Surprised by Motherhood

My dear Lisa-Jo wrote a book. Surprised by Motherhood. It is her journey of never wanting to be a mom.  Of losing her own mom. Of South Africa and the Ukraine and the United States. Of becoming a mom. And of being surprised by all things motherhood, especially the wonder of it all.

I was surprised by motherhood, as well, but in a very different way.

I always wanted to be a mother. As a child, I enjoyed holding babies and taking care of the younger kids. My sister and I even fought over who got to hold the newest baby cousin and for how long. I started babysitting at an early age, partially because of the money, but also because it was fun for me. Even in high school, I was voted “would make the best mom” in my senior class. And I loved that.

I worked at a daycare. I taught elementary school for five years. I really thought I had motherhood all figured out and was ready to tackle it head on. When Big J was born, motherhood felt exhausting, but still pretty natural. He got older, we added siblings for him, and then I got my surprise.

“It was like discovering a superpower – becoming a mom for the first time. It has led me to believe that motherhood should come with a superhero cape along with the free diaper bag and samples you get when the hospital sends you, otherwise defenseless, home.”

Motherhood is hard. Way harder than I ever imagined. And I don’t think it is all the kids’ fault. I know it’s not. I think I was surprised so much by motherhood because it made me confront just how selfish I am and how much I’ve always wanted to be in control. Yep, motherhood will mess with all those things in a big way.

“I didn’t know I was selfish until I had kids. I didn’t know I was angry and quick to keep a list of wrongs done to me, of slight slights, of everything I felt entitled to and was happy to demand.”

But motherhood is also hard because I love these sons of mine more than I knew was possible. I want so much for them. I feel like I should never stop praying for them. All the emotions I feel towards my children and magnified because of the great love I feel for them. My boys can be the cause for great joy, great sorrow, great frustration…all in the same day. Lisa-Jo says, “Sometimes you don’t realize you have a temper until you have kids.” And, “Nothing can hurt as much as the fears we carry for our children.” This could not be more true.

Boys Looking Up Blog

If I’m being real honest here, I have always been terrible at follow-through, especially with long-term tasks. Motherhood is definitely long-term and NOT following through is not an option for me, so I am being stretched and grown in unimaginable ways. Some days the stretching hurts, but when I pause long enough to see God at work, I feel and see so much more clearly…

“With this boy wrapped in my arms, this flesh and blood and bone that I had grown in my womb, clinging to me, I understood what the God parent feels for me. To die for this love – yes, it made sense.”

These days I’m being surprised by finding new ways to enjoy motherhood. Much of this comes from knowing that no mom thinks her job is easy. There is great relief in that knowledge.

It also comes from learning more about the amazing boys God has given us and the ways He in which He has connected us. I feel like a student all over again. And I’m making my strengths work for me – being silly and dancing more, communicating more effectively with the boys, finding ways to be positive during the rough days.

Surprised by Motherhood

If you were sitting near me when I started reading this beautiful, transparent memoir of motherhood, you would have been passing me Kleenex after Kleenex as I related so closely with Lisa-Jo’s words, despite our very different stories.

And I’m needing a Kleenex now as I write this and realize just how I needed to hear her real, nitty-gritty, wonder-filled motherhood story. How every mom needs to read the ups and downs of someone else’s motherhood story to realize just how brave and not alone they are. Lisa-Jo gets it. She gets me. She gets us, moms.

Congrats, Lisa-Jo. Your newest baby is just gorgeous.

Surprised by Motherhood is available TODAY! Yes, TODAY! Order now!

 

*I received a copy of this book to review. I was not compensated in any way for this post, and all opinions are 100% my own!

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That Pesky Love Idol

I mentioned Jennifer Dukes Lee’s Love Idol back at the beginning of Lent. I had just started reading it and even the first few pages spoke to something I’ve struggled with, well, for all time. I like to be liked. I like to be heard. I wouldn’t always call myself a people-pleaser, but the applause and approval of other humans often edges out the approval of the only One who matters.

“I knew what the Bible said about me, but I measured my worth by other barometers – the mirror, report cards, and my performance among peers – even if it broke well-established moral rules.”

Reading Love Idol has been like therapy for me. With each chapter, I identify with another piece of Jennifer’s story – the striving for good grades, the saying “yes” so you don’t disappoint someone, being wrapped up in what others will think and riding the roller-coaster of their reactions.

“We ache to live our Christ identity more fully, instead of living a life yielded to our approval ratings. It is not a popularity contest. It is not a materialistic chase for medals, money, or Twitter @mentions.”

Unfortunately, the approval-seeking has been my default for so long. It’s a pesky love idol to shake. Pesky, but not impossible.

Preapproved Blog

As part of my Lenten journey this year, I gave up looking at my blog statistics. I did a lot more writing from the heart, not for numbers or comments. It felt a little bold and scary, but also felt like it was less about me.

“God’s Word compels us to choose the Holy Trinity, not the self-centric trio of Me, Myself, and I.”

Can I tell you what I love about Jennifer’s message so much?

Love Idol

It isn’t about denying any praise or compliments that come your way. It’s Jesus and our hearts. It’s about refocusing. And all of this leads to freedom. I need that daily. 

“When you and I no longer rely on praise or approval for our performance, we find new freedom: We can enjoy affirmation without craving it.”

The whole idea of being pre-approved? I’ve plastered those genius little signs on my computer, my bathroom wall, my planner. I can’t write anything that will make Jesus love me more or less. My appearance on any given day has no weight in His eyes. There is no planning or scheduling or working my way into a better place in heaven. I am and always have been pre-approved by Him.

“I yearn for us all to know the deep, deep love of Jesus – that it would be enough, that it always has been enough, and that it’s a love that can never be over matched by anything or anyone in this world.”

Love Idol is marked with many underlined passages and stars in the margins. It bears the soul of its writer in such a way that I felt as though we were confessing and story-sharing over coffee. It spurs me on in my desire to be less about me and ALL about Him. It will be in my nightstand for a long time as I continue to let go of my pesky love idol and hold tight to the love of my Savior.

If you haven’t yet, make sure you join the Love Idol Movement on Facebook! So inspiring!

 

I received a copy of this book to review from the publisher. I was not compensated in any way for this post and all opinions are 100% my own! All quotes are from the book!

 

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What I Wore: Uncommon Goods

I’m a stay-at-home mom. I like fashion. A lot. Getting dressed – a full outfit – each and every day is one of my ways to take care of myself and put my best self out there for my family. But if we’re just going to be home all day, I like to be comfortable. And warm. Wearing something like this…

Uncommon Goods Outfit

Flannel shirt, comfy jeans. Fall + winter perfection. And while I spent the day at home, a little jewelry was in order because I have a new favorite bracelet and I want to wear it all the time…

Uncommon Goods Bracelet

That gorgeous bracelet right there? That’s from the lovely people at Uncommon Goods, a company all about unique gifts at great prices. I could spend hours over there looking through all the beautiful accessories and home pieces, but the handmade items at Uncommon Goods are really where it’s at. And when I scrolled past this bracelet, I didn’t need to look any further.

Uncommon Goods Handmade

The Love Birch Cuff, handmade by Nancy Nelson, is just the right mix of glam and casual for me. This week I wore it church and at home. It works for jeans + a flannel or with a date night dress. And it celebrates the blessing that is my best friend, partner in life, husband. That’s my favorite part about it. Oh yeah, and I’m pretty sure my kids can’t break it. Solid brass for the win! {You can order it with or without personalization}

The handmade section of Uncommon Goods is treasure chest of beautiful gift idea, and even includes a recycled items section! How adorable is this necklace from the recycled collection?!

Mother Nestling BirdsI mean seriously with this Mother Nestling Birds necklace. So gorgeous and meaningful!

You’ll find so many things to love at Uncommon Goods! You HAVE to go look around for yourself! Send a few links to your loved ones for gift ideas – you will get the best, unique presents ever!

Have you had a look around at Uncommon Goods yet? What caught your eye?

 

*I’m linking up with What I Wore Wednesday at The Pleated Poppy!

*I received this bracelet to review. I was not compensated in any other way for this post, and all opinions are 100% my own!

 

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Say Goodbye to Survival Mode!

I have included affiliate links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

My focus this year is on vitality. In all areas of life. No longer just surviving, but rather living a full, energetic, passionate life. Choosing a word for the year is not just about having it there to motivate you – you have to do something. And while I was wanting to leave survival mode behind, I needed a plan to jump start my year of vitality.

That’s when Crystal Paine’s newest book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode, came into my life.

CrystalPaine-3D-LeftFacing

I often love the concepts presented in non-fiction books like this one, but I have a hard time finishing them. I get overwhelmed by all of the things I should be doing and put the book away before applying any of the concepts.

Say Goodbye to Survival Mode is a totally different story. I felt like Crystal was telling my tale of being overwhelmed, easily distracted, and just plain tired. As a fellow mom of three little ones, reading about Crystal’s path out of survival mode provided me with a lot of hope!

And along with hope, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode serves up nine strategies for moving forward with intention and life! My favorite strategies are along the lines of time management because that is where I struggle most. A few of my favorite tips:

Record what you do every half hour for 2-3 days.

I actually did this and WOW. So much wasted time here are there! But even just the act of recording what I was doing with my time made me be more intentional. I wanted to make better use of each chunk of time and I stopped doing a few unnecessary things that were showing up too often on the list!

Use those five minutes here and there.

Crystal includes a great starter list of things you could get done in that extra five minutes you have here and there instead of mindlessly surfing Facebook. I’ve started my own list to hang on the fridge to remind me that I own my time and can make it work better for me if I don’t waste it!

Set focused work time.

As an easily-distracted person, I have a hard time using time wisely. I have too many open windows in my browser. Multi-tasking is often my enemy and the thief of some of my vitality. I’ve been scheduling my days better since reading this book, and my writing time has been a lot more productive. Focused work time also means my time with my family is more focused as well.

These were my biggest “aha” moments, but Say Goodbye to Survival Mode is so much more than this. You’ll also find Crystal’s help to:

  • feel healthier and more energetic by setting priorities and boundaries
  • eliminate stress with savvy management of your time, money, and home
  • get more done by setting realistic goals and embracing discipline
  • rediscover your passions—and the confidence to pursue them

I don’t know many women who WOULDN’T benefit from reading this book, trying Crystal’s strategies, and finding life beyond just surviving! I am grateful to Crystal for sharing her life in such an honest and inspiring way and I am thrilled about the direction Say Goodbye to Survival Mode has me moving in for 2014!

SPECIAL, LIMITED TIME OFFER:

To celebrate the release of her book this week, Crystal is offering a collection of amazing prizes for those who buy the book. Simply go to www.GoodbyeSurvivalModeBook.com now for details. And there are lots of special giveaways every day this week as well! You can also pick up the book anywhere books are sold, including Amazon.

Are you in survival mode? What area of your life could use a new strategy?

 

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Praying for Boys

I have included affiliate links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

This is a very significant month if you’re a boy raiser like me. This is the month my dear friend Brooke’s book, Praying for Boys, is released!

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Nothing has impacted the way I pray for my boy more than Brooke’s words, starting with her ebook, Warrior Prayers, and now Praying for Boys: Asking God for the Things They Need Most.

God connected Brooke and I several years ago via the wonderful worldwide web and through that divine appointment, The MOB Society was born. I am so thankful to be on this boy-raising journey with her because, though our boys are roughly the same age, God has given Brooke a passionate heart for praying for our sons and wisdom beyond both our years as a mother from which I draw much strength and inspiration.

“Raising boys brings one adventure after another, but we’re losing the beauty and importance of training up godly men. Our boys need faithful Christian parents now more than ever. We can choose to rejoin the war for the hearts of our sons…today.”

Praying for Boys includes the original Scripture-based prayers from Warrior Prayers, but it is so much more than that. Brooke shares many personal stories that any boy mom or dad could relate with, as well as wonderful stories of the faithfulness of her grandmothers in their own journeys of raising boys.

“Remember mama, God hasn’t asked you to win the battle for the hearts of your sons. He’s only asked you to fight.”

I don’t know what I’m doing raising boys, but God does. When I try it on my own, I find only frustration and feelings of failure. When I bathe my sons {and my own motherhood} in prayers, there is hope in Jesus. And I don’t even have to have the right words because Brooke provides them aplenty in Praying for Boys.

“If their knees are ever to bend to Jesus as Savior, their hearts must bend first. This is the place of a mama’s prayers.”

This book has joined Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys as my go-to manuals for raising strong, godly men. It will stir your heart. It will move you to action. It will get you on your knees, right where God wants us. I’m doing it for these guys.

Praying for My Boys

I could not be more proud of Brooke and this book and thankful for her following God’s call to write it. Well done, friend. I needed this and I know so many boy raisers will find it to be just what they needed as well.

Praying for Boys: Asking God for What They Need Most releases January 7, 2014, but you can pre-order it now just to make sure you get it as soon as it is ready!

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The Berry Patch

I feel it necessary for you to know about my friend Renée’s amazing Etsy shop, The Berry Patch, before you go any further with your holiday shopping.

I’m convinced she can make just about anything crafty, but she totally rocks at sewing. And our family has benefited from her talents many times.

She made these ADORABLE shirts for the boys a few years ago…

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I’ve sported a couple skirts made by her for fun races…

Irishman Finish Strong

M2M Team Sparkle Skirt Photo Crop

And now I have this super fun shirt to wear on Husker game days…


Berry Patch tee

I don’t have to tell you how cute the design of this chevron pocket long sleeve tee is because you can see that for yourself. But what you can’t see is how unbelievably comfortable and soft the shirt is!

Berry Patch tee close

Of course I picked a Husker-themed shirt, but Renée can put together one in your favorite colors, whether team-related or not! I know I will get a lot of wear out of this shirt even when it is not football season because it is so cute and comfy!

Berry Patch infinityShirts and skirts aren’t the only things you can find at The Berry Patch! One of her most popular items right now is the infinity scarf! She has stripes, chevron, and all sorts of colors. They are also available in child sizes! {Seriously, go check out the pics of her sweet little girl in the kids’ infinity scarves pics.}

And speaking of child size, she has some fun dress-up dresses for girls, superhero capes for boys, and cute burp cloths! You can cover all the kids with gifts from The Berry Patch!

So here’s the scoop on ordering from The Berry Patch

1. If you’re looking to do a custom order, such as a pocket tee like mine or something you see on her Facebook page, just use the “Contact Shop Owner” button on the left side of her Etsy page!

2. If you would like to order a Christmas gift, you must place your order by this Friday, November 29th! You may place orders after Friday, but they are not guaranteed to be ready in time for Christmas!

Don’t forget to like The Berry Patch on Facebook because they are always posting new designs and fabric, including the ugly Christmas sweater infinity scarf! Love it!

Which Berry Patch design are you loving the most?

 

Thank you to Renée for providing this great shirt for me to review! I was not compensated in any other way for this post and all opinions are 100% my own!

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Sue Thomas, F.B.Eye

Let’s face it: there aren’t a lot of family friendly dramas on TV anymore. I remember several good ones growing up, but they have mostly disappeared in favor of crime shows, zombie shows, and reality TV.

That’s why I was so pleased to learn of a TV series that ran on the PAX Network and is now available on DVD that the boys and I are all enjoying! It’s called Sue Thomas, F.B.Eye…

Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye is the critically acclaimed family favorite series inspired by the remarkable true story of Sue Thomas, a profoundly deaf woman whose unique lip reading ability lands her on the F.B.I.’s elite surveillance team. Starring Deanne Bray (“Heroes”), this groundbreaking original drama takes you on a witty, heart-warming, fast-paced ride. Tackling tough cases while catching the eye of handsome Agent Jack Hudson (Yannick Bisson), Sue and her hearing dog Levi are suddenly ‘G-men’ on the adventure of a lifetime!


The combination of the boys call “spy work” and the cute dog make it a win for them, and I appreciate the storylines that include F.B.I. work alongside faith and strong values. Friendship and honesty are highly emphasized. And the fact that it is based on a true story is even more compelling!

All five seasons of Sue Thomas, F.B.Eye are available on DVD now, and I have a free shipping code to offer you good through November 27, 2013!

Your free shipping code is:
AFL-7K3F2G
Here’s how to use the code:
2. Add items to the shopping cart.
3. A pop-up window will open with the items in the cart.  Under their subtotal, they’ll see a red link in the cart that says “Add a Coupon.”
4. Click “Add a Coupon” and a form will open where they can paste the code.
5. Click “Update” or continue to checkout and the code will automatically give them free shipping.
The series is also available from Amazon.com.

Have you ever seen Sue Thomas, F.B.Eye?

What family friendly shows are favorites at your house?

 

I received a copy of this DVD to review. I was not compensated in any other way for this post, and all opinions are 100% my own.

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The Girl with Good Intentions {Giveaway}

I “met” Jenny Youngman through Twitter and, being a total sucker for discovering new music, was giddy to get a chance to hear her newest album and share it with you!

Jenny is a mama to four little ones {including twins!}, making meaningful music and working as an artist-partner with International Justice Mission and to raise awareness and support in the fight against human trafficking.

Her new album, The Girl with Good Intentions, just released this August, and is full of songs with which I could deeply relate. Along with a gorgeous voice, Jenny’s lyrics are moving and thoughtful and so inspiring.

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The title song especially grabbed me with this chorus…

Cause I’m the girl with good intentions
With a heart of compassion I just get distracted
I’ve shed tears for this world
But Lord, your kingdom is coming
And I just want to do something good

How many times have I had these EXACT THOUGHTS?! I love the album’s focus on moving from safe, good intentions, to brave, bold movements for the Kingdom.

Later in the album, the song “To Be Brave” has this line that I can’t shake…

Somewhere along the way
We learn to play it safe
And we forget Jesus made us to be fearless
To live in the light of the day
To be brave

I don’t want to just KNOW this truth. I want to LIVE it and teach my boys to live it as well! He made us to be fearless in Him! Jenny’s words are inspiring to me as a woman, a Christian, and a mom.

If you would like to listen to any songs off this album, you can head over to Jenny’s website to hear each song, read the lyrics, and get your own copy of the album!

And Jenny has graciously offered to give away three signed copies of The Girl with Good Intentions to you! I know the winners will be so blessed by Jenny’s music!

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I was provided with a review copy of this album. I was not compensated in any other way for this post, all opinions are 100% my own!

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Everybody Can Help Somebody {Review + Giveaway}

I have included affiliate links below. When you purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting this site and our sponsorship of our Compassion child, Samson!

Every once in a while, a children’s book comes along that tells a really important true story that makes the whole family think and pray and want to act.

A few years ago in our house, it was The Boy Who Changed the World. The “true” aspect of the story totally captivates my children and makes them ask a million questions. Reading these inspiring true stories sticks with all of us long after the first reading.

We had the pleasure of discovering a new book of the same kind this month and it has all of us thinking and asking God what He would have us do.


Everybody Can Help Somebody is written by Ron Hall and Denver Moore, authors of the best-selling book, Same Kind of Different As Me. Both books tell the story of Denver’s life as a sharecropper’s child and his decision to venture out on his own, which led to a life of poverty.

The boys were very sad as we read about Denver’s life…until Miss Debbie entered the picture and took the time to not only tell Denver about God’s love, but also show it to him by helping him.


Everybody Can Help Somebody

There is a line in the book where Denver tells Miss Debbie, “I am a very bad man. Leave me alone!” And she answers back, “You are not a bad man. You are a good man. God loves you, and so do I.” Sometimes my boys need to hear this same thing. After a day of bad decisions, sometimes one of them will say, “I’m just bad,” and I will have the chance to remind them that we are all sinners, but because of Jesus, God sees us as good and loves us just as we are.

Everybody Can Help Somebody inside.jpg

And, of course, Miss Debbie is an example to all of us. She took the time to speak truth into the life of another person and then followed it up with actions of love. This book is a great opportunity to talk about making a difference in our own communities by being kind and generous with our time!

You can enter to win a copy of Everybody Can Help Somebody below!

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**I received this book to review as a Tommy Mommy. All opinions are 100% my own and I was not compensated in any other way for this post.

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What I Wore: Going Retro with eShakti

I took a little trip back in time with a new dress from the fabulous online boutique, eShakti

eShakti dress 2

The sweet little 50′s inspired dress was the one I chose after you voted on my Facebook page and I think you hit a home run! I don’t have a single other dress like this one and, having only worn it to church and Target so far, I have received lots of compliments!

eShakti dress 3

eShakti has lots of dresses you won’t find anywhere else, but the amazing thing about this online store is the way you can customize your dress! For this one, I chose to have the skirt length moved up to above-knee instead of below-knee because that length doesn’t look so good on my short legs! I also chose to input all of my measurements to make sure the dress fit just perfectly…and it does!

eShakti dress 1

Every eShakti dress I’ve owned has pockets. I LOVE dresses with pockets. And the full skirt is great for a busy mom, always chasing after boys!

For church, I paired this dress with pearl earrings and neutral pumps. I think it could also be a great casual dress with a top knot and some colorful ballet flats!

The eShakti fall line just launched, so head over there to get yourself something cute! If you’ve never ordered from eShakti before, they have a $30 gift coupon to use on your first purchase! Just click on the offer at the top of the eShakti site. They also have free shipping going on until September 20 for eShakti Facebook fans. Perfect time to order!

I’m linking up with What I Wore Wednesday over at The Pleated Poppy!

 

*I received this dress to review from eShakti. I was not compensated in any other way and all opinions are 100% my own!

 

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