Review: Nobody’s Cuter than You

You may remember of the time when I told the whole world that I just loved Melanie Shankle’s books. Sparkly Green Earrings and The Antelope in the Living Room are some of the funniest books ever. They kept me laughing out loud and I couldn’t put them down.

Melanie has a new book out, Nobody’s Cuter than You, which is a memoir about the beauty of friendship. In it, she shares the stories of the women in her life who have impacted her, the lessons she’s learned from her relationships, and just how essential girl friends are in our lives.

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As expected, Melanie brings her witty, down-to-earth charm to her book, making you feel like you all would definitely be good friends if you lived next door to one another. I must admit that I didn’t laugh as much in this book as with the others, but I was equally as hooked. I love her and her BFF’s, Gulley, relationship. They are like sisters, holding each other up during the hard times, being real with one another, going on crazy adventures, and caring about each other’s mundane. I think that’s when you know that someone is a real, deep friend- they ask and listen to your everydayness.

Jake and I sometimes talk about friendships. Because we’ve moved around a lot, our friendships with people get cut off before we have time to put in the face to face, REAL LIFE hours that it takes to really know someone. The time to share your stories, learn each other idiosyncrasies, watch them parent, see them upset, work through conflict, and make lots and lots of memories.

It also takes confidence to reach out and make the initial contact.

It takes energy to invite someone over for dinner.

It takes a miracle to have a good conversation at the above dinner if you have kids under the age of 5.

It takes courage to ask someone to step into your life, a life that is not perfect and has its rough edges.

It takes vulnerability to lay down the mask first and allow someone to see you without the promise that they will lay theirs down too.

Mostly, though, it just takes time. Time to invite.Time to say yes. Time to come over. Time to drop by (does anyone drop by anymore?!). Time to relax with one another. Time to drink a glass of iced tea. Time to run an errand. Time to do a favor. Time to watch a movie. Time to take a day trip. Time to go shopping.

Nobody’s Cuter than You is a great reminder that although it costs something to have deep friendships, they are absolutely, hands-down incredibly worth it.  

 

Thanks to Tyndale for the opportunity to review this book! 

Review: Motivate Your Child

I have a love/hate relationship with parenting books.

I love them because they are often comforting in one sense- someone in this big world has figured out an answer that I’m desperately searching for. hallelujah.

I hate them because the answers are often pretty rigid and don’t always work out as promised.

Expectation, disappointment. Expectation, disappointment. I fall for it again and again, because I have hope that there are SOME good parenting books out there.

There are, really. Here’s one of them.

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Motivate Your Child: A Christian Parent’s Guide to Raising Kids Who Do What They Need to Do Without Being Told

The title is a little long and perhaps oversells the book a little. :) But, that’s pretty much the worst thing about the book. This is the second book I’ve read by these authors (Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller, RN, BSN). The first one I also reviewed here and I LOVED it. So, I had cautiously high expectations for this one too.

What I really appreciated:

  • The emphasis on the fact that every family is different. Every child is different. There is no “one way”. Parenting means a lot of trial and error, and we can’t control our kids. It’s up to them to make the decisions. We can only provide a healthy, helpful environment in which they can grow.
  • BUT, there are a lot of things that parents should have in their parenting toolbox to use. This book carefully lays out some of those tools in a clear, thoughtful way, informed by both Scripture and psychology.
  • The authors uses many illustrations, seemingly from his own counseling practice, and the names represent a variety of ethnicities.

The book is divided into 2 parts. The first has to do with the Moral Development in Children. How are children wired? How does the conscious form? What can we do to help our children choose to do the right thing even when we’re not around? The authors talk about the value of making mistakes, integrity, compassion, and initiative. One chapter is just titled, Consequences, and in it the authors discuss the difference between punishment and discipline, and how punishment really isn’t effective in changing kids’ behavior in the long-term. Instead, parents need a wide range of parenting tools to help them encourage, support, and guide their children’s understanding of themselves, of the world, and of how they can live rightly. Various types of discipline include: natural consequences, logical consequences, loss of privilege, more parental control, and practicing the right thing. While these are not new ideas, the authors do a great job of putting them altogether, and helping parents understand which ones are most helpful for certain types of situations. They recognize that all of these are needed, and that some kids will respond better to a different set of consequences than others.

The second part of the book focuses on Spiritual Development of the Child. This section focuses on the importance of sharing your own faith with your kids, teaching them Scripture, as well as the necessity of building relationships with your children. It also focuses quite a bit of time on the idea of Family Time, which is basically a time set aside each week for intentional time learning from the Scriptures and relationship building.

One realization I had when finishing up this book is that parenting and disciplining kids really is a long-term project. I often read books or blog posts talking about how we can curb entitlement and selfishness and disrespect in 3 easy steps, and I just assume that if I do those, then of course my children should change, right? Well, not really. Discipline (training or coaching your children) takes time and repetition. Repetition. Repetition. Of course there are a few lovely kids who do what they’re told the first time, but for most of them (for most of us!) that’s not really the case, nor is it necessarily an appropriate expectation to put on them. They’re figuring life out, and what seems as cut and dry to us may not always seem to be to them. Also, just like us, kids aren’t perfect, and we shouldn’t expect them to be. All we can do is continue to train and coach them along the way, mixed with a whole lot of prayer! :)

 Thanks to Booklook Bloggers for a complimentary book in exchange for an honest review!

Book Review: Brave Girls, Faithful Friends (90 Day Devotional)

Like every other kid alive in the universe, Aly is slowly and steadily getting older. It’s both wonderful and terrifying.

She’s a voracious reader and while she definitely prefers fiction, she has also been getting interested in reading about the Bible and how it applies to her life. I’m careful when it comes to devotionals in general, but especially for kids. I want to be sure that the devotional is a.) developmentally appropriate, b.) faithful to Scripture, and c.) does not heavily rely on gendered stereotypes.

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Brave Girls: Faithful Friends: A 90-Day Devotional is a new one in the Tommy Nelson’s Brave Girls series. I was immediately curious just by looking at the cover: 5 girls with a variety of ethnicities that are friends. The tagline of “brave girls” was also appealing to me; it’s sometimes hard to find something not labeled with “God’s princess” or “Daughter of a King” for this age group. While not horrible taglines, there is such thing as too much of a good (or neutral) thing.

This devotional is set within the context of friendship. At the beginning, kids take time considering what a good friend is, and how God desires to be their best friend. The next section focuses on stories of friends in Scripture, and then they move on to tips on being a good friend, but with examples connected to animals (i.e. kittens have to learn to hunt, etc. from their momma, and also parents have things to teach girls about friendship). In subsequent sections, girls learn about how to make friends, what to do when friendships get tricky, being friends with their families, and finally a short section of “quizzes” and word searches.

I would say that this devotional is heavy on friendship, light on Scripture, but not in a bad way. This devotional is no replacement for Scripture reading, but I think it’s a great way to teach young girls about friendships in a healthy way. Especially for kids who don’t know a ton of Scripture, some of the devotionals could be a bit confusing (i.e. one is about Ruth and it jumps right into the story and offers no Scriptural reference), but I think if a parent is there to answer any questions, it’ll be fine.

While the devotional is probably a wee bit mature for Aly, there’s no doubt that within a year or two she’ll be the perfect age.

Overall, I recommend it. Friendship is a topic elementary girls don’t get tired of, and to connect it with a book that points girls towards God’s love for them- sounds like a great combination.

Thanks, Booklook Bloggers, for the complimentary book in exchange for an honest review!

Modern Parenting Under Fire

Note: I realize that my perspective is from that of a mom in a small city whose temple is Whole Foods and whose neighborhood roads are all Ivy League College names. Rural town moms probably have a completely different perspective. Get that. So take my opinion for what it’s worth. 

By now, I think we’ve all probably read Jen Hatmaker’s post on the Today Show’s parent’s blog entitled, What Would My Mom Do? (Drink Tab and Lock Us Outside). I haven’t heard one negative thing about it so far- only lots of shares and “yes, this” (myself included).

But, I was thinking… I don’t think that we really would like parenting like Jen’s momma did, at least not today. Just a 2.0 version of it.

So maybe we love the idea of letting our kids roam free and eat bologna sandwiches on white bread and then coming home when the sun goes down. I personally love this idea because then I’d have the whole day to do whatever my little heart desired. And I do have fond memories of summers outside for long periods of time, playing with all my neighborhood friends.

But, let’s pretend that this kind of parent existed today in your neighborhood. You know, the parent who lets their 6 year old kid roam the neighborhood. In fact, you may know a parent kinda like this. I know a few. But you know what I hear about these kind of parents? Not flattering things. Because what if I really let my two older kids- almost 6 (in a few days) and 7 play in your neighborhood. Just roam around. All day. Would you feel concerned? Would you wonder where their parents are? Would you call someone about it? What would you do or think about me when they started arguing/yelling at one another? How would you feel about helping them clean their knee if they fell outside your house? How would you feel about feeding them if they happened to be playing in your yard during lunchtime? How would you feel about disciplining them if they hit your kid, or yelled at them or something (because we all know this happened a lot when we were living our roaming childhoods)?

And what if your child came to my house and I fed them processed bologna on white bread and gave them sugar-filled kook-aid to drink. Everyday during a summer. Would you think that’s totally fine and who cares? Or would you cringe?

I honestly think that many of us really wouldn’t feel completely comfortable with this kind of parenting, and we don’t REALLY support other parents who parent like this. And you know what, my guess is that Jen didn’t parent exactly like this either. 

Why?

Because she has pictures of her kids’ dangerous stunts. Playground swinging, trampoline jumping, tree skateboarding. My parents don’t have pictures of me playing outside with my friends, roaming the neighborhood, walking across busy roads to the 7-11 to get a giant 44 oz slurpy, flattening pennies and rocks on the railroad tracks, visiting the old guy at the end of the block and going inside his pigeon coop to pet his pigeons (only looking back does it seem odd, but I swear, he was just a nice older lonely guy who loved kids!), biking to the library even though I wasn’t supposed to (because it was a whole mile away from my house!)….because they weren’t with me. In fact, if they did see some of the dangerous things I did as an elementary kid (kindergarten-4th grade), then they wouldn’t have approved. I would have gotten in serious trouble!

So, while I think we like the idea of Jen’s version of the “magical childhood” (because it really is just that), I’m not sure we’re willing to pay the price to get it. And maybe we don’t necessarily have to parent like that to be the kind of family we want to be. Maybe Jen’s call to throwback parenting isn’t the “best way” either.

From conversations I’ve had with friends, we parent a little differently than our parents did because we weren’t 100% happy with how our parents did it. Many of us grew up with parents who worked a lot or drank too much or who really didn’t know us at all. Modern parenting didn’t just pop up. It exists for a reason. Has it gone too far in some cases? Sure. But does that mean we do away with it and go back to the “good ‘ol days”? Eh. I’m not sure that’s really what we’re looking for either.

Perhaps what we’re all really wanting is permission to ease up. To give our kids some freedom. To step away from the window. 

You have permission to let your child outside without watching him or her. I won’t judge.

You have permission to let your 6 year old walk to school by himself/herself. I’ll keep an eye out for them while they walk past my house.

You have permission to let your kid eat cafeteria food because you don’t have time to pack a lunch. Mine will be eating that food too.

You have permission to delete your pinterest account. I don’t actually care what your kids’ parties look like. I just love that they get to hang out with their friends and I get a couple hours to myself.

You have permission to let your kids be bored. I’ll send my kids over and they can be bored together.

You have permission to not enroll your kids in any camp or extracurricular activity. I promise they will not be any less smart or ready for college. In fact, probably no one will even know or care.

You have permission to let your kids make their own lunch. My kids will be so jealous that they packed fruit snacks, some cheetos and a cheesestick that maybe they’ll want to start making their own lunch too.

You have permission to not know what they are doing every minute of the day. I’m sure they’re fine. If not, they’ll eventually let you know.

But you know what? You also have permission to parent like you want. If you really like your kids, you have permission to hang out with them.

If you want to make them a time capsule for their 18th birthday, totally do it! I have my own version of a time capsule which looks like a giant box with old papers, toys, clothes, etc, from over the span of my childhood. I bet you all do too.

If you want to throw them a magical birthday party, do it. Have fun! I bet your kids will love it! Just be sure to invite my kids too! ;)

If you want to do science experiments, art projects, teach them how to read, storytell with them, learn a foreign language with them, whatever- great! Your kid will love it. Can my kid some over to join you sometime?

Ultimately, we have permission to let go of the lie that what we do or don’t do with our kids makes or breaks their future. While we have influence over our kids, we don’t determine their personality, their actions, their attitudes, their future opportunities, or their success or happiness in life. It’s up to them, and the sooner we realize that in our parenting journey, the sooner we will be able to ease up, relax, and just enjoy our children.

 

 

 

 

March Loves

March is a fantastic month. Perhaps the best month of the year…. because it’s my birth month! I’m now THIRTY-TWO, but it’s totally fine and I’m coping with all the emotions that being in your 30s brings (What have I accomplished? I still have so much left to do! How in the world am I still renting? How in the world did I end up with 4 beautiful children who are going to all be in elementary school in only a few short years?!). No biggie.

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My most favorite thing this month was my ultimate birthday date night. If you missed it, you can read about my epic 11 hour date here. It was so much fun and included all the things I love to do OR had been really wanting to do.

 

Over at SheLoves Magazine, they’re in this huge Dangerous Women series, and it has been my obsession this month. I love it…every single post… and I love what it does inside of me and also, I know, inside of hundreds of other women who think that the good life is the safe life. Heck no, techno! If you haven’t yet, I double dog dare you to read these posts (which are my favorites):

 

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Last week Jake and I were finally able to watch The Theory of Everything, which is the story of the relationship between Stephen Hawking and his wife. I laughed, I cried, and cried some more. It is the best romantic comedy I’ve watched in a long time, and it was a perfect date movie- romance and science and geekiness. It’s in the RedBox.

 

 

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On Spotify I found a music compilation that is perfect for my afternoon work/play time: You Make Me Brave by Bethel Music. Ada has been spending half of her “quiet times” downstairs, and she has a few favorites on here herself.

 

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Finally, my Aly and I have spent some time on Pinterest together and it has been SO MUCH FUN. I can only see this leading to some really fun projects together. We’re brainstorming about her upcoming Woodland Creatures birthday party, and we’ve created this really fun board. Of course we’ll end up just using a couple ideas, but we’ve had fun discussing what we like and what we don’t like along the way.

 

 So that’s my March! What are some things YOU’VE been loving this month?! 

 Linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I’ve been into this month.

My First Memories of Jesus

Over the years I’ve become fascinated with the idea and process of spiritual development. It started when I realized how incredibly influential my upbringing, my hometown, my siblings, my family, my personality, my race, my gender–all of it– has been on the formation of my faith. The fact that I am a rule-follower, white woman who grew up in a generally well-off small town with a two-parent household (who embraced equality and non-traditional gender roles) is HUGE as it has reveals the baseline from which I view God and others.

After having children, my interest in adult spiritual development has grown to include the faith formation of children as well.

  • What does it mean for a child to “be saved”?
  • How important is it to have a “welcoming Jesus into my heart” moment with kids? Is it biblical? Is it necessary?
  • How do children hear the various stories of Scripture?
  • How can I communicate these stories in a developmentally and spiritually appropriate way, yet also stay true to the purpose for which these stories were being told?
  • How can I teach my kids to not be afraid to ask questions and think critically while also keeping a soft heart that loves the God who inspired the Scriptures?
  • Who do my children think Jesus is (like, not the Sunday school factual answer, but the character of Jesus and how He relates to their everyday lives)?

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All that to say, this month over at Graham Blanchard, a few of us moms are sharing our first memories of Jesus (I wonder what my kids will one day say?). Here’s what I shared:

I grew up in a culturally Christian home. We attended church on the “important days” but I wasn’t nurtured into a relationship with Jesus.  My aunt, however, became a Christian sometime during my early childhood, and I remember her sharing about Jesus with my family and me when she came to visit during the summer. She would teach me how to sign (ASL) Christian songs like “Jesus Loves Me” and “Zaccheus was a Wee Little Man.” She’d tell us stories from the Bible and give us “Jesus-themed” gifts (which I mostly thought were a little lame, to be honest, ha!). These are my first memories of hearing about Jesus.

At the time, I was slightly curious about Jesus, but I have a hard time saying for sure if my curiosity and interest had more to do with the person of Jesus or with my love for my aunt. Either way, God was planting seeds of His love in my heart. While I didn’t come to really trust in Jesus until middle school, I know those early stories, songs and discussions set the foundation for my relationship with God.

This post was fun for me to write because it gave me space to remember and recognize how early the Lord was planting his seeds of love in my heart, and how long those seeds were watered before coming to full bloom. Wow, right? He was pursuing my heart even before I knew who He was.

So, head on over, read our stories if you’re interested, but before you leave, would you mind sharing your earliest memories of hearing about the person of Jesus?

 

 

Rocking the Consignment Sale: Seller Edition

I LOVE CONSIGNMENT SALES.

Perhaps you’ve shopped the sales…. but have you ever sold at them?

I used to think that selling at the sales was laborious and a waste of time… because would I really make that much money? Wouldn’t it take a super long time to price all my items? And I don’t even know where to start!

(Please note: This has been my consigning experience. Since all consignment sales are different, please be sure to carefully read your own consignment sale restrictions and guidelines. Some people only allow certain kind of hangers or certain kind of tags, etc.)

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So okay, it does take some time to price everything, but I’ve found a few tricks that have really helped me streamline the process.

1. Collect items over time.

Over the course of several months, set aside clothes, toys, etc. that you no longer need/want. When you change the kids’ clothes from summer to winter or winter to summer, put the outgrown clothes in a box. When kids outgrow their shoes, pop those in the box too. Kids are always outgrowing toys– after your youngest kiddo moves on from soft blocks to duplos, put the soft blocks in the box. Hair accessories, swings, high chairs, cloth diapers, craft supplies, outdoor equipment, puzzles, games, etc.– you can sell it!

If you’re constantly adding to your box, then when the time for consigning comes around, you already have your stuff ready! Taking the “figure out what I’m going to sell” step out of the immediate process is HUGE and saves a ton of time.

My advice is to keep the box accessible enough that you can easily put things in it here and there, but also not in such a trafficked place that you get tired of seeing it and just give it to goodwill because YOU CAN’T STAND SEEING IT ANYMORE!

2. Sign up for the sale.

What sales are in your area? Get on their email list so that you know when it’s time for consigners to sign up! Take note of any consigner fees– factor that into whether or not you want to sell. I tend to only sign up for sales that are free, especially at first when I was trying to get a feel for how much money I’d make (it’s gotta be worth my time!).

3. Gather your supplies

You’ll want:
  • a TON of plastic hangers (if your consignment sale doesn’t provide these, you can visit kid stores for their plastic hangers. Or, if all else, Dollar Store sells kid hangers, 10 for $1). You can also ask friends and family! Most people have some plastic hangers they are looking to get rid of.
  • a box of gallon-size ziplock bags.
  • a roll of clear packing tape
  • a package of colored cardstock paper
  • a pack or two of safety pins

4. Organize your stuff and get it all ready.

Bring all of your stuff (boxed) out into a well-trafficked area. This is key, because you want to get so annoyed by it at this point that you just get it priced already! Ideally, this process should be contained to a weekYou’ll want it contained in boxes for a few reasons: 1.) So your kids don’t see things they “really love” and can’t possibly get rid of. “Wow mom, this is my favorite thing ever! Why are you selling it?!” and 2.) You’ll do this next part one box at a time.

Organizing means:
  1. Placing all of your clothes on plastic hangers.
  2. Placing all of your shoes into plastic ziplock bags.
  3. Organizing books into small sets that “make sense”. Place in ziplock bags or with strong rubber bands.
  4. Wrap any board puzzles in plastic wrap or ziplock bags.
  5. Make sure everything has working batteries. It will help your items to sell better if the buyer can know for sure that it works.

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5. Start Pricing!

I’ve done this several different ways, and found that this way was the fastest:

  • Go through each item in ONE BOX and enter it online into whatever database your sale uses. Print out the tag on colored cardstock (colors catch people’s eyes! cardstock holds up really well!).
  • Cut the tags out and then attach them onto the items. For the clothes, you’ll want to pin the tags with safety pins, and other items, packing tape on top and bottom works out well. (but be sure to check your sale for any requirements– a couple are weird about what you can use).
  • Put everything back in the box and then put it out of sight!
  • Repeat with each box.

You may be thinking– wouldn’t it be easiest just to do alllll the entering, then alllll of the printing, then allllll of the attaching? It wasn’t for me. I found that searching for the “brown pants” is much easier when I have 40 items I’m searching through then when I have 120 items I’m searching through. This simple strategy cut my time almost in half!

As for pricing strategies, I’ve found that people go wrong when they get a little greedy. For consignment sales, think of a glorified yard sale. For clothes especially, don’t overcharge. For clothes 0-3T, I would suggest very little should be above $3.00 or $4.00 (for an outfit). 4T+ you can begin to price higher because there will be fewer items at the sale to choose from. ESPECIALLY for nice boys clothes, people will pay a lot more (up to 50% of the original price). I happen to have a boy that isn’t very hard on his clothes, which works out great for us!

Many of my items range from $1-$4 each, and I’ve made well over $100 (sometimes $200-$300) each sale with just a bunch of small items. I have really normal kid clothes- not a lot of name brands– many of them I’ve bought at kid consignment sales– so I pretty much get my money back when I sell them!

Typically I’m able to buy the kids’ next seasons’ clothes with the money I’ve made at each sale. For that, it makes it all worth it!

Next up- how to be a smart consignment sale buyer! 

photo credit: AL.com

My Epic Birthday Date

On Friday, Jake surprised me with an EPIC 11 hour date and it was FANTASTIC. I told him at one point that if we weren’t already married, I would have expected a marriage proposal by the end :).

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Because I turned 32, Jake planned 5 dates for just the two of us (us being math geeks, 2^5=32).

Date One

Jake took the little kids to the library as he normally does on Friday mornings (giving me the morning “off” to do whatever I want: writing, reading, crafting, etc.). At 11:00a I got a text from him, telling me that he was almost home and could I run up and get a paper by his bed. It was  an invitation to a date.

Put on your comfy clothes and join me for a party of two lunch at the official birthday place, followed by a fun board game.

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We ate at Nitty Gritty which is THE birthday restaurant here in Madison (balloons, free drink, free desert) and then played a board game at I’m Board (our favorite board game store where you can hang out in their back room and test out board games). We played Villagers and Villains, which was pretty fun– we tied!

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Date Two

Get your work clothes on, get hydrated, and create at a Walk in, Make art studio with me.

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Afterwards, I found ANOTHER birthday invitation, this time inviting me to Sonic (yesssssss) and then to Fired Up Pottery, a make your own art store. We designed a glass piece (a swoop bowl) to be fused, and I just picked it up today. It turned out SO WELL, don’t you think?!

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Date Three

Bundle up for the cold and put on your hiking boots. Let’s walk on water together and view the 1753 sunset from Lake Mendota.

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I’ve been wanting to walk on the lake all winter, but just hadn’t gotten around to it. Jake made it happen! We had so much fun hiking out from picnic point so we could sit on a sleeping bag and watch the sunset from the middle of the lake. So romantic and fun!

 

Date Four

Time to get fancy. We’ll explore narrative in the Storybook exhibition.

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We headed to the Museum of Contemporary Art downtown, and it was a great time. My favorite part was viewing a collection of art work done by art teachers of the Madison School District. Their work was INCREDIBLE. I’ve decided that my current favorite kind of artwork is mixed media.

 

Date Five

Dinner for two downtown, then home for the afterparty.

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We ended up going to an Indian and Nepali restaurant. We ate the most delicious garlic naan with our main courses (I can’t even remember what I ordered but it was really good too). By the time we got home it was nearly 10:00p and we were EXHAUSTED. Jake had arranged for the kids to be at various houses for the day/night, so we had a kid-free house (which, by the way, was incredibly weird and fantastically relaxing). The next morning we woke to an alarm so that we could pick up all the kiddos by 9:00a, also unusual and I must admit I prefer being awoken by a child :).

By the way, how generous are those families who watched our kiddos and kept them overnight? I feel SO LOVED that people would say yes to that! They made our day/evening so wonderful!!! It takes a village, people, especially when family is a day’s drive away!

Thanks to my love for planning a great day and night!!

Book Review: Live Just.ly

Sometimes I struggle with knowing what I ought to do and then doing it.

And sometimes I struggle with wanting to live a certain way, but not knowing how to do it exactly.

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Live Just.ly is a new book created by Micah Challenge to help people figure out what it means to live justly. Written in a concise, straightforward format, Life Just.ly brings together many voices to get people talking about what it looks like to live a lifestyle of God-centered justice. They focus on five areas of life: advocacy, prayer, consumption, generosity, relationships, and creation care. In each of these areas, readers are challenged to thinking deeply about what living rightly in these areas looks like and then take action as a group as well as individual. The editors use stories, Scripture, discussion questions, online videos, prayer, and projects to help readers deeply engage in the material. It’s written in such a way that if taken seriously, transformation will happen when going through this study.

I love that this book gives you the tools you need to put into practice what you’re reading about. They offer solo work ideas, as well as group activities to cement the principles that the group is wrestling with and learning.

One chapter that is particularly challenging to me is the one about consumption. I’ve talked before about some of my thoughts on our culture’s idea of simplicity (so popular! so great! own less but you end up consuming more!). I care about this a lot because this is a place where i need to grow.  I know what I ought to do, and while I’ve taken some baby steps, I am mostly still figuring out HOW to do it.

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Take chocolate, for instance. I KNOW about the child-slavery that takes place so that I can eat a (now Hershey) “cadbury” egg. The real Cadbury egg IS fair trade, but now that the British aren’t exporting it over to the U.S. and Hershey is taking over the Cadbury egg, I’m faced with a dilemma. At first I thought, okay, I will just not eat cadbury eggs. Easy decision. But then, after some mental gymnastics, I decided, you know what- I want the cadbury egg. Me not buying it isn’t going to affect the market at all, so why shouldn’t I enjoy the cadbury egg? IT’S JUST A CADBURY EGG!

But, the deeper reality is this: I KNOW that children are in slavery so that I can eat a cadbury egg. And I’m choosing to participate. Sure, I’m not setting their work rules and regulations. But, I’m participating by buying unfair products. I’m knowingly participating in injustice because I’m far removed from it.

We all know that it’s not just about that foil-wrapped, chocolatey goodness with an oozy sugary center. It’s about cheap products. How do we get a good deal on cheap products? Well, the store is still making money. The one who is getting the short end of the stick is the one who is making the product.

“But my budget is tight!”

Oh I feel you. As a perpetual student-family, I get that. I’m there. That’s EXACTLY why it’s so hard.

If I buy cheap, unfair products, then I get to buy more of other things. My kids get to do fun things. They get more stuff (albeit cheaper). Not even an excessive amount of stuff, but just normal amount of stuff.

If I change my buying habits, then that means I’ll be paying MORE for my purchases, and I’ll have to buy LESS of them.

So, perhaps I buy fair-trade/slave-free chocolate. It’s more expensive. I think I’ll have to make cookies less often, but when I DO make the cookies, they’ll be cookies that are created justly.  Perhaps I stop buying my clothes at stores that have bad records, and instead, pay more money for my clothes and just buy LESS of them.

These are often not easy decisions for me. I LOVE “getting the good deal.” But, I have to reframe that in my mind– whose “good deal” am I getting?

All that to say, this book is an excellent resource for someone who is looking to really live more justly. It’s an uncomfortable read, but not because the authors use any shame language or “oughts” and “shoulds” (not at all!). This book is uncomfortable because it challenges our assumptions, our understandings of God’s character and values, and also reveals some of ways that we unknowingly participate in injustice.

Thanks to Micah Challenge for sending me this book in exchange for a free copy. I’m so thankful to be helping you share this really important challenge! 

p.s. For any of my British readers, PLEASE SEND ME A REAL CADBURY EGG!!!!!!

Just How Married Do you Want to Be?

A few weeks ago I asked for suggestions on Facebook for some favorite books about marriage. I received a whole slew of comments– most of them I had heard of before, but one in particular piqued my interest with its title.

9780830833931

Just How Married Do You Want to Be?: Practicing Oneness in Marriage is a book written by Jim and Sarah Sumner (IVP) who I find to be a fairly unlikely couple (PhD theology student meets former stripper turned Christian- you guess who is who!). The authors’ goal of this book is to encourage and inspire Christian couples to live a biblical marriage (p.14). While I typically halt at anything labeled “biblical” (I’ve come to recognize that word as being one that people sometimes use to “show God to be on their side”), I decided to proceed with caution because this book was recommended by a friend I trust, and because it was published by IVP. :)

I ended up liking parts of it, being totally intrigued by others, and downright not liking some sections. So, all in all, I’d say that’s a fun read!

The most interesting thing to me was their theological framework for understanding marriage, especially as it relates to Ephesians 5:21-33.

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Instead of coming at it from a complementarian perspective and translating “head” as “leader”, or an egalitarian perspective and translating “head” as “source”, they come at it from head meaning a physical head (which is what kephale means). So, the man is the head of the wife and the wife is the body of the man. Just as Christ is the head of the church and the church the body of Christ.

I think this passage in Ephesians gets interesting when you realize what words Paul DIDN’T use when saying the husband is the head of the household. He didn’t use oikodespotes, which means master of the house. Paul didn’t use archon, which meals ruler.

This illustration in Ephesians seems to be saying more about the relational connectedness between a husband and wife and Christ and the Church then it does about who holds the power of the home.

The implications of this are interesting:

1. Our lives would ideally communicate our oneness. Both with our spouse and with Christ. Do people view my relationship with my husband as characterized by “oneness” or are we seen as two individuals who are very much doing our own things and constantly trying to figure out how to get our own way (or is one person getting their way while the other spouse just does whatever the other one wants)? Do people view the church’s relationship with Christ by “oneness” or a bunch of people figuring out how to live the life they want while also ending up in heaven at the end?

2. This interpretation would give us another dimension of our relationship with Christ to explore. Christ is our Savior (He saved us from our sin). Christ is our Lord (He leads us and we submit to Him). Christ is our Head (He is an intimate part of who we are- our identity).

All this and much more is found in Sarah and Jim’s book- I’m not 100% convinced that this is a good interpretation, but I’m thinking through it, praying through it. and keeping my mind open to it! Any thoughts?

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