Thursday, May 7, 2015

On Finding Worth

via TaxCredits.net


Life has been good in Little Rock.  The girls play together extraordinarily well (mostly), we live in a safe and beautiful neighborhood, we've found a good church, I have friends from the park and MOPS, Professor is plugging away at his research, Champ is growing well, I'm bringing in a nice chunk of change each month for our savings account...

Until I'm not.

Hi Reviewers,
As you know, we have fewer answers available recently than we have in the past. I’ve received a lot of questions about this...
While we are decreasing the number of answers we produce for the time being, the project is not ending any time soon. We will continue producing answers for the foreseeable future.
However, we will continue to have fewer answers available for review each week than we have in the past...It is possible we will increase production again at some point in the future, but to the best our knowledge, we will be maintaining a lower answer inventory for the next several months at least.

This should not have shaken me; God has always provided for us--even in that year our income was lower than the standard deduction.  (In case you're curious, when that happens, they take pity on you and give you your tax money back with a "Better luck next time!" card.  Or maybe without the card; it's hard to remember.)

But still, I found myself panicking.  And worrying.  And plotting.  And assuming every moment of silent from my pretty-introverted-and-quiet husband was borne out of disappointment.  "Who am I and how am I contributing to this family if I can't even save the money we need for a minivan?"

And I felt that tap-tap of the Spirit on my shoulder.  What is your identity?  Who is it in?  Sigh.  My identity is not in my ability to edit web content and add to the family coffers, though that is part of who I am.  

My identity used to be my problem, but when I cast my lot with Jesus, it became His.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
Colossians 3:1-3 (emphasis mine)

I cannot serve God and money.  I can continue to pursue the projects He has put before me, but there is a lot on my plate with no financial incentives: three children to raise in the faith, a husband to love and serve beside, new friends to fellowship with and love on, family back home to encourage.  I have value beyond my paycheck and in ways that will last beyond a vehicle or anything else that can be purchased.

And do you know what happened not five minutes after I stopped worrying (or at least took a break) and prayed instead?  I received a work offer from a former client.  Sure, it was only a quick, $5 job, but it was still a reminder that God provides the work--not me.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Quick Lit :: April 2015

I can't believe I haven't shared what I've read all year.  More than that, I can't believe I've only read this small number of books.  Hopefully the summer months will be kinder to my reading time!
{Want to see what others have been reading?  Check out the link-up at Modern Mrs. Darcy!}


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up :: Marie Kondo
A quick treatise on how to pare down rapidly to avoid further re-organization forever.  Sounds good in theory, but this lady obviously has no kids.  Also, I do not thank my socks and am not inclined to start.  But I was motivated to clean out my desk, so that's something.



The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education :: Leigh A. Bortins
Not much new information to me, but for somebody looking for an accessible rundown of classical education and what it entails, this is a great place to start, though Well-Trained Mind will forever and always be my go-to.


The Paradox of Choice: Why Less Is More :: Barry Schultz
There are lots of numbers, studies, facts, and figures in this book...but the nuggets about how decision-making affects us were enlightening and, quite frankly, relieving.  I feel better and better about the choices I put on autopilot since reading this book.


Angry Optimist: The Life and Times of Jon Stewart :: Lisa Rogak
Interesting look at the man behind the desk of The Daily Show (for a little while longer, anyway).  Didn't love everything I learned about Stewart, but everybody is human, and there were enough funny things to at least even it out.  Looking forward to picking up her bio on Colbert.


Lessons from Madame Chic :: Jennifer Scott
Who doesn't love a little French advice?  Scott describes her fabulous French host during a study abroad program and discusses how she has incorporated some of her best practices in her own life.  Fun, quick read with a bit of food for thought.  Enjoyed it so much, I read her other book...

At Home With Madame Chic :: Jennifer Scott
Very similar in tone and tenor to the previous but with an emphasis on living well at home.  With three littles under five, it was a good reminder for me to enjoy baking and lighting candles and--as best as I can--even doing the dishes.

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains :: Nicholas Carr
Technically I haven't finished this one yet, but I am really enjoying learning about how our brains respond to all the skimming, switching, and tabbing that the Internet brings us.  It makes me want to subscribe to the newspaper and read more print...

Professor had a birthday at the end of March, and he made out like a bandit in the book department, which means I did, too!  Here's a peak at what's on our bookshelf, just waiting to be devoured (the last one is mine, not his):


What have you been reading lately?


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

On self-medication vs. self-care {and a baby!}

It took having my third child to finally stare a truth in the face: the ways in which I "care" for myself, those pockets of time and attention I give to my own desires, are really just self-medication.

Facebook.  YouTube.  Blogs.  Junk food and diet soda.  These top the list for me...actually, they are the list.

Wait, what's that you say?  Back up to the baby part?  Gladly!




Our little mister came into the world January 16, in the middle of the afternoon--a new and delightful development for the Professor and me after two early morning deliveries (preceded by long, day-and-night labors).  In all, it took about twelve hours and, despite some grumblings of "I'm so stupid; I should have gotten the epidural," all went very well.

I'm not quite sure what he'll be known as here, though I'm leaning toward Bubby.  He's a beautiful creature to behold, with all manner of dark hair and lashes, long fingers and toes, and a lower lip that sucks way in, a trait from his Papa's side.

Anyway, back to self-care.

An interesting thing happened during labor: I slept through a good chunk at the end.  I was getting desperate and the nurse offered Fentanol.  It made me loopy in the past, so I was hesitant, but when she offered to give me half a dose, I jumped on it.  The greatest consequence?  It put me to sleep between contractions.

It felt like I slept in twenty minute chunks, maybe more.  Professor later told me that I slept for about 90 seconds, labored for 90, lather, rinse, repeat.  Those 90 seconds of rest were exactly what my body needed.  When the overly-fresh-faced doc came in to deliver the baby, she barely had time to get her gloves on before Bubby made his grand entrance.  I was ready because I was rested.

At home, I don't have a nurse waiting with half a dose of Fentanol.  I can't take naps (but if I could go back and tell myself two kids and no at-home job self to sleep more, I would).  But I can choose to care for myself, choosing what I need (like the Fentanol) over what I want (an entirely unmedicated birth).

I go for a walk before Professor leaves for work in the morning whenever the weather allows.  I fall asleep on the couch for a few hours in the evening instead of endlessly and mindlessly surfing the web.  I tweaked my work hours and work load so that I feel less guilty and stressed, even if it slightly dropped my income.  If the kids are playing well, I open my Bible or a book or take a much coveted shower.

I am very much imperfect.  I hit the chocolate pretty hard today and have managed to plow through two and a half seasons of the Great British Bakeoff (have you seen that business? completely addicting, also I make scones now...) in a pretty short span of time.  This blog post has been in draft mode since January and I haven't posted a single thing this year because I still struggle to prioritize my time online.  This post isn't polished like I want it to be, but at some point, you just have to get back in the pool, even if you flail a bit.  I am a work in progress.

Breaking away from the self-inflicted numbing agents is such a freeing feeling, and my days feel less monotonous and tiring...even though I have three children under five and spend more time than ever on mundane things like laundry and potty training (pray for us, by the by...).  Self-medicating might have felt good in the moment, but self-care feels good all the day long.  I'll take it.


And I promise I'll try to get back to being funny next time. Trust me, these hooligans have been bringing the funny lately and they are ready to share.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Quick Lit :: December 2014

Well, Twitterature as a name has gone the way of MySpace.  What?  MySpace is still around?  Well, there goes my analogy...

Anyway, the name has changed, but Anne of Modern Mrs. Darcy is still hosting a link-up for short, snappy book reviews.  Here's what I've been reading...


 

The Nesting Place :: Myquillyn Smith


Beautiful throughout--and not just the pictures, though they're reason enough for paging through this design tome.  Mid-read I took the plunge with a thrift store run and a bit of sewing to create some throw pillows that we already love.  A good kick in the pants to prioritize loving the space you have.


The People of Sparks :: Jeanne DuPrau


Follow-up title to The City of Ember was very good.  What happens when a city of people who have dwelt underground for 200 years emerge and descend, mostly helpless and clueless, on a people group who have built a community after an apocalyptic sort of disaster?  This book is what happens.


Compact Living :: Michael Guerra


I grabbed this self-published-looking title from a library display rack.  It wasn't stellar, and it wasn't tremendously applicable to my situation, but I swoon over the thought of small spaces and tiny houses enough that I skimmed it pretty hard.  Definitely got Professor and I talking about convertible furniture and using space well, so it was worth the time reading.


Smart Money, Smart Kids :: Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze


Seasoned advice (and heartwarming stories from their own lives together) for all ages and stages of raising money-smart kids.  A lot of stuff I already knew, but there was enough new and motivating material that this book will eventually have to find its way onto my bookshelf for future reference.  Recommended for anybody with kids!


Food: A Love Story :: Jim Gaffigan


I laughed.  I cried.  I laughed until I cried.  And then I ate Hot Pockets.  Amen.  (Seriously, if you need a laugh and prefer your comedy be pretty clean, this is the guy for you, and his latest doesn't disappoint.)


I'd love to hear about what's on your nightstand!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

On feeling the weight of the "lost years" {Romans 8:1-14}

"I know my friends, and I know the work they have produced, and I know what is in their future. They will experience the mess and the chaos of birth and newborn land and shifting, growing families. They will cocoon inside of themselves, for months and even years perhaps, pouring out their bodies as sacrifices of love, rocking and shushing and feeding and cleaning and wiping, all while they tend to the endless minutia of everything else they are in charge of in their lives. They will continue on in that long obedience of selflessness, the continual little deaths and rebirths that parenting is comprised of, and one day they will lift their heads up and find that their head is clear and their mind is itching. They will start writing again. And they will be better than ever. Their babies will make them better writers."--D.L. Mayfield, from the blog post "Write Like a Mother"

I hauled my big, boy-child filled belly up the children's library auditorium Monday morning, chasing down an almost-two renegade who didn't want to be at story time. She escaped and made her way to the play area on the other side of the library, desperate to hug on the plush Mickey Mouse who lives there.

When I caught up, I had to sit down for five full minutes to catch my breath (in my defense, it's a long way up those steep auditorium stairs...especially in new boots).  That's what my life feels like right now: tired and breathless.

Tired and breathless and happy.  Battling resentment and distraction.  Laughing and soaking in the fleeting moments that I wish I were doing a better job of capturing.  But I feel silenced somehow, like the words are right below the surface, eager to climb onto the page but unable to break through the barrier.

A good friend called these the "lost years," which is comforting in its camaraderie ("You mean I'm not the only one?") but heartbreaking in its loss.  I want to lose less, remember more.

If I don't write, I won't remember, but if I write something will get bumped from being done...and already so much goes undone.  Still, for one minute, I will write those things that should be remembered...

*Zaboo talks and talks and talks.  She has latched onto the words she knows (the list grows exponentially all the time) and speaks them at her only volume--LOUD.  Her chipmunk voice and missing word sounds are precious, and as her mama, I feel privileged to often be the only one to understand her.

*"Darkness."  It's the game these girls request each night at dinner.  When it gets dark, the lights go off and the flashlights go on.  We listen to the "Monster Mash" (which started one night on a whim, but they latched onto it and won't let go) and dance before Professor hides in the dark so we can seek him.  We also started "Marco Polo," which means hunting with no flashlights--and which also leads to constant shouts of "Marco!" all the livelong day.

*Pookie is reading.  It is agony and pure bliss to suffer through "The cat sat on the mat" and "Bud the pup got in the mud."  It frustrates my to-do list to have to slow down and let her process, but I am so glad I am teaching her to read.  Watching understanding dawn as she figures out a sentence--and better, laughter when it's a funny one--is a true gift.

*Also, Pookie has shed a lot of tears lately.  We watched Homeward Bound for the first time and when all hope looked lost, she lost it, too.  Every ladybug she finds is named Sassy and when she accidentally sent one down the drain of the bathroom sink...so much waterworks.  (I made the mistake of answering, "When can we get a pet?" with "When we're debt-free."  The girl reminds me of this fact constantly...)

And while I'd like to go on, I'm being asked a million questions about what Olaf thinks of the snow and what Elsa says to him.  And then there are chores to supervise, reading lessons to do, parks to visit, and errands to run...all before lunch time, dishes, diaper change, and nap time...which means more work time.  This baby boy is being built on powdered sugar doughnut holes and as much Diet Dr. Pepper as I can get without going over health recommendations.

All of this to say...I'm struggling through Romans 8.  It's getting harder to keep which verse comes when straight.  I haven't been as diligent.  This is my confession.  Please pray for diligence in this; it is a worthwhile endeavor, even though it is hard.  Then again,  all worthwhile endeavors are, aren't they?

Here's through verse 14, a video shot at the park last week.  I'm actually through verse 17 now, but as I haven't gotten around to recording it yet, this will have to do for an update.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Twitterature :: October 2014


Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy hosts a monthly link-up for sharing casual, tweet-sized book reviews.  Here's what I've been reading in September and October



All Joy and No Fun :: Jennifer Senior


I enjoyed Senior's TED talk, so when I saw her related book on the library shelf, I snatched it.  For somebody feeling tossed about in the winds of parenting, I can see where this would be a very reassuring read.  Interesting anecdotes and comparisons throughout, but I think I liked the abbreviated TED talk better.







Peace Like a River :: Leif Enger


Beautiful novel.  A coming-of-age story with a hint of the spiritual.  A family's world is rocked by vengeance upon vengeance and the way those consequences play out is realistic, miraculous, heartbreaking, and beautiful all at once.




Someone Else's Love Story :: Joshilyn Jackson


I'd enjoyed a previous title by Jackson, so I took a gamble on this one.  Way more sex talk than I was bargaining for, but the story was interesting enough to keep me hooked (even if it meant skipping a bit here and there).  Man and woman cross paths during a convenience store robbery, changing their lives in more ways than might be expected.


The Mysterious Benedict Society :: Trenton Lee Stewart


Orphans called by a secret society to thwart the evil plots of a secretive evildoer, intent on world domination through controlling all people's thoughts.  Fun juvie-fiction pick; I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.




City of Ember :: Jeanne DuPrau


An underground city meant to save humanity has lost one of its most important secrets: instructions for when their 200 year stint underground is meant to be over.  A pair of youngsters must battle the establishment and the clock to find a way to save their city.  It took a major thunderstorm on library day to get between me and the next installment--but that will be solved soon enough!



I'm not sure if it's the fall or my increased workload of rather dry material, but I found myself reaching for fiction over and over...with no end to the story spree in sight.  Any favorite page-turners you can recommend would be greatly appreciated!

{P.S. This post contains affiliate links; if you click and purchase anything through the site, I receive a small commission.  Thanks for your support!}

Friday, October 10, 2014

It's a... {plus Romans 8:1-8}

It took ages to get an OB appointment after our move.  I was 24 weeks along by the time I finally got to see a doctor, and going into the appointment I didn't have high hopes of getting an ultrasound for another month.  Another month of waiting and wondering: girl or boy?

Dear reader, in Arkansas, they love themselves some ultrasounds.  They had a mini one on a cart that they rolled on in, bedside, smack in the middle of my appointment.

Is the suspense killing you?

Well, here we go...we're having a...

BOY!

Professor was so sure for so long that he'd have all girls, but this pregnancy felt so different, I was not at all surprised.  A baby boy.  We couldn't be more thrilled.

But do you know what else is thrilling?  Romans 8.  {How's that for a transition?}

I listened to this sermon by John Piper the other day.  The first fifteen minutes are solid Bible recitation.  He then talks about nine reasons to memorize Scripture.  It's very, very good and worth listening to while you fold laundry (or mindlessly play Facebook games because it's your day off.  Not that I went that route...) or something like that.  So, so good.


And then there's me.  I've gotten through verse 8.  Please forgive the bobble in the middle; it doesn't usually happen but between the camera staring at me and the buttered butterknife that a little person pressed up against my foot mid-recitation...I got a bit distracted.  {And all that detritus on the counter and desk in the background?  That's called real life, baby!}


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