Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tuesday's Top Ten [Date Ideas]

As a wedding present I dug deep into our little community for date ideas, picked my favorite and gave one date a month for an entire year. I was excited by what I found and thought I would share my top ten favorite ideas. Perhaps one of this might strike your fancy this upcoming Valentine's Day or you could create 12 dates for you and your spouse as a gift for Valentine’s Day!

  1. During the month of December, grab a hot drink of choice and complete a holiday light scavenger hunt. Some ideas for the scavenger hunt were more obvious, like a nativity scene or snowman, but some required more hunting like giant ornaments or a twinkling wreath (if you simply Google “Christmas light scavenger hunt” you will find lots and lots and lots of ideas). To end the night, go to a thrift store or dollar store with $5 in hand and pick a gift for your spouse. The more creative the better! If you like this idea and want to do something similar for Valentine’s Day, do a scavenger hunt to see how many homes still have their Christmas lights up! I wonder how many you will find? You could still end the night with a gift! This might be a better date for those couples who do not enjoy the crowds of people in a restaurant.
  2. My husband and I love hiking together. We love the exercise, the gorgeous views, the picture opportunities, the conversation… it is one of our favorite activities together. During the winter months we enjoy snowshoeing. When I saw that the state of Nebraska has an entire week dedicated to wildflowers and that our little town does wildflower hikes through local ranch property, I was super excited. Grab a camera, sport those lovely hiking shoes, grab your spouse’s hand and enjoy a few hours of God’s beautiful creation. Even the flatlands of the Oklahoma Panhandle can offer beauty as you walk through a field admiring the panorama sunset. God made everything, find the beauty in it no matter where you are.
  3. A group date that wildly appealed to me was a paintball war. It is a bit on the pricey side, but sometimes the memories and the laughter far outweigh the money spent.
  4. Another pricey event that I thought would be wonderful is attending an orchestra performance (or any musical event for that matter). And if our small town of 2,500 people has a community concert association that brings in some pretty fantastic artists, then I have no doubt with a little searching you could find the same. It may not be a string orchestra, but I thoroughly enjoyed the folk band we watched the last time we went, so much so we did not leave without a few of their c.d.’s. Call me a nerd for being part of the concert bands from 5th grade on up to a junior in college, but as a result, music speaks to my soul. So dressing up and enjoying the beauty of music with my hubby sounds like a delightful way to spend an evening.
  5. Choose a sporting event where you draw sticks to determine which team you are going to cheer on, dressing to the occasion. We love sports, but know very little about hockey, so the semi-pro team 45 minutes away would be a perfect place to try this date! Before the game agree upon what the loser must do.
  6. Try geocaching. The idea of going on a treasure hunt appeals to me on so many levels!
  7. Dance lessons. Oh man, I have two left feet and my poor husband is an excellent dancer. I would LOVE to learn how to ballroom dance, or even swing dance, and look elegant alongside my better half.
  8. Visit a museum. Every community has history and I have never, ever found it boring. Plus Kyle and I have the most wonderful conversations as we read stories and learn about people and events from long ago.
  9. Go to a bookstore with a coffee in hand, completing a book scavenger hunt and also leaving a note in the pages of a future reader. Walk away with a book picked by your spouse as one he/she thought you would enjoy. Or pick a book to read together. Either way, you will have so much to talk about.
  10. “Sleep” under the stars one summer night (or if you are brave, a night in February, it would require more cuddling up, haha). My husband has a truck and we have some friends who own a ranch with a perfect spot to park, set up camp in the back of his truck and enjoy a night under the stars. I would like to plan this one on a night when a meteor shower is expected. Pack some wine, snacks, a blow up mattress, sleeping bags, flashlights, and enjoy a night outdoors, under the stars. And this is the only night I would encourage technology. Bring your smart phone with the star constellation map app already downloaded. Doesn’t this sound like a night full of wonderful possibilities? If you agree, find a way to make it happen!

Plus one: Enjoy an afternoon at a shooting range! My husband loves hunting and guns and I enjoy letting him teach me about something he enjoys. I also know someone who owns all the stuff required to go skeet shooting, I found I was pretty good at that and had a blast!

When I was planning 12 dates, I searched locally for events and activities to support the people who work hard to make their community a fun-filled, enjoyable place to live. I was super surprised at what I found. Don't limit your possibilities just because of your location. Start with your chamber office or city website and go from there. In the process of creating memories with your spouse, you’ll find new friends and learn a great deal about where you live in the process.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tuesday's Top Ten [Romance Novels Worth Reading]

I debated for so long on what to do with my blog. I want to keep writing, but my schedule is insanely busy. As I hashed out my schedule I began to realize how much time I wasted doing things that do not matter (i.e. scrolling through Facebook). I knew that I needed to get back to doing something that I enjoy, but is not a brainless activity, (like scrolling through Facebook). I've made reading and writing a priority during those rare down times of my daily life and I have forgotten how much I enjoy it! It's like working out, if I don't simply suck it up and do it I'll never get anywhere and then I forget how good it feels when my body is no longer stagnant. Apply the same concept to my brain. I was fueling it with status updates, which of course sounds absolutely ridiculous, but that's how I spent my time when the girls were in bed and everything I needed done for the day was done. That's just silly! I may not have a top ten every Tuesday, but I'm not going to waste 20 minutes of my time on Facebook. Since putting reading back into my life my brain is suddenly swarming with ideas again. (Amazing isn't it?!)

With that said, a top ten inspired by some recent reading and some old favorites...

Let's be honest, I'm a romantic. Stories about how two people fell in love, and then their decisions as they faced conflict together, get me. I'm a sucker for words: poetry, love letters, secret whispers. I love books, so it should be no surprise to my husband that the best way to woo me is through the beauty of words. They speak to my soul.

I truly believe my love for romancing comes from God Himself because He designed marriage to reveal the type of relationship we have in Christ; and my own is an amazing one. This mystery is one that is not easily understood and so I struggle with the words to explain it myself. But what Scripture states about a husband and a wife in comparison to Jesus and His bride give me goosebumps (Ephesians 5:22-33). So when I read stories about love I am reminded of how incredibly blessed I am to have the husband God has given me with my very own love story, and for God's steadfast, unfailing love despite my daily imperfections.

I do not read romance novels because I need an escape from my life, but because I find them encouraging and fun and thought-provoking. I also want to be careful with what type of love story I read because romance novels can be grotesque and painstakingly similar. In fact, I would argue that romance novels are to women what pornography is to men. So if it involves graphic sex scenes and unrealistic expectations (which can be deadly in any marriage) I will not read finish reading it. So these are recommended because they are unique, thought-provoking, encouraging and fun.

1. Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers is the very first book I would recommend to any woman. I cannot recommend this one enough. She wrote it to go along with the book of Hosea in the Bible, which illustrates God's perfect, steadfast love when Israel (His chosen people) failed Him time and time again. Michael represents Hosea and the main character, Angel, represents Israel. Angel's life is an extremely difficult one, with quite a past (that readers will find shocking, I will warn you that Francine Rivers does not shy away from details). She fails Michael time and time again, but he remains faithful and steady. The ending is not what you'd expect and will blow your socks off. I wish I could talk about it here without giving it away!

2. I also liked her book The Atonement Child which is about a broken relationship that brought about a love story worth reading. It is a heartbreaking book that will challenge your thoughts on abortion, adoption, and so much more. I encourage everyone to read this book and then follow it up with Francine River's testimony - the whole reason she wrote it - which is a HUGE reason why I enjoyed it so much. She wasn't just writing realistic fiction for the sake of writing it, her own experiences inspired this amazing story.

3. The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks is another favorite. Nicholas Spark books were always "meh" or "okay" until I read this one. I cannot say enough about this book and the surprises in it. It's about one of Noah and Allie daughter's from The Notebook who has been married 30 years, but her marriage is failing. It's told from the perspective of her husband who knows that he must win her heart or lose her. How he does it is phenomenal.

4. The Vow by Kim and Krickitt Carpenter is a non-fiction story told mainly from Kim's perspective. It's one of undying devotion in the face of tragedy. It's a bit dry because, well (let's be honest) it was written by a man, so it's unemotional, but the story will inspire you. Krickitt will inspire you. And the book is nothing like the movie. In fact, it's so different that I was disgusted with the movie and couldn't even finish it. I felt like Hollywood took too many liberties (weird, right?) and they kept God out of the story (another complete surprise), which was the central focus of Kim and Krickitt's life. However, Kim and Krickett see it from a different perspective: they took advantage of the opportunities the movie gave them to talk about how God worked in their life. I was, and still am, amazed by them and their devotion.

5. A Bride in the Bargain by Deeanne Gist was one I picked up recently because of the story plot. When I was a 10-12 year old girl the idea of being a mail order bride intrigued me. I devoured historical fiction stories revolving around this piece of history (don't ask me why). So when I found this one I picked it up as a chuckle; a reminder of those innocent days of wondering. I was genuinely surprised. It was an okay book until I hit page 231 where the main character is hit in the gut by my favorite passage in Scripture: Job 38. It's when God answers Job and reveals his greatness, His power, His sovereignty. The author beautifully articulates how Scripture changed her thinking from one of pride to one of awe. I was surprised to find deep theology in a romance! And this wasn't the only occasion. For that reason the author went up a few notches in my book. I am now interested in other books written by her.

6. Eve's Daughters by Lynn Austen is not the happily-ever-after love story of the year. In fact, it's heartbreaking. But it is so incredibly eye-opening and well written. It follows the lives of four women and how their choices affect family generations later. It tells the tale of one woman in particular  whose story will break your heart, but who has determined that her 50 year-old secrets should be told to her granddaughter in an effort to save her marriage.

7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen a classic, must-read. It might be a sin leaving this one out of any romance novel recommendations (for good reason).

8. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins who also wrote another trilogy I thought was better than The Hunger Games titled Gregor the Overlander. There is a teeny bit of a romance in the story but it's not the central focus, but it is just as dark as The Hunger Games, if not more. I bawled like a baby. Suzanne Collins is an expert on how war affects children. Her study on this particular topic is evident when you read her books and I recommend The Hunger Games not just because it's a story worth your time, but because you can see inside the brain of someone who has seen and done more than we can possibly imagine. It's heartbreakingly eye-opening and depressing, but is also full inspiration to persevere, with a bit of hope sprinkled on top. Plus there is an imperfect romance told throughout.

9. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes is an excellent book that I absolutely hated. Oxymoronic I know, but it made me angry, it made me sob, it addressed issues I never thought twice about until reading it, and it was a heartbreaking love story that did not end like I wanted it to. I was angered by how society treats people in wheelchairs. I was enlightened on the difficulties those individuals face daily. And I could not put it down. All of this was heartbreaking and frustrating. I applaud Jojo for writing about these things! I also applaud her for writing an amazing love story. It was full of hope, dedication, perseverance, and potential that was crushed by one selfish decision. I'll let you read it and make your own judgment call on assisted suicide, but I believe, even after reading about the struggles one faces day in and day out with a handicap, that suicide is the most self-centered decision one could make. Life sucks. It can be a mess. Full of trials and sickness and heartache. But it can also be beautiful and full of hope and learning and growing. I cannot even dare to say I understand the trials of living life as a quadriplegic. The inability to even wipe ones own "arse" would be humiliating. To be stuck. Immobile. With own one's memories about a life once lived, driving one mad. I have only my imagination to dredge up the horrors people face day in and day out. No one would choose to live that life, but it's only one life to live and it's not just about you. So read this book and have a good think on it, but make sure you have a box of tissues. The second book titled, After You is also excellent. I had a hard time deciding which I liked more! You rarely get the story after the story. I was so thankful that the author gave a glimpse into the life after losing Will and how she lived with her grief. I wouldn't recommend one without reading the other.

10. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows This one took me at least 30 pages to get into, but once I was able to differentiate between the characters and get past some of the literary references I knew nothing of, I could not put it down! There was so much depth to the story and the formatting was so different than anything I've ever read that I fell in love with the author's ability to tell a story through letter correspondence. Genius! This is one of those eye-opening, rip-your-heart-out books I'll always treasure, especially after reading the extra insight in the author's note (don't skip it).


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Mean Mom vs. Tough Love

Time and time again I see posts about being a mean mom, the mom whose children hate her, and then the mom justifying her actions. The truth of the matter is that I have no idea the situation, nor do I know her children or their actions, but I do know what the Bible states about being a mom and parent. For some reason the mean mom posts struck a cord with me and I want to challenge other mom's to continue giving tough love, but do so lovingly. Let me show you what I mean...

Titus 2:3-5
There are a few passages that I am going to spend time on, but let's start with Titus 2:3-5, where Paul, the author, is teaching Titus (through a letter) how to put a church in order. First is setting up qualified elders (1:5-16). Second is discipleship, where older men/women teach the younger generation. And finally he talks about the importance of good works and how to live a godly life (3:1-11). He advises this set-up for one reason: "... for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth...." The truth, the sound doctrine, he states in 2:11-14 and again in 3:4-7 which is a clear statement of the gospel (which I encourage you to read). He wants to make sure that the elders teach this truth and that it's taught in discipleship relationships, so that their faith is sound. And that their works reveal what they believe, all so that God is glorified and His Word is not reviled (2:5).

What does this have to do with being a mean mom? Quite a bit actually, our conduct as women reveals what we believe about God and His Word.
"Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled." (Titus 2:3-5) 
We are called to be women who love our husband and children. If we believe that God's way of living is the best and wisest way, then we are also called to be self-controlled and kind.

Kindness, Self-Control, Love
Synonyms for kind: affectionate, compassionate, courteous, gentle, thoughtful, understanding, helpful. The definition for kind is someone who has, or shows affectionate behavior, compassion, is courteous, gentle, thoughtful, understanding and helpful. It's also someone of good nature. It's not just who we are (noun) it describes what we are to be as well (adjective).

To be self-controlled is difficult because it requires that we are self-disciplined and that we have strength of character. That in moments of agitation and anger that we remain stable, unwavering, and maintain self-restraint in action.

To love someone is to put their needs before our own. Think of them before you think of yourself.

Do not waver from discipline.
We are also called to discipline. You can discipline in a loving way. In fact, discipline is love. "My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights." Proverbs 3:11-12 Discipline is painful! (Hebrews 12:7-11) God Himself disciplines us, but in the midst of discipline what do we learn? How do we grow? Does He ever, ever stop loving? Does His kindness ever end?

We need to do the same. Do not tolerate disobedience. Do not tolerate temper tantrums and back talk. Do not tolerate destructive behavior or lying or selfishness or rude behavior or whiny words. Give life-giving reproof (Proverbs 15:31). But do it lovingly. Discipline and then hold them, cry with them, tell them, if I did not discipline you I've stopped loving you because discipline makes you wise (Proverbs 17:28), it makes you a delight to others (Proverbs 10:1), it keeps you from sin, it saves your soul (Proverbs 23:14). 

Be like Susanna Wesley who raised some of the greatest theologians in history. She told her children that she cared about their health and their physical self, but she deeply loved their soul and that is what she spent her days nurturing. Nurture their soul. Point them to Christ. 

If you do not do so lovingly and with kindness and self-control, you are in danger of the following:
"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), "that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land." Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6:1-4
Verse 4 is specifically for Fathers, but I do believe we, as mothers, can take wisdom from it. Tread carefully, otherwise you will provoke your children to anger.

And they will hate you.

Finding the balance between tough love and mean mom is hard, but for the sake of your children you must prayerfully seek it.

My Own Sin
With all of that said, I can honestly say that is extremely difficult and I fail at it daily. If I let my anger get the best of me, I can easily become that mean mom. I have a tendency to be overly harsh and critical. I have to be careful not to yell, fume, scare, and throw my authority around in their face. When I fail in those areas I become so convicted, I'm sick. I beg God to kill this sin in me and ask my children for their forgiveness. It's in these moments I also tell them how thankful I am for Jesus and what He accomplished on the cross. I need Jesus as much as anyone!

We are all terrible mommy's, but don't justify being a mean mommy. Be a tough mommy. A mommy who does not waver. Who gives discipline. Who loves. Is kind. Self-Controlled. So as to not provoke your children to anger and they grow up singing your praises as one who made a home they wanted to come home to.

Monday, January 16, 2017

My Not-So-Sweet Sugar Story

While I was pregnant with Eleanna, I was bombarded by yeast infections. One after the other after the other, until finally, I was given a prescription medication that finally did the trick in relieving me of the symptoms. However, six months after she was born it reared its ugly head again. I did the same things as before and when nothing was working, I went to the doctor. There I found out I had BV (bacterial vaginosis) which is the most common vaginal infection affecting women today. It's an imbalance of good bacteria and bad bacteria. They tell you to go to the doctor for antibiotics, which I did, but here's the kicker: 30% of BV cases come back. And it did for me, along with a UTI. I was miserable. I tried reading a book on BV specifically and how to treat it using hydrogen peroxide, probiotics, vitamins, yogurt, etc. etc. You name it, I tried it. Nothing was working and I was desperate. I finally chatted with a friend who is super knowledgeable about natural healing and she instructed me to eliminate sugar from my diet.

What does bacterial vaginosis have to do with sugar?

Quite a bit actually. My diet was killing my vagina. Was it as weird reading that as it was typing it? Haha, it sounds funny, but it is the truth. Sugar was feeding the yeast and I kept eating it. So, I cut all processed sugar from my diet completely. It was way harder than it sounds because sugar is in everything. Reading ingredients became a habit and I was strict about what I ate. I began to notice a big difference, but it didn't cure it.

When I went back to researching I happened across an online discussion where women, just like me, struggled with reoccurring BV's. Some things worked for some, while that same thing didn't work for others. It was extremely frustrating. I was going through their "Have you tried this?" list and found one that I had not tried: boric acid. Voila! After one suppository, the symptoms were gone! It was a HUGE relief.

Unfortunately, I feel like I'm now an expert on a subject I had no intention of ever knowing anything about, but I felt like I had to share this story because I know I'm not alone. And sugar may be your culprit.

Let's have a little chat about sugar. Sugar is a good thing in its natural form. It's what the body uses to create energy, however, there is a huge difference between natural sugar and refined/processed sugar. Our body needs sugar (aka carbohydrates) in order to function properly, however, no matter how badly we want it to, our body does not need cakes, cookies, pastas, breads, etc. Our body needs the nutrients and the carbohydrates, but I was beginning to understand how refined sugar affected me specifically and it was not good - obviously.

I also could not believe how much sugar my family was eating on a daily basis! We mainly stuck to the outside of the grocery store when shopping, and stuck to fruits and vegetables mainly. Still, we were consuming more sugar than was needed. I also couldn't believe how much I did not know about simple carbs and complex carbs or processed sugar verses refined sugar. The more I knew the more I became aware of healthy food choices.

And then when I saw and felt how my body reacted to this sugar break I knew I couldn't go back.

A Big Bonus
A big bonus of this knowledge, and putting it at work in my life, was my body's reaction to the changes. I was the biggest I've ever been my freshman year of college and was bound and determined to never be overweight again. In fact, I weighed less being pregnant than I did back in those days. The more I learned about diet, the more I began to understand the huge role it plays in overall health and appearance. Breastfeeding definitely helps in that "weight" arena, but eliminating sugar for 40 days took all that baby weight off. That was enormously satisfying in and of itself.

Another Sugar Fast
We decided that after the holiday's we needed another break from sugar, so we dedicated an entire month to being refined-sugar-free. I am again pleased with the results. The first week is the hardest, but it is so worth it.  I never, ever want to go back to where I was before. My body can't handle it. When I overdo sugar now-a-days my stomach hurts. It just isn't worth it. I used to enjoy giant macchiatos from Starbucks, or small blizzards from DQ, but now I can't even take a sip of it without cringing and I can barely finish a mini blizzard. It's too much and I'm perfectly okay with that. I enjoy a slice of dark chocolate after dinner and I'm satisfied. I feel so much better and my vagina thanks me... haha.

Just try it.
I encourage you to try it. Start with a week and see how you feel. Begin to pay attention to the ingredients and find food that has no added sugar, but you enjoy eating (example: cashews are a new favorite snack as well as goldfish and raisins or natural peanut butter and an apple). You do not have to cut everything out entirely, but moderation is most definitely a good thing.

Your body will thank you.

Saturday, January 7, 2017


I do not believe in "New Year's Resolutions" for many reasons. Mostly it is because if I am convicted of something needing changed, well, it needs to happen immediately. I don't want to wait for the New Year to finally say I'm going to buckle down. Still, with all the talk of New Year resolutions it does get me reflecting, is there anything I need to change? Ha. Where do I begin?
I need the art of brevity.
I need to exercise consistently.
I want to be disciplined with my time; stop wasting it.
I want to read and write more.
That includes here. Unfortunately, my blog has taken the back burner in my life. I do not have time to write top ten's and I rarely have time to sit down and formulate the thoughts floating around in my head well enough to share here.

I know that if I want to continue being a blogger, I need to make the effort. Stop wasting my time browsing my Facebook newsfeed or digging through more Pinterest pins. I'm not doing anything of value, even if it's a mere 20 minutes. (That's all it took to write this!)

The list I made in the first paragraph seems daunting when I sit down and think about my day; all my "time." All in all, it boils down to this:
I need to be disciplined.

With that said, there's a few things that will be changing here. I do not have time for Tuesday's Top Ten and I've debated for so long on how to continue listing - I have so much fun formulating these lists - and I have endless topics with which to write! I also want to share the books I've read, the adorable things my girls are doing, the struggles, the joys, wife-ry, motherhood, discipleship, friendship, what I'm constantly learning... these God-given blessings that mean so much to me... the things that fill me with life and love.

With the New Year I've resolved to either give this whole blogging thing up, or buckle down and share. So although you have not heard from me in a very long time, I'm not wanting to give this up. I hope I haven't lost my readers. Stick with me as I formulate a plan to begin again as a "blogger" with a crazy schedule.