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what i’ve been reading + learning {Sara’s bookshelf}.


a week ago, i posted the following on Instagram:

At first, summer vacation for me meant catching up on sleep and Netflix and house projects and yes, finally enjoying play time with my kiddos during the day. But now, just 2.5 weeks in, summer has become a time for me to chase after what matters {reconnecting with my love, playing with my littles, reading books I’ve been meaning to read, making our home work hard for us, sending up prayers I’ve been meaning to say, letting go of tears I’ve needed to shed, offering apologies that are long overdue}, not what doesn’t {Netflix – or any television, for that matter – as well as spending time unintentionally on social media}. I am devouring book after book on my list – I’m on no. 4 since summer began for me – and I’m finding so much joy and life in the words of others. I will share more about what I’ve been reading on the blog soon, but for now, a taste of #Margin by Richard A. Swenson, a book that is full of jewels of wisdom and truth: “[God’s] love validates our worth and, as a matter of fact, provides the only basis for it” (268). How freeing it is for me to know that I {and you!} are worthy to the only One who matters! I’m so thankful for this today, and I hope this truth warms your heart, too. xoxo

and today, i’m here to share what i’ve been reading + what i’ve learned.

in the few weeks since my summer began, i’ve read Design Mom: How to Live with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide by Gabrielle Blair, Margin by Richard A. Swenson, Make It Happen: Surrender Your Fear. Take the Leap. Live on Purpose by Lara Casey, Happy Handmade Home: Painting, Crafting and Decorating a Cheerful, More Inspiring Space by Elsie + Emma, the beauties behind A Beautiful Mess, and Let’s All Be Brave by Annie F. Downs. all of these books have awoken something within my heart + i can’t wait to share these nuggets with you!

from Gabrielle Blair’s Design Mom: How to Live with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide:

Bedrooms, to us, are meant for sleeping. Our only requirements are enough space for a bed and a place to put clothes, with a bedside table and a lamp for late-night reading. Our kids’ bedrooms house a few toys and a few books, but the majority of these things are stored in the family room and the living room . . . We like it when the kids come out of their rooms and spend time with the family, and that’s more likely to happen when all of the “stuff” they’re interested in isn’t located only in their bedroom. My advice? Dedicate your bedroom to all things bed, from sleeping to napping to daydreaming. The less there is to do in the bedroom, the easier it is to lure the young ones out, which creates more opportunities for positive family interaction in the shared living space.

the bedrooms in our home {click here to see a current glimpse into our home} are all quite small, and our boys’ shared bedroom is even more so, since there are two littles living in there. thus, we’ve taken this philosophy to heart in an effort to keep the bedrooms in our home tidy + to encourage family interaction in rooms that allow more space for us to congregate – namely, our kitchen, our living room + our family room. my husband and i both had televisions and/or computers in our bedrooms at some point during our growing up days, so i wonder how we’ll handle the idea of a bedroom being reserved for “all things bed” when our kids are older?

from Richard A. Swenson’s Margin:

Even when I feel inferior, even when I have been victimized, even when the pace and pressures of life bring me to the point of collapse, Christ brings me to His rest. When my surrender is completed and His yoke is accepted, then my soul will find rest. And it is imperative, in such an age as ours, that we rest spiritually.

Swenson goes on to distinguish Sabbath rest {rest that occurs one day per week, on Sundays} from spiritual rest, which he terms “surrendered rest”:

The Sabbath rest is a rest He calls us to, but the surrendered rest He offers to us. The Sabbath rest we enter out of obedience, the surrendered rest we enter out of our need. The Sabbath rest arises from the good and perfect law of God; the surrendered rest arises from the good and perfect grace of God. The Sabbath rest is remembrance [see Deuteronomy 5:15]; the surrendered rest is meakness. Both provide soothing, God-ordained healing.

Swenson makes this differentiation to show the importance of creating margin, or space, for rest in our lives. for me, rest has always been something that i’ve felt guilty for taking; in particular, i’m a person who needs a generous amount of sleep per night, so i’ve been known to bow out of social functions or quiet time with Jord in favor of sleep. but, Swenson’s thoughts about rest and its importance helped me to feel inspired to shed this guilt and to embrace my need for rest, primarily because rest is something that Jesus provides for us: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28 NIV). thank God for this!

from Lara Casey’s Make It Happen: Surrender Your Fear. Take the Leap. Live on Purpose:

Following Him frees us from chasing perfect. Following Him frees us from a life going nowhere. Following Him gives us a clear life-giving purpose — to love Him and serve others so they know that love, too.

Casey continues by laying out God’s purpose for our lives:

God’s purpose for us is painted in every letter of the Bible, and it can be summed up in this: love God and serve people. He has given us all different gifts, talents, and resources to use for carrying out this purpose. God’s purpose for us is the big-picture vision; goals are our action plans to carry out that vision, using all He has given us.

you may know that i’m a huge fan of all things Lara Casey, particularly because she’s so gracious in sharing her heart and in helping dreamers like me to make things happen with her Powersheets goal-setting program. because i’ve steeped myself in all that Lara has to share on her blog, i didn’t expect to be so moved by her book, but goodness, i was. her book has helped me to think of goal-setting, something that my to-do-list-loving self has focused on for many years before my first set of Powersheets landed in my hands, as something that can be divinely inspired, something that can bring God glory. each day that i awaken, i want to, as Lara says, “keep reminding myself to set goals that fuel His purpose, not my own gain or what someone else says is a worthy pursuit.”

from Elsie + Emma’s Happy Handmade Home: Painting, Crafting and Decorating a Cheerful, More Inspiring Space:

Reorganizing cabinets and making new space for hard-to-store items is such a rewarding way to spend an afternoon.

these girls speak my language! my favorite of their ideas for kitchen organization: using locker baskets {like this one} to corral seldom-used items in the kitchen {vases + liquor, i’m looking at you}.

from Annie F. Downs’ Let’s All Be Brave:

Seeing other people be brave makes you want to be brave, too. That’s why you’ll see rational adults going down a loopty-loop waterslide even if they don’t want to, because they want to show the kids it isn’t scary. It’s a domino effect. That’s why we have to start. It’s why we have to go first. It’s why we have to be brave — so that others will be inspired to be brave as well.

oh, this spoke to me. as i reflected long ago, i was one of those rational adults who put on a brave face while going down a slide, simply because i knew that my biggest boy was watching me. but the thing is this: i didn’t take it to the next level. stay with me here; Downs continues:

Because you are making a way for them, saving them some pain that your bloodied arms prove is real, and honoring their footsteps by providing a clear path. Never forget as you step forward with your life that you are a trailblazer. Someone is watching. It’s the walking in front of. It’s the standing beside. It’s the trudging behind. We do this because we aren’t alone in it. Even if you don’t see others watching or standing or following, they are there . . . Seeing you be brave may be all they need to be brave. That may be all it takes.

sure, i was brave in that one moment for Lionel, but am i brave in other moments – as much as i can be – for him, for Quincy? am i brave for Jord? am i brave for Jesus? as i’ve learned from Lara Casey above, setting goals that honor God and serve others is worth striving for – and it takes bravery to do that, i’m convinced.

if you’ve made it this far through this post, thanks for reading. it’s been a joy to share with you what i’ve been reading + thinking about these first few weeks of summer! i’d love to hear what words you’ve been mulling over lately – care to share in the comments?

one more thing: i want to share what’s up next on my reading list!

next, i’ll be diving into L. Elizabeth Krueger’s Raising Godly Tomatoes: Loving Parenting with Only Occasional Trips to the Woodshed {a recommendation from Lara Casey + a gift from Jord for Mother’s Day!}. i’m also dusting off a devotional that I purchased long ago called The Message SOLO: An Uncommon Devotional.

{image above from Lara Casey}

Audio books

Kinda like how as a kid you wished you could swim with your books to learn via osmosis.

Kinda like how as a kid you wished you could swim with your books to learn via osmosis.

If you haven’t noticed already, this week in blog posting on OFR has been all about Jord! Well that’s because Sara has started training for her job in teaching that begins next month. As the family adjusts this week to the awkward times and lack of sleep, I happily agreed to take over blogging duties through the dead of night to make sure that we had wonderful content continuing in her absence. And if you haven’t noticed, Sara’s still editing my posts so I sound less like a buffoon. So, enjoy today’s post by me, and we’ll get back into routine next week!

When Sara got her job, we had decisions to make. Who’s commuting? Where do we live? Where do we take baby L for daycare? Well, quickly the cards fell and it was clear that I would be commuting for the foreseeable future. Instead of driving 1.8 miles to work, I currently drive 75 miles to work. When we get into our house next month, I’ll be driving 55 miles to work. Even though the majority is Interstate driving at 75 mph, you’ll gather that I have roughly an hour’s long commute.

Initially, this was devastating. Two more hours of my life gone and for what? But, in the end, I just knew that I was more comfortable with me commuting versus Sara and our son spending a majority of their time on the road. A solution had to be found. A few trips down and I was more than ready to pry out my eyes from boredom trying to find entertainment from the early morning sports talk or various music found on my iPhone or radio dial. Not cutting it.

So Sara and I got library cards! Why? So I could read books on the road. Well, I actually listen to them on CD, as the library allows you to check out audio books! Right off the bat I was excited to try because I was desperate. I had not ever listened to a book on tape before, so I was skeptical of my ability to pay attention and follow along while driving.

So last week I picked up A Game of Thrones and currently I am through five of the 27 discs. I love it. The story is fantastic, the audio is entertaining, and my drives seem shorter and are definitely more entertaining. Thank goodness for the library, because looking at the price of audio books is a bit concerning, but when you check them out for free, you don’t have to debate if the book is worth $40 before trying.

Now that I’m sold, I have currently filled up my library waiting list with various series that I have yet to read: The rest of the Song of Fire and Ice (Game of Thrones is book 1)”, the Dexter series, and the Harry Potter books. Well over a year’s worth of reading listening. I also put the Lord of the Rings trilogy on there for good measure, even though I’m already a big fan of the books.

(image taken from creative commons library)

The Course, The Books, And The Phone Apps That Helped Me Prepare for Mamahood


For those of you who are embarking on your own journey into parenthood (or hope to have this adventure someday in the future!), I wanted to share what resources I’ve found most helpful in preparing for mamahood:

Purposeful Conception: Preparing Your Mind, Body and Life for Pregnancy: This online course is administered by one of my most favorite bloggers and kindred spirits, Sara, of Feeding the Soil and A $2000 Wedding fame. She’s one of the bloggers that I’ve been following the longest, and she’s a person whom I trust explicitly when it comes to making decisions that relate to family, health, and personal development. I couldn’t recommend this course more, precisely because it gave me (and Jord!) the opportunity to do a lot of the “big thinking” and have many discussions related to conception and to raising a child before we started trying to conceive. To me, the cost of the course was more than fair – I feel so grateful for the work that Sara put in to administering the course, and I learned so, so much about myself, about Jord, about our parenting goals, and about conceiving and raising a child.

Ovuview (Phone App for Android): This app helped me to keep track of my menstrual cycles and highlighted my ovulation times each month, so that my husband and I could maximize our efforts to conceive a child. We were lucky enough to conceive within just three months of trying, and I attribute that success to A) the Purposeful Conception course that I took in May – two months before we began trying to conceive; B) the Ovuview app, for teaching me about ovulation; C) the What to Expect Before You’re Expecting book (see below); and D) some great red wine. :)

What To Expect Before You’re Expecting: As I mentioned above, I greatly attribute our early success in conceiving a child to a variety of resources, including this book. If you’ve never really read much about tracking your menstrual cycle, about ovulation, about the female anatomy or about the biological processes associated with conceiving a baby, this book will be an eye-opener for you, like it was for me! I appreciated the honest and lighthearted writing style of the author, and I knew that many a woman has trusted the pregnancy book in this series, so I felt confident in picking it up. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed.

What To Expect When You’re Expecting: After we conceived a baby and I took that positive pregnancy test, I was SO excited to purchase this classic and iconic pregnancy manual. I liked this book primarily because it gave me something to look forward to every four weeks, which is how the book was organized (into four-week segments): reading about what I could expect out of pregnancy for the month ahead! I found the similar lighthearted and honest writing style in this manual as in the Before You’re Expecting guide, and I appreciated knowing what to expect – pun intended – particularly in terms of my doctor’s appointments throughout my pregnancy.

BabyCenter My Pregnancy (Phone App for Android): Shortly after learning that I was pregnant, I downloaded BabyCenter’s My Pregnancy phone app for my Android phone. What I loved about this app was that it gave me something to look at or think about each day, which worked to keep my mind focused on the end prize of pregnancy: the cute little boy that we call L! :) I also loved the BabyCenter forums, which, to be truthful, provided endless amounts of entertainment and laughter. Girls be crazy on those forums, y’all, and when you’re pregnant and feeling totally not like yourself, I think it’s totally necessary to remind yourself that there are mamas-to-be out there who are much crazier than you! :)

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding: This was the first breastfeeding book that I read, and what was so refreshing about the book was two-fold: A) the book is affiliated with the La Leche League, a worldwide breastfeeding advocacy organization that has many small groups around the world that exist to help women to breastfeed their babies. While I didn’t know much about the La Leche League (LLL) prior to reading this book, I came to learn that LLL advocates for breastfeeding without asserting that there is one right way to breastfeed; instead, this book takes the approach that the book exists as an informational resource, but that a mother’s instincts are so much more powerful. What this means is that this guide presents helpful information about breastfeeding, but more importantly, it empowers you to trust yourself!

The second reason that I loved this book: B) the Tech Support guide, as well as the perforated tear sheets in the back of the book. A few weeks ago, I woke up and felt pain in my left breast. I nursed L, but the pain still didn’t subside, so where did I turn? To the LLL book’s Tech Support section on breastfeeding. I wasn’t sure if I had a plugged milk duct, or if I was experiencing mastitis (eek!), but the Tech Support book helped to ease my mind at 4AM, when I awoke. If that isn’t a clear indication of this book’s value to me, I don’t know what else I could say! What’s more: the book also features tear sheets that you can literally tear out of the book and stash in useful spaces around your home. Examples of tear sheets include baby poop indicators, feeding charts and more.

A note about the breastfeeding books that I’ve read in general: I read two books (the other one I read was this one, and sadly, it wasn’t super helpful), and what I found most frustrating was that the authors of both books treat breastfeeding as a delicate relationship between mother and baby that can be impacted by medical interventions, such as epidurals and c-sections. As you may know, from reading L’s birth story, I had both an epidural and a c-section, and yet I’ve been blessed with a wonderful, fulfilling and pain-free breastfeeding relationship with my son. While I’m aware that medical interventions can impact breastfeeding, I’m proof that no matter what your birth experience, you can have a fulfilling breastfeeding relationship with your child, should you choose to pursue it passionately! In other words, I didn’t appreciate what I considered the “scare tactics” regarding the effects of medical interventions, as described in these books. But, I was still able to glean super helpful information from these books, so I’m confident that you can, too!

The Happiest Baby on the Block: Jord and I both read this book before L was born, and we also watched the DVD based on this book before we went home from the hospital. I highly recommend both the book and the DVD! What we learned from Dr. Karp’s method was how to calm our baby by employing the Five S’s: Swaddle, Side/Stomach (a way of holding the child), Sshhhing, Swinging, and Sucking. Of these five soothing methods, we’ve tried them all, and it’s amazing how quickly L calms down! Sometimes, we’re able to just swaddle L, but at other times, we need to employ more than one method at once to get him to calm down. Basically, Dr. Karp’s method of soothing a baby has been invaluable to us.

I hope that this list of resources is helpful to you! :) I plan to write another post of baby gear that I’ve found useful, so be on the lookout for that!

Marriage: A Look Back at Premarital Counseling


I thought it might be fun to take a look back at the premarital counseling that Jord and I did, given that we’ve been married for one year already – where did the time go?!

After being engaged for three and a half months, Jord was offered and accepted a job that required him to move approximately one hour away from where we had been living. Jord moved to a small efficiency apartment, and I moved back in with my parents. We had been living together for a year prior to Jord’s new job. With our wedding only seven short months away, we knew that this job was temporary for him, so we committed to making it work for such a short time.

However, the fact that we were apart Monday through Friday and were only together on the weekends complicated one thing that we both wanted to accomplish prior to our wedding: going through premarital counseling. But, it all worked out well, so I wanted to share our strategy in hopes of helping other couples who may be facing a similar situation.

What worked for Jord and I was to read a book together that still acted as premarital counseling for us, but allowed us to read the book, chapter by chapter, separately. We then got together to discuss each chapter. The book we used is 10 Great Dates Before You Say ‘I Do’ by David and Claudia Arp and Curt and Natelle Brown.

We really enjoyed working through the book together, as it answered all of the important questions that we thought should be answered before committing to someone for a lifetime. Everything from communication to finances to children was covered in this book, and best of all, each “issue” or “question” had a bit of “homework” (mostly list-making or freewriting) that each of us would do prior to our “date,” or the time that was set aside for discussion of the chapter.

After finishing the book (actually, I think that we cheated and only got through nine of the ten dates before our wedding day!), we also met with my uncle, who married us, for a premarital counseling session. My uncle had us fill out (before meeting with him) personality inventories that were full of more critical questions about our expectations of marriage and what we desired to achieve in our lives as married people. We then met with my uncle to discuss the results of these inventories. This was such a fun part of our wedding preparations, especially because Jord and I were exactly where we should be prior to getting married, according to my uncle!

This approach worked for us, because it allowed us to maximize our geographical differences while still maximizing our marriage preparation. We would recommend the book to anyone, and we’ve even passed the book along to another couple who is considering marriage in the future!

Did you do premarital counseling? Do you plan to when you get married? What method did you/will you use?

NOTE: I wasn’t paid or perk’d to feature the book by the Arps and the Browns – we just had a great experience with it!