Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Book Review: Whispers of Rest, by Bonnie Gray

Book Review: Whispers of Rest, by Bonnie Gray
Marina Bromley, Marina's Kitchen Table

It's very early on Sunday morning and my husband and I are discussing the things I hope we accomplish today. Our household boxes have not arrived yet, so we sneak out to a coffee shop for breakfast before the church crowds arrive. My goal is to get the main rooms painted before the boxes arrive in two days. My husband tells me "We will need to take some time to rest today..." and I giggle back, "Well, YOU can take a rest, but I have too much to do!"

This is our 7th move in the 7 1/2 years that my husband has been with this company... some have been our initiating, one was God closing a door, one had no job change involved - God just sold our house when it wasn't even on the market! Each time there was a job change, God was so good to sell our home within a month of being listed. He doesn't let that happen all the time with everyone, yet each time we list it I give Him permission to do that again! Each time I'm unprepared to have the packers and movers come, and I'm a little anxious to get things in the new home and make sure everything arrives unbroken. I want to put "our touch" on the house, to make it "ours." Oh, and I want it all done yesterday!

As we wait for our food, my daughter calls (so early!) asking if we are free to meet in Nashville for the day. They live 2 hours to the north of there, and we have just moved to 2 1/2 hours to the south, so it's about half way.

As much as I love my daughter, her husband and their seven children, my heart sinks to my gut and I want to cry out "NO!"

We've just moved in 2 days before, and I've told myself (and my husband and our two other kids) that for the month we will not go anywhere or have anyone over, and I will spend every waking moment painting and repairing this 20 year old, new-to-us house before we unpack and get settled in. I need time to make it "ours."

A month. That's all I want.

I feel God push back.

"Yes." He whispers in His still, small voice.

My heart crumbles as I realize how MY PLAN for this move has just been hijacked, and HIS PLAN is going to unfold. Again.

MY PLAN was to get the house cleaned (because it wasn't clean when we closed on it) and painted before we moved in, to stay a few days or a week in our rental while we do the needed repairs and painting. HIS PLAN was for us to move in on the day of closing, emptying the rental, and cleaning it out first.

That didn't happen either. Again. MY PLAN doesn't seem to ever take shape or amount to much. I'm surprised I try to make a "MY PLAN" at all!

The trip to Nashville was great, with me napping most of the way (because the lists are all made and what else is there to do in the car when you're not driving?). I wasn't aware how tired I was. We spent a few hours over a relaxed lunch, kids giggling and hearts happy. My heart is happy too, as I get to see all of them in one visit, and I'm (mostly) relaxed and not trying to think about the long list of things I still want to do at home.

AND OH, the hugs. The hugs are healing and restoring to this grandkid starved grandma's heart. I have missed my grandkids. All of them.

And... I see my husband rest. THIS is what he needed, and God knew that. How selfish of me to put my agenda ahead of his mental health. I know how important rest is for us, and God knew that we wouldn't really rest until we were removed from the house and all the "to-do's" staring back at us. The moving and transition on top of his *more than* 40 hours a week job has worn him out too. I'm sure I've been a joy to live with during this also. Sigh.

The day is a gift from God.

The trip home is uneventful, and we get a few things done before heading to bed. I know that a little will get accomplished during the week, and we make plans to go deliver some household goods to our other daughter's house the following weekend. Two more grandkids live there, so we may as well spend the weekend, since it's Mother's Day.

Only a little painting gets done during the week. Baby steps.

Then a few grandkids come and stay with us for several days, and our son and his family come and visit for a long weekend. No one is bothered by the boxes, the ugly painted walls, the partially painted walls, or the lack of decor. They don't mind waiting for beds to be made, or towels folded. I'm the only one that's bothered by all the un-done-ness around us.

Life happens, and it's been a month since we moved in. MY PLAN for the month was shot down quick and hard, and HIS PLAN is working out well. His plan involves moments of rest, renewal, times of laughter, and even backgammon over dinner.

I retreat out on the back deck to re-arrange cushions and sneak a peek at the lake. A deep sigh sets in... no, a deep exhale. I'm able to breathe back in and repeat the task (it seems hard to breathe, with all this undone around me). This time I remember a mantra that I learned from a missionary friend years before...

(inhale):  "More of You, God."
(exhale): "Less of me."

I hear God whisper again, "We'll get it done. Breathe again. Feel me near you. Release all the stress."

I obey, and take a few more deep breaths, feeling His presence push out the anxiety.

He's going to get it done.

In HIS timing.

I received the invitation to be a part of Bonnie Gray's launch team for Whispers of Rest months ago, before we knew that we'd be moving again. I tend to not want to commit to doing things that involve reading, keeping up with an online group, or even writing a book review, in the middle of a move. That would be crazy! I'm so glad that HIS PLAN was for me to get in on this jewel! It was JUST what I needed in the midst of this crazy season!

If I gave you just a few words to describe Whispers of Rest, these are the words I'd use...

Personal: Although Bonnie has written it with specific instructions for us to follow, the book is very personal. Each feature to walk through is for our personal story.

Poetic: I loved the touches of poetry, either through scripture or poems that were written for the book. Even the devotions feel more like creative writing than Bible study.

Peaceful: Rest isn't rest unless it's peaceful, and there's a lot of peacefulness in here! Through every aspect of the book, I was able to feel peace in my spirit take place, leading to a time of rest.

Prayerful: Bonnie does a lovely job of leading us through a guided prayer each day. Again, these are personal, with lots of wiggle room, yet she leads us enough to know how to focus our prayer for that day's exercise.

I really loved this book, and look forward to following along through the Book Club that she's starting up NEXT MONDAY, JUNE 5th. You can learn all about it here!

(I received an advanced copy of Whispers of Rest from the publisher, in exchange for my honest review of the book. This page may contain affiliate marketing links.)

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Book Review: English Lessons by Andrea Lucado

I wanted to read this book and be a part of the launch team for it because I wanted to hear her story. I was also at a place of being hurt in church (again) and wanted to hear how others wrestle with their faith, in God and in people. I also needed a story. Although it's non-fiction, she's a story-teller and this book reads smoothly. Maybe too easily!

I could not put this book down... but I made myself do it, just to savor her writing. Her honesty and openness of questioning what she believed in, the colorful descriptions of the places, people and situations that she encountered, it was as if we met and I listened to her heart each time I picked up the book. She's a fabulous writer, very conversational. It really is as if she's sitting across the table telling you about her thoughts, her stories, her travels. I've never wanted to visit England... until now!

Her story would be interesting if it was any woman writing, but it's not - it's the daughter of a mega-church pastor and author, proving that anyone can struggle with our beliefs and faith. I know that God honors her story, and our stories, as we come to terms with His great love for us, even in our wanderings.

I would recommend this book for any person, young adult to older, solid in faith or wandering.

I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, May 1, 2017

On the (company) Move: Kick-Off and Close

Many of you have followed me through so many moves over the years, sometimes holding on trying to keep up with me. Sorry. I don't know how or why God has let this happen. As traumatic as our last move was (moving so far from so many of my grands) to the sheer joy and anticipation (and tears... yes, there have been tears this move) of closing on this house, ALL the emotions have been felt.

I generally don't change much in our decor when we move. Oh, I bought the cool Mediterranean mirrors for the dining room for the house in Fayetteville, AR, and the fun window/mirror to hang in the house in Owensboro, KY, but I don't think about it when I'm moving in. I've got enough throw pillows to fill a room and make it a wash of blue-greens. I won't buy a new couch because a home is more "country" or "traditional," and that's ok with me.

But paint. Ah. I dream of painting a new house and changing things up in little touches long before closing on a house. I want to change the front door with a new coat of paint, or texture walls to give it character and appeal. I envision new faucets and curtains hanging (I admit- I like a dark room to sleep in and love the splash of another color in the room!). I'm kind of a freak about privacy... it's my PTSD peeking out.

The moment we walked in to the Harrison House, we knew we would do different flooring (it was nasty, dirty, carpeting, and abused wood floors!), and I'd hoped we'd have a timeline to replace the kitchen appliances. We DID!! It happened just months before we moved!! Funny how we have no idea what God's timetable is in comparison to ours... another one of those "hindsight" moments.

With the encouragement of many friends around the globe (and mostly in the Midwest) I'm going to devote a little time to our renovation process on the home we will close on this week.

Here's a little back-story: As always, our Realtor in Alabama asked for our wish-list of what we'd like to see in our next home. I don't think we were too demanding, or unrealistic, and it included things like single-story, lake front or lake view, under a certain price (which was raised because of a shortage of homes on the market), a 2 car garage was a must and an extra out-building a bonus!

Well, we didn't come very close to our wish-list! There's just not much to pick from here. I'm a little disappointed on a few of the things we didn't get - like a single story house - because I know what pain this will cause Mark (he already has bad knees). BUT - I trust God has a plan, and even this morning I prayed "God, if this is not the house you want us to live in, please remove it from our plan." He can do anything, in any timing, and although it may bring a difficult season or disappointment in the short range, I have faith that He does things for our long range development. I can rest in that.

It's very strange, this house. It's sat on the edge of a hillside for over 20 years, precariously peering past the trees to view the serenity of Guntersville Lake. You can't really see the front door from the road, as it sits below the road on a steep driveway. The front door is far from the driveway, because of how the home sets. We have no yard to speak of, but a HUGE deck out back. Then there is the beige. A LOT of beige, inside and out. I'll share a few of the photos now, to give you an idea of what we're walking in to, but the official "before" pics will come out over the weekend, when the house is completely empty and not tainted with the cute red couches the previous owner has. My vision will not be changed by the red couches in this house, as cute as they are.

I hope that you'll stay with me through this process. God's got a plan for it, for sure, and there are some things I have no clue about yet, and there's a few things I've got plans for that I haven't shared with Mark yet ... hehe ... but he's mostly on board with me, and we are in prayer together for this. Our goal is not to make this a WOW home, but to make it a place that folks feel comfy, that His peaceful presence is felt by all, and that we can make good memories here, whether it's for 10 months or 10 years or....???

Are you on Pinterest? Follow my "Alabama Lake Life" board to see the ideas I'm collecting and to see what we are prayerfully considering, inside and out. Also follow me on Facebook at Marina's Kitchen Table, where I'll do live posts on shopping, working, and updating you on how things are turning out!

Here are a few of the beginning photos... how the home looked when we viewed it...  Please feel free to add comments in the section below, or on my Facebook or Pinterest pages...

The front door...

From the front entry towards the Living Room... 

From the front entry to the stairway...

Eat in Kitchen, with slider to the screened porch...

Main part of kitchen, from the eat in kitchen area...

The upstairs hallway... a blank canvas or ???
English Ivy has taken over everything, even this tree in the deck planter!

Have I mentioned the view?? (The deck is flat, but I used a panorama feature in this pic)

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