Sunday, June 28, 2015

June Reads

Hooray for summer!  We have been having a blast as a family soaking up the days of summer and squeezing in quite a lot of reading.  I am glad that we were able to get back into the habit of a family read aloud this month.  I hope to make reading at least one chapter book a month a family tradition.  I have such fond memories of my mother reading books aloud to myself that I really want to pass that on to my children.  Here is what I have been reading in June: 

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin: Ever since I can remember I have been a very scheduled young woman who thrives on organization and habits.  While marriage and becoming a mother has radically influenced my habits and my "productivity", I still delight in my routines.  My sister-in-law was so excited about this book that I think she could have sold me a copy on the spot.  :)  I knew I could borrow her copy next month but I just couldn't wait to read it.  I'm so glad that I didn't wait because this book is wonderful.  I loved reading this book!  It was absolutely intriguing to read about all of the different personalities that Rubin mentions in the book and how they affect how a person cultivates habits in their own life.  The author did a fabulous job of researching how habits influence people.  I feel like I learned so much about myself and I feel encouraged to take steps towards changing my own habits to suit how God wired me.  I really am a morning person (just not one of those crazy people who relishes waking up at 4am) but I happen to be married to a night owl.  For years I have tried to adjust myself to my husband's schedule but I think I might need to revisit this idea in the next month or so.  Please note that I did receive a review copy of this book from Blogging For Books.  All opinions are my own.

Lessons From Madame Chic by Jennifer Scott:  I was first introduced to the author while watching her video on her 10 Item Wardrobe which you can watch here.  I am by no means a minimalist but I would admit to becoming more of a minimalist the older I get.  The book chronicles the lessons that she learned while living in France for a semester while in college.  I studied French throughout high school and in college and have always been interested in French culture.  Recently I have been very interested in simplifying my life.  I thought this book was simply fabulous.  I found it inspiring to think of living a simple life that relished living each day to its fullest.

At Home with Madame Chic by Jennifer Scott: After recently reading Lessons from Madame Chic this book was actually a big let down.  Scott repeated so much in this book that she already shared in her first book that I found it a tad bit boring and very repetitive for someone who has read her first book.  I do think I would have enjoyed it had it been my first book by the author.

The Core by Leigh A. Bortins: I thought this book on classical education was very interesting but it lacked a lot of the more practical ideas and suggestions that I was looking for.  I guess I expected it to be more along the same lines as Susan Wise Bauer's The Well Trained Mind.  (It felt very different.)  This book did encourage me to continue helping my children cultivate their learning.  I would love to see a revolution take place throughout schools in America where children are taught more of how to think as Bortins suggests.  Bortins is the founder of Classical Conversations and I did think that her book did feel like a big plug.  Still I am glad that I read this book.

Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More-Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior: I have to admit that I have mixed feelings about this book.  The first hundred pages were a bit tedious but the glorious recommendations on the back cover really kept me reading.  The second half of this book was actually decent.  I must confess that I did find myself encouraged and quite enlightened while learning of all that Hannah More did during her life.  In general I do enjoy reading biographies and as a history major in college I have read quite a few of them.  Still this one was harder to get through than most.

The Boxcar Children #11: Caboose Mystery by Gertrude Warner: This was a delightful children's read aloud that I really enjoyed reading with my kids this past week.  The Aldens take a trip on a train and end up getting to ride in the caboose.  Along the way they uncover a mystery.  I had originally planned to just read a chapter a day but the plot line was so fascinating that Eli and I couldn't wait to find out what happened next!  This was only our second book from this series and I look forward to reading many more in the next few years.

What about you?  Have you read any of The Boxcar Children books?  What have you been reading this summer? 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Our Trip to The SBC Convention

A funny photo from our trip.  

Two weeks ago I had the awesome privilege of tagging along with the happy hubby on a business trip to the SBC Convention.  It was wonderful.  We were in sessions most of the time but it was so much fun just hanging out as the two of us.  I thought I would enjoy attending the conference with Brandon but I was actually REALLY surprised by how much fun it was actually being at the convention.  I ran into a handful of friends that I attended school with back in the day before Brandon and I were married.  I did attend the convention six years ago when it was in Louisville, KY but I spent the majority of my time racing to the nearest restroom since I was expecting Eli.  This convention was so much better!

This year the convention was held in Columbus, OH which is only a few hours from our home.  Hooray for a nice short trip!  This marks our fourth trip to Columbus together.  We have attended the amazing Ohio State fair twice and we also spent our Babymoon in Columbus just two weeks before Eva was born.  

Brandon tried baklava for the first time!

One of my favorite parts of the conference was the Pastor's Wives Conference on Monday morning. It was wonderful to sit under the teaching of such godly women.   I was reminded of how much I really do miss being a part of weekly Ladies Bible Studies and the time that I spent in seminary studying women's ministry.  There is something wonderful at sharing what Christ is doing in your life with other women.  During the session they did an interactive pole where we all texted in answers to various questions that I found so encouraging.  It was neat to see how many other women were in very similar situations to myself.  We all came from very different walks of life but we all shared many of the same struggles.  I also appreciated the fact that we didn't have to play any of those awkward get to know you games.

Hands down the speaker that impacted me the most was Pastor Saeed's wife.   If you are unfamiliar with the story of Pastor Saeed he has been imprisoned in Iran for the past three years for preaching the Gospel.  The fact that blew my mind was the fact that he is a U.S. Citizen.  I remember briefly hearing the story a few years ago but I never realized that Pastor Saeed is a citizen of the USA and yet he still sits in jail.  His sweet wife has worked tirelessly on his behalf trying to get him freed and spends much time interceding on his behalf.  She even spoke to Congress within the past few weeks.  Please join me in praying daily for his release and that the Gospel would continue to take hold of the lives of men and women in Iran.  Mrs. Saeed's story was so moving that I found myself brought to tears and wanting to rejoice all at the same time.  The Iranian government continues to do all they can to quiet him but so many people are coming to know Christ as their Savior.

Throughout the entire convention I felt so encouraged as we had the opportunity to hear all about what God is doing throughout the lives of people in Columbus, the States, and around the world.  Honestly I had expected the conference to be a little dry.  So much so that I lugged around a large book with me so that I would be ready at the precise moment that things got a little boring.  The funny thing is the fact that I never cracked open that book the entire convention.  Not even a peek!  I was to busy meeting new people, chatting with the hubby, and being encouraged by all that has happened in the last year.  The happy hubby was so sweet that he even arranged for us to attend two special luncheons while we were there.  We attended the NAMB/IMB luncheon on Monday and the Baptist 21 luncheon on Tuesday.  I especially enjoyed the banter between David Platt and Kevin Ezell.

Convention Swag

I also enjoyed looking at all of the booths and meeting new people.  As you can see in the picture above we also received a lot of free materials and books!  We even met my sweet friend Emily's pastor who lives in Chattanooga.  I couldn't resist taking a picture and sending it to her.  Ha, ha!

I am incredibly thankful that I had the opportunity to attend the convention with my sweet hubby.  It was so nice to get away and take part in something that we both enjoy doing together.  On the other hand it also made me strangely excited to be a part of the SBC.  I've always been glad to be Southern Baptist for the most part but that was mainly because of where I personally land theologically.  (I'm also a big fan of church accountability.)  I have also enjoyed many of the experiences that I have taken part in through the SBC like Baptist Campus Ministries, being a summer missionary on an Indian Reservation, and working at the University of Louisville BCM.  Attending convention helped me to really feel like I was really a part of something bigger.  It's so neat to hear about what other Southern Baptists are doing throughout the world and to realize that I am part of all of that.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

How My Feelings About Road Trips Are Changing

If you have been reading this blog for a while or are a personal friend of ours you know that as a family we travel a few times a year to visit family.  What you might not know is the fact that I hate road trips.  I don't hate all road trips just the long ones.  Once you pass the five hour mark the trip takes on a more serious tone.  Don't get me wrong I really do enjoy the trip once I get there but it is just hard for me to have a great, cheery attitude the entire drive there.

That isn't to say that I haven't tried.  Seven years ago my sweet hubby proposed marriage (after I had already taken two long road trips to Arkansas with him).  The first couple of trips we took to Arkansas were a lot of fun but they were also about four hours shorter.  We lived closer to Arkansas at the time and we didn't yet have children.  Since that time I have watched youtube videos and have read numerous blog articles about ways to have a fantastic road trip.  I really have tried but somehow I would start to get antsy after about hour six or seven.

From the beginning road trips have always been exciting for me.  As a child, my family and I often traveled on various vacations and also to visit my grandparents who did not live close by.  (My great grandma lived five hours away so perhaps that is why I seem to get antsy after we pass the five hour mark.)  The college I attended was only about three hours away and the grad school I went to was only two hours away.  Until my sweet hubby entered the picture I just wasn't accustomed to road trips of such magnitude.

Somehow getting older has helped me in my quest of enjoying road trips.

For some reason all of the effort I put into trying to force myself to enjoy road trips for the past seven years is finally starting to click.  When we pulled into the driveway last week after a 1,000 mile trip to visit family and back I realized to myself that I think that I actually had fun in the car.  Brandon pulled the car into the driveway and I remember thinking, "Wow.  We are here already.  I could definitely travel another couple of hours."  (I always have a great time visiting family in Arkansas but I usually feel a bit crabby in the car.)  Really?  Could I finally feel differently about traveling 1,000 miles in the span of just a few days?

What made it different from all the other 20-30 other ten hour road trips I have taken to Arkansas?  I'm not actually sure.  I always take exciting books to read or craft projects to work on but somehow this time it was different.  For years and years I have wished that we could just fly when we visit family. I can't think of any friends of mine growing up who traveled to visit family more than just a few hours.  Those that did live far away always flew even if it was only a six or seven hour drive.  

 I always kind of assumed that once a trip takes you longer than about six or seven hours you just fly there.  I'll never forget my absolute shock when I realized that flying from our nearby airport to Arkansas would cost a small fortune at around $450 per ticket.  That's not even a direct flight!  We are blessed to live by a number of airports that all offer crazy inexpensive flights to a number of places thanks to airlines like Frontier and Allegiant.  They just don't offer any flights to Arkansas.

It turns out I did end up flying one way to Arkansas in January by myself with both of our kids when Brandon's Grandmother passed away.  (Brandon was already there.)  I am so grateful that we were able to fly since I was a little nervous about making a 500 mile trip by myself.  It also meant that I was able to be in Arkansas by about ten o'clock in the morning instead of ten o'clock at night.  At such a time my heart just ached and longed to be with my sweetheart so I am so glad that we did fly.  Flying with two children and having to make a crazy connecting flight isn't really my idea of a fun time.  We ALMOST missed our connecting flight because it took so long to retrieve my stroller from under the plane.  Our kids are great flyers but I don't relish the stress of trying to make a connecting flight while running through the airport!

Still flying wasn't all that I hoped it would be.  The children were wonderful and Evangeline slept most of the time but I terribly missed the ten hours to talk with my husband.  We take turns driving and when he is the passenger (or co-pilot as we call it) he talks my head off!  Brandon talks about everything under the sun and I just savor every moment of it.  I'm usually pleasantly surprised about learning something new about my man.  We also recently started listening to Pod casts (mostly Dave Ramsey) in the car while we travel which has helped immensely.  It has sparked wonderful conversations between the two of us and really does help the time fly by.  If we would have flown last week I would have missed all of that.

I also would have missed visiting with sweet friends of ours who live in Nashville.  We had the best time catching up with them and spending the night on our way to Arkansas last week.  They fed us a wonderful dinner and completely spoiled us.

I think I have finally resigned myself to the fact that our family is a road trip family.  (Well at least until Allegiant or Frontier offer flights to Arkansas.)  We are like a well oiled machine when it comes to traveling long distances.  I know exactly how to pack the car for maximum enjoyment.  The cooler goes here, DVD player goes there, toy bag goes under Eva's seat, etc.  We have systems and are crazy organized.  I'm a planner kind of girl but my husband LOVES spontaneity so we have also taken a lot of last minute trips to Arkansas where we look at each other and say "Hey let's go to Arkansas and leave in 45 minutes."  The crazy thing is the fact that we can actually do that.  Even if my husband shakes his head in disbelief every time I go through our "What To Pack For Arkansas" list.  He simply can't believe I make a list every single time we travel to his parent's house when we have been so many times before.

What about you and your family?  Do you enjoy road trips?  Have your feelings about road trips changed over the years? 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

March and April Reads

Love the Home You Have by Melissa Michaels:  I could not wait to read this book on decorating from a fellow pastor's wife.  Unfortunately the book really wasn't at all what I expected.  I love the premise behind the book to fully embrace and love your current living situation.  In my 6.5 years of married life we have lived in a variety of homes from owning our own home to our current living situation where we live in lovely church parsonage on 7 acres.  I just did not find the book that inspiring.  (If you follow her blog The Inspired Room then you might feel differently about the book.)  I was hoping that she would have included more commentary about her life as a pastor's wife and how her husband's ministry influenced her home.

The Love Letters by Beverly Lewis:  Every time I read one of Lewis' books I never really know what to say about them without giving away too much of the book.  I really enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it.  When it comes to summer I just don't think there is anything better than curling up with a great fiction book.  In a way I equate reading one of these books as the same as watching a sweet girl movie like Pride and Prejudice.  Please note that I did receive a review copy from Harvest House Publishers.

Capture The Moment by Sarah Wilkerson:  I really enjoyed this simple book on photography.  It was so inspiring and I found myself reaching for my camera a lot more after reading this book.  I guess you could say I'm a wannabe photographer without skills.  :)  I am looking forward to cultivating my photography skills this summer.  If I could only move away from the auto button!  The photographs in this book are simply stunning.  It is one of those books that would make a great coffee table type of book if you are into that sort of thing.  Please note that I did receive a free copy of this book from Blogging For Books.

Everyday Grace: Infusing All of Your Relationships With The Love of Jesus by Jessica Thompson:  I really wanted to like this book but for some reason I just couldn't get into it.  A friend had recently asked me if I thought Thompson focused too much on grace so I think that thought permeated the back of my mind the entire time I was reading this book.  I didn't want to read with a critical spirit but that thought just kept permeating my mind.  I think I'm going to try to pick this book back up in 6 months.  I just don't think I was in the mood to read this type of book right now.  Please note that I did receive a review copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest opinion.

What books have you read in the past few months?  I would also love to hear your recommendations for summer read alouds for my children who are five and one.