Fiercehearted: A Book Review

A couple of months ago, I was offered the opportunity to review Holley Gerth’s newest release, Fiercehearted: Live Fully, Love Bravely” for Revell Publishing. While they graciously offered me a copy of Holley’s book, the following opinions are all mine.

I had to force myself to read this book slowly because I simply did not want it to end! In Fiercehearted, Holley shares with vulnerability, her personal stories and struggles with the purpose of encouraging us in our own. I love reading Holley’s books because it truly feels as if she is sitting across the table, sharing her heart over a good cup of coffee. Holley’s relate-ability shines in Fiercehearted.  Her writing causes you to look deeper into your own story and realize you are absolutely not alone on this journey through life.  In Fiercehearted, Holley offers her friendship, her truth, her tears and her triumphs.  You will love this book. Don’t miss it!

 

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links 

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31 Days of Writing Again: Thankful Thursday

A few things I’m thankful for this week:

  1. tired kids who go to bed easily
  2. time to myself in the evenings (after kids are tucked in)
  3. a cold snap that finally makes it feel like fall
  4. new to us children’s museums to explore
  5. picnics
  6. beautiful leaves falling down all colorful
  7. parent teacher conferences
  8. online inspiration
  9. trunk or treats (my fave!)
  10. cousins with kiddos the same age as ours
  11. flannel sheets
  12. exciting world series games that keep me up way too late!

31 Days of Writing Again: Recipe

In a few weeks time, we are going to host our second Thanksgiving at our house. This kind of thing gets me excited. I love to research new recipes and how-to’s for roasting the perfect turkey and new ways to prepare everyone’s favorite dishes. There is something comforting about the Thanksgiving meal.  Familiar foods, beloved faces around the table and lots of stories and laughter to share. My mom has always been a “use the same recipe” person when preparing the feast, but I love to switch things up.  I am all about keeping the usual staple sides in play, but I love to try different ways of preparing old favorites. For me, it keeps things interesting and a bit out of the box.

I love cooking and tinkering but there are times when I love a good tried and true recipe where the outcome is all but guaranteed if you follow the listed steps and add the suggested ingredients. Being a parent is different though.  It is full of the unexpected,  often exhausting and despite one’s best efforts, the outcome is rarely guaranteed.

I am constantly wondering if things are going to turn out okay or if I am messing my children up. There are times when I wish God would just give me a simple “recipe” for raising good kids so I would have some sort of guarantee about how this is all going to work out.  Occasionally, I think it would be nice to have an ingredient list for the right kind of discipline, a measurement for the perfect amount of freedoms and choices along the way, and an exact how-to for all of the really tricky situations in life. Mix it all together and viola- you have raised an outstanding, kind, good, loving person; an upstanding and contributing member of society.  If only it were that easy!

Obviously, life does not work this way, and nor would I actually want it to. I treasure the fact that God has given me two completely unique little people to steward and guide- who adhere to no recipe. I also can appreciate how He has graciously not locked me into a certain way of parenting or scripted my interactions.  Sure, I would love a little guarantee or glimpse of how they will turn out as human beings, but I would not trade all of these daily adventures with them, for all of the “recipes” or guarantees in the world.

There is something comforting about things being familiar and the same when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner.  But when it comes to children, families and parenting, I’m thankful for the unexpected blessings and surprises along the way- the ones that are never planned, but always a part of God’s ever elusive “recipe.”

31 Days of Writing Again: Preparing

Just like the squirrels outside my window are preparing for winter, I have been preparing for all the next couple of months will bring.  The next several weeks are going to be busy ones for the kids, and my husband’s work is going to be extra busy, which means my life will be especially busy not only keeping things going on the home front, but preparing for the holidays and helping support everyone else in their work and activities.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m married to an amazing man and we have great kids who are on a solid routine, so in those respects, I’m not feeling overwhelmed.  But I am a bit worried about how I’m going to care for myself in all of it.

Making the time to care for myself when I’m busy caring for others feels really challenging for me and does not come naturally. I struggle with guilt, and have the nasty habit of feeding my emotions.  Its helpful for me to intentionally think of proactive things to do for myself rather than roll the dice and hope for the best. I always feel better when I’m taking care of myself- who doesn’t? Yet, I am guilty of never making self-care a priority.  I truly wish it was not such a challenge.

I have been trying to think of ways that I can keep my own cup filled as I’m racing to try and keep everyone else’s filled at the same time.  Some of the things I have thought about trying are meal prep/planning, carving out time for exercise, giving myself manicures, going to bed early in order to read my book, or taking a relaxing bath. All of these things are not huge in and of themselves, but if I am able to make them a reality, they would be huge for me.

As 2017 begins to wind down and we brace ourselves for the rush of the holidays, I’m struck again by the nudge to prepare- to think ahead and have a plan.  Not only in respect to our budget, getting gifts purchased, and plans solidified, but most importantly, thinking of ways to keep myself on track with my eating and self-care throughout the madness.

This year, I’m going to work hard at preparing my heart and spirit, to finish this year with reflection, clarity and purpose. There is beauty to be discovered in every season- even in the hard and ugly parts that require effort and a little extra preparation.

31 Days of Writing Again: Thankful Thursday

I can hardly believe the end of 2017 is just around the corner. I’m starting to get itchy to begin my year-end reflections and start dreaming about all of the possibilities for 2018. One thing I know for sure is going to be on my list do to more of is to practice the discipline of gratitude. So today, I’m doing some of that here on the blog. May your eyes be open to all of the goodness and giftings God offers every day.

369. Learning (slowly) to sew

370. Family hikes

371. A glimpse of my kids holding hands

372. Audio books

373. Road trip picnics

374. parades

375. stormy afternoons

376. the dark shadow of mountains at sunset

377. Big boy bed smiles

378. writer friends

379. a dry basement after a massive storm

380. green backpacks with white stars

31 Days of Writing Again: Expiration Date

The first taste is always the best. Whether you are sipping your first cup of coffee in the morning, or taking your first swig of a sparkling water in the afternoon. That first sip is always the best. Most weekday mornings, I return home from dropping my kids at their schools and make myself a second cup of coffee to enjoy in the quiet.

I fully admit, I’m one of those types of coffee drinkers who enjoy their cream with a splash of coffee. This morning when I was returning the half and half to the refrigerator shelf, I noticed the expiration date on the carton and the date on the back up carton on behind it. (I told you, I was serious about my cream!) And even though both containers have a ways to go before they expire, it got me thinking.

What if we had expiration dates? I’m not talking about the day we die, I’m talking about expiration dates for our usefulness in life or for tasks we are assigned to do in order for them to have maximum impact. What if there was an invisible date stamped on us that only God could see where after that date passed, we were no longer useful and he just tossed us aside or said, “Never mind, I’ll just use someone else.” Isn’t that an awful thought?

I sat and pondered this for quite a while as I sipped my coffee this morning. I’m so thankful that we serve a God who never gives up on us- even though we might give up on ourselves from time to time. He never tosses us aside if we make huge mistakes in life and refuses to call us hopeless or useless. Basically, as long as we are drawing breath, he has a use for us in His Kingdom and his Word repeatedly tells us that it is never too late to begin again. He has a purpose for our lives and a future he wants to bestow upon us.

I’m thankful my passion and desire to write did not “expire” when I allowed it to sit idle for several years. I’m grateful that my life story did not “expire” when I thought I would never get married or have a family. I’m so happy that God continues to challenge and grow my experiences and interests even though it often feels like my “adult brain” has “expired” from too many games of Candy Land or episodes of Chuggington.

He is the renewer of our hopes and dreams. He never wants us to give up hope or just “expire” and be or feel tossed aside.  Our God has purpose for us every day even as we get old and gray. There are people around us and generations behind us who need our wisdom, our shared experiences and our enthusiasm for living to be passed down.

Thankfully we serve a God whose purposes and plans for our lives never expire. As I’m working on emerging from a difficult season in my life, I’m so grateful that I do not have an expiration date on my usefulness in life and that it is never too late to get started- again.  God’s timing is always perfect.  His goodness and grace towards us are forever, and thank goodness forever never expires!

31 Days of Writing Again: Finding Your Tribe

As I stood on the porch of the beautiful log home in the mountains I could not help but smile. There were dozens of people just like my brother and beautiful new sister-in-law gathered in groups talking and laughing. I was looking at their tribe; the family they have chosen for themselves and it was lovely. They were an intentional community of friends who had many shared interests. These people’s lives were bound together through epic adventures, shared stories, holiday celebrations and lots of time spent together.

My brother lives an adventurous life out west. He climbs mountains, floats rivers and snowboards with the best of them. The life he lives now is not the lifestyle in which he was raised.  However, after hearing many of his stories and finally getting to meet the faces of his dearest friends, I can easily see he is truly at home and extremely happy.  He has found his tribe of like-minded people and made them his family.

As I sat across the table from a new friend a few weeks ago, I was struck by how thankful I am for her presence in my life. She is a fellow writer and frankly, I do not have many writer friends. It was a blast to catch up with her.  As writer-y types, we speak the same language and it was so fun to be able to share triumphs, struggles and fears with a fellow creative who understands. I left feeling inspired and wanting more of that type of connection in my life.

Don’t get me wrong, I have many wonderful friends in my life, but not many who can truly speak into my writer soul the way only another writer can. It is one of my personal goals as I get back into writing, to truly invest time in developing and cultivating friendships and relationships with other writers.  I want to not only discover my tribe but celebrate them as well.

Who is in your tribe? What are your passion areas that could lead to connections with new faces.  Whose stories can you blend with yours? It is easy to stay in our same “ruts” with the same wonderful people because that is easy and requires little risk.  But God calls us to a life of adventure, challenge and deep connection. I’m convinced that it takes intentional effort and risk to build our tribes, but I’m also absolutely certain it is always worth the effort too.

31 Days of Writing Again: Control

I love my sleep. Growing up, I was widely known in my family for my sleeping skills. Deep, restful, heavy sleep came easily for me. It was an area where I never struggled. Typing those words today, feels like I’m writing about a long ago hero of legend and lore. Becoming a new mother naturally re-wires your ability to function on less and lighter sleep. I expected that.  And it’s fair to say, I also expected a return to my normal sleep patterns when my children began sleeping through the night.  However, I’m recently discovering that it’s shockingly (not really when you think about it) that simple.

For weeks now, it seems that a solid night of sleep has alluded me, and my inability to recapture rest often leads to long nights of anxiety wondering why I’m not sleeping.  My mind skips topics at rapid rates as I think about world events, war possibilities, violent tragedies, lists of cities in alphabetical order, fears, my family, milestones, home projects, my to-do list and grocery list (to name a few topics). On and on I spin.

Last night as I lay awake and my mind started its inevitable middle of the night spin, I began to remind myself over and over again that I have no control over these things, but God does.  With every concern that popped into my scattered thoughts, I practiced taking that thought captive for Christ and chose to trust Him with it.  Doing this did not bring sleep, but it did bring peace.

I cannot control the horrible wild fires burning or the choices made by criminals loose in society. I cannot change less than stellar decisions made in my past or the choices my children will make in their futures, but God can and He is sovereign. He is the Author of our stories, not us.

It is in those moments when life feels like it is spinning out of control the most, that we can choose to place our trust and surrender our illusion of control to the Most High God.  It’s the only answer.  I’m willing to bet my sleep on it!

 

31 Days of Writing Again: Worship

I am a house-lover. We live in mid-west suburbia and I’m always on the hunt for ways to add character to our home and make it feel cozier. My Instagram feed is packed with creative people who love to post pictures of their homes and seeing what they come up with makes my heart sing with possibility.

I possess zero DIY skills and even less confidence in that area, but I have my dreams and ideas and a healthy desire to learn.  I LOVE to rearrange furniture and move things from room to room. It may sound ridiculous, but a pretty shelf or vignette can boost my spirits and a lovely space causes my heart to swoon.

We do not have money trees growing in our yard, so my hobby/passion is always a slow work in progress and an exercise in respecting our budget.  But I actually think that is a good thing.  For me, beauty is often found in figuring out new ways to see, love and use the things we already have.  I’m not an artist or a trained creative by any stretch, but I am slowly rediscovering how much I truly do love using the creativity that God has given me.

We are God’s handiwork, designed with intention to connect with Him through the use of our creative giftings.  Doing this with the right spirit, can feel like worship.  For so long, I neglected this part of my God-given design.  I left my camera on the shelf, I stopped writing and collected hundreds of home ideas without taking any action.  My relationship with the Creator suffered as a result. I allowed images of perceived perfection, comparison and whispers of doubt to sneak in and speak lies loudly into my heart.  I stopped believing that I had anything to offer and my trust in my God-given identity as a creative began to waver.

Honestly, working to re-awaken my creative muscles has felt a bit like waiting for Lazarus to emerge from the tomb. Even though I am far from where I want to be, there is progress being made, and for so long I feared that kind of change was impossible for me.  I am thankful that we serve a creative God who delights in restoring possibility and beauty in our hearts. Good gifts which can then spill into our homes and the lives of those around us.  He is the giver of life and the re-newer of our hopes; forever deserving of our worship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

31 Days of Writing Again: Try

As a mom, I’m always encouraging my kiddos to “try”  again and again. I want to see my children put forth efforts to conquer challenges in life that feel difficult, whether that is pulling up your own pants after going potty, or working to craft the perfect lower case ‘q’.   In a perfect world, my children would willingly try new things without complaint.  They would practice and attempt repeatedly without frustration.  I know, dream world right?  Who likes to try and fail on a regular basis? Last time I checked, not many kids and even fewer adults…actually, no one does.

Especially adults.  I am the pot calling the kettle black.  My kiddos are on a steep learning curve in pretty much every area of their lives due to their ages.  Me, as an adult, I can kind of coast most of the time without crashing into too many feelings of “failure” in my every day life.  So when I do encounter feelings of failure, I find myself struggling and shrinking back and being unwilling to try. Especially when I try and do something “technical.” My feelings of inadequacy flood everywhere and I feel hopeless and useless and like a complete failure.

Recognizing and owning these feelings for myself and how difficult it is to try (and struggle to find success in) new things has been useful as I work on navigating these feelings expressed by my children.  My own struggles have grown my empathy and compassion in a really powerful way. As much as I dislike camping out in frustration, it helps me to be mindful of how my children feel when they cannot tie shoes, ride a bike or accomplish whatever new activity they might be attempting.

Sometimes I get caught up in the accomplishment side of things and feel frustrated at my lack of “mastery,” giving myself no credit for progress.  Not the way to go. Our real victory lies in celebrating progress made and for the courage to keep trying.  So today I’m choosing to celebrate some baby steps I’ve recently taken and I’m sending this message out into the world as I need to hear it the most myself:  Keep trying. Keep pushing forward.  Celebrate the small victories along the way and remember- you only fail when you stop trying.