A Good Friday Prayer

When my Grandma Schoon passed away, my mom got a few of her things and among them was a book of prayers. It is small, faded to a nearly indistinguishable shade of green. It has prayers for every day of the week, and for man different occasions and holidays.

The language is old, yet beautiful, and I will leave you with this prayer on this Good Friday.

O Lord Jesus Christ, Though Lamb of God, who didst bear the burden of our sins and wast obedient even to Thy bitter death upon the cross. We unite in ascribing unto Thee power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing. We bless Thee for all Thy suffering, for Thy precious blood which Thou didst shed for us, for Thy words of consolation, and for Thy victory over the powers of darkness and errors of death.

O heavenly Father, who in The compassion towards us didst give Thine only begotten Son that we might be redeemed from our sin, grant that we may be partakers of His sufferings and His death, and may crucify the inclinations of the flesh, die daily unto the world and lead holy and unblamable lives, ever growing stronger in faith and love that we may attain unto the resurrection of the dead through Jesus once crucified and dead, but now our living and exalted Savior. 



"there is a book you haven't read?!"

Yesterday I was subbing. I happened to be in a Language Arts classroom, and happened to have a group of "my kids" that are now seniors. They happened to be reading "The Awakening" by Kate Chopin. I was asking them questions about it, knowing the gist of what happens, but then I revealed that I have never read the book.

One of the boys looked at me incredulously and said, "There is a book you haven't read?!"

To which I responded, "Only two. This is one of them."

Clever, aren't I?

All that to say, I have been reading a lot lately and I love it! A friend of mine [hey there, Carrie S.!] recently showed me how to download books to my Kindle from a library and I can't get enough of it! And because I've written about books I've read before HERE [had LOTS of people were interested or asked or read "In Praise of Stay at Home Moms"] and HERE and HERE, I'm here again to share with you some books I've been reading recently:

 I debated even putting this one on here. This is the one I mentioned a little while ago and said I kind of sort of liked it, but would NEVER recommend it. I blushed and cringed my way through it. There were moments of great writing, but mainly so-so writing. Swearing all over the place. Hard to stick with.

I read it. That's about all I have to say about it. If you like suspense and don't mind swearing or other perversities, go for it. I only read it because it was the first book in the online book club I'm participating in.

I guess that's all I have to say about that. I wanted to put it first so I could move on to better books… so here we go.

As you may be able to tell from the cover, this book is slightly outdated, but never the less HILARIOUS. Brent's beloved Grandma Pat [who I think really HAS read every book!] let me borrow some of Bloomingdale's books and they are clever and funny…and written only as a mother of TEN could write them! It's an easy and fun read if you ever need to laugh about the predicaments you find yourself in as a mom.

This is a book that has been on my radar for a few years now, so when I saw it for 50 cents at a thrift store, I snatched it up. I read it very quickly, and it held my interest. The writing is unique, as it is told from five-year-old Jack's point of view. Unbeknownst to him, he and his mom have been locked in "Room" his entire life [and his mom for 7 years]. His mom has worked hard to educate him and love him, but has left out one little secret: there is a whole big world outside of Room. The book is about their life in Room, and what happens when Jack has to come to terms with their situation.

It obviously has some intense subject matter, as kidnapping and abuse are at the forefront of the story, but because it is told from the perspective of a naive five year old, it isn't as harsh. The beauty, for me, in this book was the relationship between the mother and son, but also seeing the world [though tainted] through the eyes of a five year old boy.

Another Grandma Pat book. I had read this years and years ago. Brent vaguely remembered it as well, and so one day when we were going to be in the car awhile I threw it in the bag. I read it out loud and it took us less than two hours from start to finish. We laughed all along the way.

If you've never read the story of the delinquent Herdman family taking over the Christmas pageant at their church, then you should! I think we'll make it a family tradition to read this every year at Christmas, as it is not only funny, but also a great reminder of what is truly center stage at Christmas time: the birth of our Savior.

Since the first book in my little online book club hadn't gone so well, I was very skeptical about starting this one. I for sure wasn't going to purchase it [and hadn't discovered the beauty and ease of library lending to my Kindle…I know, I'm supposed to be hip to stuff like that], so I hunted down a former student who I knew had the book and had liked the book. She lent me her signed copy. Fancy-schmancy.

It is like one of her favorite books ever, so I kind of enjoyed trying to see it through her eyes [a 17 year old girl who is very much like the main girl in the book…]

The book is about Hazel, who has a terminal illness, meeting Augustus, who had cancer but now has a prosthetic leg where his cancer once was. It is about their friendship, their illnesses, a journey they take…and much more. [I'm just going to say "and much more" so I don't give anything away, in case you want to read it].

Overall, I thought the book was great. I felt like the dialogue was witty and fast paced, which I like, but at the same time unrealistic for two teenagers. Nevertheless,  the writing?…fantastic. Any book that quotes Shakespeare and William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens has to be good! At one point Hazel is talking about a favorite book of hers and says: "Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all human beings have read that book." Beautiful. That's exactly how I feel about "To Kill a Mockingbird." :) I didn't necessarily feel that for this book, but I did feel like it was filled with beautiful little nuggets like this throughout its pages [which I devoured in two days…so that says something, I suppose].

This may be a surprise to some of you, but I'm no longer a teenager, so the "love story", though sweet in parts, wasn't life altering for me. And then they sleep together. Two teenagers. I get that they are dying, but I got mad at that part. It didn't need to happen. It didn't make what they had any more special. I think I was mad because I thought about my student who had loaned me the book, and other 17 year olds, reading it. Would I still recommend it for young adults? Yes. But I'll do what I did with my student and speak my piece about this small portion of it! :)
A couple of years ago my sister told me I HAD to read this book. So when I saw it at the same thrift store where I purchased ROOM, and it was only 25 cents[!] I grabbed it up quicker than you could say "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society" [which is a mouth full, I will admit].

This story, which unfolds through letters to and from the main character, Juliet, who is a writer, takes place post WWII in England and the Island of Guernsey. Juliet stumbles upon the island and its inhabitants because of a book, and is intrigued by the people and by their book club, which they formed while under German occupation during the war. It is partially a story of their survival, and partially a love story, and partially about people loving good books.

Initially I had a hard time getting into the story and deciphering the characters because of the letter format, but I immediately loved Juliet, and was soon intrigued. By the end I was speed reading, but then realized that that would mean it would be over soon, and I'd have to say goodbye to all the fascinating characters. You know it's been a good book when you can't wait to get to the end but don't ever want it to end.

When our church in Kentucky picked up this book in its bookstore, and later had Mary Beth speak at an event, I was interested in reading it. And then my good friend, Meagan, read it and said she enjoyed it, so I made a mental note. It was the first library book I loaned on my Kindle. I read it in three days. 

For those of you that don't remember or aren't aware, Mary Beth is the wife of Christian Music Artist Steven Curtis Chapman. In the spring of 2008, shortly after I graduated from college and was getting ready to marry Brent, their youngest daughter, Maria, who was five at the time, was killed in their driveway when her older brother, Will, was driving to the garage. This book is about Mary Beth's struggle with losing her daughter, but also with her family's determination to not lose Will in his grief. But it is so much more than that. The first half chronicles her early life and marriage to Steven Curtis, the birth of their three kids, and then how they came to adopt three more daughters from China. 

But at the center of it all is this beautiful and real journey of faith. Mary Beth discusses honestly her doubts and questions and her earth shattering grief over their loss. A fan of her husband's music, I enjoyed hearing the back story to some of the songs he's written over the years, as well.  

I'll never forget in the spring of 2009 driving down to Nashville and attending the Dove Christian Music awards at the Grand Ole Opry with Kali [this was when she helped with the event, as she was working for the Gospel Music Association]. It was a beautiful night of worship, as we listened to top artists in Christian music share their gifts through song, but towards the end of the night Steven Curtis, along with his two sons, took the stage. Not even a year after their tragic loss, they performed the song "Cinderella", which Steven had written about his young daughters. There was not a dry eye in the entire Opry house, and I remember specifically being blessed by the testimony of Will as he played drums in the background. Towards the end of the book, Mary Beth shares some of her journals and blog entries from the year or two after the accident. One entry is from the night of the Dove awards, and she says it is her prayer that others would see Christ in their family; that their family would be a testimony of true faith. I for one can personally say that they were that night. 

Though devastatingly sad, this book is also hopeful and encouraging. I would greatly encourage you to read it, especially if you've ever experienced doubts in your faith, questioned God and not heard an answer, and/or if you have a heart for adoption. 

And what am I reading now? 
I just started "Cutting for Stone". I've heard good things about it, and then Aunt Linda told me she loved it, and then it was one of the books I could borrow from library! I'm only about 30 pages in, but the writing is incredible so far. 

Then I plan to read "When You Reach Me". This came recommended from a fellow book-loving friend, Carrie. I had to put a hold on it at the library, so that has to be a good sign too :). 
I'll try to update you when I finish these… and the rest of the books that fall in my lap before then! 

Have you read any good books lately? What are your recommendations?

Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts?



My dear, sweet Blythe Kathleen:

One year ago, you came into our lives in a flash and a fury. We went to the hospital hopeful that it was time to meet you, but soon everyone was telling us we were probably going home. And then, you made it known that the time was NOW. You were ready to mark this world with your presence. You were ready to leave the safety of my womb. You were ready to be born. 

Your Daddy's knees nearly bucked when the nurse said, "Oh! It's time…NOW!" and started wheeling me to the delivery room. He clenched to my bed rails and whispered prayers for me and for you. And in a matter of moments, I was holding you in my arms. You nearly disappeared in the towel they wrapped you in, barely 6 pounds and five ounces. You squawked, and then nestled in close and silently went back to sleep. 

And in that moment, you made me a mother. 

In the past year, you have stretched me in ways I never knew I could stretch. I felt physically broken for awhile. I was exhausted, so very exhausted. And just when I thought I'd reached a limit, I realized I could be stretched and pushed even more. But through it all, you were there to guide me back to myself. Your tiny fingers would gently wrap around mine, and I knew it was all worth it. 

And I knew our journey together was just beginning. 

And then you learned how to smile. And then to clap. And then to say bye bye. And then to dance.  As soon as we knew you would be a girl, we began praying the word JOY for you: that you would be filled with joy; that you would bring joy to others; that you would know the joy of Christ. You brought your dad and I joy in so many new ways each day. Your name itself means "joy", and as we watched your little personality develop, we were mesmerized by your joyful spirit, and reminded once again that our God is so very faithful.  

We love to go on walks with you, and watch your little dimpled hands grip onto the front of the stroller as you take in all the sights and sounds around you. You are an observer, and are quite inquisitive about life and how everything works and moves. You're also quite dainty! Not only are you petite, but you do things daintily. You pick up toys and food and ANYTHING with just your forefinger and thumb. You've mastered the art of putting on necklaces, and once you put one around your neck you tilt your head to the side and smile, as if you're saying, "I'm SO sweet." 

You've been a great eater for us from the start. You will try anything we put in front of you, and gobble it right up. We nursed for 11 months, and you weaned perfectly. You've become a noisy eater though, which is funny because most of the time you don't make a lot of noise! You get so excited when we put you in the high chair that you dance and wiggle from side to side. With every bite you take, you talk and talk and talk. 

I've always loved little kids, Blythe, but I never knew that I could love you like I do. It is a kind of love that goes clear through me and becomes a part of my every moment. When I fell in love with your daddy, I knew that our love was special, but I didn't know that from it we would grow so much more love! Because of you, we have felt closer to each other. We want to be the very best parents we can be for you, and we want you to always know that we love each other, and that we are a team. There is a verse in the bible that simply says, "God is love." I know that this is true, because when I am holding you in my arms, and I feel that love that takes my breath away, I know that what I am really feeling is the presence of God. 

When I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be a teacher and a mother. Before you came, I taught High School English, and I really liked my job. But as I felt you growing inside of me, I knew that God had made me to be your mother more than anything. So we spend our days together now. Some days are tough. Some days you're clingy, or you don't nap well, or you poop all over everything. Some days I feel like I'll never catch up on anything, and that I don't ever get a break. But then you do the actions to "If You're Happy and You Know It" for the first time, or you crawl over and put a book in my lap to read to you, and I am reminded that the dishes can wait, that this time is so fleeting, and that these were the days I had been dreaming about since I was a little girl. 

Many days I ponder what your little life will become. I wonder what your interests will be, what your hair will look like, and if you'll have a passion for reading like me? I wonder what you'll want to pursue in life, if you'll be athletic, or musical, or a little of both? I wonder if you'll want to start a rock collection, or paint pictures, or play with Barbies? But more than that, I wonder if you'll be a young girl filled with compassion for others? I wonder if you'll have a hospitable spirit and make others feel welcome in your presence? I wonder if you'll realize that what this world tells you you need is all excess? And mostly I wonder when you'll learn that the one thing you truly need is a Savior? 

Blythe Kathleen, our "pure joy", thank you for all you have taught us in the past year. Thank you for being such a calm, sweet, happy baby girl. Thank you for expanding our hearts and our lives. In your big brown eyes I see so much of myself, and sometimes it is scary to realize that I am responsible for teaching you and showing you how to interact with the world around you. But mostly, when I look in your beautiful eyes, I see this wonderful gift looking back at me: I see this chance to try again every day and be the best version of myself I can be. 

We love you so very, very much. When your days seem dark and troubled, when it seems like we are fighting you for no reason, may you always remember that we're in your corner. When we fight in a dressing room about what you can wear, may you remember that your modesty and your beauty are precious gifts we are trying to protect for you. When we set curfews that you don't like and say, "Nothing good happens after midnight", and tell you not to spend time with certain people, may you remember that we are trying our best to create a safe place for you. When you don't get a brand new car when you turn 16, and you don't get a cell phone as soon as you want, may you remember that we are trying to show you the importance of true value, and trying to teach you needs vs. wants. When you leave for college and the world seems bigger and scarier than you ever thought it could, remember that you're always our daughter, we will always love you, and we will leave the light on for you any time you want to crawl back into your bed at home. When you leave us for good, and go out into the world on your own, may you have learned the love of Jesus, and know He is always near you. 

As you add years to your life, may you look back and know that we have loved you from the moment they laid you on my chest. 

Happy First Birthday, Blythe Kathleen! There is nothing you can ever do that will make us stop loving you. 

And when you turn 21, and 31, and even 51, please know that you are still the one that made me a mother. 

*pictures taken by MW PHOTO [she is AMAZING, and I will forever be grateful to her for capturing Blythe's personality in these one year photos] 
** Read Blythe's Birth Story HERE
***Read the story behind her name HERE


starting traditions

As Brent and I step day by day further into this parenting thing, we realize the importance of intentionality, especially the older Blythe gets. Obviously "older" is a pretty relative term, as she'll be one this week…so it's not like we really know jack squat.

However, we've already established a Christmas tradition with one another as far as presents are concerned. Neither of us like the idea of no limit on Christmas; that everything be centered around presents. So since the beginning of our marriage we adopted the four gift tradition, which I've seen variations of. Ours is:
Something you WANT
Something you NEED
Something to PLAY WITH
Something to READ

We followed those guidelines for Blythe this year, which kept it simple. And I liked that. It helped us focus on other things--- like Christ. Obviously as she gets older I want to implement other "traditions" that will help steer her towards the manger, and the birth of our Savior. 

So the other day when I was looking at some blogs I follow, I immediately knew I wanted to start THIS TRADITION. This wonderful, busy woman has SIX kids. She and her husband decided last year that Easter would be the day they would reveal to each child the verse they had decided to pray over them for the year. So she created these super cute and simple jars, with a few jelly beans in the bottom, some "grass", and an egg perched on top. Inside the egg is the verse chosen with each specific child in mind. She wrote HERE examples of verses they chose and why.
source theandersoncrewblog

I plan on doing this for Blythe this year [minus the jelly beans :)], and hopefully in the years to come.
If you were looking for a simple, meaningful tradition to start with your family, I thought this one was worth sharing. 


my group

The first group of students I taught in Louisville will be graduating this year. 
Two girls have contacted me and said they want to take a road trip after their graduation and visit me. 
Me?! Who would have thought little ole me would ever be a teacher that had students want to come visit 5 years later? 

I guess I kind of thought that. 
Because I didn't ever want to be a forgettable, half-way teacher. 
I wanted to be an all-in, make-a-difference teacher. 
[That's partly why I'm home now:when I do things I want to be all-in. I didn't want to be half in teaching and half in mothering. ] 

So my little 8th graders are graduating. Will they be the doctors, journalists, professional athletes they once wrote about in my class? 
I don't know. But I do know they can write a well thought out paragraph. 
And I do know they will remember me making a fool of myself many times in front of them so they would learn something. 

My first class I got to keep for two years, which I lovingly refer to as "my group of kids", will graduate in two months here. 
Two months.
Two months and then I will see these little lives I inherited as barely sophomores, most not even driving when we started together in August, walk across the stage and receive their diplomas. 
Diplomas, people! 
My group of kids, that I helped mold and shape! 
I had last year's graduating class for one year, and that was cool enough…
But this group? This is my group. That's right, I'm claiming them. 

And last month, after helping one of "my kids" with her interview/application/recommendations etc, I got this text:

It doesn't get much better. 



My dad is a unique character. If any of you know him, you know this statement is true. But one thing that makes him even more unique? He is surrounded by girls! 

If you don't believe me, continue reading: 

In 1984 my mom and dad welcomed my older sister, Kali Shannon, into this world. 
Shortly after, in 1986, they welcomed me: Kelsey Lynae. 
Probably around 1988…but my thumb is in 2013, please don't mind it
Since that time, my dad was forced to be around dresses, ponytails, baby dolls, and curly hair. Not to mention lots and lots of talking… and questions…and wondering…and stories…and more talking. Girls like to talk. 

In the strawberry patch with Grandpa A.J.
Girls meant tiarras and bows and frills. 

But my dad soon figured out, it could also mean other things: like hunting, and sports, and dirt, and exploring, and bugs. 
With my bug catcher…even though it was pink. 
Kali digging for worms
Can't you just tell I was an outdoors woman? 

Exploring with Dad and Grandpa. Holy head of hair. And check out the wash on my dad's jeans!
When anyone would "feel sorry" for my dad at his plight of having no boys, he would respond:
"The only thing better than having one girl is having TWO girls."

And then, in case he hadn't had enough dress up and tea parties to attend, my mom started in home daycare. Little did we know this would actually mean we were extending our family, but soon it grew by two more girls:
Paige and Torri probably around '98?
This gave Dad the opportunity to recruit more couch-cushion hunters, more backyard Davy Crockets, but also surrounded him with more pigtails and prom dresses:
The girls continued to grow, but still had a connection with "Buddy" [as they always called him], and after Kali and I left for college he still would get up early and head over to their house to take one of his infamous "first day of school" pictures. 

I forgot to rotate this but…Paige with her first deer. Made "Buddy" proud

Prom 2011

Dad got to go to more softball games, more basketball games, and find camo to fit two more girls. He also had to watch as two little girls grew into two beautiful young women and become surrounded by a little more makeup and high heels.
And then…

My sister became pregnant. We all anticipated the day she would find out the sex, most of us not so secretly hoping we could add another girl to the ranks. 

And then we got the picture of Kali holding up a pink onesie, proclaiming that more high pitched giggles were in our future. 

My dad could not have been happier. 

We welcomed our sweet, smart, and spit-firing Caroline in 2009.

Covered in pink, with a necklace around her neck, her Papa still made sure she understood the ways of the woods-- fire 101. 
Another pregnancy, another wait to find out the sex, and another phone call from my sister informing us that Caroline would be having a sister! 

We welcomed our boisterous, adventerous, and fun-loving Ellie Kate in 2011. 

It didn't take long for Ellie to be inundated with all things girl, because that is what we do best in our family: 
Having some tea during her first week of life
But like always, Papa knew just how to handle another girl in our family. He had the tea party with them, and then he plopped them in a clothes basket and began telling them the story of Lewis and Clark canoeing up the river. He gave Caroline a wooden spoon as a paddle, and off they went.
Of course, a pink sparkly My Little Pony also had to join them on the journey. 
Ellie learning about fire. 

And then it was my turn to spin the gender wheel.

And wouldn't you know, it landed on GIRL! Dad nearly tackled me in a fit of excitement when we told him the news, barely containing his tears of happiness. 

And so we welcomed another tiny pink bundle, and our inquisitive, dainty, and joyful Blythe Kathleen joined us in 2012. 

Papa thought he could just stick her in his pocket when he went to go cut wood one day, but I wouldn't let him. 
Before she was even a month old, she got to get all dolled up for Torri's prom
And before we knew it, Papa was schooling Blythe as well. 
And so it came to be that my dad, who raised two girls, then was blessed to get to peripherally "raise" two more, became the grandfather of not one, but THREE, girls. 
Caroline, Ellie, Blythe
He is, at times, requested to appear at balls and play school, or have his hair done in clips and bows. Tutus often surround him. 

He has been baked lots of treats, that he has learned to eat with slurpy sounds and a pointed pinky. He is serenaded by high pitched voices, and greeted with painted fingernails. 

The other day when my sister was here, my dad started rubbing his eye. He had Ellie on his hip, and was leaning over a crafting Caroline. 

That's when we realized: he had a piece of glitter not only in his eye, but some in his hair, and more sprinkled in his mug of tea. 

If ever there was a man built to be surrounded by girls, it is my dad. 


one year ago...

…our lives were about the change forever.

Blythe was a kickin and squirmin and I was 37 weeks pregnant. 

Though I loved being pregnant and holding her near and feeling her secret moves, I'm loving life with my nearly one year old Blythe Kathleen. It's crazy how much can change in a year!