Category Archives: random thoughts

random and staccato (disconnected)

God Loves Celebrations: Part II

This post originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

When I wrote the first post with this title, I thought I was finished with the subject. It turns out, I’m not. My last post was in light of a wedding I’d recently attended, and how amazing and God-honoring it was, how God must truly love celebrations of all kinds, and encourage His children to participate.

Now that Christmas has come and gone, and I’m exhausted with all the joy (and chaos) I’ve been experiencing, it happens to be my middle child’s birthday. Just like any mom who wouldn’t want her son’s birthday to be overshadowed by the birthday of his Savior (well, you know what I mean), I’ve tried to plan a few things, save some presents for his special day, and make sure he feels celebrated. He hasn’t really wanted a party, but told me that for his fourth birthday (the only fourth birthday he’ll ever have, ya know?!) he’d like a “yellow or boy-colored watch” (like his dad’s) and some cake. He didn’t mention a party, fancy food, a special outfit, or balloons – which I do plan to get early that morning, along with some sprinkled donuts. Why will I do it anyway? Because it gives our whole family great joy to celebrate him! The joy I derive from celebrating him must be only a tiny particle of the joy our Father derives from celebrating us.

Let me explain.

I’ve spoken about how God planned all sorts of things for His son’s birth, angels and unkempt shepherds and the like. In Psalm 145, we are encouraged to celebrate His goodness (v7). His goodness when He blessed my husband and me with a son, after a hard season of sadness over a miscarriage. Celebrating my son, for me, is celebrating a gift from God! And God loves the celebration! It is, to both of us, an expression of my gratitude.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells a parable that finishes with a celebration. The prodigal son had returned to his father, hanging his head low and expecting (asking, even!) to be treated like a servant. However, the father is so delighted that he calls for a celebration to rival all other celebrations. That father, symbolizing our heavenly father, celebrates his son’s return, without even mentioning his sins. To bring it back around to my four-year-old, his tantrums and mistakes abound, but his birthday is a day to celebrate his very existence in our family, his very being that was lovingly created by God, who knit him together in my womb (Psalm 139) before we knew anything about him. I’d say that a gift of that magnitude is worth celebrating! And I daresay God would agree.

And still, all through the old testament are more and more examples of celebrations. Harvests, festivals, Passover… there are celebrations for all of these, signifying God’s faithfulness, His provision, and the deliverance He provided and is providing for His people over and over again. He built celebration into the strict rules the Israelites followed in the book of Exodus, and it continues all the way through till Jesus’s birth. There were rules surrounding celebrations and how they were to be observed. But the first rule was that they would be observed. Celebration has been an integral part of His plan for us, from the beginning of time. If in Zephaniah 3:17 it says that He will rejoice over you with singing, then I’d say celebrations are for you, too. 

A Christmas Itch

This post originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

Every year at this time, I get the itch.

No, it’s not just my dry skin.

I get the itch to play that Christmas music, get out my decorations, and even to watch those cheesy movies. You know why? Because I truly do believe it’s the most wonderful time of the year. My home state has a chill in the air – but not too chilly, because, let’s be honest, enough is enough when it comes to cold weather. Lights are beginning to twinkle at some of the houses on my street. Stores are full of Christmassy colors, freshly baked treats, and boxes of glittery cards to send to loved ones. It really, really is the most wonderful, incredible time of the year.

But it isn’t the borderline-oppressive red and green decorations, the Christmas cookies, or even the sweet-smelling wreaths and garlands that make this the best time of year. No, it’s much more than that. It’s the general feeling of goodwill the circulates, because it’s even more apparent than usual that we’re part of a bigger story. The story that began all this stuff, this gift-giving and song-singing, is a story that has always been written. In fact, it started who knows how many millennia ago, before the beginning of time as we know it. And it’s still going on now; we’re not to its end. This narrative, the story of all of us, it’s not even remotely over.

You see, God knew this story was going to play out like this. He knew each of us, before we were knitted together in our mothers’ wombs, before our great-great-great-grandparents were even thought of. Before the flood, or even Adam and Eve. God is so far out of time as we know it that He probably feels like all that stuff was just this morning. He has known forever that we wouldn’t be perfect, or even good, without His help. He knew we’d screw up and need some serious intervention. But He didn’t stop loving us or start holding back His help. He provided the ultimate way for our saving, a way to let us be closer to Him. He had this majestic plan to send His Son before He even created us!

What does all of this mean? It means is that we have been given the greatest gift possible. We’ve been given the most perfect gift in the form of a helpless babe in arms. What kind of God sends His love to someone like that? As it turns out, an all-powerful, forever-gracious, fully righteous God sends His love like that. Love came down, under a bright star, in the dead of night, to an unwed mother and a frightened earthly father. Love came down to give hope, to live a perfect life, to be persecuted and crucified, to make straight a highway for our God to literally come alongside us. Jesus was the first Christmas gift, the most mind-blowing and expectation-shatttering gift ever.

Now, what does all of this mean for us? It means that we can call on God for anything and everything. It means that through Jesus, we are made holy and righteous, and God sees us that way. It means that, through Jesus, we have literally been given every spiritual blessing. Did you read that right? Every. Spiritual. Blessing. (Ephesians 1) That means we have the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5). We can pray directly to our Father and receive the ability to do works, just as Jesus did (John 14). We can ask Holy Spirit to intercede for us (Romans 8).

What I’ve Been Reading

Some of y’all may remember that I set a loose goal at the beginning of 2018 to “read more”. I began following some #bookstagram accounts and listening to some podcasts to get fresh ideas for books to look into – not that I didn’t already have a hundred (that’s only MAYBE an exaggeration) unread books around my home

I had a pretty productive summer in terms of reading, so I thought I’d share a few little reviews/thoughts of the books I’ve read recently. If you follow me on Instagram (@onlyhsuman) you may have already seen a bit about some of these books, but enjoy what I’ve got here. If you’re local, I am happy to lend books that I’ve got in print (as opposed to Kindle editions) so let me know if you’d like to borrow one!

FICTION

Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend : These books are a particular sort of hilarious. I heard a podcast recently that described them as a bag of chips: not good for you but delicious and you can’t stop eating them. That’s a perfect description. Not incredible writing, but for some reason you’re hooked! The world in which the characters live is just so outrageous to American me that I cannot fathom it’s real life. But the plot in the second book is even better than the first, so I’m already looking forward to the third book – and seeing the movie!

Anne of Green Gables: I never read these books as a kid, but MAN I love them now! I guess I’m only halfway through Anne of Avonlea, but still. L.M. Montgomery’s style is so beautiful, Anne is a gal I can easily connect with (Can you say kindred spirit?!), and I’m loving the immersion in Avonlea’s community. What beautiful writing it is!

The Lake House. I have been a Kate Morton lover for a long time, and this just happens to be one that slipped by me until recently. Such a good read, a full-on dive into the world surrounding said lake house, the family, and the present-day cop that’s digging to find out long-ago truths. Definitely a good, long read for coming out of a reading slump!

All We Ever Wanted: I haven’t read anything by Emily Giffin since Something Borrowed and Something Blue, and this one was a nice foray back into those rom-com novels. There was a bit of teen angst written into this one, so every once in a while I had to read quickly to get past it, but all in all it was a good story, and I liked the character development.

Where the Crawdads Sing: Now THIS is a fantastic book! A beautifully written debut novel, it has some North Carolina roots, with a nice few twists added in. I love a good novel that can switch time periods along the same storyline successfully – and as we follow the story from a decade apart, finally bringing them towards the end, we get to see the main character grow up, and find herself and her life’s work.

NON-FICTION

Saturate: Jeff Vanderstelt opens the door to his life and how hospitality works for his family. He encourages us to live as Jesus would: sharing each part of your life with your community, allowing them to minister you as well as offering your ministry to them.

Glimpses of Grace: Gloria Furman is a WONDERFUL, Scripture-based writer, and she encourages the weary mama to find joy and meaning in the often exhausting and difficult seasons of motherhood.

The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Rosaria Butterfield’s colorful background and incredible testimony give this book the power it needs to go straight into your heart. Another take on Christian hospitality, Rosaria practices what she calls radically ordinary hospitality, no matter the sacrifices (and there are certainly sacrifices).

Girl Wash Your Face: I expounded a lot on this book on Everyday Exiles (link to the article here)  but my main point was to read with caution, because she says she’s a Christian, but doesn’t point to Jesus very much. There were some good takeaways, certainly – don’t hear me say I didn’t like anything. But I had a hard time with her telling us how responsible she was for her own life success, yet saying only a couple of times that she prayed about something. My ONLY successes have come from prayer and the old cliche “Let go and let God”, and I’m happy to tout JESUS as my hero, not myself. So read carefully.

I’d Rather Be Reading: Anne Bogel (also known as Modern Mrs. Darcy) has really outdone herself with the bookish feelings in this lovely little memoir-style book about books. And reading. And readers. And book lovers. It’s perfectly wonderful, and if you love reading or books you should absolutely read it! I read it right through in a day, and had quite a few happy, “Me too!” tears.

And the much-anticipated UPCOMING READS!

I’m excited to continue Madeleine L’Engle’s qunitet and L.M. Montgomery’s Anne series, but I’m also looking forward to Annie F. Downs’ newest book Remember God, and Shannan Martin’s book The Ministry of Ordinary Places. I’m also reading Heidi to EK right now and we’re both loving it!

WELL! Have you read any of these?! I’d love to hear a review or any thoughts you have! What are you reading these days?

Currently

July has been such a busy month around here, y’all! So this currently post isn’t a link up and it isn’t on time, but it IS an update on what’s been going on over here with me! img_5993Celebrating || the 4th of July with an impromptu family cookout – minus Hubby, boo! Look at these cousins!Visiting || West Jefferson and Todd, NC. Our friends were super kind and let us stay with them for a day and a night at the cabin they had rented in West Jefferson, and the next day, we went tubing (read: floating not rafting!) in the neighboring town of Todd, on the south fork of the New River! That was a BLAST. We went through Wahoos Adventures, and the kids LOVED it. We already are looking for dates to go back and do it again! To be totally honest, I love the beach, the wide expanse of the ocean, and the pure sunshine, but the mountains are where it’s at for me actually feeling relaxed, experiencing the Lord’s creation in it’s fullest sense, and being refreshed and rejuvenated. This view might have something to do with that.Wearing || my Chacos every single day (obvi), and lots of easy, casual dresses. It’s too hot for pretty much anything else around here! I have a couple of “traveling” dresses, one from Costco (it’s great!) and one by Patagonia (also great, and obviously a little more expensive) that I’m digging for their ease, their cuteness, and their support if I want to be active in them. I hiked in the Costco one in West Jefferson and it was very comfortable!Loving || the new podcast, No Thanks We’re Booked! I found out about it because one of the gals on there, Katie, is on another podcast I listen to through the Everyday Exiles podcast network (it’s called Pictures and Pages when you click on that link up there) and I’m super excited I get to HOST HER on Pictures and Pages next month! I’ll put up that link when it’s up!Reading || a lot this summer! Which I’m happy about, of course! I’ve finished up The Nix (Nathan Hill), Everybody Always (Bob Goff), Radium Girls (Kate Moore), and How to Walk Away (Katherine Center) all of which I highly recommend! I’ve already loaned out Radium Girls and Everybody Always, so if you’re local, let me know if you want to borrow one! I’ve started up Southernmost (Silas House) because it’s his new one and I love his writing. I literally saw it on the “new arrivals” shelf when I was getting another book, and snagged it as well. You might remember my review of A Parchment of Leaves, since it was his first I had read. Clay’s Quilt is the other of his I have read, and I’ve got The Coal Tattoo to get to soon.

Summer Can Be Scary (And I’m Not Sorry)

I’ve spent the last few weeks praying about our summer.

I’m so nervous that my kids will think it’s boring, or lame, or both, or whatever. What do kids even think these days? I don’t mind my kids being bored, really. I think it builds character and creativity for them to just figure something out to entertain themselves. I also LOVE to make them get outside. Go ride a bike, pull some weeds in the garden, blow bubbles, or draw with chalk. I don’t care, but don’t tell me you don’t feel like doing it.

There’s a lot of Pinterest and Instagram pressure to make summer an “epic” experience for your kids. But what I really want to do is lowball it as hard as I can, and make them make their own plans. Sure, they’re 2, 4, and 6, but they can tell me what they want to do! We’ve got chore charts intact, complete with a reward system. I have a ready answer to “I’m bored.”

Otherwise, to tell the truth, I enjoy having fun, too! I WANT to go to the pool, and to the park, and the mountains, which blessedly aren’t that far away. I WANT to see our friends and live music and whatever other events are going on. But we just can’t do everything, and I need to take the pressure off of myself NOW or else I’ll drown in it. The pressure is stifling to those of us who just don’t “do” what everyone else seems to do. I’m spontaneous, which is sometimes a great thing with kids, and sometimes not so much. We never sit around the house for too many hours in a row, but there are times that I get an idea in my head, and it’s just too late to make it work.

The other thing that may save my life is the YMCA. We (re)joined a month ago, and so far, beginning my mornings there with my kids in a safe and fun childcare (with lots of their friends!) has been a big stress reliever. Now, my workout doesn’t depend on the weather or on whether the baby takes a nap at the time he’s supposed to. I can get up, make everyone a nice breakfast, and head to the gym to get the endorphins blasting, and then I feel GREAT about whatever else we get – or don’t get – accomplished.

What is saving you this summer? Letting go of your expectations? Making a weekly plan? Lots of vacation or none at all? Tell me all the things that you do to survive and thrive in summer!

Currently – June!

Hello there, June! I can hardly believe it’s already time to go to the pool, for school to be out (well, it’s out for my littles and only a few more days for my kindergartener!) and for front porch sitting with a book and a cocktail in my hand. (Just me? Surely not!) I’m linking up with Anne in Residence and Sarah over at Total Basset Case. Here are a few things we’re planning for the month of June. Comment or link up and tell me what you’re up to currently!img_5993

Traveling || not very much this summer. We will go to Georgia to see my family, and to the lake (only an hour away) to Hubby’s family’s place, but other than that, we may not travel at all. It’s kinda freeing to not have any big plans! Our next big trip is September, and Hubby and I are headed to Colorado WITHOUT the kids! We’re seeing the Punch Brothers at Red Rocks and I’m beside myself with excitement!

Grilling || Hmm. Hubby is the chef, and therefore the griller, but when we had a gas line run to our porch so we could grill without go big through propane tanks, we still haven’t gotten the last piece we need to hook it all up. So, no grilling right now!

Exploring || our local hiking venues! My plan this month is to get the kids to several local (under an hour in the car) places to hike, now that they do okay without naps and eating picnic-style works pretty well. I can’t wait to have them out on the trails – I hope they love it, because it’s exercise that I really enjoy! (If you’re local, I’m thinking Salem Lake, Hanging Rock, and Pilot Mountain for our starters!)

Planting || lots and lots of things! We’re growing so many different things, it’s hard to name them all! Tomatoes, tomatillos, kale, squashes, beans, peas, asparagus, blueberries, strawberries, and more! We are pretty pleased with how everything is going so far, and my plan is to try my hand at canning this summer, one of those weeks where we have so many tomatoes I can’t begin to think how we’ll use them all.

J taking care of his blueberries.

Playing || dominoes, Candy Land, and Snug as a Bug! Those are all games my kids can get their heads around (the older two, at least). They’re also okay at Go Fish! but it’s tough for them to hold all those cards. Even the clothespin trick is a little too much for them at the moment. But Hubby and I LOVE playing games, and so I hope that they’ll continue to love it, too!

Reading || some beachy reads, even without the beach! I just finished The Turquoise Table (Kristin Schell) and Keeper of Lost Things (Ruth Hogan) last month. This month, I’m working on Everybody Always (the newest from Bob Goff), The Nix (Nathan Hill), A Wind in the Door (Madeleine L’Engle’s sequel to A Wrinkle in Time), Saturate (Jeff Vanderstelt), and Glimpses of Grace (Gloria Furman). I’m doing studies of the last two with some friends, so we’re working on it all summer, but the others I should have finished by the end of the month, I hope! Do you have any book suggestions for me?! My “to be read” list is always a mile long, so I never mind adding to it!

A sampling of what my nightstand looks like on any given day!

Well, that’s about it for now. What are you up to currently?

Marriage: Why It’s No Good to Keep Score

This piece originally appeared on The Grit and Grace Project.

My husband has one big rule for our marriage. Babe, if you’re reading this, I know you’d say it’s not a rule – perhaps more of a guideline. But for me, it’s a rule. If I don’t follow it, I go down an extremely unhealthy path, and I know it. So here’s the best “rule” or “guideline” I’ve ever heard for a husband-wife relationship: Don’t keep score.

You might begin explaining this by saying that any healthy relationship can’t be seen as a game. The only reason you’d keep score is if it’s a game of some sort, and if you’re serious about it, you’d better not call it a game. Right? You might follow up with the fact that keeping a record of rights or wrongs is just not a good idea. Let’s ask a few questions about this concept… because I think it’s important.

If you happen to “win”, what are you actually winning? The game of who does more laundry? Or who gives more meaningful compliments? Is that a worthwhile competition? Why or why not? (I’m guessing it’s why not.)

What’s your “winner’s” criteria? Who was the last one to load the dishwasher? Maybe he had a lot on his mind from a tough day at work, or he gets tired of you re-loading it when he’s done. Or is the criteria which one of you usually texts the other one first? All that leads to is fear of not being loved enough, or inaccurately thinking that you love the other person more, just because you send more messages.

What’s the prize? Getting to taunt your other half about how you changed more diapers this week? Or likely being shunned because you’re on your high horse about how you always clean the toilets? That’s not a very good prize.

What if we shifted our thinking to loving our spouses as well as we can, as often as we can? Instead of waiting around to receive love in the way that we’re expecting, maybe we should consider showing them love in the best way we know how, whatever that is. It’s always a good idea to know how your spouse best receives love from you, and how you best receive love from them. Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages is a great place to start if you don’t know each other’s “love languages”. Taking the initiative to show love first, no matter the circumstances, can’t end poorly. Being the first to say, “I love you!” when communication is hard, or the first to forgive after an argument might feel like a submission, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Usually, it shows that you’re willing to work and sacrifice to strive for health in the relationship. That’s what marriage is: work and sacrifice. Love comes first, and is quickly followed by commitment – often a “head” matter rather than a “heart” one. You keep choosing love over fear or anger or hurt feelings every single day.

There are always possible scenarios where we need to have a sit-down about issues that don’t seem to be resolving themselves. There are always times that bringing our feelings calmly to the table is the only way to move on from a hard season. But if we stop keeping score, stop trying to play a game of little chores completed and well-meaning jabs delivered, those bigger issues might just stay away longer. Being the first one to show love, forgive and forget might make your spouse feel more comfortable doing the same.