Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Problem with Tragedy

I rarely post anything politically motivated, BUT today, I have to speak up......

In the past week, we have witnessed many lives lost at the hands of Islamic extremists.  Lives of different nationalities, races, cultures, backgrounds and religions.  There has been so much innocent death and loss in the matter of hours or days.  In some ways, our world has united - showing solidarity in the face of evil, showing a sense of courage and resolve in the face of fear - but in some ways, tragedy has only split us more.

What is it about tragedy that digs up our nastiness? Is it that we are scared and hurting? Or is it that we turn tragedy into our own little soapbox? The world is hurting and yet we are fighting each other more than we are fighting those that commit evil acts. Social media allows us to both unite together in the face of tragedy (Parisian pictures, articles on Beruit, offers of prayer and peace, etc) and at the same time, attack each other from the comfort of our couch by taking one statement, one view and assuming the worst in other's statements and beliefs and comments.

This is a problem that both sides are guilty of - liberals and conservatives - making tragedy into a catalyst for our own agenda, hurling attacks at anyone who has a differing view. How sad that we can't just mourn loss without creating sides.

In the matter of one short week, I have seen racist and derogatory comments against Muslims AND also witnessed the unfair accusation that those who are anti-ISIS are bigots who hate Muslims (news flash: being against one group does not make one against an entire religion.)  I have friends who have been more upset about possible backlash against the local Muslim community than they were about the victims of terrorism.

There has been a disproportionate focus on Paris while overlooking other atrocities - but, at the same time, there has  also been a plethora of self righteous attacks shaming people for mourning Paris (because they didn't properly mourn Beruit or other non-western attacks).  While we, as a society, need to be more aware of all lives that are being lost, why are we making others feel guilty for mourning Paris?

I have seen people who attack Christians CONSTANTLY for their beliefs suddenly play the "Christian" card and claim  that their perspective on immigration and refugee policy is Christlike and those who disagree are failing at their faith.  At the same time, Christians are attacking each other.  Those opposed to allowing refugees into America accuse those who sympathize with Syrian refugees and want to open our country's "gates" to them as overly emotional, wanting to make themselves feel good, etc.  Christians on the other side are calling out fellow believers who are worried about refugees coming to the states, claiming that they are ignoring Biblical principles on loving foreigners, etc.

And, probably the silliest thing I have seen is the Christmas story being compared to the refugee crisis.  The story was about Christ, it was not making a political statement.  Mary and Joseph were turned away from the inn (and directed to a stable) because there was no room for them in the inn (due to increased travel during the census) - not because they were unwanted refugees.  Goodness, there are enough applicable biblical principles without having to manipulate the advent story into a policy position.

Why the bickering? Can't someone be anti-ISIS AND anti Muslim discrimination? Can we not protect the rights of those who practice Islam while still mourning the victims? Can we discuss other tragedies that weren't as "hot" in the media without shaming people for mourning an iconic city (and one similar enough to our own "Western" cities that many Americans lost their sense of security?) Isn't there a way to highlight other atrocities without downplaying the Parisian tragedy? Does it have to be a competition? Yes Arab lives matter, but don't European lives matter too?  Can we have discussions about the Syrian refugee crisis without taking an all or nothing approach? Can we recognize that with the exception of a few truly racist hateful people, most of us (believers and unbelievers) mourn for these people and their circumstances - yet disagree with how to handle it? Can we not attack each other as too emotional and sympathetic - or too uncaring and scared- and realize that proper policy will require compassion AND pragmatic thinking?

And for goodness sake, for those who bash Christians year round on any and every political issue, please stop playing the "be a good Christian" card- because goodness knows, when Christians are "good Christians", you disagree with their positions. And, please, please please quit misrepresenting our advent story. There are plenty of refugee examples to use without making one up.

Essentially, let's stop making other people's tragedies about us, our own political agendas, our own self-righteous views.  Let's recognize that other caring concerned people have different views than us - and we may disagree with them and we may have to discuss and debate these important issues, but we don't have to attack.  Can we agree to not get our kicks off making ourselves feel "more righteous", "less bigoted", "more knowledgeable", "more practical", "less overly emotional", "more Christian" etc. than others? And can we agree to take a deep breath before attacking someone on social media? If we wouldn't say it aloud to a person's face, why will we say it in a public social forum?

There is a lot of evil in the world at the moment - let's not add to it. The terrorists obtain one more victory if we turn against each other too.

(This serves as a reminder to myself as well....)

"There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." - Proverbs 12:18

"Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know hos you ought to answer each person." - Colossians 4:6

Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday Loves

It's FRIDAY - who is ready for a weekend?  My weekend is full of socializing, volunteering, relaxing and breaking out the Christmas decor. Go ahead and judge away, but since we always head to Mississippi for a good long trip during the second half of December, I pull our stuff out early - my decorations have to be up 4-5 weeks for me to believe its worth the time of pulling them out!! Plus, not to be all scroogy- but I think I may pack up Christmas decor before we leave for the south so I do not have to worry about it when I get back.

Here are some things I am loving on Friday.....

1. Santa's Bag App

One of these years, I plan on being responsible and starting a holiday fund in January, but unfortunately, that was not this year.  However, I am trying to stay on budget or near budget with Christmas (I love buying others gifts and I tend to justify overspending on nephews and nieces and parents etc....) So, this year I downloaded the "Santa's Bag" app for my iphone - and it has changed how I Christmas shop. I set an overall budget and then individual budgets for my recipients.  Under each person, I can mark what I buy, what I am thinking of buying, how much it cost, and then check each person off as complete when done.  I am able to see how much I have spent in my total budget and how much I spend on each individual person - including if I was under or over their individual budget. This helps me plan accordingly and encourages me to take the time to look for good sales.  For example, I recently watched the toy sales and found the exact gift I was planning on buying one of my nieces for $15 off - so that's $15 in "extra money" I have in case I go over on someone else (which I will inevitably do...)  Jury is still out on whether this keeps me entirely on budget - but so far, so good.

2. Williams Sonoma Quinoa with toasted pecans and dried cranberries

You can find the recipe here.  I LOVE this dish and have made it several times. Basically, anything with nuts and berries makes me happy (I must have been a small forest animal in a different life....)  I made a huge batch for our small group supper club last night and we had a low  turnout due to work, travel and sickness - so lots of leftovers.  But honestly, I am kindof happy because I can eat this all weekend long. (side note: this preggo adds a few more pecans than suggested....)

3. Non Maternity clothing

The other day, while returning a maternity sweater to Old Navy, I picked up a cute vest (one size up instead of maternity sized because some days I just want something NON-maternityish you know? I have a maternity vest which is cute but a bit long and bulky) And today, since it's Friday and a bit more casual, I wore my new vest to work with skinny tan maternity pants, boots, a maternity chambray top and a tortoise shell necklace. And dare I say, I almost felt cute?  Besides the stretchy band at the top of my pants and the fact that the shirt was loose with you know, a baby was a normal outfit. So here is my "make me happy" outfit...forgive me if you see some version of this often this fall/winter.

(sidenote: maternity clothes are not so bad in 2015.  I definitely have some of the drawstring loose  tops, but a lot of the items are quite cute - just a bit more limited in selection, so I really can't complain - BUT still, this $17 dollar green vest has made my week...)

4. Blanket Scarves

I also picked up this cute blanket scarf. It's adorable and warm and makes me happy. Only problem is that I now need someone to come to my house and show me how to wear it.....


Dave and I love finding a good show to binge watch together - and our newest pick is Reign about Mary, Queen of Scots.  It's got history, action, mystery, romance - and of course, lovely costumes.  Something for both of us!

6. Encouraging articles

I love words - and I love words that encourage and uplift and relate.  So I had to share these meaningful words I found in an article titled Singleness, Suffering and Christian Hope. It's so true - I could have written this article (although not nearly as eloquently!)  In fact, I wrote something similar a couple years ago. The pain of waiting for a spouse can be incredibly hard and often undermined by married friends, family and church leaders. (Thankfully, if you are like me, you had excellent company!) The bittersweet reality is that you excitedly celebrate every wedding, every baby, every special moment for friends and family while you wait for your own milestones to celebrate.  You rock babies and silently pray that one day you will have your own.  You spend holidays without a spouse, wondering if you will always be the single adult child that goes home. Even now, happily married, I remember that the waiting wasn't always easy. So, I was so touched by the tender way in which this man writes about his wife's and his years of waiting and suffering.

"Although our suffering (related to singleness, anyway) officially ended that night, every minute of heartache now served to make our present joy greater and fuller than if we had never suffered. Our suffering wasn’t merely being erased or compensated for. Instead, God was somehow using our suffering to enlarge and perfect our joy.

To us, that moment was a picture of our ultimate Christian hope: Ours is the only faith that would dare use a barbaric device like the cross as a symbol of triumph. God is not only with us in our suffering, as He proved at the cross, but He will transform our suffering, as He proved at the resurrection.

Lisa and I have never been happier than we were on our wedding day. But even the very best day of life on earth is only a foretaste — a dim hint — of what it will feel like when we finally meet the Lord.

If you are a Christian who is struggling with singleness, I am praying for your suffering to end. I don’t know how and when it will end, but I can absolutely guarantee that God will one day end it with a resurrection. I love the way Teresa of Avila put it: “The first moment in our Savior’s arms will make the most miserable earthly life seem like a single night in a bad hotel.”

As I finished this article at 1:30 in the morning, I looked over at my sleeping wife. I thought about all the nights she went to bed lonely. The scars are still there. But like the scars that remained on Jesus’ resurrection body, their meaning has been converted from shame to glory.

Tears filled my eyes as I leaned over and kissed Lisa on the cheek and remembered, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 21:4, ESV). Thank God we didn’t meet when we were 21. Thank God He didn’t “spare” us from suffering. My tears of joy were only possible because, in our suffering, we had shed so many tears of sadness."

 I have friends that are still waiting- for husbands, for babies, for healing in their families, etc- and I am still waiting with them, praying for those future happy endings and milestones - and I can't wait to rejoice with them the way they have kindly rejoiced with me.  But, even when those answered prayers come, I will also be grateful for a God that uses years of brokenness to make the answered prayers all the more beautiful.

7. "Just Because" Flowers

I have felt particularly pregnant and big and sore this week (um, and whiney....) - and my sweet DH sent me the sweetest card and flowers. telling me how thankful he was for me.  We aren't usually random gifts and flowers type of people (except for birthdays and holidays, etc) which made the gesture all the more sweet.  Goodness, I am a lucky gal.

Happy Friday all! Just 2 weeks (less actually) until Thanksgiving!  November really is a wonderful month, right? The weather is not too bad yet but the holiday spirit is in the air! I hope you spend all weekend doing things you love with people you love! Or doing nothing, just because you can!

Monday, November 9, 2015

6 months!

As promised, I am keeping up with posts every 4 weeks - that's probably about as much "baby talk" as you folks want to hear! And as much baby talk as I want to give.

Yesterday we hit 24 weeks, and I have two three very important not at all important thoughts:

1. How am I 6 months pregnant?
2. How am I only 6 months pregnant!
3. Why do we call 24 weeks "6 months" because months don't have 28 days so in reality, I am a week or two shy of 6 months right?

It seems AD should be here - and yet it seems we are NOWHERE READY for our baby girl's arrival.... but we are making progress! In the past 4 weeks, we reserved a hospital tour, booked our birthing class (Dave is being bribed to attend the all day class with Buffalo Wild Wings), pre-registered at the hospital, called a daycare, spoke to my insurance provider about how we add the baby afterwards, bought a lot of the nursery furniture. Oh, and I ready one parenting book!

And we've spent plenty of time talking to our little girl - I am pretty sure she thinks we are weird, but she is stuck with us!  I daily announce that I wish she was already here - but that is a lie. I would like a little more time to prep and a little more time to enjoy having her daddy all to myself! Plus we want her to arrive when she is healthy and plump!

And here is what AD and I have been looking like recently.  Unfortunately, she refuses to give me a cute "out in front" bump which is sad :(  I thought my longer waist would be an asset in pregnancy, keeping her from having to wrap around me like babies do a short waisted mommies.  But, nope, just because she has plenty of space doesn't stop her from laying side to side and making me look wide! She LOVES spreading out!

Here are some extra pics of Little Miss on weeks 21-23. (See 24 week bump pic above)  She is starting to really make her presence known!

21 weeks

22 weeks

23 weeks

How Far Along: 

24 weeks (6 months) as of this past weekend 

 Baby Size:
At 24 weeks, baby is the size of a 12.5 inch ear of corn and weighs 1.3 pounds. (1.3 pound gain for baby, 13 pound gain for mommy - seems fair)

Maternity Clothes:

Yes - basically all my clothes (except for a few loose shirts, sweats and tights, why buy maternity tights when I can just buy a size bigger?)

Also, this past week I did some online shopping for a maternity formal dress to wear as a bridesmaid next month. I am ordering 3 and trying them on - surely one will work. The dresses are all lovely (maternity clothing has come a long way from when my mom was pregnant with me...) but even so, let me tell you, your choices for gold sparkly maternity formalwear are limited.  Apparently not many 30 week pregnant ladies walk around in gold sequins...which makes no sense to me.  I am creating life here so I, of all people, should be allowed to wear sequins :)


Not sleeping well, feeling some aches and pains when I wake up in the morning. BUT I ordered a maternity pillow this weekend which I am unrealistically expecting to change my world!! We have a double bed so imagine Dave, me, my belly and a large pillow in the bed at 9 months preggo.  This will be fun - thank goodness for a guest bed!


Movement, yes- and  I've felt a few kicks, although not externally yet so Dave can't feel them.  (a) according to the doc, the way the baby and other pregnancy essentials are tucked into my body make it harder to feel her kick and (b) I think that so far, she is more of a squirmer than a kicker....

Best Moments of the Past 24 weeks:

Finally realizing that I was feeling kicks!   Buying nursery furniture! Reaching Viability!

Food Cravings:

Sweets.  Trying not to give into this too much, but I mean, Halloween.....

Food Aversions:

Still not a huge fan of eggs/some meats/ some spices - although I can eat a whole lot more!

What I Miss:

Wine and sushi.

What I Am Looking Forward To:

Decorating the nursery! We are starting to put up furniture - but decorating will be so much fun!


Reaching viability! Now, if Anne Douglas were to arrive early, she would have more chance of surviving than not making it.  Clearly, she would still have tons of complications and we don't want her to arrive yet, but it is comforting to know we have reached the week where life is now a real option!

Putting up baby girl's crib!

Pregnancy Symptoms:

 Weight gain, aches and pains, acne (they say girls steal their mom's beauty....clearly, that was not true for my mom :) but it seems to be true for me!), itchy skin, hungry and hard time sleeping


A sweet baby GIRL!!! 

For the record, Annie D LOVES to keep showing us that she is indeed, still a girl at appointments! Ha, we love to be reassured as we have already started planning for a daughter - BUT still, a modesty talk needs to happen.... At 20 weeks, she refused to show us all of her vital organs (we had to return for another ultrasound at 22 weeks) - yet she made sure she flashed us! (and then flashed us again at 22 weeks!) We get it, AD, you are a girl and we are so thrilled - now, cross your legs please!

Weight Gain:

Between 12 and 13 pounds this morning.  I feel like I am about to gain several pounds though - as I think baby girl is hitting another growth spurt. Starting this weekend, I feel like I could eat everything in my kitchen and in yours!

I will update on baby girl again in 4 weeks - at which time she will have experienced her first Thanksgiving AND have entered her third trimester!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

October Book Reviews

Happy Fall Y'all - or if you live on the east coast right now, happy 70 degree days! We have been enjoying a warm front, highest November temps in years!  This doesn't go along with pumpkins and scarves and boot weather - but no complaints from this southern gal.  I fear winter weather so I will be grateful for any remaining "hot" days we have left.  Plus, the cool air is returning this weekend - just in time for holiday season to start!

I have been diving into some great books so far this fall, so here are a few reviews. As you may remember, my goal was to read 6 books during October and November and I so far, I have read 4 books and have started a few others.

Book: The Sh*t No One Tells You: a Guide to Surviving your Baby's First Year by Dawn Dais
Rating: 3 stars

I thought that this would be the best parenting book to start off with - it's funny, full of jokes, introducing me to some of the stresses of motherhood without overwhelming me.  But, honestly, the book was just okay.  It made me laugh at first, but by the end, it wasn't that funny.  The joke remained the same throughout the book - kids are demanding little boogers who wear you out.  True - and this story line can give you a good laugh- but by the end, the joke was old.  Also, although she did offer encouragement throughout the book - apparently, kids are quite adorable and loving too which makes up for being up all night and having blowout diapers and stealing your memory and ability to form complete sentences - but the level of joking and complaining without too much advice had me scared!  I know some of the other "more serious" baby books - on sleep and eating schedules, etc might stress me out - but I think I feel less anxious about life changes when I go in with a plan.  The book wasn't bad - just not right for me at this moment.  I think if I were to read this when Anne Douglas is 3 months old, I will probably relate and have my own war stories.  What I did really like about the book - the company.  A lot of moms weighed in on their own experiences - and it seems that everyone feels overwhelmed during that first year or two - so when I start to stress, at least I know I am normal!

The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly
Rating: 5 stars

I loved this book.  I kept debating between 4.5 and 5 stars.  In the end, I caved on 5 even though I know it likely won't be on your top 5-10 books of all time list. But, for me, an avid Little Women fan, I adored it.  The premise is that these 3 sisters are Jo's great grandchildren - and one of the sisters finds her letters in the attic and slowly gets to know her off beat, opinionated but lovable aunt.  You can see how each of the sister favors one of the 3 living March sisters - Jo, Meg and Amy - and I fell in love with this sweet family (past and present).  As a young girl, when I first read Little Women, I so related to Jo and felt like I discovered a piece of myself in her.  (I guess that makes my other two sisters Meg and Amy which actually the descriptions fit them fairly well ) So watching how the main character in The Little Women Letters discovered her unique Aunt - and a bit of herself- made me relate to Jo all over again.

Prayer by Tim Keller
Rating: 4.5 stars

This has been our small group book this fall - and I have loved it. It's pretty intense - and doesn't read like an easy flow encouraging devo, but more like a textbook. Tim Keller shares a few of his own views - but mostly summarizes and lays out what centuries of theologians have said about Prayer. It is a practical book - laying out formats and plans to improve your prayer life.  It is a book I will need to go through again, pulling out tips on meditation and the structure of prayer, trying out different formats in my prayer life.  There is a lot to take in, and I know that I probably missed some during my first read!  Even so, I already feel that this wise teaching has improved my prayer life.

This book is not an easy read and it's definitely not a "read in one day" type of book, but it is worthwhile and will help you understand the purpose of prayer and ways to properly pray.

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker
Rating: 3 stars

I mostly liked this book. Jen is real and easy to relate to and has you laughing and saying AMEN at the same time.  Also, I feel like her religious and social views are a lot like mine - conservative in certain areas, but a bit more moderate. She realizes that some of the things we equate with Christianity in our upper middle class white world just isn't true of the Gospel.

My one gripe - was her chapter on difficult people.  She classifies difficult people into two categories - those you can cut out of your life (friends, acquaintances, etc) and those whom you are stuck with so you draw boundaries (relatives).  I am 100 percent in support of drawing boundaries and limiting contact with those who are too critical, emotionally manipulative, etc.  We have to protect ourselves so that we can properly take care of ourselves and our other relationships. However, I do not believe we are excused from loving and befriending difficult people.  In fact, I think that Christians should be those reaching out to those that are hard to love!  In fact, in later chapters, Jen talks about loving the prickly outsiders at church! So, it seems that even in her life she takes on a few "broken toys" (as my dad calls them).  When I look at my own life, I have mutual giving friendships AND friendships where I have to draw boundaries (either literally or personally) and where I won't ever get back as much as I put in.  I hope that Christ can help me show HIS love to these difficult people.  And, in all honesty, I am sure I have been the difficult friend before (or I will be in the future).  So my take on her advice - draw some boundaries and don't surround yourself with only difficult people (and definitely don't let people abuse you all the time...) but keep showing God's kindness to those who need it the most.  We are all difficult people and God chose to love us when we were unlovable - doing that to hard people in our lives will hopefully reveal the same truth to them: God loves them, despite the mess and hardness and unkind personalities!

The second part of this chapter talked about loving difficult people you can't get away from - ie, family.  And I actually agreed with most of her advice here but I cringed when she used one of her children as an example.  (note, not saying at times, all of my children are difficult and here is how I draw boundaries).  That poor sweet child - being singled out as the "difficult one" in the family.  At some point, he or she will read this book and realize that mom was talking about him.  Also, family and friends will read this book and be able to single out which child is the "hard one."  I just don't think it's fair to negatively portray your child like that to the world.  It's one thing to complain to friends and family about the terrible twos or whine about the troubled teen years, but let's be good advocates of our kids.  I want my daughter to feel safe in knowing mom isn't sharing all her mistakes and dirty secrets to the world via a blog or book or whatever. (This is a topic I am starting to think about as I enter motherhood - just like I don't air out all my dirty laundry with Dave on this blog - you know, despite his picky eating haha - I don't want to talk too poorly about my kids as they age too. That's not fair to them)

And what counts as the difficult kid? The reality is that this child of Jen's may be the difficult one today and in five years, it may be a different kid.  That's family - we are all difficult at times. But, oh how my heart hurt for this little child - it's horrible to feel like you are the "hard kid" in your family - especially when your mom made it clear earlier in the chapter that you should cut loose "difficult people" unless they are unavoidable family members.  Maybe I am super emotional (thank you pregnancy) or maybe I relate because at times I felt like I was seen as the "difficult child" (although thankfully my parents did not publish that fact in a book) but what a burden for that child to be known as and treated as "the difficult kid in the family."

That being said, the rest of the book was entertaining and enjoyable - so don't let my opinion stop you from reading it! However, let me know what you think on the "difficult people" chapter.

Here are the remaining books to choose from.  I wonder which book I will choose next!
  1. The Sh*t No One Tells You: a Guide to Surviving your Baby's First Year by Dawn Dais
  2. Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman
  3. Trim Health Mama by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison
  4. His Needs, Her Needs for Parents by Willard F. Harley, Jr.
  5. some type of baby sleep book
  6. The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly
  7. A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable
  8. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  9. China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
  10. The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion
  11. Nice is Just a Place in France by the Betches
  12. Prayer by Tim Keller
  13. For the Love by Jen Hatmaker