A Gathering of Vacation Reads

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I have taken a couple of weeks off from blogging due to a vacation.  I will be back to my normal blogging routine soon, but first I wanted to share with you the books I read while on our trip.

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My idea of a perfect vacation is reading and relaxation.  We recently returned from a 10 day trip to Florida with my mom and stepdad.  We spent the first part of our trip at a resort in Orlando and the second half at a private cabin on the beach on Captiva Island.

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(Proof that we did in fact take the girls to Magic Kingdom)

We did the Magic Kingdom deal one day (and my girls LOVED it), but mostly we relaxed.  The beach where we stayed was beautiful and isolated and therefore perfect.  I am able to relax most with the sounds of the ocean and a book in hand.  I know many of you love book recommendations as much as I do, so I want to share with you what I read on my trip.  I took five novels and only got through three, but they were all excellent in their own way.


I really can’t recommend The Night Circus enough.  I don’t usually delve into novels that dip into fantasy and magic, but Jimmie bought this for me for Christmas and I had heard good things about it.  I couldn’t put it down.  The story is unlike anything I have ever read, taking fantastical twists and turns along the way.  It stretches the imagination.  I have heard rumors of a Night Circus movie.  Time will tell if the movie can live up to the beauty of this epic novel.


This was a book I picked up on a whim at Barnes and Noble. I frequently don’t read the inside cover or back of a book, instead relying on the reviews of trusted newspapers. So I had absolutely no idea what The Fault in Our Stars was about when I started it.  It is basically the story of a teenage cancer patient.  Don’t let that description deter you from trying this book out.  It’s not the kind of book I typically enjoy, but this was charming and honest.  It has sad moments intertwined with great humor.  The main character reminded me a bit of a Juno-type character.  I loved every page.


Several bloggers I follow recommended The Shoemaker’s Wife.  It didn’t disappoint.  It is a sweeping novel, telling the story of several memorable characters and crossing continents.  This is my kind of book.  The main character inspired me to work harder and be more generous.  I did feel like the end was stretched out a little longer than I would have liked, but if you like beautiful, romantic, Italian love stories, this book is for you.

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Books I took but didn’t get to?    The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht and the classic Dune by Frank Herbert.  I don’t ever read science fiction, but Jimmie assures me the Dune series is amazing.

What about you?  What have you been reading?  Have you read any of the books I read on vacation?  I rely heavily on book recommendations, and would love your feedback!

Missed you all.  You will be hearing more from me soon.

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We Are Gathering

Dear Dad, Letter 3

A Gathering of Gallery Walls

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We Are Gathering

wearegathering

We open our homes and we open our hearts.

Come in to my messy house and into my messy life.  You are welcome.

We serve lots of food on big platters or right out of the slow cookers.  We fill our plates and nourish one another with more than just food.  We find a seat wherever one is available or make our own place right on the floor.

I know about your job, you know about mine.  We often know the needs to pray for without being asked or told.  We make our struggles and our humanity known.  You bear my burdens, I bear yours.

We gather before dawn, music soft and lights low.  We pray in the quietness of early morning, watching the sun rise together, before the world is awake.  Scripture pierces the darkness between us, breaking down barriers, both challenging us and equipping us for the day ahead.

We ask each other’s children the questions that matter to them.  We listen intently to the answers and watch their faces light up.  We listen as they struggle through the scripture reading, watch them receive the offerings with joy and overlook the noise they sometimes make.  We love them all.  It takes a village, after all, and everything is worth it when we see them raise their hands to the One we all love or sing out a song of praise.

We discipline them, teach them kingdom principles, mediate arguments.  We pour the Word of God into their little hearts and minds.  We teach them songs to help them remember the important things.  We ask them a million questions and reward them in a million ways when we see that what matters is sinking in.  We love them all.

We open our Bibles and expose our ideas about what we read.  We look at one another while we speak, ready to grow from the insight offered.  You challenge me, I challenge you.  We call each other out for making excuses or diluting what that Word actually says.  His words matter most and we don’t let each other forget it.

We cook meals for one other in times of joy and grief.  We plant trees of remembrance together.  We cry when one hurts, delight when one has joy.  We celebrate victories and raises and babies.  We hold those babies as if they are our own, speaking silent prayers of blessing over them.

We meet the needs when we see one struggling.  We write a check or buy the groceries or babysit the kids.  We cook the dinner or make the encouraging phone call or send the scripture via text.  We show up on the doorstep, ready to intercede on behalf of one another.

We pass the wine and the bread and do it all in remembrance of the One who paid it all for us.  We close our eyes in repentance.  We see the tears fall sometimes and we don’t judge.  We understand the love of a Savior and are moved equally in varying ways.  We are thankful, all of us together.

We raise our hands and sing out the praises of the One who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.  We clap and move and the kids join in and we are a new body of believers, worshiping their Maker as one.  We  tell each other of the goodness of the Lord with gladness.

We listen intently to our elders and honor them always.

We pass out food to the hungry.  We dig our hands into the earth, planting seeds in the ground and planting the seed in our community.  We embrace teenage moms as if they were our little sisters, and fight over who gets to hold their babies.  We give until it hurts to take care of the orphans, the homeless, the church planters and the ones reaching out to make disciples.

We have our struggles and our selfish moments and our glaring shortcomings.  We have a long way to go. We are not perfect and we proclaim that loudly and without hesitation.  But we are part of His body, and we understand how significant that is.  We understand the honor of serving alongside one another and through it all, we love.  We love past the failures and through the trials.  We love old and young, meek and bold, quiet and loud.  We love the only way we know how, allowing the God of love to flow through us, transforming us all the while.

We are gathering and we are Gathering.

sig Missed any posts? Here are the most recent:
Dear Dad, Letter 3

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What I Gather about Disciplined Children

Dear Dad, Letter 3

Dad

Dear Dad,

I wondered how October would feel when it came around this year.

Your absence is always felt on the 5th.  I spent the day wondering what we would have done to celebrate your birthday.  You were not a man of celebrations.  I can’t seem to recall even one birthday celebration for you.  I’m sure we had them, but perhaps your lack of enthusiasm keeps anything from standing out in my mind.  So what would have been your 71st birthday passed and was fairly uneventful.

Sunday marks 16 years you have been gone.  A few years back I began wondering what this landmark would feel like.  This year, Dad, is the year that marks you being gone for half of my life.  I am 32.  You have been gone 16 years.

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I learned not to be afraid of death.  I learned that lesson at a young age and you were my teacher.  I can’t recall whose funeral it was, but I vividly remember you making me touch the dead body.  I wasn’t resistant, just curious.  When I felt the cold, unnatural skin, you explained that the soul had left the body, and that the soul is the essence of a human.  What was left was a shell, nothing more.

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“What’s the worst they can do?  KILL ME?”

I heard this line so many times during your sermons and lessons.  It was often in reference to passages about persecution.  Even as a young girl, I could come up with things worse than being killed.  But I knew what you meant.  You didn’t fear death and your fearlessness made you a hero to me, strong and courageous.

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Do you remember the day I came into the ICU alone?  You had suffered beyond comprehension.  Every organ seemed to be failing after the bone marrow transplant.  Mom was spent.  The future was unclear.  Prayers were rising up as a continual vapor on your behalf, but the suffering seemed never-ending.  It was rare for me to have a moment alone with you.

Do you remember what I said?

I spoke truth from my heart.  The words came easily.

“It’s okay, Dad.  You can go.  I will be okay.”

I wasn’t afraid of death.  I was only afraid of my life after your death.

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People have called me morbid.  As a student of sociology, I took classes like sociology of death and dying.  I can talk openly about my own mortality.

I recognize on a daily basis that my future is unknown.  I could live into my 90’s like your dad.  I could die of cancer at 55 like you did.  My life could end Thursday on my commute to work.  My life is a vapor.  Your death taught me that.

I don’t see this as a problem.  I see this as a gift, Dad.  A gift you gave to me until you breathed your last breath.

In recognizing that my every breath is numbered, I choose every day to live.

When you came to the end of your life, you had lived more than most live in a lifetime.  You loved well, had a beautiful family, a successful career, traveled the world and were adventurous.  Most importantly, you spent your life for the Kingdom of God.  You built a church, poured yourself into making disciples, loved and studied the Word of God, prayed without ceasing, and knew the Savior.

You knew Him all the way to your final breath.  You trusted Him with your future until the moment He called you home.

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“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes….” (James 4:13-14)

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I’m not afraid of death, but I am afraid of not living.  When I come to the end, I want to breathe my last breath having spent myself tirelessly and completely for Kingdom purposes.  I want to know my Savior personally.  I want the Word to live and breathe through me.  I want to be like you, Dad.

So this month I celebrate your birth and life, mourn your death, and celebrate your resurrection into eternal life.

And through it all, I miss you.

Love,

Rachael

Dear Dad, Letter 2

Dear Dad, Letter 1

 

A Gathering of Gallery Walls

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I know, I know.  I JUST said I wouldn’t be doing as many decorating posts and would focus on the spiritual… blah, blah, blah.  I can’t help myself.

I helped my friend do a gorgeous gallery wall in her baby girl’s nursery, and now I have gallery walls on the brain.  I will be doing one soon in my front room and have been accumulating my favorites from Pinterest.  I just had to share.

I will also share the gallery wall I did with my friend when I can get over there to take some photos!

Here are my favorites!  Just click on the image to visit the site of origin.


I love this design from Design Sponge.  I have always been drawn to maps and love how the rest of the gallery wall centers around the large map.  Also, that couch and coffee table are making me want to ditch my current couch and coffee table!


Curbly has tons of photos of wall-to-wall gallery walls.  Just click on the photo above to see more.  While I love this so much (especially with all of the white), I don’t think I have the artistic sensibilities to pull it off.  What do you think?

Gallery wall
Real Simple teaches us how to arrange artwork on this site.  I really like the idea of a gallery wall corner like this one.  I have a corner between my kitchen and staircase that has been bare since we moved in.  I’m considering something like this for that area.

gallery-wall-in-living-room
I think this is my favorite of all, featured on Emily Henderson’s site.  I love everything about it.  I am always drawn to design that features black and white with pops of color.  This is so beautiful and makes me want a royal blue velvet couch immediately.


A Beautiful Mess is one of my favorite blogs, and when I saw this post about installing a gallery wall, I knew I had hit the jackpot.  I had already been thinking about painting my walls grey and amazingly had bought a lime green couch for my entry room.  I will use all of these gallery walls for inspiration, but this will be the one I use most.

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What do you think?  Do you like any of these?  Which is your favorite?  Have you installed a gallery wall in your house?  Did you have a plan or just wing it?

I will keep you posted on the progress of my gallery wall.  Hopefully it happens this year.  If not, maybe it can be a New Year’s project!

(Follow my “Gallery” board on Pinterest HERE!)

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Missed any posts? Here are the most recent:
What I Gather About Disciplined Children
Dear Juan

 

Or get more decorating inspiration here:

Gathering Ideas for a Shabby Chic Bedroom

A Gathering of Goodwill Finds:  Kitchen and Dining Edition

What I Gather About Disciplined Children

avaviolin
Ava started playing the violin just before she turned six, almost four years ago.  I remember early on posting a Facebook status, complaining about the stress around violin practice times.  I was half wanting to vent, half wanting advice from more seasoned parents.

The overwhelming advice?  Let her quit.

It was shocking to this then 28 year old mother.  It had never crossed my mind to let her quit.  I began evaluating whether or not I was expecting too much and whether the arguments were even worth it.

I then had the realization…. which I think I knew all along….. that children need discipline.

I came from a disciplined home.  My father worked hard at being a successful attorney and at his role as pastor.  My mother kept a clean and organized home and had dinner on the table every single night.  My parents set high expectations for me.  It never crossed my mind to argue with them about chores (until I was a teenager) or bring home a grade that was less than my best.  At church, I knew the behavioral expectations.  I easily sat quietly through an hour long Bible lesson when I was still in the single digits.  I prayed and read my Bible daily because that was the behavior that was modeled to me.

It has certainly been a challenge to remain disciplined in my adult life, but I am so grateful for the lessons taught to me as a young child.  The discipline of my childhood has served me well in my adult life.

I hear people all the time criticizing my generations and the generations younger than me.  Perhaps we set the bar too low and expect too little of our kids, and that translates to entitled, lazy, undisciplined children?

Violin is hard to learn and my daughter complains about practicing?  Let her quit.

It is easier to do the housework myself than to force my children to help.  I’ll just do it all.

My life is too busy.  My kids will be fine without a routine.

It is hard teaching my children to sit through a church service.  We just won’t go.

My kids are so disrespectful but I don’t have it in me to have one more intervention.  I’ll let it slide.

These are tendencies I struggle with daily.  Sometimes it is easier to just let it slide, give up and take the path of least resistance.  I find myself taking this path all too often.  But isn’t this a battle worth fighting?  I see enormous potential in my children, and I want to give them the tool of self-discipline.  I know it will serve them well, as it has served me well.

I’m certainly not an advocate for pushing our children beyond their limitations or fighting every. single. battle.  I don’t believe that creates a nurturing environment or a house that has any fun, for that matter.

But the beautiful thing about teaching our kids discipline is that somewhere down the road, they begin to see the payoff.  It took over three tumultuous years of violin practices and lessons before Ava began to make beautiful music.  She still has a long way to go, but she can take on and conquer a beautifully challenging song.  Ava recognizes that her hard work and dedication is paying off and that she has learned to play a very difficult instrument.  The battles come with less and less frequency.

So to all of you who told me to let her quit, I respectfully disagree.

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In what ways do you teach your kids self-discipline?  Sports?  Schoolwork?  Chores?  At church?  In what areas do you not compromise?  In what areas are you more flexible?  Do you agree with me that lessons of self-discipline will help with entitlement mentality?  I would love your feedback!  Especially from all of the seasoned parents out there!

sig Missed any posts? Here are the most recent:
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