Best Reads of 2020 [so far!]

Hey friends! I just wanted to pop in a share a bit with you about some of the best books that I’ve read recently, in case you are looking for some recommended reading material for your spring and summer. 

Reading during a time of crisis is a tricky thing. I feel a deep need to be reading edifying and beautiful and true things, and I also feel painfully scattered! I have been finding that my typical reading habits are getting all shaken up, and I’m having a harder time finding the right book for the right moment. During the most ordinary times I have a stack of four or five books that I am actively working through…but right now it’s like seven deep and I am flitting back and forth and still trying to find that balance of comforting and challenging in my reading diet! 

How crisis-minded each day feels really is dictating what kind of book I am able to tackle, and for a time, I think that’s okay. If you are experiencing the same thing, I’d love to hear about it! And hey, maybe it’s okay to just let some books sit for now, and just go with the books that are speaking to you in this time, even if it wasn’t what you typically are drawn to or if it wasn’t what you had planned to be reading this year!

I hope my list of books I have loved so far this year will help you in finding something that just fits for you right now!

(I’m going to quote here a bit from things I’ve already shared on my Goodreads, so if we’re friends there, this may be some repeat material for you!) 

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A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles

I read this in January, but it is eerily fitting for the days we are living through – even if it is set in 1922! It was blissful, literary reading, and has secured, probably forever, a place in my heart among my very favorite books. A re-reading is definitely in my near future. 

I adored this book for so many reasons! It was a delight. Gorgeous writing with lovely, surprising humor in spite of the grim realities of the post-revolution Russian setting. The main character absolutely glows. It isn’t a book to be rushed…but at the same time I could hardly put it down. The indomitable human spirit of Count Rostov “an unrepentant aristocrat” (deemed so by the Bolsheviks), is so inspiring, and the conclusion was so satisfying and left me almost breathless with joy. He reminds me of all the things I love about life and the world.

I did feel that the romantic relationship between Count Rostov and Anna Urbanova was somewhat below him, and kind of “meh”…there were a couple of sensual scenes between them, so I will not share this book with my children until they’re much older (or maybe we’ll read it together, skipping those scenes?).

From the books’ description:

“An indomitable man of erudition and wit, Rostov must now live in an attic room as some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history unfold. Unexpectedly, the Count’s reduced circumstances provide him entry into a world of emotional discovery as he forges friendships with the hotel’s denizens. But when fate puts the life of a young girl in his hands, he must draw on all his ingenuity to protect the future she deserves. Hailed for its humor, intrigue, and beautifully rendered scenes, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the Count’s endeavor to become a man of purpose.”

 

The Wanderer – Judy R Carlson 

From the book’s description:

“Renuel, the ‘Wanderer’ is tall, dark and lean. A foreigner on a grievous, underground mission collides, on a city street, with Linnea Johanneson…”

This book was a really fun follow-up to A Gentleman in Moscow, as it continues with an Eastern European cultural vibe with a taste of Norway and Sweden too! Better still, my mother in law wrote The Wanderer and so it is a family treasure as well as a really great read!

The composition of the story began on a quiet holiday evening as some of the family gathered around to enjoy the last glow of a day spent in celebration together. Judy suggested, “Let’s all write a story together!” Which was received with lukewarm enthusiasm or lack thereof, except for my dear niece Lydia, who thought the idea had a spark. The two of them wrote back and forth, a few paragraphs at a time, and that was the birth of the tale that would go on to become The Wanderer.

Some of the books that I tend to love best are those books with stories that I enjoy but that also have a delicately-woven thread just beneath the plot – something rich with thought-provoking philosophy, theology, anthropology…in this book, Judy has passed on something of the beauty of her vibrant life and faith, mystical and romantic, laced with classic poetry, proverbial literature and life-wisdom. It gently inspires and wakes the deepest parts of the reader while they are just along for the ride with Linnea, Stian, Renuel, Natalyia, Bella and others. 

This book was a bit reminiscent to me of some of my favorites of George MacDonald’s fiction, having a sort of omniscient narrator who gives you sudden and striking insights into the characters. If you have read some of his stories, you may find that this work appeals to you too. There is mystery, drama, some surprising twists and turns, and of course, romance. A delightful book! In the best of ways, it is something that could only be written by someone who has lived seven decades under the sun and tasted much of the bittersweetness of life and gained much wisdom in walking with her Savior in it. I think you’ll find it inspiring. Don’t miss the wonderful epigraphs!

 

A Timbered Choir – Wendell Berry

Isn’t that title just glorious and beautiful?!

I can’t say that I really have very much experience reading poetry, but I do have a growing appetite for it, and I find that in times of stress I am that much more drawn to the wonderful immersion of imagination that one can experience in beautiful poems. 

Wendell Berry is one of my favorite authors, first for his fiction, and now perhaps his poetry (particularly his Sabbath poems), has even pulled ahead in my heart. These poems are such a breath of fresh air. He wrestles with themes of life and death, community, friends and family, seasons, grief, love and joy, all in the context of his Sabbath rest and musings. 

In reading them, I often feel as if I have spent an afternoon wandering his Kentucky hills in the golden hour before dusk, and my heart absorbs some of his peace…at rest in the natural world, with a deep awareness of the sovereignty of the Creator. 

This is a book I will come back to over and over again and I commend it to you! I found it so stabilizing with it’s soothing beauty. Here is one of my many favorite poems from A Timbered Choir

“Now you have slipped away

Under the trackless snow,

To you the time of day

Always is long ago.

 

You’re safe among the dead,

Alive, your death undone.

“Come and dine,” Christ said.

Consenting, you have gone.

 

Gift from the Sea – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

This book came highly recommended by several women whom I admire, and the cover was pretty (!!!), so I finally bought it and adored it. The book description says,

“graceful, lucid and lyrical – Anne Morrow Lindbergh shares her meditations on youth and age; love and marriage; peace, solitude and contentment as she set them down during a brief vacation by the sea…”

As a woman now in the “oyster bed years” of marriage and children and sprawling responsibilities everywhere, there is a full feeling of fruitfulness but also at times of exhaustion and being spread much too thin, and reading musings on the many chapters of life from an older woman (this book was published in 1955) made me feel as if I am in such good company, as if my experience is in the realm of things true to many others, and it helpfully placed it in the context of life chapters both prior and future. 

This book is something like a guide to womanhood – with “outward simplicity, inner integrity, fuller relationship”…more hints and musings than answers, but it was profoundly centering and soothing to read. It was one of those serendipitous “right book at the right time” situations for me.

It was short, poetic, readable, and exactly like a gift from the sea. 

 

On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Books – Karen Swallow Prior 

As I have come to write a bit about each of these books, I have taken a deep breath, feeling almost as if their magic is just too much for me! I can’t possibly begin to explain what was so lovely or moving or even simply what the book is about!

And here again, I probably cannot begin to do this work justice, but I’ll simply start by saying I adored this book, and it has become a centerpiece for my comprehension not only of my own reading life but also for understanding my spiritual life more deeply and understanding the heart of the education of my children. 

Karen Swallow Prior skillfully teaches on the virtues – cardinal, theological and heavenly – using some of the best literature to illustrate them and bring insight into how we ought to be formed by these virtues (and, by virtuous reading).

This was my first real introduction to the virtues in a classical sense, and I found it so enlightening, with a whopping portion of conviction too. The crossroads of theology and literature is probably my very very favorite conversation! I find the concept of reading for spiritual formation absolutely fascinating as well.

Some of the literary works featured here were old friends for me, and some are new recommendations that I will be getting to soon (happily, with her insights to guide me)! This felt like a guided literary tour of the virtues by an amazing and accomplished woman who still seems to be just the most tender kindred spirit.

Every chapter found me highlighting like mad, thinking *THIS!* This, is why I read books.

I highly, highly recommend it to you. Also the Foreword, Introduction and illustrations are not to be missed. I may read through this with my students in upper grades, and I think this book would be particularly interesting to my friends involved in education especially with a Charlotte Mason or Classical approach. 

Here are a couple of excerpts (though I could fill an entire commonplace book with quotes!)…

“Therefore, even as you seek books that you will enjoy reading, demand ones that make demands on you: books with sentences so exquisitely crafted that they must be reread, familiar words used in fresh ways, new words so evocative that you are compelled to look them up, and images and ideas so arresting that they return to you unbidden for days to come.”

“Reading literature, more than informing us, forms us.”

“We have never lived enough. Our experience is, without fiction, too confined and too parochial. Literature extends it…” (quoting Martha Nussbaum, who echoes Aristotle)

“The cardinal virtues, the subjects of part 1, constitute the most agreed-upon grouping across Greek and early Christian thought. These virtues are prudence, temperance, justice, and courage. They are called cardinal virtues because cardinal originally meant “hinge” or “pivot.” Philosophers consider these four virtues to be the ones on which all other virtues depend or hinge. And of these, prudence or practical wisdom, the subject of the first chapter, is queen.

The theological virtues – faith, hope, and love – are drawn directly from the Bible. While the Bible mentions other virtues, these three have special significance among the virtues, not only because of the way they are emphasized in 1 Corinthians 13:13, but also because, unlike the other virtues, they occur in their true sense not through human nature but by God’s divine power…”

“To expose the lies that hide the moral truth revealed by nature and the God of nature requires effort, trauma, or some sudden epiphany. Or a great novelist.”

 

*

I hope this list will give you some ideas for a book to read soon! I would love to hear about what you’re reading, and if you’ve noticed any changes in your reading life in the last few months.

Currently, I am so enjoying a book from one of my dearest friends and mentors, Kim Vogel Sawyer – Waiting for Summer’s Return (so delightful! I am relating so much with the main character…). It was her very first book, and she has gone on to have quite a prolific career with over 50 published works so far! I am also very slowly working through Martin Luther’s Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (excellent, by the way!), and Nels and I are reading together a very interesting geopolitical book, Prisoners of Geography – which despite a subject that typically hits me as somewhat dry, has been very captivating and well-written, besides being an area that I need to do a lot more reading in! With my children, I have been all taken up by Andrew Peterson’s North! Or Be Eaten (Audible version!). It is SO good.

All the best to you, my friends! Happy Reading.

❤ Jordan

evaluating self

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Try as I may to avoid it, there comes a moment (or a couple of them, actually) in each day when I find myself evaluating how I’ve done in that day. 

Maybe it’s the years of grades and evaluations at school that have become an inescapable and core element of my psyche – regardless, every single day, at a couple of key points, I find myself almost subconsciously evaluating how I’m doing. Is it an A+ mom day? (Never.) Have I accomplished anything really beautiful or over-the-top? (Seldom.) And yet I long so deeply to be the most wonderful wife and mother and friend and believer that I possibly can!

My grading rubric tends to focus on whether or not the day has been fun (hey, priorities, man!) and/or productive (almost as good as fun for this type-A-ish!).

I have just enough underlying spirituality to feel vaguely that I want it to have been a meaningful, glorifying-to-God kind of day too. If I have had some quality spiritual conversation with one of my core disciples (the Carlson five, holla!)? Good day. If I yelled at someone? Bad day. 

Most goal guru’s would probably affirm these moments of evaluation. Am I reaching my aims? Am I focusing where I need to? Are the needs met physically/emotionally/academically/spiritually for all my people? Is the direction of my days aligning with the priorities of my heart and soul? How is my spiritual life? Am I praying enough and for the right things? All really good questions to ask.

BUT.

I also have an enemy. And he knows how to leverage these moments of self-conversation to bring destruction into my life. I have had my eyes opened to how often a simple moment of quiet review after lunch can spin me into self-destruct mode if I happen to have disappointed myself with my lack of efficiency, effectiveness, brilliance, spirituality, etc. And here’s the thing – the chances of my being disappointed in myself is pretty darn HIGH.Even on my very, very best days.

Even on my very best mom days I have great room for improvement. If I absolutely nail all of my responsibilities in homemaking, homeschooling, disciple-making, and even if I do everything with a happy and cheerful heart, I see how absolutely futile the work is without GOD at work in my own heart, in my home and in my family. 

So what is the answer? I can’t nix the mental grading and the judgment of my performance, even if I can take it down a notch, comforted by the fact that I am loved, in spite of my weakness and failures, by the Ancient One. 

I think the only safe place to engage in these personal ‘day review’ thoughts is in the presence of God. When I enter intentionally into His presence, with His Spirit surrounding the thoughts in my mind, He completely banishes the condemnation and devastation that Satan would love to bring (and that my flesh would willingly wallow in for weeks). He might bring conviction. And when he brings conviction, he provides the strength to adjust course, to confess, to make right, to try again. 

Truthfully, the way I see my days, the rubric by which I judge and the value that I give to various activities is inadequate and misguided and clouded by my poor judgment very often. Only the Holy One can judge if I am building with excellence. Only my Messiah can rightly judge my heart and it’s attitudes. Only God knows what each of my children need in a given day. 

Only He knows with exacting detail how every moment of my day should be spent. And no one else has such great love and compassion for me as a person, to judge my work but also to hold my heart with such tenderness. He has so graciously given us good works to do and yet in his kindness he remembers our frame, how we are only dust (and yet! Dust enlivened by the very breath of God!). 

So, my moments of reflection are coming, like it or no. And as I really do long to live a life of purpose and fruitfulness, I want to engage in those moments to ensure that I am numbering my days to have a heart of wisdom.

I believe that as I do that, the essential thing is that is has to be framed in prayer, in open dialogue with my Creator, with humbling myself to hold my tongue in his presence to wait to see what He says about what has happened, where I need improvement. I need His insight to understand the hearts entrusted to my care! I need His power to overcome the sin in my own heart that troubles me and my family! I need His strength to sustain my tired and spread-too-thin soul. 

Humility recognizes that my failures aren’t the end of the world. 

Humility recognizes that I have gaping areas for improvement. 

Hope says that God can redeem my failures.

Hope says that God is sanctifying me, that He is bringing about the beautiful fruit of the Spirit in my life.

Your kingdom come, your will be done! In me! In my home and in my work! 

It is happening, He will be glorified! That it is as good as done and I get to partner with Him for a guaranteed win. I will not allow the enemy to have a foothold or a seat at the table in evaluating my performance on any given day. 

I don’t want to live an unexamined life, but I am not qualified enough to be the sole ‘examiner’ – I need the Spirit of God to see and understand!

The enemy would have me believe that my performance is the determining factor that sets my value, but the Spirit of God reminds me that I am a person, not just an efficient tool. God wants a relationship with me, not just whatever manpower I happen to bring to ‘his team’ (how absolutely laughable, now that I see it in black and white! But what power that idea holds over my soul when I allow it to creep in!)…

The underlying, stabilizing reality is that my daily evaluations matter, but in the sight of God, I already have a solid and glorious ‘A+’ because Christ literally nailed the perfect life and applied all his righteousness to me. To wallow in my own failures is to belittle what he has done and to live in disbelief that God sees the perfections of Christ when he looks upon me.

A few days ago (on a ‘mediocre mom’ day) I decided to take the kids out to one of our state parks for some sunshine and exercise and nature activity. The baby was snug in the Ergo carrier, strapped to my body so sweetly and cozily along for an adventure, and I paused to take a selfie with my sweet boy. I was hoping to capture something of the lovely cliffs and grassland and lake behind me, to document a moment (‘here, look, right here! I was a good mom that day! Or anyway, I tried to be a good mom that day!’) and to send my husband a glimpse of our day. Usually little Titus is an absolute selfie-pro, hilariously so! But on this occasion I couldn’t get him to face the front-facing camera. He was too busy looking up tenderly into his mama’s face. He wanted to see me, to make eye-contact, to know he had my attention in that moment that we shared. He reached his fat little baby-paw of a hand up to my cheek and just looked at me. 

As I hold that memory close to my heart, I weep over it. In that moment my sweet baby boy didn’t want food, he didn’t require any care or service from me – he just wanted to see my face. And that is what I know from the Holy Spirit and from the Word of God – that is what God wants from me. My work and diligence matters, but what he really, really wants? 

Eyes, right here.

Isn’t He the kindest and the best? For him to set his affections on me. To love me, even as I am. To love me, enough to bear with me and give me second chance after second chance, to gently bring me into conformity with His Son. To constantly draw me to turn my face toward His!   

To God be the glory, forever and ever, amen! 

Health & Weight Loss 2019-2020

 

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I’m the last person who wants to boss you around about how to be healthier or lose weight or how to eat and exercise to be happier. But, in 2019 I found a lot of peace and joy in some simple changes that I made and so I thought I would write about what has worked for me (so I can remember!), and maybe you can have some inspiration and ideas if improving your health is a goal for the new year. 

There are myriad options out there for diet and exercise, and I really believe in finding what works for you and what is a match for your season of life…anyway, here’s what has worked for me! Of course it always starts in the mind…

Mindset Reboot

Probably the biggest change in losing weight started in my mind, and I can really only attribute that to God busting through some faulty thinking patterns I had. Basically I was kind of hopeless, feeling like my body was broken and with my busy stage of life I was kind of “stuck” with it. But in His graciousness, he helped me to identify and take down some of those lies: 

False narratives I believed (consciously and subconsciously!):  

  • I can’t lose weight without killing it at the gym and/or starving myself
  • i will always be this way…my fate is sealed in being overweight and unhealthy
  • I can’t lose weight while breastfeeding. If I try to focus on that, I’ll forfeit my baby’s milk supply.
  • I can’t have a healthy relationship with a scale…the numbers will always torment me and I’ll be an obsessive person defined by imaginary judgment from my scale 

I won’t get into it a lot more, but I also had some deeply entrenched shame and feelings I had to confront about God having hard feelings toward me or believing that I was a failure as a person because I was carrying extra weight. In fact, as my compassion for myself and my body has increased, and my fullness of joy in God’s tender love and joy in me has increased, so has my ability to lose weight and be happy. He’s a good Father and he never despised me for having gained weight. I know it sounds crazy, and it looks crazy here on the page, but I was living from a place of feeling that way.

The First Forty 

I had Titus in June, and did not weigh in until my 6-week post partum appointment at the very end of July. From there, I lost a little over forty pounds in about four months (Aug-Nov). Then through the holidays I went up and down a bit and mostly attended to maintaining my loss and learning to enjoy a season of feasting in a healthy way. Now in the new year I am eager to get back into a more disciplined, focused weight-loss and health-gain mode…but first, I am pausing here on what worked for this first stretch! 

Weigh-Ins. One of the first changes I made was purchasing a home bathroom scale for the first time ever. In the past I have avoided weighing in and even knowing my weight because I have struggled at points in my life with a disordered way of eating and thinking about weight. But God has graciously enabled me to view the scale as just one tool, just one feedback number, that can serve and help me without having any bearing on my value as a person or my performance as a child of God, a wife/mother, etc. It’s just a number – but it’s a helpful number. 

Weighing in almost daily or at least several times a week has been essential for me in staying focused on my goals, and it has been helpful in observing how different things impact my weight. I’ve tried to weigh in at the same time every day, immediately after nursing (lets be real – I’ll pee, blow my nose, and check my face for any pop-able acne too! LOL!), and first thing in the morning, to limit the amount of variation. I still see a lot of ups and downs and I’m learning not to freak out about it, but I am also able to tell if I overdid the dark chocolate that I love to consume pretty much daily, or if what I ate really helped me to meet goals while still feeling satisfied. 

It’s just feedback. It’s just a number. If I felt overly emotional on a certain day, I could skip my weigh-in with no guilt…but usually my curiosity about what would happen the day after a long walk or eating lower carb, etc…was interesting enough to me that I wanted to weigh in. 

I keep a note in my phone tracking my progress toward my goals. Seeing the numbers changing is a tangible sign and keeps me feeling motivated.

Going Dairy-Free. I’d like to say this was with an open heart and without any begrudging thoughts…but truly, I cut out dairy for the sake of my baby who was screaming for hours in the evening. For the sanity of all of us, I have completely cut out dairy. I miss it at times, and will probably eventually add it back in, but I know it’s helped with my weight loss goals as well (I think my skin is clearer and I have less stomach aches too, possibly linked to this?). Anyway I know it has removed the temptation to overeat some of my favorite foods like fettuccine alfredo and cheesecake and ice cream! 

Intermittent Fasting. For a few weeks I just tried to focus on whole foods and not eating too much, and once I was certain that my milk supply was stable, I started experimenting with some 16/8 fasts (meaning I would have an 8-hr window during which I would eat, and then start fasting around 3:30 or 4pm and fast for 16 hours). These fasts aren’t overly intense but it was imposing some boundaries and discipline on my eating habits and it really paid off. Initially it felt kind of hard not eating dinner at 5:30 and not snacking in the evenings, but I grew accustomed quickly and I think it reset my appetite into a healthier zone. It also made me feel some freedom and ease during my eating window, like I could enjoy a full and satisfying meal and not stress about it…I just tried to focus on filling up on healthy foods. I think it has enabled me to feel like HUNGER IS NOT THE BOSS OF ME! And that is really freeing.

For a long time I had believed that my blood sugar issues and hypoglycemic symptoms would prevent me from being able to use fasting as a tool, but in fact, I have found those things improved with the practice. I really enjoy my fasting pattern and my body feels better when I fast in the 16/8 way about three times a week. I could probably push it more with longer fasts and more days, but I haven’t wanted to or needed to up to this point. 

Also, I was prepared to completely drop the fasting if it impacted my milk supply, since this is a higher priority for me and it is only about 12-15 months that I plan to nurse. Only once have I felt like I had a drop in supply and it recovered in less than a day. I have found that rest and hydration have a bigger impact on my milk production and I don’t have to overthink eating enough for the baby’s sake (incidentally, he’s in the 92nd percentile for weight). I also love Mother’s Milk tea and when I push for longer fasts I will make sure I have some on hand. 

A side benefit of IF is how empowered I have felt just by having a victory in one effort. I have suddenly found some new confidence that I can overcome, in Jesus’ name! The discipline is spilling into other areas of my life. I have grown in my ability to enjoy other things besides eating too. Whereas formerly at the end of a long day I would want to unwind by snacking or treating myself to special foods, I have learned to be restored and refreshed by taking epsom salt baths with essential oils, walking in the evening, drinking hot tea or decaf coffee and enjoying books or movies or music or trying new skin care products.  I’ve simplified my to-do lists, and it has a huge impact mentally. If I feel really deprived during an evening fast, I just tell myself how much I will enjoy eating whatever I am craving – tomorrow. Not having to make a meal some evenings has also been stress-relieving and has helped our grocery budget!

What I’m Eating. The main thing I focus on is having a ton of veggies on my plate…salads, roasted veggies, sautéed fajita veggies…all the delicious colors and nutrients! I feel I can really safely fill up on these without much worrying about a calorie count or portion size. I love pairing my veggie-focused meals with good protein from a variety of sources with meat, fish, eggs and nuts. I still enjoy other food groups, but in more limited quantities. I may eventually go lower carb (my husband has had success with that), but simply limiting sugar and refined carbs has felt really good thus far, and I value healthy carbs for the sake of protecting my energy, hormones, and milk supply. I’m learning to listen to my body and answer what I’m craving with healthy options. 

In the past months some of my favorite easy and healthy meals have been:

   chicken thighs roasted on a sheet pan at 400 degrees with another pan of seasonal veggies, all topped with organic cajun seasoning or just salt and pepper and a dash of avocado oil.

  • grass-fed ground beef taco salads with all the fixings. My kids love this meal and it couldn’t be easier…plus my oldest two kiddos have learned to make some stellar guacamole to go with it!
  • turkey or beef kielbasa sautéed with a rainbow of peppers and onions or cabbage. 
  • A huge bowl of roasted broccoli with everything but the bagel seasoning, whatever other leftover veggies or meat I have on hand and a fried egg on top.
  • Lunch time salads or low-carb wraps with deli turkey or a roasted salmon filet. I like a dash of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon and salt and pepper as a quick dressing. 

I rotate buying cashews/almonds/walnuts for snacks (and brain health! Fighting depression is a big factor for me!), and love having cucumbers with guacamole or hummus for a snack too. I often make big protein smoothies with collagen powder or pea protein powder. Having some healthy desserts on hand really helps me to stay on track. I like Halo Top’s dairy-free ice cream, non-dairy dark chocolate, or homemade treats made with stevia, and the occasional Zevia soda or kombucha.

As far as splurging or eating ‘off’ my typical diet, I try to keep it to just a meal or two on a weekend and then try to get right back into my routine. If I’m going to “cheat,” I prefer to make sure its a really enjoyable, satisfying experience and not just a random stress-eating situation (but that happens plenty, too). 

Going Forward 

I’m really, really thankful for how far I’ve come. I know that God has enabled me, strengthened my mind to be disciplined and positive, and helped my body to respond to the steps I’ve taken even though I typically struggle with losing weight while I’m breastfeeding unless I workout a LOT. I feel better in a million ways.

That said, I do have more goals and I want to continue progressing. I am encouraged by my increasing energy, positivity, and comfort in my own skin and I’m looking forward to building on my progress so far. To that end, my plans in the coming months include…

  • Resuming 16/8 fasting 3-4 nights a week
  • Resuming daily or minimum 3/week weigh-ins
  • Experimenting with slightly longer fasts or bone broth fasts 
  • Adding more walking and other physical activity into my weekly rhythms 
  • Trying new healthy recipes and supplements 
  • Celebrating each 5lb loss increment in some way 
  • Take pictures at each 10lb loss increment
  • Limiting sugar/refined carbs to one treat a week 
  • Focus on limiting my stress or relieving/reducing it in specific ways, especially prioritizing a regular Sabbath and lots of sleep (i see this directly impact my ability to be happy and to make healthy choices)
  • Reading four health-related books over the year

In summary, I know that fasting may seem extreme to some people (although this form is so gentle I can hardly call it “fasting” – just an ordered life, to me!), and at a certain time in my life it probably would’ve been…but right now I am thankful for the right tool in the right season, since working out a lot like I would have preferred ten years ago isn’t as feasible with five children and homeschooling, etc etc! I’m thankful to have the blessing and camaraderie of my husband who is also diligently working on improving his health. Though it wasn’t our intention specifically to clean up our kids’ diets, I’ve seen our disciplines have their natural effect in their lives too – and that healthy heritage may be the best pay off anyway! 

What helps you when you’re making changes in your life? any tips for me? what healthy practices are you hoping to begin or strengthen in the new year?

 

Blessings!!

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Carlson Family Update – Sept ’19

Just writing a few updates on our little family of seven, for my memory’s sake and for anyone else who might be interested! We are always surrounded by trials large and small, but I truly feel that by God’s grace we are in something of a precious ‘Golden Age’ with our houseful of children, and with opportunities every day to bear witness to the goodness of God. 

Nels continues to serve at First Southern Baptist Church here in Hutchinson in various roles. He has recently loved ministering a few times in the prison system, sharing from God’s word and through song and being encouraged by the faith and sincerity of the inmates there. Hunting season is different when you’re a daddy of five and don’t have much time for being in the woods, but he enjoyed a sweet couple of days with friends and his brother in law in Western Kansas and brought home fresh meat. 🙂 The highlight of my day every day is having coffee and devotions with Nels, usually on our back deck as weather permits! He is such a wonderful, devoted husband and father and makes our life so sweet…especially bringing me that fresh cuppa most mornings! He keeps my heart inspired and encouraged sending me new worship music to listen to and praying the kids and I through our challenging days. 

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Kaya Abigail is making my heart ache daily, growing up too beautifully and too fast! I realized recently that she will turn 10 in a few months and I was desperate to go wake her up and cuddle her! She is in 4th grade, and loves reading and singing and being outside. She is strong and beautiful…every day a little more “young lady” and less little girl. The baby is particularly smitten with her and for good reason! I refer to her often as my “right hand girl” and she truly is. Kaya is a joyful presence and encouragement in our home, a diligent worker and an imaginative, bright spirit. Kaya is FUN…so, so much fun. She has contagious energy for life and the sweetest disposition. I am so thankful that she loves the Word of God and cares tenderly for people.

If Kaya is my right hand girl, Hudson Nathanael (almost 8) is certainly my right hand boy. He is turning into such a sweet little man! He takes pleasure and shows initiative in all the little “manly” chores around the house, taking out the trash and helping mommy with random things. He is his Daddy’s mini in so many ways – except that he easily triples Nels’ daily word count! He is a chatty kiddo who knows no stranger and loves people so naturally and easily. Hudson has been devoted in prayer for several of his friends and people who he knows need to know Jesus. He shows signs of maybe possessing a spiritual gift for evangelism. He is a diligent student (2nd grade), loves reading with me each afternoon, enjoys fishing and playing ball and being with people. Tall and blue-eyed and handsome, he melts my heart regularly with kindness.

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Ezra Neal celebrated his 6th birthday and a few weeks later lost his very first tooth! It was only slightly loose, but his big brother is a savage about such things and yanked it out, to Ezra’s delight! These brothers!!! Ezra’s shock of white-blonde hair is so striking and sweet, and his strong little frame is so full of vim and vigor! He leaps and dives and barrels around, but loves to cuddle with his Mama too. He recently learned to write “Mom” and “I love you” and writes me a note with those words almost every day along with a picture of us holding hands (this might be why I feel like we’re in a special ‘Golden Age’ stage!). Ezra has a flair for the dramatic, often quoting from different movies he loves and easily storing up poetry and songs and scriptures in his sharp mind. He is in Kindergarten and spends a lot of his day playing with his little sister Aspen. They are moment-to-moment either best friends or acting like full-on opponents (they remind me of their mom and dad – ha!!!). 

Aspen Raye (3) is huge amounts of joy and delight packed in a tiny little preschooler body! I feel like exploding with happiness just watching her skip around for the sheer pleasure of it. She tells lots of stories and demands that she be allowed to do almost everything her older siblings do. Being a big sister is the pinnacle of joy for Aspen in her life right now, and she literally shakes with crazy love for the baby and longing to squeeze him. In the last year she has really exploded out of her shell and is no longer the clingy, ultra-shy and reserved Mama’s girl that she once was – she connects a lot more with family and friends at church and shows signs of maybe being our wild child…but she still loves her lengthy afternoon naps. 🙂 She is crazy in all the best ways! Her antics make Nels and I laugh almost every day (often away from her seeing us! haha!!). 

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Titus Theodor is the quintessential cream baby. His rolls and all-over pudge bring so much hilarity and joy to our home. I am so thankful for his good health and mellow personality. Sometimes I look at him and can hardly believe that he was once inside my body, that I was puking so so much…he is completely unaffected by that! What a dream boat my little “Teddy” bear darling is! He’s a perfect squeeze, an easy smile, a drooling-teething mess! I adore his blue eyes and his 98th percentile chunky, soft bod. His life has brought a lot of healing to my heart after miscarrying our baby last year. Who will he be? We wonder…and we love who he IS right now. C.S. Lewis said “in each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets…”I have seen this played out with little Titus joining our home…him bringing out new things in his siblings, and each of them showing something about him in their relationships with him. 

As a mother, I feel like a totally different person with our fifth baby, so much more relaxed and maybe in some ways able to soak it up more. I look at him and think that everyone should have “just one more” baby! How are our hearts able to just expand like this? God is so good. 

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I am daily delighted and exhausted (okay also demoralized sometimes!) by the demands of my life as wife, mother, and homeschooling teacher. God has given me a work that has so much variety that I am never bored, which suits my personality well. There is a really happy fullness with having five kids. It has been a season of stretching and growing, and I am so thankful for the grace of God as we make all the necessary adjustments. Over the last year I have faced some personal suffering through the intensity of morning sickness and fourth cranial nerve palsy (affecting my vision, balance, ability to drive, etc.) and various stresses and sometimes depression. In all that I have seen God prove himself so profoundly loving and faithful, over and over again, that in spite of the struggles I am fully grateful and also have the special joy of seeing my own growth as a person and having certain breakthroughs, spiritually and physically. For the first decade of my motherhood I think I struggled to keep an understanding of how this work mattered even though it felt so hidden, and now I have a hard-won, underlying “neutral” mode that is peaceful and just accepts it as true and I am able to operate out of that in a healthier, happier way, knowing God is glorified in our faithfulness even in the hidden places.

In the coming months we are all anticipating with great joy our family trip to Colorado, the wedding of a dear friend, my brother’s wedding, and more. Life is never without it’s challenges which we struggle with always, but I truly am thankful for this little ‘Golden Age’ and all the sweet details of our current life. We trust God that there are better things even (!) to come, as we walk with Him – ‘Further Up and Further In’!

The Spiritual Retreat Day with Kids

One practice that is making our life and homeschool more sustainable is occasionally taking a Spiritual Retreat day. It has been a richly rewarding experience for us, and something that I wish I had begun even earlier in my life and especially in my motherhood journey, but nonetheless, we celebrate it now and I urge you to consider how it may fit for your home and family. 

There are no hard and fast rules for us regarding how we “observe” these days, and I think the activities we choose will change and grow depending on the needs of our family. The general goal of the day is to have a restful, restorative day, being saturated in the Word of God and having some extra time for prayer and communion with God. When we are beginning to grow weary of our schedule or the hard things in our lives, this practice is so refreshing and renewing. 

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Photo by Frank Albrecht on Unsplash

I truly believe that my children are finding their souls especially nourished on these days, but even if I just keep them busy, creating some space for me to spend lengthier time reading the Bible and praying, listening to sermons, journaling, reading a chapter of a book on a gospel-related topic, etc. is really a blessing to our home, family, homeschool, etc. I think God is honored by our setting aside extra time to spend with Him, and He has really blessed it!

Now that we have established this special day as a part of our home culture, my kids have started to ask about having a Spiritual Retreat during especially stressful seasons in our home, and I praise God that they are beginning to see that God is our strength in time of trouble! I love that they are beginning a habit of setting aside special time to seek God! And they know Mama is a happier person after Spiritual Retreat days and that sweet extra time with Jesus ;-)…

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Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

Right now, with students in 4th grade and under plus a new baby in the home, these are a few of the things we do (interspersed as always with outside breaks to play!): 

  • Listen to “The Jesus Storybook Bible” on Audible while playing with legos, watercolors, play dough, etc. 
  • Draw a picture of someone or something you are praying for (children who can write may also with out their prayer). 
  • Watch a Bible-related show or movie (Veggie Tales or Superbook, etc.)
  • Alone time in separate rooms for Bible reading (or quietly perusing picture books!) and prayer. 
  • Older students can write out a portion of Scripture in their journals or read from a missionary biography.
  • Write a note of encouragement to mail to a friend or relative.
  • Listen to one of the Gospels on audio, or a radio program like Adventures in Odyssey.
  • Listen to beautiful worship music while resting or playing or sipping hot cocoa!
  • Future ideas: nature walk, prayer walk, worship time together, older kids write a devotional thought or summary of a shorter book of the Bible.

We may also read Scripture together, practice our memory verse and read from our church history book, but the point is not really to cross anything off our school ‘to-do’ list but to seek refreshment in the Lord and His Word.

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Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

Sometimes I have scheduled Spiritual Retreat days a few months out, but more often than not we take them as needed, assuming we will do about two to three per semester. Sometimes we do a Spiritual Retreat morning if we can’t do a whole day, and that is always a gift as well.

This was born out of my own need for a break and refreshment, but it has become something my children really crave too. God is so faithful to meet with us! He restores our souls! For us it is a far better reset than just a “day off” or lazy day – which typically ends with all of us somewhat frustrated and aimless. If you have cultivated a similar practice, I would love to hear about it! Or if you plan to try in the future, tell me about how you see yourself implementing it.

Home is the sweetest place when the Spirit of the Lord is there! ❤

Many blessings on you and yours,

❤ Jordan

A Glimpse Changes Everything

If there is an “up-side” to having a melancholic side, sometimes struggling with depression, etc…I think it might be the way that it drives me to stay close to my “Why”…

I’m not always naturally okay or happy. I have to wrestle for it, I have to train my mind so hard on what in the world life is for, because the constant tug of sad feelings almost daily drags on my soul and would swallow me. The weight of the world’s troubles and the cloudiness of my own vision brings me to a despair that drives me frequently to ask God “What am I here for? Why should I wake up again today? Why should I keep fighting? Who are you?” 

Clarity of vision and purpose is my soul’s deep longing in every season. 

I’m prone to forget, to allow my vision to be clouded over. But the Lord is faithful to dust me off and point me in the right direction…over and over and over again. 

One recent Saturday night, the familiar heaviness settled over me, weighing me down in every bone, in every thought. My vision was drawn to everything in my life that was “not as it should be”…the places in my home that I want to renovate but won’t anytime soon, followed by the angry self-judgment thoughts of “that’s so materialistic, why does that even matter to you,” followed by bitterness and hopeless feelings about the future of my life, fear for my children’s lives, bitterness over hurts inflicted from those who are (or claim to be) part of the body of Christ, grief and impatience over some of my own health issues, exhaustion from the daily grind that seems to accomplish nothing, to go no where – plus general dissatisfaction and “off”-ness.

It settled on my chest like a huge boulder trying to suppress the rise and fall of my chest. Through my tears I prayed, without articulation, Lord, why? Why do your people struggle and suffer and what is life for? I know it’s not what the world would advertise to me – that it’s about getting everything I can for me and mine – but what, God? I’m so tired! I’m so, so unbearably sad. My life Is wonderful in a million ways and I still feel this helpless, hopeless kind of way.

It was pure discipline to get myself and little ones to church the next morning. I felt the heaviness still in all my limbs, the inability to draw my lips into the polite smiles that seem necessary for normal interactions. I didn’t want to have to appear in public again with my eye patch (another story entirely!), and I just felt tired from interrupted sleep (the norm with a 2-month old baby!). Yet I was drawn by the Holy Spirit to go and meet with the people of God to worship the Lord, the way he asks us to. 

As I stood in the congregation I still felt my brokenness heavily, made even more heavy as I looked down the pew at my precious children, because I felt so inadequate to lead them well. I didn’t feel the joy that I often do or that I wanted to upon entering in to worship. But in obedience I opened my mouth and raised my hands. 

And there, through the songs that I don’t even really remember, the rehearsal of the reality of the gospel and all that God has done for me, truths about his character, the reality of Christ’s blood shed for me…all sung in unity by the bride of Christ…all that is more real and more true than the heavy things on my heart began to wash my vision clean. God began to clear away the smog in my soul so that I could truly see and truly rejoice. 

Often in worship we take a humble, bowed down posture in approaching our Holy Father. This is good and right. Yet there is also a time to come boldly to the throne of grace and as a people covered by the righteousness of Christ, we are by adoption the children of God. As we sang, I felt the Spirit move me to turn my face up, as if up to look to the Lord. The Spirit allowed me to drop the shame, to drop my deep grief, and to enter into the throne room of God! In a transcendent moment, all that troubled me was reduced to it’s proper size – insignificance – by the humbling, world-shifting, incredible fact, that was this: I have a relationship with God. A relationship! Because of Christ, I can turn my face toward him. I am loved by the Holy One, the Ancient One, the Almighty One. I am welcomed, called, wanted. I am seen and known and loved. 

I was overcome by the love of God, and all my other troubles took a backseat. I wept, this time instead of tears in grief, it was for the deep comfort of being loved.

Later that afternoon, as I was still processing these things, my 6-year-old son, Ezra, asked me sweetly, “Mom, do you think I’ll ever not have to be dairy-free?” 

Now Ezra almost never complains about his allergies to nuts and dairy that he has had since infancy. He misses out on many of the treats and foods that people normally eat, and though we attempt to make it up to him through special things that work with his diet, it’s not fair. Sometimes he feels that. In that moment, my heart broke with compassion for Ezra. I don’t know if Ezra will eventually grow out of his dairy allergy, but I prayed with him that God would heal him. Having dietary restrictions is not the worst-thing-ever, but it is hard, and sometimes it’s sad, and he is my boy who I love. I cried for his sadness.

And as I felt that ache for my son, I heard the Holy Spirit remind me that God loves me as a Father. The way I feel compassion for my son, so He feels compassion for me. He brought to mind what I had been reading in Hebrews recently about the deep compassion of Jesus, who deals gently with us, who entered into the flesh and has experienced all that we do. God as a Father differs from me because he could in fact remove my grievances, while I am unable to remove Ezra’s allergy – but I know that his heart toward me is love and compassion even if he allows things in my life that are hard. 

There are many things that are mystery to me, but I trust the character of God and the compassionate heart of Jesus. I rejoice in my relationship with God that surpasses any other grief or pain I could ever experience in life – and if that doesn’t set a person free! This relationship is the core of the meaning of life and my anchor in joy. I am so thankful for how he clears away the dreariness from my soul with a restored vision of Himself. 

Beauty really will save the world. Through Christ, we catch a glimpse now of what will one day be glorious and complete.

What bliss to think – one day my joy will be complete, seeing Him face to face. This experience of the glory of God that reframed everything for me is just seeing in a mirror dimly – “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 

Herein is joy enough to sustain a life, and hope enough for the future.

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!

Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!

Heir of salvation, purchase of God,

Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood

This is my story, this is my song,

Praising my Savior all the day long;

This is my story, this is my song,

Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,

Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;

Angels, descending, bring from above

Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,

I in my Savior am happy and blest,

Watching and waiting, looking above,

Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

Titus Theodor: a birth story

After a March 2018 miscarriage, the Father led me kindly and gently through a season of grieving and processing and addressing fears. The following autumn we asked the Lord for another baby and He answered our prayers in the form of a little boy on the way! The pregnancy was difficult with severe, all-day morning sickness, exhaustion and other trials, so I was especially grateful to see my June estimated due date drawing nearer and nearer, and our whole family was eagerly anticipating our precious new arrival. And yet, as that date drew nearer, certain concerns were amplified too… 

With four other children to think about plus limited days off and some upcoming travel for my husband, I was having some stress and concerns about how to plan and prepare for the birth and it’s imminence and unpredictability, especially with our family living several hours away. My most recent labor had been very quick and intense and while that was a great experience, Nels and I were both concerned that this labor would possibly be even quicker and it could be challenging to have our childcare-help friends arrive while still getting to the hospital in a timely way. 

We started to think and pray openly about being induced – which was strange for me, because I have grown to treasure and affirm the value of minimally medical births and have had good experiences along those lines (see previous birth stories here!). The appeal for us was largely that my mom would be able to get off work and drive down and possibly be present at the birth, but certainly be with our four older children while we were in the hospital for a few days. In the past our due date came and went and the delivery date was 5-11 days later. My exhaustion with the pregnancy was increasing and the appeal of *not* going very far ‘overdue’ was growing with it. 

I spent some time agonizing over the pros and cons, feeling conflicted about the various options and not wanting to make the “wrong” choice…I really knew what I wanted to do and what felt right, but struggled with strong doubts and anxieties that were amplified by the intense hormones of later pregnancy. Finally with Nels and my mom both leaning toward inducing, with prayer and trust I decided that I was open to inducing if my doctor affirmed that my baby and body were in good shape for opting that way, showing effacement, dilation, etc. It almost felt like an out-of-body experience to schedule to induce a day after our due date because it was so contra- my beliefs about the nature of childbirth, but I felt led in that and convicted that I needed to have faith that God would walk with me in the process of childbirth whatever the surrounding circumstances. 

A few days before our June 12 induction, I was wrestling with fears of the pain and all that “could” go wrong, and was so grateful that the Lord gave me a phrase from Paul’s letter to the Philippians to stay my mind and heart – “with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body.” I have viewed all of my pregnancies and all of motherhood as my spiritual act of worship (Romans 12:1), and it was comforting to consider that this birth would just be another chapter of trusting God and offering up my body as a living sacrifice. He is infinitely worthy! Love for Him gave me faith and courage. Scared faith and courage, but real and true all the same. 

The morning of June 12 arrived like a dream, and miraculously and in answer to prayer I was able to sleep the night before and woke up literally one minute before my pre-dawn alarm went off. We were scheduled to arrive at the hospital around 5:30am. 

The process of inducement began not too long after we arrived. They started an IV, drew some blood, began a little bit of pitocin. At my appointment the day before my doctor had stripped my membranes and checked to see that I was about 75% effaced and dilated to a 2. We met our main nurse for the day, who was like the sweetest, cheeriest little fairy godmother – predicting my wants and needs and working tirelessly to keep me comfortable and our baby safe. 

I had decided to go ahead and get an epidural since we were having a more medical labor and delivery this time, and so we got started with that process with the anesthesiologist. Truly, for me this was the absolute worst and hardest part of this labor. I had been dreading it. The last time I had an epidural was with my first baby almost ten years ago and it hadn’t been the best experience (and it had worn off before delivery so I hadn’t had the full payoff of a pain-free birth!). This time placing it was very painful as I was extremely sensitive every which way she tried to place the needle, and it seemed like the process would never be over. Once it kicked in however, the effect was lovely. I had no pain the rest of the day, and only very light sensation of contractions. Shortly after the placement the doctor came and broke my water. 

My mom joined us around 9am and we spent the morning enjoyably, chatting and catching up, with my nurse bringing me ice chips. The progress was slow, and it was strange to have to ask about my contractions, to not really be feeling them or to have the ability to quicken labor along by walking or trying different positions. I didn’t feel any urgency though, and while I had hoped to have a baby by lunch time, I wasn’t surprised when the time came and went and we were still in process. I was content and a bit sleepy, and praying that God would help our nurses and doctor to have wisdom as we went. Gradually through the day they were increasing the pitocin, and checking the effacement/dilation progress that was slow but somewhat steady. Keeping an ear on baby’s heartbeat was challenging because he was really buried in my back.

After a while mom went home to relieve our babysitter and I drifted off to sleep for a while. I started to feel contraction sensations on only my left side, and my left side remained more awake while my right leg was just heavy and not responding to my commands that it move! That sensation eased some but never totally went away. Nels and our nurse helped me into a more upright position, leaning slightly on my left side, to encourage the baby to further descend. When she checked on him she could tell that he was turned a little crooked, but finally he was descending properly, except for a bit of cervix that wasn’t fully out of the way. 

Later in the afternoon the baby’s heartbeat was dramatically escalating and then dropping. The nurse called my doctor who was unable to come and another OB joined us as the nurse told me, “it’s time to get this baby out.” I had worried off and on all day that this labor and delivery could end in a c-section, and at this juncture I wondered if we would end up there, but I didn’t have much time to fret over it because they were encouraging me to push. 

It was strange to try to find the muscles to push when I wasn’t really feeling the contractions or anything in my lower body for that matter. I had a vague sensation of pressure where his head was, and when I was instructed to push during a building contraction, I was able to find the right muscles and in just a few pushes he was out. They actually told me to slow down and take a break, but I had realized that we were so close to getting him out and I just kept pushing because I was eager to meet him and I was worried if I stopped pushing I would lose track of where exactly I was supposed to be pushing! But out he came, head and shoulders and a gush of chubby body and fluid – a perfect chubby boy, covered in creamy vernix and crying so preciously! What a joy and relief! Finally. Our hope and faith and prayers all answered in a moment of ecstasy. Already I could breathe more freely. His birth came at 3:47p.m. Titus was a daylight baby.

Just a moment later the Ob showed us with amazement that he had two true knots in his umbilical cord – something she and the other Ob’s on staff had never seen. One true knot is rare (and dangerous) enough – but two! Almost unheard of. I was filled with thankfulness that God had kept him safe when at any point of the pregnancy, labor and delivery that could have caused a major issue. The placenta was delivered also with no problem and I had a small tear that she stitched up while I was still feeling no pain. 

Titus looked so alert and interested in both Nels and I right away. He had such an expression of trying to understand and process everything that was happening. It seemed obvious that he knew our voices and that he was trying to study our faces to put them together with the voices he was already familiar with. He nursed almost right away with a strong suck and sweet healthy appetite. Maybe an hour later they weighed him and found him to be 9 pounds, 1.5 ounces! He was 20.5 inches long, just like both of his big sisters. Such long fingers and toes, perfectly round cheeks, and strong body for one so new!

Just 24 hours later we were packed up and heading home with our new perfect tiny bundle of a baby…only to find out that we had sick kids. At first it seemed like it was just the toddler with a stomach bug but it turned out they had all been exposed to hand, foot and mouth disease at VBS the week prior and were now showing the symptoms – fever, outbreak of rash, fatigue, sore throat. I started researching more about HFM to understand how to help them and how long to expect it to last and found that it was especially dangerous for pregnant women in the last two weeks of pregnancy and could result in stillbirth. While I was so sad to have to keep my sick kids away from our new baby for his first days at home, I was thankful that God had led us to induce and that our baby had already safely been born before that illness posed a threat to him.

As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people…” Psalm 125:2 

At times in this journey of pregnancy, labor and delivery, I could not feel the presence of the Lord, but depended upon him anyway, praying for faith and more faith. Now looking back I see that the Lord surrounded us, his people, and he was present as he promised at every step. I pray that our Titus Theodor’s life would be a light and blessing in the world, an offering back up to our faithful God. 

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Titus (pleasing; title of honor) Theodor (gift of God)…we are so, so honored by the gift of your life to us! You are absolutely adored by every member of your family and so many others. Your presence in our world brings us an overflowing joy. 

a few favorites

I love hearing more about the things making other people’s lives better, fuller, happier – so I thought I’d share a few of my own favorite things lately! Hope you enjoy! ❤

 

Learning more about the heart of worship – primarily via podcasts! The Journeywomen episode (86) with Sandra McCracken and Voddie Baucham’s “The Law of Worship” have both given me so much conviction and food for thought! I’ve been particularly musing on the purpose of worship which goes far beyond personal preferences musically.

Sprout Tray – I always love finding new ways to make our diets healthier and more nutritious, while abiding strictly by our food budget. Broccoli sprouts are one of the very healthiest things you can add to your diet, and growing them at home is pretty fun and easy…I love tossing them into a salad or sandwich. Here is an article from Wellness Mama on growing sprouts. I bought this sprouting tray from Amazon to make it easy.

Beaded Geo Fringe EarringsBeaded Hoop Fringe Earrings

Earrings from Freckled Hen – Lately I am loving all the big, beaded earrings! I tend to wear a favorite piece of jewelry non-stop until I’ve completely worn it out…that is how I am with my earrings. I am loving my Beaded Hoop Fringe Earrings in Terra Cotta and might order another color or some of their other beaded earrings – they’re all so gorgeous! At $26, they’re quite a bit more than I’d typically spend on a pair of earrings, but maybe that is changing because I’d rather buy one pair I love and wear constantly than a bunch that I feel kinda ish about.

Books – I mean, always books.

We are the Gardeners is a delightful little read with some sweet life lessons woven in, and very charming illustrations. My little foursome just planted their own garden and so this was an especially fun read for us!

Fairy Tales and Fables is one of my favorite books lately – this spring I’ve been reading a few stories almost every morning with my preschoolers (ages 3 and 5) and they are captivated and so am I! In general I am a fan of Gyo Fujikawa’s books and the couple I have collected are firmly among my favorite high quality literature children’s books. At $9.95 with lots of stories inside – I think it’s a great way to make the homeschool or book budget go far!

Girls’ Club: Cultivating Lasting Friendship in a Lonely World was absolutely lovely and inspiring. In my brief review on Goodreads, I wrote: “I enjoyed this book very much…it is as much a treatise on the fullness and power and potential of feminine womanhood as it is a book on friendship…but I found both aspects of it inspiring and it has motivated me to invest more deeply in friendships (for the long or short term).” I hope to share some quotes from this one sometime!

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell was gifted to me for Christmas…it was my first venture into the writings of Elizabeth Gaskell and certainly won’t be the last! Like many (most?) of the best fiction authors, she has piercing insights and descriptions of human nature that ring so true to life (sometimes uncomfortably so!). This was beautifully written…though the ending felt rather abrupt to me! American sensibilities perhaps? I would’ve enjoyed more resolution, but still found this a profoundly good read…and now I can’t wait to re-watch the BBC show version!

Discipline: The Glad Surrender by Elisabeth Elliot has been probably my best read of 2019 so far, and potentially one of my favorite books, period. Honestly, the title put me off for quite some time, but I’m so glad I finally picked this up…now my commonplace book has pages and pages of quotes from it. She covers discipline in various aspects, from the body to possessions to time to feelings – it was helpful and convicting in almost every area of my life. Elisabeth Elliot has a beautiful ability to communicate with pleasing pace and style, logical flow, bringing powerful conviction and comfort undergirded by assurance of the deep love and trustworthiness of God. It was just outstanding. Here are a few quotes:

“Discipline is not my claim on Christ, but evidence of His claim on me. I do not “make” Him Lord, I acknowledge Him Lord…There is something that pretends to be Christianity which is mostly a mood. The measure of its faith is merely the measure of its feeling.

The discipline of emotions is the training of responses.”

 

Jonathan Ogden music – so beautiful, so Scriptural…I especially like his songs from the Psalms and have been listening to him on Spotify quite a bit….Here are a couple of samples:

Psalm 27

Psalm 91 acoustic 

The Hunts music – Nels and I had a blast seeing them live recently! Live music brings me to tears…it is such an inspiring, beautiful gift that God has given us! It was a small dream come true to enjoy such a joyful evening.

The Hunts are a band of seven siblings, playing indie-folksy-alternative music that has so much spirit with redemptive themes. The mix and variety of instruments is delightful! Check out Heaven Knows.

Well that’s all for now! I’d love to hear what you are loving lately…<3 Jordan

 

the hard days are your moment

If we shared a table in my local coffee shop this morning, it probably wouldn’t take long for it to come up that I am just worn out from my family having hard days. (Maybe that’s all of us?)

This week as I prayed, expressing my frustrations with more.hard.things…the Lord encouraged me with the thought that it is during the hard things our family members face that our faithfulness, love and dedication as wives and mothers is proven. 

Anyone can show up and dress up for date night. But for “the heart of her husband trusts in her” (Proverbs 31:11) to come about – well that requires some walking through dark times, together. When the hard days come and patience and hope and labor in prayer are required, it’s *here* that worth “far above jewels” (31:10) is developed and proven. The time when your spouse is discouraged and facing hard things is your moment and mine, to show up in the power of the Holy Spirit, to eat with them and pray with them and remind them of the truths of Scripture and who they are in Christ. 

The toddler is puking again. A child is in a bad pattern with sinful attitudes and actions, requiring faithful, loving instruction and discipline and loads of time and attention. Anybody can be there for them on the sunshine/playground/celebration days! But when their bodies and souls and minds need deeper care, only Mama will do. 

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(Photo by Aswin on Unsplash)

Sometimes the bills stack up and all the odds seem stacked against us. They need you to laugh at the future, Mama (31:25). 

Proverbs 24:10 says, “if you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.” I *know* this is true of me! The adversity overwhelms me so quickly. But I don’t operate on my own strength alone! I am weak and selfish and easily tired of the struggles. The Holy Spirit is my helper in the calling God has given me to care for my family, and in times of struggle He.shows.up. Through Christ in us, we overcome, and grow in strength for facing such days. 

If your day ahead is rough, maybe you are caring for big needs in your family, know that today is your day to be their clutch player. It may be a quiet, hidden moment, but it’s YOUR moment to show up. When does a child need a Mama more than when they are sick? Or behaving in unlovable ways? When does a husband need his wife and friend more than when he needs to know someone is praying him through a challenging meeting? Does he know that someone will listen to every thought he has at end of day? 

Facing the hard days, viewing them less as an imposition and more as an opportunity is changing my attitude and energy for them. Here is my assignment from the Lord, here is where I am most valuable to my family, and the Spirit of God is here to help!

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26

Ending Trimester #2: a pregnancy update

These recent days mark the last of the second trimester and the turn of a corner into the third (and we hope, into spring!). 

My husband and I joke that I really wasn’t made for this pregnancy life – I am just terrible at it! I didn’t expect an easy go since none of our prior pregnancies have been without trials, but the intensity and awfulness of the first and early second trimesters were still shocking and overwhelming.

Thankfully in mid-January a lot of the worst of the constant nausea and vomiting eased and a steadier stomach made life so much sweeter. From there it seems we have spent more days in 2019 battling sickness than feeling well! But such is life with a busy household full of littles in the winter. We took advantage of my increased stability though and really caught up on school work and even worked through the many snow days (with sledding and hot cocoa breaks!). 

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Our ultrasound in late January revealed that we have a healthy, long-legged baby BOY on the way, and it was the most joyful, wonderful news. In spite of an anterior placenta, I frequently feel movement which is so comforting. A few days after the ultrasound Nels and I agreed after much discussion and banter and prayer that we loved the name Titus Theodor for our precious gift. Our youngest little girl was at first unhappy about the baby not being a sister for her, but very shortly began a daily habit of gently stroking my tummy saying, “Hi Baby Titus!” It is so delightful to see her already stepping into the sweet and maturing role of big sister.

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Then February hit and the beginning of some new trials, from pregnancy aches and pains to many cold/flu bugs circulating in our family. I had also experienced some back pain that I mostly blamed on the inactivity and the bed/couch-bound nature of my early months of pregnancy. I worked through it, starting some gentle core-building exercise and making an effort at walking more, wearing supportive shoes, visiting a chiropractor who specializes in working with pregnant women, etc. But in spite of managing and sometimes temporarily resolving my pain, my hips specifically continued to be very painful causing a limp and even clicking sometimes when I walked (or they have simply made it nearly impossible to walk).

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Basically I’ve discovered that the hormone that loosens up all the ligaments in my body to allow room for growth and eventually for birth has been sort of in over-drive (more common with subsequent pregnancies), meaning that my body just doesn’t want to stay in alignment and my hips and tailbone can get really screwed up, I experience some intense pelvic pressure and back pain to the point that I have often resorted to trying to sleep sitting up. Thankfully that isn’t every day, and I have a new belt to wear (really makes one feel about 85 years old instead of 29! ha!) that is supposed to help keep things aligned better for longer. But it is a new challenge to manage daily and one that makes me long for delivery day even more!

The challenges have inspired my husband and I to consider this winter one of learning to be “patient in affliction.” Though these various illnesses and pains have caused many teary days in our home, I am so grateful for the Lord’s gracious gift of this child. He has brought encouragement to our hearts after the loss of our fifth baby last March. Every kick I feel is a reminder to me that in spite of the hardships our sweet one is growing strong and his life is being sustained by the Lord, as is mine. 

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Little Theo is due around June 11. Now I have a bit over 3 months to wash and organize our baby clothes, find a new carseat and baby carrier, stock up on newborn necessities, arrange some kind of bedroom/closet storage space and replace some of our baby items that we wore out with our first four babes. It is the sweetest, most exciting and hopeful to-do list I could imagine! 

 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12:12)

I’ve been reviewing my previous birth stories to try to gear up a bit for our upcoming one! Here is Aspen’s story if you’re curious and love birth stories as I do. 🙂