Books I’ve Been Reading…

I love to read, but I struggle with trying new authors. I am nervous that I will start a book, but then not jive with the story line or the author’s style. Then I have to choose whether I finish the story for closure or just not know how the story ends – and that is a hard choice to make. I could struggle through writing I don’t relate to, or leave the ending  out there just hanging and unfinished.

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So, I went on Pinterest and scrolled through different pins of book recommendations. I wrote down the ones that sounded interesting based on the description and the pinner’s comments about why they liked the book. Maybe if you are like me and struggle with branching out in the book area, this list of books I have read recently will help you try some new authors.

1. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

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“Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.” (from the Amazon book description)

What I loved about this books is that it took me to a part of American history that I wasn’t very familiar with and wove a beautiful story in it. It bounces back and forth between the past and the present, but does so with clarity. I devoured this book!

2. Wonder

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“August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid–but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. Told from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others, these perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.” (from the Amazon book description)

I adored this book. Since it is a children’s book, it was an easy read, but brought me to tears none the less. It is a beautiful story of friendship, looking beyond appearances, and the resilience and strength of children. READ THIS and your kids should read it too! (The movie is coming out soon too!)

3. The Fill-In Boyfriend

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“When Gia Montgomery’s boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she decides to do the unthinkable…convince the cute guy waiting to pick up his sister to pretend to be her boyfriend for the night. The task is simple: two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.
The problem is that days after prom, she can’t stop thinking about her fill-in boyfriend. But can Gia turn her fake boyfriend into a real one without exposing her lie and possibly destroying her friendships and her newfound relationship?
Smartly observed and wonderfully romantic, Kasie West’s talent shines in this tale of one girl’s unexpected quest to find love…and possibly herself.” (from the Amazon book description)

This was a wonderful young adult book. I find that many love stories in the young adult section can be inappropriate in regards to sexual content and language. Kasie West’s writing is clean, which I loved! This would make a good vacation read while lounging on the beach or on the porch in the mountains! I also read her other books By Your Side and The Distance Between Us which were good teen love stories without all the unnecessary stuff as well!

4. Lunch in Paris

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“In Paris for a weekend visit, Elizabeth Bard sat down to lunch with a handsome Frenchman–and never went home again.
Was it love at first sight? Or was it the way her knife slid effortlessly through her pavé au poivre, the steak’s pink juices puddling into the buttery pepper sauce? Lunch in Paris is a memoir about a young American woman caught up in two passionate love affairs–one with her new beau, Gwendal, the other with French cuisine. Peppered with mouth-watering recipes for summer ratatouille, swordfish tartare and molten chocolate cakes, Lunch in Paris is a story of falling in love, redefining success and discovering what it truly means to be at home. In the delicious tradition of memoirs like A Year in Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun, this book is the perfect treat for anyone who has dreamed that lunch in Paris could change their life.” (from the Amazon book description)

This book was a fun look at how cross-cultural love can be an amazing, though challenging adventure. It touches on love, career struggles, and the marvelous thing that is French cuisine. If you have never eaten French food, you certainly will want to find some (or cook some) after reading this book. She also has another book out called Picnic in Provence, but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. It is on my list though!

5. After the War is Over

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“After four years as a military nurse, Charlotte Brown is ready to leave behind the devastation of the Great War. The daughter of a vicar, she has always been determined to dedicate her life to helping others. Moving to busy Liverpool, she throws herself into her work with those most in need, only tearing herself away for the lively dinners she enjoys with the women at her boarding house.
As Britain seethes with unrest and post-war euphoria flattens into bitter disappointment, Charlotte must confront long-held insecurities to find her true voice . . . and the courage to decide if the life she has created is the one she truly wants.” (from the Amazon book description)

Historical fiction is by far one of my favorite genres to read. This book was no exception. It discusses class issues, the devastation of the war, and PTSD. If you like stories set against a historical backdrop, Jennifer Robson’s book is for you. I couldn’t put this one down!

6. Counting by 7s

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“Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.” (from the Amazon book description)

In this beautiful book, whose characters are kids who are amazingly talented and gifted, but struggle to fit in with their peers, you see how one girl who is exceptionally smart deals with grief and finally finds ways to connect with those around her. Once again, this was an easy read since it is a children’s book, but I loved it!

7. Two by Two

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“At 32, Russell Green has it all: a stunning wife, a lovable six year-old daughter, a successful career as an advertising executive and an expansive home in Charlotte. He is living the dream, and his marriage to the bewitching Vivian is the center of that. But underneath the shiny surface of this perfect existence, fault lines are beginning to appear…and no one is more surprised than Russ when he finds every aspect of the life he took for granted turned upside down.” (from the Amazon book description)

Nicolas Sparks never fails to deliver a surprising story with relatable characters and situations. I adored this story about work, relationships, parenthood, and family. If you have never read Spark’s books, give him a try!

8. Talking as Fast as I Can

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“In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood—along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls, where she plays the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore once again.” (from the Amazon book description)

I listened to this audio book on my drive to and from family vacation. It was neat to hear Lauren Graham read the book, and it felt like we were chatting over big cups of coffee. This is perfect for a road trip or a long flight. Her wit and delivery are just as evident in this book as they are in Gilmore Girls and Parenthood. By the way, if you haven’t seen these shows, do so now. I’ll wait while you binge watch them. You’ll thank me later.

9. Once and For All

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“Is it really better to have loved and lost? Louna’s summer job is to help brides plan their perfect day, even though she stopped believing in happily-ever-after when her first love ended tragically. But charming girl-magnet Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged now that he’s met the one he really wants. Maybe Louna’s second chance is standing right in front of her.
Sarah Dessen’s many fans will adore this latest novel, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story with humor, romance, and an ending that is so much more than happily-ever-after.” (from the Amazon book description)

Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite authors. I have read every one of her books (except her first two which I didn’t prefer). I have also read most of them many, many times. I love her style and the way her characters struggle with things the rest of us have encountered. This one dealt with school shootings, divorce, and how losing love makes us jaded sometimes. If you have never read Sarah Dessen’s books, you should!

10. When God Doesn’t Fix It

when god doesn't fix it

“Worship leader and recording artist Laura Story’s life took an unexpected turn when her husband, Martin, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Their lives would never be the same. Yes, with God all things are possible. But the devastating news was that no cure existed to restore Martin’s short-term memory, eyesight, and other complications. The fairy-tale life Laura had dreamed of was no longer possible. And yet in struggling with God about how to live with broken dreams, Laura has found joy and a deeper intimacy with Jesus.” (from the Amazon book description)

I just started this one, but the Kindle version is still on sale on Amazon for $1.99, so I wanted to share it with you. I feel that this is one of the hardest parts of the Christian life, enduring struggles and trusting God even when your earthly circumstances don’t change.

I’d love to hear what are you reading! Share in the comments below!
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A Family Shaped By Grace

Have you ever spent a holiday with your family and wondered why it felt like such a chore? Do you find yourself walking on eggshells around certain family members because you aren’t sure how they might respond to you? Are there some people in your family that you avoid because being around them is too challenging?

If so, know that there is a better way, and it’s all about grace!

A Family Shaped by Grace is a new book coming out on June 6th that I have had the privilege of reading before it’s release. Gary Morland, the author, had a crumbling family. Finally, he got to the point where he wanted to do something different. His way wasn’t working. He started attending Bible study and met a man named Harold. This man would slowly, patiently love on Gary and teach him a better way to relate to and bless his family. This book is about the things he learned. They have helped him have a family shaped by grace instead of duty, anger, fear, or disappointment.

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What I love about this book is the practical ways Gary gives you to gently change how you view your family and how you relate to them. If you are at all invested in a family (which is everyone) or working with families in a professional way (teachers, pastors, counselors, social workers, etc.), this book is for you!

P.S.-Right now, the book is 40% off if you pre-order on Amazon or Barnes and Noble! Purchase your copy now if you want to get along with the people in your life who matter most!

Show Up…

We have many ideas about what encouragement is. My pastor, John Barnett, talked on this a few weeks ago.

For one person, it might be a spoken word of appreciation.

For another, it might be quality time together hanging out and talking.

Maybe it looks like washing the dishes or doing the laundry for your parent, spouse, or roommate.

All these things are encouraging; and they have one thing in common. To do these encouraging acts, you have to show up. This was my pastor’s premise.

The basic act of encouragement is simply showing up in someone’s life! So, you don’t have to be over the top, above perfection, completely organized encouragement. Just show up.20161117_140315

Click here to listen to his sermon!

Who’s life are you going to show up in today?

Kicking and Screaming

As I was nursing my son to sleep last night, I was praying for him. That he would grow up to know Christ, that he would have ears to listen to the wise ones in his life, that he would eventually outgrow this stage of tantrums. As I spoke that last phrase in my head, my eyes filled with tears. As God gently nudged me, I had this thought.

How often have I thrown myself down and kicked and screamed when it came to my walk with God?

As I began reflecting on the events that can cause my young son to melt down or act out, I saw some comparisons in my own life.

Example 1: Joseph loves being outside. He loves swinging and sliding. He will walk around and dig in leaves and dirt. Usually, he melts down when I bring him inside. He desperately wants to be roaming around and doing his own thing.

How often have I fallen down, digging in my heels, as God is trying to take me on a journey with Him? How often have I screamed and cried about changes in life that will ultimately bring me to the next part of my life with Christ?

 

Example 2: Joseph loves to eat, and typically meals aren’t a huge issue. But every once in awhile, he doesn’t really care for what we offer him. As you can imagine, this usually results in him spitting it out or throwing it off his tray. After a few tries, he will start waving his hands to make sure we can’t get the spoon to his mouth.

How often have I ignored, spat out, rejected, or waved off God’s truth because it was too hard to swallow? Too bitter and difficult to taste? Too offensive? How often have I complained about what blessings I do have because I wanted different or bigger ones?

 

Example 3: Joseph loves to investigate the bathrooms. He pulls down the hand towels, flushes the toilet, and inevitably, he wants to carry around the plunger. Naturally, I don’t want him running around with the cesspool of bacteria that surely resides on the plunger. Often, when I refuse to let him carry it around, he fusses and flops down on the ground.

How often have I screamed and cried because I felt God was taking something away from me I had a right to? Perhaps He is taking something away that won’t be best for me in the long run or taking something away to give me something better.

As I reflect on these, I am reminded about a man of God who had to deal with all of these issues. Abraham was asked to leave his home country and go to a place God would show him. (Genesis 12) He was given God’s covenant-which promised many children and land among other things-when he had no heir and was living in a foreign country. (Genesis 17) He was asked to give up Issac, his only son and the fulfillment of God’s covenant. (Genesis 22)

In Hebrews, he is honored because of his great faith and trust in God.

 8By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

I want Abraham’s faith. Faith that stands up instead of melting when asked to do the hard stuff of life.

c.s. lewis quote-far better

Baby Blueberry – The Countdown is On

Well…we are almost there! My due date is in approximately a week and a half.

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Soon, Phillip and I will be parents of a living, breathing, hold-able, snugly newborn.

I know that we are parents already, but it still seems surreal somehow…like maybe I’m imagining it all.

I have dreamed of being a mom for so long, ever since I was a child. I long for the hard work of raising children in this broken world. The unending sacrifice of valuing someone else’s life as more than your own. The most important work of bringing up tomorrow’s workers, leaders, parents, spouses, and teachers. I have no expectations that this work is simply or easy. That it is cut and dry. That it will not cause stress, worry, strain, or frustration. That it limits me and my freedom. But I am sure that despite these things, it will be the most important work and an unbelievably satisfying adventure to walk.C.S. Lewis quote - children are the most important work

So, as I look forward to holding my little man, I wanted to share our maternity pictures Phillip and I had taken a week and a half ago by a friend of mine. Her name is Rebecca Finley. You can find her on Facebook. She has always taken fabulous pictures and captured some wonderful moments for us. Thanks Rebecca! (She’ll be doing newborn photos as well after Joseph is born.)

I started with my absolute favorite.

It captures the joy and excitement we have for each other and for meeting this new little one!

View More: http://finleyphotography.pass.us/gilmorematernity

View More: http://finleyphotography.pass.us/gilmorematernity View More: http://finleyphotography.pass.us/gilmorematernity View More: http://finleyphotography.pass.us/gilmorematernity View More: http://finleyphotography.pass.us/gilmorematernity View More: http://finleyphotography.pass.us/gilmorematernity View More: http://finleyphotography.pass.us/gilmorematernity View More: http://finleyphotography.pass.us/gilmorematernity View More: http://finleyphotography.pass.us/gilmorematernity View More: http://finleyphotography.pass.us/gilmorematernity

I hope you have enjoyed these pictures and seeing a bit into my thoughts regarding motherhood and why it is so important!

Love,

Elise

Baby Blueberry – Week 24

I would like to apologize for the long absence. We have had so much going on…people coming here, going other places, long work hours, extra expenses, a broken pipe, extra activities…I haven’t had the desire or the time to get on here and publish an update. I hope you enjoy learning where we are now!

24 weeks

Photo credit – Bethany Pounders/Becca Hall

How far along? 24 weeks. BB is approximately the size of a cantaloupe, about 10.5-11.5 in. and 12-20 oz. BB is getting pinker skin, making him look more like a baby.

Total weight gain? 12-15 pounds

Maternity clothes? Dresses are the most comfortable. Some of my size small maternity pants don’t fit well anymore.

Movement? All the time!!! I first felt movement back in week 18 and Phil felt him kick around week 20.

Miss anything? lunch meat, white rice, feeling relaxed (having a hard time doing that with so much going on)

Food cravings? bacon, egg, and cheese biscuits, strawberries, sweet tea

Have you started to show? Yes, and my bump seems to be all baby. You can’t tell from behind yet.

Sleep? This past week, sleeping hasn’t been the best because I’ve been battling a sore throat and cough. I stayed home from work for two days and that seemed to help me rest and recover.

Looking forward to? my Centering appointment today, we’re going to be touring the hospital which I’m excited about.

Symptoms: Fatigue, extra mucus and flem, moodiness (I was emotional before pregnancy, so this isn’t helping), back pain, hungry more often, itchy skin, discomfort where my upper abdominal muscles are stretching out, color changes on my stomach, leg cramps, some tooth/joint pain

Belly Button in or out? It moves between in and out depending on what time of day it is and how much food I’ve eaten.

Gender? We’re having a boy! We found out about 3 weeks ago, and I meant to make a specific post about it, but life has been happening, so that just didn’t happen.

Best moment this week? Going to Amber’s baby shower!

What do I know? I know that I want to cherish Joseph’s time as a baby so much. I don’t want to be stressed out and tied down to a certain style of feeding, or a schedule, or anything like that. I want to be able to give him what he needs and get to know him. Once that is established, everything else will fall into place. I also know that I am going to my first Hypnobabies session on Tuesday, and I am scared out of my mind. I don’t really know what to expect, but I have heard such great things about the program that I can’t let my fear get in the way. Some prayers regarding this would be highly appreciated.

Note to the Blueberry: Dear Blueberry, My favorite parts of the day are when you are wiggling around in there. I bet you are already having boy adventures like fighting off the Indians or exploring a new land. I hope that those never stop. It is a great joy in life to adventure and discover new things. I hope you never fear a new experience or a new place. (I’ll probably be doing that enough for both of us) I love you completely and can’t wait to see your little face and discover what you are like. Love, Mommy

Baby Blueberry – 14 Weeks

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How far along? 14 weeks. BB is approximately the size of a lemon, about 3.4 in. and 1.5 oz. BB is wiggling his/her toes and thumb-sucking.

Total weight gain? 3.5 pounds

Maternity clothes? I have enough for right now. I have 3 pairs of pants I will begin wearing and am wearing a lot of stretchy skirts and dresses.

Movement? Still too early for that.

Miss anything? lunch meat, white rice, all my regular summer shorts, feeling carefree (there is just so much going on right now)

Food cravings? fries

Have you started to show? I’ve started to show. You can’t see it from the front necessarily, but if I turn to the side, you can see a little bump.

Sleep? Sleep has been ok. I sleep well, and I wake up refreshed, but then around 9 or 10 I’m exhausted again.

Looking forward to? Seeing my parents and sister on Thursday and Friday. We’re celebrating my upcoming birthday and the 4th of July!

Symptoms: Fatigue, lots of extra mucus and flem, moodiness (I was emotional before pregnancy, so this isn’t helping), back pain, hungry more often, sore breasts, back pain, itchy skin (sometimes), some mild discomfort where I think my abdominal muscles are starting to stretch out

Belly Button in or out? Still in, but I don’t think that will last very long!

Gender? We should find out sometime in August at my 20 weeks ultrasound. (I think it’s a girl.)

Best moment this week? Closing on our house! Yay! Phillip has started ripping out carpet and painting the nursery. Attending my friend Amber’s gender reveal and finding out she’s having a GIRL!

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Our community group members who were able to attend the gender reveal (some people are hiding though).

What do I know? I know that I can’t wait to find out whether I’m having a girl or a boy! I am glad I bought the book Babywise, it is highly recommended by friends. I will be using Alva cloth diapers because they are actually reasonably priced. I will probably have a Target registry, a buybuyBaby registry, and an Amazon registry.

Note to the Blueberry: Dear Blueberry, I hope that you feel warm and safe in my tummy. I am doing everything I can to keep you and me healthy. I can’t wait to see your little nose, and fingers, and toes. I know you will grow up so loved in our family and our circle of friends. Daddy likes to give my belly raspberries so you can feel the vibrations, I hope it doesn’t shake you up too much. Also, please come in December, because if you come in January, you owe me $1000 to repay the insurance deductible. (Just kidding, you can come whenever you’re ready.) I love you! – Your Mommy

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