Monday, July 25, 2011

Multitude Monday, Take 214

Thanking God this week for...

1953. early morning quiet time
1954. positive interactions between Elijah and Jude
1955. date night in with Steve
1956. bags of clothes dropped off at Goodwill
1957. friends' kindness to my boys

1958. Jude's mobility and curiosity
1959. diapers resold
1960. bruschetta pizza
1961. freedom to share my struggles with friends
1962. their prayers

1963. fresh inspiration to fight for joy and obedience
1964. Elijah answering loudly at library storytime: "I have muscles!"
1965. the beautiful, surprising, stirring ending to The Monster in the Hollows
1966. anticipation of one more book in the Wingfeather Saga
1967. a free journal from Paper Coterie

1968. Elijah's increasing ability to catch and throw a ball
1969. Elijah helping Steve make salads
1970. orange flowers lasting more than a week
1971. Jude babbling "dadadadada"
1972. being slow to anger and endlessly patient with me

1973. not treating me as my sins deserve
1974. not telling me the future
1975. encouragement from others
1976. opportunities to encourage others
1977. a sparkly clean wedding ring

1978. ladies' night out
1979. Steve's willingness to watch the boys
1980. laughter
1981. making friends with vendors at the farmers' market
1982. gorgeous 'maters

1983. first tomato pie of the year!
1984. a husband who comforts and doesn't condemn
1985. long naps
1986. Elijah running happily to Sunday school
1987. lunchtime conversations with our pastor

1988. games of Uno Moo
1989. Steve's sense of humor
1990. Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl
1991. safe arrival of a friend's baby
1992. crepe myrtles in bloom everywhere

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Thoughts on Prayer

My friend Zoanna's son Stephen has a great post up on prayer, in which he writes thoughtfully about prayers and also makes me laugh. What if people talked to each other like we talk to God?
“Steve, would you come here, Steve. I just want to talk to you, Steve, and thank you for who you are, Steve.” Somewhere along the line I might consider punching that person...
Check out Praying Platitudes, and for more weekend reading on prayer...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Book Review: The Happiest Mom

Meagan Francis has been blogging at The Happiest Mom since 2009, but I only discovered her a few months ago. I'm not quick to add to my already-overflowing feed reader, but the first post I read intrigued me enough to keep poking around. A quick trip through her “Favorite Posts” had me hitting not only “subscribe” but “print.”

Her writing is honest, relatable, funny, give-it-to-you straight. And the blog fills a needed niche: it's not the “motherhood is so hard, let's all commiserate together” mommy blog, and not the “motherhood is the greatest delight of my life, let's go do a 47-step craft with our angelic, gifted children in our meticulously organized house” mommy blog. Instead it's this delightfully challenging yet empowering middle ground: a mommy blog that says, “yes, it's hard sometimes, but you have choices about how you feel and what you do, so do what it takes to be a happy mom!”

So when I saw that Meagan Francis had a book coming out, I wanted to read it. Obviously, I was hoping for a book-length version of her blog.

Instead, I got a book-length version of Parenting magazine.

I don't like Parenting magazine.

First the positives. The book is gorgeous. Colorful, well-designed—just really nice to look at. When I requested a copy, I suggested that I'd be happy with an e-version for my Kindle, but the author said I'd want a print copy because of how beautiful it is, and she was right. If you have any kind of appreciation for print design, you'll be impressed with The Happiest Mom: 10 Secrets to Enjoying Motherhood. And there were a couple of places I marked that Francis offered some helpful insights, like “questions to ask yourself to regain perspective,” that sort of thing.

But I'm afraid it speaks volumes when the first and most positive thing I want to say about a book refers to its design. I don't read books for design; I read them for content. And the content here is disappointing. The book is stuffed full of trendy pop-culture references that make it feel dated, rather than full of timeless wisdom. It reads like a collection of magazine articles—complete with obnoxious quizzes (“Are you 'Tidy Tracy' or 'Hot Mess Heather'?” I mean, seriously?) and largely pointless sidebar quotes from “real-life moms!” It's trying too hard to be your best pal, all hip and funny and full of common sense advice. In other words, it seems like something Parenting dreamed up and contracted Francis to write in a magazine-article-writer voice. Which she's really good at...but it just isn't what I was expecting or hoping for. Frankly, all I could think as I read was, “Meagan Francis is better than this.”

So...yeah. I really, really hate to give a negative review of a book when the author so graciously sent me a complimentary copy. But there you have it.

Of course, to go a little deeper, I think part of the problem is that a book like this isn't going to be ultimately satisfying because the realest secrets to happiness aren't going to be found in ten steps for organizing life and taking care of myself. If I am seeking fulfillment and happiness in motherhood, in "finding my tribe" (tip #5), in "having a plan" (#8) or in my marriage (#10), I'm going to come up short every time. These are great things: marriage and motherhood are beautiful gifts from the Lord; planning and seeking like-minded friends are wise and helpful advice. But friends and a plan cannot solve all my problems, and a husband and children cannot satisfy my soul.

I don't know what Meagan Francis believes about God and the big questions of life. But with the first awesome blog posts I read at The Happiest Mom, although they did not refer to spiritual matters at all, I could easily apply a gospel perspective as I read, and they took on even deeper meaning. The book version, however, has some advice that is completely contradictory to the gospel (most obviously chapter 9, “Look Out for Number One,” in which readers are told, “Being selfish is a very, very good thing”). In other words, this is definitely not the place to go for advice on how to be the happiest mom in a biblical sense. (To be clear: I do think it's completely fine, even important, to continue pursuing your pre-mom interests and hang on to some of the things that make you “you”--but I wouldn't take that to the conclusion of “it's necessary to put yourself first; you are number one.” At the very least, I wouldn't word it that way.)

All that to say: If you want to read winsome, funny, practical advice about enjoying motherhood, save your money and subscribe to And if you want a more ultimate-truth kind of answer to finding joy in motherhood and life, meditate on Psalm 16 and immerse yourself in the gospel. You might also check out Rachel Jankovic's recent writing on motherhood, especially Motherhood is a Calling (And Where Your Children Rank) and Motherhood as a Mission Field.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Multitude Monday, Take 213

Thanking God this week for...

1924. our chest freezer
1925. Elijah's ability to talk
1926. clean kitchen floor
1927. a dear friend and her kids here for a visit
1928. our week to submit prayer requests as the church family of the week

1929. space in our home to host overnight guests
1930. babywearing
1931. the book Jude ripped was one of ours, not borrowed
1932. animals (including a kangaroo!) at the library
1933. captivating novels and time to read them

1934. the safe arrival of a dear friend's baby girl
1935. Steve and Elijah grinding rhubarb and strawberries for jam
1936. a kid-sized shopping cart at Trader Joe's
1937. free samples at Whole Foods
1938. Elijah dancing for Jude and singing made-up songs

1939. Jude's love for Elijah
1940. OxiClean
1941. happy little bouquet of orange flowers
1942. Jude crying "Mamamamamama!" in the middle of the night
1943. Steve's generosity

1944. new salad dressing flavors
1945. goodies from the farmers' market: peaches, tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, eggs, herbs, sweet corn
1946. headbands
1947. foaming soap dispensers
1948. BLTs

1949. being back at our church after two Sundays away
1950. big boys playing with Elijah
1951. a restful, relaxing Sunday afternoon/evening with my guys
1952. the Story He is writing and the fact that it isn't about me

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Simple Woman's Daybook ~ 7.13.11

A little Simple Woman's Daybook on a quiet afternoon...

Outside my window...
hot, hot, hot. We had a week of beautiful weather in Ohio and came home to a heat advisory. Our poor air conditioner is running 24/7 and still can't keep up. Also a blow-up kiddy pool--which Elijah bit holes into the very first time he used it last night. Seriously?

I am thinking...
that you just can't kiss a fat, happy, squishy baby enough :)

I am thankful for...
my beautiful friend Sandra, who drove five hours yesterday with her two kiddos to spend a couple of days with me! We have known each other since the seventh grade, and while we didn't grow up together exactly (we lived in neighboring towns and went to different schools), our paths crossed at various times: Junior Choral Society was the first, then Chrysalis and church camp and then we ended up at college together. It is so wonderful to catch up with her this week after not having seen her in almost two years--during which time she and her husband adopted two children!

From the kitchen...
lots of vegetables after a week of vacation eating :) Probably going to make some chicken, corn and tomato pitas this week...another round of zucchini pizza...and then I'm hoping to get some fresh tomatoes at the farmers' market on Saturday and go nuts. Tomato pie, perhaps?

I am wearing...
khaki bermuda shorts, a brown tank top and an aqua tank top, and brown flip flops.

I am creating...
a new writing project dealing with prayer and parenting. I'm really excited about it.

I am going...
to try to mop my kitchen more often. Having done it last night, it feels so good to have a clean floor after it was so nasty. Mopping, at least with my steam mop, is one of those dumb chores like ironing, where I put it off and put it off and then once I finally get around to it, I wonder, Why did I wait so long to do this? It doesn't take that long, it's not that hard or unpleasant, and it's so nice to not have it hanging over my head anymore!

I am reading...
several books simultaneously, as usual. I'm rereading books one and two of Andrew Peterson's Wingfeather Saga because the third book came out recently. I've also been enjoying new(ish) books by favorite authors: Elyse Fitzpatrick's Give Them Grace and Tim Keller's King's Cross. Always, always, too many books and too little time...

Bible-wise, I am digging into Proverbs and working through 1 Chronicles, still trying to grow in "how to read the Bible Christianly."

I am hoping...
to sort, edit and upload a slew of photos and videos soon--I took a TON of pictures last week, plus we had Steve's cousin take family photos for us. I so love pictures. Also hoping to do a vacation recap with some of those pics here on the blog.

I am hearing...
Jude bouncing and squealing and giggling in his doorway jumper. Best $5 I spent this summer--he LOVES that thing.

Around the house...
Steve just walked in the door, home from work early! That's a fun surprise.

One of my favorite things...
frappuccinos. I just discovered that a mocha frappe from McDonald's is actually really good and way cheaper than Starbucks. Also way more accessible...thus way more dangerous.

A few plans for the rest of the week...
Sandra and her kids are here until tomorrow, so I anticipate another late night talking after the kids all go to bed. After that I am looking forward to a quiet weekend with my guys--nowhere to go except church, no schedule or rushing around, just resting and spending time together and getting things done around the house. Ahh.

A picture thought I am sharing...
the boys had tons of fun splashing in Grandma and Grandpa's backyard last week:

Posted by Picasa

Monday, July 11, 2011

Multitude Monday, Take 212

"Christ's sacrifice is so powerful that even hints and glimmers of it will knock people off their feet. the light of such sacrifice, all else becomes 'Thank you.'" (Lisa Velthouse, Craving Grace)

Thanking God this week for the cross and the millions of smaller gifts it purchased for me, including...

1892. vacation in Ohio last week
1893. safe travels there and back
1894. home sweet home
1895. 230+ photos to sort through
1896. our own bed

1897. Christ's sacrifice
1898. Steve's death to self giving me tangible glimpses of it
1899. new clothes for Steve
1900. parents and grandparents babysitting
1901. friends making time to see me

1902. His grace covering my parenting inadequacies
1903. His power made perfect in my weakness
1904. air conditioning in dangerous heat
1905. roller coasters
1906. vegetables

1907. wind blowing through my hair
1908. a brush to get the tangles out
1909. Amish buggies
1910. county roads laid out in a grid
1911. sunsets

1912. ice packs
1913. pursuing me even when I am lazy and apathetic
1914. time and space to play outside
1915. porch swings
1916. the color green

1917. our new car
1918. the way Jude gleefully smacks a table when sitting at it
1919. a wiggly, healthy, loud baby
1920. cruise control
1921. showers after a hot, sticky day

1922. time in His Word
1923. others' examples of servanthood and humility

Friday, July 08, 2011

Incline, Open, Unite, Satisfy

I need to be aware of my poverty in spirit more than I need to be eloquent when it comes to talking with God. Yes.

At the same time, I'm still in favor of thoughtful prayers. It's good to pray specific, meaningful things for the people we love. And why settle for "bless and be with so-and-so" when God's Word is a gold mine of prayer prompts?

I first discovered the practice of praying Scripture when I was in college, and I've loved it over the years. There are so many benefits to reading through the Bible and changing the pronouns to turn psalms and gospels and epistles and promises into personal or intercessory prayer! Besides the fact that the prayers are richer, I've found two other significant benefits: First, it increases my general familiarity with the Word. Certain passages get prayed over and over again, they become favorites, they become part of the everyday language of my prayers, part of my thinking.

Second, I love the confidence that I am praying in line with God's will. First John 5:14-15 tells us that "if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him." So often when we pray, we couch it in terms of, "if it's Your will." We don't really know if it's God's will to heal this person's sickness, to grant that person a specific job, to bring these two people together in marriage. But there is so much we *can* know and pray with confidence, if we simply pray His revealed will--His Word!

One basic Scripture prayer I have used countless times over the years is an acronym I learned from John Piper's book When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy. He describes an IOUS prayer: Incline, Open, Unite, Satisfy. This prayer captures several beautiful things; I can pray it for my beloved husband, whom I know intimately, and I can pray it for the church member whom I don't know well at all. I can pray it for my boys, who don't yet walk with Jesus, and I can pray it for my pastor, who has been serving Him for years. Four verses from Psalms:

INCLINE: Psalm 119:36
"Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!"
I often modify this one to "increase," to fit my natural vocabulary, praying that God would increase the person's hunger for His Word.

OPEN: Psalm 119:18
"Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law."
I ask God to enable the person to see beauty in His Word, as well as enable them to see all of life from His perspective.

UNITE: Psalm 86:11
"Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name."
I pray for the person to have an undivided heart, to fear God alone and not worship idols.

SATISFY: Psalm 90:14
"Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days."
Finally, I ask that the person would be satisfied with God's unfailing love--that they would know His love deeply, know the gospel, and not look anywhere else for satisfaction.

Incline, Open, Unite, Satisfy. Such a simple little acronym, but so full of rich truth. I also found a blog post at Desiring God that unpacks it and meditates on these verses a bit more.

If you've never prayed Scripture before, try starting here and see how it adds a new dimension to your prayer life! And if this is already a regular practice for you, I'd love to hear how you've found it helpful or what other passages you especially love to pray for yourself or for those you love.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Multitude Monday, Take 211

"Today you will spend solitary moments of conversation with yourself either listing your complaints or counting your blessings. You can gaze over the fence and covet another person's life or tell yourself that God has blessed you in ways you never could've earned. You can tell yourself that God's not fair or thank him that he's not fair because fair would mean your and my doom." (Paul Tripp, Twitter)

Still counting, counting, counting...God's blessings this week have included...

1858. my logical, rational, clear-thinking and wise husband
1859. six beautiful years of marriage to him
1860. grace for kiddos and for mamas
1861. bamboo cutting board
1862. a glass of sangria and good conversation with Steve after the boys' bedtime

1863. play days with friends
1864. friends who lend books
1865. Google
1866. more money than I realized left over on a Papa John's gift card
1867. Elijah gleefully helping with the laundry

1868. grace to engage him even when it takes longer
1869. awesome new blog discoveries
1870. grace to help Elijah make up new words to his repetitive original songs instead of just getting irritated
1871. long naps
1872. the ability to help people in need

1873. dinner and fellowship with friends on Wednesdays
1874. bags and boxes out of my house and dropped off at Goodwill and the pregnancy center
1875. so much "stuff" that I have to give it away
1876. first zucchini coins of the summer
1877. the ability to do math

1878. quick-keys
1879. a husband who values my opinions and insights
1880. C.S. Lewis's brilliant storytelling
1881. audiobooks
1882. Aslan

1883. healing the world we wrecked
1884. His call that enables us to follow, creates what He commands
1885. British accents
1886. rosebushes
1887. cardboard brick towers

1888. freedom of religion
1889. freedom of speech
1890. economic freedom
1891. freedom in Christ

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Six Years

On a gorgeous, sunny Saturday six years ago--a day much like today--I said "I do" to the man of my dreams.

He was the boy I tattled on in second grade when he made fun of one of my friends...
...the junior high kid I had a crush on for a while (here, dressed as Prince Charming for a choir program)...
...before I briefly "dated" his best friend instead...
...the high school senior who starred opposite me in Annie Get Your Gun (at which point it required no acting skills on my part to fall in love with him onstage)...
...the guy who was giving me bunny ears at our best friend's wedding (yep, same friend from above) when I was secretly wishing he would pursue me...
...the man who made me the happiest girl on the planet when he gave me a ring in Rocky Mountain National Park and asked me to be his forever.
Six years ago, I walked down a long aisle and we made impossible vows and kissed and were pronounced Mr. and Mrs. Kannel.
We walked back down that aisle hand in hand, and for the last six years I have been praising God that this man is still by my side.
Our life together hasn't been all rainbows and sunshine since then. I've learned that marriage is a mirror, and I've often disliked what I see. I've been disappointed and I have disappointed. But Steve has lived generous, uncomplaining servanthood. He has led quietly, by example. He has listened patiently and loved unconditionally. More times than I can count, he has been Jesus with skin on to me.
Lately I've been reflecting on his ability to lift my spirits just by being present. There are so many days when I'm discouraged and upset, feeling the need to share my heart with him. But often, however miserable I was feeling earlier in the day, the atmosphere changes after he walks in the door. My mood shifts. Things are more right.
Don't get me wrong, I can be plenty upset when he's around--and he's been on the receiving end of that attitude more often than I care to describe. Yet however unlovable I am, I am continually astounded (and quieted, and loved well) by the way he is so calm, so unflappable, so steady and unflinching in the face of my moodiness and sulking.
He isn't a perfect man. But he is the perfect man for me. He is Exhibit A, after the cross, when I am looking for evidence of God's kindness, generosity, and gracious care for me. His strengths complement mine so beautifully, it had to be designed that way.

Happy anniversary, Steve. Here's to six plus sixty more.