Thursday, September 18, 2014

Breathing Room (Book Review)

I was fortunate to receive a copy of Leeana Tankersley's upcoming book Breathing Room from Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. In exchange, I am offering my thoughts on the book.  

Normally, I am a relatively fast reader.
I've always enjoyed reading, and am able to read and process material pretty quickly.
When I started Leeana Tankersley's new book Breathing Room, I figured I'd get through it within a day or two.  After all, it wasn't that long a book (just over 200 pages), and written in part as a memoir, I thought the story would move at a nice, brisk pace, allowing me to be done with the book in a brief period of time.
I soon learned Leeana's story, and her magnificent insights, would not be such a quick read.

 Within the first few pages of this book, Leeana drew me in to her world, in to her life.  I could imagine her life as a new mom, married to a Navy SEAL.  I could picture her struggles and challenges as she worked to put together their life in Bahrain.  I could imagine the scents and smells of the cities she described.
I could relate to the Come Aparts.  The Brain Vultures.
I couldn't bring myself to skim through her story.  I didn't want to miss out on how she handled the Hard, when it came around.  I didn't want to miss any of her wonderfully worded insights.  Beautifully phrased thoughts, like:
We are both lost and found.  And no matter where we are on the road home, we are loved.  That's it.  
I couldn't breeze through the chapter called "Saying No to Bad Pants."  
And, I mean - an author who quotes Dr. Seuss and Henri Nouwen within five pages of each other?
Brilliant.

With each story shared, I found myself wanting to talk with Leeana.  I also found myself feeling ashamed of the times I've judged other women at first glance, without knowing their real stories.  Yet I found a new appreciation and respect for women who deal with emotional and mental health issues from which they take on and work to rise above every day.  A new tender spot in my heart developed for these women after reading this book.

I love reading books like this, where real women share their real struggles.  In her vulnerability, in sharing her ups and downs, in her honesty, in opening up with her weakest moments, Leeana helped me realize our struggles and challenges are shared.  We can relate to one another, understand one another, when we allow ourselves to open our hearts to each other, but mostly, when we invite God to "sit down on the floor with us" and come into the Hard with us.  When we give ourselves permission to just rest in Him.
To realize we can be blessed, but still struggle.
To see life can be hard, but it is beautiful.
To know it's OK to do what we need to do to take care of ourselves, to give ourselves breathing room.

Monday, September 8, 2014

What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days (A review)

I received a copy of Holley Gerth's new book What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days in exchange for my honest opinion of this book.  
And honestly?  
I love it.  
Because really? 
There are days I get home from school, and the only thing I can think of is cutoff jeans, a fresh glass of water, and just simply putting my feet up.  
Ever have days like that?  Maybe not even one of *those* days, but a day when life just wears on you?
If so, you are going to relate to this book in a second.  
Have you read any of Holley's writings before? 
She has this fantastic way of writing that makes you feel like you're sitting down with a dear friend.  A sister, an aunt, or that wise friend with whom you love spending time.  
I've not yet met Holley in person, but from all I gather about her and read of her in her books, on Twitter, on Facebook, she's the real deal.  
She cares about helping women know their worth in Christ, but perhaps more importantly -- she helps women know Christ.  
Presenting ideas that we know that we know, Holley gives gentle reminders to us of how God is working in our lives, of what God has done and is doing for us, every moment of every day.  
This book contains 52 short reflections, and includes space with guided questions for personal journaling for each reading.  My first thought when I saw the number of readings, was, of course, one each week.  But it's not that easy  
I.Can't.Put.It.Down! 
And I can't stop thinking of how many hearts will be blessed by this book.  

Thank you Holley Gerth and Revell Books for the opportunity to read this book and offer my review!  

Monday, August 4, 2014

Blog Hop

I am so glad to have been asked to participate in a Blog Hop. Not familiar with it? My friend Amy Boyd, who lives in Alabama and writes at Living in Harmony invited me to take part in this activity. 
She linked to my blog from hers, making it easy for people to "hop" from her blog to mine. I hope you will continue the hopping when I introduce my friend Kristen to you in a short bit.






As part of this Blog Hop, I've been asked to respond to the following questions. I feel I need to include a small disclaimer at this point: These are great questions to ask people who I would consider to be real writers. I struggle with really calling myself a "real" writer. I'm just posting some thoughts from my little corner of the world. So - that being said - here are the questions and my responses:

1. What am I writing or working on? At this point, I am putting thoughts together to write something later this week about summer coming to an end, the start of the school year, just general ramblings.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? Hmmm, my best response for this is simply -- it's mine! I don't set out to write posts like anyone else, nor do I try to *not* be like anyone else. I just.....write.
3. Why do I write what I do? Sometimes it's just a way to get something off my chest. Sometimes it's to help me sort through something myself. Sometimes it's in response to something I've read or seen. Always - it's just to share what's on my heart.
4. How does my writing process work? OK - seriously - this makes me laugh. A process?? Good one. But, OK. With most of my posts, I've just sat with my laptop, tapping out my ideas, then hit the little orange "publish" button. Once in a while, I will sit with what I've written and go back and amend it as needed.
So that's it. That's how I write.

So now the fun part: I get to introduce you to a good friend of mine who agreed to take part in the Blog Hop.  Her name is Kristen McHargue, and she is one of the real life friends I've had for the longest time in my life.  I met Kristen wayyyy back in the day when her family moved to my hometown.  We became fast friends, and I am so grateful that the Lord has maintained our heart connection throughout the past almost 30 years.  

She is an amazing woman.  I know that word "amazing" is used almost to the point of abuse these days, but truly, that word fits Kristen.  Marrying her high school sweetheart Steve, giving birth to their son Corin, opening their hearts to welcome their daughter Izzy, Kristen and her family had incredible adventures: living in Hawaii, sharing the Gospel literally around the world, pouring their hearts and lives into countless young people to inspire them to live full-out for God.  In the midst of these adventures, they have endured hardships and hurts that would have flattened others of lesser faith: hospital stays, debilitating and life-threatening illness, the sudden death of her beloved Steve.  Yet to talk with Kristen today (something that doesn't happen NEARLY enough for me!), what is evident is her faithful trusting walk with her Lord.  In all her creative, whimsical, thoughtful, beautiful ways, Kristen is a daughter of the King.  You will love her, just as I do.  Do yourself a favor, hop over to Kristen's blog.  She writes at A Divergent Life: Living Out of the Box.   


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer baking....just add zucchini!

Normally, in the middle of July, there's not much baking going on at our house.  It's hot. I don't want the oven on. I don't want to be standing guard over the oven. I'd rather be downstairs in my sewing room, away from the heat.
But yesterday and today have been unseasonably cool.  In fact, new record low temperatures of 50 degrees were set last night.  Our high temperature yesterday and today is only in the mid-70's.  So I have taken advantage of this cooler weather, and abundance of garden produce, to get some baking done.
It seems everyone has zucchini from their gardens right now.  Including us.  I keep telling Dave to quit going to the garden, because every time he comes back to the house from being out there, he brings in more zucchini and more cucumbers.  And this is after I've picked things already!  But we love our garden produce.  I chose to plant zucchini this year because of the versatility of it. I love it plain.  Dave likes it breaded and cooked.  I like being able to bake side dishes with it, as well as breads or other treats.
So - due to the high production of my plants in the garden, I'm on a quest for yummy, tasty ways to use zucchini.  This is what I've found so far.
I started last night with Parmesan-encrusted zucchini served with chicken for dinner.  I found the recipe here after a friend posted a link to zucchini recipes on my Facebook page.  The dish ended up similar to lasagna, and was delicious.  Dave said part way through dinner, "You could make this again anytime."  It's a winner.
While I was searching around for dinner ideas, I came across a number of recipes for cookies and brownies and other tasty-sounding treats. I did make two batches of cookies this afternoon: Chocolate fudge zucchini cookies, and Zucchini applesauce oatmeal cookies.
I have to be honest, when I made a chocolate zucchini cake a couple weeks ago, I didn't think the difference in using zucchini would be THAT big of a deal.  Oh.My.Goodness.  I thought wrong!  It made such a rich, moist cake.  So when I saw this recipe for the chocolate fudge cookies, I thought they might end up with a pretty good taste.  Ho.Ly.Cow.  Honestly, I don't know when I've had a cookie this chocolaty, moist, and just doggone GOOD lately.  It has been an exercise in self-control with these bad boys in the kitchen for the past hour or so.
Zucchini Applesauce Oatmeal Cookie Recipe on twopeasandtheirpod.com
The applesauce oatmeal cookies are equally yummy, but in a completely different way.  They are a more coarse textured cookie.  The ingredients include oatmeal, applesauce, and zucchini (obviously!), but also raisins and chocolate chips.  I was telling my mother-in-law about this recipe, and I joked that I think they could almost be considered a health food given what's included.
My 2 suggestions for zucchini:
1.  Blot out excess moisture before cooking/baking.  I've been going through a lot of paper towels, but it definitely makes a difference in how the food turns out.
2. If you live in a small town, lock your car doors when you get out of your car so it won't be as easy for your generous neighbors to dump, er, share their zucchini mother lode with you. :)
Enjoy!

Friday, June 27, 2014

FMF and #FMFPartySnailMail: Lost

I'm doing a smashup today of 2 posts, both closely related: Five Minute Friday, and the #FMFPartySnailMail project.  Read on!

Finding community is hard. 
There's no other way to say it.  
Seeking out that comfortable place, settling in on that common ground with others.......seems like it ought to be easy. 
But it isn't.  At least it isn't always easy.  
My husband and I are coming up on our 4-year wedding anniversary in a month.  So it's been almost four years since I've uprooted myself from the community that had been formed, shaped, built up around me -- at my workplace, at home, in the community in which I lived, at church and church events.  
I still miss it. 
Sometimes I have felt somewhat lost. 
But God is blessing me in amazing ways - bringing beautiful women into my life.  Shaping community in ways I never understood before.  
Bringing together seemingly "random" strangers together through (in)RL events. 
Opening opportunities for ministry in my home parish in Omaha.  Bringing together the "Pew Sisters" at my husband's church.  (Who'd'a thought a Catholic could fit in so well with Lutherans?!) ;) 
Slowly, oh so slowly, forming friendships with people where I work.  That has perhaps been the most difficult transition, where I have felt lost the most in the past few years.  
And with every connection, every thread that hems me in a little more, I thank God for His work.  
This #FMFPartySnailMail thing?  One more way our Lord is helping me connect to women in ways I never, ever dreamed I could.  Kaitlyn Bouchillon who blogs at It Just Takes One is the beautiful girl who has so faithfully put this project together.  Starting with just a small group of us, she is now putting together our third round of Snail Mail women...numbering almost 80 ladies now!  Remember way back in the day when we'd have penpals?  This is like that.  These short notes of encouragement, prayer, Scripture, faith-sharing make my day.  Every. Time.  

And as always, God's timing is perfect with the delivery of each note.  If I've had a particularly trying day, there's an encouraging note that appears with the mail.  If I'm praising God on a certain day, another note will come in that day's mail delivery celebrating and rejoicing with me.  
It's exciting to see the Holy Spirit work in the hearts of his daughters from so many places.  Iowa, South Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Canada, Washington, Arizona.....

Wanting to be found, and understood.  Because even though we may feel lost in this world, we know we have been found and loved by a powerful, almighty King who holds us in the palm of His hand.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Taking Better Pictures

This morning I happened upon this post by Deidra Riggs, a writer and speaker who lives in Lincoln (!!!) and has wonderful posts on her blog, as well as wonderful guest posts, as was the case today.  Cindee Snider Re blogs at Breathe Deeply, and I am easily her newest big fan.
I was inspired after reading Cindee's post on Deidra's site called "6 Tips for Taking Better Pictures."  I had heard of several of the apps and sites she recommended for editing photos, but had really never spent much time exploring or playing with them.
Another reason this topic intrigued me is that I'm taking part in an online (in)courage group whose focus is all about discovering art in your life. Our challenge this week was to try our hand at another form of art outside our usual area.  For instance, some ladies in the group are paint and paper artists, some are photographers, some are fiber artists, etc.  Since I'd been doing a lot of crocheting lately, I figured it would be good for me to try something else for a bit.
This is a gorgeous Wednesday at the start of summer, and I actually had some free time this afternoon.  So I grabbed my little Sony Cybershot camera and headed outside in the wind and the sun so see what I could see.  As I walked around the front of the house, nothing caught my eye.  I even said out loud, "Everything is so ordinary."  But, I would not be denied finding shots that showed the everyday beauty that surrounds me!!  I first ventured over to the upper pond and took a couple pictures there.  With the wind, it was so pretty to see the grass and the trees moving and blowing.
Then I decided to head out the driveway a little bit and see what I could discover about the corn that's planted.  I had already taken a couple other pictures of the corn this spring, but this was my first attempt at doing any editing with one.
On the other side of the driveway is a field of beans.  I had fun trying to get some different angles of the rows and the field.
As I was coming back in toward the house, I decided to see if I could capture how pretty our spirea and barberry bushes are this year.  Honestly, it was hard to see what (if anything) I was getting a picture of, as it was so bright outside and the screen on the camera was reflecting so much!  But this is one of the pictures I got.

As I finished up, I realized truly, yet again, how incredibly blessed I am to be surrounded with this God-given beauty every day.  Honestly, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder.  
All these pictures were done with just the basic editing tools on PicMonkey - very cool site, no registration needed, just upload a picture and go!  
I know there are many other sites that have great features as well that I can't wait to try on another day.  Plus, I want to play with the camera on my phone and some mobile apps to see what other fun things I can discover.  
What are your favorite editing sites and apps? What hints and tips do you have to share?  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Newly in Love: TOMS

So I have a new love.  Or at least I am pretty sure it's love.

Toms.
If you're not familiar with this company and their practices, you can read about One for One here.  For every pair of shoes someone buys, they give a pair to a child in need.  How great is that?!  Help children around the world without leaving your living room, and get some amazing shoes in the meantime!
I have heard about this company Toms for some time, and I knew there was a company that does this buy a pair/give a pair away.  Very recently, I put the two together and realized both are this company called Toms.  But, I had never owned any Toms shoes myself.
Until tonight!
I have two beauties on their way to my house.
I think these will be perfect for when we go to Arizona:

And I think these will be adorable with skirts, slacks, shorts, dresses when it starts to warm up:

Take a moment to find out about Toms One for One then find some cuties for yourself while helping a child in need.  Start shopping!
I have a feeling you may be newly in love too!