Monday, February 29, 2016

Choose JOY giveaway winner!

The winner of the Choose JOY giveaway is . . .

Thanks to everyone who commented and CONGRATS, Allison! I'll get the book to you this week!

And lest anyone think I rigged the giveaway, here's a picture of my super high tech "pick a winner of the giveaway" method. . . a coffee cup full of crumbled up sticky notes with your names on them.

Make it a great week!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Choose JOY (book review + a giveaway)

If I could recommend one and only one book for you to read this year, it would be Choose JOY by Sara Frankl and Mary Carver. The end. That is the review, friends. Go get yourself a copy stat and let me know if your mind is not blown and your heart is not changed.

But joking aside, if you've been reading here for any length of time, especially since our loss in 2015, you know that the message of joy and hope and deep peace despite life's hardships is a message that is near and dear to my heart. I partnered with the women at (in)courage once and wrote about it, and I wear a cuff, almost daily, that displays this exact reminder.

But this book? Oh my goodness, friends. I found myself crying while simultaneously shouting "Yes! This is what it's about!" both in my head and out loud, over and over again while reading.

Choose JOY, Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts, is the story and life motto of Sara Frankl, who lived with chronic pain for almost two decades as a result of a rare autoimmune disease. Sara was so pain stricken that she was eventually confined to her condo in Iowa, unable to even open a window lest she struggle to breathe. But despite great loss, despite being unable to leave her home, despite mountains of restrictions, she never stopped living. I would even venture to say that Sara LIVED more than any of us able bodied humans have ever dreamed of living. Her ability to continually lift her eyes up and praise God and thank Him for His goodness? Remarkable. She trusted her Creator's plans and paths and while she never sugar coated her realities, she always erred on the side of trust. She had every right to grow in bitterness and anger and self pity, but she never did. Never battled a sense of entitlement that I can so easily find myself battling. Instead she put every ounce of faith and trust in God's sovereignty over her life and realized that while her circumstance painful (an understatement), it was not worthless. She showed up, amidst the pain, and said yes to her life.

As Sara's disease progressed, she turned to the internet to find community. She started a blog, Gitzen Girl, and wrote as frequently as the pain allowed. Her blog spread and so did her message of faith instead of fear, and joy instead of despair. Sara's blogging buddy turned real life friend, Mary Carver, partnered with Sara by compiling her blog writings and piecing them together in book form. Sara passed in 2011 at the young age of 38.

Sara no longer lives on earth, but her attitude and perspective will live on for generations. I'm sure of that. Thank you, Sara, for your legacy of faith. Your legacy of hope. Your legacy of JOY.

Do you see how many pages I bookmarked with sticky notes? It's hard to tell but let me assure you, it's a lot. This book is jam-packed with inspiration, words you will want to paint on your walls or crochet on your pillows.

A few of my favorite quote's from the book. . .

  • "But the reason I am happy is that I choose to look at my blessings more than my burdens."
  • "I'm okay with not knowing why this is happening to me because I know he knows why. It's not about me; its about what He can do with me. My job is simply to pay attention and enjoy the rainbows."
  • "I think our expectations of what we want life to be often overshadow the good things that are already in front of us - and that's when we miss the silver lining. All God asks of us is to live the best life we can with what we are given. In other words, we are all given different blessings and different crosses to bear, which means we can only take care of what's in front of us in that moment and do the best we can."
  • "I can't presume my dreams would have turned out better than His plans just because they seem easier in my mind. . . if I'm grading myself on a curve or normalcy, then of course I feel shortchanged. But being normal is not the goal. The goal is to live the best life I can with what I have been given. . . I still would trade it for the normal one I always thought I would have, because this is the one He meant for me to live." 
  • "This is how I have learned to praise. Even in my weakest places, even in my hardest moments, even in the depths of pain and sickness, I thank Him for what I know for sure is true - beyond the distraction of the hard, within the hard. I praise Him for Him.

Because I believe so deeply in this message, I purchased a copy of Choose JOY to giveaway to a blog reader (I simply can't part with my copy, it's that good!). Comment on this post to enter and tell me how you are choosing JOY today! Giveaway ends at 5:00pm Friday, February the 26th (CST) and winner will be announced on the blog on Monday, February the 29th. 

How will you choose joy today?

(I was given a free copy of this book by Faith Words in exchange for an honest review on my blog.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Weekend Links 2/20/16

Dear Weekend Links,

I sincerely apologize that I have neglected you for so long. Have I even seen you this month? I'm not thinking so and I'm not sure there is an excuse other than 1) I am lazy and 2) I am tired. So because I am tired I default to lazy. I am tired because of good things, I am blessed to be managing lots of blessings (more info to come). But at the end of the day, you are the first thing to get nixed. I will be better and do better and drink a little more caffeine and incorporate you into this space once again. See you next weekend.

- Me

Breaking Busy (on the Inspired To Action Podcast)
Better Than Before with Gretchen Rubin (on the Simple Show Podcast) - are you an upholder, questioner, obliger, or rebel?
Help! These Moms Won't  Stop Bragging About How Smart Their Kid Is!
4 At Home Date Night Ideas

7 Things Ive Learned Since The Loss Of My Child
Not Everything Happens For a Reason

Special Needs
I'm So Glad You're You
Awareness to share

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Replacing "She Can't" with "She Can"

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of Clara's first day at Texana, her full time therapy school. It is amazing to me that another year has blown by, that my oldest babe has been attending school from 8:30am-3:00pm everyday for the last year (well, except weekends). I am constantly in awe of her strength, determination, and ability to adjust to new plans and processes.

She has grown by leaps and bounds (both physically and mentally!) and I am beyond grateful to her school, the staff, and the team at large for creating this space where kids like Clara can learn and mature and fine tune any and every skill that needs some fine tuning. I sit humbled and in awe of what they do and the genuine love and service that they pour into these kids on the daily.

Nonetheless, it is still quite easy to get caught up in all the "what ifs, she cant's, and might not evers," when thinking about Clara's development on a larger scale. After viewing a recent Instagram picture I posted of Clara walking to the car, backpack and all, after school one day, a friend commented on all the ways this picture sparked joy. I quickly turned the compliment around with "Yes, it is great she is carrying her backpack, but you know she isn't able to put it on herself. They force her to carry it."

And just like that my perspective was skewed and the tone took a turn south, from all that Clara has learned to do, to all that she cannot do.

This is so easy to do as a parent, no? Regardless if your title is special needs mom or typical mom or _____ (you fill in the blank) mom, is it far too easy to get caught up in all the negatives, while overlooking the positives. . . the blessings that have been given and dreams that have been achieved. All the ways our kids have grown and things they have accomplished. Because big or small, accomplishments matter. Regardless of how long the goal list, accomplished goals count!

So today I will focus on all the things Clara CAN do. All the ways she is overcoming obstacles and killing it at school. Like the way she is able to identify mommy and daddy, the way she is using a picture system to request various items, or the way she can now bring a fork to her mouth when prompted. I will take a look at all little, itty bitty things that she has learned over the past year that really aren't itty bitty at all.

You with me?

Let's revamp our focus and change our language and point out the blessings. Let's replace "she can't" with "she can," and joyfully embrace the gift of perfectly, imperfect progress.

© A Joy Renewed. Made with love by The Dutch Lady Designs.