Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Bridget Birthday Letter - 2 Years Old

Dear Bridget -

You are TWO years old! What a joy you are! You are super cute on the outside and inside. I just LOVE this age! You love to play - either by yourself, with Lucy, or with friends. You are starting to become a kid in the fact that you like to do as many things as possible by yourself, but you still retain some "babyish" things, like the fact that you can't run very well (not nearly as fast as Lucy), and you fall a lot (you aren't quite as stable on your feet). You are SUCH a talker! You have been talking to us in complete sentences for awhile now, I think you started a few months before turning 2. You always have lots of thoughts and love to communicate with any and everyone. You are very sweet and get along easily with pretty much everyone. You are very enthusiastic about life and are our little cheerleader. I've told multiple people recently that you are the most encouraging member of our family, you are constantly saying "Thanks Mom" "Thanks Dad" or "Good Job!" to us - lol. By the way, I can't figure out why you call us Mom and Dad even though we refer to ourselves as Mommy and Daddy.
 

 

Although you are very sweet and kind - you are NOT a pushover. Whenever things aren't going your way, you like to let out a scream to let us know you aren't happy - this normally occurs when you and Lucy are playing together and Mom and Dad aren't in the room. We are trying to teach you to not be a drama queen - and to use words instead of screams to get your point across.

The last two months have been very eventful around here. We have had almost constant visitors - mainly family who have visited us after Josiah was born about 6 weeks ago. You have really enjoyed playing with all of our guests. Since we were pretty much "homebound" with newborn Josiah, I decided that it was a great time to potty train you. You had seemed ready for awhile, but I did NOT feel up to it in the last trimester of pregnancy. Well, turns out you WERE ready, and you have been doing AWESOME! I love how excited you get when you go in the potty. You love to cheer yourself on. You also love the rewards you get - you never forget to remind us to give you your jellybean.






Some more facts about you at 2:
  • You didn't have much hair on your first birthday at all, but now you have a full head of dirty blonde curls! I never thought I would ever have a "blondie" for a child - but it sure is adorable! 
  • I feel like overall you are growing up "faster" than Lucy because you want to keep up with her so badly. You truly believe that you are capable of anything she does and it really upsets you when you try to do something you see that she does but can't do - today it was climbing up a giant toy frog at the mall playground. You saw Lucy do it a certain way, and could not accept the fact that you couldn't mimic her! 
  • You moved out of your crib and into your big girl bed (the bottom bunk) a few weeks before turning 2 I think. You did awesome with it from the first night. The first week or so, you and Lucy would talk and sing together while going to sleep. Now, Lucy goes to bed earlier (around 7:30) than you since she doesn't nap/sleep doing the day. So by the time you go to bed (around 8:30), we just whisper a prayer, you get a sip of water, and as long as you have some of your bears with you, you are good to go. By the way - you are still obsessesed with your white polar bear stuffed animal. You sleep/cuddle with it, and also play with it all day. 
 


  • You are a good sleeper at friends houses and when we travel now too. I don't take this for granted! 
  • You wake up around 7:30, we take you potty, and you and Lucy normally watch a show on the couch together before breakfast. Your favorite show now is Daniel Tiger. But you are pretty happy to watch the shows Lucy picks too, although they sometimes don't keep your interest as long. 
  • You like trying to dress yourself - but still need help with that. You can wash your hands by yourself, as long as I turn on the water for you. 
  • You love riding bikes outside. Your bike is the pink plasma car. You can really book it on that thing and can almost go as fast as Lucy on her regular bike. 
  • You also love the pink Barbie car that Gigi and Pops got you for your birthday. You are content to be the passenger and you press the music buttons while Lucy drives. You can't reach the pedals yet....otherwise, I'm not sure you'd be okay with this set up. 

  • You have started to like art projects a little more. Coloring doesn't hold your attention more than 5 minutes and you normally start coloring on yourself or something else that you shouldn't. However, you do really like gluing and cutting construction paper. 
  • You love playing outside on the back deck. This is a frequent activity recently with a newborn in the house. 
  • You also love the swimming pool - another quite frequent activity. After about 1-2 pool visits, you got comfortable keeping balanced "swimming" with your puddle jumper. You also like to jump in, although you don't let your head go under water yet. 
  • You love Gigi and Pops' boat and talk about it all the time :) 
  • You love your baby brother. I haven't seen any jealousy at all! You even literally tell me a few times a week "I love my baby brother Josiah mom." 
  • You and Lucy spend a LOT of time playing together. You have a love/hate relationship. Sometimes you play GREAT. Then other times it seems like it is impossible to have a peaceable 5 minutes with the two of you in the same room! The games you like to play together include Mommy (Lucy) and Baby (Bridget) and sometimes/rarely it's Mommy (Bridget) and Baby (Lucy). You are pretty believable as the baby, and make crying noises and crawl around the house. The two of you also like to pretend you are driving somewhere. 

  • You are a pretty good eater. You aren't picky at all, and eat a pretty good quantity of food most of the time. We went through a few months, where dinner time was a battle and you were in tears almost every evening. The battle was mainly over you not wanting to eat the bites we required for you to get a dessert - especially when Lucy had already "earned" her dessert. Things seem to have gotten better. 
  • You are EXTREMELY messy! Ever since we started you on baby food, you have always managed to get your food everywhere! To this day, you get food all over your body, under your bib, on and UNDER your booster seat, and all over the floor! 
  • My favorite thing you say is "I love you too" - you always add the "too" at the end <3 li="">
I'm so thankful for you Bridget! You will always be my baby girl! I love you so much!

Love, Mom

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Josiah's Birth Story

Last Tuesday, we welcomed Josiah Daniel Baareman to our family! He surprised us all, coming at 37 weeks and 5 days. Since Lucy and Bridget were both born at 39 weeks exactly, I thought he would come around the same time, so I hadn't even packed our hospital bags yet! I feel incredibly blessed to be a mother to not just two sweet girls, but now a sweet boy as well. I absolutely don't deserve any of it, and give God all the glory for this miracle of life.


Towards the end of this pregnancy, I was going 100 mph trying to do as many fun things with Lucy and Bridget as possible, since I knew our freedom was about to come to a screeching halt. In the week before Josiah was born we went to the zoo, to the pool many times, to swim lessons almost every day, etc. We had also hosted a few out of town guests. The day he was born, my sister Summer was in town. That morning we had all gone to Lucy's back-to-back swim lessons (one was a make-up), and also swam at the Y with friends afterward. Looking back I didn't "feel" like staying and swimming but decided to do it anyways so Lucy, Bridget, and Summer could have fun. I had been feeling pretty uncomfortable during the last few weeks or so but had figured that was all just part of the end of pregnancy. We got home, I made lunch for the kids, and helped Summer find all the ingredients she needed to make turkey meatballs (she was planning on cooking for us that evening).

While I was doing the dishes, I started to not feel very good and took some Tylenol - which was rare for me. Then, after all three kids started taking their nap, I started to work a little bit on a side website project I was doing. Pretty soon after I started working, around 2:30 - I felt my first contraction. I have never had contractions during pregnancy with any of my kids. From the first contraction - it has always led to a baby being born in the next 24 hours. Still, I thought that I was only 37 weeks - this couldn't be the real deal yet. Then, I realized that if it WAS the real deal, I had to get my work project finished! I started working as quickly as possible while timing my contractions. Looking back, I had about 1:00 - 1:30 hours of manageable contractions where I was timing, but still able to work on my computer. But by the time the kids were getting up from rest - 4:00 - they were definitely coming more quickly and were feeling more intense. It was at this point that I texted Jason, and my mom and sister to tell them that I thought I was in labor. Jason wasn't by his cell phone, but my mom and sister called me almost right away to figure out if they needed to start driving to Augusta. Throughout these phone conversations, and figuring out logistics, I also talked to my neighbor Liz who watched the girls for me that night. Even while on the phone I was having to pause and deal with the contractions without talking. Finally, Jason called me and told me he would be leaving work soon and asked if he could finish up his notes - which would take about 10 minutes. I said "Sure" since I realized I STILL had to pack both my bags, plus stuff for the girls and Jason! Meanwhile, Summer watched the girls for me after I turned on the movie "Tangled" that we had started a few nights before. By the time Jason got home, the contractions were really bad. I could barely pack even between contractions, so in the end, my packing job was pretty poor - haha. I did manage to get a pile of the girls clothing on the dining room table for Liz to pick up, and Jason quickly got the car seats out of the car for Liz in case she needed them. We left around 5:00 pm for the hospital. Summer watched Lucy and Bridget from about 5:00 - 6:15 when Liz picked all three of them up for dinner and hanging out at her house.

I had a fair amount of contractions in the car - and the drive was longer than our previous drives to Doctor's Hospital for Lucy and Bridget. Then, once we got to the hospital, we couldn't find the right place to park so Jason dropped me off in the lobby, and parked while I tried to figure out where to go. The website had said that Labor and Delivery was on the 7th floor, but when I hobbled over in between contractions to look at the elevator - it only went to the 5th floor! I was pretty annoyed that I was lost and couldn't figure out where to go WHILE in labor! Quite an inconvenience! I asked a nurse for directions around the time Jason got there and we found out we had to go to the 2nd floor, walk across the hospital a ways, then go up a different elevator to get to the maternity area. That walk was long and painful for me and I had to stop multiple times to deal with contractions. The first elevator that we came to was only for medical personnel!!!!! More walking, then FINALLY we found the proper elevator and made it to labor and delivery. Of course, the front desk told us that all the rooms were full, then another lady in a wheelchair who was 38 weeks along came up right behind me. I was REALLY hoping in that moment that they would find a room QUICKLY for me, and that I would get placed before the other lady, even though she was further along than me - since I was experiencing contractions and it didn't seem like she was. To my relief, they got me placed within about 5 minutes in a room that they normally used for OB surgeries. It was a really large room with two beds and a large window. It was weird for me (and Jason) that I was in labor during the day - since with Lucy and Bridget this phase all happened in the middle of the night.

The staff did a great job at getting me taken care of quickly. From the moment I was placed in the room until he was born, there was probably at least one person helping us out with something. First, it was getting my IV in and getting blood work done to qualify me for an epidural. They botched my first IV (and I still have a bruise from it), and had to try again on the other arm. The OB resident came in and checked me - which was pretty painful - although not as painful as the contractions were at that point. She shocked us all when she told us I was 7 cm dilated! When I told them that I DEFINITELY wanted an epidural, the resident told me that he was going to try and expedite things and give me one without the labs coming back since I had no health problems and a problem-free pregnancy. However, after he checked with his boss, that was a no-go and I had to endure another hour or so of EXTREMELY painful contractions. I was sitting up in the bed to endure them and would just count to 10 or 15 in my head while breathing in and out really strongly. I was doing so much huffing and puffing that my mouth was extremely dry but I couldn't drink anything. :(

It was during this point of contractions coming pretty close together and lasting a long time that I realized I might have to have the baby without an epidural! My greatest fear! I just couldn't imagine having a long enough break between contractions for my body to relax enough to be still enough to get the epidural in safely. I prayed and prayed and prayed that God would allow me to get some pain medicine in me before the baby was born. I was so scared but started quoting "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," in my head over and over. Jason also tried to prep me for having the baby naturally but I didn't really want to hear that news from him - lol. I just told him to pray that I would get the meds in time!

FINALLY, the anesthesiologist arrived with the news that I was cleared to get an epidural. Then, it seemed to take forever for him to get "prepped." I went through many more contractions while he was getting ready. I kept wondering how many more I'd have to go through before getting relief. When it was finally time, my nurse helped me hunch my back over (like a cat), and my prayers were answered. I had a really long break between two contractions that allowed him to get the epidural in just fine! I was so relieved! It took about 4-5 more sets of contractions before I couldn't feel them much anymore. Then, in no time, my OB was there, checked me, told me I was complete and asked if I was ready to have the baby! This was my first time that I was given the little button that I could push to get more pain medicine, so I pressed the button a lot right before he was born - haha.

We did a practice push and she said he almost was out! I pushed one or two times with virtually no pain and he was born! I couldn't believe that it was possible to have a baby with that little pain during the moment of birth! I guess I had paid my dues with all of those contractions! As soon as he was born they wiped him off a bit and handed him to me. It was an AMAZING moment as they handed me a beautiful, healthy, completely perfect baby BOY! The miracle of life gets me every time. Psalm 139:14 has been repeating in my head ever since he was born as I inspect his tiny body, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." God is a master artist - I have had the privilege of playing a role in bringing three of his beautiful creations into the world. I feel unworthy of that privilege, but oh so thankful.

Josiah Daniel Baareman 
June 7, 2016 - 7:49 pm 
8 lbs. 6 oz., 20 3/4 inches 

My parents got to the hospital about 30 minutes before he was born. They had been about to spend the day/night at Reynold's Plantation when they found out I was in labor. They left when they didn't hear from us and assumed he was coming quickly. My sister got there about 10-15 minutes after he was born - she had to drive further - from Atlanta. I'm so glad they were all there to meet him. 

My recovery has been pretty good overall. The only weird thing that happened is they forgot to turn off the epidural, so I had numb legs for about 2 hours after he was born, until I realized something was wrong and they turned it off! Then, the numbness took a really long time to wear off. Especially in my right leg. I didn't regain feeling in that one until about 4:00 am the next morning! So I had to have help doing almost everything. 

Since his birth, Josiah has proved to be very very sweet. He whimpers when he is hungry, then if he has to wait more than a minute or so, he starts crying. He is a really good eater and I've never had too much trouble getting him to stay awake for feedings. He lost a fair amount of weight in the hospital (went down to 7 lbs. 7 oz.), so we almost weren't able to go home on Thursday. But the pediatrician decided to let us go since I had a history of breastfeeding. We just had to have a weight check on Friday (then he was 8 lbs. 3 oz). He had another weight check the following Friday and he was up to 8 lbs. 13 oz. 

The girls were SUPER excited to meet him when they came to the hospital with Jason on Wednesday. It was my first introduction to how life was going to be with two hyper/energetic toddlers and a sleepy/peaceful newborn. They have been really sweet with him and I haven't seen any jealousy. We have just had to set a lot of ground rules for Josiah's safety. 



I'm so thankful I get to be this sweet boy's mom. I am LOVING all the baby snuggles.  Thank you Lord for this precious gift! 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

2015 Reflections Video

Each year Jason makes goes through all of our family videos and photos, and picks out the best ones to make a Reflections Video. Hope you enjoy!

Christmas Letter 2015


It’s that time of year when we celebrate the birth of our wonderful Lord and Savior, Jesus and to reflect on the events of the past year.  He has truly been our Prince of Peace in a year filled with changes.

2015 was a very eventual year for us. In March we decided to list our house For Sale by Owner! This was quite the undertaking. First we rented a storage unit and filled it with all of our non-necessities to free up space. Most of April was spent keeping the house as clean as possible for (sometimes last minute) home showings. De-cluttering the house with two kids at home was quite the task! It normally included Lucy playing by herself in her room and Bridget playing with toys in a pack n play while I frantically ran around the house picking up toys and spraying windex and air freshener! We would then vacate and go play at a park until I got the call from the Realtor that the coast was clear! We were SO thankful when we got an offer about 2 weeks in. Our tasks then changed to paperwork and finding a new house! This was the fun part for me. We found the perfect home only about 2 miles away. It was unoccupied so we bought it early so we could do some quick renovations during the two weeks before we moved in. Of course, this time of renovations and owning two homes at once overlapped our highly anticipated yearly beach trip to Hilton Head with my family. There was no way we were going to back out of that, so I just went prepared to answer renovation questions from the beach!

This year was the year of going to the beach! We visited Destin, FL with Jason's family in late September and had a wonderful time. The weather was absolutely perfect! The girls spent most of their time making sand castles and playing in the pool. Me and the girls returned to Hilton Head in October with some of my family and it was amazing to see how much Bridget in particular had grown just in the 4 months that had passed since she first experienced the beach in May. Whereas her first trip she mainly just stuck her toes in and was wobbly on her feet, she was practically running through the waves in October!

I continue to stay at home full time with Lucy (3 1/2) and Bridget (1 1/2). I am learning to embrace this role and my days are full of tasks such as: feeding, dressing, and bathing the girls, doing art projects with the girls, doing homeschool activities with Lucy, breaking up sibling fights, etc. You can see who my life seems to revolve around... :) I have really enjoyed time getting to know my mom friends better during play dates and other get togethers. This season of my life has also given me time to cook more and learn about Christ-centered parenting, home-life, and activities to keep young children occupied. I have always hoped and prayed that I would get to be a wife and mom and the Lord has granted that desire! I count it as a true privilege to be the one who wakes my kids up every morning, plays with them at home, and gets to be there during the sweet sleep "post-nap" time.

Jason still enjoys his choice of profession as a Physical Therapist. He enjoys connecting with and building relationships with many of his patients. He has even had the opportunity to share the hope of Christ with some of them! This summer he changed jobs and now works with GRU (Georgia Regents University) Health. He has enjoyed getting to know his new co-workers and is thankful for the opportunity to continue to learn and grow as a therapist. One of Jason's passions is helping to lead and teach our Young Marrieds Life Group at Warren Baptist Church. With this group of people we have been able to work together on various ministry opportunities. One was building a well in India through the Never Thirst organization, and another opportunity was assembling care packages for a homeless ministry. Jason is a great dad and enjoys playing with the kids as soon as he comes home from work. In his (pretty limited) spare time, he loves reading and planning firework shows - the most recent "show" was for New Years Eve!

Lucy is full of personality and more talkative than ever! She amazes us with the things she talks about and remembers. She has entered the "Why" stage and her questions definitely keep us on our toes. Her favorite movie is Frozen, and it seems about half of her toys are related to the main characters Anna and Elsa. She loves arts and crafts, coloring, and helping Mommy cook. She enjoys being a big sister but still can't quite grasp the fact that Bridget is younger than her and may not play with toys in the same way as she may want her to. Although they find many things to fight about, they also play together well a lot of the time. Their favorite games include hide and go seek, playing with their babies and strollers, and making forts. She is a true joy to have in our family.

Bridget has been such a fun addition to our family. She has really mastered walking and is now really into climbing, exploring all areas of the house, and even running. She is always attempting to do everything she sees her big sister Lucy doing. She sees no reason why she can't successfully do everything Lucy does. Her favorite activities include playing outside, swinging, taking baths, brushing her teeth, puzzles, and coloring with Lucy. Recently she has started to rapidly add words to her vocabulary. It seems I hear her say 1-2 new words every day! Even though she is almost as big as Lucy, Bridget is still my baby and I enjoy cuddling with her every time she lets me. However, she won't be the baby for long, as we are expecting a third bundle of joy in June 2016!!!!!

Every Christmas I am reminded of the enormous gift of the tiny baby Jesus, born in the stable so many years ago. Because he humbled himself to birth, life, and death as a human, I have been given the incomprehensible gift of a relationship with Him in this life, and the promise of eternal life after death. I depend on this relationship every day as I'm dealing with my worries, struggles, and temptations. I'm so thankful that the God of the universe is just a prayer away and is sovereign over my life. I hope that you also know the hope that is found in Jesus Christ and that you understand the amazing love he has for you.

Check out our 2015 Family Video here.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. - 1 John 4:9-11

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Year End Book Review 2015



For those of you who read this blog post every year...you know the drill.  For those of you who are reading it for the first time, well it's pretty simple.  I read some books over the course of the year.  And then I provide a brief review so you can decide if you would like to read them. Let's get down to business.

Benjamin Rush by David Barton - No, this is not a book about a dude who ages backwards.  This book is actually a very well written biography of one of the foremost founding fathers of this country and it is written by a fantastic American historian in David Barton.  I have recently really desired to read about our nation's founders from their own writings, letters, and other publications because I don't think textbooks give you a real picture of who these men were.  I had only heard about Benjamin Rush because of some prior David Barton information that I had read.  But truthfully, after reading this book, he is probably one of the most influential and important founders.  This man was the catalyst behind Thomas Paine's pamphlet "Common Sense."  He served both as signer of the Declaration of Independence and later as as signer of the Constitution.  David Barton writes this book in categories ranging from Benjamin Rush's thoughts on education, religion, politics, medicine, etc. So each chapter is dedicated to that topic and includes many letters, essays, and other publications of Benjamin Rush himself.  He is a prolific founder with a deep love of God and timeless wisdom.  In addition, I appreciated this book because Benjamin Rush was also a physician and is considered the father of American medicine.  It's a fantastic book and this man has become somewhat of a role model in my life in how he conducted his faith, life, family, and medical practice.

Kingdom Man by Tony Evans - This book was actually not on my preliminary reading list but the men in my life group wanted to get together and read it so I joined in.  It was a good book.  Tony Evans (who shamefully I didn't really know about) has an easy readability and he uses many analogies and metaphors to drive home his points.  Basically, his focus of the book is for Christian men to step up and be who God created us to be - leaders, providers, societal changers through the power of the Gospel in our lives, marriages, families, and work places.  He provides many fascinating statistics on men in society and the importance of fathers in the home all with the challenge to lean in to Christ and, by His power, fulfill what God has called us to be and to do.  As I said before, it is a good book with a great point and challenge but my one critique would be it becomes a little repetitious in thought and principle.  Nonetheless, one would walk away with renewed energy to man up!

Knowing God by J.I. Packer - This is a gem.  This book was for me this year as George Muller's Autobiography was last year.  I read a short book by J.I. Packer last year and loved it.  This is probably his most well known and most prolific writing and it doesn't disappoint.  On the outset this book is for believers and the author's aim is to again capture who God is as he is revealed in the Bible.  It is a great comfort and provides incredible clarity to any believer.  Basically each chapter explores an attribute or doctrine of God from God's grace to His love, to His wrath, to His judgement.  No aspect is left untouched and Mr. Packer does an exceptional job of linking everything to give you a grand and complete picture of our God.  I listened to this as an audio book and several times driving down the road I was almost in tears worshiping God.  Clearly, worship is not about creating an experience or a certain music style.  It is simply marveling at who God is and what he has done for me and you. But that is a discussion for another time.  The entire book is most excellent but my favorite chapters were those on God's love which was immediately followed by God's wrath.  The juxtaposition of what His loved saved us out of is verbally painted in a magnificent fashion.  I also really really liked the chapter on our adoption.  You need to read this book.  It should almost be mandatory for every believer and I hope to read it every few years to be continually reminded by one of the greatest theologians of our day, just how awesome is our God.

Counter Culture by David Platt - I love me some David Platt.  His passion and zeal for God's glory and God's kingdom is contagious and it flows out of this book as well.  Essentially, the author makes the claim that in a culture focused on justice and social justice Christians sometimes focus on one, say global poverty, and turn a blind eye to another, say sex slavery.  Mr. Platt argues that that mentality, to care about what is en vogue, cannot be true of believers because the Gospel impacts all areas sin and injustice.  With that foundation laid, you will read through ten chapters each dealing with a major crisis issue within the world and within our cultural context.  David Platt expertly, poignantly, and yet lovingly threads how the good news of Christ not only can free someone from an injustice but also explains how the Gospel impacts our personal hearts and lives to make a difference.  This is a fantastic book and quite honestly a challenging book because it forces you to be practical and begin to ask how can I begin to make a difference by advancing the Gospel message.  I mentioned it was practical.  It's very practical.  He includes at the end of each chapter agencies and ministries that you can partner with that are carrying out work in each of the areas described which ranges from abortion, to race relations, to poverty, to sex slavery etc...yeah, all in one book.  This book packs a wake up punch that we all need and I highly recommend it.

Adoniram Judson: A Bicentennial Appreciation of the Pioneer American Missionary by Jason Duesing - That was a mouthful.  It's a long title but basically it's a biography of Adoniram Judson.  It's interesting how I came across this book because I probably never would have read this book.  But originally in the early part of this year I was scheduled to go with a medical mission team to the country of Myanmar through an organization called the Christian Medical/Dental Association (CMDA).  It's a great organization and yes, the have a physical therapy wing.  But as I was going through the process the team leader wanted us to read a biography of this guy named Adoniram Judson.  Low and behold the next day (I don't think it was chance at all) there is a Kindle deal for this book for .99 cents so I buy it and read it.  And I am really glad I did.  I learned so much about not only Mr. Judson but also William Carey, who is considered the father of modern mission.  I learned about the early mission agencies in America and the ties to English mission agencies, which was all happening around the time of the American revolution.  I learned about the theology of America's most prolific early missionary in Adoniram Judson and how great Puritans like Jonathan Edwards impacted him.  I learned about the sacrifices, hardships, setbacks, and near failures that this man went through to bring the gospel to the people of Burma, or modern day Myanmar.  Mr. Judson is an inspiring figure, but also very real as he suffered through some dark depression on the field and went through hell on earth losing multiple spouses and many children all to advance the Kingdom of God.  I ended up not being able to go on the trip due to changes in my family life but I was truly informed and inspired by Adoniram's life.  Hopefully, I will be able to go with the team in the future.

Prayer by Tim Keller - I loved this book.  I really like Timmy-K in general but I really appreciated this book.  I think if we are honest we all would admit that our prayer lives are lacking.  Maybe in consistency, maybe in depth, maybe in focus.  It just seems that something so vitally important seems to be so elusive in our daily lives.  And Tim addresses that in this book.  He explores the theology of prayer, the necessity of prayer, and ultimately the supreme importance of prayer.  He does this by drawing from some great teaches of the past including Jesus with the model prayer, St. Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Calvin.  But what I really appreciated are his honest struggles with prayer and his exploration and study of prayer to improve his own prayer life.  Mr. Keller includes prayer examples and even prayer plans in the indexes of the book.  This book challenged my prayer life but it also renewed and re-energized my prayer life.  I would highly recommend this book to read in the coming year.

Luther on the Christian Life: Cross and Freedom by Carl Trueman - This was a fascinating book.  It was not necessarily what I expected but it did not disappoint. This book was really an application of Luther's theological mind to different areas of the christian life.  The author focused mainly on church life and teaching.  In the beginning of the book you learn briefly about Martin Luther from one of the leading Luther scholars in Carl Trueman, but he is quick to point out that this book is not a biography but an exploration of Luther's theology applied to the life of a believer within the medieval worldview lens of Luther.  The meat of the book boils down to Luther's view of people either as theologians of glory (man centered theology/law/works based belief) or theologians of the cross (follower's of the gospel message).  The author highlights that being a theologian of the cross is counter logical in that there is strength in weakness, and life in death.  Mr. Trueman uses citations from Luther's major works in the book that really highlight Luther's beliefs.  Topics range from pastoral teaching, to church life, to family life.  I learned some good lessons for teaching and leading my life group.  My one critique is that this book was much more academic then I expected it to be.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, but the author uses many words that could be found on a GRE and I could see being assigned this book in seminary.  Overall, though, it was a good book.   

The Mortification of Sin by John Owen - Finally...the last of the books that I read this year.  This book is a fast forward about 150 years from Luther's time to the time of the Puritan's.  I do love the Puritan's and the more I read them the more I love them. John Owen is among some of the most famous Puritan teachers and his writings on dealing with sin in a believers life in this book are very applicable to believers today.  Essentially he reiterates what the Bible says that we are to be holy and to throw off sin.  But then he provides some practical means in which believers do that starting with the obvious, surrender to Christ and reliance on the Holy Spirit.  It is a very encouraging read as you explore his insights and thoughts on killing sin in your life.  It is also a great challenge to be holy and to hate sin.  However, John Owen's writing can be a little difficult because he uses really long sentences and it's written in an outline form.  But, it is a fantastic book and one that I would highly recommend because it is not very lengthy.  Best line from the book: "Do you mortify [sin]? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you."  



So Laura said this book doesn't count because it was a daily devotional and I didn't read the entirety of it.  But, Spurgeon's Morning and Evening Devotional is fantastic.  There are two devotionals per day, and I read about half of them.  They are challenging, worshipful, thought provoking, encouraging and just fantastic. Spurgeon continues to be one of my favorites and these collections of writings are just awesome.  I highly recommend this devotional for the year ahead if you want a daily reading.




Get caught up by browsing reviews from 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014




  

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Our Budgeting & Debt Payoff Story


I recently wrote our budgeting/financial story for a friend's blog and thought I should share it here too. Budgeting has been VITALLY important to my husband and I throughout our entire marriage. I want to share our testimony about not only how budgeting has helped us, but also how God has provided for us financially.


Financial Backgrounds

Jason and I grew up with different spending habits. I had a fair amount of spending money because my parents paid for all of my needs and then some, then whatever I earned at my job was mine to spend as well. They taught me the importance of saving and giving, but I chose what to do with the rest. What I chose consisted mainly of clothes and entertainment. Jason grew up and entered college with more of a mindset that he didn't need a whole lot of spending money, and that most of his earned money would go to more important long term things, like college.


Newlyweds

When we got married (right out of college), the main area of adjustment was money decisions. I had a few credit cards, and had no issue with signing up for new credit cards if it meant saving some money or getting some perks when I signed up. Well a few months into our marriage I carelessly forgot to make a payment and got a late fee. Jason was pretty unhappy about this and told me that we didn't have the money to be paying late fees. He thought that we needed to buckle down on our finances, write down every purchase that we made, budget, and rip up some credit cards. I was pretty shocked at first and put up a little bit of a fight. But I knew he was right. We were making very little money since I was finishing up school and working part time and he was only able to intern before entering Physical Therapy school. We didn't have a choice. We had to be SUPER careful about how we spent our money or we would burn through our savings in no time flat. I will give a shout out to Crown Financial - we did that Bible Study in a group together before we got married and it gave us a lot of groundwork information that we built on.

Luckily, I am a huge Excel nerd and once we set up a very basic budget in Excel and did it a few months, I actually enjoyed seeing for the first time a bigger picture of where our money was going. I suddenly felt in control! We could decide that we were only going to spend "X" dollars in groceries that month and actually accomplish that goal! Yes, it meant not buying fancy foods, and eating out of the pantry for the last week of the month, but we weren't dipping into our savings! It was time consuming to look at all of our statements and reconcile the amounts and enter them into our budget, but it also empowered us because we would catch funny charges or things that we didn't recognize. There wasn't ever a charge to any of our accounts that we didn't see. Every charge got entered on our budget as the month went along.


Budgeting during Physical Therapy School

I believe that the Lord guided us through our experience with Crown Financial, our budget, and also the good "live debt free" example set by our parents to help get us through the next period of our marriage. As soon as Jason started PT school, our budget became extremely tight. I got a job and the money I earned had to be enough for both of us. We made it our goal not to take out ANY additional debt beyond school expenses. You see, in Medical School, you can take out tons of debt, not just for school expenses, but for living expenses as well! Trust me, it was very tempting to take out debt so we could go on a vacation or two, go out to eat more, buy more clothes, fix up our house, etc. But living on a tight budget taught us (mainly me) one very important lesson - PATIENCE! I learned that if I wanted to paint the kitchen or wanted a new outfit, maybe I couldn't do it that day - maybe I'd have to wait for birthday money, or Christmas money. It was a tough lesson, but I learned that God eventually provided for those desires - even when I didn't really "need" them. Our budget allowed us to cut every unnecessary expense so that we wouldn't have to take out more debt. One expense we didn't cut was tithing. It was a blessing to witness how God provided for us in this time. At the end of the year we were both SHOCKED that our savings account hadn't changed.


Paying back the Debt

When Jason finished PT school, passed his board exam, and got a job (Hallelujah!) - we purposely chose NOT to live on the glorious two paychecks that we suddenly had! We chose to live on his pay, and for my pay to go 100% to paying off his school debt - our total debt was approx. $43,000. Now at this point (3 1/2 years into our marriage), we had just had our first child - Lucy. I had always had a strong desire to be a stay at home mom, but I realized that if I did that, we would not be able to afford our living expenses plus the new monthly payment on Jason's school loans that we would soon have. It was a HUGE sacrifice for me to take Lucy to a nanny or daycare almost every day for her first two years of life to pay off that debt - and boy did it make me thankful that we hadn't let it balloon any larger during our first 3 years of marriage!

Quick Side Note: We are Dave Ramsey fans and believe in the "pay it off with a vengeance" mentality. Jason's medical school loan didn't require us to make any payments for 6 months and also didn't collect any interest for 6 months! We took this as a challenge and aimed to pay off the debt as quickly as possible so that we would pay very minimal interest. When all was said and done, we paid less than $500 in interest - PRAISE BE TO GOD!

Another Side Note: When Lucy was born, the Lord enabled me to get a huge pay raise at the exact moment when we started paying off the debt. Coincidence? I think not! I believe that God was rooting for us to pay off the debt to reach our goal of debt freedom and our ultimate goal of being able to afford for me to be a stay at home mom.

We paid off all of our debt in about a year and half. I kept working for another 6 months for the sole purpose of building up some savings.


Budgeting throughout Life Changes

We have continued with the same Excel spreadsheet budget for the last 6 years! We have (Praise God!) more money coming in each month, but the number of transactions and amount of money spent each month has also skyrocketed! (think babies, diapers, kids clothes, etc.!) I'm not going to lie, it is a time commitment to enter each transaction that we make. However, it makes us literally think about every purchase twice. It helps us see what each purchase does to our bottom line, and it gives us a goal to shoot for. Are we perfect at budgeting? Definitely not! I'll be the first to admit that we rarely make budget 100%. But the goal is that some months we have a little extra, and some months we spend a little extra, and thats okay! Life is unpredictable sometimes! We are currently investigating budgeting software like Quicken that will make the process more automated, so hopefully that will mean less time with the budget with the same ability to see where our money is going.

We are now "Living the Dream" - with no debt except our house and our rental house. I'm a stay at home mom and we have savings as a cushion. Sometimes I still worry about future finances, but I love looking back at the ways that God has provided for us. He is the same God now as He was then, He still has the ability to provide for all of our needs, and He will do just that! If that means one day I need to return to work, that's fine. I'm just thankful for the testimony he has given us, and thankful for this opportunity to share our story!

-Laura

Monday, October 19, 2015

30 Feels Good


I feel like the momentous occasion of turning the big 3-0 deserved a least a small blog post. For whatever reason, I remember as a child, a photo of my dad when he turned 30. I thought that was SO SO SO OLD! He had both my sister and I with him. I must have been 3 or 4 and she was around 1. I thought, that must be what normal 30 year olds are like. They have 2 kids :). As I grew up, I didn't think too much about it. But once the baby bug hit, I decided that would be my dream come true. For two babies for Jason and I when we turned 30. What a better way to celebrate than with two adorable additions to our family?

After working a few years I had started to realize that this whole "baby" thing might be a tad harder than I imagined. First off, Jason was in Physical Therapy school, not able to work yet. So instead of a double income, we just had my income for living expenses as we steadily went into debt. My vision of a baby wasn't exactly having so much debt that Jason and I both had to work full time forever and ever just to make our monthly payments. I wanted the idyllic life of me staying at home with my baby, cooking, exercising, decorating, shopping, reading, watching tv, and whatever other fun things a stay at home mom did.

Well long story short, God provided in huge ways in various areas of our lives to let me have my "idyllic" life of being a stay at home mom of two kids - by age 30 no less! Now there were a few bumps in the road. For example, I didn't get to be with Lucy all day every day when she was a baby. I worked 30-35 hours a week from home for almost 2 years until we had Bridget. But we did pay off our debt (wahoo!) and now, I've been living the dream for about a year and half. I'll admit that my life isn't exactly the idyllic existence I thought it would be. Although I do cook some, I clean a whole lot more, and there's not much reading or watching TV going on. Exercise is heaven whenever I get to do it, but happens much rarer than I'd like. Decorating doesn't really exist because honestly, whatever I set out is at risk for breakage. Plus the space could be better used for things the kids enjoy doing. Instead of beautiful artwork, we have the ABCs taped to the wall with painters tape. Instead of a closet full of clothes, it's full of kids art supplies. Instead of flowers on the coffee table, we have a bin of library books. Instead of getting really excited about my own birthday, honestly I was way more excited about my kids birthdays this year. Instead of reading and thinking about how to better my career path and become a more knowledgeable and innovative marketer, my brain is now occupied with things like, "How do I teach my kids how to read?" "Do I really have what it takes to home school my kids?" "How do I convert recipes to be freezer recipes so I don't have to cook every night?" "How can I better organize my garage so the kids have more space to ride their bikes and play", the list goes on and on. Sometimes I miss the "old me" who was a driven career woman who brought in income for our family. The old me who worked out on a consistent basis. The old me whose hair always looked good. The old me who had time to put on makeup everyday. The old me who spent a fair amount of money on a wardrobe. Sometimes I actually pine for more "me time". Time to read, time to train for a half marathon, time to lose myself in a movie. Time to blog! But even more, I'm starting to appreciate the "new me". The new me who actually thinks about others before herself (mainly my kids). The new me who gets to spend an entire morning with my sick daughter, taking her to the doctor and getting her Rx filled - and not worry about work waiting for me the next day. The new me who can sacrifice a good nights rest for my kids. The new me who finds more joy in my kids experiencing new things, than in myself experiencing new things. This new life is transforming me. The Lord is using this home-with-my-two-small-kids time in my life to mold me, refine me, CHANGE ME. And boy do I need changing. Left to my own devices, I am completely selfish. He has shown me that there is something better. A life of giving, of praying for others, of caring, of serving. I still have a LONG way to go, but I'm so thankful that my God is the one in charge of my sanctification and not me.

I guess all of these things I've described is part of becoming a mom - is part of my life as I turn 30. I wouldn't have it any other way. I never want to forget this time in my life. I'm pretty sure it won't last forever, so I sure should write about it more often.

Here's a song that I want to be true in my life during this season:

"The Potter's Hand" - Hillsong Live

Beautiful Lord, Wonderful Savior
I know for sure, all of my days are held in your hands, crafted 
into your perfect plan

You gently call me into your presence guiding me by Your Holy Spirit
Teach me dear Lord to live all of my life through Your eyes
I'm captured by Your holy calling
Set me apart, I know you're drawing me to yourself
Lead me Lord I pray

Take me, Mold me, use me, fill me
I give my life to the Potter's hand
Call me, guide me, lead me, walk beside me
I give my life to the Potter's hand

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