Category: Motherhood

Pursuing a Creative Life in the Midst of Motherhood

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I could hear the whirl of the sewing machine all the way upstairs. My mom had been busy in the basement all day, ironing, measuring, cutting, measuring again.

I loved going to the craft store with my momma. I’d follow her to the back of the store, very pleased with the attention of the white-haired women with their blue aprons and kind smiles. While mom was searching for fabric and thread, I’d sit upon a green vinyl stool and thumb through the newest clothing catalog, looking for the next outfit I hoped my mom would make for me.

On that particular weekend, I was extra eager to see the result of my mom’s creation. She was turning a black and white checkered material into a pants and jacket outfit that, unbeknownst to me, would become one of my favorites.

I would wear it to our family Christmas party, eating piles of chocolate covered peanuts, using the pants as a napkin for my chocolatey hands. I would also wear it while I nervously read a historical essay about girls and education to a room full of women in the DAR, getting compliments afterward on both the essay and my outfit. I was proud of both, and I think my momma was too.

But for now, I would sit at the top of the stairs and watch my momma create, surrounded by piles of patterns and fabric, eager to see her finished product.

It wasn’t long after that life got busy and my mom stopped sewing as much. My little brother was born, we moved to a new city, and she got a new job. The sewing machine started accumulating dust as the demands of everyday life grew.

I think many of us can relate. Life gets busy and we have a hard time making time for our creative outlets. Cooking dinner, bathing kids, cleaning house, writing reports, planning for presentations, and yard work always seem more urgent than getting out our paints or writing a blog post. And when we do have downtime after the kids are in bed or while the kids at their friends’ houses, we wonder if it’s even worth it to turn on the computer or drag out our guitar. I should probably check off a few of the tasks on my to-do list.

In Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom, authors Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart can relate. Life is busy. We feel responsible for everyone else and have a hard time giving ourselves permission to head to the back room to get lost in a pile of fabric. But instead of packing away those creative talents, what if we felt the freedom to engage, even in the midst of crazy, love-filled, energy-draining motherhood?

We are all made in the image of a creative God, and He invites each of us to use the gifts He has given us. Wendy and Kelli shared the stories of how creative women like author Angie Smith, jewelry designer Lisa Leonard, and blogger Myquillyn Smith wrote and created and designed even in the midst of the craziness of motherhood. We don’t have to put our gifts and passions on hold, but we can unapologetically make space to pursue these interests.

It’s easier said than done, but Wendy and Kelli give a bunch of great ideas on how to make that happen, as well as discussing the potential pitfalls, attitude challenges, and difficult seasons of life that creative mommas walk through.

What I most loved about this book was the authors desire to encourage and empower women to keep pursing their interests in the midst of having children.

Many women will put their entire pre-child self on hold, focusing all their attention on their home, their husband, and their children. And while there is an appropriate amount of focus-shifting that comes with marriage and children (for both men and women!), it’s important for women not to lose themselves in the transition. This isn’t an either/or decision, but a both/and.

Pursuing creative interests is not just good for a woman’s soul, but it’s also great for kids to see their mom engage in something that doesn’t revolve around them. I loved seeing my mom spend the whole afternoon behind her sewing machine. I didn’t feel neglected or that I wasn’t important. Instead, I recognized how my mom found energy and pleasure when creating.

If you are a momma who struggles with making time for your creative pursuits or feels bad about letting your kids play by themselves while you bake and decorate fall sugar cookies, this book is for you. And while moms who work outside the home are included in this book, I would only recommend this book to women who stay-at-home full-time (or work from home amidst stay-at-home mothering). There’s a heavy emphasis on homemaking and child-rearing that could make a work-outside-the-home mom feel out of place or uncomfortable.
Join Wendy, Kelli, and other moms in celebrating the beauty of being a creative mom by entering to win the Called to Be Creative Giveaway (details below) and by attending their author chat party on October 27!

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One grand prize winner will receive:

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Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on 10/27. The winner will be announced at the Life Creative Facebook party. RSVP for a chance to connect with Wendy, Kelli, and other creative moms, as well as for a chance to win other prizes!

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RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via social media and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 27th!

 

Thanks to Litfuse for the review copy of Life Creative! 

Parenting as an Art (and sometimes art gets messy)

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It’s been awhile since I’ve shared an update on our Year of Positive Parenting.

To be honest, it’s been really hard.

There’s nothing more I want in life than to get this parenting thing “right”. And of course, the reality of parenting is that there is no “right”. Math problems have right answers. Jeopardy questions have right answers. Parenting does not have right answers. (more…)

2016: The Year of Positive Parenting

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We’ve had a rough year or two with parenting.

Jake and I started out parenting with a whole lot of energy. Sure we were stressed at different points and made poor choices at others, but overall, we had more than enough patience, compassion, and stamina to parent our kids well.

We were committed to spending a lot of quality time with them, listening, asking good questions, looking behind the behavior into the heart, calmly redirecting and being generally playful.

Somewhere along the way things began to shift.

We got tired.

We got distracted.

We got tired some more.

Our patience grew thin and our words got lazy.

(more…)

The Token in My Pocket

Summer vacation for us means that we’ll most likely find more of these little things lying around.

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Our kids are drawn to those penny-smashing machines like a bee is to a flower. The gears. The pictures to choose from. The huge hard-to-turn crank. The penny-in, penny-out magic never gets old. The kids will carry these smushed down pennies with them wherever they go- in the car, on their bikes, and sometimes even wrapped in their little hands as they fall asleep.

By the time fall comes, these pennies will be forgotten. Sometime in late August, I will gather them all up from under the couch cushions and behind beds, and put them in their memory boxes, small tokens of the fun we had together.

As 3 of the 4 kids bound off to school, however, their pockets will not be empty. With the new school year comes a need for a different kind of token. A reminder of home. A reminder that someone loves them. A reminder that they aren’t alone, even when they’re on the playground and may not know who to play with or what to do. In the morning, if they need it, I’ll slip a penny or a note or a small picture into their pocket or backpack, telling them that if they get sad or lonely, they can feel for it and think of me.

I carry a different kind of token. It’s not physical and it isn’t in my pocket. Instead, I carry it around in my heart, and I touch it to ask the Holy Spirit to remind me of my purpose and my calling, especially when I feel bored or forgotten or insignificant in the mundane, day-to-day routine. While Scripture is not something to take out of context and use to make us feel good, sometimes choosing one verse of Scripture to hold onto (while knowing and understanding its place within the chapter, book, and whole story of Scripture) is incredibly powerful.

This month over at the Graham Blanchard blog, the Mom Mentors and I are sharing some of those tokens that we hold onto during our current season of life. We live in very different spaces and places, but we all have found that holding onto certain passages of Scripture helps us to persevere, find joy, be reminded of our calling, or simply keep our head above the crashing waves. Here’s what I shared, but please feel free to go on over and read more of the others’ if you want. 🙂

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  – 1 Corinthians 10:31.

I’ve been a stay at home or work from home mom for nearly 8 years (with a 1 year exception), and sometimes I feel, well, tired of being at home all the time! On occasion I am tempted to believe that my work caring for kiddos at home is not as Kingdom-building as some other things I could be doing if I was working outside the home. It’s during these seasons that I hold on to this verse, which reminds me that God asks me to glorify Him in WHATEVER I’m doing, even in those tasks that feel quite mundane. This verse also brings my attention back to the overarching call on my life to be a whole-life worshipper, and reminds me that I can do that ANYWHERE, especially in my own home.  So, when that feeling of restlessness begins to saturate my mind, this verse and ones like it helps me to regain perspective and patience.

What’s the passage or verse of Scripture in your pocket this season? 

When Your Child Asks Hard Questions about the Bible

Just the other day, the kids and I were eating dinner when the topic of the destination of the unevangelized came up. Of course, it didn’t come up in those words, but more like, “Mom, what happens to people who haven’t heard of God or Jesus before missionaries come to tell them God’s good news?”

If this topic hasn’t come up around your dinner table or while snuggled close to your kids at bedtime, then another one has. What happens to the baby that was miscarried? Why did the earthquake happen and kill so many people? Why does God allow people to do bad things to people because of the color of their skin? What will heaven be like?

As parents, we expect these questions to come, yet often feel the sense of surprise when they do. We have some general idea of how we answer the questions for ourselves, but when talking to our child about it, the ideas sometimes seem foggy, or the explanations “not enough”. We long for our child to have assurance of God’s great love for them, and also know that cutting off those questions, and that precious dialogue, may eventually be hurtful to their faith journey.

All that to be said, parenting is hard. Wading through tough questions about faith is hard. We need wise resources from people who have walked through it before us.

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One book that I’m reading through right now is called The Bible Story Handbook, written by Dr. John and Kim Walton. Married for many years and having raised three children themselves, John and Kim offer a theological sound, critical way at looking at the Scriptures that will allow us to teach our kids the intended messages of the Scriptures.

It’s tempting to read a passage of Scripture and then immediately figure out a way to connect it to our life. I mean, isn’t that what the Bible is for?

Well… maybe not exactly.

If a preacher or teacher is going to do a “leadership study”, you can pretty much guess what book of the Bible she or he is going to use… Nehemiah. But, the Waltons argue, leadership is not what Scripture is teaching in this passage. It’s not what the text is intending to teach, and “only the things that Scripture intends to teach carry the authority of the text.”

So, then, when we teach about Noah and the ark with all of the animals, what is the intended message of the Scriptures in that story? What do we teach our children about the story of Abraham? of David’s life? the creation of the world?

We are definitely good intentioned; at least I am. I want my children to find themselves in the Scriptures- to connect to them, to feel like the Bible is “applicable to their lives”. But all too often we pop the Scriptures of of their redemptive historical context only to make it into a nice packaged story with a good takeaway for our kids. The should be honest, obey, feed the poor,  be humble– things like that.

So if we’re not to just dive into the Scriptures to figure out how we should live, what should we do with them? The Waltons recommend first and foremost being careful to ask ourselves- what is the intended message of this passage of Scripture? What was the author trying to convey? Most of the time, it’s teaching about WHO GOD IS, not what we should do. They go on to say, “We want our students to be conformed to the image of Christ and their behavior to have been embraced as a way to imitate God. We accomplish this by helping them know God better, not by telling them that they should obey because Abraham obeyed.”

So, after this and much more (the introduction in itself is worth getting the book; I feel like I’m not really doing it justice), the Waltons go through the entire Bible and lay out lesson guidelines for parents or teachers to use when teaching on the various passages of Scriptures. They include:

  • a lesson focus
  • a lesson application
  • a short paragraph on the biblical context
  • interpretational issues in the story (this part is EXCELLENT. It will help with some of those tough questions that will come up if a child is thinking closely about the text)
  • Background information: Information about different parts of the story or words/images used that will help in gaining a fuller understanding of the message of the author
  • Mistakes to Avoid: a list of ways in which the passage of scripture is perhaps inaccurately taught to kids.

Another interesting thing that Waltons bring up is that it’s better to not teach your child a passage of Scripture than teach them the wrong thing about it. For example, one day their son came home from church and talked about how he learned about Cain and Abel in his class. Interested, they asked a few questions and learned that the lesson learned that day was “God created our bodies”. And while no one is going to argue that that is not a true statement, it’s not at all what the story of Cain and Abel teaches (acceptable and unacceptable sacrifices, murder of a brother, etc.). Most likely the teachers didn’t know how to teach this difficult passage to preschool children, so just tried to grasp at straws. There are passages of Scriptures that are inappropriate for young children to read. Skip them. Come back to them when they are older and you can teach them about it in an honest way.

Not only is this book helpful when teaching children, but it’s helpful to us as adults too. If we’ve grown up in the Church World, it can be hard to tease out the difference between what the Scripture says and what we may have been inaccurately taught about it.

Of course, as with any book, you read it and test it, but so far it appears to be an excellent resource. I HIGHLY recommend it to all parents!

 

Thanks to Crossway for a review ecopy of this book!!

Who Can You Talk To When Mothering Gets Rough?

In a society that is constantly moving and grooving, mentors can be hard to find.

This month the Mom Mentors are talking about OUR mentors as mothers. The answers may surprise you. Here’s what I wrote:

I’ve spent a lot of my last 10 years moving around (making consistent mentors hard to find), but despite this, I’m so blessed with a few women in my life that I can reach out to for guidance and encouragement. There’s a friend in Pennsylvania whom I call when my elementary kids have caught some weird new habit at school and I have to know if it’s normal or not.

There are a couple ladies in Missouri who have 5+ kids who I email, asking for advice on intentional parenting or whatever current parenting struggle I’m going through. I’ve found that these ladies have been particularly helpful because they know the unique struggles of having a gaggle of kids. Most recently it’s been about how to parent children as individuals instead of a herd!

Here in Madison I have a few friends who are amazing sources of encouragement, reminding me that until my youngest is 3, I’m still in the parenting fog stage, so relax.Finally, I have one mom friend in Kenya who is an incredible source of wisdom and gentleness, and brings a sense of cultural clarity to my parenting for which I’m so grateful!

How about you? Who are your mom mentors- the people you can watch and observe in everyday life (or pick up the phone and call) when you need an ear or advice about parenting?

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!

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.

 

 

 

 

Review: Small Talk: Learning from My Children about What Matters the Most

In our house, there is one word that can be used at any time, as long as it’s not used by itself.

Whatever.

It’s an innocent enough word, but left to stand by itself, it can be relational harmful. Using this word often signals a premature disengaging that, if said often enough, can cause a wall between two people. In a house full of know-it-alls (how did this happen? Jesus help us), this word is the equivalent of a curse word.

I don’t even remember the context now, but for some reason I let the W-word slip. Ada, startled all of a sudden, looks right at me and says, “Mom, did you use that word in a sentence?” At first I felt indignant- how dare my 3-year-old challenge me in my usage of the English language? I’m the mom, don’t I have the right to say whatever I please? But, with the next wave of thoughts, I recognize my lack of respect with my words and quickly admit my error and began mending the situation.

I’ve been learning from my kids these days that just because I’m the parent and have the so-called “power” in the relationship, I still don’t get to break the rules. I don’t get to show disrespect or use relationally hurtful words that my children aren’t allowed to use with me or one another.

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In her new book, Small Talk: Learning From My Children About What Matters Most, Amy Julia Becker writes about some of the important things that she has learned from her children, whether it be in the van on the way home from school, observing her kids during an after school playdate, or on the back porch eating dinner. She writes in the introduction:

This book is a series of reflections from my past few years of parenting…it is not a how-to guide. It is not filled with advice. It is, I hope, a word of encouragement that good things can emerge out of the hard but ordinary everyday moments. It is, I hope, a reminder that on those days when you wonder if there is any meaning in the dishes and disputes and diapers, you are not alone.”

In this book, Amy Julia travels the path of friendships, traditions, beauty, disability, baptism and everywhere in between in a way that leaves the reader feeling encouraged, contemplative, and with an eagerness to listen a little more closely to what comes out of the mouths of our babes.

While Amy Julia is a great writer and thinker whose writing has been published in the New York Times Motherlode blog, the Atlantic, Christianity Today, etc., in this book she stumbles upon what all of us parents come to know eventually- some of our greatest learning, our deepest theological musings, our most potent catalysts for spiritual transformation begin with an interaction with our children.

To learn more about Small Talk or about Amy Julie Becker, you can read her blog, Thin Places or connect with her via FB or Twitter.

Thanks to BookLook books for the review copy in exchange for an honest review.