Monday, March 31, 2014

Book Review - surprised by motherhood - everything I never expected about being a mom

First time parenting can be scary enough, and Lisa-Jo Baker had every reason to NOT want to be a mom. Every aspect of her life fought the very idea of giving birth, even to the spiritual lies that shaped that desire. With every thing that made me want to be a mom my whole life, Lisa-Jo experienced to shape her heart to NOT be one.

When I received my copy of Lisa-Jo Baker's book, surprised by motherhood, I could hardly wait to read it. I didn't think it would have anything to do with me... well, she is a tad younger than I, and didn't want to be a mom... and is in the midst of raising 3 littles. I didn't think there was anything in there for me to relate to... I'm older, and an empty-nester, and couldn't wait to be a mom my whole life...could we be more polar opposite? But I WANTED to read it - simply because Lisa-Jo is a rock star and fearless leader in the (in)courage community and a co-worker with DaySpring.

I was floored when I read the first 3 chapters online, and couldn't wait to read the rest of it! Since then, I've read, re-read, and had to refrain from marking it all up with things I want to tweet! I've laughed out loud (cackled even!), cried (sobbed), and couldn't put it down. I can't think of anyone that wouldn't enjoy this book!

Although you can read (and re-read) Lisa-Jo's blog, and learn about her life online, this book is so much more. If the blog is her skin, then this book is her heart and soul. I've come to love this woman! Her story is so very different than my own, yet I resonate with her words of home-sickness, of wanting to fix what's wrong in the world, of doubting her parenting skills, and mostly, of faith. It's so much more than a book on motherhood; more than what changed her mind to become one in the first place. It's the life story of a modern day woman who loves God more than anything, and how she really learns of His great love for her.

This book reads as entertaining as a best-selling novel - but it's all true to life. It makes it so much better knowing how this is her HIStory; the life God created her for. Just as she fearlessly leads the (in)courage community to stand up and write down our own story, she is real, and genuine, and tearfully shares the dusty road God has walked her along from South Africa to Virginia.

I can think of 100 people who should read this book; men and women, every genre of person out there. Her heart beats so strongly in it, her words crafted so well (and yes, I admit, I had to look up a few - mostly referring to her South African terms).

I hope that you'll take the time to read her journey too...

I want to let you know that although I received a complimentary copy of the book from DaySpring, they did not ask me to write this review, and I was not (and will not be) compensated for my writing it. Should you purchase a copy through the DaySpring link on the side, I will receive a small commission... of which I'd be grateful for. :)  - marina

Friday, March 14, 2014

Five Minute Friday - Crowd

Read the #FMF rules over here at Lisa-Jo Baker's blog (She's the boss of it!) :) 

My Five Minutes on CROWD

For the last 3 weeks our house has been filled to the brim in laughter, diapers (dirty and clean) and enough toddler fits to wear 2 moms down (never mind the dads). 

Our daughter and son in law and 5 kids are relocating to our area. In the midst of the transition, they've been staying with us. It makes this BIG house breathe again! It feels good to hear the kids that are supposed to be resting, giggling instead, as the sound echos in the halls. I love getting morning hugs and goodnight kisses. It makes me remember all the lovely things that being a mom are about... and it reminds me of why God gives children to us in our young(er) age, as I'm ready for bed every night! It's exhausting!!

We have a dining room, but we feed the kids in the eat-in kitchen. 4 around the table and 1 in a high chair. The grown ups sit at the counter, or eat standing up. We CROWD in to make it work. We don't have to deal with spills on the wood floor or washing placemats, and the kids like us all there close together. 

Their beds are CROWDed in together in one room. The crib and the parents sleep in a separate room, but the 4 older kids - 2, 3 1/2, almost 5 and 6 1/2 are all sleeping in one space. It works. The humidifier hums all night long and they share their sleeping songs, their bedtime prayers, their morning dreams. 


(the rest of the story...)

Come Sunday afternoon, they'll be moving out, into their new home. I'll keep the littlest ones one last night, enjoy every snuggle I can get, and make them eggs or pancakes or cereal (or all 3) for breakfast on Monday morning. Then I'll drive them home, and walk in to a completely disastrous and filthy house that will be totally quiet. Again. And I'll probably cry. Again.

I know, I know... they're just moving 30 minutes away! They could have been 9 hours away, or 18 hours away, or a plane, train and automobile trip away. This isn't so bad!! But it's going to stretch my heart again as they move along. It's always good and exhausting when they're here, and always fine once they're "there" (wherever that happens to be), but oh, the transitions... they twist my heart up and wring out the tears like a wet dishrag.

I'm so blessed to have had a season of them staying with me... and it's good to remember how much a little child can impact me, make me a morning person again, make me eat oatmeal again, and get me down on the floor to play with Legos again. I'll cherish tomorrow's CROWD as we dance around to praise songs (thank you Yancy!) and watch Jungle Book and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Sound of Music again. I'll treasure each hug, storing them up for the empty days when the house is still and silent. I'll push them on the swings and run around outside with them as they race around the yard, at least until they are exhausted and grumpy and ready to take that nap (because I will need it!).

They will CROWD my heart ... forever.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lent Follow-Up ... and a Prayer...

Since giving up "personal Social Media" for Lent (personal, because I have to use it in work and ministry... and that can't change at this point and time) I've REALLY struggled. I discovered that I really think moment to moment in Facebook posts. :(  I had to delete the app from my phone - the temptation to READ it was consuming me, and that made me realize that I couldn't "just" read it (my original intent was to not post there... but I couldn't read it either!). So now I'm FB free on my phone, which has since become more of a reason to not carry it around all the time! Freeing!!

I do miss it terribly... but God's been so SO faithful to fill my time with other things... mostly grandkids lately! I'm grateful that this is coinciding with their stay with me.

I'm getting hit from every spiritual angle, and I have to believe it's because of being obedient in this one thing (trying to change my approval-seeking personality and habits). God help me! I've still got so SO long to go!!

Yesterday I discovered a cd that I had bought for my grands and was waiting to share it with them, but when I began to listen to it, I KNEW God was holding it for me, for now. Yancy's album "Roots for the Journey" is amazingly healing, restorative, and draws me into a Spirit of Worship super easily. I love it. You can check out that album here, and there's even an app for it with tutorials and ideas on how to use her music to encourage parents to use it with their kids!

I appreciate your notes of prayer and encouragement!

Father, I confess and submit to Your authority in my life. Let me return to the joy of my salvation and have a right Spirit renewed in me. I ask that You empower me, give me a passion for Your Word, and bring others alongside me that will encourage me in this journey. Also allow me to be a blessing to others that are struggling with approval issues, or social media addiction. Help us to find a healthy balance in being able to use social media for GOOD (for GOD!) and leaving it at that. I am Yours. Amen.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Love Idol Movement Lent/Life Commitment

The (non) denomination of church that we choose to attend doesn't celebrate Lent as a church body, though it's recognized and accepted as a part of the special season of Resurrection. We (Mark and I) were rather unschooled on it until years ago, when Mark prepared a communion meditation on it's history and significance. It was so good that we (as a couple) decided to participate in it on our own - not as a MUST DO - but as a WANT TO.  Over the years we have (or have not) committed to setting aside something material to allow God to work in us in a deeper way.

To be honest, I hadn't planned on doing Lent this year. Two years ago Mark and I walked through 40 days of the Daniel Fast, and it was a time of really doing deep with God in many aspects of our life, and walking much closer with God. It was from that season that God opened a door for us to move to AR for a year... though we didn't know then that it would only be for a year! 

(Why would God move anyone anywhere for just a year? You can read about our experience here.) 

Now doing The Daniel Plan as a way of life, we eat (mostly) gluten, sugar and dairy free... and I can not have caffeine because of ongoing issues of having hives - so what else is there to give up for Lent?

Oh goodness. Let me tell you...

One of the blessings of living in Arkansas was getting connected in working with the lovely people at DaySpring (you can click the link on the right if you'd like to learn more about them). They cheered me on to attend a few blogging conferences to learn more about the job with Meet Me in the Meadow and the community of bloggers at (in)courage, and also work for them there handing out swag, signing up women for the DaySpring blogs, and giving away delightful products as door prizes. 

The first conference that I attended was Deidra Riggs' Jumping Tandem - The Retreat in Nebraska. It was a small miracle that I got to go at all... another story for another time... but it was amazing. My first retreat was SO memorable! The speakers came prepared to share honestly and openly about what God was walking them through - and one of those speakers was Jennifer Lee. You can read more about my experience at the retreat here, but I'm going to side step and carry on with the topic of Jennifer...

Jennifer Lee took to the podium with nerves of steel aluminum that melted into puddles tears as she shared about the many ways God has moved in her life. I was instantly in awe of her brevity, and fell in love with her family as I heard her share about the passionate endeavors that God fulfilled through her daughters, how this newspaper-reporter-turned-college-professor gained the heart of a missionary, and how that has changed the course of her family's legacy.

I saw Jennifer again later in the year, at Allume, and it was there that we really got to talk and share and pray... and again in the airport as we waited for the plane to arrive, and for our connection in Detroit. It seemed God had the idea that we had a conversation to finish... and we haven't finished it yet.

It JUST so happens that Jennifer was writing a book, Love Idol, about the topic of which she spoke at Jumping Tandem. I knew then that I'd have to read it... not because of who was writing it, but because of what it was on.


It turns out that it's not just about the book launching on April 1, 2014... but The LOVE IDOL MOVEMENT that is launching with Lent this year... learning to give up ourselves, our emotions, our fears, our seeking the approval of others, and our pleasing ourselves before seeking to please God.

So, for the past few weeks I've been hanging out online with a group of women who are willing to GIVE A PART OF THEMSELVES UP as an offering for Lent. It's a starting place for her book that is described this way on Jennifer's web site:

You are PreApproved!

We all want someone to think we’re sensational. We desire to be recognized, to be valued, to be respected. To be loved. Yet this natural yearning too often turns into an idol of one of God’s most precious gifts: love itself. If you, like so many of us, spend your time and energy trying to earn someone’s approval—at work, home, and church—all the while fearing that, at any moment, the facade will drop and everyone will see your hidden mess . . . then love may have become an idol in your life.
Love Idol will help you dismantle what’s separating you from true connection with God and rediscover the astonishing freedom of a life lived in authentic love.

Isn't that amazing? 

My first inclination was to do without make-up, do nothing fancy with my hair (which I'm trying to grow out, and it's driving me CRAZY!), but it seemed God wanted to take me deeper. 

So I let Him.

And here I've landed. Head dizzy from spinning, He's moved me so much! The reality is a dirty-little-secret that smacked at me just a few weeks ago, before I even heard of the Love Idol Movement... but it's definitely something that I need to lay at the cross... not just for Lent, but for a lifetime.

I give more than I take. ALL.THE.TIME.

I'm not talking about living generously. I'm talking about GIVING ADVICE. UNSOLICITED ADVICE. I share my opinion, my knowledge, my circumstances (past and present) with anyone. TMI. 24/7. All the time. 

(Please notice the self-centered "MY" that is happening here.)

And this is what needs to go... because I'm getting good at pulling my foot out of my mouth, backtracking, and apologizing... but it would be Oh-So-Beautiful if I didn't have to backtrack at all. For me to keep my words, my opinions, my stories to myself, or take them to the Lord in prayer, and keep my mouth shut all together. Or at least LISTEN twice as much as I SPEAK. (I had learned that saying in college... more advice I didn't TAKE.) 

There. I've said it. 

Please don't try to talk me out of it... to say it's a charming part of me, and how you may admire how open and honest and real I can be... because honestly, that's part of my problem. Approval seeking. I want to share my tip, my story, my solution, and then sit back and know that I've given you a tasty morsel of my life experience. 

(Can I throw up now?) 

This 50+ year old woman is weary of chasing after approval on Facebook, leaving comments and "Likes," making me think that I am doing good by affirming you (which is really seeking after you affirming me). I'm tired of reading all the posts and trying to think of clever things that go along with what you've posted. I'm even tired of sharing pages, sites, and articles or songs that I think you'll love. That's not the job I have to do. God can share all that with you through other avenues. 

I'm tired of speaking it, giving that unsolicited advice to my kids, their spouses or the stranger in the elevator. (Sorry kids and spouses and strangers.)

Sometimes it's a good thing to meet a stranger... not everyone has to be my best friend. I've got to learn to be content with one or two really good ones. Period. Pray with them. Pray for the things that others are burdened by and let God work it out in their lives. It's ok if they learn from their own mistakes (and not mine!). 

All that being said, that's where I'm going to GIVE UP for Lent. Certain MOST aspects of Facebook. 

Reality tells me that I still have a job to do, so I will still WORK on Facebook. I will still messenger on it (one on one communication with intention - but not unsolicited advice!), and I will still lead my community group with (in)courage global care (sorry, it's secret... no link available!). I might even slip over and post a scripture or prayer request in the morning... but I'm not going to surf, leave comments, be consumed to read all the posts and pages and groups going on. I may even take the app off my phone! (GASP!)

And it's not because I don't LOVE YOU... but I need to love you better... and more importantly, love Jesus better, by putting Him first in this EVERY area of my life. I need to rest on His approval, not my own false security of people liking me (or liking me more) because of what I post (or don't post) on my wall, their wall, or by the "like" button. I can pray where prayers are needed - God will know - and not post anything distracting from God, His Word and His Work. 

Would you please pray for me as I lay this Love Idol down? I know that it will take work for me to change this bad habit. The chemicals it releases in my brain soothe me and give me a false sense of security, making me think I have friendships online that may in reality only be acquaintances... and that's ok if that's all they ever are!! 

It's also about the way I use my time. 

I'm feeling God's prompt to have me write more. I want to be obedient - whether I write in a journal or a blog or a national magazine... I need to be spiritually prepared to do it. To serve. To put my own words in my mouth, or on paper, for those to read - WHOEVER WANTS to read... so that I don't force feed them to the community of believers around me. 

So that I wholly rely on my approval from God! That's ALL I need! Because of His great love, I have been PreApproved!! It's time I learned to REST in that PreApproval! 

This is my Love Idol Lent Commitment. Please help hold me accountable. 
UPDATED: Oh man! This has been such a hard day (and it's just early
afternoon of Day 1!). I've got work to do online, and each time I'm tested to not spend time in my personal feed, or if I skim through it looking for specific updates to pray about (a friend's father passed, another friend has a sick child, and I want to keep up with my kids/grandkids!) I am tempted to "LIKE" and "COMMENT" - the very things I do NOT want to do! I'm turning to prayer to break this habit - THESE HABITS - and I'm seeking scripture to guide me. 
I was led to reading through Psalm 51, and my heart stuck in these places…

 Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.
 Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.
For I was born a sinner— yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But you desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there.
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice.
 Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt.
Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.
Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you.
Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you.
Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your  forgiveness.
Unseal my lips, O Lord,  that my mouth may praise you.

You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering.
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

Yes, I know that this is – for me – sin, and although it’s not the same sin as David’s sin… If I'm unrepentant and unwilling to change my behavior, it receives the same penalty… death! I have taken my desire for God and replaced it with the desire for human approval. Not only that, but I’ve wasted time, not attending to things that He has given me charge over (my marriage, my home, my family and friends and even my ministries) thinking that this false god of approval is more important than any (or all!) of these things. And although it CAN be used as a ministry tool, I tainted it and made it more important than God… more important than His work.

Pray with me? For me? - I am repenting. I am laying down my life, my sin, my attitude, my worship to a false god, my eyes, my misguided mindset, and turning it all back to You. God forgive me! I’m so sorry I didn’t listen to others when they tried to tell me, and I'm ashamed that it’s taken this long for me to turn this over to You to ask for help. I won’t justify it any longer. I give my all to You and ask that You alone will be my provision, my strength, my source of approval. I pray that I’ll see You at work in me, that I’ll feel You refining me, and that through the painful times - the times I forget and fall – that I’ll feel Your forgiveness and restoration. I also ask Father, that You’ll use this for Your glory, for then I will know that Satan’s strongholds are broken, and he will have no strongholds over me in this. Give me courage to make this a lifetime change, like my diet and other habits, to make this beneficial for my lifetime here on earth, that I may delight more with You and IN You every day. Father, I breathe in MORE OF You, and exhale LESS OF ME… I want MORE of You! Fill me! Release me from the sin that entangles me and help me by doing spiritual warfare on my behalf. I am Yours! I want ALL of You! In Your Son’s Name, and by His blood I pray, Amen. 

You can pre-order your copy of Love Idol, by Jennifer Dukes Lee. Although it's available on many venues, I suggest you purchase it through Givington's, where a portion of your purchase will benefit a non-profit of your choice. I do NOT make any commission on sales made through - and that's ok with me!

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