Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Museum CD Winner!

The winner of the CD from The Museum is...

Comment #11 - Kim


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wind & Weather Winner!

The winner of the Weather Direct Basic from Wind & Weather is...

Comment #50 - Kowanda


Friday, October 22, 2010

The Museum - Let Love Win *Review & Giveaway*

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this awesome CD I was lucky enough to be able to review from a great band called The Museum. The name of the album is Let Love Win and the song of the same name is great!

I wasn't sure what to expect from the CD, but the guys on the front looked pretty cool, so I thought I'd give it a shot. I instantly loved the lead singer's voice and was I ever surprised when I listened to the whole entire CD and there wasn't one single song that I thought might "take some getting used to", they were all good!

My husband and I listened to the CD for the first time in his office at work while we were both working on some things and we both kept commenting on how all the songs were good. I particularly liked the songs You Are Love, My Help Comes From the Lord and Allelujah. Something about them just drew me in.

When it comes to new Christian bands, I would have to say they are at the top of my list. They have a great sounds, the lyrics of their songs have great meaning and their music is something that I see myself enjoying and sharing with others...kinda like I'm doing right now, actually!

Speaking of sharing their music, Overture Media has offered one of their CDs to one of my lucky readers! If you're looking for a great new Christian want this, trust me! See below for how to gain entries...


This contest will be open until 11:59 PM on October 27th. At that time I will use to determine the winner. The winner will then be emailed and have 24 hours to respond, otherwise I will choose a new winner. This contest is open to U.S. residents.


MANDATORY ENTRY: Tell me who your favorite Christian artist or band is. (1 entry)

Extra Entries:

Follow my blog (publicly via google friend connect, located on the top sidebar) - You can use this as an entry whether you are a new follower or a current follower. (1 entry)

Subscribe to my blog via the sign-up found on the right sidebar of my blog to be sure to never miss a great giveaway! (1 entry)

Follow my blog via Networked Blogs, located on the right sidebar under google friend connect. (1 entry)

"Like" my Facebook page, located on the right sidebar. (1 entry)

Place my Finally Finding Me button on your blog and leave me a comment saying you did. The button is found on the right sidebar of my blog.
(1 entry)

Blog about this giveaway with a link to my blog and leave me the link to your post. (1 entry)

That's 7 chances to win! Good luck!

Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of this album from Overture Media. The views and opinions expressed in this review are my own and I was in no way persuaded by the company involved.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by Donita K. Paul

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball

WaterBrook Press (October 5, 2010)

***Special thanks to Ashley Boyer and Staci Carmichael of Waterbrook Multnomah for sending me a review copy.***


Expertly weaving together fantasy, romance and Biblical truths, Donita K. Paul penned the best-selling, fan-favorite DragonKeeper Chronicles series. After retiring early from teaching, she began a second career as an award-winning author and loves serving as a mentor for new writers of all ages. And when she’s not putting pen to paper, Donita makes her home in Colorado Springs and enjoys spending time with her grandsons, cooking, beading, stamping, and knitting.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (October 5, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307458997
ISBN-13: 978-0307458995


Christmas. Cora had been trying to catch it for four years. She scurried down the sidewalk, thankful that streetlights and brightly lit storefronts counteracted the gloom of early nightfall. Somewhere, sometime, she’d get a hold of how to celebrate Christmas. Maybe even tonight.

With snowflakes sticking to her black coat, Christmas lights blinking around shop windows, and incessant bells jingling, Cora should have felt some holiday cheer.

And she did.


Just not much.

At least she was on a Christmas errand this very minute. One present for a member of the family. Shouldn’t that count for a bit of credit in the Christmas-spirit department?

Cora planned out her Christmas gift giving in a reasonable manner. The execution of her purchasing schedule gave her a great deal of satisfaction. Tonight’s quest was a book for Uncle Eric—something about knights and castles, sword fights, shining armor, and all that.

One or two gifts purchased each week from Labor Day until December 15, and her obligations were discharged efficiently, economically, and without the excruciating last-minute frenzy that descended upon other people…like her three sisters, her mother, her grandmother, her aunts.

Cora refused to behave like her female relatives and had decided not to emulate the male side of the family either. The men didn’t buy gifts. They sometimes exchanged bottles from the liquor store, but more often they drank the spirits themselves.

Her adult ambition had been to develop her own traditions for the season, ones that sprouted from the Christianity she’d discovered in college. The right way to celebrate the birth of Christ. She avoided the chaos that could choke Christmas. Oh dear. Judgmental again. At least now she recognized when she slipped.

She glanced around Sage Street. Not too many shoppers. The quaint old shops were decked out for the holidays, but not with LED bulbs and inflated cartoon figures.

Since discovering Christianity, she’d been confused about the trappings of Christmas—the gift giving, the nativity scenes, the carols, even the Christmas tree. Every year she tried to acquire some historical background on the festivities. She was learning. She had hope. But she hadn’t wrapped her head around all the traditions yet.

The worst part was shopping.

Frenzy undid her. Order sustained her. And that was a good reason to steer clear of any commercialized holiday rush. She’d rather screw red light bulbs into plastic reindeer faces than push through a crowd of shoppers.

Cora examined the paper in her hand and compared it to the address above the nearest shop. Number 483 on the paper and 527 on the building. Close.

When she’d found the bookstore online, she had been amazed that a row of old-fashioned retailers still existed a few blocks from the high-rise office building where she worked. Truthfully, it was more like the bookstore found her. Every time she opened her browser, and on every site she visited, the ad for the old-fashioned new- and used-book store showed up in a banner or sidebar. She’d asked around, but none of her co-workers patronized the Sage Street Shopping District.

“Sounds like a derelict area to me,” said Meg, the receptionist. “Sage Street is near the old railroad station, isn’t it? The one they decided was historic so they wouldn’t tear it down, even though it’s empty and an eyesore?”

An odd desire to explore something other than the mall near her apartment seized Cora. “I’m going to check it out.”

Jake, the security guard, frowned at her. “Take a cab. You don’t want to be out too late over there.”

Cora walked. The brisk air strengthened her lungs, right? The exercise pumped her blood, right? A cab would cost three, maybe four dollars, right?

An old man, sitting on the stoop of a door marked 503, nodded at her. She smiled, and he winked as he gave her a toothless grin. Startled, she quickened her pace and gladly joined the four other pedestrians waiting at the corner for the light to change.

Number 497 emblazoned the window of an ancient shoe store on the opposite corner. She marched on. In this block she’d find the book and check another item off her Christmas list.

Finally! “Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad, Books,” Cora read the sign aloud and then grasped the shiny knob. It didn’t turn. She frowned. Stuck? Locked? The lights were on. She pressed her face against the glass. A man sat at the counter. Reading. How appropriate.

Cora wrenched the knob. A gust of wind pushed with her against the door, and she blew into the room. She stumbled and straightened, and before she could grab the door and close it properly, it swung closed, without the loud bang she expected.

“I don’t like loud noises,” the man said without looking up from his book.

“Neither do I,” said Cora.

He nodded over his book. With one gnarled finger, he pushed his glasses back up his nose.

Must be an interesting book. Cora took a quick look around. The place could use stronger lights. She glanced back at the clerk. His bright lamp cast him and his book in a golden glow.

Should she peruse the stacks or ask?

She decided to browse. She started to enter the aisle between two towering bookcases.

“Not there,” said the old man.

“I beg your pardon?” said Cora.

“How-to books. How to fix a leaky faucet. How to build a bridge. How to mulch tomatoes. How to sing opera. How-to books. You don’t need to know any of that, do you?”


“Wrong aisle, then.” He placed the heavy volume on the counter and leaned over it, apparently absorbed once more.

Cora took a step toward him. “I think I saw a movie like this once.”

His head jerked up, his scowl heavier. He glared over the top of his glasses at the books on the shelves as if they had suddenly moved or spoken or turned bright orange.

“A movie? Here? I suppose you mean the backdrop of a bookstore. Not so unusual.” He arched an eyebrow. “You’ve Got Mail and 84 Charing Cross Road.”

“I meant the dialogue. You spoke as if you knew what I needed.”

He hunched his shoulders. The dark suspenders stretched across the faded blue of his shirt. “Reading customers. Been in the business a long time.”

“I’m looking for a book for my uncle. He likes castles, knights, tales of adventure. That sort of thing.”

He sighed, closed his book, and tapped its cover. “This is it.” He stood as Cora came to the desk. “Do you want me to wrap it and send it? We have the service. My grandson’s idea.”

Cora schooled her face and her voice. One of the things she excelled in was not showing her exasperation. She’d been trained by a dysfunctional family, and that had its benefits. She knew how to take guff and not give it back. Maintaining a calm attitude was a good job skill.

She tried a friendly smile and addressed the salesclerk.

“I want to look at it first and find out how much it costs.”

“It’s the book you want, and the price is eleven dollars and thirteen cents.”

Cora rubbed her hand over the cover. It looked and felt like leather, old leather, but in good repair. The book must be ancient.

“Are you sure?” she asked.

“Which?” the old man barked.

“Which what?”

“Which part of the statement am I sure about? It doesn’t matter because I’m sure about both.”

Cora felt her armor of detachment suffer a dent. The man was impossible. She could probably order a book online and get it wrapped and delivered right to her uncle with less aggravation. But dollar signs blinked in neon red in her mind as she thought how much that would cost. No need to be hasty.

Curtain rings rattled on a rod, and Cora looked up to see a younger version of the curmudgeon step into the area behind the counter.

The younger man smiled. He had the same small, wiry build as the older version, but his smile was warm and genuine. He looked to be about fifty, but his hair was still black, as black as the old man’s hair was white. He stretched out his hand, and Cora shook it.

“I’m Bill Wizbotterdad. This is my granddad, William Wizbotterdad.”

“Let me guess. Your father is named Will?”

Bill grinned, obviously pleased she’d caught on quickly. “Willie Wizbotterdad. He’s off in Europe collecting rare books.”

“He’s not!” said the elder shop owner.

“He is.” Bill cast his granddad a worried look.

“That’s just the reason he gave for not being here.” William shook his head and leaned across the counter. “He doesn’t like Christmas. We have a special job to do at Christmas, and he doesn’t like people and dancing and matrimony.”

Bill put his arm around his grandfather and pulled him back. He let go of his granddad and spun the book on the scarred wooden counter so that Cora could read the contents. “Take a look.” He opened the cover and flipped through the pages. “Colored illustrations.”

A rattling of the door knob was followed by the sound of a shoulder thudding against the wood. Cora turned to see the door fly open with a tall man attached to it. The stranger brushed snow from his sleeves, then looked up at the two shop owners. Cora caught them giving each other a smug smile, a wink, and a nod of the head.

Odd. Lots of oddness in this shop.

She liked the book, and she wanted to leave before more snow accumulated on the streets. Yet something peculiar about this shop and the two men made her curious. Part of her longed to linger. However, smart girls trusted their instincts and didn’t hang around places that oozed mystery. She didn’t feel threatened, just intrigued. But getting to know the peculiar booksellers better was the last thing she wanted, right? She needed to get home and be done with this Christmas shopping business. “I’ll take the book.”

The newcomer stomped his feet on the mat by the door, then took off his hat.

Cora did a double take. “Mr. Derrick!”

He cocked his head and scrunched his face. “Do I know you?” The man was handsome, even wearing that comical lost expression. “Excuse me. Have we met?”

“We work in the same office.”

He studied her a moment, and a look of recognition lifted the frown. “Third desk on the right.” He hesitated, then snapped his fingers. “Cora Crowden.”


He jammed his hand in his pocket, moving his jacket aside. His tie hung loosely around his neck. She’d never seen him looking relaxed. The office clerks called him Serious Simon Derrick.

“I drew your name,” she said.

He looked puzzled.

“For the gift exchange. Tomorrow night. Office party.”

“Oh. Of course.” He nodded. “I drew Mrs. Hudson. She’s going to retire, and I heard her say she wanted to redecorate on a shoestring.”

“That’s Mrs. Wilson. Mrs. Hudson is taking leave to be with her daughter, who is giving birth to triplets.”

He frowned and began looking at the books.

“You won’t be there, will you?” Cora asked.

“At the party? No, I never come.”

“I know. I mean, I’ve worked at Sorenby’s for five years, and you’ve never been there.”

The puzzled expression returned to Serious Simon’s face. He glanced to the side. “I’m looking for the how-to section.”

Cora grinned. “On your left. Second aisle.”

He turned to stare at her, and she pointed to the shelves Mr. Wizbotterdad had not let her examine. Mr. Derrick took a step in that direction.

Cora looked back at the shop owners and caught them leaning back in identical postures, grins on their faces, and arms crossed over their chests.

Bill jerked away from the wall, grabbed her book, rummaged below the counter, and brought out a bag. He slid the book inside, then looked at her. “You didn’t want the book wrapped and delivered?”

“No, I’ll just pay for it now.”

“Are you sure you wouldn’t like to look around some more?” asked Bill.

“Right,” said William. “No hurry. Look around. Browse. You might find something you like.”

Bill elbowed William.

Simon Derrick had disappeared between the stacks.

William nodded toward the how-to books. “Get a book. We have a copy of How to Choose Gifts for Ungrateful Relatives. Third from the bottom shelf, second case from the wall.”

The statement earned him a “shh” from his grandson.

Cora shifted her attention to the man from her office and walked a few paces to peek around the shelves. “Mr. Derrick, I’m getting ready to leave. If you’re not coming to the party, may I just leave the gift on your desk tomorrow?”

He glanced at her before concentrating again on the many books. “That’s fine. Nice to see you, Miss Crowden.”

“Crowder,” she corrected, but he didn’t answer.

She went to the counter and paid. Mr. Derrick grunted when she said good-bye at the door.

“Come back again,” said Bill.

“Yes,” said William. “We have all your heart’s desires.”

Bill elbowed him, and Cora escaped into the blustering weather.

She hiked back to the office building. Snow sprayed her with tiny crystals, and the sharp wind nipped her nose. Inside the parking garage, warm air helped her thaw a bit as she walked to the spot she leased by the month. It would be a long ride home on slippery roads. But once she arrived, there would be no one there to interrupt her plans. She got in the car, turned the key, pushed the gearshift into reverse, looked over her shoulder, and backed out of her space.

She would get the gift ready to mail off and address a few cards in the quiet of her living room. There would be no yelling. That’s what she liked about living states away from her family. No one would ambush her with complaints and arguments when she walked through the door.

Except Skippy. Skippy waited. One fat, getting fatter, cat to talk to. She did complain at times about her mistress being gone too long, about her dinner being late, about things Cora could not fathom. But Cora never felt condemned by Skippy, just prodded a little.


Once inside her second-floor apartment, she pulled off her gloves, blew her nose, and went looking for Skippy.

The cat was not behind the curtain, sitting on the window seat, staring at falling snow. Not in her closet, curled up in a boot she’d knocked over. Not in the linen closet, sleeping on clean towels. She wasn’t in any of her favorite spots. Cora looked around and saw the paper bag that, this morning, had been filled with wadded scraps of Christmas paper. Balls of pretty paper and bits of ribbon littered the floor. There. Cora bent over and spied her calico cat in the bag.

“Did you have fun, Skippy?”

The cat rolled on her back and batted the top of the paper bag. Skippy then jumped from her cave and padded after Cora, as her owner headed for the bedroom.

Thirty minutes later, Cora sat at the dining room table in her cozy pink robe that enveloped her from neck to ankles. She stirred a bowl of soup and eyed the fifteen packages she’d wrapped earlier in the week. Two more sat waiting for their ribbons.

These would cost a lot less to send if some of these people were on speaking terms. She could box them together and ship them off in large boxes.

She spooned chicken and rice into her mouth and swallowed.

The soup was a tad too hot. She kept stirring.

She could send one package with seven gifts inside to Grandma Peterson, who could dispense them to her side of the family. She could send three to Aunt Carol.

She took another sip. Cooler.

Aunt Carol could keep her gift and give two to her kids. She could send five to her mom…

Cora grimaced. She had three much older sisters and one younger. “If Mom were on speaking terms with my sisters, that would help.”

She eyed Skippy, who had lifted a rear leg to clean between her back toes. “You don’t care, do you? Well, I’m trying to. And I think I’m doing a pretty good job with this Christmas thing.”

She reached over and flipped the switch on her radio. A Christmas carol poured out and jarred her nerves. She really should think about Christmas and not who received the presents. Better to think “my uncle” than “Joe, that bar bum and pool shark.”

She finished her dinner, watching her cat wash her front paws.

“You and I need to play. You’re”—she paused as Skippy turned

a meaningful glare at her—“getting a bit rotund, dear kitty.”

Skippy sneezed and commenced licking her chest.

After dinner, Cora curled up on the couch with her Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad bag. Skippy came to investigate the rattling paper.

Uncle Eric. Uncle Eric used to recite “You Are Old, Father William.” He said it was about a knight. But Cora wasn’t so sure. She dredged up memories from college English. The poem was by Lewis Carroll, who was really named Dodson, Dogson, Dodgson, or something.

“He wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” she said. “There’s a cat in the story, but not as fine a cat as you. He smiles too much.”

Skippy gave her a squint-eyed look.

Cora eased the leather-bound book out of the bag. “The William I met at the bookstore qualifies for at least ancient.”

She put the book in her lap and ran her fingers over the embossed title: How the Knights Found Their Ladies.

She might have been hasty. She didn’t know if Uncle Eric would like this. She hefted the book, guessing its weight to be around four pounds. She should have found a lighter gift. This would cost a fortune to mail.

Skippy sniffed at the binding, feline curiosity piqued. Cora stroked her fur and pushed her back. She opened the book to have a peek inside. A piece of thick paper fell out. Skippy pounced on it as it twirled to the floor.

“What is it, kitty? A bookmark?” She slipped it out from between Skippy’s paws, then turned the rectangle over in her hands. Not a bookmark. A ticket.

Admit one to the Wizards’ Christmas Ball

Costumes required

Dinner and Dancing

and your Destiny

Never heard of it. She tucked the ticket in between the pages and continued to flip through the book, stopping to read an occasional paragraph.

This book wasn’t for Uncle Eric at all. It was not a history, it was a story. Kind of romantic too. Definitely not Uncle Eric’s preferred reading.

Skippy curled against her thigh and purred.

“You know what, cat? I’m going to keep it.”

Skippy made her approval known by stretching her neck up and rubbing her chin on the edge of the leather cover. Cora put the book on the sofa and picked up Skippy for a cuddle. The cat squirmed out of her arms, batted at the ticket sticking out of the pages, and scampered off.

“I love you too,” called Cora.

She pulled the ticket out and read it again: Wizards’ Christmas Ball. She turned out the light and headed for bed. But as she got ready, her eye caught the computer on her desk. Maybe she could find a bit more information.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

French Style Winner

The winner of the mittens from French Style is...

Comment #25 - mean green mom


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

PFTC Event Grand Finale - Wind & Weather ~ Review & Giveaway

Here it is, the end of the Prepare For The Chill Event and I am very excited about the opportunity I was given to review the Weather Direct Basic from Wind & Weather!

Something that drives me crazy is the forever changing weather reports. You can't often check the weather for the next day without it changing by the next morning. Sometimes in the morning when I'm getting the kids ready, I just don't have the extra time to hope they are showing the weather on the t.v. or to get on the computer and look it up. However, I want to know what to expect for the day to know how to dress my kids and myself! Well, the Weather Direct Basic shows me the weather without taking up any of my not-so-abundant time.

Here's some info about the Weather Direct Basic...

Satellite-Assisted Internet-Powered Weather Station!
Weather Direct™ regional weather forecasters display up-to-date forecasts using the same sophisticated analysis as your local TV station. Weather Direct™ downloads information through a wireless gateway that plugs into your high-speed DSL or cable router. The gateway transmits by wireless radio frequency located anywhere in your house. It's just like having your own personal weatherperson! It even includes an additional sensor for temperature right in your own backyard.

Customize your multi-day forecasts and current weather reports to include up to five cities (choose from 60,000 specific locations) with the most comprhensive, reliable and up-to-the-minute weather information available - from the internet! Eas-read back-lit displays show a complete reange of weather data, graphics, trends storm alerts, atomic time and more! Change city selections and weather-data details anytiime.

Uses 2 C batteries (not included). Remote sensor uses 2 AA batteries (not included).

Web-based 4-day wireless weather forecaster
Forecasts for 60,000 US & Canadian cities
4-Day forecast with daily sky conditions
High and low daily temperature forecasts
Wireless thermometer
6-hour updates
Indoor/outdoor temperature
Customizable weather data
Gateway connects to any router
Display device up to 300' away
Includes gateway LAN cable and AC adaptor for router connection
Temperature, Base: 14.1° to 100° F
Temperature, Remote: -39.8° to 139.8° F
Self-setting clock with custom alarm
Easy set up

6"H x 6"W

We set ours up to show us the current weather, along with the forecast for the next 3 days. The unit is small enough to sit on a little shelf in our kitchen, yet large enough to easily see from across the room. We look at it in the morning and know what to expect for the day. That's especially nice for if rain or snow is in the forecast. The kids think it's the coolest and people always comment on it when they come over and see it. I think they have a little weather station envy. I don't blame them. We also have it showing the time, which is handy.

I think the Weather Direct Basic is awesome. It was easy to set up and we use it everyday. I am so happy with it and its performance.

This isn't just awesome for your family, but it would make a great gift too. I have a couple people who are very difficult to buy gifts for that I think would really like this. Who doesn't pay attention to the weather? Plus, it's regularly $69.95 on sale right now for $34.97! What a great time to get it! Just go here.

Want to see if you're lucky enough to win one? Well, you could be! One of my lucky readers will win a Weather Direct Basic of their own! See below for how to gain entries...


This contest will be open until 11:59 PM on October 26th. At that time I will use to determine the winner. The winner will then be emailed and have 24 hours to respond, otherwise I will choose a new winner. This contest is open to U.S. residents.


MANDATORY ENTRY: Go to Wind & Weather and tell me another product you would like. (1 entry)

Extra Entries:

Follow my blog (publicly via google friend connect, located on the top sidebar) - You can use this as an entry whether you are a new follower or a current follower. (1 entry)

Subscribe to my blog via the sign-up found on the right sidebar of my blog to be sure to never miss a great giveaway! (1 entry)

Follow my blog via Networked Blogs, located on the right sidebar under google friend connect. (1 entry)

"Like" my Facebook page, located on the right sidebar. (1 entry)

Place my Finally Finding Me button on your blog and leave me a comment saying you did. The button is found on the right sidebar of my blog.
(1 entry)

Blog about this giveaway with a link to my blog and leave me the link to your post. (1 entry)

That's 7 chances to win! Good luck!

Disclosure: I received these products for free for review purposes. My opinions expressed in this review were honest and genuine and I was in no way persuaded by the company involved.

It’s Your Call by Gary Barkalow

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

It’s Your Call

David C. Cook; New edition (October 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Gary Barkalow has served the last seven years as part of the leadership team with Ransomed Heart Ministries and recently began a new ministry, The Noble Heart, helping men and women understand their calling. He has previously served as the director of Legislative and Cultural Affairs and director of Staff Development with Focus on the Family and as vice president of Athletes in Action, the athletic branch of Campus Crusade for Christ. Gary and his wife, Leigh, reside in Colorado Springs with their four children.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (October 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434764397
ISBN-13: 978-1434764393


The Weightiness of Your Life

Calling is the most comprehensive reorientation and the most profound motivation in human experience.

—Os Guinness

The truth is, I was jealous.

I was watching a nature show about lions in Africa. It was an amazing production following a lion’s life from birth through adulthood. I watched the lion as a cub rolling in the grass, wrestling with his siblings, pouncing on his father, being groomed by his mother. As the cub got older, I watched him on his initial hunts—finding some success but mostly failure. In later life, he found a mate and had his own cubs. His days consisted of guiltlessly resting in the shade in the heat of the day, confidently hunting for food, and valiantly defending his family from predators. Something about the simple clarity of his life and his sense of “being”—untouched by the nagging questions of “who am I?” and “what should I be doing with my life?”—stirred something along the lines of jealousy in me. It wasn’t necessarily a simple life I wanted, but rather his simple clarity. He was just being what he was … a lion.

Can you relate to my jealousy? You know you’re created to be something, to do something, to contribute something, but it’s so hard to figure out what that something is.

In C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia we read of a great prince imprisoned by a witch’s sorcery. Under her spell, Prince Rilian would lose all recollection of who he was and where he came from—“While I was enchanted I could not remember my true self.”1 During his brief moments of clarity (though the witch told him that those moments were actually times of insanity), the prince would be involuntarily bound to a chair until he would come back into his “right mind,” which he later described as a “heavy, tangled, cold, clammy web of evil magic.”2

I believe this is how life feels for most of us; we’re lost in a fog of confusion and dullness with only brief moments of clarity and desire that seem so hard to hold on to. And when we are able to capture those moments that have a ring of authenticity about them, we quickly start to doubt their legitimacy. Could we be under some web of evil magic? Some spell?

We live in a time that is brutal on a person’s search for purpose or place in the world. The world of science tells us (with a voice of reason and certainty) that, whatever we feel—be it pleasure, despair, anger, lightness, heaviness, or even a sense of meaning—these emotions are just a series of chemical reactions in our brain to some outside stimuli. Beauty, purpose, meaning, romance, pleasure, and even God are nothing more than by-products of chemical reactions. Science tells us there is no meaning or transcendent purpose in life, only the random reaction of one thing to another. As philosopher and Nobel Prize winner Henri Bergson believed,

Since the Renaissance, modern science has gradually extended its causal explanations to one phenomenon after another, psychological and biological as well as the purely physical, accounting even for life and consciousness in purely physical or chemical terms. Creative novelty, human purpose, and

freedom have often been disregarded.3

Then we have society, largely encountered through laws and media, which tells us that any sense of purpose or meaning outside the realm of economic or scientific advancement is unhelpful and dangerous. Laws portray society’s desire to separate faith from any type of cultural influence. And most movies, TV shows, and news reports show religious conviction as ignorant and the source of hatred, suffering, and war—or, at best, ineffective for positively changing the world.

And what about the church? In the past, the church held an elitist view of people and their callings, where only a few were chosen to do something sacred. These select few could be easily recognized by their religious title, position, or clothing. If you did not have the desire or opportunity to do something within the church, your life’s work was not of eternal consequence. Your expected position in life was simply to subject yourself to the church’s teaching and direction, with your highest goal being to live a moral life and to support the church’s vision and institutions. But I want to state clearly: There is no “elite” group in the body of Christ.

More recently the church has adopted a utilitarian view of man, focusing on usefulness. There is much to be done for the kingdom of God, so we need to be a servant, to be dutiful, to do whatever needs to be done. And thus the commonly heard expression: “I just want to be used by God.” When you attach this phrase to another relationship such as a friend or pastor, or a situation such as a work environment or marriage, something surfaces in our hearts revealing how unhealthy or undignified this way of thinking really is. This life on earth and your relationship to God are about so much more than your usefulness.

And lately the church has added on a stewardship view of life, the thought being that God has given us something to contribute to His kingdom work, something by which we will be scrutinized and judged. The unstated goal here is not to get in trouble on our job evaluation. I believe God has instead given us something glorious to bring to this world that has to do with joy and intimacy with Him, not a forthcoming job evaluation.

Everybody’s Question

Several years ago I ran across an article in USA Today in which adults were surveyed as to what they “would ask a god or supreme being if they could get a direct and immediate answer.” The largest percentage (34 percent) of adults said they would ask, “What is my purpose in life?” Second (19 percent) and third (16 percent) to that question were, “Will I have life after death?” and “Why do bad things happen?”4

That most commonly asked question is very telling. It demonstrates that we were created for a specific purpose. As C. S. Lewis said, “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe, and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know that it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.”5 So the question we are all asking—“Is there a specific purpose or calling for my life?”—is self-answering: YES!

The Barna Research Group concluded a nationwide survey with these words: “One of the most stunning outcomes was that born again Christians and non-Christians were equally likely to be seeking meaning and purpose in life.”6 Barna was also amazed that so many born-again Christians were puzzled as to their purpose in life: “One of the primary values of the Christian faith is to settle the issue of meaning and purpose in life. The Bible endorses people’s individual uniqueness but also provides a clear understanding of the meaning of life—that being to know, love and serve God with all of your heart, mind and strength.”7

The question of purpose, meaning, and place is universal to every human heart. The answer that your life does have purpose or meaning is not enough. Instead the answer begs another question, “What specific, irreplaceable purpose does my life play?” Coming to faith does not settle the issue of meaning and purpose in life. As Pulitzer Prize winner Russell Baker said,

There is a hunger in us…for assurance that our lives have not been merely successful, but valuable—that

we have accomplished something grander than just another well-heeled [well-off], loudly publicized

journey from the diaper to the shroud. In short, that our lives have been consequential.8

The truth is that we are here to do something, a contribution that only each one of us can make. There is an outcome that hinges on us and therefore a fear that we might miss it—our moment, our part, our potential, our purpose, and our life. This is not some peculiar fear experienced only by a certain generation or culture or religion. I believe it is a fear born out of a desire written on every human heart, a desire for meaning, to know that my existence matters to someone and something. In short, that I’m good for something.

The hunger or desire to find and live the life that we have been given, to live a life that is consequential, is good and noble. Scripture says, “[God] will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers. But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness” (Rom. 2:7–8 NLT). There is a life of glory, honor, and immortality that God offers and that we are meant to seek. But it will take God’s help for us to find and live the life we were created to live.

Now with God’s help I shall become myself.

—Søren Kierkegaard

Too Easy, Too Hard

We have been raised in the modern scientific era, where our culture has tried to reduce life down to its essence, to a fundamental formula to explain and replicate everything. This is as true for calling as it is for health, finances, relationships, and parenting. As a result, most of us settle for describing our personality or “strengths” in terms of letters like “High D” or “ISTJ” or as an animal like “Golden Retriever.”

As is often the case, this has spilled over into the church. We can now state our spiritual gift(s) because we’ve used an assessment tool or been given a prophetic word by someone “in the know.” It all seems so authoritative and affirming. But as many of us have discovered our “passions,” we’ve realized an absence of joy. We experience a sense of guilt for feeling so little about the list of what the “truly spiritual” should care most deeply about. It all just feels so foggy. If it’s really so easy to find our calling or purpose, why does it feel so hard? Why don’t these methods work, really work?

The Myth of Understanding

Unfortunately, we have equated understanding with attainment. In the academic world, you learn the required material and attain your degree. But life is not always academic; it’s often much deeper. Understanding the components of a good marriage does not make one. Understanding the principles of money management does not keep you out of debt. Understanding the techniques of a good golf swing does not get you closer to the green. Understanding the practices of healthy living does not keep you healthy. In the same way, understanding your complexities or propensities will not necessarily usher you into a meaningful, purposeful life.

There is a depth—what I call a weightiness—to your life that cannot be released or entered into by way of testing, analysis, goal setting, or determination. Understanding alone, or as the primary approach, cannot do the job. Have you found this to be true? Have you tried some of the tests, indicators, surveys, formulas, and processes that have been offered in the last several decades, but here you are, reading yet another book, hoping for some meaningful clarity and purposeful movement toward your calling in life?

Most of the various twentysomethings I have met with over the years have been disheartened, if not immobilized, by the expectation that after graduation they should know exactly who they are and what place they have in this world. Some have been assaulted with Luke 12:48: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Fearfully, shamefully not knowing who they are or what is being required of them, these beautiful young people take on the life scripts that others have handed them, defining what they should do and how they should live their lives. A friend moved to Washington DC to take a public policy job on the recommendation of an older man because the man spoke with a confidence and excitement about what my friend could accomplish for the kingdom of God. The job and the environment literally almost took my friend’s life—emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.

Or, like a hiker lost in the wilderness with a GPS unit, there are those of us a little older who’ve attempted to find our place in life using the coordinates of salary, position, and advancement. After several years in the military in a rather prestigious job, Ted felt that something needed to change vocationally. Having retired, he then felt pressure to quickly find the “right place” for the next season of his life. However, having little knowledge of who he truly was, even though he had been given a great deal of personal assessment (outplacement) data, he had no idea in what direction he should go. Ted accepted a position with a large international company that offered him a fast-track program to a top position with a high salary. After years of relocating from one city to another, doing work he did not enjoy or value, Ted resigned and once again sought to find the “right place” that would lead to the fulfillment of his calling in life. He realized that he was searching for guidance using the wrong coordinates.

When Jesus referred to something being “given” (Luke 12:48) to us, was He referring simply to assets? Assets like education, training, money, possessions, skills, and influence—things that for the most part can be acquired? Or could He have been referring to something much deeper, something more weighty, that God offers us?

Misleading Coordinates

Years ago I took my kids out camping in a part of the Colorado wilderness. One morning we set out to reach a high point that we could see from our campsite. After an hour or so of hiking and climbing we reached the summit and took in the spectacular vistas. Then, before starting back, we visually located our campsite and identified several landmarks to guide us back on our descent. What I did not realize at the time was that the rock outcroppings I was using as markers were inadequate for guiding us to our destination. Though they were part of the landscape, they were not specific enough to our campsite. Walking toward these markers actually distanced us from our destination.

In the same way, there have been two misleading ideas by which people have tried to navigate, ideas that have taken them off course in the pursuit of their calling. The first is that your calling or purpose is to find the right job (paid) or position (unpaid). This idea is treacherous for a couple of reasons. For one, this puts your calling in the hands of another (i.e., some level of corporate, church, or nonprofit leadership). Over my years of working in the nonprofit ministry realm, I have had many individuals tell me they were called to a position in my area. In other words, I was the gatekeeper to the fulfillment of their purpose in life. Now if I had the power to give them their calling by offering them a job, then it was just as true that I had the power to take it away. How can something be required or asked of you that you do not have influence over? Your calling or purpose is not determined by the mood or opinions of those in authority, or by the job market, or by the current economic situation. I have heard too many people use these circumstances as excuses for living small, unfulfilled lives.

Your calling cannot be fully contained and fulfilled by a job or position. How could the weight of your life be defined by a list of functions or tasks? In almost all jobs, after a while you kind of “get the job down” to the point that you can do it without thinking, most often halfheartedly. The purpose or calling of your life will require all of you—a wholeheartedness.

While I was managing a gymnastic center in Southern California, I had a locksmith come in to fix one of the doors. Halfway through his repair work I asked him if he enjoyed his work. He said, “No, I could train a monkey to do what I do.” He hated the fact that his job really didn’t require much of him, at least not anymore. It wasn’t lost on me that a locksmith, someone usually with “the keys,” had come to a place of complaining, discontentment, a loss of creativity, and distraction (always looking elsewhere). He was locked out of the life he wanted to live—which is where many of us end up living.

Second, if finding your calling is tied to finding the right job or position, your calling would be limited to the extent of that work. In a typical job, your life’s purpose would be limited to forty hours a week.

Or if you believed your calling was to a position such as a Sunday school teacher, your calling would be limited to perhaps one hour a week. What do you do then with your life’s purpose the remaining hours of the week? Does your life not count during those “off” hours? Is your life split somewhere between the mundane and the sacred?

While some have been misdirected by the idea that finding their calling is finding the right job, others have been sidelined by the belief that their calling is to be like Jesus. After all, the Bible says, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). Just what exactly does it mean to be like Jesus? For many people, being like Jesus is simply being moral. Is that all Jesus was—moral? Was that the purpose of His life on earth? There was far more to Jesus’ life than being sinless. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Jesus came with a mission, a purpose—to bring life to others. In His first public statement about the mission of His life, He read from Isaiah 61: “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for

the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.… [And they will become] oaks of righteousness … for the display of his splendor” (vv. 1, 3). Jesus’ life, as well as yours, is not about the absence of something (sin), but rather the presence of something (a splendor or weightiness).

So are we to be like Jesus? Absolutely! But His morality is not to be our goal. As the apostle Paul said, “I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me” (Phil. 3:12 NLT). Jesus was a man of purpose and passion, and we are to be transformed into His image: “God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored” (Rom 8:29 MSG). Your calling is much more than moral behavior.

Sagely Perspective

Counselor and author Richard Leider asked senior citizens over a twenty-five-year span how they would live their lives differently. Across the board, the older adults say the same things:

First, they say that if they could live their lives over again, they would be more reflective. They got so caught up in the doing … that they lost sight of the meaning.… Second, they would take more risks.… Almost all of them said that they felt most alive when they took risks.… Third … they would understand what really gave them fulfillment … doing something that contributes to life, adding value to life beyond yourself.9

These responses remind me of Moses’ prayer: “Teach us how short our lives really are so that we may be wise” (Ps. 90:12 NCV).


There is a direction, theme, purpose, and orchestration to our lives that we must recognize and understand if we are to discern the lives we were created to live. It is important that we periodically disengage from our daily busyness and examine our lives. If we are to truly “see” and “hear” our lives, we must get away from all the ambient light and noise, as we would if we were seriously studying the stars.

Oswald Chambers wrote, “Looking back we see the presence of an amazing design, which, if we are born of God, we will credit to God. We can all see God in exceptional things, but it requires the culture of spiritual discipline to see God in every detail. Never allow that the haphazard is anything less than God’s appointed order, and be ready to discover the Divine designs anywhere.”10

We must cultivate the spiritual discipline of reflection, seeing God’s choreography in our lives.


We all desire a life that requires something from us, not just our “showing up.” It’s exhilarating to attempt something that is risky, uncertain, and important. I have heard it said that the most spectacular

vistas require traveling the roughest, most dangerous trails. And so it is with our lives—to reach the most beautiful, authentic, fulfilling places in life will require some risk. A life lived in fear is a life half-lived.

Theodore Roosevelt said,

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is no effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive

to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.11


All of us instinctually want to know that there is meaning to our lives and that we add meaning for those around us—that we are living a life of consequence and transcendence. Elton Trueblood wrote, “A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit.” We want to live for something more than ourselves. Meaning and fulfillment are only experienced as our lives, in some way, touch another person. Those who live solely for themselves—their needs, their happiness, their comfort and protection—will suffer a claustrophobia of the heart, the acute discomfort of living in a story far too small. A person’s heart is as large as the things he loves.

So, possessing a calling (a weighty purpose in life) is not just for a few—the “elite.” It is the design and destiny of every person. If there was not great meaning to our lives, we would not be asking questions

about our calling. A life of calling is by no means limited to the categories that we have been given: church, missionary, public office, the “professions.” Nor could our calling be fully contained, utilized,

or fulfilled in a job or position. The calling on our lives is as broad, as large, as grand as the story we are living in. The creative scope of our calling is, as Dallas Willard put it, to live as a “co-worker with God in the creative enterprise of life on earth.” Our calling is about something deeper, something more profound and pervasive than any assessment, test, or indicator could ever fully touch or grasp.

I believe most of you reading this are with me so far. But here is where the questions arise: How do I navigate these unfriendly, confusing waters of calling and purpose? What coordinates should I use? How do I become my true self? How do I find my passion and purpose? I want to invite you to come along with me as we walk forward with the intent to live out the answer to the question we’re all asking—what am I doing here?

©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. It’s Your Call by Gary Barkalow. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 18, 2010


How many of you have experienced this? You get the kids all dressed up to go play outside in the snow and within 5 minutes at least one of them is crying about snow up their coat sleeve. It never fails around here. My youngest will pretty much give up on the whole playing outside thing once that happens. That always makes me crazy because it means I just spent 10 minutes bundling him up for basically nothing. Well, I found an AWESOME product that is going to fix that problem once and for all!

ONS GEAR has come up with a great way to keep your kids' hands warm and keeping snow from getting into their sleeves and making their little arms cold. They are called MITT-ONS.

Here's a little about them...

Innovative mittens which stop snow from getting in, keeping hands warm and dry. Featuring a sleeve to the elbow and a zipper at the wrist for easy access to hands. These patent-pending MITT-ONS™ have been designed to stay on!

The mitten part is made with Thinsulate and the fleece sleeve has a loop at the top to make it easier to pull the MITT-ONS up. They are easy for kids to get on and keep them nice and cozy warm. They are brilliant!

I am so excited to have found this product and to be able to send my little guy out to play and know that he isn't going to be turning around and coming back in in 5 minutes because of snow up his sleeve. Now we just need some for our whole family!

If these sound as brilliant to you as they do to me, you'll be happy to know that you can go here and order them for yourself! So go ahead and get them before the snow hits!

Disclosure: I was sent a free pair of MITT-ONS to review. The opinions and views expressed in this review are my own and were in no way persuaded by the company involved.

Fat Studio Winner

The winner of the espresso cups from Fat Studio is...

Comment #20 - Kathleen


Friday, October 15, 2010

Knitty Little Things Winner!

The winner of the cowl in the color of their choice from Knitty Little Things is...

Comment #22 - BabyElan


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Noodle Head Winner!

Sorry I'm a day late on announcing this, but the winner of the Art Set from Noodle Head is...

Comment #3 - Brandy Barber Bates


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I'm Outnumbered! One Mom's Lessons in the Lively Art of Raising Boys, by Laura Lee Groves

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

I’m Outnumbered! One Mom’s Lessons in the Lively Art of Raising Boys

Kregel Publications (July 2, 2010)

***Special thanks to Cat Hoort, Trade Marketing Manager, Kregel Publications for sending me a review copy.***


Laura Lee Groves is a high school teacher. The mother of four redheaded sons, she has written for Moody Magazine, Focus on the Family’s Focus on Your Child, and Coral Ridge Ministries.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Kregel Publications (July 2, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0825427398
ISBN-13: 978-0825427398


Great Expectations

You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.
With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall.
As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless.
He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.

2 Samuel 22:29–31

All moms all enter parenting with some preconceived notions. Most of us hope to have a mix of blue and pink in the household. We may have expectations for our child’s behavior or personality. We may be especially baffled by a little boy whose actions and reactions are so different from ours as a child. A valuable lesson for the mother of multiple boys is that expectations can be a trap. Expectations say, “I have this figured out. I know what will suit me, what I want, what is best for my life.” Check that verse again at the top of the chapter: “You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him.”

Scripture can help us through the trap of expectations, the snare of “I know best.” The prophet Samuel has some reminders for us:

• God is our lamp. He lights our way, no matter how large a flashlight we try to carry.

• God helps us advance against a troop and scale a wall. We can do it, but we don’t do it on our own.

• God’s way—not ours—is perfect. He gives us what we need, not what we expect or desire.

• If we hide in Him, He will be our shield. He will protect us.

He provides light, help, a shield, and refuge. And His way—not ours—is perfect.

Maybe You Were Expecting . . .

. . . a Girl!

Maybe you were expecting a girl the first time . . . or the second time . . . or . . . !

I know how it is. I had the “girl name” all picked out, too—four times. I haven’t given up hope, though. I’m hanging on to it for the first granddaughter. The first shattered expectation a boy mom often faces is that she’s outnumbered in this whole thing called family. With two boys and a husband in the picture, the opportunity for female companionship grows pale. Those little blue bundles tend to destroy the maternal expectations fraught with pink ribbons, lace, and tutus.

I tried to stave off those pink expectations the second time by preparing myself for another boy, figuring I’d be ready for the inevitable . . . but pleasantly surprised if a girl came along. That did help me prepare a bit. I’ve continued to repeat the mantra, “The Lord gives us what we need, and no more than we can handle” and I’ve read and reread 1 Corinthians 10:13: “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” But in the face of four boys in the house, I’ve been tempted to throw my hands up and shout, “I give up! I just don’t understand boys.” I’d grown up with one sibling, a sister, so my frame of reference didn’t exactly include this boy thing.

Many mothers face this same dilemma. Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson, in Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys, write that many women are challenged in mothering a son: “They feel they don’t understand boys, because they have never actually experienced the world as a boy or they have expectations about boys . . . which color the way they view their sons.”1 But we moms can’t afford not to bridge that gap and connect emotionally with our sons. In his landmark book, Bringing Up Boys, Dobson calls the disengagement of parents “the underlying problem plaguing children today.”2

Today’s mothers, though, face an additional challenge from our culture. James and Thomas write in Wild Things that it’s all too easy to “absorb cultural messages about ‘real masculinity’” and push your two- or three-year-old son away emotionally. But, they advise, “A boy needs a connection with his mother all the way through adolescence. Be sensitive about invading your son’s privacy, but separating from him prematurely will do him more harm than good.”3

Even though our blue bundles may seem like alien life forms to us, we still know that children are blessings and the Lord does give us what He wants us to have. We just have to figure out how to raise and nurture what He has given us. Although ultrasound was available to predict my first son’s gender, we decided to be surprised. We were thankful for a healthy child, though I did allow myself to think about the little girl who “might come next”—my first big mistake. But I settled in, with all my expectations and preconceived notions, to enjoy my firstborn. Babies are babies after all, and most moms learn to be happy and thankful for a healthy baby. In the beginning, though, you don’t know what you’re up against. Those little blue bundles differ greatly from the muddy ten-year-old boy with a frog in his pocket!

. . . or a Quiet, Calm Baby

The second set of expectations I dealt with related to my sense of peace, quiet, and motherhood. Perhaps the Lord was preparing me for the next twenty years, because the words peace and quiet usually don’t appear in the boy mom vocabulary. I never considered the possibility that Jonathan would be a colicky baby. In my research for this book, I found no statistics indicating that boys are more prone to colic than girls, but Susan Gilbert’s Field Guide to Boys and Girls does state that, as infants, girls as a group are more alert and more easily consoled. As infants, boys are more easily stressed. In other words, boy babies cry more often when upset and have a harder time calming down.4 Mothers of boys may be surprised at how much their sons need them.

It never crossed my mind that Jonathan would not be one of those “angel babies”—you know, one who sleeps all the time. Those expectations were shattered. Before long I discovered that he was, indeed, a colicky baby. I remember the afternoon I took him to the doctor and said, “He’s slept fifteen minutes today; that’s all. Something has to be wrong.” The doctor did a few tests and quizzed me, only to pronounce that Jonathan simply had an immature digestive system and most children grew out of it—by three months of age!

Suddenly I flashed back to a chance meeting with a mother and baby months ago. While shopping, I’d stopped to admire her beautiful baby. When I asked how old the baby was, mom replied, “Three months old, and not a day too soon.” Now I knew what she meant.

That first three months with Baby Boy #1 were the longest of my life. He was not at all the angel baby I’d expected. He cried so much, I told my husband, “I’m afraid he’s not going to be a happy child.” I could just see him frowning the rest of his life. I began to wonder if I could go through this with future babies. At one point, I held Jonathan up in front of my face and asked him, “Don’t you want brothers and sisters?”

The doctor told me I was fortunate because he slept at night and cried all day. What he failed to realize was that I had no help during the day. At night I had help in my husband, but I didn’t need it because little Jonathan was snoozing away. When my husband left for work in the morning, the wailing began. On some days I’d meet my husband at the door at five o’clock, thrust Jonathan into his arms, and go for a drive around the block or just take a walk.

Then I’d feel guilty! I had a healthy baby but I spent my time wishing away the hours with him because he just wouldn’t stop crying. I began to feel woefully inadequate as a mom. Think about it—Jonathan cried when he was alone with me but was an angel baby when Dad was there.

I knew other mothers who wouldn’t take their newborns to the church nursery until they were two or three months. Not me! I had to have a break. I knew the sweet lady there loved babies and had tons of experience, and I had no qualms about leaving him with her. When I asked her about the wisdom of leaving him when he was so fussy, she replied, “Well, honey, he’s gonna cry for you or cry for me. Might as well let him cry for me a few hours and give you a break.” Those were wise words—precious words to this mom! At least I didn’t need to feel guilty about missing church that first three months.

My expectations had crumbled so much, I couldn’t even listen to the stories of those moms who had twenty-four-hour angel babies. Such things just could not be true. Babies who ate and drifted off to sleep without a peep? Surely those mothers were lying. Things could not be so idyllic for them. They had no clue what life was like at our house. And how do you share that with friends? “My baby cries so much that I worry he’ll never be happy.” “I stand at the door at five o’clock and wait to pass him off to my hubby.”

I quickly came to the conclusion that the only person who could understand my life those first three months was someone who’d had a similar experience. For some reason, though, those moms don’t go around gushing about Early Life with Baby. That’s one reason I vowed to share those hard months with other new moms. Maybe that would make them either appreciate those golden hours with their angel baby or sympathize a bit with a friend whose expectations weren’t fulfilled.

If your expectations for motherhood include peace and quiet, keep those verses from 2 Samuel handy. You’ll need a shield and a refuge. Although Gilbert’s research sounds a bit daunting, remember her statement that boy babies, as a group, are easily stressed. That’s not to say that all boys are like boys as a group. But even if you have a quiet, placid little guy now, don’t hold too tightly to those expectations for peace and quiet. Babies grow, and toddlerhood ensues.

. . . That Boys Are Boys

My third big expectation was waiting to trip me up after we added another boy to the picture. When Jonathan hit two years old, we looked at him and said, “Oh, he’s not a baby anymore. We need a baby.” Several months later, we found we were expecting number two. It was an exciting period. Enough time had elapsed, and Jonathan had turned out to be such a charmer, the memories of colic had faded to oblivion. Besides, hey, we handled that—couldn’t we handle just about anything?

We decided against learning this baby’s gender; again, we wanted to be surprised. Yes, daddy did want a little princess, and I thought it would be so much fun to dress a little girl. And like most people, we thought, “A boy and girl would be nice,” even though we still intended to add to the family portrait. I tried to prepare myself for a boy. I figured that way I’d be pleasantly surprised if number two was a girl.

But as you already know, another boy it was. We named this one Matthew. He had the same characteristic fair skin and red hair as Jonathan, but the similarities to his brother as an infant ended there. Matthew was the angel baby. It was a whole new world. Now I knew that those other moms weren’t lying. Some babies really do eat and sleep and don’t cry much at all. That was Baby Boy #2.

I was also pleasantly surprised to learn that two children were, in some ways, easier than one. Baby Matthew had someone to watch, and Jonathan had an instant audience. This proved quite helpful. I could actually get farther than the mailbox before noon, which was unheard of with Boy #1. Of course, my standards for some things likely changed a bit, too. It’s incredible how much more quickly one can apply makeup when there’s a potential for chaos in the next room.

So far, so good, but the expectation snare was looming. By the time our second son came, we had weathered the terrible twos with the first one. We felt we’d hit upon a successful system of discipline for raising Groves boys. We had read all of Dr. Dobson’s books and watched all of his tapes, and I think we felt we had it all figured out. We thought, Oh, this is the way you handle that. We’ll do that with the second child, too. We knew how to handle rebellion with Boy #1; we’d just apply the same techniques to Boy #2. We expected that he’d react in the same way and all would be well.

We were in for a rude awakening. With Boy #2, we learned there is no magic formula. This wasn’t a quick and easy lesson. No, I had to learn it the hard way. Little did we realize that, though our reactions to disobedient behavior remained the same, this child was a different boy. His reactions to us and our discipline would be different. Aye, there’s the rub. What to do now?

Looking back, I wonder how I could have been so naïve. I’d taught public school for about nine years, had taught siblings in my classes, and I realized they wouldn’t all be the same. I’d taught exceptionally bright students and later their siblings who didn’t have the same abilities. But when it came to my own boys, who looked so much the same and were treated in the same way, I just expected their reactions to be the same as well.

There’s that word again—expected. Maybe part of the problem was a little bit of parental pride. After all, we’d hit upon a successful system and, by golly, it had worked with Boy #1. It was hard to accept that things didn’t work the same with Boy #2. A preschool teacher was instrumental in getting something through my thick maternal skull that I should have realized all along. She said to me, “God has made your sons this way on purpose. It’s not an accident. As parents, we have to thank God for the children He’s given us and ask Him to help us grow them up to be the adults He wants them to be.” It finally began to sink in that different is not worse. It just takes a little more work on Mom’s part.

That early lesson became so important later. With a houseful of kids of the same sex, the temptation to treat them all the same is great. After all, they’re boys. Discovering their differences—their own individual bent—helped me mother them more effectively. You’ll read more about that process in chapter 3, “Intentional Parenting.”

The Expectation Trap

No matter what our expectations, our infant sons manage to surprise us. Here are some common elements of the expectation trap. Watch out for them!

• Regularity. We may expect regular sleeping and eating times from our infant sons. Some babies seem to be born on a schedule while others defy it. Then there are babies who keep to a schedule for two days—just enough to fool you into thinking you have it all figured out.

• Activity. It takes a while to figure out your son’s activity level, and that can change with age. Gilbert notes that after the age of one, boys spend more time “on the move” than girls do.5 Although most boys are a bundle of energy, not all are. If you’re open to change as you determine your son’s activity level, you’ll be able to decide how best to structure his active times and sleeping times.

• Passion. Some might call this intensity. This is often hard to gauge from an infant, but some little boys seem able to concentrate on one thing, and that ability follows them throughout life. Others are easily distracted. Again, this differs with age, so don’t label your son at three months.

• Responsiveness. Some infants respond overtly to stimuli, but others are more easygoing. Some boys get more “amped up” in a crowd, while others seem to get wound up in a quiet environment. Be sensitive to your son’s responses to different settings.

• Temperament. If I had gauged my colicky firstborn by his first three months, I would have believed that he would never smile. He’s such a people person today! Don’t fall into the trap of labeling your son’s temperament or expecting him to turn out one way or another.

So how do we avoid these traps?

Trust Helps Trump Expectations

I’m convinced the answer to the expectation trap lies in trust. If we truly trust the Lord, we know His way is perfect even when we can’t see why or how. I couldn’t have imagined why He would give me a colicky son, but I had to trust that the Lord knew what He was doing. I’ve wondered—at tough times—why He gave me four sons. Why not just one little girl to take to all those mother-daughter outings I’ve had to sit out?

But I’ve learned I have to let Him be my “refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). Trusting in Him means staying close to Him. With a houseful of boys, my home did not exactly resemble an ivy-covered chapel. Quiet time was rare, and reading Scripture could be challenging. Here are some ways I discovered that can help you look up instead of in, even in a house hopping with boys:

• Try listening to praise music or hymns—that’s great for you and the boys.

• Socialization helps, too. When you isolate yourself, you tend to turn inward and focus on your own problems. Get out and take those boys. Take a trip to the library or the park, and enjoy God’s creation together.

• Try to get out alone once in a while, even for an hour or two. Call a friend and indulge in some girl talk, e-mail someone supportive. Don’t miss opportunities to worship.

Remember, expectations blind us to our blessings. It took me a couple more boys to learn that.

Discarding Expectations

As Boys #3 and #4 came along, I became convinced that expectations were, indeed, a trap. I didn’t shed them without struggle, but they had to go. Our third son, Andrew, was due on New Year’s Day, but he decided to make his debut on, of all days, Christmas Eve. I had the holiday all planned, and I didn’t expect this. I remember my tearful words before we left for the hospital: “I really didn’t want to have a Christmas baby,” to which my husband nervously answered, “Honey, I don’t think we have much choice here, so let’s just go.” Then three years later our fourth son, Benjamin, made an unexpected and dramatic debut via C-section—after I’d had natural deliveries with the first three. That really upset my apple cart, but this time it was my mother’s wise words that helped me pitch my expectations. She said, “Honey, you’re just paying a few extra weeks of recovery in return for a healthy boy.”

Discarding expectations allowed me to grow beyond my own fixed ideas and see what God, in His wisdom, had for me. In the raising of our four sons, I’ve discarded expectations time and again. Our first son was quite compliant to authority, a preschool dream. Matthew, on the other hand, had a bit more stubborn nature. Imagine my dismay when I arrived to pick Matthew up from preschool one day. He’d been playing in a big box, and the teacher had called him to Circle Time several times. The last time she encouraged him to do the right thing by saying, “We need to choose to obey.” Matthew calmly and matter-of-factly replied, “I choose to disobey.” I was appalled, certain that he’d be a juvenile delinquent—then his principal reminded me that stubbornness isn’t always a bad quality. She added, though, that we must teach our children to be stubborn for the right things, a lesson that has served me well as my boys have grown.

Discarding expectations is hard, but it results in growth for our sons, for us as moms, and for our relationships with our sons. Our boys need to know that even if much in the rest of their lives is performance-based, our love isn’t. We love them because they are ours and they were crafted by the Father and given to us as gifts. As we endeavor to raise our boys to be godly men, we need them to see their uniqueness and their potential. If they’re taught to be cookie-cutter boys who fit neatly within Mom’s expectations, they’ll never find out who they really are and what God’s unique purpose for them is.

Beyond My Expectations

As the boys grew and multiplied, so did the noise and the activity—beyond my expectations. Unless you had brothers, you don’t really expect the racket, the constant motion, the physicality that comes with a combination of boys. And even if you did grow up around brothers, you likely weren’t in charge of them. But noise and activity come with the territory, so one of a boy mom’s first lessons is to relinquish those expectations and free ourselves to look at life from a different perspective—a boy’s perspective. What if . . . I could climb from the top of that tree to the roof of the house? What if . . . I buried ants in mud; would they suffocate? What if . . . I could slice a banana with the ceiling fan?

Most boys will not only ask these questions, they’ll experiment to see if they can answer them. In Wild Things, James and Thomas discuss the differences between the mind of a boy and the mind of a girl. They note that on the whole, boys tend to be

• spatial instead of relational. They understand the lay of the land, for example, and how things are connected.

• aware of objects instead of faces. They’re more attracted to objects than they are to people.

• action-oriented instead of process-oriented. They’re oriented to movement rather than to emotions.

You see the differences. Moms relate to faces and emotions; our boys generally relate to things and movement. Armed with this understanding, it may be a little easier to determine why that little boy did what he did. At the very least, being aware of the general differences can make a mom aware that she needs to step back and assess her son through different eyes.

Chaos, Creativity, and Control

My best description of a household of multiple boys would be this: controlled chaos and creativity. Boys do have to be allowed to explore, to try the boundaries, to create—but with controls. All children need creative outlets, but with a boy’s penchant for movement and his innate desire to figure out the process (What makes that toaster glow?), controls are imperative. I’m not saying that chaos is preferred or necessary; it’s simply a foregone conclusion with multiple boys. Perhaps chaos isn’t exactly the right word. Maybe the word upheaval is more accurate. Upheaval can indicate anything from change to explosion . . . and both are likely in a household of boys. Upheaval and change are unsettling words for most moms. We prefer predictable and manageable.

Boys can be very manageable if you sit them in front of the mesmerizing television all day. But eventually you have to turn it off—and then you pay for it . . . at bed time and later in life. Boys need to be able to entertain themselves safely, and they need to exercise creativity to do that. Provide them with toys that will foster creativity:

• Manipulative toys. Your first purchase for your sons should be blocks. Boys need tactile toys, and they love things they can take apart and sometimes even put back together. Toys that teach cause and effect are important—turn this, and that pops out; push this, and something else happens. Remember, they’re process-oriented and love movement.

• Books. Don’t wait until your boys can read to provide books. Start them with cloth and plastic books when they’re infants. Look for books with pull tabs and doors that open, or books shaped like trucks with wheels. Try to appeal to what boys innately adore in a creative, interactive way. Reading is a challenge for many boys later, so use these early years to engender a love for books and stories.

What about control? Some moms do more controlling than anything else. If you’re guilty of that, you may need to sit back, sit on your hands if necessary, and let your boy try it on his own. You should be present, however, even if you seem to be in the background. Even though my sons are pretty much grown up, I still put on my makeup at the mirror in the front hall. That started when there were two boys in the den; I could keep an eye and ear on them more easily from that vantage point. When we looked for a house, we simply planned for the family room to be for the boys, and I wanted an adjoining kitchen. I figured I would be spending most of my time in the kitchen, and I could be there while keeping an eye on the boys. You’re the mom, and some control is obviously necessary.

Creativity can be messy, though—I won’t deny that. But keeping boys occupied and productive is worth the mess, at least temporarily. That’s why I suggest you keep a few things around for the boys:

• String

• Sticks

• Boxes

• An “art box” full of markers, stickers, paints, and so forth

You have to be careful, of course, and age-appropriate with these things. If you happen to have a boys-plus household, your girls will enjoy creating as well. Whether they work together or on separate projects, a creative outlet will be good for sons as well as daughters.

My boys still remember some of the masterpieces they crafted from such materials—boxes taped together to build a robot, string used as an imaginary dog (or lion) leash, sticks laid end to end and parallel to form a highway . . . and they all tell the story of the huge appliance box that served as a fort, a pirate ship, a skyscraper. The day it fell apart in the rain was perhaps the most fun, as they slid down a hill on the leftover pieces.

A Healthy Expectation

Although expectations can be a trap, there is one expectation you should hold on to. This is an essential piece of advice for the mothers of multiple boys. Greet each new day with the expectation that it will be a wild ride. Then you’ll be ready for anything! If for some reason things are calm at day’s end, you’ll simply be pleasantly surprised.

Monday, October 11, 2010

PFTC Event - French Style *Review & Giveaway*

Cold fingers...I hate them. If my hands or feet are cold, my whole body is cold. I never seem to find a pair of mittens or gloves that are not only functional, but cute too. A lot of the really cute ones are too thin and don't keep my hands warm. What's the point of that? I'm happy to say I found the perfect mittens at a great little Etsy shop called French Style.

These mittens are based on the ones that Bella wore in Twilight. While I've never seen the movies, so that doesn't really excite me, the style of them does. They are so cute! I was so excited when I got them and tried them on. They look so cute with my winter coat and are nice and warm without being bulky. The best part is how long they are, so there isn't that gap when your coat sleeve moves. No more cold wrists! The yarn is very soft too. I'm excited to wear them this winter because I know they'll do what I need them to do while looking cute at the same time!

That's not all French Style has to offer though. Look at these other great pieces...

Aren't those baby booties just too darn cute?! Wouldn't they make a great gift for someone who just had a baby? Wouldn't her mittens make great gifts too?

Well, one of my lucky readers will win a pair of the Bella Mittens like I received in your choice of color (see picture below) or a pair of her fingerless mittens. See below for how to gain entries...


This contest will be open until 11:59 PM on October 18th. At that time I will use to determine the winner. The winner will then be emailed and have 24 hours to respond, otherwise I will choose a new winner. This contest is open to U.S. residents.


MANDATORY ENTRY: Go to French Style and tell me another product you would like. (1 entry)

Extra Entries:

Follow my blog (publicly via google friend connect, located on the top sidebar) - You can use this as an entry whether you are a new follower or a current follower. (1 entry)

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"Like" my Facebook page, located on the right sidebar. (1 entry)

Place my Finally Finding Me button on your blog and leave me a comment saying you did. The button is found on the right sidebar of my blog.
(1 entry)

Blog about this giveaway with a link to my blog and leave me the link to your post. (1 entry)

That's 7 chances to win! Good luck!

Disclosure: I received these products for free for review purposes. My opinions expressed in this review were honest and genuine and I was in no way persuaded by the company involved.