lack of trust, and depression, and I appreciate her vulnerability to her readers. This book is filled with Walsh's personal stories, which she beautifully intertwines with stories of biblical characters' encounters with God.

While she doesn't claim to have achieved constant, unwavering trust in God, Walsh encourages us with the stories of how her faith has and continues to grow. She also speaks against the dangers of not opening yourself up to other people, because our lives are meant to be lived in community. Trying to live your life in isolation--even if that simply means being surrounded by people but still keeping your struggles and issues to yourself--is dangerous and unhealthy. We need others to encourage, support, and pray for us, just as we need to do the same for them. However, our ultimate faith should be placed in God Himself. He has proven Himself time and time again.

With a discussion guide and in-depth Bible study included in the back of the book, I feel that women's small groups would benefit from reading it together. By doing so, the participants will most likely feel encouraged and safe to share their own inner struggles, and some great conversations will come as a result. I would particularly recommend this book to women who struggle with anxiety and depression. It is a solid yet very tender story of faith.



To order this book, visit bookschristian.com.


*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Celebrate Easter! (New Outfits Accepted But Not Required)




Here is the link to my article on Easter in Parents & Kids magazine: http://bit.ly/cQP6zV

GROWTH SPURTS: The Store




Here is the link to my column in the April edition of Parents & Kids magazine: http://bit.ly/b4YECt

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Name Calling

Just as parents know and call their children by their names, God knows and calls each of us by our names. As Isaiah 43:1 states, we are His!

This article is now available through Churchmouse Publications.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Pampering

This afternoon my children treated me to a makeover. For the better part of two hours, I sat in a fluorescent green chair, the seat of which comes to about half calf on me. Katie began the process with some brushes and a colorful palette of various creams and powders with which she proceeded to cover my face. Though only five years of age, my Katie is serious about outward beauty and generally all things prissy, so she took on this particular job with great earnest. When something didn't look quite right to her, she (not always gently) used a washcloth to erase the unwanted markings and then began again. Her intense gaze broke only when she approved of her work, in which case she grinned and bounced a little.

As Katie worked on my face, Caleb rubbed my back and shoulders, which was divine. When he got bored with that, he retrieved some stampers and ink pads. After I made my selections, he branded my left forearm with a brown horse jumping over a black fence. Then it was time for the actual face paint, which would give a more theatrical look to the now dark pink, green, and blue hues that covered my entire face. With Katie on my right side and Caleb on my left, my cheeks became their canvases. Soon large butterflies began fluttering on one half of my face, while a dark Ninja prepared to kick anyone who got in his way on the other half. Then, believing that face paint shouldn't be restricted to the face, Caleb and Katie took to painting my hands and wrists, which resulted in more butterflies and fighting Ninjas.

Next it was time to style my hair and get my nails done. Callie now joined in with her spray bottle and comb and tried to convince me to start parting my hair on the other side while simultaneously scolding me for using so much product. She also told me that dark hair grows faster than light hair. Meanwhile, Katie worked on painting my stubby fingernails--alternating between mauve, red, and pink paint. I thought it was kind-of pretty, though I couldn't get a complete look at it since my hair now covered the entire left side of my face. The final touch was made by Callie, who painted my toenails with a shiny purple base and then added bright red polka dots on top. Very pretty.

Even though I was afraid that someone might unexpectedly come to our door and find me in this rather colorful condition (Did I mention that they topped off the artwork on my face with bright blue and yellow dots?), I completely enjoyed the couple of hours of being pampered by my kids. It didn't really matter to me how it all looked (again, unless a visitor showed up); I just delighted in having my children so close to me and took pleasure in their love and creativity.

And then I washed my face.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Things I Wish I Didn't Do

  • Bite my fingernails
  • Procrastinate
  • Attract mosquitoes
  • Obsessively double-check pretty much everything
  • Compare myself to others
  • Prefer tasks over playtime
  • Edit everything I read
  • Dread going to the grocery store
  • Have high expectations
  • Break out
  • Run late
  • Get scared of heights
  • Look at dirt in my house and wonder why it doesn't clean itself up
  • Let my imagination get the best of me
  • Have control issues
  • Get really shy and backwards around people I don't know well
  • Dislike talking on the phone
  • Give up on something if I'm not instantly good at it
  • Get glued to the TV
  • Have panic attacks about speaking to a group
  • Fear what lurks beneath the ocean's surface
  • Love sweets so much
  • Love lists so much

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dopey

When Caleb was two years old, he loved the movie Snow White (or "O-White," as he called it). As we were driving down the road one day, he was looking at an "O-White" book and kept wanting to show me a picture. 

Caleb: Mom! Mom!
Me: Yes, Caleb?
Caleb: Dopey!
[Pause] 
Caleb: Mom! Mom!
Me: Yes, Caleb?
Caleb: Dopey!
[Pause] 
Caleb: Mom! Mom! . . .
[You get the idea.]

Thinking I'd cut off my toddler's little game after indulging him for about 18 rounds . . . 

Caleb: Mom! Mom!
Me: Dopey?
Caleb: No!
[Pause] 
Caleb: Mom! Mom!
Me: YES, Caleb?!
Caleb: Dopey!

Five years later, I think he still has me playing this game, because he canNOT tell me a story without interjecting several "And guess what's?", to which I must reply "What?" before hearing the next few phrases. I guess he just always wants to make sure I'm listening.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Book Review: AFTER YOU BELIEVE

After You Believe By N. T. WrightThe title of this book--*After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters--is what drew me to it. As N.T. Wright acknowledges within these pages, there is very often an either/or factor among Christians. We either live our lives trying to legalistically adhere to a bunch of rules (though the rules vary from person to person), or we give very little thought or care to how we live, knowing that "God's grace is sufficient" (which is true). But how we live between our conversion and our funeral very much does matter, and it is not found in either of these approaches. Wright reminds us that God will one day fully combine Heaven and Earth, but the process has already begun. And so has the transformation of character, or virtue.

Wright explains that "virtue is what happens when wise and courageous choices have become 'second nature' . . . Those who follow Jesus can begin to practice, in the present, the habits of heart and life which correspond to the way things are in God's kingdom--the way they will be eventually, yes, but also the way they already are because Jesus is here . . . But virtue is always the result of work and cost" (pgs. 21, 105, 216).

Having virtue does not mean that we are to be sinless (not that we ever could be), nor is it simply a matter of following someone's example--even Jesus' example! Rather, we are to engage in what Wright calls "The Virtuous Circle"--which involves scripture, stories, examples, community, and practices--and our character will thus be transformed. Our thoughts, words, and actions will begin to reflect our love for God and for other people, and it will just be "second nature," not our pursuit of following a list of rules.

Wright states, "The key is this: the 'fruit of the Spirit' does not grow automatically. The nine varieties of fruit do not suddenly appear just because someone has believed in Jesus, has prayed for God's Spirit, and has then sat back and waited for 'fruit' to arrive . . . The point of using the term 'fruit,' after all, is that these are things which grow from within rather than being imposed from without" (pgs. 195, 206).

I had never read any of N.T. Wright's books before this one, but I am anxious now to read his previous works. Although I was a bit intimidated to dive into this Bible scholar's teachings, I found that this book was challenging but not arduous, complex but not insurmountable. Truthfully, the only negative aspects of the book, in my opinion, are that it becomes somewhat repetitive and that Wright continually tells the reader of things he is going to talk about later in the book. (I'd rather he just let me know when I get there.)

Overall, this is an excellent book and one that I recommend every Christian read.



To order this book, visit bookschristian.com.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received the product mentioned above for free by The Ooze Viral Bloggers in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Coffee Table Commentary

Currently on my coffee table are the following items: a miniature tea party set, a toy gun, mail, a rented DVD, an empty glass, a pad of paper, a doll's hair curler, a photo card reader, a Chess piece, a pen, a guitar pick, a Disney princess storybook, a coffee mug, a ponytail holder, a couple of safety pins, a stack of birthday notes from my husband to me, a candle (the only thing that's actually supposed to be on the table), a cell phone, a guitar capo, a laptop and reading glasses (until a few minutes ago), a set of horse stamps and a stamp pad, change, a remote control, a tube of pretend lipstick, and Abe Lincoln's log cabin made out of a milk carton. Yes, we have a fairly large coffee table.

As my gaze and thoughts were drawn to this scene, I suppressed the initial thought (not difficult to do) of how much I need to clean my house and instead thought about how these various items represent the bits and pieces of our family's life. The items are colorful and interesting. And a bit random. They have been used and reused. Some handled with care; others not so much. They represent our work, our play, and our hobbies--things we love.

I've been told that 20 years from now, I can have a clean house if I want to. But for now, with three young children, that's just not a likely reality. We don't live like pigs, but our house is generally messy most of the time. But it's because we live in our house. We enjoy ourselves and our time together. Plus, my husband made me promise him when we first got married that our house would look and feel lived-in and not like a museum.

Done.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Virtue

I'm about a fourth of the way into reading N.T. Wright's latest book, After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters. Today I read some of his insights on virtue that really stood out to me, and I wanted to share them. I'll do a full review on this book when I'm finished reading it.

 . . . you have to grasp the fact that Christian virtue isn't about YOU--your happiness, your fulfillment, your self-realization. It's about God and God's kingdom, and your discovery of a genuine human existence by the paradoxical route--the route God himself took in Jesus Christ!--of giving yourself away, of generous love which constantly refuses to take center stage . . . 

The glory of virtue, in the Christian sense, is that the self is not in the center of that picture. God and God's kingdom are in the center . . . 

Virtue, after all, isn't just about morals in the sense of "knowing the standards to live up to" or "knowing which rules you're supposed to keep." Virtue . . . is about the whole of life, not just the specifically "moral" choices. Those who put rules or consequences first sometimes think of vocational choices as a sort of sub-branch of ethics. I prefer to think of it the other way around. We are called to be genuine, image-bearing, God-reflecting human beings. That works out in a million ways, not least in a passion for justice and an eagerness to create and celebrate beauty. The more specific choices we think of as "ethical" are, I suggest, a subset of that wider image-bearing, God-reflecting vocation.

After You Believe By N. T. Wright

To order this book, visit bookschristian.com.

Things I Love and Admire About My Children

Callie:
  • Her drive and determination
  • Her insatiable hunger for reading
  • Her talent in writing
  • Her creativity
  • Her leadership
  • Her love of putting on programs
  • Her confidence and lack of inhibition
  • Her talent in composing music
  • Her compassionate spirit
  • Her attention to detail
  • Her big-sisterliness
  • Her sense of justice but also mercy
  • Her desire to try new things
  • Her sense of adventure
  • Her honey-colored hair
  • Her blue-gray eyes that always look pensive
  • The way you can always see the wheels turning in her head
  • Her thankfulness and appreciation
  • Her giving and sacrificial heart
  • Her task-orientedness
Caleb:
  • His kindness
  • His helpfulness
  • His desire to please
  • His love for his family
  • His generosity
  • The way he gets excited for his sisters and cheers them on
  • His playfulness
  • His creativity
  • His ingenuity
  • His desire to protect his family
  • His smile that makes his eyes disappear into half moons
  • The way he tells a story--his animation
  • The pride he takes in a job well done
  • His encouragement
  • The way he dances with absolutely no inhibition
  • His amazingly messy and curly hair
  • His love of life
  • The joy he both gives and receives when playing with babies and toddlers
  • His friendliness
  • His servant spirit
Katie:
  • Her giggle
  • Her hugs and kisses
  • Her love of affection--her snuggliness
  • Her concentration when she's working a puzzle
  • Her enthusiasm
  • Her humor
  • The way she makes me laugh
  • The way she takes care of babies
  • Her thoughtfulness
  • Her non-conformity
  • Her love of life
  • The way she handles her dietary restrictions with such a positive attitude
  • Her blond curls
  • Her big blue eyes
  • Her ability to make some really crazy faces
  • Her giving spirit
  • Her inhibition
  • The way people are drawn to her
  • Her incredible whistling ability
  • The way she savors food she enjoys (especially chocolate) and hums while eating it

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Conversation With God (Based on Job 38-42)

Note: I admit that I am not a poet. Nevertheless, I wrote this poem several years ago and wanted to share it. When I read the passage in Job back then, I was really struck by the questions and interactions between God and Job. Just bear with me in my elementary style of poetry writing.


Once I sought to question God,
And from a whirlwind He answered me.
He asked if I had an arm like His
Or a voice of thunder as He.

He asked me where I was at the time
That He constructed the heavens and earth,
When boundaries were given to the seas,
And seasons were designated for birth.

"Are you able to command the dawn as I?
Do you know where I store the snow?
Do you know where the darkness makes its home
Or from where the wind first blows?"

I confessed that I did not have a reply,
And on my mouth I placed my hand.
He continued to speak--this time from a storm--
And revealed to me His mighty plan.

He explained that the constellations I see
Are an intricate work of art
And that He cares for the raven as much as the lion;
Provision for each He imparts.

"Have you given to Me that I should repay you?"
Knowing the answer, He asked.
"Whatever is under the heaven is Mine,
For I am the First and the Last."

"My child," said the Father, "Why do you question?
Can you find fault in all my ways?
Do you not even realize that I'm your Creator
And have numbered each of your days?"

"Why, I created the mouth with which you question,
Your finger that points at Me,
Your mind that's now filled with pride and doubt,
Your heart that once believed."

Then humbly I stood there in ashes and dust,
Confessing that I couldn't understand,
That His ways are blameless and beyond comprehension;
My whole life fits in His hand.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ode to Joy

Though my list doesn't include raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, these are a few of my favorite things . . .

  • Music
  • Giving gifts
  • Spring
  • Fresh flowers
  • Chocolate
  • Knitting
  • Being warm
  • Blue jeans
  • Coffee
  • Sleeping late
  • Fire in the fireplace
  • The pear tree in my front yard
  • E-mail
  • Good books
  • Road trips
  • Roller coasters
  • The perfect pillow
  • Romantic comedies
  • Hot bubble baths
  • The ocean (looking at it)
  • Candles
  • Haircuts
  • Good mascara
  • Girls night out
  • Personality-catching photographs
  • Being published
  • Words of affirmation
  • Solitude
  • The sky
  • Suspense (but not the scary kind)
  • Facebook
  • Laughing
  • Cherry Coke
  • Clearance sales
  • Lists
  • Checking off lists
  • Greeting cards
  • Going out to eat
  • Swinging
  • My favorite pen (Bic Cristal, black)
  • Someone else cleaning my house
  • Holidays
  • Memories
  • Completed projects
  • My blog
And then there's the obvious: everything about my wonderful husband and children!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Mourning and Rejoicing

My family and I made the trip from Mississippi to Texas to attend our friend Julie's funeral. After the seven-hour trip (which included a speeding ticket in Louisiana--Grrrrrr), we quickly checked into our hotel and then made our way to the visitation. The visitation lasted three hours, with a steadily moving line that poured out the back door the entire time. It was a closed casket, but they did have several big, beautiful pictures of Julie and her family.

Julie's husband Mark was at the front of the room, greeting everyone with big hugs. We hadn't seen him in several years, but the moment we saw him, it was as though no time had passed. We were able to see so many wonderful friends from our years in Texas. A few of the friends we saw are ones who actually moved from Texas to Maryland with us to start a church, so time with them was especially sweet.

The next morning there was a graveside service for Julie. It was pouring down rain and absolutely freezing, but it was a beautiful time. So many people gathered there. The message was completely glorifying to God, and we all sang "How Great Is Our God" (which is what Callie played for me on her KAZOO to help cheer me up last Friday after we got the news of Julie's passing) and Chris Tomlin's "Amazing Grace/My Chains Are Gone." These are two of my very favorite songs. I couldn't really sing them, though, because music is what really brings my emotions to the surface. So I mostly just cried but praised God just the same.

That afternoon a few of us got to go to Mark's house and just sit around and talk and laugh with him. It was very special. We certainly didn't expect to get to have this intimate time with him, so we count this a huge blessing.  I got to wander around Mark and Julie's house and look at pictures of their family and just imagine their lives there. They have an 8-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter. Addi was just six months old when Julie was first diagnosed with cancer. My heart just aches and aches for them.

That evening there was a huge celebration service, and there were no less than a thousand people there. Amazing! It was such a beautiful time of worship--nothing less than that. Of course, more tears poured out of me during the music, but both the tears and the singing were healing and good for my soul. There were also some great stories of Julie shared, and again, the message was beautiful and glorifying to God.

Everyone, including Mark, wore jeans and bright colors to all of the events--including the graveside! It was so great and just the way Julie would have wanted it. We could rejoice, because we knew that she was with her Savior and was now made whole. I am so glad that we were able to be a part of these days, because I was truly blessed and challenged by the crystal clear message that Julie presented even through her death. My hope and prayer is that the message at my funeral will be equally clear and that people will have seen Christ in and through me.

I hate to be a copycat, but I would love for my funeral to be like Julie Mangrem's! Yes, remember me, but mostly rejoice that I am with my God. Praise Him! And by all means, wear your blue jeans to my funeral, sing as loudly as you can, and eat some chocolate in memory of me.

I am so glad to have known you, Julie Mangrem. Your life is a testimony to the greatness of our God.

Friday, February 26, 2010

God, BE with them.

My friend Julie died this morning. She was only 39 years old and has a husband and two young children. I haven't seen Julie face-to-face in a few years, but I used to spend a lot of time with her when we lived in the same city. She has been battling cancer for a long time now, and her body just couldn't do it any longer. And so God called her spirit home this morning.

I have been unable to control my tears as I think about Mark, Major, and Addi. Mark will no longer get to sit and talk with his wife, his best friend. And Major and Addi won't be able to go to their mom for advice or even a hug ever again. This is such a painful reality!

I've been thinking for some time now, as we knew that Julie's earthly journey was coming to an end, about how I would be feeling and what I would be thinking if I were in her place. On one hand, I would be thankful that I was given some time to say my good-byes. But on the other hand--the one that seems 5,000 times bigger than the "one hand"--I think I would really be battling anger and confusion. I just could not imagine looking at my children and knowing that I would never even see them reach their tenth birthday or graduation or marriage. I would miss the vast majority of their lives, and it just seems wrong.

My heart cannot take imagining my life with Kevin ending so soon. We need each other; we're a team. We're supposed to grow old together and make a bazillion memories along the way. Sure, we promised to love each other "till death do us part," but we were certain that meant when we were in our late 90s.

I confess that I battle these feelings of justice and entitlement, and not just for myself. As I have been going through this with the Mangrems (admittedly from a distance), I have felt such a wide range of emotions. Mark and Julie have such strong faith in our God; they have trusted Him even at the most difficult times. I prayed for them so often, but the only prayer that ever came was "God, be with them."

Not in the least bit coincidental is the fact that I have heard and read a few different times lately about how God doesn't promise us an easy or safe or fair life. But He does promise to be with us throughout every single moment. He doesn't leave us to fend for ourselves. He grieves with us and nods His head in that "I know" sort of way when we cry to Him that This is so hard, and we just don't understand! He doesn't always give us answers to our questions, but He does hold us while we ask them.

As I continue to pray for Julie's family and friends, as well as some of my other family and friends who are going through some difficult times, my prayer will continue to be this simple one--God, be with them. Because nothing else can provide the comfort and peace that He does through His presence. And I trust the words in Scripture that tell me that when I don't know how to pray, the Holy Spirit will interpret my groanings and will intercede for me.

God gave us these emotions--the sadness, the anger, the confusion, and even the need to question His ways. And I don't think it hurts His feelings. I think He welcomes the conversations as He offers to embrace us in our grief. And then He offers to relieve our burden by telling us that He doesn't expect us to understand but does want us to trust Him, knowing that neither of these comes easily.

He is with us.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010