Book Review: You're Already Amazing

What is my purpose? What is my identity? What are my talents?
What gifts do I have that are suitable for ministry?

If I could just lose 20 pounds, maybe I would be thin enough.
If I had her Anthropologie boots, people would like me too.

Do you catch yourself thinking thoughts like these? Are you struggling with where you are in life? Are you trapped in the toxic cycle of comparison, insecurity, or doubt?

If so, I'd love to recommend Holley Gerth's new book You're Already Amazing: Embracing Who You Are, Becoming All God Created You to Be.

Holley is the co-founder of (in)courage, author, licensed professional counselor, and blogger. Her heart for encouraging women right where they are is apparent, and I believe the message of her book will inspire and encourage those who read it.

Right now you can order You're Already Amazing from Dayspring for only $9. You'll want at least two copies, one to highlight and reference often and one or more to share with your mother, aunt, sister, or friend.

Easy to read, Holley's tone in this book is like a good friend encouraging you over coffee, "You don't need to do more, be more, and have more -- because you are already amazing just the way God created you to be."

*Dayspring provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Be Still: Lessons for When Life Gets Loud

Stuck tight in a claustrophobic space, the machine surrounding me sounds like a jack hammer.

Don't move. Don't want to blur the images.

I try to breathe evenly. It's hard to swallow. I try to be still.

I think about being trapped under rubble, the aftermath of an earthquake maybe, the rescue workers using machines to try to free me and the other victims; I think about being trapped in life, in the places that seem without hope, with no way out.

The machine's loud hammering is jarring. My heart beats fast.

Life gets loud sometimes.

A terminal diagnosis, a death in the family, unemployment, chronic illness, failed surgery, a failed relationship, failure to thrive...

It's in those times, and in the MRI machine, that I hear in my mind,

Be still and know that I am God. I don't expect you to handle this on your own. You weren't designed for that. You need only ask and I will rescue you. I will carry you through the storm.

I breathe and I pray and I know who is in control. I am so thankful to know the One who holds me and my problems; the one who holds the future. I'm so grateful to know His heart, and how good it is.

When life gets loud, be still and remember who is holding you. He is strong enough to carry you safely through the storm.

When life gets loud, be still and remember, it might be your Rescuer working to free you.


Surviving a Flare: 10 Things That Make a Flare More Bearable

If you have a chronic illness or chronic pain, tell me what makes your flares more bearable. If you love someone with chronic illness/pain, these things might be good ideas for gifts or ways you can reach out to someone around you.

1. Fresh Flowers -- It's harder for me to get out when I'm flared. Fresh flowers remind me of life, bring some of nature's beauty inside, and brighten my spirits. 

2. Juice, Bottled Water, Gatorade -- Pain and fever can make me nauseated and effect my appetite. When I'm in a flare, it's great to have a variety of cold drinks.

3. Clean Sheets -- I spend more time in bed than usual, and fresh clean sheets just make everything better.

4. Plenty of PJs -- Once in a while a new pair is a treat.

5. Heating Pads & Pillows -- If I could choose only one thing to get me through my flares, it would be this heating pad, which is electric, and has a timer and temperature controller.

6. Slippers -- I can't walk around without slippers or special shoes without my feet really hurting.

7. Entertainment -- Books from the library, music, magazines, DVDs or Netflix, blogs. Something to help pass the time and distract me from the pain is fantastic. I gravitate toward serious things usually, but am learning the value of a good laugh. As they say, laughter is the best medicine.

8. Lotion, Epsom Salts, Bubble Bath, Lip Gloss -- I've never appreciated pampering things more.

9. Snail Mail -- A card in my mailbox makes me happy. A care package would make me turn cartwheels, if I could do things like that. :-)

10. Easy, Nutritious Food -- Soup, salads, sandwiches, yogurt. Easy to prepare or already prepared, light, and not spicy.

Do you have pain or chronic illness? Tell me what makes your flares more bearable.

Our Girls' First Kitten

"What feeling is so nice as a child's hand in yours?
So small, so soft and warm, like a kitten huddling in the shelter of your clasp."
{Marjorie Holmes}

Wednesday we got a kitten. She's Siamese, about 6 weeks old, and we call her Mitzi (or Mitzi-Moo, or Mitz, or Mitz-Marina as my 5 year-old likes to call her).

This is the first pet we've had in our almost 10 year marriage and the first pet our girls have had, other than some fish in a tank.

I'm not a huge animal person. Growing up, my sister always filled that role while I was the baby/kids person. She did the pet-sitting, I did the baby-sitting.

It wouldn't have been my choice to get a pet at this stage in life (or maybe ever) but I have great memories of getting a kitten when I was about 12. He was a little orange and white ball of fluff. I wanted my girls to have that experience too. So when Jonathan asked me for the millionth time if we could get the girls a pet, I caved.

Without further ado, some pictures of Mitzi and the girls:

Do you remember your first furry pet?
I'm still all flared up, and looking forward to a weekend of bed, heating pads and having my husband home.

What are your plans?


Popcorn, Canes and Contentment

I'm in a flare (maybe the last one didn't end, as my husband says). I've been using the cane again and spending as much time as possible in bed.

My husband Jonathan is a tall French Canadian with broad shoulders and an equally big heart. Tonight I was in bed with my older daughter. We were just hanging out, discussing important topics. While she designed our dream house on paper in pink ink, I did some Windows Shopping (what I call shopping online when you're not intending to buy anything...) So she's sketching out our new and improved home and I'm perusing new bedding for our new and improved bedrooms, and out in the kitchen Jonathan and our younger daughter Natalie are making popcorn.

Pretty soon I hear him say to Natalie, "Okay, I think we're going to go eat in Mommy & Daddy's bedroom," and here come my sweet 5 year-old and her handsome daddy, carrying a tray full of popcorn, bowls and our family's favorite toppings -- brewer's yeast (aka nutritional flakes) and grated cheddar. A stool for my laptop and a box of wet wipes and we're ready. All four of us get arranged in the Big Bed and we put on a movie, dim the lights, and start munching popcorn. Pain or not, I'm content.

It's hard to feel so poorly so much of the time. The pain can be really scary; it can whittle me down to an exhausted, impatient version of myself. I worry sometimes not only about my future, but about what this may be doing to my daughters and my husband.

I read a quote that says something like children who are raised by a mother with crutches will learn to walk with a limp. The concept haunts me as I limp out to the kitchen this morning, holding onto both hall walls for support as my oldest runs unprompted to bring me my cane.

The new nerve pain is scary and hard to deal with. A simple grocery shopping trip reminds me how bad I am doing as I begin to limp and have to get my folding cane out of my bag. People look, confused, at this thirties mama who is wearing boots and a skirt, holding hands with a little girl and yet clutches a cane and walks with a limp. It is easy to just look down and not be bothered by their inquisitive stares, but I try to look up and smile at them instead. This makes me happy, because I am showing them that while I may walk with a cane, I am just fine inside.

Before I go to bed, I go into the bedroom my girls share, and check on them. I love this quiet time every night, the maternal feelings that wash over me as I smooth hair out of their faces, tuck them back in properly, pat their sweet little selves. Tonight I feel a lump form in my throat and I think, "If the trade off for all of this love and happiness in my life is AS, I will bear it gladly."


Writing Conference Weekend

Last Saturday I spent the day at a one-day conference put on by the Oregon Christian Writers. While the speakers were good and the conference, well organized, what I most enjoyed was simply being in a huge room full of writers all day. I loved meeting other writers, hearing about their projects, whether in progress or just an idea, their published books, and perhaps above all, their writing process.

I loved batting around ideas about how to stay focused, how to make time for writing when you have a full life, how to set priorities and boundaries, and how to take care of yourself so you can do your best work.

Another wonderful part of the weekend was exchanging contact info with other writers and bloggers so we can stay in touch and cheer each other on.

Although the conference was just one day, I took the opportunity to turn it into a writing retreat, by book-ending the conference with a hotel stay the night before and night after. This way I had time to write, enjoy some solitude and process what I learned before it was time to go back home.

Have you ever experienced a rapid perspective shift when you get out of your normal routine? I sure did this weekend. I realized that trying to run away from my health problems doesn't work, I haven't made it up, it's real and I must find a way to acknowledge it and take care of myself even in the midst of dreams and travel.

I couldn't believe how tired I was. It was really frustrating, to the point of tears, how much time I had to spend resting instead of writing. It was great to get some writing done, and I was thrilled to enjoy the conference, but I had to realize at one point that if I don't take care of the writer, the writer won't be able to get any work done.

Sometimes when we dream, at least I know this is how it's been for me, we imagine a fantasy world without factoring in challenges or realities. I realized a few years ago that dreams up close are less glossy. When a fantasy becomes reality it's wonderful, of course, but it will include things you didn't count on when you were dreaming. My writing conference/retreat fantasy became reality this weekend. It was wonderful. It also included the reality of pain, a short night due to pain, exhaustion and some tears. I left my house in the pouring rain with a crying daughter. These things are reality.

I think it's important to remember when dreaming, that while your dream can be wonderful, perhaps even better than you dreamed it, it will also be real life when it comes true. Maybe if we know that going in, we can create reasonable expectations.

Here are some of the realizations I had while away:

I am very blessed to have supportive people in my life who help me make dreams come true. Special thank you to my husband and my parents here.

Not all days will be word count days. Some days will be resting days so that I can create another day.

Continuing to make space in my days for creativity and for my writing will yield results, even if it's just a bit of time consistently. Consistency creates results.

If you have a dream, what's stopping you from making it a reality? Get real and honest with yourself here. Write it down and process it. Then figure out the first step. For me, one of my first steps was that it was time to see the doctor again and try to implement a new treatment plan, so I can be living a more full and vital life.

I have to take my own dreams and goals seriously before anyone else will. Similarly, I have to ask for what I need and want.

I hope you join me in taking your dreams and goals seriously, and figuring out the first, or next, step to pursuing them. No one's going to do your work for you. You make it happen! And when it does, give yourself a bit of grace with the realities, and don't forget to say thank you to those who helped you along the way.
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