The Book that is Keeping Me Sane for Move Number 7 (review of The Nesting Place)

What am I up to over the next week?

Oh not much, just two birthday parties (both Noelle) two graduations (Noelle from preschool, Kel from Seminary) and closing on a house.

This is on top of the church plant, the pregnancy and the normal details of our life.

So honestly, I’m feeling overwhelmed with details. All these beautiful, gorgeous, fun details that I want to give intentional thought to, but lack the time… or energy.

I’m feeling strapped, by both cash and time.

I want to invest a bit of both in our new home but if you review the details above it’s pretty obvious that I am limited across the board. Andplusalso did I mention I’m still in the final stages of my first trimester with baby 3?

Normally I would feel stressed to the point of tear-filled anxiety over all of this, but I’m trying a new approach, some of which comes from this book and its gorgeous tagline:

“It doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful.”

If you’ve spent much time over at The Nester‘s Blog this phrase isn’t new.

But when it’s implemented? When the seeds of it take root in your thought life? It’s revolutionary, at least it has been to this Idealist.

Kel and I have been married for eight years and this will be our seventh move. Seventh guys. Seriously, I want to feel settled.

We started in an apartment complex here in Grand Rapids, which I painted some of the worst colors imaginable.

Then we moved to a cinder block apartment in a partially condemned building at Seminary.

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drinking completely contraband wine in seminary. SUCH a bad girl.

That was depressing my soul so we moved half a block a sweet little yellow duplex, my favorite place that we lived before kids.

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Second anniversary, who needs shoes?

Six months later Kel was offered a job in Oklahoma so we loaded a truck and moved across the country where we moved into a rental that had a few bugs (literally)  oh AND a pull out stovetop.

I was newly pregnant and need to nest so we purchased new construction home and finished it ourselves, meaning we told the builders how we wanted it finished. We loved it, brought both our babies through those doors and left with bittersweet feelings to move back home.

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Back in Michigan we moved into a rental ranch in a fantastic neighborhood that has been an absolute gift to our family, but where we never really settled in.

One year later we are moving to a lovely two story in North East Grand Rapids which we affectionally refer to as “Our Grandma House” because it’s still decorated with floral wallpaper and pink carpeting.

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gorgeous new house preview!

More on this house later, I think I’m going to take a foray into home decor blogging now and again. It’s going to be fun, but like I said there is much to do, to think about and to be overwhelmed by.

So, with all this going on, I bought this book, on a whim at Barnes and Noble with $20 (It’s MUCH cheaper on Amazon) I really should have saved for paint or curtains or milk.

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My well loved, already slightly dogged eared in two weeks copy.

And I am here to tell you, it is the best purchase I have made in months. I couldn’t put it down or help myself from bringing it on play dates to show all my friends. 

The Nesting Place by “The Nester” IE Myquillin Smith, has infused grace and patience in my thought life as I approach this new home.

As she told her story of their thirteen moves and that all too familiar feeling of “The next house is the one I will really love and work on” I found myself amen-ing, tearing up and reading paragraphs out lous to Kel.

This book spoke to my soul.

If I pick out the wrong paint colors (uh, been there!) it will be okay. Why?
Because “Sometimes you have to make something imperfect before you can make it beautiful.” ~ The Nesting Place

My throw pillows are as flat as pancakes and this should make me glad. Why? Because it’s a sign that people have found comfort there, time and time again.

There is so much lovely imperfection that we find ourselves embarrassed by or apologizing for when in reality our homes are places of love that should be a refuge for those who live there and those who stop by.

I haven’t always been great at this, I get easily discouraged by our home budget, frustrated by the stray legos in the corner and crabby at my husband for always sitting on the couch in such a way that makes the cushions look weird and smooshy.

In reality, this is the place where the bulk of our life will play out and if I want a life infused with grace and peace, it starts with me. It starts at home.

This book is speaking to our my soul about our move
This book is teaching me to be a more understanding mom and a more gracious wife.
This book was a gift, a total splurge that panned out and was worth more than I spent.

It has a story that many will resonate with, grace that everyone needs and practical tips will prove  invaluable as we nest into our new home.

You’ll love it, I’d loan it to you but, I need it, I refer to it, I love it.

And I don’t want to give away the ending, but she shares a lesson about a celebrity death that struck her deeply and taught her a life lesson. This is uncanny because the same thing happened to me, same celebrity, very similar lesson.

This and basically every third sentence in the book caused me to adore Myqullin, her style and her grace-filled perspective on life, faith and home. I will be a regular visitor to her blog and a regular purchaser of this book for weddings, showers and housewarming gifts.

What is the one thing that is holding you back from nesting in your current place? 

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Here is this story (A When we Were on Fire Synchroblog post)

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I grew up really White and Christian Reformed, I’m not saying this was a bad thing or that I hold disdain for my upbringing.  I just… did.

I went to the Christian Middle School and then the “practically Christian” Public High School.  I didn’t spend a lot of time challenging anything I was told in church or bible study, I just accepted it all as true and went on my merry way.

Then, at age 18, something snapped for me, As is often does when we’re baby adults… we begin to rail against what our parents taught us in an angsty journey to find our own “thing.”

For me it was leaving the denomination of my birth in favor of the very large, somewhat controversial, non-denominational church the next town over.

And then… getting baptized as an adult.  Which sounds like nothing really, but you have to understand that I’d grown up Reformed, where infant baptism was a really big deal.

I was sure that my family would be livid over my choice to proclaim my faith in this way.

But, I was sure that I had found the church, the way, the method, the only real place where faith was to be found.

I couldn’t understand why my other friends were persisting in their attendance at their respective churches when clearly I’d stumbled on the only way to do church.

I’d drank the kool-aid of independence and was using it as a weapon, not realizing that in my step of independence I still hadn’t realized that there was more than one way to do church.

I was so post-modern
so non-denominational
full of tirades and using my “label-free” faith in the most ironic way possible.

I know, I know… I want to go back and smack me too.  

So I got baptized in the church, as an adult, expecting that everyone would be so upset about it.

And no one was. Not really. My parents and grandparents came and it was overall a very real and Christ-soaked experience.

In spite of my angsty attitude, God showed up, redeeming my humanity with his holiness, thank goodness.

Fast forward to Thanksgiving that year, when we gathered around the Thanksgiving tables to enjoy turkey and jello “salads.”

Somehow it came up, one of my Aunts threw it out there: “So, we hear you were baptized in September?”

Here we go, I thought…  here is the moment where I have to stand up and fight for what I believe in, to fight.

“So why weren’t we invited?” She said.

My jaw dropped.  I was speechless for what felt like forever.  There was no gauntlet thrown.

“I guess I didn’t give you guys enough credit, I didn’t think you’d want to come.”

This was the only thing I could stammer out in the moment.

“You’re right, we really wanted to celebrate that with you, we’re thrilled at the new faith steps you’re taking.”

And I think that moment was when I realized it:  There is more than one way to be “on fire.”  It’s not Reformed OR Non-Denominational OR Catholic OR Methodist OR …. whatever.

For the most part… it’s AND.

You AND me.  Your Denomination AND mine.

There is more than one way to be on fire, and when you find yourself flaming, look out… you’re likely headed for a burn out.

Faith is found in the fire, but it’s sustained in the embers, the small, daily worship of faithful living and thankful prayers.

If you think you’ve figured it all out, that you have it all right, that you’ve found the one-way…. please remember how human you are and always will be.

The vastness of Creation echos the hugeness of a God we will never fully figure out this side of heaven…. This is the most freeing thing I can possibly say about faith and fire.

There is beauty in the vastness of his people, in the varieties Christian religious practices…. there is heritage in the name on the sign.

I couldn’t sustain the angry fires of post-modernism for long, I now live in the embers of faith and appreciation for a God who is huge enough to encompass our differences and call them “Tov Meod.”

So very good.

You guys, today I am linking up with a bunch of other bloggers, all of whom are excited to help my dear friend Addie Zierman, celebrate the release of her memoir: “Where we were on Fire.”

So go buy this book, do it now, use this link, no excuses!  “It’s a story for doubters, cynics, and anyone who has felt alone in church.”

I love Addie, I love this book, I’d like to hook the two of you up in this way.

Why I read Candy Fiction (that really isn’t in the end)

I’m quite loyal to my friends so when they host a link-up or a carnival, I do my best to get involved.

So when my dear friend Anne introduced her “The best book you’ve never heard of carnival” I wanted to hop on board.

It was then that I had to face the fact that I am the sort of reader who jumps on board with what everyone else is reading…. when it’s already popular.

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My bedside stack isn’t shocking or obscure in the slightest.

This is something I’d like to change, but haven’t yet.

 

So… I’m fudging it a little today because I’m not too sure that my “little known” book is all that “little known.”  However, I did text Modern Mrs Darcy herself who had never heard of either the book or the author so I’m using that as my street cred to proceed.  

I can honestly say that few of my friends have heard of or read this book.  

I grew up as an avid reader but took a really long (and sad) break in twenties.  Reading was a good habit that I fell out of and am now marching my way back into.

My cousin Katie was a big part of my journey back to reading simply because she gave me a huge stack of books one Christmas after we chatted about how I missed reading.

This pile contained a lot of Anita Shreve (her favorite), Sophie Kinsella and Marian Keyes.

I started my way through them, although I must confess I never really gave Sophie Kinsella a try after seeing the movie “confessions of a shopaholic.”  Maybe I’m missing out, tons of women love her, am I ?

These books were definitely what you would consider women’s fiction, which is a genre that some serious readers look down on.

But I need them sometimes and here’s why:  My life is too serious sometimes and I need a book that is an escape from my problems.  I need a book that sucks me in with it’s characters and their drama causing me to either:

A) forget my own  OR
B) realize that my own aren’t all that bad after all.   Continue reading

Cooking my way through Bread and Wine (A review of Shauna Niequist’s new book)

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goat cheese scrambled eggs and potato pancakes in bed, ala Kel.

Shauna Niequist will always be one of my favorite authors. Her authentic style of essay/memoir blend played a big part in my development as a writer.

She will always be a gracious and unwitting big sister to me in the writing world, I like to pretend she dosn’t mind.

I got to meet her last fall at the STORY conference and I was such a spaz.  I nervously gushed all over her just after meeting Anne Lammott, It’s a wonder I didn’t pass out completely.  I said and did all the typical things ones says and does when meet a personal hero.  But Shauna was gracious about my fan-spasm and eventually my knees recovered from the Anne/Shauna experience.

So when I got the opportunity to receive an advance copy of Shauna’s new book Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes , I jumped at the opportunity.  When it came I skipped from the mailbox to the couch and began to slowly digest every word.

As I moved through the chapters I added the recipes to our menu plan, one by one. They seemed to fit organically into our life, until one day I counted and I’d inadvertently cooked my way through half the book.

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winter white bean soup, bacon wrapped dates and Nigellas brownies with cream cheese icing for St Patrick’s day.

At that point I decided to keep going, and to cook my way through the entire book, Julie and Julia style (with the exception of 4 recipes, most of which used wheat flour and wouldn’t work well for our GF family)

Why did I decide to do this?  I’m not sure exactly, it seemed like a fun goal and a great way to try new recipes.

Or perhaps I needed something to focus on other than all the unknowns of our impending move.

Or maybe somewhere inside I realized that my cooking rhythm had become rote and monotonous and I needed the creative new life held in these recipes. Continue reading

What I’m into (This January Edition)

me heart Well would you look at that?  January is coming to a close and my friend Leigh Kramer is calling for a another “What I’m into” linkup.  Let’s check in, shall we?

As you can see on the left there, I really like my new denim shirt.  I was so skeptical about this trend coming back because for a while they were so tacky. Yet,  I’m consistently reassured that I don’t look like a goober when I wear it.

 

Month in [Super Brief] Review:  

On the 6th I turned 31 and then 4 days later Caedmon turned 2.  Then the rest of the month was spent in doctor’s offices or hospitals.  That’s pretty much our January, birthdays and hospital visits (or recovering from them)

In between all that nonsense, I’ve been taking a hard look at what works for us around here and what doesn’t.  As I figure that out I’ll be making changes accordingly.  It’s all about systems for me and figuring out that discipline really does set you free in the end.

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Best Moments of the Month: 

Every time Noelle sings “Soft Kitty” (Big Bang Theory Style) to the cat I laugh and feel like a friggin awesome mom.

And then there was the time time when Caedmon almost vacuumed Noelle up.

And one of my favorite nights of January was my very belated birthday night-out with the amazing Joely O and Hannah H, complete with conspiracy theories, cake balls and fondue.  You just can’t top that people.

Also, Kel is teaching Caedmon to vacuum the carpet, I raise good boys

PicMonkey Collageq3 Great Reads & Word Discoveries 

This Month I finished two Novels (you will see these numbers go up throughout year):

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty which was a light, fun read that made me really appreciate my marriage.  Although I don’t think you have to be married to enjoy it.

The Tiger’s Wife (nearly done!) by Téa Obrecht: This is a somewhat gray and mysterious read which incorporates an somewhat complex plot line with several rich and ever developing story lines.  Overall a good read, unless something changes in the last 30 pages.  Which it very well could… then I will change this review.

In the Non-Fiction world I read Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood (Fay) and it gave me instant tools for my parenting toolbox…. In fact I’ll be blogging about this more.   I recommend this one if you have kids under the age of six, I am loving the concepts of Love and Logic parenting.

On the TV Screen

I started the New Year by watching the Christmas Special of Downton Abbey, Bad IDEA! I almost needed to call a therapist but…  I still don’t want to talk about it.  I’m going to need to be held when the next season starts.  I’m so invested.

Finally caught up on How I Met Your Mother, and was blown away by “The Robin” play. Go Barney Go!  Although, if that one doesn’t go all the way I’m gonna be mad.  And when, Oh Lord, when will meet Ted’s wife?  (this toe tap is directed at you CBS)

Also been watching Once Upon a Time (old news, but I want Pinocchio back!) and I have started watching Call the Midwife (starting slow, but over good)

Favorite Bites

So you guys, we’ve started eating Paleo over the past few months and the fare coming out of out kitchen looks so different these days.

This all started with Noelle’s need to go gluten and dye free and then progressed with of help from google and my dear sweet friend Anne Bogel.  Now we don’t really eat grains anymore (with the exception of the occasional corn tortilla) which sounds crazy but it seems to be the right choice for us.

photo copy 9 My favorite recipes this month have been: This Beef Stew (with wine instead of beef) and bacon wrapped dates.  Also I invented the most delicious walnut date dip / spread in the world and started a riot at our lifegroup.

This month cannot be concluded without telling you about the best snack in the world:  Take a Banana, Smear it in almond or peanut butter and sprinkle it with coconut…sit down and eat it slowly… it will be gone before you want it to, I promise.

On my Crochet hook

This month I’ve been making tiny hats for little baby heads.  Seriously I get giddy over covering up those fuzzy newborn heads.  If you don’t believe me, have a baby, I’ll probably send you a hat.  (although this is NOT a good enough reason to have a baby)

I also worked on some rag rugs and infinity scarves.  I love the zen time of the day when I’m watching TV and yarn-ing.  They’re my peanut butter and bananas.

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On the Blog

I started out the month writing about my word for the year which is Faith, this has already been making an impact on my soul and we’re only a month in.

I spent a week having virtual coffee dates with students from my Alma Mater, Kuyper College. It was ridiculously humbling and excited to read their questions and suss through them in my heart.

The most popular mosts of the month (in case you missed out) were

Will you Pray? (8 things I’ve learned to ask for when asked to pray) and

Caedmon’s Surgery or God be with the mommas at the Children’s Hospital

Random Lovin

photo copy 8 My husband Kel and I collaborated on this new end table for our living room, which is constructed from an old cupboard door and 4 antique banisters.

Don’t worry I made sure to sand and lacquer it to seal in the lead paint.  But, if you come over, don’t gnaw on it!

This is now my favorite corner of the house.  We are plotting a ridiculously large ottoman this month, prepare yourself.

Also, I’m loving loose leaf Rooibos tea, seriously I’m doing a least two mugs a day right now.

I’ve started listening to Florence and the Machine and whenever I catch myself singing “Shake it out” Caedmon runs over and helps me, Cut it out that kid is adorable.

So now it’s your turn, what are you loving?  What are you into?  This blog thing is a give and take people, speak up.  

The Big Sis I wished I’d had – Review and Giveaway of Stress Point

Today I’m beyond geeked to introduce you to my dear friend Sarah Francis Martin and her brand new book “Stress Point: Thriving Through Your Twenties In A Decade Of Drama.”  

Sarah is my big sister in the book writing world.  She’d an absolute Godsend to me as I stumble upon all the questions and insecurities that come up in the writing process.

Sarah exudes a friendly, big sister quality and it is her core passion to use this approach to encourage women in their twenties to live our God’s call in their lives.

My twenties were a tough decade that I wasn’t too sad to leave behind.  I got dumped over email, went through tragic family struggles, fumbled my budget, moved into my first ghetto apartment and landed my first big girl job.  None of us can deny that our twenties are a crazy ride and the more Godly guidance we have in our lives, the better.

I read through this book with a pencil and a highlighter, responding with  an “uh-huh” or “amen” as I highlighted sentence after sentence.  Every gal in their tumultuous twenties needs a woman like Sarah to sit down with them over a caramel latte and share life, drama and God’s truth.  In Stress Point Sarah gives each reader that coffee shop, big sister experience.

In Stress Point you will:

Find interactive chapters covering ten stress points for the 20-something woman

Dig through Scripture to apply truth to each stress point

Engage with real, raw, and relevant stories from girlfriends just like you

Journal through each chapter to engage with God in a meaningful way

Interact with Sarah through her video blogs for each chapter

Connect with your girlfriends in a Stress Point Survival Group; leader guide included

I’m thrilled to be giving away a brand new copy of Stress Point over the weekend!

I would love to see this book in the hands of every gal in their twenties, so if that’s you be SURE you enter to win.  If you’re past this decade of drama, I’m sure that you have a twenty-something on your heart whom you’d love to give this book to.

To win, leave a comment or question about your twenties and you will be entered to win!

The giveaway will run through midnight CST on June 25 and I  will contact the winner on Tuesday morning, June 26.

If you’re already sold, go ahead and buy the book here  it is available in both paper and digital formats.

While you’re at it go ahead and keep up with Sarah on twitter or Facebook for more on her spirit led ministry to the twenty-something generation.

The Muir House- A book Review

Today I’m crazy excited to be able to participate in an online book tour of Mary DeMuth’s newest novel, The Muir House.  For more information on the tour, go here.

The Muir House by Mary DeMuth centers around main character, Willa, whose attempt at new life as a hipster in Seattle is foiled by a past in Texas she cannot escape and is forced to return to.  She is haunted by half-memories and gaps in her history, and her thought life is consumed by piecing together the events of her past.  A large part of her baggage revolves around the death of her father and a fractured and unhealthy relationship with her mother, who is now in the end stages of Alzheimer’s disease and incapable of giving her the answers she so badly longs to find.

Her time sifting through her past in her hometown of Rockwell, Texas is further complicated when she finds herself caught in-between moving into a new life with her quasi-fiancee, Hale and being strongly pursued by her controlling high-school sweetheart, Blake.  As the book unfolds, Willa must make a choice to stop obsessing over her past, leaving it behind to step into a more whole and hopeful future which she can feel God calling her into.

I love a book that hooks you with unanswered questions and Willa’s mysterious past unravels just enough through each chapter to keep you wanting more.  Also, Mary DeMuth does a pretty decent job of giving her characters depth and although at first glance they may seem one dimensional, as the book goes on you realize that they have as much depth as anyone you might know in your real life.

As I turned that pages of this book I found myself connecting and identifying with Willa.  For one, she has questions about her past that cannot be answered by the parents that shaped her life.  I feel her pain in that problem, because from parenting decisions, to holiday traditions to family recipe questions, I long to go to my parents for answers but they have both died and I feel and grieve that void.  Another connection point for me comes  through Willa’s need to make a conscious decision not to allow her past to define her future.  From personal experience I can say that allowing God to carry you into a beautiful future in spite of a painful past is a learned behavior, which involves a series of positive choices much more so than one single choice.  This book does a great job at using narrative to encourage the reader to consider forgiveness, reconciliation and ditching baggage in light of the freedom offered to us in our Big God’s open hands.

If you are interested in checking out this book and are willing to bring me chocolate cupcakes you are more than welcome to borrow my copy, just don’t mind the highlighting and note taking in the margins.  If you’re not a baker or don’t live in the Ada, OK area grab yourself a copy by stopping by one of my favorite e-retailers, amazon.  And hey, Christmas is coming way too soon, so pick up a few copies and check some folks off your list.  I’m getting a copy for my Mother in Law, I bet your Mother in Law might like it too.

Check out this great read, and thanks for checking out my first book review, I’m thinking of making it a monthly deal and perhaps even throwing in a giveaway or two.