2 more books (and a magazine).

Monday, December 15, 2014

This past month, I added two more books to my 2014 reading. (To see what else I read in 2014, visit this post.) Both books, not coincidentally, dealt with parenting and both came highly recommended by trusted friends. With a two-year-old who is not at all "terrible" but who tests most boundaries placed in front of him, I was looking for theologically rich parenting advice.
So here's my candid review of each:
1. Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick & Jessica Thompson ☆☆
If you've read any of my book reviews in the past, you know that I love anything Elyse Fitzpatrick writes. I started out really loving this one and marking page after page of insight. By the end, though, I guess I didn't really feel "dazzled" by the love of Jesus as the subtitle purports. I know that the point of this book is not to give a set of rules or how-to's for every given disciplinary situation, but I found that by the end, I was exhausted by the authors' method of bringing Jesus into every disciplinary discussion with your kids. Reading through the different behavioral situations and the script (to be used very loosely), the lengthy gospel explanations felt as though they might really turn my kids off to drawing near to Jesus. While I absolutely believe that there is nothing "good" in me or my kids apart from Jesus, repeating that over and over to them every time they sin felt overwhelming to me. I feel sure that this is not the author's intention - but it's how I felt by the end of the book; a little beaten down, to be honest. Perhaps when my kids are a little older, I'll pick it back up.

On a positive note, the reminder that salvation is of the Lord and does not come to my kids because I'm a great (or terrible) mother was incredibly refreshing. Despite my very best attempts, their lives and hearts are in His hands. What freeing news!

2.Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms by Gloria Furman  
I picked this one up just after finishing Give Them Grace and was so refreshed. There are no parenting how-to's in this one. No scripts to follow. Really no advice. Just a thorough soaking in the good news of Jesus Christ and the beautiful calling of motherhood.

"Choosing to nurture and sustain life through the giving of your body, your livelihood, and your future flies in the face of our worldly society. Whenever mothers choose to give of themselves, it is evidence of God's preserving grace in our fallen world." (p. 44)

This quote, in particular, stuck out to me because I've experienced so much in the past couple years that the world does not value mothers. Our culture can't make sense of why a woman would give up so much in order to nurture her children. But Jesus does, and this book was such a sweet reminder of how he cares for me as a mom. Highly recommend.

Lastly, I received my copy of Deeply Rooted Magazine in the mail a couple days ago and cannot wait to dive in! I feel so honored to be a contributing writer in this issue. This would make such a great Christmas gift, or even ordering digital copies of all 4 issues would be a sweet gift to yourself!

Final sale!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

First things first, thank you for supporting me and my little Brighter Day shop so well this past year! It has allowed me the enormous privilege of working from home while spending my days with my little guy, and I don't take that lightly.

That said, I wanted to offer one final sale before I close the shop for the year.

From now until Sunday night at 11:59pm EST, take 30% off using the code MERRYCHRISTMAS30.

All items are currently ready to ship and will ship out no later than this coming Tuesday, to arrive in time for Christmas (domestic orders only). There are wallets, baby headbands, canvas art prints, and earrings that are ready to go. Or purchase a discounted sewing pattern or instant download art print and make your own gifts!

PS - Because of our baby's imminent arrival, I can't guarantee if or when I'll be re-opening the shop. While working with a two-year-old has had its own challenges, I can only imagine what life will be like with a two-year-old and a newborn, so I'm not making any commitments at this point. So if you're looking to purchase from Brighter Day, now's the time!

Coconut oil as face wash + oil pulling.

Monday, December 8, 2014

As you well know, there are hundreds of uses for coconut oil. This isn't a post about 99% of them, but I wanted to tell you about two new uses for that weren't on my radar until recently. I've used coconut oil to cook for several years, but hadn't really ventured out much beyond that. I buy a big tub of extra virgin coconut oil from Costco (the same kind can be purchased here) and it typically lasts a few months.

Here are the new-to-me uses:
1. Coconut oil as face wash.
I ran out of my trusty Clean & Clear the other night right before bed, and I remembered hearing that some people wash their faces with coconut oil. My skin is naturally more oily so this never really appealed to me, but I didn't have any other good options to get my makeup off. So I gave it a go.

Here's what I did:
1. Wet your face.
2. Warm about a tablespoon of coconut oil in your hands and rub it onto your face. I focused on my eyes, hoping to get all of my mascara and eye makeup off.
3. With a very warm washrag, hold it on your face for 10 to 15 seconds. This felt so good!
4. Use the warm water and washrag to gently wipe off the coconut oil (eyes included). This will take off your makeup and your skin will feel softer than ever.

I was so skeptical at first - would it really take all of my makeup off? Would my face feel super greasy? - but I loved the results and haven't gone back. Amazingly, my skin doesn't feel greasy and it removed my mascara more gently and completely than any eye makeup remover I've tried. I even add a little bit of oil as a moisturizer at night and my skin feels amazingly smooth. Win!

2. Coconut oil for "oil pulling." 
Have you heard of oil pulling? Basically, you put a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth, let it melt, and swish it around for 10 to 20 minutes. (I'll be honest... the solid clump of coconut oil in my mouth took some getting used to.) Then you spit it into the garbage (don't swallow it!) and out with the oil comes toxins, bacteria, viruses, and plaque. Rinse your mouth with water and you're done. Some say it's best to do in the morning before anything else has entered your mouth, so I have been keeping a jar of coconut oil in the shower and swish while showering.

So why exactly would anyone do this? People cite lots of reasons, but mainly for oral health and detoxifying the body. In the couple of weeks that I've done this every other day, I've definitely noticed whiter, shinier teeth - and I haven't gotten sick. Who knows if the wellness part is even related, but in the thick of flu season, I'm willing to try. Here's more info on it, if you're interested.

Any favorite uses for coconut oil that I should try? I'd love to hear!

Remembering His goodness.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Maybe you remember the story. Two-and-a-half years ago, while pregnant with Liam, our 20-week ultrasound didn't go as smoothly as we'd hoped. After checking off each system as "normal," the ultrasound technician landed on Liam's legs and saw what she thought was two clubbed feet. One foot was hard to see, but she was nearly certain that his left foot was clubbed. We were scheduled for a more in-depth ultrasound two weeks later to follow up with her findings and to meet with a genetic counselor. Beyond being a fixable problem with his feet, the clubbing could have been related to a variety of other genetic conditions, and we wouldn't know for sure if everything was alright until after he was born. 

As Shawn headed back to work after our difficult ultrasound, I'll never forget sitting slumped in silence on our couch, allowing my mind to slide into dark places of "what if?". I felt so suddenly disconnected from our squirming baby, swallowed up in fear that I wouldn't be able to love him well if he had a disability. I blamed myself, just knowing I had probably done something to cause the defect. 

Our gender reveal party with a host of family and friends was later that evening, and I put on a smiling face to try to celebrate. No one really knew there was a problem beside our parents, but even as the ultrasound video played in the background, I couldn't stand to look at it. Past all of our loved ones and a cake with bright blue icing in the center, all I could see that night was our baby's turned left foot. 

But when a friend's daughter brought an unexpected gift, my heart changed. I unwrapped a tiny left foot-shaped cookie cutter with the words, "A gift from heaven above!" on a note that came with it. In that moment, the fear and self-pity that had swallowed me whole melted away. In that moment, I felt so lavishly loved and known by Jesus. Two-and-a-half years later, I still do.

Liam's feet were the first part of him I saw when his warm body was quietly delivered into my arms. They were soft and beautiful and not turned in even a bit, so our follow-up appointment with a pediatric orthopedic surgeon was immediately canceled and we reveled in our perfectly healthy boy. God had chosen to work a miracle.

Knowing the power of a mother's love like I do now, I know it wouldn't have mattered. Liam could have arrived with no feet at all and I would've loved him deeply. Had that been the case, we would've experienced God's faithfulness to us as He walked us through that trial, too. But for Liam to have flawless feet felt like an extra gift; an unexpected miracle that we opened on the day of his birth. 
Today, we did something I had dreamt of: we pulled out that foot-shaped cookie cutter that has now made three moves with us. I mixed and rolled out smooth gingerbread dough and let Liam cut lots of shapes out of it, including the shape of a left foot. As the cookies baked, I brought him over to the oven to watch them swell and brown and I told him his story. How Mommy was so scared that his feet might not be able to walk or play soccer. How she and Daddy prayed for a miracle and tried to trust God. How God showed up through a little girl's gift of a cookie cutter in the shape of a left foot, and we knew that He was with us and cared for us so much. How, when he came out of Mommy's tummy, the first thing I saw were those beautiful, perfectly formed feet of his. At this point in the story, he yelled, "Yeah Biam! Biam's feet!" as if he somehow understood a little piece of what I was trying to say. Tears welled up in my eyes as they do every time I tell this story, and he hugged me and said, "Wub you, Mommy." More tears.

So if you come by my house this week, you'll see a dozen gingerbread cookies in the shape of a foot. More than that, they're rocks of remembrance of His goodness to us. Sweet reminders of his faithfulness that I hope we never forget. 

Deeply Rooted.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Have you guys heard about Deeply Rooted Magazine? The best way I can describe it is that its aesthetic is like an Anthropologie catalogue - gorgeous photography and design - and its content is theologically rich. What a rare, needed combo. Besides articles on Christian womanhood, there are also recipes, artist interviews, and DIY projects. And though it's technically a magazine, it feels much more like a book. Not something you'd toss out easily, and there's so much great content that it takes a while to get through.

For this upcoming issue, I feel so honored to be one of the contributing writers. (!!!!) The Winter issue is available for pre-order now and will be shipped December 8. I'm already stocking up for Christmas presents and can't wait to hold one in my hands!
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